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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!


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.


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)!


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.

Subject: Great British Pub Awards nomination

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


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.


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


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)


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)