Tuesday
Dec272016

The Pleasure of Smoking

Two months ago we invited smokers to complete an online survey devised by the Centre for Substance Use Research in Glasgow.

The response exceeded our expectations. Over 600 completed the survey and the results are published today in a new report, The Pleasure of Smoking: The Views of Confirmed Smokers.

As you can imagine the opinions expressed by most respondents don't fit the establishment's anti-smoking narrative so don't expect to hear them on the Today programme, one of whose guest editors this week is Chief Medical Officer Dame Sally Davies.

Despite our best efforts it's unlikely too that you'll read about the The Pleasure of Smoking in your national newspaper. So it's up to you, dear reader, to help disseminate the report as widely as possible.

Here are the headline results:

The overwhelming majority of confirmed smokers say they light up because they enjoy smoking not because they are addicted, a new study has found.

A survey of over 600 smokers by the Centre for Substance Use Research in Glasgow found that nearly all respondents (95%) gave pleasure as their primary reason for smoking, with 35% suggesting that smoking was part of their identity.

Well over half (62%) liked the physical effect of nicotine, 55% liked the way smoking provided “time for oneself”, 52% liked the taste or smell of tobacco, and 49% liked the ritual involved in smoking.

Most of those surveyed (77%) expected to smoke for many years with only 5% envisaging a time in the near future when they might have stopped.

Although a majority (56%) felt that they were addicted to smoking, many described the habit as a personal choice rather than behaviour determined by their dependence on nicotine.

Asked what they liked least about smoking, 73% cited the financial cost while 54% objected to the stigma that is now directed towards smokers.

Asked what might prompt them to stop smoking in future, the most common reasons were becoming seriously unwell as a result of smoking or exacerbating an illness through smoking.

Anti-smoking policies such as smoking bans and plain packaging were not cited by any respondents as reasons to quit smoking.

Significantly nine out of ten respondents (91%) felt they were treated unfairly by government. Only 4% felt they were treated fairly.

More than half the respondents (59%) had used alternative nicotine delivery products such as e-cigarettes. Few however were persuaded to switch permanently from combustible cigarettes to e-cigarettes.

The full press release, including comments by Dr Neil McKeganey, director of the CSUR, is available here.

I will return to various elements in the report later in the week. There's quite a bit to chew over including the reaction of respondents to e-cigarettes.

To download The Pleasure of Smoking: The Views of Confirmed Smokers click here.

Update: Dick Puddlecote has commented on the report here (The much ignored pleasure of smoking). See also Grandad (When smokers answer back).

Saturday
Dec242016

Happy Christmas

I saw this a couple of weeks ago and it made me laugh.

If you're on Facebook you can also view it here. Many of the 1.9k comments are rather touching.

Enjoy, and have a very happy Christmas. Normal service will be resumed on Tuesday.

PS. This is rather funny too (if you watch it to the end).

Tuesday
Dec132016

Pantomime Dame to star on BBC's Christmas stage

This should be good.

For the past decade or more Radio 4's Today programme has livened up its post Christmas broadcasts by inviting a series of guest editors to stamp their mark on the news of the day.

Some I remember, the vast majority I don't.

According to Radio Times they have included Sir Lenny Henry, Michael Palin, Tracey Emin, Sir Bradley Wiggins, Lord Sebastian Coe, John Bercow MP, Prof Stephen Hawking, PD James, Sir Tim Berners Lee, Yoko Ono, David Hockney, Jarvis Cocker, Sir Richard Branson and Melinda Gates.

This year's line-up, naturally, is all-female (a first, apparently) but when it was announced last month the focus was on actor Carey Mulligan because of her topical interest in the impact of the war with Isis on Iraq’s children.

Much less was written about boxer Nicola Adams, businesswoman Helena Morrissey and chief medical officer Sally Davies.

Yes, Dame Sally Davies. As if she doesn't get enough attention already, the CMO is to guest edit the BBC's flagship news programme. Just what we need when we're still reeling from the effects of too much food and alcohol.

For the record, here are some of Davies' interventions and proclamations since she was appointed CMO for England in 2011 following a brief period as acting CMO:

Dame Sally Davies says people should work at least until their late 60s (December 2016)

To ensure the health of the nation it “is critical that [waist size] is addressed”, Dame Sally Davies said yesterday (December 2016)

Health chief: obesity warning letters to parents must not be watered down (November 2016)

England’s chief medical officer warns of ‘antibiotic apocalypse’ (May 2016)

Think about cancer before you have a glass of wine, says chief medical officer (February 2016)

Chief Medical Officer Sally Davies says keep off the booze two days a week (December 2015)

Britain’s chief medical officer says obesity is as big a threat as terrorism (December 2015)

England's chief medical officer says smoking should be banned in parks and children's play areas (September 2015)

Dame Sally Davies: Smoking 'rots you from the inside' (December 2014)

Ban smoking in public parks: England's most senior doctor warns lighting up in public places encourages children to take up the habit (October 2014)

Health chief will not endorse e-cigarettes (September 2014)

Sally Davies, chief medical officer for England, thinks society needs to wake up to problems with body weight, drinking and e-cigarettes (March 2014)

England’s chief medical officer warns of rising liver disease rates (November 2012)

The Guardian reports that when Davies takes the Today editor's chair she will look at science, global health, and “great women”.

Sadly that would appear to rule out the Department of Health's top ranking official Andrew Black whose job title is now Head of Global Tobacco Control Projects.

Nevertheless England is clearly not enough for our ambitious Dame. Armed with every fearmongering stat she can lay her hands on, world domination awaits!

PS. When did we stop calling actresses "actresses"? It's been a while, I know, but 'actor Carey Mulligan' doesn't sound right, to me at least.

Tuesday
Dec132016

So this is what the NHS means by patient care in 2016

The Leicester Mercury has published a truly shocking story.

It's not online so I can't link to it but here are some excerpts:

A mental health patient says a hospital smoking ban is hampering her recovery. She also claims some patients are being taken on "smoking walks" along the potentially dangerous and busy A50 road near the unit on the Glenfield Hospital site.

Helen Charlesworth, a 30-a-day smoker, was admitted to the Bradgate mental health unit six weeks ago. She is so poorly she is not allowed away from the unit – but her cigarettes have also been banned.

Helen, who is bipolar and suffers from personality disorder, said: "I was given patches but they didn't work and I have tried an e-cigarette but I am becoming more and more depressed because I can't have a cigarette.

"People used to be able to have e-cigarettes in the garden but even that has now been stopped."

Helen also told the paper:

"People used to be able to smoke in the garden at the Bradgate unit but because there is a ban on smoking in the grounds now some patients are being escorted on smoking walks.

"They have to go right up by the A50, which could be quite dangerous and put some people at risk, especially is someone had suicidal thoughts. It is also taking staff longer because of the distance.

"It is not just the patients. I know that many of the staff don't agree with the ban either."

I've just checked and it appears that Helen Charlesworth's MP might be Nicky Morgan.

If that's correct perhaps the former Education Secretary could take time off from sniping at Theresa May and take up Helen's case.

After all, representing the interests of constituents is supposed to be an MP's principal role, not commenting on Brexit, grammar schools or the PM's choice of trousers.

Monday
Dec122016

Eat, drink, smoke, vape ... and be merry

Currently on a train south of Dublin so I'll take this opportunity to unveil the 2016 Forest Christmas card.

Theme is 'Eat, Drink, Smoke, Vape – It's Your Choice' and the salutation reads 'Merry Christmas from Forest'.

The card has been sent to 300 people including MPs, journalists and parliamentary researchers.

H/T Dan Donovan for the design.

Sunday
Dec112016

Poisoning people's minds against smokers

Duncan Selbie, chief executive of Public Health England, is a busy man.

Last month the taxpayer-funded bureaucrat said he wanted a "tobacco-free" NHS with a blanket ban on smoking on hospital grounds.

He told Health Service Journal (HSJ): “I would like to see every hospital tobacco-free.

"I don't just mean you can stand at the front door of the hospital, I mean tobacco-free."

See Health boss says hospitals should ban all smoking on their grounds (Telegraph).

Today the Mirror reports:

Hospitals should test all pregnant women for carbon monoxide to check whether they are smokers.

The advice has been given to NHS trust bosses by public health supremo Duncan Selbie as part of a new drive to help England’s seven million smokers quit.

In a letter to all trust chief executives, the head of Public Health England said:

"Smoking during pregnancy is associated with a range of negative outcomes, including miscarriage, premature birth, stillbirth and neonatal complications."

Mr Selbie wants all hospitals to ban smoking anywhere on their premises and steer patients who smoke towards services to help them stop.

His most controversial recommendation is screening all expectant mums when they book hospital appointments. It implies that simply asking them whether they smoke is not good enough.

“Smoking during pregnancy is associated with a range of negative outcomes, including miscarriage, premature birth, stillbirth and neonatal complications.”

The suggestion is proving controversial. According to the Mirror:

Users of website Mumsnet reacted furiously, branding it “utter meddlesome nonsense” and “intrusive nannying”.

One wrote: “I think this is outrageous – why aren’t pregnant women being trusted to tell the truth?”

Another commented: “Really terrible idea. Pregnant women are not just baby incubators.”

The Royal College of Midwives described it as “draconian” and pressure group Forest said: “This seems incredibly invasive.”

One mum posting on Mumsnet under the name Kaytee says: “Carbon monoxide testing sounds like nanny state.

“I tell someone I don’t smoke, I expect them to believe me. Smoking isn’t illegal so it is up to the individual whether we agree with it or not.

“I doubt I would decline it but the reason they insist is in case you’re lying, which is a bit insulting as it’s treating women like children.”

Another adds: “It’s like drug-testing criminals. You shouldn’t have to turn your body over to the nanny state the minute you’re pregnant.”

A third writes: “Yes, women lie about smoking. Testing them will only encourage more not to go to their appointments.”

Even the Mirror, which is not known for its sympathy towards smokers, is aghast. In a leading article the paper says:

The seven million smokers who still puff away know full well the risks they are running. Giving up – or better still, never starting – is the best way to avoid an early death.

Women also know, because they have been told often enough, that if they light up while pregnant they increase their chances of ­miscarriage, stillbirth and complications.

That said, we still live in a free country. Smoking is now a restricted activity, but not an illegal one. Those who choose to use tobacco have every right to do so.

And it is that which makes Duncan Selbie’s letter to NHS Trust bosses at best controversial and at worst outrageous.

The chief executive of Public Health England says hospitals should give mums-to-be carbon monoxide tests to check whether they are inhaling the evil weed.

What he means is that their word is not good enough. He does not trust them to tell the truth.

That is to treat patients like prisoners. And it should have no place in the NHS.

Full article: NHS has no right to tell pregnant women not to smoke - they already know the risks (Mirror).

Selbie's proposal is not without support, of course, and there is one very familiar voice backing the initiative:

Deborah Arnott, from Action on Smoking and Health, supports carbon monoxide tests on all pregnant women.

She said: “Women undergo a range of tests when pregnant, and testing for carbon monoxide should be one of them.

“It’s not just about smoking – some women were found to have high levels of carbon monoxide because of faulty heating in their homes.

"Most do quit smoking when they are pregnant but if they are finding it difficult they need help.”

I'm intrigued that Deborah is concerned about faulty heating (Action on Dodgy Heaters?) but it's her usual smoke and mirrors.

Whatever ASH might say, the PHE campaign has nothing to do with heaters or other sources of carbon monoxide.

It's all about smoking and poisoning people's minds against smokers, pregnant or otherwise.

Full report: Hospitals should 'test all pregnant women to find out if they smoke' in a bid to help them quit (Mirror).

Thursday
Dec082016

Tonight's the night

Looking forward to the Public Affairs Awards in London tonight.

As I explained a few weeks ago, Forest has been shortlisted for 'Party Conference Reception of the Year'.

The event was Eat, Drink, Smoke, Vape. We've organised better parties but it attracted 500 guests and word got round.

Vice.com reviewed it as follows:

What it was: Forest and the Tobacco Manufacturers Association – the fags lobby.

Why people might not like them: For pushing cancer sticks.

The image they wanted to portray: If you want to pay to slowly poison your body for little discernible gain, then that's your choice. Also, you can vape now, which is less cool – but if we talk enough about that maybe you'll forget the cancer.

What the party was like: Actually really good. An upper-middle market bar packed to the gills with free booze, mini burgers, pocket ashtrays (a weird plastic wallet thing you can carry around) inscribed with the words "Say no to outdoor smoking bans", and leaflets about how "A once benign nanny state has become a bully state, coercing rather than educating adults to give up tobacco."

Entertainment: It was advertised as 'Eat. Drink. Smoke. Vape.' so like all good parties there were no frills beyond the amount of inebriants you could stuff in your body.

What the entertainment should have been: The same but with the film Breathless projected onto one of the walls, because that's hands down the best advert for smoking ever made.

If I was a politician, would I be convinced by this? Yeah, this was a convincing a case for freedom to chose. Almost as convincing as talking to a doctor about why you shouldn't smoke.

Seriously, that was a good review compared to the same journalist's comments on other receptions:

Heathrow and Gatwick Airports: Heathrow sponsored a party in the "sky bar" of a hotel that I failed to blag my way into, but if previous form is anything to go by, I'm going to assume [it was] "very boring". At both the Labour and Conservative conferences Heathrow erected an airport-style lounge, ie places people hate being, to promote themselves. I also briefly went to a Gatwick reception at the Labour conference, where people were crowding into a stuffy room to hear somebody mumbling quietly about airports. The booze had run out so I didn't stay long.

Association of British Bookmakers: The absolute classic, mate – a room full of people drinking wine and eating canapés. You get to take your picture with some Scottish football trophies, which would maybe be a big deal to some Scottish people.

British Association of Shooting and Conservation: A drab, half empty hotel room where people pawed at tepid goujons and talked about the best type of shotgun with which to murder wildlife.

See We did a bar crawl of the Tory conference's parties (Vice.com).

Venue for tonight's black tie event is the Park Plaza Riverbank Hotel in London and the host is Sky News' presenter Kay Burley. If we win it will be a miracle but whatever happens I will keep you posted!

Update: No, Forest didn't win Party Conference Reception of the Year. It won by The Enterprise Forum.

The other disappointment was the absence of Kay Burley. We got one of her lesser known colleagues which rather summed up the event which was enjoyable enough but lacked star quality.

On the plus side I rejoiced in the absence of those bombastic blasts of music organisers of similar events like to play every time someone goes to collect an award.

At the end of it all I'm not sure quite what to make of the Public Affairs Awards. The fact that anyone can nominate themselves for an award on payment of £150 (an offer I declined, btw) seems a bit weird, although I can see it's a good business model.

It's not clear what percentage of paid for nominations made it on to the shortlist and won an award but it must be quite high.

Apart from that, no further questions, m'lud.

Thursday
Dec082016

Another voice

Yesterday I bemoaned the absence of voices criticising the latest anti-smoking measure in Scotland.

Today, writing in the Scottish Daily Express, columnist Keith Aitken declared:

Within hours of Scotland's ban coming into force on smoking in cars that contain children, the anti-smoking lobby was bawling for it to be extended to cover all private vehicles at all times.

Know what this strategy reminds me of? The Bush administration's rationale for waterboarding. Ends justifying any means. It is about tormenting the remaining smokers until they break.

You can – just about – make a sensible case for the new law against smoking with children in car though, personally, I think it unnecessary and probably quite useless.

It's not just that English police find it unenforceable. Only an idiot, given what's now universally known about secondary smoke, would smoke in a car with kids, and laws don't make idiots smart.

But a private car is no different in principle from a private home. The law has no business telling me how to behave there, unless it adversely affects others.

As for the idea that your smoke might harm someone getting a lift, are we really arrogant enough to think that grown-ups can't sort that out for themselves?

I quit smoking 17 years ago, and I'm glad to have done so.

Relentless persecution of adult smokers by the unco guid is the one thing that could make me start up again ... just to spite the creeps.

Note: Unco guid is a Scottish term for those "who are professedly strict in matters of morals and religion".

There are others of course who take a different view and earlier this week I received the following email:

Dear Mr Clark,

I have just heard your comments on the ban on smoking in cars where children are present. I understand that you are biased in favour of smokers but when you say we should rely on smokers using their common sense I would suggest that smokers do not possess common sense in regard to this issue. Experience shows that many, many smokers are prepared to put their children's health at risk by smoking in their presence.

I note from your comments on the Forest website that, in response to a doctor's suggestion that smoking in cars should be banned regardless of whether there are children present, you reckon smoking in cars does no harm to others. I would beg to differ. Many are the occasions when I have been behind a car with a smoker and that foul smoke has penetrated my car.

Your organisation was a loud critic of the ban on smoking in bars, restaurants, hotels, etc. The evidence of the health benefits of the ban is overwhelming, and demonstrates that lackeys for the tobacco industry are so obviously biased and merit no attention.

Yours, appreciating a smoke free environment.

I don't think Forest has ever said smoking in a car "does no harm to others". What we have said is:

  • Smoking in a car is inconsiderate (at best) if children are present and we don't condone it.
  • If only adults are present they can sort it out between themselves. We don't need the state to intervene.
  • Very few people (including children) are exposed hour after hour, day after day, to smoke in a car.
  • The dose is the poison and if people do light up in a car they tend to open the window which reduces the smoke significantly.

Another point I made on BBC Radio Scotland on Monday was this.

The baby boom generation of the Fifties and Sixties was exposed far more to smoking in the home (and the car) than the current generation, yet that earlier generation is living longer than any in human history.

I'm not drawing a correlation, I said, but it suggests that the effects of even long-term exposure to tobacco smoke in childhood has not been as bad as some people would have us believe.

I personally would err on the side of caution where young children and small confined spaces are concerned, but legislation?

No thanks.

Update: If you want to comment on Keith Aitken's article you should write a short letter to scotexpress@express.co.uk. I'm sure he would appreciate some support!

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