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Thursday
Jun302011

Stick an exhaust pipe in your car, says doctor – it's safer than smoking

I got a call yesterday from the Press Association.

Delegates at the British Medical Association's annual conference in Cardiff had called for a blanket ban on smoking in cars (irrespective of whether children are present). What was Forest's response?

I said what I usually say (“A car is a private vehicle and an outright ban would be a gross intrusion" blah blah blah) but what struck me, when I read the reports this morning, was this comment by "public health doctor" Douglas Noble who told the conference:

“It would be safer to have your exhaust pipe on the inside of your car. A ban would protect non-smokers, particularly pregnant women and children."

Safer to have your exhaust pipe on the inside of your car?!!!

I'm no expert but, as I understand it, attaching a hose from your exhaust pipe and feeding it into the car is a very effective way to commit suicide. If Dr Noble is correct (and why wouldn't he be, he's a "public health doctor" for goodness sake), Britain's roads – in the Fifties and Sixties especially – would have been littered with the corpses of drivers (and their passengers) who expired at the wheel thanks to their suicidal habit of smoking while driving.

I know we have to put up with a lot of hyperbole and sometimes downright lies from anti-smoking activists, but is there no limit to which tobacco control advocates will sink when arguing their case?

See: Don't smoke and drive, say doctors calling for a ban (Daily Mirror)
Dangers of smoking in cars extremely damaging to health - say BMA (Wales Online)

Wednesday
Jun292011

Messages from absent friends - and even the BBC is interested!

Beautiful sunny day in London. Total contrast to yesterday.

The hotel where I stayed overnight has thoughtfully provided an iMac in every room and the broadband is lightning fast - well, lightning fast compared to the service at home.

In approximately eight hours we will be welcoming guests to the Save Our Pubs & Clubs reception at the House of Commons.

I don't want to tempt fate (people can be remarkably fickle) but the news is that the event is significantly over-subscribed. Almost 300 people have registered to attend. If they all turn up it's going to be a bit of a scrum, but rather that than no interest at all.

Anyway, it's going to be a pretty hectic day so excuse me if I don't blog. Full report to follow tomorrow.

In the meantime I will leave you with two messages that I have received from absent friends.

From Joe Jackson:

"Sorry I can't be with you today. I am in Berlin, where there is a choice of smoking and nonsmoking spaces, business is good, and everyone is happy. It really is time for the UK government to stop promoting fear and intolerance, stop blurring the line between public and private places, and let publicans set their own policies in their own pubs."

From Antony Worrall Thompson:

"I am sorry I can't be with you today as I'm on my way to catch a flight to Holland because they have seen sense and done a u-turn and amended their ban so they now allow single room bars to choose. At last, a sign of common sense! Let's hope more countries take this lead. It's all about choice - we don't need nannying - we're grown ups. Have great, productive event."

The BBC is reporting the event here: MPs campaign to relax smoking ban in pubs

See also: MPs join campaign to change smoking ban (Morning Advertiser)
Campaign fighting for rethink over smoking ban (Bristol Evening Post)

PS. Weather forecast isn't so good from mid afternoon. Fingers crossed!

Tuesday
Jun282011

Definition of a free society

Tonight is the last of the current Voices of Freedom debates:

To round things off, The Free Society and Liberty League UK present:

DEFINITION OF A FREE SOCIETY
How does Britain rate in 2011?

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

Chairman:
Me

Speakers:
Tom Miers (The Free Society)
Anton Howes (Liberty League)
Emma Boon (TaxPayers Alliance)
Andy Mayer (Liberal Vision)
Dennis Hayes (Academics for Academic Freedom)
Simon Richards (The Freedom Association)

Another full house is expected but we can squeeze in a few more. RSVP events@thefreesociety.org or telephone Nicky Shepherd 01223 370091.

PS. What's your definition of a free society? I'll read out the best ones.

Sunday
Jun262011

From the mouths of publicans

Further to my post about the latest Save Our Pubs and Clubs report on the impact of the smoking ban, the London Evening Standard reported on Friday that:

More than 700 pubs in Greater London have closed since the start of the smoking ban, research reveals today ... Research by CR Consulting for the Save Our Pubs And Clubs campaign found 4,800 pubs had closed in England during the same period.

As usual, the British Beer and Pub Association poured cold water on the issue of the smoking ban:

Brigid Simmonds, chief executive of the British Beer and Pub Association, said a 35 per cent rise in beer duty over three years was the biggest issue. She said: "With more big rises planned, it is one area where the Government could make a big difference."

Full story here.

See also: Inner city pubs were hardest hit by smoking ban (Big Hospitality)

Meanwhile I received an interesting email last night from a publican who shall remain anonymous but he has good connections within the industry. He writes:

Like many publicans I sympathise with your views on the issues of the smoking ban. My pub has seen some fairly radical changes in clientele since the ban. Luckily for us we have some outdoor space and have managed to accommodate the upheaval but I know many have not been so fortunate.

I will be the first to admit that the smoking ban, supermarket pricing and tax have all had their role to play in a very turbulent and demanding time for pubs, but I see JD Wetherspoon and all the managed house groups seem to be fairing pretty well, with like for like profits increasing year on year and plans for expansion and development.

The one thing that differentiates the latter from the majority of pubs actually closing is the beer tie and with the tied tenanted model offering little in the way of tenant earnings sadly many have insufficient resources to weather the economic storm of the combined influences and a further downturn in turnover as a result.

The pub owning companies cure for this downturn in volume sales is to try and achieve similar returns from the dwindling customer base by increasing their prices to tenants, who in turn must pass it on to the customer and practically drive them away with a shi**y stick into the arms of those pesky supermarkets who rather inconveniently are passing on their discounts, achieved by their buying power, to their customers.

Be under no illusion, I believe as publicans we should have been offered an opportunity to offer smoking and non smoking areas, or even choose whether our pub was a smoke free or not venue, but with 2.3% of all tied tenanted pubs closing (660) as against 1.3% of free houses closing (300) – the latter includes wine bars and cafes – in the 12 months between Dec 09 and Dec 10, I think it's fair to say there is a pattern of closure reflecting tied pub profitability being at an all time low.

Update: Brigid Simmonds has declined our invitation to attend the Save Our Pubs and Clubs reception at the House of Commons on Wednesday. No matter. There are lots of other people coming. I'm looking forward to it.

Saturday
Jun252011

Welcome to the rat race

Had dinner with my friend Todd Buchholz on Wednesday.

I have known Todd since 1983 when we met at a conference in Washington. (I have told this story before so I won't bore you with it again.)

Todd – who lives in San Diego – often pops over because his eldest daughter is in her first year at Cambridge University. (In fact, this is Victoria's third year in Cambridge because she left home, aged 16, to spend two years at a sixth form college in the city.)

Anyway, Todd – who is the author of bestselling books New Ideas From Dead Economists and New Ideas From Dead CEOs – has a new book out and it's called Rush: Why You Need and Love the Rat Race.

The book has attracted glowing reviews and inspired an article – Is stress good for you? – on the BBC website:

The lure of a better, simpler life in the country has grown ever more attractive as modern work has become more and more intense. Feeling tired and disillusioned? You need to sort out your work-life balance, take a holiday or find a less stressful job.

But such reactions are totally wrong, argues a controversial new book published in America. Rush: Why You Need and Love the Rat Race argues that far from being ground down by pressure, we need stress to feel alive. It keeps our minds agile, makes us feel good about ourselves and helps us live longer.

By and large, I believe this to be true, although it would be nice to have the choice. Increasingly, few of us have that choice. There's not even the prospect of a comfortable retirement to look forward to. We just have to keep going until we fall off our perch.

Meanwhile, as I contemplate another weekend working around the clock to meet various deadlines, Todd has flown to Rome with his family and, as I write, is on a cruise ship somewhere in the Mediterranean.

Now that's what I call the rat race!!

See also: Kids' summer fun can prepare them for real life (CNN)

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".