Saturday, 3 June 2017

Still Angry - And Getting More So!

For a variety of reasons, I haven't added to this blog for a long time. It might be thought that I am less angry than I was, but that is far from the truth. In fact, I don't think I've ever been as angry as I am these days. I'm angry at the government, at the National Health Service,  the European Union, the World Health Organisation, the United Nations - and, above all, the international body that was created by - and which now appears to own - all of the foregoing, known as the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. For anyone who doesn't know, this international cabal of interfering busybodies is the modern equivalent of the Spanish Inquisition; an unelected, unaccountable, moralistic, fundamentalist sect that secretly and irresistibly commands governments to rob, vilify, ostracize, segregate, persecute, shame, bully and otherwise make life miserable for one target group - those who choose to smoke.

Why should I be angry about that - for I am not a smoker? Well, I was a smoker, and while thus engaged I was impoverished by the taxes I had to pay to enjoy my habit; taxes that I was told were to compensate the NHS for the costs of my treatment for "smoking-related" diseases - none of which I have ever had. Well, perhaps not my diseases, but those that smoking "causes" in the wider population and cost £2.7 billion every year to treat, according to NHS claims. Costs which must be met by government (i.e. from tax receipts) out of the more than £13 billion per year levied on tobacco sales! How sad it is that our government "only" gets to keep around £10-and-a-half billion of smoker "donations" for its other pet projects!  I was angered too by the state-sponsored persecution that enabled total strangers to approach me with a wagging finger upraised to tell me how I was not only killing myself but my and their children. I was angered by doctors and dentists and opticians telling me that every little problem I had was possibly caused by my habit - or, at the least, "well, it's not likely to help, is it?" I would sometimes respond that the colour of the sky was similarly unlikely to help too, but such irony is lost on those who "know best".

Eventually I realised that I could no longer afford to sustain my habit, for the same government that was enriching itself by £10.5 billion a year at the expense of smokers, now realised that it had to pay me back some of my own money in the form of State Pension from a fund that I had paid into for 50 years. However, it could not afford to pay back sufficient to make it possible for me to pay the six quid a day that it wanted from me as my penalty for smoking - even though they "knew" (for they had told me for years) that I would not live long enough to collect a pension because of my smoking! So it was that I found myself becoming enraged. And that was not helped by the imposition in 2007 of the ban on smoking in "public places" which was actually a ban on smoking in PRIVATE places such as theatres, pubs and my place of work, which at that time was a car park perched on top of a cliff overlooking the Atlantic ocean!

So I did something I had rarely contemplated before; I decided I would try and quit smoking. I bought myself an e-cigarette, which I was told I could use where and when I could not smoke. To my complete surprise, it worked immediately. I enjoyed vaping, and very few people minded the light vapour and the sweet smell of mint or cherries. The equipment evolved, and the choice of flavours expanded and I suddenly realised that I had seamlessly quit smoking and become a vaper. That happy transition was in October 2013, and I have not had a cigarette since. Even better, my breathing is easier, my food is tastier, and I have the satisfaction of saving, I understand, around  £7 per day in tobacco tax!

Why then, should I still be angry?  Perhaps it's because I still identify with smokers, and I see them being further victimised and marginalised by ever more vociferous demands for bans in parks and town squares, in car parks and public streets, and on beaches. On beaches, for heaven's sake, where a wisp of smoke is gone in an instant, diluted by a trillion molecules of air! And I become even more incensed when I see calls for vaping to be included in the same crazy ideology. I am incredulous that supposedly rational people can seriously call for bans in the open air on something that happens to look a little (a very little!) like smoking, that smells nothing like smoke, and has exhibited no harm to anyone, ever!

Recently we have seen pubs and clubs, that once welcomed smokers and non-smokers alike, closing at the rate of around 30 per week. Nobody has said that the smoking ban is the only reason for the decline of the industry but it doubtless played a large part. Publicans had no choice in the matter - the law decreed that smoking be prohibited indoors. But the law says nothing about vaping, for it is not smoking. Yet many pubs now prohibit vaping too. If challenged, publicans will say, "We cannot tell the difference between vapour and smoke", which is ridiculous, or, "Customers don't want to be assailed by sweet smells", which should prompt them to cease the sale of  desserts and coffee, and drinks too, and perhaps refuse to serve people wearing after-shave, perfumes and deodorants. I cannot believe that all publicans have suddenly developed an aversion to seeing people enjoying themselves, so what is the incentive to ban people from doing something little different to sucking a sweet? I fully understand the right of proprietors to determine what is acceptable in their premises (which is more than governments do these days!) but banning something that they need not, when a large proportion of their former clientele has already been exiled, seems little short of commercial lunacy. What incentive, I wonder, makes a brewery chain declare war on its non-smoking customers because they choose to vape? No wonder that 2.9 million former smokers feel aggrieved; they did what was demanded of them, they stopped smoking, and turned to an alternative that is at least 95% less risky than smoking to themselves and probably 100% to others around them, yet they are still being marginalised.  That is why I remain angry!

Monday, 16 February 2015

Sally Davies; Professor of 'Health' Garbage!

Anyone who saw the recent 'interview' between Gavin Esler and Professor Dame Sally Davies on BBC television will understand my increased anger. Whilst the good professor stated that the upcoming ban on smoking in cars with children will not encompass vaping, she still found it necessary to take the usual sideswipe at e-cigarettes, suggesting that some e-liquids had been withdrawn from sale because they had caused chronic lung disease. This was a blatant lie. In fact, one e-juice vendor company withdrew a butterscotch-flavoured juice because it was found to contain traces of diacetyl, which has been linked to workers in factories who, having worked for long periods with diacetyl, had developed a condition known as 'popcorn lung'. No vapers were harmed in this scenario!

To me, this claim was not the worst. There were two other claims that outraged me, as they would, I am sure, anyone else who has a scientific mind - and that should include the Chief Medical Officer of Health, given that she advises the government on medical matters. Because I am an idle typist, I shall cut and paste here my complaint to the BBC, so I don't have to write it all out again:

Full Complaint: "I refer to a recent interview with Professor Dame Sally Davies (Chief Medical Officer of Health), where she made several false, misleading or untrue statements with regard to the government's imposition of a ban on smoking in cars with children. 1) She agreed with the presenter that smoking prevalence has dramatically decreased, yet went on to say that illnesses that have been attributed to 'second-hand' or 'passive' smoking are on the increase. Anyone of a scientific mind would realise that such cannot be the case unless a) the diseases are NOT caused by environmental tobacco smoke and b) some other causative factor must be to blame. 2) She declared that butterscotch flavouring had to be withdrawn because it causes chronic lung disease. This is simply not true. 3) She made the claim that smoke in a car was up to 11 times worse than in a pub when smoking was allowed. This is utterly meaningless in terms of what size of car, what size of pub, how many smokers used the pub, over what time -scale. Then she added that, as for opening the car windows, it's an unhealthy atmosphere. Did she refer here to the ingress of traffic fumes, or to reduction of the smokiness of the car? As a scientist, and an adviser on public health, she should know better than to make such sweeping and unscientific statements. 4) I cannot understand how such inaccuracies went unchallenged by an experienced interviewer; he could not have failed to notice them. Could he?!"

Today, I received a reply, in the form of a 'round robin'sent to all who registered a complaint:

"Thank you for sharing your concerns about an interview with the Chief Medical Officer, Professor Dame Sally Davies, broadcast on the BBC News Channel.

The main point of the interview was to get Dame Sally's views on the upcoming ban on smoking in cars with children. At one point presenter Gavin Esler asked if the ban also covered 'vaping'. Dame Sally explained that it would not and she went on to express her concerns about the potential health impact of e-cigarettes:

"They put in flavourings - we don't know the impact of those. Butterscotch had to be withdrawn because people got chronic lung disease."

This was seemingly in reference to a story broadcast by the BBC last year, where we found that an e-cigarette liquid manufacturer had included a potentially dangerous butterscotch flavouring in one of its products. Experts said that the flavouring, diacetyl, had been shown to cause very serious lung conditions in the past.

So Dame Sally was correct in that there had been a case of butterscotch flavouring being withdrawn over health concerns, although we appreciate that you feel this point could have been explored further. During a live interview it’s not possible to question a guest over every point they raise and, in this case, the main point of discussion was the upcoming ban on traditional cigarettes.

Once again, thank you getting in touch."

With that whitewash, my complaint was dismissed.

No wonder I get angry!

Friday, 6 February 2015

Perhaps I Was Not Angry Enough! (Part One.)

It has been quite a while since I posted anything to this blog. It's not that I had nothing to say, but I was saying it elsewhere. That's wrong of me, for I have rarely been as angry as I am at the moment. And the reason for my anger? The same old rhetoric from 'Public Health' aka the Anti Nicotine and Tobacco Zealots (ANTZ), whose crusade against smoking has morphed into a crusade against the entire tobacco industry, the nascent but burgeoning e-cigarette industry, the smoker, the vaper, the free-thinker, the brewery industry, the distillery industry, the soft-drinks industry, the fast-food industry, the slow-food industry, .... In fact, the ANTZ have become the IDLE; that's the I Don't Like Ennything brigade (yes, I know, but a good many of them cannot spell either!). The only industry (apart from their own) that they appear to like, it seems, is the pharmaceuticals industry - the fount of so-called scientific funding that grants huge munificence in research grants to provide data that can be tortured into propaganda that can be used to coerce and bully politicians into instituting policies that ensure further profits for further research ..... It is a cycle that goes around like the galaxy, and the Black Hole at its centre attracts ever more fake charities, ever more civil servants, ever more unelected bureaucrats, ever more taxes, which then disappear from the Universe, never to be seen again by most human eyes. And that makes me angry. Not that it is MY money. In fact only a very, very small part of it is MY money. But I am angry that it is the money of billions of people like me, the LITTLE people, that is squandered, and I am angry that it is all done with trickery, fraud, dishonesty and lies by the people we are told are protecting us!

For those who don't already know, I used to smoke. I was told it wasn't good for me but I did it anyway. Then I was told that my habit was bankrupting the NHS, and I must pay extra taxes to offset the costs of medical care that I needed (actually didn't need) because I smoked. So I paid my dues and carried on smoking until I realised that I, and millions like me, were paying way more than our fair share. So I did the sensible thing, and quit smoking. All well and good, but I retained a liking for nicotine, the harmless plant extract that I am told was the only reason for smoking. The nicotine did me no harm, but the tar and gases from burning tobacco, I was told, were probably going to kill me at some point. Then I discovered that an electronic cigarette would allow me to continue to enjoy my nicotine in a way that was at least 99% safer than smoking tobacco, and for that reason alone I was prepared to give it a try. And then I discovered that the tax regime on this device was orders of magnitude more affordable, for I would not be penalised for the costs of treating the smoking-related diseases that I had never developed. This was a no-brainer! I stopped smoking, and began vaping - and I loved it, felt healthier, was wealthier, and no longer attracted criticism from family and friends for an anti-social, smelly, risky habit.

This was when I started to get angry. For I began to realise that the propaganda against smoking was a smokescreen (pun accidental but serendipitous!). It turned out that it was all about money and nothing to do with health! If I was not going to be a good little smoker, pay my inflated taxes, then die without drawing my pension, my quitting was likely to cost the Exchequer a vast fortune, especially if I were to live longer, draw more pension, need care into my old age, require treatment for age-related diseases (more expensive than that for smoking-related ones!). And that cannot be allowed, can it? So I began to see that it is essential to make up the shortfall that 2 million reformed smokers will cause, and that e-cigarettes will have to be taxed like tobacco products to balance the books - except that they are NOT tobacco products, they have NO proven risks, and there is thus no justification for taxing them like cigarettes. So I have watched the growing tide of anti-vaping propaganda swell into a tidal wave, while knowing that it was designed to keep as many smokers smoking for as long as possible, while hitting them with ever-increasing tax burdens yet simultaneously making vaping seem just as injurious to health in order to justify the same swingeing 'sin' tax in order to balance the Chancellor's books. And what makes it worse is that I see the 'public health' authorities being used to manipulate the public in order to bring this about!

That makes me VERY angry! Public Health should be about promoting, well, the health of the public. Not the fiscal health of an economy that is in crisis because of that black hole in the centre of the system.

Friday, 26 September 2014

Guest posting from a former 'passive smoker'

The Joy of Vaping (by Marilyn Cliff, an ex passive smoker)

I used to sit and sulk when my husband had a smoke
for living with a smoker is definitely no joke.
I knew he was a smoker when we met that fateful night
but thought with my alluring charm I would soon put him right

How wrong I was but even so I was dazzled by his smile
and decided he could have his fags (if only for a while!)
Time moved on and he moved in and I would moan and rabbit
but all to no avail as he refused to  break his habit.

The cost of buying cigarettes rose beyond belief
such a lot of cash I thought for a dried up bit of leaf.
And although we were not rich the damage to our wealth
was nothing to compare to the damage to our health.

I was a passive smoker and would moan this wasn’t fair
that the awful smell of fag smoke stayed in my clothes and hair.
And what about my lungs filled with tars and god knows what
but he always had an answer when I put him on the spot.

His smoker’s cough would wake me as he sat up with a splutter
before lighting up a fag while I would curse and mutter.
But with the help of patches he managed to refrain
and lasted for a year or more before he smoked again.

Then as he neared the age when he would draw his pension
he discovered the E-cig a marvellous invention.
He tried it and it worked for he is now a happy vaper
I am happy too and wish to note this down on paper.

No more are our lives blighted by the dreaded smoking fog
and he spreads the word on vaping as he chunters on his ‘blog’

Monday, 2 June 2014

A non-smoker's view of vaping

I do not lay claim to the following article, nor have I had a part in its creation. It is an honest attempt by a non-smoking, non-vaping private citizen to put the commonsense point of view on smoking and not smoking. I commend it for its honesty and its lack of spin (which is more than I can do for the outpourings of the anti-tobacco zealots)!                                                                                                                                 Geoff Cliff.

Views of a non smoker

I am in my mid sixties and have never smoked. My father was a heavy smoker and my mother a ‘social smoker’. She occasionally smoked cocktail cigarettes which were in pastel shades and quite pretty and feminine looking. My grandmother occasionally smoked Woodbines. So in spite of being in regular contact with smokers, how come I have never smoked? I tried it once in my teens thinking I would try one of gran’s Woodbines and I sneaked one into the bathroom with a box of matches and lit up. It was awful and I coughed, choked and retched. That was the one and only time I ever tried smoking.

My best friend at school smoked, as did all her parents and two sisters. I used to call for her in the morning on the way to school and I recall the horrible, thick smoky atmosphere when I went into her house. Also her two elder sisters liked the perfume Revlon’s Intimate, which they sprayed liberally on themselves. That smell combined with the dense smoke from four smokers was enough to put me off smoking (and Intimate perfume) for life.

My friend and I had quite a long walk to school and she would be struggling to light a cigarette whilst gasping for breath to keep up with me. I never felt under any pressure to ‘have a fag’ as I had made up my own mind not to smoke.

In my later teens when I had started work I had quite a long bus journey into Birmingham. On the occasions when there was no room downstairs and I had to go upstairs I hated the smell of stale smoke that lingered on the seats and the thick fug of smoke that clung to my clothes and my hair. Even opening a window brought no relief from the smell.

My boyfriend at the time was a smoker and although I hated the lingering smell, at that time smoking was accepted socially, so I just put up with it. In spite of seeing him smoke and enjoy his cigarettes I still never wanted to smoke. My parents and boyfriend would smoke in the house and it was just accepted. The only time there was a problem was when my boyfriend fell asleep on the sofa and dropped his cigarette, which burned a hole in the settee.

We married and had two children and he continued to smoke in the house. My younger son was born eleven weeks prematurely and was very ill for a long time. He spent the first six months of life in hospital and was on a ventilator for ten weeks due to problems with his lungs. It was at this time that the dangers of smoking were made apparent by one of his doctors who said that under no circumstances should the baby be in a situation where he could breathe in cigarette smoke due to the breathing problems he had experienced. My husband didn’t like being told this, but for a while didn’t smoke when the baby was in the room. I hadn’t really considered the dangers of smoking or even passive smoking until then. My main objections were the smell that lingered, the yellowing of the paintwork and wallpaper in the house, and the cost.

We divorced after sixteen years of marriage, after he had met someone else. Subsequently I met and fell in love with the man who became my second husband. Unfortunately he was a smoker too, but in the heady days of new love I didn’t let it bother me too much. Once we had settled down to married life I did object to him smoking. He smoked in the house, which I didn’t like, and, as we had both been through messy divorces and were short of money, I objected to the cost of smoking and also the possible effect on his health. He had been a smoker for thirty years or so since he was a young teenager and, as I knew he was a smoker when I met him, he would counter any of my objections with this argument. He had a smoker’s cough and this, coupled with what the doctors had said when my son was a baby, made me again realise the possible dangers to health. Also my mum had died aged seventy of secondary lung cancer although she had given up smoking twenty years before she died. My dad had given up smoking when mom had been diagnosed with breast cancer some five years before she died. My dad died from a heart attack aged eighty-six and up until his early eighties had always been fit and well.

Neither of my two sons has ever smoked in spite of being subject to it in the home environment and in pubs and clubs during their teens and twenties.

My husband and I moved to Cornwall in our mid fifties to ‘live the dream’. My husband still smoked but as the cottage we moved into had low ceilings and small rooms, he would go outside to smoke. I worried about the effect smoking had on his health. If he was working outside he would frequently have a cigarette clenched in his teeth while using both hands to build a wall or mix cement. I hated to see this as it seemed to me he was doubly inhaling the noxious smoke.

Eighteen months after our move I was diagnosed with breast cancer. My husband gave up smoking of his own accord and supported me throughout all my treatment. I really appreciated this and knew how difficult it must have been for him. Sadly he started smoking again when he was with his brother (a smoker) on a long and tiring car journey. His brother smoked cigarettes in the car and the temptation to have one became too much. Following this, for a while he smoked less than he had before but in time it became as many as before.

When we bought a newer car he said he wouldn’t smoke in the car as it was pristine inside but before long he did start smoking in the car, which I hated. The car smelt of stale smoke, ash was dropped on the floor and a couple of cigarette burns appeared in the upholstery. On occasions when I would kiss or cuddle our dog after she had been in the car, I could smell stale smoke on her. I know my husband thought I was a nag and probably I was, but he smelt of cigarettes most of the time and even when he had been outside for a smoke when he came back in the lounge I could smell it on him and his breath.

Last year, with retirement looming and with reduced income and the constant bad press about smoking, my husband decided to give electronic cigarettes a try. He bought the necessary items, which cost probably a tenth of what he had been spending on cigarettes a month, and initially I was quite impressed. I must admit I thought it would just be a ‘flash in the pan’, a short-lived fad, but no, nine months later he is still sticking with the e-cig. He can use it in the house as there is very little ‘smoke’ or smell apart from the lovely aromas of his chosen flavour of the day.

Throughout my life I have always been anti smoking and I was really pleased that my husband had found an alternative to smoking that is socially acceptable - or so we thought. Now it seems that Wales could be the first part of the UK to ban the use of electronic cigarettes in enclosed public places. Ministers say they are responding to concern that the devices normalise smoking and so undermine the smoking ban. Ministers also argue that children could be tempted to try them, which may then lead them to cigarette smoking.

For years now smokers have been told about the dangers of smoking (whilst the government carry on reaping the tax benefits). Now that a successful aid to help smokers quit has been found, Welsh ministers want it banned in enclosed public places. I feel this is a real slap in the face to smokers who have quit smoking. Rather than implement this ban, ministers should applaud smokers for giving up smoking and just let them get on with their smoke free lives.

There are so many temptations that children are more likely to want to try. With alcohol, drugs, sex, and processed fast food on offer, who would want an electronic cigarette?

So leave the vapers alone and let them enjoy their new cigarette-free existence wherever they choose to use them. My husband no longer has a ‘smoker’s cough’, nor does he reek of cigarette smoke. He is much fitter since becoming a vaper and we can enjoy long walks without him becoming short of breath. He enjoys his vapes in the same way that I enjoy eating chocolate! (We have to have some pleasure in this life!) Neither of us are overweight and are within the normal BMI .

I would suggest to these faceless ministers who tell us how we should run our lives to back off and let us choose for ourselves how we live. Smokers have been the outcasts of society for many years and now that over two million of them are vapers, leave them to enjoy their smoke free existence.