Friday, 15 December 2017

Loneliness: As Harmful As Smoking?

The good old BBC today managed to make me laugh. Not by means of one of their comedy shows, unfortunately (I find very few of their current offerings even remotely funny), but with their reporting via Victoria Derbyshire that loneliness is "as harmful as smoking". After a few sardonic chuckles, interspersed with one or two belly-laughs and a choking fit, I suddenly realised how utterly hilarious the whole "public health" obsession of the media has become. Then I became indignant. Then I became angry.

For years we have been told that smoking is one of the most (if not the VERY MOST) dangerous activities in the known universe; that smoking costs its practitioners their teeth, their hair, their skin, their health and decades of their lives; the health services uncountable gadzillions of whatever currency you might wish to consider; and society its very fabric. We have experienced decades of smokers being advised, nudged, nagged, bullied, coerced, forced and punished into relinquishing their habit. We have seen smokers exiled from the workplace, from all places of entertainment, from all forms of transport (even their own cars, in certain cases), from places of recreation (even parks and beaches), from shops and offices, pubs, clubs .... The list is endless, and attempts have often been made to exile smokers from streets and outdoor spaces - and even their own homes! A vast army of anti-smoking activists has been recruited and mobilised to stamp out the "menace" of people making an informed choice to consume a legal product in places that they have a legal right to be. Furthermore, the object of their choice, tobacco, has been hidden away from sight, subjected to advertising restrictions, emblazoned with pornographic imagery, and taxed to levels that make it more expensive than precious metals. Smoking must be dangerous indeed to warrant such intense scrutiny and prevention, one might think.

The dangers of smoking are apparently so very real that even something widely considered to have less than one twentieth of its risk must be regulated out of existence, and treated as if it were equally dangerous since it LOOKS a little like tobacco use! Vaping (the use of an electronic 'cigarette') involves none of the toxic substances derived from the combustion of tobacco other than nicotine. Nicotine is a relatively benign plant extract found in many vegetables, and widely used in pharmaceutical products, including Nicotine Replacement Therapy used to "treat" smokers and wean them off their addiction to - errm - nicotine! Vaping thus offers smokers a reduced-harm alternative to smoking that has already served to convert around three million UK smokers to non-smoker status, yet vapers are no more welcome in most places than are smokers. The inference here is, of course, that smoking is so very dangerous that even something at least 95 per cent safer is too dangerous to allow informed consumers to do it legally in a place where they have a legal right to be!

Almost anything that one wishes to promote or condemn can now be subjected to the smoking comparison test. Not so long ago we were told that sitting was as harmful to the health as smoking. Sugar, fat, fast food, gambling, alcohol, soft drinks and meat have similarly been condemned as "as bad as smoking". Today it was the turn of loneliness, the Beeb displaying a banner across the screen to that effect. There followed a long discussion about the costs to the health service, the cost to society, and the inevitable calls for action by the government, the setting up of a 'strategy' and, of course, funding to tackle the scourge of loneliness. That set me thinking. What form would such a strategy take? Well, the war on tobacco gives a few pointers as to how it might develop .....

A large number of so-called 'charities' will be formed, each one vowing to end loneliness in one community or another, and each vying for funding from the public to further their aims. The NHS will threaten to withhold routine treatment to any patient who admits to being lonely. Prisoners and mental health patients will not be allowed to be lonely, so will have to share their cells whether they like it or not. Loneliness will not be permitted in public places, so no unaccompanied person will be allowed into cinemas, pubs, clubs, sporting venues, shops and offices. Standing alone in the street will become an offence. People living alone will be required to have curtains at their windows so that the children are protected from seeing loneliness. Lonely Hearts clubs will be required to have obscured windows for the same reason. It will become illegal to have single-occupancy dwellings, so bed-sits will be closed down. Taxes will be levied on anyone living alone, and the revenues used to provide social meeting places. No single people will be allowed in social housing. Anyone without at least one close friend will be encouraged to take part in social activities. Loneliness cessation clinics with trained advisers will be required at all GP's surgeries, and doctors will be required to offer counselling and suitable medication to anyone they think may be lonely. Driving alone in a vehicle with more than one seat will become a road traffic offence, as might travelling in a vehicle without a child on board.

In order to lessen the dangers of loneliness, it is clearly essential that everyone has at least one close friend or relative. At a rough estimate, having 20 close friends or relatives should make life safer by some 95 per cent. Unfortunately, this harm-reduction approach may not be allowed (see the reference to vaping above). Five per cent safety is still not safe enough, it seems. So we must expect regulations mandating standards for all social gatherings.

Young people will need to be protected against the chance of seeing anything that looks even similar to loneliness, of course, so no theatre production or film likely to be seen by children can ever have less than two actors on view at any time. "Robinson Crusoe" must be taken off school library shelves. All children's cycles must be designed for tandem use. Football rules will have be modified so that there are two goalkeepers for each team. Stand-up comedians will all be required to become double acts.

One could go much further with this scenario, but it could lead to madness. Perhaps it already has. But it's not MY madness; it's that of people who have decided that they know better than the rest of us what is for our own good - and have found a route to imposing their views. It is neo-puritanism, coupled with fascism, with a great deal of fanaticism. And it's becoming a sick joke for, if loneliness is as bad for you as smoking, then just how bad is smoking - really? No wonder it makes me angry!

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’