Saturday
Jun252011

Review of the week

Friday
Jun242011

Stop this nanny state - video

Imperial Tobacco has now released a video to support its No Nanny State campaign in Australia.

Click here.

See also: Wizards of Oz - Big Tobacco fights back

Friday
Jun242011

ASH's credibility goes up in smoke

Further to my earlier post, Minister's links with ASH questioned, Retail Newsagent has published this report:

BAN MINISTER UNDER FIRE OVER ASH LINKS

The National Federation of Retail Newsagents is demanding a formal investigation by Prime Minister David Cameron into the conduct of the public health Minister in charge of the tobacco display ban.

National president Kieran McDonnell has written to No 10 with evidence he says calls into question the actions of Anne Milton and the relationship between government-funded charity ASH and the All Party Parliamentary Group on Smoking and Health and that could even scupper the ban at this late stage.

He writes that Ms Milton’s “inappropriate conduct necessitates a review of the legitimacy of the [display ban] legislation itself.”

The letter backs up questions from Torbay Liberal democrat MP Adrian Sanders to Secretary of State for Health Andrew Lansley, asking for his comments on Ms Milton’s acceptance of an award at an APPG Smoking and Health event and presenting one to the director of ASH.

Mr Sanders also seeks Mr Lansley’s response to the chairman’s comment at the event that ASH “do a great job in supporting MPs with lobbying their colleagues in Parliament”. ASH receives Whitehall cash on the proviso that it does not directly lobby the government.

In a reply to a Parliamentary question of MP Philip Davies, Ms Milton said: “Action on Smoking and Health has received funding from the government in the past…specifically to carry out defined projects. None of this funding was, or could be used, for lobbying purposes.”

Mr McDonnell said: “We have long suspected that ‘behind the scenes’ dealings have been going on. In the light of these recent statements, I regrettably now see proof of these suspicions, which is deeply offensive to our members, who have campaigned so hard to see the government fulfil its pre-election commitments to bring the debate back to the House of Commons for a free vote.”

Meanwhile, like many of you, I have been enjoying the rumpus over on Liberal VisionASH abuse of public money must end.

As the time of writing there are 107 comments. The author of the post, Angela Harbutt, dealt beautifully with one critic (Woollylib) but my favourite laugh-out-loud moment was her subsequent remark that:

Clearly I was getting over excited… it can happen to a girl you know.. Has a woman never said that to you before Mark?

Anyway, the really remarkable thing is the appearance – in the comments – of some leading anti-smoking zealots, among them Martin Dockrell of ASH (still waiting for your call, Martin), Linda Bauld of Bath University, and Robert West of Cancer Research UK.

It takes a lot to flush tobacco control activists out their comfort zone. Open debate is something they neither enjoy nor encourage. They much prefer their own company, often gathering in small anonymous rooms where they present one another with stomach-churning 'awards'.

I'm not sure they added much to the debate but it is interesting to note their mindset. Linda Bauld, for example, seems to think that the majority of the comments have been written by "representatives of the tobacco industry".

Likewise Robert West comments that "Some of the posts above have all the hallmarks of an orchestrated attack by the tobacco industry which is deeply concerned that the activities of ASH will damage their revenues".

Adding to the sense of paranoia, Martin Dockrell comments that "My views on front groups can be found in Tobacconomics".

Funny, isn't it, how anyone who disagrees with tobacco control's illiberal, paternalist agenda is immediately dismissed as a "front group" or a "representative" of Big Tobacco.

The idea that adults have minds and opinions of their own and like to use them to make informed choices about smoking (and eating and drinking and numerous other things) is anathema to tobacco control activists whose multi-million pound campaigns to rid the world of tobacco are carefully coordinated and orchestrated with military precision.

Anyone who goes off message (even previously respected scientists such as Enstrom and Kabat, for example, whose research, published in the British Medical Journal in 2003, demonstrated conclusively the weakness of the claim that passive smoking is a serious health risk) must be demonised as a lackey of Big T.

Anyway, there's more to be said about Linda Bauld and Martin Dockrell's Tobacconomics but I'll save that for another day.

For the moment it's good to see more people, including MPs in the House, questioning the credibility of ASH.

As Miranda's mother would say, "Such fun".

Thursday
Jun232011

Smoking in cars: support Philip Davies

Thanks to those who have drawn this to my attention:

Philip Davies leads the charge against a ban on smoking in cars.

You can comment.

Interesting to see the list of Tories backing a ban, and those against it. If your MP is on either list I recommend strongly that you write to them expressing your views.

Thursday
Jun232011

Inner city pubs stubbed out

The Save Our Pubs and Clubs campaign has today issued this press release:

INNER CITY PUBS STUBBED OUT BY SMOKING BAN
Labour constituencies the biggest losers, report finds

Traditional inner city pubs have suffered the most since the introduction of smoking bans in Scotland, England and Wales, a new report has found.

Researchers also found that the areas with the greatest levels of closure have been in Labour‐held constituencies with an average of almost eleven pubs per Labour constituency, compared to 9.9 pubs per Liberal Democrat constituency and 7.6 pubs per Conservative constituency.

Of the ten hardest hit constituencies seven are Labour held, two Liberal Democrat, and just one (Cities of London and Westminster) Conservative.

All bar one of these constituencies (Argyll and Bute) are in the inner cities with one each in London, Birmingham, Glasgow, Manchester, Liverpool, Bristol, Leeds, Edinburgh and Nottingham.

In Wales every Westminster constituency lost at least one pub. In Scotland only one Westminster constituency has escaped without a single pub closure.

The research was conducted by CR Consulting for the Save Our Pubs and Clubs campaign. Oliver Griffiths, director of CR Consulting, said:

"The data show large numbers of traditional drink-led urban pubs shutting down. These are in areas with traditionally quite high levels of smoking so it would appear that regulars who used to enjoy a pint and a cigarette with friends have decided to stay at home instead."

John Madden, Executive Officer of the Guild of Master Victuallers, said, “The smoking ban has put a huge strain on the traditional urban pub. Many regular customers decided to smoke and drink at home and very few non-smokers came in to replace them.

“The result has been the closure of thousands of pubs. Licensees have lost their livelihoods, bar staff have lost their jobs, and many communities have lost their social centre.”

Simon Clark, director of the Save Our Pubs and Clubs campaign which counts TV chef and publican Antony Worrall Thompson and artist David Hockney among its supporters, said, “Labour was the principal architect of the smoking ban. It is ironic therefore that pubs in Labour-held constituencies have suffered the most.

“The smoking ban is an issue that MPs must address because local communities cannot afford to go on losing pubs at the present rate. The Coalition Government must review the smoking ban and consider options that bring us into line with most other countries in Europe where smoking is permitted in separate smoking rooms or designated smoking bars.”

The Scottish version has this comment by Paul Waterson, chief executive of the Scottish Licensed Trade Association:

“Everyone can see pubs are shutting, especially the more traditional community pubs. Many of these have been around for decades. They have been social centres for the communities that they serve and then suddenly they are gone.”

“Our pubs have offered a safe and regulated environment in which to enjoy a drink and a sociable chat. The smoking ban caused many smokers to stay away and those that still come have to stand outside. The ban may have cleared the air but its destroyed the atmosphere.

“Other European countries have had more sensible regulation allowing smoking rooms or exempting small bars and have avoided this devastation. The Executive should look at this again before it’s too late.”

Click here to download the report: The British Smoking Bans: Stubbing out the urban pubs.

Update: the report was mentioned on Five Live Breakfast's Money News this morning (8:52). Needless to say they then featured a publican from Exeter who said that, yes, all pubs had suffered briefly following the smoking ban but the better pubs (ie like his) had adapted.

See: Smoking ban: traditional inner city pubs have suffered most (Morning Advertiser), Pub campaign blames smoking ban for latest city centre closures (Retail Times)

Also: Stubbing out your own folk (Pub Curmudgeon)

Wednesday
Jun222011

Minister’s links with ASH questioned

Letter from Kieran McDonnell, president of the National Federation of Retail Newsagents, to David Cameron:

21 June 2011

Dear Prime Minister,

Formal complaint regarding breach of the Ministerial Code

I write to you in my capacity as President of the National Federation of Retail Newsagents (NFRN), which represents 16,500 newsagent members across the UK, with a complaint regarding the conduct of your Public Health Minister Anne Milton with reference public statements made and circulated on 15th June when Ms Milton attended the All Party Parliamentary Group on Smoking & Health’s 40th anniversary for Action on Smoking & Health (ASH).

At the meeting, Ms Milton credited the Vice Chair of the group (and former Chair of the Health Select Committee) Kevin Barron MP for his help “behind the scenes” when addressing smoking legislation. In addition the Minister also accepted an award and presented an award to the Director of ASH.

This statement and public acceptance and deliverance of awards to an organisation that has been lobbying her department, MPs and other government departments (and indeed is granted government funding on the basis that it not be used for lobbying purposes) has called into question the manner in which recent tobacco display ban legislation has been made; and the ability of the Minister to be considered unbiased on the issue.

I attach a copy of the event report from an independent parliamentary reporting service and would ask that you formally conduct an investigation into the conduct of your minister in the light of her public admission that she had worked with an officer of an ASH funded parliamentary lobby group on recent legislation “behind the scenes”. Moreover, this inappropriate conduct necessitates a review of the legitimacy of the legislation itself.

We have long suspected that ‘behind the scenes’ dealings have been going on in the formation of this legislation in the manner in which it has been pushed through without running the legislation past the Reducing Regulation Committee; without identifying a ‘one out’ for the legislation; and indeed without fulfilling the BRE Guidance to undertake a Small Business Impact Assessment.

In light of these recent statements, I regrettably now see proof of these suspicions which is deeply offensive to our members who have campaigned so hard to see the government fulfil its pre-election commitments to bring the debate back to the House of Commons for a free vote and which the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats publically opposed in opposition.

I look forward to hearing from you in due course.

Yours sincerely,

Kieran McDonnell
President, National Federation of Retail Newsagents

I'll let you know if he gets a reply!

Wednesday
Jun222011

Smoking in cars: show us the evidence that this is a major health hazard

Remember David Nuttall's Ten Minute Rule Motion to amend the smoking ban?

Today Alex Cunningham, Labour MP for Stockton North on Teeside, will propose his own Ten Minute Rule Motion – to ban smoking in cars where children are present.

It is now standard practise for anti-smokers to claim that secondhand smoke is "23 times more toxic in a vehicle than in a home". And yet, according to Ross MacKenzie MA and Becky Freedman MSc of the University of Sydney School of Public Health in Australia, this widely reported 'fact' does not seem to be based on any scientific evidence whatsoever (Second-hand smoke in cars: How did the '23 times more toxic' myth turn into fact?, CMAJ, 2010).

MacKenzie and Freeman traced the claim to a 1998 story in – wait for it – Rocky Mountain News and a comment by the state legislator who "was quoted as saying she had become concerned about the issue upon hearing the now ubiquitous claim".

In other words, gossip and rumour.

I have just been interviewed on BBC Radio Tees and I explained all this (including the reference to Rocky Mountain News!). I also queried the need for legislation and yet another ban when a survey of 1000 adult smokers last year revealed that:

85.3% said they would not smoke at all [in a car with children present]. A further 6.5% said they would ask before lighting up, therefore 8.2% said they would smoke as normal.

Source: Holden Pearmain survey of 1000 adult (18+) smokers, May 2010

The other point I made was this: anti-smoking campaigners say they only want to ban smoking in cars where children are present. However, how can we believe them? It is only a decade since they were saying that all they wanted was more non-smoking areas in pubs and restaurants. Within a few years they were campaigning for a comprehensive ban.

It is a very short step from banning smoking in cars where children are present to: (a) banning smoking in ALL private vehicles, even if the only occupant is the owner/driver, (b) banning smoking smoking in the home if children are in the house.

Anti-smoking campaigners may say that is not their objective but history shows that they are always looking for the "next logical step".

PS. Philip Davies MP will oppose Alex Cunningham's motion which will follow Prime Minister's Questions at 12.30pm.

Tuesday
Jun212011

Freedom, education and the state

Sorry, very little time for blogging this week.

Tonight, The Free Society and the Adam Smith Institute present:

FREEDOM, EDUCATION AND THE STATE
Is mediocrity for all preferable to excellence for some?

Venue: Institute of Economic Affairs,
2 Lord North Street, Westminster, SW1

Not a bad line-up, if I say so myself.

Chairman:
Claire Fox (Institute of Ideas)

Speakers:
Tom Clougherty (Adam Smith Institute)
The Rt Hon David Davis MP (former shadow home secretary)
Matt Grist (senior researcher at Demos)
Professor Terence Kealey (vice-chancellor, University of Buckingham)
Toby Young (associate editor of The Spectator and founder of the West London Free School)

We're expecting a full house – and more – so do join us. RSVP events@thefreesociety.org or telephone Nicky Shepherd 01223 370091.