Tuesday
May032011

Great British Pub Awards - nominations wanted for Best Smoking Area

Join our search for the nation's best smoking areas.

Last year, in association with JTI, the Save Our Pubs & Clubs campaign supported the Best Creative Outdoor Area award at the Morning Advertiser's Great British Pub Awards.

Presented by Lenny Henry, the event took place at The Hilton, Park Lane, London. We invited a couple of MPs – Brian Binley and Philip Davies – to join us and Brian (interviewed here) presented the Best Creative Outdoor Area award.

I am delighted to report that Save Our Pubs & Clubs has again joined forces with JTI for the Great British Pub Awards 2011 but this time we are supporting a new award for Best Smoking Area.

The Morning Advertiser has the details here but I want to address supporters of the Save Our Pubs & Clubs campaign direct because we need YOUR help.

We want YOU to nominate a smoker-friendly pub that you think deserves to be recognised. All you have to do is send us the name of the pub plus a very brief description of the smoking area. We will then contact the landlord and ask if they would like to be nominated for the award.

Closing date for entries is May 20, 2011.

We need to hear from you as soon as possible so we can contact your nominated pubs in good time. What we are looking for are pubs that have clearly made an effort to accommodate smokers in as much comfort as possible.

Financial investment in a comfortable smoking area will be taken into consideration but money will not be the decisive factor. After all, many publicans can't afford to invest in a purpose built smoking area but using their initiative they may have come up with something equally worthy of recognition.

Likewise size will be a factor but, again, many pubs don't have the space to provide a substantial smoking area so it's the attractiveness, not the size, that really counts.

The Great British Pub Awards are organised in eight regions that include Wales but not Scotland (which has its own pub awards). The other areas are Yorkshire/North East, North West, Midlands, East Anglia, West Country, South East, and London.

Regional finalists will be announced in the summer. After that the national finalists will be notified and invited to attend the Great British Pub Awards in London.

I am sure there will be some who think that by supporting an award like this we are effectively condoning or accepting the idea that smokers have to light up outside. I assure you that is not the case.

Our substantial investment in this award provides an invaluable opportunity to raise awareness of the campaign to amend the smoking ban. It will also help maintain and develop our profile within the licensing trade, as well as highlighting the importance of smokers to the trade.

So please support this initiative and nominate those pubs you believe to have the most comfortable/attractive smoking area.

Email: info@amendthesmokingban.com
Subject: Great British Pub Awards nomination

PS. Coming shortly - details of an important Save Our Pubs & Clubs event in London. Watch this space.

Tuesday
May032011

Joe Jackson on pleasure and moderation

We have just issued The Free Society's monthly e-newsletter.

It features links to some of the top articles published by The Free Society in the past four weeks. In case you missed them they include posts by Simon Hills, associate editor of The Times Magazine; Dr Eamonn Butler, director of the Adam Smith Institute; and former MSP Brian Monteith.

Today The Free Society features a new article by musician Joe Jackson. Whatever happened to pleasure and moderation? asks Joe.

Zero-risk and zero-tolerance are increasingly promoted as ‘the only game in town’. If pleasure is mentioned at all, it’s likely to be depicted as something illusory, and as a sign of weakness. Moderation? Freedom of choice? Even if there are such things, we apparently can’t be trusted with them.

We’re living longer than ever, but we seem to be doing so in a state of constant fear – thanks to the people who are supposed to be there to make us feel better. It almost makes you want to go to a monastery and live on raw carrots. Except that sooner or later, someone is going to decide that that’s bad for you, too. So it’s hardly surprising that some of us say, to hell with it all, and just get drunk.

Full article here.

Monday
May022011

Ordinary cigarettes "not negligently designed or defective"

In the excitement of the Royal Wedding an interesting story escaped the attention of the British media, with the exception of BBC News.

According to the latter:

Six major US tobacco companies have defeated a lawsuit by hospitals seeking compensation for treating patients with smoking-related illnesses.

Thirty-seven hospitals in the state of Missouri had claimed cigarette companies delivered an "unreasonably dangerous" product.

The hospitals claimed that tobacco companies manipulated the nicotine content in cigarettes and misrepresented the health effects of smoking.

But a jury in St Louis rejected their claim.

See: Hospitals lose bid to make tobacco companies pay for smoking-related illnesses

Monday
May022011

Passive smoking and blood pressure in children

I was invited yesterday to comment on a new study involving more than 6,400 young people.

Researchers have assessed the effects of passive smoking on blood pressure in children and the results have been summarised as follows:

Boys who inhale second-hand tobacco smoke at home may experience significant levels of raised blood pressure. In later life this could lead to high blood pressure, or hypertension, and an increased risk of heart disease. But in girls passive smoking appeared to be associated with a lowering of blood pressure.

According to Dr Jill Baumgartner from the University of Minnesota:

"While the increases in blood pressure observed among boys in our study may not be clinically meaningful for an individual child, they have large implications for populations.

"The relationship between second-hand smoke exposure and blood pressure observed in our study provides further incentives for governments to support smoking bans and other legislation that protect children from second-hand smoke."

So, let's get this right. According to the research (reported by several papers today):

Boys who inhale second-hand tobacco smoke at home may [my emphasis] experience significant levels of raised blood pressure. This could [my emphasis] lead to high blood pressure and an increased risk of heart disease.

The increases in blood pressure observed among boys may not be clinically meaningful for an individual child [my emphasis] yet the research provides further incentives (not evidence, note) for governments to support smoking bans and other legislation that protect children from second-hand smoke.

My reaction?

"This sounds like yet more scaremongering designed to stigmatise adults who smoke at home.

"By their own admission the result of the study is not clinically meaningful for an individual child, so I don't understand how it supports smoking bans and further legislation.

"A more reasonable response would be: nothing to see here, move along."

The Scotsman has the story (with most of my quote above): Passive smoking fumes raise boys' blood pressure ... but lowers girls'

In contrast the Guardian not only omits any mention of the lowering of girls' blood pressure in its headline, it's not even mentioned until the ninth paragraph of the report: Passive smoking raises blood pressure in boys, study reveals.

See also: Passive smoking lowers blood pressure in girls, study reveals (Velvet Glove Iron Fist)

Sunday
May012011

Belgium: another one bites the dust

On Thursday night I joined a dozen colleagues for dinner in a restaurant in Brussels.

The evening began with pre-dinner drinks in a designated smoking room that felt more like the drawing room of a small country house. Guests lit up, staff wandered in and out serving drinks, and all was well with the world.

From July this little oasis will be lost when Belgium extends its smoking ban to remove most of the exemptions that were included in the 2007 legislation.

The decision to introduce a comprehensive ban immediately (instead of waiting for the exemptions to be phased out by January 2014) was made in March when Constitutional Court judges ruled that "drawing distinctions between establishments was actually harmful to competition".

In other words, the exemptions that allowed bars and restaurants to have separate smoking rooms are being removed not to 'protect' public health but to create a level playing field. Choice, it seems, is anti-competitive.

Unlike Britain, though, smoking will still be permitted in restaurants and other public buildings (including offices) with special smoking rooms equipped with decent ventilation. Nothing to celebrate, but better than here where even that tiny exemption is outlawed.

See also: Belgium expands smoking ban to all cafes, casinos (Independent), Belgian barkeepers demonstrate against smoking ban (Yahoo) and Reflections on a 'non-country' (Dick Puddlecote)

Sunday
May012011

Review of the week

Friday
Apr292011

Bad news for republicans

Wall-to-wall coverage of the Royal Wedding on US and European TV.

From my hotel in Brussels I can report that it is currently featuring on CNN, BBC World, France 24, La Une, EEN, Ned 1 (Netherlands), ZDF (Germany), ERT (Spain) and Al Jazeera to name a few.

Thursday
Apr282011

Royal wedding fever

I shall miss the Royal Wedding because I'll be in Brussels for a meeting.

When I get back tomorrow evening however I hope to join friends and family for the tail end of a party to mark the occasion.

How different it was 30 years ago when Charles married Diana. I was 22 and I had been living in London for less than a year.

For the first month I stayed in a hostel near Paddington. After that I moved to a flat in West Ealing. But it was so cold (there was no central heating) I didn't need persuading to move to a better flat in another area.

My new address was a short walk from Marble Arch and Hyde Park and an even shorter walk to the Edgware Road and the No 6 bus that, conveniently, took me to within a few yards of my office in Fleet Lane.

I mention this not because it's interesting (it's not!) but because the locations are central to my recollection of the 1981 royal wedding.

As its name suggests, Fleet Lane was close to Fleet Street, and as anyone with any knowledge of London will tell you, Fleet Street leads directly on to Ludgate Hill and at the top of Ludgate Hill is St Paul's Cathedral.

In the days preceding the wedding we therefore had a grandstand view as hundreds of visitors bagged their places on Ludgate Hill.

When we left the office for a lunchtime drink (or sandwich) there were bodies everywhere. We were literally tripping over them. It was an extraordinary sight and it was hard not to be impressed by the atmosphere and people's determination to get a front row seat, even if it was only sitting on the pavement.

The night before the wedding there was a free open air concert in Hyde Park and because I lived close to the park my flat became a magnet for friends (and friends of friends) who wanted to go.

It finished with a firework display set to music (except that no-one could hear the music because the fireworks were so loud). Afterwards we walked back to the flat and had a party that lasted well into the night.

Dawn was breaking when the last person left so I don't remember much about the wedding itself, which we watched on TV, but I do remember this. Away from the route of the procession the streets of London were almost totally deserted. If you weren't in the crowds lining the route between Buckingham Palace and St Paul's, you were almost certainly watching the event on television.

I know this because after the wedding ceremony we decided to walk to the Palace and join the crowds outside and I don't remember seeing anyone until we got to Constitution Hill where the roars told us that Charles and Di had returned from St Paul's and were on the balcony with other members of the royal family.

But what I remember most is the extraordinary atmosphere. Writing in the Daily Telegraph last week, Charles Moore commented:

Next week, the preacher at the wedding will be Richard Chartres, the Bishop of London. He knows the Royal family better than any other clergyman, dating back to his time at university with the Prince of Wales. Last month, he confirmed Miss Middleton. In 1981, when Prince Charles married Lady Diana Spencer, the young Chartres was chaplain to the Archbishop of Canterbury, so he attended the wedding in St Paul’s. After the ceremony, he was walking down the street in his clerical clothes when he found himself surrounded by a gang of skinheads. Had he just been to the wedding, they asked him. Nervously, he admitted that he had. At this news, the skinheads all hugged him and sang the national anthem.

As a young journalist in Fleet Street at the time, I can testify that the skinheads authentically represented the national feeling. Then, as now, the country was undergoing financial austerity. There had been riots. But suddenly all the anger melted away. The vast crowds for the fireworks the night before the wedding were the friendliest I have ever seen. On the day itself, the delight was genuine. I think this will be true again next week.

I remember coming across a similar gang. They were punks rather than skinheads but their response to us was the same. On any other day we would have ignored one another. But on that day something (excitement, national pride?) drew us together. We left them waving and wreathed in smiles.

Moments like that I will never forget.

Will we look back on tomorrow's events with equally fond memories? I've no idea, but if you are in London tomorrow I hope you have as good a day as we did 30 years ago.