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Monday
Dec312018

2018 in brief

And so another year is over.

Some predicted 2018 would be rather quiet on the smoking front. I begged to differ, and I think I was right.

The threat of further legislation may have receded in England (for the moment) but here are just some of the many smoking-related stories or initiatives Forest has responded to in England, Wales and Scotland in the last twelve months:

1. Warning that smoking on TV and in films is encouraging child take-up
2. Wales to ban smoking outside hospitals and schools in UK first
3. Scotland's new tobacco control plan tightens the net on smokers
4. Smokers could be banned from lighting up at bus and tram stops
5. Public Health England chief vows to get "ruthless" on smoking
6. Calls to ban smoking in outside dining areas
7. Cost of cigs soar to £10 a pack as Chancellor hikes tobacco tax
8. Hospital smokers shamed via loudspeaker
9. Plan to stamp out smoking in social housing
10. Smoking banned in Scottish prisons
11. City Council bans staff from smoking or vaping during work
12. Welsh town centre smoking ban proposed

Making smoking history

In 2018 Manchester launched a 'Making Smoking History' campaign that seeks to reduce the number of smokers in the city by a third in just three years. Similar 'smoke free' initiatives are being rolled out in Sheffield and Barnsley.

Meanwhile Dundee City Council became the first council in Britain to ban employees from smoking (and vaping) at any time during the working day, including lunch breaks, even if they are off council premises.

2018 was also the year Philip Morris International confirmed its anti-smoking agenda and Philip Morris UK launched a £2 million quit smoking campaign, the absurdly named 'Hold My Light'.

"There is no reason for anyone to smoke any more," MD Peter Nixon told the Independent in August.

According to the Mail on Sunday:

Philip Morris has spent over 15 years researching and developing smoke-free alternatives. The firm's efforts have escalated recently with a campaign launched over new year plastering full-page adverts in national newspapers promoting its 'ambition to stop selling cigarettes in the UK.'

Read my thoughts here (PMI's 2030 vision) and here (PMI: charmingly predictable).

Prison smoking bans

I've never believed that prisoners have a right to smoke in jail so why does it matter that smoking is now banned in every prison in England and Scotland?

It matters because when there are far bigger issues to address in Britain's jails, including reports of increasing violence and self harm among inmates, government and prison officers have chosen to focus on smoking, a legitimate habit, banning it not only in prison cells but also in every outside area including exercise yards.

To put this in perspective, prisons were exempt from the original smoking ban because they were considered a place of residence, like hotel bedrooms. Now that exemption has been swept away it will make it easier for the smoking ban to be extended to more residential accommodation including social housing.

The sight of prisons minister Rory Stewart, a man I generally admire, tweeting that he was "Delighted to confirm that we have just achieved one hundred per cent smoke free prisons", adding that “We were ahead of the Scots and we’ve done it!", has got to be one of the most depressing moments of the year.

Equally depressing was the sight of primary children being recruited to fight the war on smoking. According to one report:

Children from a primary school in Barnsley are urging parents to think twice before smoking around school grounds.

The 'peaceful protest' by pupils at Laithes Primary School is part of the 'Breathe 2025' campaign - and the council's vision to make the borough a smoke-free zone.

A clip subsequently appeared on Twitter in which a woman with a megaphone was seen coaching the children to chant "Keep our schools smoke free". Appalling.

Hospital smoking bans

The smoking bans introduced in Scotland in 2006, and England, Wales and Northern Ireland in 2007, were designed primarily to protect bar workers from the alleged impact of 'passive' smoking, or so we were told.

A decade or so later smoking is increasingly being targeted with 'voluntary' bans in outdoor public places, despite the fact that there is no evidence that lighting up outside presents any risk to non-smokers.

Examples of this include hospital grounds. A hospital in Wakefield has gone even further and is trying to 'shame' smokers who light up outside the entrance. According to one report:

Staff, visitors and patients can activate the pre-recorded messages, which are then played through a speaker outside Pinderfields Hospital.

"Hi, I'm Georgia, would you mind not smoking outside? Someone's mummy or daddy could be having their treatment today," says one of the announcements.

Public Health England wants all NHS trusts to be 'smoke free' in 2019 so we're monitoring the situation very carefully. Watch this space.

Observation of the year

Talking of hospital smoking bans, this is what Observer columnist Barbara Ellen had to say about the Welsh Government’s plan to make it a criminal offence to smoke on hospital grounds:

While Britain still has smokers, is a designated smoking area outside a hospital such a terrible thing? It’s even arguable that smokers deserve a tiny break. The vast majority of smokers have complied with new laws with barely a peep – they’ve done as instructed, regarding smoking in public areas, trudging outside, to dolefully puff away in all weathers. The poor sods.

Now it seems they won’t even be able to smoke in a designated spot outside hospitals – the most stressful places on Earth. Evoking human rights may be stretching it (just a tad), but there’s no need for all compassion to go up in smoke.

See 'For pity’s sake, let people have a puff outside hospitals'.

Smoking on TV and in films

Largely unnoticed, the tobacco control lobby continued its quest for further restrictions on smoking on TV and in films:

In a strongly worded submission to the Select Committee on Science and Technology ASH and the UK Centre for Tobacco and Alcohol studies warn that smoking on TV and in films encourages children to take up smoking. They point out that children in the UK are still exposed to significant amounts of smoking on screen and that it is the amount of smoking that is important, not whether it is glamourised or not.

Expect further lobbying in 2019.

Most bizarre anti-smoking proposal

It was reported in March that:

Smoking while walking would be banned in New York City if a new bill is passed into law. Councilman Peter Koo is introducing the legislation on Wednesday, in what he says is an attempt to keep secondhand smoke away from pedestrians.

The threat appears to have receded but keep an eye on the States, New York and California in particular, because that's where many of the craziest anti-smoking ideas are born and incubated.

Reasons to be cheerful

Thankfully it's not been all gloom and doom. The coalition government in Austria, for example, deserves an award for not implementing legislation that would have resulted in smoking being banned in all indoor public places.

As a result Austria remains one of the few countries in Europe where you can still eat, drink and smoke indoors in some cafes, bars and restaurants. I emphasise the word 'some' because it's not difficult to find no-smoking cafes and restaurants, so everyone has a choice (which is how it should be).

Meanwhile, in Jersey, following submissions by Forest and other groups, the St Helier Roads Committee rejected a proposal to ban smoking in al fresco dining areas.

Media, reports, events

In the UK Forest was quoted or featured over 1500 times online, in print or in broadcast interviews and news reports.

We were quoted by, among others, The Times, Telegraph, Guardian, Mail, Sun, Mirror, Star and Independent.

Among many broadcast interviews I spoke to Jeremy Vine (Radio 2), Nicky Campbell, Stephen Nolan and Nihal Arthanayake (all Five Live), and Matthew Wright (TalkRadio).

See 'Some thoughts on smoking, vaping and individual freedom'.

In Scotland the guests of honour at a Forest dinner to mark the publication of our report, 'The McNanny State', were the author, former MSP Brian Monteith, and writer and journalist Allan Massie who wrote the foreword.

In Birmingham we hosted two events at the Conservative party conference – a balloon debate ('The most pleasurable nicotine delivery device in the world') and a panel discussion ('Should smoking be consigned to history?').

The latter was chaired by Claire Fox (Academy of Ideas) and featured me, investment analyst Rae Maile, Chris Snowdon (IEA) and Mark MacGregor (Philip Morris UK).

Meanwhile a poll conducted by Populus for Forest in Scotland in June found that 'Most Scots think government policies to reduce smoking rates have gone too far or far enough'.

I could go on (I haven't even mentioned Forest Ireland or Forest EU) but I want to keep this brief so ...

Most read posts on this blog in 2018

How the UK is driving the global tobacco control industry
The enemy of my enemy is not my friend
Doctor Christian is no VApril fool
Hubris before a fall
VApril and the UKVIA Forum 2018
The consequences of a ban on smoking in outdoor dining areas
Plain packaging and all that jazz
Forest EU, one year on
Government versus the people
Time for a national debate about Scotland's nanny state
Farewell, Sunday Politics
Filth, squalor and violence but at least smoking is banned
Vaping and the several faces of ASH
Message to Keep Britain Tidy
Thoughts on smoking, vaping and middle-class snobbery
Iain Dale's diary
Philip Morris: why 'smoke-free' is the sensible way to go
Philip Morris responds to accusations of “staggering hypocrisy”
ASH: Insulting our intelligence
Golden Nanny Awards 2018

Last but not least

We were sad to report the death in March of Trevor Baylis, award-winning inventor, former Pipesmoker of the Year and a regular attendee at Forest events for more than a decade.

Trevor died aged 80 but he won't be forgotten. Here he is at the launch of the Save Our Pubs & Clubs campaign in 2009.

Another Forest supporter who passed away was Michael Peel – who I wrote about here. RIP.

Sunday
Dec302018

The price of appeasing PHE’s anti-smoking propaganda

Welcome back. Hope you're enjoying a well-earned Christmas break.

Apologies for the lack of posts this month. I've either been travelling (Ireland, Scotland) or busy on other things.

I intended to resume blogging next week but I couldn't let the launch of Public Health England's new anti-smoking campaign pass without comment.

According to the press release issued before Christmas but embargoed until Friday:

Public Health England (PHE) has released a new film showing the devastating harms from smoking and how these can be avoided by switching to an e-cigarette or using another type of quit aid. The film has been released as part of PHE’s Health Harms campaign, which encourages smokers to make a quit attempt this January by demonstrating the personal and irrefutable harm to health from every single cigarette [my emphasis].

The film features smoking expert Dr Lion Shahab and Dr Rosemary Leonard carrying out an experiment to visually demonstrate the high levels of cancer-causing chemicals and tar inhaled by an average smoker over a month, compared to not smoking or using an e-cigarette. The results of the experiment visually illustrate the stark contrast between the impacts of smoking and vaping. Research estimates that while not risk-free, vaping is at least 95% less harmful than smoking.

Now, I don't dispute that the risks associated with vaping appear to be very small compared to the risks associated with smoking.

I do however take issue with PHE's campaign video which goes beyond informing smokers about the relative risks and is designed – yet again – to shock smokers into quitting.

The slick two-minute video begins with a voiceover:

"Every cigarette you smoke causes tar to enter your body and spread poison throughout your bloodstream, poison that can cause heart disease, cancer and stroke."

It then cuts to Dr Shahab and Dr Leonard who have designed an experiment that ‘mimics the effects of inhaling tobacco smoke, e-cigarette vape and normal air into the lungs, with the lungs represented by three bell jars filled with cotton wool’ (Independent).

Examining the cigarette bell jar at the end of the experiment, Dr Leonard finds ‘the cotton wool in the tobacco bell jar is brown, the inside of the bell jar is brown and the tube leading to the air pump is thick with tar’.

In the video she comments:

"I mean, it's just so revolting. Look at this, that's just inside the jar. Here, a lump of tar. So that's what's going on inside your lungs. There's loads of it and this is only after one month."

Leaving no-one in any doubt about her feelings, this is followed by what sounds like an exasperated sigh or possibly "Ugh!".

In contrast the e-cigarette bell jar gets an almost clean bill of health. There’s evidence of ‘water vapour on the side and one cotton wool ball features some minor discolouration from the colouring in the e-liquid’.

Led by ASH and Fresh North East, the anti-smoking industry was quick to voice its approval. Deborah Arnott, CEO of ASH, was so enthused she posted only her third tweet of the year. (Go, Deborah!)

Vaping advocates also welcomed what one called the "good news".

What the PHE video doesn't address is this: if the lungs of regular smokers are equally "revolting", why are they frequently given to lung transplant patients?

You may recall this report from 2014 (Donor lungs from heavy smokers appear safe for transplantation):

Almost half of lung transplant patients were given the lungs taken from heavy smokers, with one in five coming from donors who had smoked at least one packet of cigarettes a day for 20 or more years.

Despite this, new research shows that those people given the lungs of smokers were just as likely to be alive up to three years after transplantation as those who had organs from non-smokers. In some cases, they had improved survival rates.

"Donor lungs from even heavy smokers may provide a valuable avenue for increasing donor organ availability," says André Simon, director of heart and lung transplantation and consultant cardiac surgeon at Royal Brompton and Harefield NHS Trust.

"Our findings provide for the first time real world figures for the perceived risk of implantation of lungs from donors with even a heavy smoking history, and they show that such donor lungs may provide a much-needed lease on life to the critically ill patient whose chances of survival diminish with every day or week that passes by on the waiting list.

A few weeks later the March 2014 issue of the Annals of Thoracic Surgery confirmed that:

Transplanting lungs from donors with a history of heavy smoking does not appear to negatively affect recipient outcomes following surgery.

The PHE campaign ignores this uncomfortable truth, preferring to shock smokers and impress the media with simplistic propaganda.

It reminds me of another new year campaign that claimed that:

"When you smoke the chemicals you inhale cause mutations on your body and mutations are how cancer starts. Every 15 cigarettes you smoke will cause a mutation. If you could see the damage you would stop."

Some of you may remember it because in a complaint submitted to the Advertising Standards Authority Forest challenged the claim that "Every 15 cigarettes you smoke will cause a mutation".

The procedure was long and arduous (it took 18 months and I wrote about it several times) but during that time the ASA upheld Forest's complaint THREE times before the ASA Council eventually overruled its own executive following repeated appeals by the Department of Health.

In my view, however, it was a moral victory for Forest.

The point I am trying to make is this. I don’t dispute that vaping is significantly safer (in terms of risk) than smoking and I applaud efforts to educate consumers about the relative risks.

There’s a fine line however between education and propaganda and PHE’s Health Harms campaign is a classic example of the latter.

I’m not surprised that the anti-smoking industry has bought into it but it saddens me that vapers (and vaping advocates) are equally happy to endorse such obvious scaremongering.

It’s worth noting too that on Boxing Day, in the wake of reports that PHE want to introduce calorie caps in food to reduce obesity , several ‘libertarians’ called for the abolition of the taxpayer-funded quango.

One man-child repeated the mantra ‘Abolish PHE’ 17 times in a single tweet. Needless to say, when PHE picks on smoking, such comments melt away.

As I say, I don’t dispute that vaping is significantly less harmful than smoking (and possibly not harmful at all) but the tacit (and lazy) endorsement of PHE’s anti-smoking propaganda is nauseating.

It also comes with a heavy price because, as we have seen, it has emboldened PHE to move on to food and drink without fear of serious reprisal.

So to those who are happy to support - silently or otherwise - PHE’s latest anti-smoking initiative, I say “Be careful what you wish for.”

Scaremongering propaganda, even in the name of health and even when the target is smoking, is fundamentally wrong. If you can’t see that you have no right to describe yourself as liberal, let alone libertarian.

PS. Interesting to note that PHE has apparently claimed ownership of the controversial ‘15 cigarettes/mutation’ campaign despite the fact that PHE was established on April 1, 2013, several months after the campaign was launched by the Department of Health in December 2012.

As already mentioned, Forest challenged the claim that “Every 15 cigarettes you smoke will cause a mutation” and the Advertising Standards Authority upheld our complaint three times before the part-time ASA Council overruled the decision of its full-time executive.

See also: On the record - that Forest/ASA correspondence in full.

This week, in a tweet promoting its new campaign, PHE bizarrely chose to resurrect the seven-year-old image below. Go figure.

Wednesday
Dec122018

St Helier rejects al fresco dining smoking ban

Good news.

Further to last week's post about a proposed ban on smoking in al fresco dining areas in St Helier, Jersey, the Roads Committee this morning rejected a motion to adopt a ban.

According to BBC Jersey:

Questions were raised by members of the parish’s Roads Committee over whether a blanket ban was appropriate.

Others suggested further research was needed and plans could be put forward in the future to allow businesses to participate in an optional smoking ban for the areas.

A survey put out by the parish to the public, which received 113 responses, found 58% in favour of smoke free al fresco areas, 39% against and 3% were unsure.

But when asked, only 31% of existing al fresco license holders were in favour of smoke free zones.

It was later reported that members of the committee also expressed concerns over how a ban would be policed and how it would affect the town's image.

A leading opponent of a ban was the aptly named Liberation Group of pubs:

One of Jersey's largest pub companies has said a blanket ban on smoking in al fresco areas would infringe on drinker's human rights.

Christine Oxford, from the Liberation Group, said smoking "was not illegal" and businesses with al fresco licenses should not be forced to impose a total ban.

However, she said the group was not opposed to "non-smoking areas".

"We need to do everything we can to enable people to enjoy eating outside in St Helier," she said, claiming the smoking ban could affect the town's vibrancy.

The committee said it wanted to gather more research on other options, including partial bans and exceptions for businesses who did not offer food.

To read Forest's ten-page submission to the Roads Committee consultation, click here.

See also: Forest responds to consultation on smoking in al fresco smoking areas.

According to its website the Liberation Group has a number of pubs in the UK that are run by Butcombe Pubs and Inns.

They appear to be located in the west country, including cities such as Bath and Bristol, so if you live in that region pop in to one of the pubs listed here and demonstrate your support!

Wednesday
Dec052018

Ban smoking in al fresco dining areas? Don't mention the Germans!

Next week the St Helier Roads Committee in Jersey will discuss a proposal to ban smoking in al fresco dining areas.

To date, and to the best of my knowledge, no other town or city in the British Isles (or Europe, come to that) has introduced such a ban.

A few years ago Brighton City Council included the idea in a public consultation but following a negative reaction the Council rejected proposals to extend the smoking ban to outdoor areas.

The Irish Government is currently sitting on a proposal to ban smoking in al fresco dining areas but no decision is imminent so St Helier could be the first to go down that route.

A few weeks ago, when the issue first raised its head, I was quoted in the Jersey Evening Post and on Monday Forest submitted a ten-page response to the Roads Committee consultation. It concluded:

Pubs, restaurants and cafes are private businesses. Whether they choose to allow smoking in al fresco dining areas, where there is no risk to anyone else's health, should be up to them. Pubs and bars took a huge hit from the smoking ban with many closing as a direct result. Why should the future of many more businesses – including cafes and restaurants – be put at risk on the altar of tobacco control?

Banning smoking outside, even in al fresco dining areas, is unfair and unreasonable and will do nothing to improve public health. We urge the St Helier Roads Committee to reject the proposal and give owners of outdoor dining areas the freedom to implement policies that best suit their business, not the agenda of a small group of anti-smoking zealots.

What I didn't add, although I was sorely tempted, was to say that if a ban on smoking in al fresco dining areas is introduced in St Helier then Germany, the country that occupied Jersey during the Second World War, will seem like a beacon of liberty in comparison.

Instead, in the hope that the Committee might spot the irony for themselves, I wrote:

Interestingly Germany represents one of the more liberal European nations when it comes to regulations on smoking in public places. Policies differ from state to state but in several states smoking is still allowed in small bars (at the owners’ discretion). One can only speculate why this is the case but some people believe that for historical reasons successive German governments have been reluctant to be too repressive in the way it treats its citizens, including those who choose to smoke.

Germany is not alone however and Austria also gives many cafes, bars and restaurants the right to be ‘smoking’ or ‘non-smoking’ indoors and out. In other EU member states such as Belgium there are few bars and restaurants with street or garden terraces that do not welcome smokers. Many 'adapt' their terraces to the cold weather, offering smokers a confortable place to smoke, drink and eat.

Choice, not prohibition, is the key to a free and liberal society and we urge the Roads Committee to follow their example and reject regressive, authoritarian regulations on small businesses and consumers of a legitimate product.

The Roads Committee will discuss the matter at their meeting on Wednesday December 12. I'll keep you posted.

See also: Forest responds to consultation on smoking in al fresco smoking areas.

Saturday
Dec012018

Business news

This was the view from the restaurant at Boisdale of Canary Wharf on Wednesday night.

I was there for a meeting with Ranald Macdonald, MD of Boisdale Restaurants.

The intention was to discuss ideas to mark Forest’s 40th anniversary next year. Or so I thought. Meetings with Ranald rarely go to plan.

Last year, for example, we met at Boisdale of Mayfair and halfway through the evening he got a call to say Kelsey Grammer (aka ‘Frasier’) was en route to Boisdale of Belgravia.

Grammer won the Cigar Smoker of the Year award in 2016 (in 2014 he came second to Arnold Schwarzenegger) and when he’s in London Boisdale - which hosts the event in Canary Wharf - is one of his favourite restaurants.

Business forgotten, we abandoned our dinner, called a taxi and raced across central London where we joined Grammer, his wife and several other people for what turned into a second meal at Ranald’s expense.

This week I arrived at the Canary Wharf restaurant expecting to find a table for two but after drinks on the terrace a small group had developed and I found myself sitting down to dinner with not just Ranald but an opera singer, someone working in ‘military intelligence’, Boisdale’s musical director, and Rebecca Ferguson, the former X-Factor contestant. (She was runner-up in 2010.)

This motley group proved very entertaining and it was well past midnight before the party broke up and we tottered home.

As for business, let’s just say that discussions will be resumed soon ...

PS. The 2018 Cigar Smoker of the Year dinner takes place at Boisdale of Canary Wharf on Monday (December 3).

Apart from Schwarzenegger and Kelsey Grammer, previous winners have included Jonathan Ross and Simon Le Bon.

The winner is a closely guarded secret until the evening of the event but on Wednesday Ranald inadvertently let the cat out of the bag.

Unlike him my lips are sealed. Watch this space.

Friday
Nov302018

The importance of a dissenting voice

As of today smoking is banned in all Scottish prisons.

The policy is controversial because reports - as I explained here and in the Scottish Sun on Wednesday - suggest that an identical ban in prisons in England and Wales has helped fuel violence and the use of illegal drugs among inmates.

With the notable exception of the Sun, however, communicating that message has proved difficult.

Forest’s response to the ban was sent to the Scottish media on Wednesday morning.

Yesterday, at around 5.30pm, we started getting notifications of media reports, none of which included a single comment from Forest or any other critic of the ban.

Instead each report was identical and read like a government press release.

The source was the Press Association (which was the first recipient of our own press release) so I rang the PA to complain.

To be fair, they immediately updated their report - which is how I’m quoted in the Mail Online (Smoking ban to be introduced in Scotland's prisons), the Glasgow Evening Times, the Aberdeen Evening Express and elsewhere - but it was disappointing that I had to chase them.

That wasn’t the end of my work however because at 1.00am this morning BBC News online posted their own story about the ban.

Like the initial PA report it merely regurgitated whatever the government (or Scottish Prison Service) had fed it.

Older readers will know what happened next because I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve had to do something similar.

I rang the BBC Scotland newsdesk. In Glasgow. At 2.30am.

A reporter from Radio Scotland answered. BBC News online? I’d have to wait to speak to someone because no-one would be there until five or six o’clock.

I went back to bed and fell asleep. When I woke up it was almost eight so I rang again.

This time I got someone on the online newsdesk who wasn’t best pleased with my complaint but agreed (reluctantly) to consider our response if I sent it again.

That was at 07:51.

I also sent a link to the PA report that had appeared on Mail Online with my quote.

Zero response. The report on the BBC website remained unchanged.

At 09.01 I rang again and was told the person I had spoken to an hour or so earlier was in a meeting. So I left a message.

Forty minutes later, almost nine hours after the report was published on the BBC News website, I got this response, via email:

Mr Clark, I have added a quote at the end of the article.

It’s a token quote (see our full response here) but it’s better than nothing and the reason we chase these things is simple.

Failure to do so would allow these influential reports to appear without a single dissenting voice and with no hint of opposition governments in Westminster, Edinburgh and Cardiff will be emboldened to introduce more and more regulations.

To be honest, I’ve never thought that prisoners should have a right to smoke in jail, but there is an argument to be had about the wisdom of banning smoking in prison, especially when reports suggest there are serious unintended consequences.

What really makes me cross though is the increasing tendency of journalists to publish stories that could have been cut and pasted straight from a government or ‘public health’ press release.

I’ve written about this several times because it’s an ongoing issue, but it seems to me that many journalists are little more than copy takers because relatively few can be bothered to make the story their own.

Anyway, this is how BBC's report now reads - Smoking banned in Scottish prisons, with a short comment from me at the end.

Update: Forest is not alone because the comments below the BBC report are largely critical of the ban.

I'm not surprised. Earlier this year Populus conducted a poll for Forest in Scotland and one of the questions concerned the prison smoking ban:


There was support for inmates in Scottish prisons being permitted to smoke, with two thirds (66 per cent) of respondents agreeing that prisoners should be allowed to smoke in designated smoking areas.

On this issue, like many others, public opinion is on our side. It's just not represented in parliament.

See Forest criticises Scottish Government's "constant war on smokers"
.

Update: I also discussed the Scottish prison smoking ban with Mike Graham on on TalkRADIO at 12.35.

Wednesday
Nov282018

Thatcher and Trumps – two great ladies

Many of you will have read that Baroness Trumpington died, aged 96, on Monday.

Announcing the news, her son Adam Barker said, "She did not make it to 100 but she had a bloody good innings."

I knew a little bit about her but having read several of the many obituaries that have been published in the past 48 hours I realise I was barely scratching the surface of an extraordinary life.

I knew she had been a smoker because I'd seen photographs of her with Lord Harris of High Cross, chairman of Forest, outside parliament on No Smoking Day.

They were members of the Lords and Commons Pipe and Cigar Smokers Club and this annual photo opp often made the front pages.

She gave up cigarettes in 2001 when she was 79. Later she is reported to have said:

"Is the noble Lord aware that, at the age of 80, there are very few pleasures left to me, but one of them is passive smoking?"

In 2012 she appeared on Have I Got News For You and this happened:

I met her just once – at a 'Libertarian Lunch' organised by Boisdale Life magazine (and sponsored by Forest) in February 2017.

She was in a wheelchair and rather frail but in good spirits.

I'm told that her ghost-written memoir, Coming Up Trumps, published in 2014, is well worth reading. The subject however was less impressed.

Interviewed for the Guardian she said: "I don't understand all this excitement. I didn't write the damn book, and I haven't read it either."

It's worth noting too her thoughts on Margaret Thatcher who gave her a job in government as a health minister. On daring to contradict her boss, she said:

“Well, I took the view that if she was going to sack me, she was going to sack me, so I’d better be true to myself and say exactly what I thought and if she sacked me at the end of the day, so what?

"And I think it was useful to her. She was terribly kind to me. I loved her dearly.

"I think she used me because she knew I would not just say yes to something she’d said, and that I’d argue the matter, and it gave her ammunition on how to deal with other people.”

Not one but two great ladies. RIP.

PS. By coincidence I am having dinner tonight with Ranald Macdonald, MD of Boisdale Restaurants and publisher of Boisdale Life.

Click on the link below to see Ranald with Baroness Trumpington at that 'Libertarian Lunch' last year:

Baroness Trumpington is wined and dined at Boisdale (Evening Standard).

Update: Chain smoking, V-sign flicking peer regularly turned the air blue but Lady Trumpington, who’s died at 96, was the very best of battleaxes — and a tonic to public life, says Quentin Letts.

Wednesday
Nov282018

Scottish prison smoking ban debate

Smoking will be outlawed in all Scottish prisons from Friday.

The Scottish Sun asked me to contribute 300 words on the subject for today’s edition. It's not online but I wrote:

Five months ago Rory Stewart, the former prisons minister in England, tweeted: ‘Delighted to confirm that we have just achieved one hundred per cent smoke free prisons.’ “We were ahead of the Scots and we’ve done it,” he told a Commons committee.

Unaware, it seems, of a succession of reports linking the smoking ban with increasing violence and illegal drug use in prisons, Stewart’s jubilation seemed misplaced. Incidents of self-harm and assaults in prisons are a serious problem and the use of illicit drugs is rife, yet here was a minister celebrating the prohibition of a legal product.

According to the Scottish Prison Service the aim is to protect staff and inmates from exposure to second hand smoke. The potential harm has been exaggerated but allowing prisoners to light up outside, in an exercise yard or smoking area, doesn’t put anyone else’s health at risk. In contrast, banning smoking completely could inflame a tense or volatile environment.

Plans to give inmates vaping kits after prisons in Scotland go 'smoke free' are well-meaning but questionable. Vaping may satisfy some prisoners but for many e-cigarettes are still no substitute for tobacco. Why not offer e-cigarettes to those who want to quit, and allow them to vape in their cells, but permit designated smoking areas for those who don’t?

Another proposal is to give prisoners in Scottish jails jigsaws and colouring books to wean them off cigarettes. If the plan is to treat inmates like children, don't be surprised if they behave like children.

Smoking is one of the few pleasures many prisoners have. That's why tobacco is such an important currency in prison. No-one has the right to smoke in jail but banning smoking completely could have serious unintended consequences including increasing violence and illicit drug use. Is that a legacy the Scottish government is willing to risk?

My contribution was one half of a head-to-head debate with Deborah Arnott, CEO of ASH (London), who has been billed as ‘ASH Scotland chief’.

I’d love to be a fly on the wall when Sheila Duffy, chief exec of ASH Scotland, sees that!

Anyway, Deborah has pooh-poohed the suggestion that banning smoking in prisons can fuel violence and the use of illegal drugs.

According to her, ‘After Scottish prisons go smoke-free, everyone will wonder what all the fuss was about.’

The tobacco control industry will deny there is a link between smoking bans and unrest or increasing use of drugs in prisons, but there have been enough reports - both formal and anecdotal - that suggest otherwise.

Here are a few:

Prison smoking ban 'fuelling HMP Leicester violence'
BBC News, May 31, 2018

Prisoners trashed jail in NINE HOUR riot after smoking ban was introduced
Daily Star, March 4, 2018

HMP Haverigg prison riot 'linked to smoking ban'
BBC News, February 27, 2018

Smoking ban and short staffing 'sparked prison riot'
BBC News, January 30, 2018

I could go on.

Meanwhile the Mirror also reported (January 27, 2018):

The smoking ban in prisons has made air quality WORSE, a report has revealed.

The findings heap embarrassment on prison chiefs, who have trumpeted the health benefits of outlawing cigs at all the jails in England and Wales.

So, no, I don’t think anyone should be complacent about the impact of the prison smoking ban – not even Deborah Arnott whose membership of the mysterious 'smoke free prisons project board' was discussed here exactly one year ago.

See also: No evidence that prison smoking bans lead to riots? Bullshit!