Friday
May062011

Mental patients win fight for judicial review on smoking rights

STOP PRESS

Will this week never end? I am about to do a radio interview on the subject of mental patients winning the right to a judicial review on whether they should be allowed to smoke in the hospital grounds and on "community visits".

Story here.

Friday
May062011

You want to smoke? That'll be £1, please

Not everyone is going to be happy with this but you can't please everyone.

Earlier this week Forest was contacted by BBC Radio Ulster and Five Live. They wanted our response to a story that Belfast International Airport is charging smokers £1 to use a designated smoking area while they are waiting to board their flights.

Before we had even conferred, Paul Rowlandson, our Northern Ireland spokesman, and I had come to the same conclusion: we didn't think it was a big issue. In fact, we welcomed it on the grounds that at least Belfast Airport was giving consideration to smokers.

Anyway, that's what we told the BBC in London and Belfast and we never heard back. It wasn't the response they were expecting!

(This, btw, gives you some idea of how the media operates. If you don't fit in with their preconceived 'angle' they won't use you. It's not the first time it's happened and it won't be the last but we're not going to say something we don't agree with just to get airtime.)

So, if you want our response you'll have to read the Daily Mail:

Although the move is unlikely to please some smokers, it has gone down surprisingly well with pro-smoking organisation Forest, which has welcomed the move. Spokesperson Paul Rowlandson said it "congratulated" the airport:

"It is encouraging that Belfast International is making provision for travelling smokers.The fact that smokers will be partially exposed to the outside elements is not the fault of the airport. It is a requirement of the unreasonable legislation which governs the provision and construction of areas where people may smoke.

Rowlandson continued: 'The modest charge of £1 for entry to the smoking room seems fair, providing that the charges go towards the maintenance of the smoking facility, as the airport assures us they will. At some other airports one can pay £40 for entry to a VIP lounge, but still be unable to smoke."

Sorry if that's not what some of you want to hear but I believe it to be a reasonable, measured response.

What we don't want is airports banning smoking completely.

Full story: Belfast International Airport charges smokers a £1 to light up before jetting away (Daily Mail)

Friday
May062011

Michael Siegel: friend or foe?

Interesting article in the New York Times today.

Michael Siegel is a professor of community health sciences at the Boston University School of Public Health. He writes a thoughtful blog, The Rest of the Story, that offers "tobacco news, analysis and commentary".

Siegel corresponds with opponents of smoking bans on both sides of the Atlantic. He has a deserved reputation for being one of the more reasonable members of anti-smoking movement. Unlike some, he doesn't seem to be driven by intolerance of smokers or hatred of the tobacco industry.

Today's article focuses on the ban on smoking in New York parks and beaches, which will be introduced (if not enforced) from May 23.

Siegel supports smoking bans in workplaces, including restaurants, bars and casinos:

I base my position on the scientific evidence demonstrating that chronic exposure to secondhand smoke — the sort of levels you’d experience working in a smoky bar or restaurant — significantly increases the risk of respiratory disease, heart disease and lung cancer

He questions however the claim by the US Surgeon General’s office that “even brief exposure to secondhand smoke can cause cardiovascular disease and could trigger acute cardiac events, such as heart attack,” and that “inhaling even the smallest amount of tobacco smoke can also damage your DNA, which can lead to cancer.”

The Surgeon General’s statement conflates the temporary negative effects of secondhand smoke on the circulatory system, which have been shown to occur with short-term exposure, with heart disease, a process that requires repeated exposure and recurring damage to the coronary arteries. It also conflates one-time DNA damage, which occurs with any carcinogenic exposure, with cancer risk, which likewise generally requires repeated exposure.

Siegel's concern is that:

... in trying to convince people that even transient exposure to secondhand smoke is a potentially deadly hazard, smoking opponents risk losing scientific credibility. The antismoking movement has always fought with science on its side [my emphasis], but New York’s ban on outdoor smoking seems to fulfill its opponents’ charge that the movement is being driven instead by an unthinking hatred of tobacco smoke.

That, in turn, could jeopardize more important fronts in the antismoking fight, in particular the 21 states that still allow smoking in bars and restaurants.

A ban on outdoor smoking may provide a symbolic victory. But from a public health perspective, it’s pointless. Instead, antismoking organizations should focus on extending workplace protections, already enjoyed by millions of New Yorkers, to the 100 million Americans still denied the right to work without having to breathe in secondhand smoke.

In other words, for all his good points, Michael Siegel is as keen as any anti-smoker to ban smoking in every workplace in every state in America. (I assume that's what he means by "extending workplace protections" rather than improving ventilation or introducing separate smoking rooms. If I'm wrong I apologise.)

Once that is accomplished the anti-smoking juggernaut will simply move on, in every state, to the next logical step. Science, as Michael knows, doesn't even come into it.

See: A smoking ban too far (New York Times)

PS. Talking of junk science, Brian Monteith has this to say on The Free Society: Warning: junk reporting of junk science threatens individual freedom.

Thursday
May052011

Do smoker-friendly pubs exist?

"There really is no such thing as a smoker friendly pub in this country anymore," laments Mark on another thread.

I understand the sentiment – no pub is truly smoker-friendly if you can't smoke indoors in comfort. Everything is relative however and given the legislation who can dispute that some pubs are more 'smoker-friendly' than others.

There are without question smoker-friendly landlords doing their very best to accommodate smokers in as much comfort as possible and the purpose of the Best Smoking Area award is to recognise their efforts.

Anyway, since inviting nominations on Tuesday, we have received many suggestions and some heart-warming comments. Here are a few:

  • "Fabulous outdoor area which is always heated. They even provide you with blankets when it's really chilly."
  • "There is a very large outside area with tables and in the summer there are barbecues and last weekend a hog roast. There are two large umbrellas which cover a number of tables for the smokers and heaters are also provided in the winter months. The manager is a smoker so the place is smoker-friendly."
  • "Tremendous smoking facilities. Wooden and hand built by the locals. Spacious, good seating, plenty of regularly emptied ashtrays and even lighters on chains. A really comfortable structure, appreciated and well used. I believe there is a heater as well!!!!!"
  • "The smoking shelter is a fabulous, warm and convivial space with heaters, benches, tables. It is a pleasure to be there, even on pretty cold nights."
  • "The landlord is a smoker himself and whilst he appreciates that the law and social pressure demands smoking bans inside, he refuses to treat smokers as pariahs and what we have is a sympathetic, creative and well-managed solution that I am sure provides increased revenue."
  • "Delightful pub with a (restricted) yard filled with tables and chairs, big umbrellas and heaters, and surrounded by greenery and climbing plants. An oasis in an urban backwater, very peaceful (and delightful staff)."
  • "Covered seating, tables, lighting and heaters in a charming little courtyard."
  • "The pub has gone to great lengths and expense to provide a comfortable area for smokers consisting of heating, lounge type seating enclosed in a wood and glass building. I cannot believe there could be a more deserving winner."
  • "Excellent smoking area with televisions, sofas and all mod cons."
  • "The pub has a smoking shelter at the rear which is on two floors. The downstairs area has lots of seating and automatic heaters, dart board, and is only a couple of paces from the rear door of the pub. The upstairs area has more comfortable seating plus television screens and pub games. All in all it's a very comfortable experience and it's possible to spend the whole evening outside and only have to go in the pub to get the drinks! I live ten miles away and regularly travel to this pub, via two buses, as it's the only one that I know of that has such welcoming facilities."
  • "The smoking area is in the old stable yard at the back of the pub. It's a large area able to hold comfortably 16 or so double picnic tables. A large purpose built shelter was built for smokers when the ban came in and is also fitted with awnings and heaters as required."
  • "The patio area is used all year round. There are smart black and red rugs left over the back of each chair and heaters are provided to keep the smokers warm. It really deserves recognition so that others can be aware of a very pleasant place to go and to be welcomed as a smoker."
  • "Not ideal but better than the rest in this area. Outdoor area has some plants and heaters. Smokers feel welcomed as opposed to tolerated."
  • "The landlord has extended part of the roof so smokers and their ciggies don't get soggy. He has purchased several sets of tables and chairs (round picnic tables with large umbrellas) and, amazingly, has installed a wood burner which he lights without fail every night to keep us heroic smokers 'toasty warm'. It is all set in a very large and extremely well kept grassed pub garden. The effort and lengths he has gone to are above and beyond the call of duty."

Finally, does this qualify as "smoker-friendly"?

  • "They have an INSIDE smoking area which is enclosed except for having no ceiling. Other than the sky itself. Perfect for winter drinks and smokes."

Except when it rains.

PS. To nominate your favourite smoking area for the Great British Pub Awards leave a comment here or email info@amendthesmokingban.com.

Thursday
May052011

No to AV because it's a short step to PR

I have just voted and it's 'No to AV' for me.

Over on The Free Society Tom Miers has this to say:

The AV debate is really as proxy for a debate about PR, and this is where my concerns come in ... The bottom line is that you get a nonsensensical muddle if you apply proportionality to government, and tampering with the means by which we elect MPs does nothing to correct.

PR as a voting system is not really about making things fairer, it is about reinforcing majorities and the legitimacy they have. It shifts the whole emphasis of politics to establishing what the majority thinks, trying to establish a ‘general will’ (as Rousseau had it) within society that can then be ruthlessly applied through the force of law.

Since no such will can in practice ever be found, you end up with a reinforced majority that is of course to the detriment of the minority. This damages the freedom of the individual, who is always in a minority of one.

Full article here.

See also: The democratic case against alternative voting (spiked)

Thursday
May052011

Was Osama bin Laden an anti-smoker?

Lots of hand-wringing about the death of Osama bin Laden.

According to one Facebook entry:

He was unarmed. There were no guns at the compound. His daughter said he was killed after he was captured. The President said he was killed after the fire fight (that never happened). The CIA called this a kill mission and the AG said that bin Laden would never be taken alive. They have repeatedly lied about the events on the ground. There is more than enough reason to think this was murder.

More interesting (to me) is the revelation, reported by the Telegraph, that Osama bin Laden banned smoking in compound.

Anti-smokers – they're everywhere!

Wednesday
May042011

All American alien boy

I did an interview for Liverpool's Radio City last night.

According to the producer, Late Night City with Pete Price is "the biggest night-time talk show in the UK (outside London) and has won many international awards including World's Best Talk Show at the New York Radio Awards and Pete himself has just been nominated for Speech Radio Personality of the Year at the Sony Radio Awards".

They wanted to talk about the FDA's decision to regulate e-cigarettes as tobacco products and I was a bit apprehensive because I don't know much more than what I've read online.

As a result I missed the second half of Barcelona-Real Madrid because I was too busy swotting!

Thankfully we didn't spend a lot of time talking about e-cigs. Instead the conversation moved on to the treatment of consumers and other smoking-related issues and I think I got away with it.

After we finished recording Pete said: "Only the Americans can do what you just did".

I think it was a compliment.

Wednesday
May042011

Vive le résistance!

H/T Belinda (Pubs counter denormalisation) for bringing my attention to this post: Competition to find the pub with the best smoking area (The Third Estate).

Pubs that have managed to carry on creating a hospitable environment for smokers are, in a certain sense, accomodating to the ban, but they are also resisting it. This is because the ban was not really about passive smoking but, rather about making smoking a more uncomfortable experience so as to push people into stopping.

The video above shows Hawke & Hunter's Secret Garden in Edinburgh which won the Scottish Licensed Trade News Award for Best Smoking Facilities 2010. The award was supported by Imperial Tobacco and I wrote about it here.

Given the current anti-smoking climate and the absence of legal loopholes, pubs and bars that do their best to accommodate smokers (for commercial or other reasons) should be applauded, promoted and, where appropriate, rewarded.

So keep those nominations coming for Best Smoking Area (see previous post)!