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Voices of Freedom, Smoke On The Water ...

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Hope to see some of you at tomorrow night's Voices of Freedom debate – 'Nudge and the Nanny State: how far should the state intervene in people’s lifestyle?'.

Chaired by Dolan Cummings (Manifesto Club), the event features Josie Appleton (director, Manifesto Club), Dr Alena Buyx (assistant director, Nuffield Council on Bioethics), Dr Steve Davies (education director, Institute of Economic Affairs), John Springford (Social Market Foundation) and economist Paul Ormerod who is currently writing a book, Beyond Nudge: Networks and Public Policy in the 21st Century.

Venue: IEA, 2 Lord North Street, Westminster
Drinks from 6.15pm, discussion from 7.00pm.


Imperial Tobacco wins Forest plain English award

There are many things I like about my job. Writing submissions for 'public' consultations isn't one of them.

I've lost count of how many times we have responded to local, national or international 'consultations':

Consultation on Smoking in Public Places (Greater London Authority Smoking in Public Places Investigative Committee), Consultation on the Future of Tobacco Control (Department of Health), Tobacco and Primary Medical Services (Scotland) Bill (SP Bill 22), Green Paper Consultation (Towards a Europe free from tobacco smoke: policy options at EU level) and many, many more.

Most recently we submitted a response to the Consultation on the Draft Tobacco Control Action Plan for Wales, despite the fact that Forest wasn't on the 'List of Consultees'. Nor was any other consumer organisation. Clearly, the consumer is not expected to have an opinion when it comes to tobacco control. You'll do as you're told, that seems to be the message.

Undeterred, we submitted our response anyway because it's important that we take every opportunity to get our message across. If we didn't we may as well pack up and go home. (And as someone else once said, this is a marathon not a sprint.)

Anyway, I was interested to read another submission to the same consultation.

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (great title) is Imperial Tobacco's response to the Draft Tobacco Control Plan for Wales and I've singled it out because, unusually for such documents, it's written in plain English and it makes a point of standing up for the sorely neglected consumer.

Here's a taste:

The Government's tobacco control policies have never been subjected to proper evaluation. There is therefore no basis on which to claim that the decline in smoking rates is a direct result of [previous] policies ...

The Plan contains multiple references to unelected anti-smoker groups, indicating an alarming level of undue influence on policy formulation and implementation. For example, ASH Wales are featured no less than 39 times in the 45-page Plan. Such levels of influence from vested interest groups invariably lead to unrealistic, unachievable and ineffective policies ...

Rather than talking up what it sees as the benefits of the smoking ban, we would ask the Government to be more forthcoming in its Plan about the significant unintended consequences, in particular the devastating impact that it has on local community pubs. It is now beyond all reasonable doubt that the smoking ban has had the biggest single impact on accelerating pub closures in the UK since 2007. This provides a stark warning to those considering increasing smoking restrictions in and around pubs ...

Government has no mandate to regulate the private lives of adults who have chosen to use a legitimate product. Furthermore, the evidential base for the introduction of invasive legislation is often absent or highly flawed. For example, one report that was extensively recycled in the media claimed that second-hand smoke was "23 times more toxic in a vehicle than in a home". Such claims are without any substance and have been roundly refuted by the evidence.

The use of the term 'smoke-free' is a deliberate attempt to play down the real intention of the introduction of more restrictions and bans. More bans amount to more restrictions on personal freedoms ... Denormalisation is not a strategy that is pursued in other public areas as it has been shown to be ineffective and counter-productive, alienating those whom policy-makers are trying to influence.

You can download The Good, the Bad and the Ugly here. Definitely worth a read.


Smoking and pregnancy on Five Live tonight

Got a call this afternoon from the Stephen Nolan Show on Five Live.

They want to talk about women smoking during pregnancy. It follows a story in today's papers about former EastEnders actress Hannah Waterman who is "seven months pregnant but can't stop smoking".

I said I was happy to do tonight's programme but I suggested the names of a couple of people who I felt could speak with greater authority on the subject, not least because they are women who smoke and have children.

One of them is Pat Nurse.

Coincidentally Pat deleted her blog Tea and Cigarettes this weekend. I understand her reasons for doing so - although I reject strongly her recent and protracted criticism of our Voices of Freedom event with Peter Hitchens - but I know she will be a passionate and articulate speaker, which is why I recommended her.

I understand she will be on after 11.00pm. Worth staying up for.


Is the iPad the greatest thing ever?

Absolutely loving my shiny new iPad.

Screen is crystal clear and it's a joy to use the touchscreen keyboard. The iPhone, in contrast, can be a bit fiddly simply because it's so much smaller.

Operating system is lightning fast. Only problem is the broadband speed in my neck of the woods. We're so far from the telephone exchange that a tortoise could deliver a faster service.

I've hardly downloaded any apps on to my iPhone. Couldn't see the point of them. Now I can. The larger screen makes all the difference. I've just downloaded The Times app (free for the first month) and it looks fabulous. I shall never buy the print version again.

Can't decide whether to download the Telegraph app - £9.99 per month. I buy the Telegraph every day and I like the fact that it's a broadsheet. Difficult to read on the train, though, so perhaps I will subscribe to the electronic version.

I may even download an e-book using iBooks or the Kindle app. Never thought I'd say that. I'm a complete Luddite when it comes to that sort of thing but I can totally understand the appeal of not having to carry around several books, especially on holiday. The iPad is the weight of one large paperback so it makes complete sense.

Minutes before writing this I discovered that Squarespace, who host this blog, also have an app. I didn't think that blogging could get any easier until I downloaded it.

Just noticed too that the iPad hardly heats up at all, unlike a laptop.

Seriously, this is the greatest thing. Ever.


Review of the week


Sluts and tarts

Media alert.

Suzy Dean, a columnist for The Free Society, reports that she is going to be on Channel 4 News tonight off the back of the Slut Walk article she wrote for us recently.

I liked this tongue-in-cheek response from Rob Lyons, deputy editor of Spiked: "Very apt, given that you're a media tart".


PS. Click here to read Suzy's blog. In 2008 she featured in a Free Society video Say NO to the nanny state and once told the BBC, "I really enjoy smoking".


I'm going to the Olympics - are you?

So, have you got any Olympic tickets?

Having bid for £1,000 worth of tickets (I beat the deadline by five minutes), my bank account was this week debited by £66. (That's £60 worth of tickets plus a £6 admin fee.)

Frankly, I'm lucky. Listening to Five Live on Wednesday, scores of people were complaining that they had got nothing at all, despite (in some cases) applying for thousands of pounds worth of tickets.

According to one report, even Boris Johnson failed to get a single ticket, although I can't help think that he'll be invited to a few events (the Opening Ceremony, perhaps) in his official capacity.

What was funny was the fact that most callers failed to understand that the application process was a lottery - official.

As one person pointed out, when you enter the National Lottery, do you expect to get something – even £1 – just because you've bought £100 worth of Lottery tickets?

Look on the bright side. Unlike most lotteries, no-one has lost money.

Anyway, I'm trying to work out what my tickets are for. Given that the minimum price for a ticket is generally £20 (with some exceptions for children aged 16 or less), it appears that I have failed to get tickets for the whole family for any single event.

Instead – and this is a shrewd guess – I think I've got two £30 tickets for the boxing!!!

At least my son will be happy.


Important questions about civil liberties

Further to yesterday's post, Chris Snowdon has written a review of Civil Liberties: Up In Smoke for The Free Society.

Simon Davies' report, says Chris, asks important questions about the state of civil liberties in Britain for those whose lifestyle choices make them outsiders.

Discriminated against by the NHS, taxed to the tune of around £2,000 a year by the Treasury and now told they cannot smoke in a park because the mere sight of them will traumatise children, smokers exist in what Davies calls “a shrinking zone of normality”. It is, he says, “open season” on smokers.

See: Important questions about the state of civil liberties in Britain.