Friday, 30 May 2014

“O Lorde, have mercy upon us miserable offendours”

Very little, it seems, has changed in many centuries of human history. Even in the modern world of scientific research and immense knowledge, the same old arguments are still being put forward by the self-appointed guardians of our social, moral, and spiritual welfare as they ever were. The difference now is that the guardians do not only stand in the pulpit of the village church, or the chapel, to deliver their sermons since too few are there to listen, and they need their message to ring loud and clear to all humankind. So one thing that has changed is the launching-point for their words of salvation - they now concentrate their efforts on the media; film, TV, radio, the press, the internet and the paid disciples of their cause, the holy army of health practitioners.

But the message they carry has not changed. The Book of Common Prayer, as published in 1559 contains words that were drummed into our brains as children:-

we have erred and straied from thy waies, lyke lost shepee we have folowed to much the devises and desires of our owne hartes. We have offended against thy holy lawes: We have left undone those thinges whiche we ought to have done, and we have done those thinges which we ought not to have done, and there is no health in us”.

I am sure that most of us remember those words, albeit in a more modern form and with standardised spelling. Even more sure am I that you recognise the message contained within them. Read any leaflet that you will find at your doctor's or dentist's surgery, or at a hospital or clinic, and you will see the very same message. Open any newspaper or magazine, and it is there too. Pick up a packet of cigarettes, and a highly graphic version of the message will stare accusingly at you. Light a cigarette in the street (while you still can!), and there's a very good chance that a herald angel in a grubby grey suit will approach you with a wagging finger to deliver the same message. Even if you do not smoke because you have already heeded the warning, but choose to vape your nicotine instead, you still cannot avoid it.

In the new, disease-free, pollution-free, sterile world granted us by the good offices of bodies such as the World Health Organisation, science has largely taken over as the religion of the thinking man (and woman, of course), except for certain groups who still accept dogma over data, spiritualism over science and theism over thought. For them the world will always be flat, only six thousand years old, and non-evolving. For most of the world, however, scientific explanation and reason have taken over from scripture in guiding our lives. But science can be a two-edged sword (or scalpel), that, like religion, can be manipulated and interpreted in several different ways, depending on the personal beliefs, ambitions or politics of our leaders and guides. By their methodology life, the universe and everything can be analysed, categorised, documented and theorised like never before, yet apparently still devolve to the statement, “we have done those things which we ought not to have done, and there is no health in us”!

Every day we are assailed with further evidence of that statement. We eat too much, drink too much, smoke too much, sit too much, sleep too much, stay awake too much, consume too many resources, listen to too much music, watch too much television, play too many games, breed too much, et cetera, et cetera – and there is no health in us. The facts, of course, are that we are born at great risk to ourselves and our mothers, we face multiple hazards, contract childhood diseases, learn how to survive the world as best we can. If successful so far, we breed, then get ill or have an accident and die. For there is no health in us. Like every living creature on earth, we are mortal, we are dying, we are born to die. Sorry, folks, that's just the way life is; we cannot change it!

However, it would appear that august bodies such as the WHO have such faith in their own abilities that they believe it is we ourselves who are causing our morbidity and mortality, by doing all those things that we should not do, or by not doing all those things that we should do. That is why there is no health in us! If only we were to follow all their guidelines, and live our lives according to their rules, we could eradicate all our illnesses, avoid all accidents and solve our own problems! They have never yet claimed to give us life everlasting, but they seem to to have decided for us, on our behalf, how long our lives should be. How else can they tell me that, by smoking, I am reducing my life by ten years? I recently read that sitting is four times as dangerous as smoking, so by sitting at my keyboard typing this essay, it seems that I am reducing my life by forty years. But I am 65, so was I granted 105 years (or 115 given that I also smoked), and I should drop dead tomorrow?

I was always led to believe that I could expect three-score and ten (seventy) years of life, so did the health authorities, by their efforts, give me an extra thirty or forty years? Or have I been dead without realising it for some years now? The fact is, of course, that life is a lottery. Illness and accident can terminate a life at any stage. I remember schoolmates who died before even reaching their teens, and I had uncles and cousins I never knew because they were killed in war. I have relatives in their nineties who smoke, and I have lost much younger relatives who never did. To further confound matters, I believe that I am healthy, that is to say I have no life-threatening or disabling conditions as yet diagnosed or suspected, but I have partaken of salt, sugar, fats, caffeine, alcohol, tobacco, sunshine and so on freely through my life. How can I be healthy – especially since I know that I am destined to die?

These arguments naturally tend to weaken the consensus of the health police. That is why they have invoked the moral support of my peers in order to bring me to heel. They have re-written the Book of Common Prayer so that it now reads “We have done those things that we should not have done, and there is no health in our neighbours, or in our cheeldren.” By this means they can justify raising taxes and duties on anything that people like, they can ban us doing anything that might be considered 'sinful', they can ride roughshod over our civil rights, pass illogical laws and regulations, twist science, law and common sense to breaking point, protect their jobs and their sources of income, maintain their moral high ground and keep us all within their power for eternity. If all of that sounds familiar, then you probably had a similar religious upbringing to mine!

Wednesday, 28 May 2014


Dearly beloved, let us join together to remember, and to mourn, the many victims of the War On Smoking. Let us take a few moments of quiet contemplation to commemorate the ultimate sacrifice that was made by them, for the benefit of mankind. Some of their names will not be known to the current generation, since their demise happened many years ago, but most shared our lives until recently, and just a few are with us still, but not for much longer. Let us at this time speak together their names, that their memory may be carried forth to future generations who will otherwise not know of them.

Let us remember Truth, Justice, Fairness, Goodness, Compassion, Logic, Honesty, Tolerance, Humanity, Good Sense, Forbearance, Empathy, Virtue, Perspicacity, Clarity, Simplicity, Decency, Morality, Integrity, Rectitude, Veracity, Honour and Righteousness.

Let us remember too Freedom; of Choice, of Expression, of Speech, of Thought, of Science, and of Information.

And, as we humbly remember their names, let us also remember that those who sought in the past to erase their memory have almost always themselves been brought to account – usually violently, and with much rejoicing!

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

What IS Safe in This Crazy World?

Dangerous, Unsafe, Safe, Safer, Safest?

What do these words mean to you? I mean, given that life inevitably leads to death, can life ever be safe? I know that we can make life safer – by taking care over the things we do, for example, or by not doing things that are patently dangerous, but who should decide what is unsafe, and what is safe to do? I was told from an early age not to put my fingers into an electric socket, so I don't for I understand that electricity can kill. But I learned from experience that electricity in small quantities is relatively harmless, so I will play around with 12-volt circuits quite happily. In certain situations, of course, even 12 volts can be harmful, but one learns the rules. This is mitigation of danger, or harm reduction, or choosing a safer option. No governmental body or agency has ever found it necessary to legislate and prevent me from tinkering with the electrics on my car, or indeed, with lightning if I wish.

So why are there people in the world determined to stop me inhaling nicotine, if that is what I choose to do? They let me drink coffee, or tea, or alcohol. They let me ride a bike, drive a car, go swimming, climb mountains, bungee jump or fly gliders. Nobody could possibly say that these have no dangers, but there are no laws to stop me, just rules for my guidance, to lessen the likelihood of harm. But nicotine? 'Thou must not!' seems to be the cry! And, should I reply, 'This is what I wish to do', I am declared an 'addict' and thought unfit to make rational decisions, it seems. I must face a barrage of propaganda, be lectured non-stop by medical practitioners, even dentists and opticians, as to the dangers of smoking. When that does not make me quit, public opinion is turned against me by propaganda that suggests my 'addiction' is killing my wife, my children, my neighbours, my workmates, the barmaid at the pub, and the family dog. Even when the evidence for this is flimsy, misleading, ambiguous and blatantly false, the lies must be continued, for someone has decided that smoking must be ended, once and for all, for the public good.

What can one do? Well, turn to safer alternatives; cleaner nicotine that has none of the toxins in smoke; patches, chewing gum or inhalers, but I don't find them helpful for they do not give me the 'buzz' that cigarettes do. But wait, what's this on the horizon? A method of taking a nip of nicotine without the dirty, toxic, carcinogenic chemicals I was warned of – an electronic cigarette! It's clean, it's hygienic, it smells good, it tastes good, it mimics the hand-to-mouth actions of smoking. It produces no smoke, it contains no tobacco, so it's legal to use indoors. At last, after fifty years of getting my nicotine from tobacco, I am free to enjoy it in a clean and fresh-smelling way, and it cannot harm my family, or the barmaids, or the dog! It seems I have found safe nicotine.

So, as I had been advised was good for me, I no longer smoke. My lungs have cleared, my blood pressure dropped, I have more energy, my clothes are fresh-smelling and so is my breath. I no longer go in fear of an early death because I am a non-smoker, and I have been told ad nauseam that non-smokers live for ever, whereas smokers die after as few as fifteen cigarettes.

But the euphoria is short-lived, for it was not my smoke that the puritans wanted to ban, that was just the excuse. Nor was it my smoking that they did not like, since that was only the visible sign of my failing. No, it is my consumption of nicotine that is the problem, and that must be expunged and exorcised from the world. No matter that what I do now is orders of magnitude safer than smoking, the army is already on the march, and only unconditional surrender will save me and my like from their retribution. No matter that nicotine is only as toxic and addictive as caffeine, and less so than alcohol, its association to smoking is too strong to be ignored. It must be banned, it must be highly regulated, to save me from myself. There is no longer any danger to those around me, for I do not smoke, but I exhale nicotine, and nicotine is in tobacco, so cannot possibly be safe, can it? Well, it seems that it is safe in tomatoes, and potatoes, and peppers, and aubergines, and cauliflowers, and probably in many other foodstuffs. It must also be safe in patches and gums and inhalers, else my doctor would not have prescribed them for me. But nobody can, or will, say that it is safe in the atmosphere, unlike traffic fumes, industrial fallout, natural and man-made pollution for which 'acceptable' and 'safe' levels have been set.

As if that argument were not silly enough, it seems that nicotine consumption must be expunged in order that no-one else will ever make the same 'mistake' that I did, and develop a taste for it. For that would lead inexorably to smoking tobacco, with all its dangers! In some strangely twisted logic, the argument goes, “People like nicotine, coffee, tea, sugar, alcohol, excitement etc. They seek more of what they enjoy – we can refer to this as 'addiction', especially when speaking of nicotine. Nicotine is associated with tobacco, but the others aren't, so can be ignored (for now!). To get nicotine out of tobacco, it is commonly smoked. The smoke is dangerous to health. Ban smoking where it may harm others, but tolerate it otherwise and collect taxes off the smoker. If nicotine can be consumed without smoking (which may be very much safer) we must ban it in case people enjoy it, for if they enjoy it, they will choose the most dangerous method of consumption! And our young people will be too stupid to take the safer option, so the option must be banned'. Problem solved!”

And so we have our 'Final Solution'. No matter how 'dangerous' smoking may be to the smoker, it is the 'unsafe' nature to the bystander of 'passive smoking' that prompted a ban in public places. But a 'safer' option like e-cigarettes cannot be absolutely guaranteed to be 'safe', so the 'safest' option is to ban the very thing that offers the best solution ever found to the problem of smoking, and ride roughshod over public opinion to do it. However, this too is far from being 'safe', since there are now over two million former smokers who have taken the step to safer alternatives, and many more current smokers who might, and they are all voters. If you are a politician in anything other than the safest seat, be afraid, be very afraid!

Friday, 16 May 2014

Neo-nazism and nicotine; the war for freedom goes on!

Is it just my imagination, or is the campaign against nicotine taking on an increasingly sinister twist? There’s an ongoing barrage of propaganda in the press, with selected snippets of research demonising everything to do with tobacco. Government (i.e. taxpayer) funded research pours out poisonous and often nonsensical facts and figures on smoking. Television and film show negative and inflammatory imagery of smokers. Segregation of smokers from non-smokers is enforced by law. Stringent restrictions on advertising (i.e. censorship) are in place. Secretive, unknown bodies enact new regulations daily, and put them in place without consultation, and brook no opposition – and all for the public good, we are told, ad nauseam.

I find it frightening. It reminds me too much of the system employed by German authorities under the National Socialist ideology in the 1920s, '30s and 40's. The target then, of course, was the Jewish community, whom Adolf Hitler blamed, one way or another, for most of the world’s ills. It was, of course, a ridiculous indictment, but one to which Hitler’s cohorts devoted much attention to ‘proving’. And the very same methodology is now at work on ‘proving’ the case against nicotine.

I am not defending tobacco. I accept that smoking it can do great harm to the smoker. However, I defend his or her right to smoke, if that’s what he or she wants to do. I accept, too, the argument that smoking releases toxins into the air, which may harm bystanders, although I believe that the danger from so-called ‘passive smoking’ has been grossly over-exaggerated. Where I diverge from the establishment view is when I see the demonisation of nicotine, a very minor constituent of tobacco, using inaccurate, misleading, false and inflammatory ‘facts’, simply to reinforce the war on tobacco – for the public good, of course.

Nicotine exists naturally in many fruits and vegetables that are part of our everyday diet; potatoes, tomatoes, aubergines, red and green peppers, cauliflower et cetera. It does us no harm. It also occurs in tobacco, and many researchers have declared that it is the one component of tobacco that smokers seek, the whole reason for smoking. This totally ignores the fact that there are many hundreds of compounds in tobacco smoke, but it is nicotine, and nicotine alone, that is claimed to give smokers a ‘buzz’, and make them want to continue smoking. Because of this, nicotine has been declared to be addictive, by some authorities as highly addictive, by some as being as addictive as heroin, and therefore a dangerous drug. A moment’s thought will surely beg the question, “If nicotine is so highly addictive, why is no-one addicted to tomatoes or potatoes?” Nicotine has also been described as a deadly poison, with antagonists pointing out that it is found in poisonous berries, such as Deadly Nightshade. As we have seen, it also exists in common foods, but the anti-tobacco literature commonly omits this point. Nicotine is a natural insecticide, as are many alkaloids secreted in plants. That does not mean it is toxic to humans in small doses. Large doses can cause vomiting and headaches, exactly like caffeine in coffee. Very large doses can cause death, as can very large doses of caffeine, salt, aspirin, paracetamol, alcohol, even water and oxygen! In fact, the only true reason for considering nicotine a dangerous substance, is its link to the tobacco plant and hence to the harm caused by the other constituents of tobacco smoke.

Anti-smoking activists continue to attack nicotine even when faced with clear evidence of its innocence. Yet they are happy to see smokers ‘treated’ with nicotine in order to help them quit the tobacco habit. As if giving an alcoholic a beer will cure his drinking addiction! As if giving a heroin addict a ‘fix’ will cure his drug addiction! As if a trip to the local shops will ‘cure’ a serial shoplifter! In their thinking, a prescription from a doctor for nicotine will be far more effective than any amount of propaganda from any number of doctors on the dangers of smoking. The fact is, of course, that humans like some substances more than others, and sometimes more than is good for them. That does not mean that they must be ‘cured’ of their tastes. We can mostly live with the fact that people drink alcohol, even though some would rather it were prohibited. We live with those who gamble, who have a sexual preference different to our own, who take part in sports or pastimes with which we cannot identify, but we have become conditioned to view smokers as pariahs, who befoul our air, who damage our genes, our children, our society – in exactly the same way that Jews were viewed in the hideous Nazi ideology – for the public good.

So it has come about that smokers have become alienated from mainstream society, segregated in their ‘ghetto’ at the back of pubs and restaurants, on the pavement outside the cinema, on the steps of their place of work, where they can be further vilified by the ‘pure’ population as they pass by. A smoker near to a school is likely to be attacked as a kind of child molester. Having previously been permitted to smoke in designated places, in special railway carriages, in segregated parts of aircraft and ships, these places have gradually been withdrawn from him. Employment has been denied to him by some organisations. Even his wealth has been sequestered by special taxation in exactly the same way that Jews were stripped of their assets in the past.

Not surprisingly, many smokers have bowed to the intense pressure, and have decided to quit; exactly as the anti-smoking bodies wanted, but many still seek their ‘buzz’. This is hardly surprising, if they have smoked for many years. This is not due to ‘addiction’, but to custom. Someone who had a taste for bananas would continue to yearn for them if his source was denied him. So it is that former smokers have sought a source of nicotine that does not involve smoking tobacco. In recent years they have had recourse to electric cigarettes, which do not contain tobacco, do not produce noxious smoke, have no identified side effects, and present no danger to the wider population. So they are not, in any sense, smokers; they are ex-smokers, former smokers, but they do not smoke. They have become exactly what the anti-smoking brigade wanted, for the public good, of course, – non-smokers.

But this seems to be insufficient victory for the zealots. Just as Hitler wanted to rid not just his land of Jews, but the whole world, and not just of Jews but of Judaism itself, the crusade continues apace. In the brave new world of the World Heath Organisation, aided by its puppet organisations like ASH, funded by industrialists, pharmaceutical companies, and anyone else who sees an opportunity for profit or power, the fight against tobacco has become a fight against nicotine. The target now is the ‘final solution’; not the eradication of smoking, nor the eradication of tobacco, but the eradication of every aspect of nicotine usage – except, of course, under strict licensing and taxation regimes as have been applied with such good effect in the case of alcohol. For the public good, of course.

So it is that, in a campaign that Josef Goebbels would have applauded, e-cigarettes are vilified as the “new smoking”, as ‘normalising’ the act of smoking tobacco, of seeking to attract young people into nicotine addiction, and hence lifelong servitude to tobacco. Every single one of these is a specious argument, with no validity at all. Can anyone really believe that our young people are incapable of telling the difference between a cigarette and a plastic or metal tube? Are sweet flavourings only attractive to children? Does NOT doing something ‘normalise’ doing the same thing? In what area of the justice system can ‘looking guilty’ be proof of guilt? Yet legislators are at this very moment considering banning electronic cigarettes because they emit harmless water vapour that vaguely resembles toxic smoke.

Decisions regarding electronic cigarettes, as well as further regulations against tobacco, are now made by nameless and faceless bureaucrats, in closed sessions, with no representation of those who will be affected. The ’verdict’ has invariably been decided before the ‘trial’ begins. Prosecution evidence is the evidence gathered by and approved by the legislature. Witness for the defence is prohibited by regulations that prohibit criticism of the legislature. It is a travesty of justice from beginning to end. But it is all said to be for the public good, just as such crazy laws were allowed to be passed by legislators in the Third Reich.

There is much more here than simply a search to improve public health. There is a concerted attack on the right of citizens to make their own decisions on their own health and safety. If this is allowed to continue, there will soon come a time when there will be no freedom whatever for the common man; whatever he wants to do will be controlled by the killjoys who sit in judgement over him – for the public good? Or for the self-satisfaction of the ideological dictators that now hold more power than is good for them – or the public good?

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Methinks He Doth Profess Too Much!

It was once thought that, in order to become a professor, a person had to prove himself to have fully functioning reasoning ability. It was further thought that high office of any description needed someone with responsibility and intelligence. Such cannot be the case any more. Consider Professor Mark Drakeford, Minister for Health and Social Services in the Welsh Assembly, who fails on all three counts.

He obviously cannot differentiate between concepts as different as matter and anti-matter, or smokers and non-smokers. For his guidance, I shall simply say that smokers set fire to tobacco and suck in the ensuing smoke. Non-smokers do not. It's that simple. Smokers, by their actions, might risk harming themselves; that is their choice, and their right. Non-smokers have made a choice not to smoke, as is their right. Furthermore, non-smokers have won the right not to be exposed to second-hand tobacco smoke in enclosed public places by virtue of the Health Act 2006. We shall leave aside for the moment, so as not to confuse the honourable gentleman, the question of whether non-smokers have any choice at all about what other atmospheric pollutants they might be subjected to in places they choose to frequent.

Non-smokers have the right not to smoke in any place they choose, and, for absolute clarity, I shall say that non-smokers also have the right to not smoke in any place they choose. In any location, they can choose to undertake, or not undertake, any legal activity that is generally permitted in such places. Legal means that which is not prohibited by any law or laws currently in force. Permitted means that which is not proscribed by rules of the establishment. Thus, for example, eating an apple is a legal act just about anywhere. However, playing a violin may require the issue of a music license in certain venues, but is perfectly legal in most others, but might require permission from a responsible person in, say, a church or a courtroom, or a workplace. Generally, society functions perfectly well with such simple rules. Only when someone's action causes serious annoyance to others, or harms them, do we enact laws to alleviate the annoyance or harm. Thus we do not have laws to prevent the consumption in public places of apples, nor oranges, onions, garlic, etc. We have no laws to circumscribe the use of scents, after-shaves, deodorants and the like, or to forbid our fellows to have halitosis, in any of the places where we go about our daily routines (much as we may sometimes wish that we did). Instead, we allow people do what it is their right as citizens to do, without let or hindrance, unless there is proven harm to others, or realistic risk of such, from an activity.

In Professor Drakeford's universe, though, things appear to be different. Here, it seems, legal activities are those that are approved of by Professor Drakeford. He seeks to enact regulations that prohibit acts that have never proved harmful, that have little or no potential for harm, simply because he has failed to note the difference between smokers and non-smokers. I shall explain it again, with emphasis, “Smokers smoke. Non-smokers do not smoke!”

Non-smokers do not generate second-hand smoke, they do not put toxic chemicals into the air. They do not spread carcinogens around, they do not drop ash on the floor, or burn clothing, or leave cigarette ends around. So we leave non-smokers alone to get on with their lives. Unfortunately, we do not know what they eat, or drink, what they use to wash their clothes, or themselves, or whether they even do! We do not care about their personal hygiene, unless it causes us annoyance, but, even then, we do not compel them to meet our standards. We really do not care that they are non-smokers; they are our fellow workers, fellow commuters, fellow drinkers, fellow drivers, well, our fellows. Unless, it seems, they like a nip of nicotine. Alcohol we can live with, coffee, chocolate, chicken soup, curry, kebabs, the ripest cheeses, but not nicotine! They can take nicotine, of course, as a way of giving up smoking. They may be wearing a patch, or chewing gum, or sucking a plastic tube or puffing a spray that contains nicotine, for smoking cessation, and they will be welcomed everywhere. But in the good professor's universe, if they pick up an e-cig they move into another dimension; matter becomes anti-matter, the non-smoker suddenly metamorphoses into a smoker! Most of the world would recognise that an e-cig user is not a smoker – for he does not use tobacco, he does not set fire to tobacco, he does not smoke. Most will now say that he is 'vaping', for he inhales nicotine not from smoke (for he is a non-smoker), but from a vapour of propylene glycol or glycerine, a mist that is as definitely not smoke as Snowdon is not Everest.

Professor Drakeford, of course, as an erudite man, can explain this enigma. It is that by vaping, the non-smoking nicotine user 'renormalises' the act of smoking. That by breathing out mist, he may look vaguely like a smoker. (On a cold morning, the good professor himself probably looks like a smoker, too!) And he explains that vaping undermines the warnings about the dangers of smoking, since someone seen to be not smoking clearly suggests to others that smoking is not harmful! And he further makes it seem that young people are too poorly educated to be able to tell the difference between steam and bonfire smoke. Furthermore he explains that vaping may be a 'gateway' to smoking, that a non-smoker may try an e-cig, be instantly addicted to nicotine, and embark on a lifetime of – smoking? Not for him is the concept of a one-way gate; that the e-cig offers a safer alternative to smoking, that smokers use e-cigs to move away from tobacco, and not non-smokers into smoking.

So it is that Professor Drakeford wants e-cigs to be included in the ban on smoking in public places, even though there is absolutely no evidence that they have caused harm to anyone; not to the users and certainly not to non-users. But he vehemently denies that this is 'nannying' by his department. “When seatbelts were put in cars,” he says, “that debate was vigorously played out, but we would never go back now to the position where we had all those deaths.” But he fails to mention that there are absolutely no deaths attributable to vaping; not one.

The frightening thing to me is that there are quite a few such people as the professor making decisions as ridiculous and ludicrous as his. Their specious arguments are trotted out daily and interpreted by our law makers into unjust and ridiculous laws that will almost certainly have exactly the reverse effect to their stated intention. Instead of preventing death and disease from smoking, they will serve only to prevent non-smoking vapers from taking their rightful place with other non-smokers in the clean, fresh non-smoking world that they profess to be creating. And one where citizens' rights count for nothing, and natural law is in second place to bigoted thinking.

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

The Myth of Nicotine Addiction

On the 16th May 1988, the Surgeon General of the United States, C. Everett-Koop, announced to the world that nicotine is an addictive drug. He concluded that “behavioral characteristics that determine tobacco addiction are similar to those that determine addiction to drugs such as heroin and cocaine.” And that is it! The sum total of an argument that still rages today. Smokers smoke because it gives them pleasure in a way that is 'similar' to the effect of certain dangerous drugs (and alcohol, caffeine, favoured foods, favoured activities and even religious fervour of course). What a surprise that is; people do something that gives them pleasure, and pleasure makes them want to do it again!

Of course, that is not quite the end of the story. Based on the Surgeon General's report, President Bill Clinton, on 22nd August 1996, declared nicotine to be addictive, and placed it under the jurisdiction of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). And those two pronouncements were sufficient to enshrine forever that nicotine is a deadly and addictive drug to be vilified, regulated, taxed and banned as required by every government, and every action group on earth.

The Surgeon General's comment puts me in mind of Bishop Ussher's pronouncement that the world was created in 4,004 BCE, based on the ages of prophets mentioned in the Bible, in that there is very little evidence for, much evidence against, but those who care to believe it will do so because it is a basic tenet of their religion. President Clinton was, of course, a lawyer and not a medical man, so he acted solely on the advice of the Surgeon General. He was also a politician with a strong personality, and overrode the views of Al Gore (the Vice-President) who advised against the ruling that nicotine should be overseen by the FDA.

I make no defence of tobacco. As a means of providing nicotine, it is a disaster. It is full of toxins, some of which are known, or at least strongly suspected, to be injurious to health. The 'curing' process to prepare it for smoking adds even more harmful compounds. The combustion process that releases the nicotine also releases toxic gases, particulate matter and trace elements at the same time. The smoke is dirty and toxic, like the fumes from a forest fire, or a vehicle's exhaust, or a power station's chimneys. It harms the user and poisons the atmosphere, so that even non-users are at risk of harm. All of these are known disadvantages of extracting nicotine from tobacco by combustion.

But does this make nicotine a dangerous drug? If our need of energy causes us to burn fossil fuels, which poisons the atmosphere, which causes health problems or climate change, does this make electricity a dangerous product? Well, electricity can kill, of course, which is why we have sensible guidelines for its usage, but we accept certain dangers for the benefits we gain from electricity. We do not exclude it from our towns and cities, or our homes. Instead we adopt harm reduction measures to protect us from its dangers. Electromagnetism is, of course, a naturally-occurring force of the universe that we adapt for our benefit, a little like the nicotine that occurs naturally in many of the foodstuffs that we enjoy; tomatoes, potatoes, aubergines, peppers, cauliflower, and many more. When did we ever consider that a taste for these foods constituted addiction? Surely, if nicotine is so powerful and dangerous a drug, we would expect that people would exhibit an addiction by excessive consumption of these foods, but we do not see such an effect. Consider too that the medical establishments' standard 'treatment' for tobacco 'addiction' is to wean the smoker away from smoking by the administration of small amounts of - nicotine! In other words, treating the addiction by administering the object of addiction! This is akin to giving an alcoholic a stiff drink to cure his problem, or a quick 'fix' of heroin to a junkie! Did anyone ever advise an ex-smoker to avoid potatoes, tomatoes or cauliflower in order to avoid a relapse?

Such logic is, of course, lost on the anti-smoking campaign that has taken on the nature of a religious crusade. To the zealots who now run our health agencies, nicotine is the devil incarnate, the ultimate evil, the source of all the world's ills, the jew of their Hitlerite hatred. Science, like public opinion, is to be perverted or suppressed to fit their agenda. If the millions of people who enjoy smoking can be demonised by arguing that they are drug addicts, then it is only fair that they should be penalised by fines in the form of taxes. With public opinion turned upon them, they can be segregated and vilified until they relinquish their filthy habit. And the campaign began to work; smoking prevalence dropped from around 70% to around 30%, and the zealots rejoiced greatly!

In the mid-1990's, however, was invented a nicotine-inhalation product that does not involve the incineration of tobacco. Instead it uses pharmaceutical-grade ingredients (glycerine, propylene glycol and flavourings) containing a small amount of nicotine. This 'e-liquid' is heated by a coil connected to a battery to vapourise it so that it can be inhaled by the user, the nicotine is absorbed by the membranes of the mouth and lungs, and the remaining water vapour is then exhaled. The user gets a nicotine 'buzz', and there are no carcinogens, toxins, odours or particulates to harm anyone in the vicinity. It emulates the acts and rituals of smoking and helps users to adapt their behaviour to become 'vapers', non-tobacco nicotine users, non-smokers. Thus the electronic cigarette (or e-cig) solves the problem, one would think; a win-win situation that answers all the criticisms of smoking – except one!

It's that pesky allegation that nicotine is a deadly and addictive drug, made by one man years before the e-cig was even a spark in a test-tube, and the reason that the crusade against nicotine continues anew in the clean, smokeless new world of the e-cig. But the illogical arguments now become ludicrous, and laughable, except for those whose religious views are offended, and the governments whose income depends on taxation from tobacco, and the tobacco companies who profit from smokers, and the pharmaceutical companies whose profits come from treating victims of smoking, and/or providing nicotine 'treatments' for nicotine 'addicts', and the health advisers whose employment depends on the war on smoking. Arguments that run along the lines of:-

Smoking kills, nicotine encourages smoking; We must kill safer nicotine consumption, but let smoking continue for it generates income!”

If people continue to consume nicotine, they will continue to smoke, even when safer options are available that are safer, cheaper, cleaner, and more socially acceptable!”

Seeing people not smoking, but consuming nicotine in a safer way, undermines the message that smoking is a deadly occupation caused solely by nicotine 'addiction'!”

If people are consuming nicotine in a way that vaguely resembles smoking, then others will emulate them, but will choose to smoke cigarettes, rather than use an e-cig!”

If e-cigs look like a safe alternative to smoking, then non-smokers will try them, be instantly addicted to nicotine, and will become lifelong smokers!”

Addicts who think they enjoy nicotine in e-cigs must be mad, for they must have smoked to become addicted, and only a madman smokes, so they can have no aptitude for rational decisions!”

It was 500 years before we found out that smoking was deadly. E-cigs have only been around for a few years, so we do not know how safe they might be. We should ban them now, in case not smoking might be found unsafe after 500 years of not smoking!”

Nicotine Is Addictive! Nicotine Is Addictive! Nicotine Is Addictive! Nicotine Is Addictive! Nicotine Is Addictive! Nicotine Is Addictive! …” to be repeated forever to the tune of any favourite hymn.

I Do Not Smoke!

Let us begin with a simple statement. The term 'smoking', by definition, means setting light to tobacco and breathing in the smoke. It is that simple. If I have no lit tobacco, I cannot possibly be smoking. So I am, by definition, a non-smoker. Does anyone disagree with that statement?

It appears that there are a few who cannot make this simple distinction. For their benefit, I shall make an even simpler statement; “A non-smoker is someone who does not smoke!” A non-smoker may drink alcohol, but is still a non-smoker. A non-smoker may drink coffee, but is still a non-smoker. A non-smoker who dines on pate de fois gras is still a non-smoker. A non-smoker may have the worst social manners in the world, but is still a non-smoker. Remember that a non-smoker is a person who does not smoke. So I am a non-smoker.

So, may I ask, why is it that, if I choose to inhale nicotine from an electronic device, I am suddenly seen by some as a smoker? I readily admit to being a nicotine user, although I disagree with those who call me a nicotine addict, since I dispute their view that a liking for something of which they disapprove is to be considered an addiction. But I am not a smoker, for I don't use lit tobacco. So I am a non-smoker.

As a non-smoker, I can legally not smoke just about anywhere. I can legally not smoke at home, I can legally not smoke in my car, I can legally not smoke in any public place. Compare this with smokers, who can not smoke legally in public places covered by the ban on smoking as defined by the Health Act of 2006. Note that there is a difference between “legally not smoking”, and “not smoking legally” in these statements. So, as one can see, there is a crucial legal difference between not smoking and smoking, as well as a common-sense difference as defined above. I therefore make another simple statement; “Smokers smoke but non-smokers do not smoke!” So I am a non-smoker.

As a non-smoker, I can ride a bicycle and become a cyclist, or drive a car and become a motorist, or board a bus, train, ship or plane and become a passenger. I can go on holiday and become a tourist, or a holidaymaker; take up field sports and become an athlete, and so on, and so forth. The only thing that would ever make me a smoker would be the act of smoking, and I don't do that, for I am a non-smoker.

As such, when I want a nicotine 'lift' I reach not for tobacco, but for my electronic device, which delivers the nicotine in the form of a mist, or vapour, so I describe my actions as 'vaping'. To my friends and family, and to most of my acquaintances, I am a 'vaper'. But I do not smoke. I am simply a non-smoker who vapes. Unfortunately, my electronic device is often called an electronic cigarette or, in diminutive form, an e-cig, since the earliest such devices resembled a 'real' or 'analogue' cigarette (one containing tobacco). My more modern device looks rather more like a writing implement, so I think of it as a 'vapen'. However, the term e-cig has come into common usage, which in some ways is unfortunate because it leads people who have difficulty with the concepts of smoker and non-smoker, or smoking and not smoking, to confuse it with analogue cigarettes. For these types, another simple statement may help; “Cigarettes are used for smoking, e-cigs are used for vaping.” Furthermore, vaping is not smoking, only smoking is smoking. And I am still a non-smoker.

As a non-smoker, I am a citizen, a responsible adult, a husband, a parent, a grandparent, an uncle, a pensioner, a taxpayer and a voter. As a vaper, I am in addition a commentator, a blogger, a troublemaker, a rabble rouser, a fighter against injustice and a general pain in the arse. But I am still not a smoker. Treat me as one and I shall become the stuff of nightmares!

Monday, 12 May 2014

An Open Letter to the World Health Organisation

An Open Letter to the World Health Organisation
by Geoffrey A. Cliff
UK Citizen; educated by the UK State Education system and life experience,
European Citizen; trusted to vote, expected to obey the laws of the UK and the European Union;
of sound mind, and considered by most to be an intelligent and perspicacious man.

Let me state from the beginning that I am not a fool; my judgement has not always been of the best, but I am far from stupid. I have an intelligence quotient that puts me in the top 5% of the general population. I am blessed with a scientific mind, an ability to see to the heart of problems, and a sensible approach to life. So please do not try to tell me that I have no opinion of value, or that I am unable to comprehend scientific reasoning, or that I can be easily confounded by specious argument. I can think for myself.

When I was a young man I began to smoke. At the time it was not unusual. People around me smoked, I tried it, I liked it, and I continued to do it. I started eating different foods in exactly the same way. Those I liked, I continued to enjoy. I did the same with activities such as cycling, swimming, fishing et cetera. Although each of these things gave me pleasure, and the more I enjoyed them, the more I enjoyed my life, I never considered that I was in any sense 'addicted' to them. I took part in no illegal activity, for I was taught to be a good citizen and to follow the laws of society, so I never took drugs. These, I was told, were addictive, and highly dangerous, and should be avoided, so I obeyed. I was taught, too, to be cautious of the many dangerous things that I would be exposed to; knives, scissors, petrol, gas, electricity, road vehicles, trains, alcohol, people who would do me harm, and so on ad infinitum. None of these things were illegal, so were not prohibited in my life, so I learned how to survive among them, and use them safely.

The fact that I survived into adulthood is proof enough that I took note of the admonitions, and adapted my youthful enthusiasm in order to assure my safety. But I continued to smoke even when concerns were raised that I may be doing myself harm. Because I enjoyed it, because it had become a habit, I looked at the warnings, considered the dangers, examined the evidence for and against, and carried on, since I believed that the dangers were over-stated, and were issued on moral grounds as much as on health grounds. Even when I was told that I may be shortening my life expectancy, I looked at people who smoked and lived to ages far in excess of the 'three-score and ten' that was said to be the norm (including Sir Winston Churchill and the late Queen Mother), and decided that I was willing to take the risk, as it was my right so to do.

Then, of course, I found myself facing an avalanche of propaganda; statistics from every conceivable source, medical opinion, religious views, ad tedium. Again, I looked at all the evidence, for and against, and realised the wide divergence of opinion that existed between supporters of smoking and antagonists – often based on the same 'evidence' but with widely differing conclusions! I read of experiments involving force-smoked beagles being killed, not by the smoke they were forced to inhale, but by 'humane' dispatch for analysis to 'prove' that they might have died had they been exposed to smoke for a lifetime! Visits to my doctor became nothing more than anti-smoking rhetoric; on one occasion I attended the surgery with, I think, a scald. Asked whether I was a smoker, I asked the relevance of the question. The answer: 'Well, it doesn't help, does it?' Resisting the urge to make the point as to whether the price of milk was a help or hindrance, I realised that I was in the process of being brainwashed. Being a stubborn kind of person, unwilling to bow to this assault, I vowed to resist and carried on smoking, as it was my right so to do.

Now began the assault on my pocket. If smokers were going to make themselves ill, and seek medical help from the National Health Service, then said the Chancellor, they should pay special taxes for the additional costs. Escalating rates of taxation would then force the smoker to relinquish the habit. A moment's thought will cause a reasonable person to observe, a) If smokers are dying younger, then they will require medical treatment for less time than will non-smokers. b) If they are dying so much sooner than non-smokers, the savings in pensions and elderly health-care will be reduced. c) If the governments are so convinced of the dangers of smoking, why are tobacco products simply not banned, like heroin or cocaine? Is tobacco less dangerous when tax has been paid? So I made the informed decision to continue smoking, as it was my right so to do.

Now began the assault on smokers via public opinion. No longer was it enough for smokers to be told that smoking could be harmful to themselves, the public had to face a barrage of propaganda 'proving' that smokers were harming the populace via 'passive' smoking. People who had never entered a public house in their lives were being told that they were in mortal danger from doing so because of it. Even though the risks from passive smoking were reported to be less than those from living on a city street, having an open fire in the home, going out in fog, burning candles, having a garden bonfire, et cetera, calls immediately came for smoking to be banned in enclosed public places. Even some smokers thought this not a bad idea, for there would be designated areas where they could continue to smoke, without facing the fury of a now-hostile non-smoking public. Of course, designated areas were not part of the plan, and 'enclosed public places' was stretched to include inclosed places to which the public might have access, as well as all workplaces, even where only smokers work, including hospital car parks, railway stations, bus shelters et cetera, ad nauseam.

Eventually, under such pressure, even the most dyed-in-the-wool smoker gives in – as he was intended to do by the moral purists. He tried to give up the smoking habit, but found it so ingrained that it was difficult to do so – not, I venture, because of addiction to nicotine, but simply breaking a habit, finding something to with his hands. But the kind and benevolent health services had solutions to symptoms of withdrawal; nicotine replacement therapy or NRT; patches, gum and inhalers containing nicotine. And counselling services, and quit-clinics, and helplines. Brilliant ideas, except that they did not work for most smokers, so they continued, in their little corners, to smoke as they had a right so to do.

Then came a miracle. A clean non-tobacco device that contains just three harmless ingredients and a little nicotine. It produces no toxins, has no side-effects on the user, nor on the wider public, since it produces nothing more than water vapour, steam, mist, gaseous H2O. It mimics the hand-to-mouth motion of smoking, and is almost universally believed to be at least 1000 times safer than smoking to the user, and several million times safer to any bystander. Under all current laws, it is legal to use anywhere, since it involves no lit tobacco, and no harm to the general public. Little wonder, then, that smokers turned to the electronic or electric cigarette, or e-cig, in their thousands, now millions. They have discovered the joy of obtaining their harmless 'buzz' from nicotine without the harmful carcinogens and toxins of tobacco smoke – the substances they were warned for years were the real danger of tobacco. And many, myself included, instantly became that ideal of the moral purists – non-smokers! After fifty years, in my case, during which I probably smoked around 500,000 cigarettes, plus cigars and pipefuls of tobacco, I am a non-smoker. I haven't had a cigarette for six months. I feel that my health and vigour have improved, my clothes smell better, my car smells better, my never-smoker wife is happier in my company, I enjoy walking more. What more could be asked for?

Well, to start with, I would like to be allowed to be a non-smoker. I would like to be allowed to sit in a pub or club, or restaurant and exercise my legal right to enjoy nicotine with my drink, or my meal, or my friends, without breathing in tobacco smoke, for I am a non-smoker. I do not wish to be a passive smoker lurking in the doorway, or huddled under a tree. For I am not a smoker, and I do not wish to be treated as such because of the war on tobacco, for I have forsworn tobacco for good.

But now the battle is no longer about smoking, and there is little pretence that it is, or ever has been. The moral purists no longer demand that the public is protected from my smoke, instead they seek to take from me my right to consume a substance no more harmful than caffeine, much less so than alcohol, on the pretext that it is a powerfully addictive, toxic, carcinogenic, dangerous drug. Yet there is no evidence for these charges, and there is ample evidence to the contrary. Even the medical profession know that there is no evidence for addiction, for they will happily give me nicotine to satisfy my 'cravings'. Would they prescribe a shot of vodka for an alcoholic, a 'fix' for a heroin junkie Would we take a compulsive shoplifter on a shopping spree, or a serial killer on a paint-balling session?

There are other specious and spurious arguments too. The main one says that using an e-cig 'normalises' the act of smoking. This is preposterous. How can the act of NOT doing something normalise the performance of the activity? One could similarly argue that driving carefully normalises dangerous driving, or that lying in bed normalises the act of standing. Then there is the one that says that e-cigs encourage the consumption of nicotine, and nicotine addition forces people to smoke. This muddled thinking is wrong on two counts. 1) As we have seen in my case, smokers start by being attracted to smoking for the sake of smoking, since they have not yet experienced nicotine. If they take up the habit, they become accustomed to nicotine (note I do not say 'addicted', since this is an exaggeration). When they want to quit, nicotine helps them to do so, if an acceptably attractive alternative source is available. It is thus a 'gateway' out of smoking, not in. 2) Had e-cigs been available when I began my smoking career, I would almost certainly have stuck with them, for I never much enjoyed the taste of tobacco, and I hated the 'fug' of smoke when I was in a room of smokers, or that hung on my clothes afterward. You see, I am a non-smoker at heart, and always was, but I let custom win, for there was no alternative until recently. And this is true of just about every e-cig user with whom I have discussed this point!

One of the most poisonous arguments used against e-cigs is the supposedly cynical use of sweet flavourings in e-cig liquids deliberately to attract children to start smoking. This is ludicrous for several obvious reasons. 1) Ex-smokers do not want to emulate a tobacco habit, so many prefer to break completely from tobacco to something tasty; mint, fruit, aniseed, chocolate, coffee; the very same tastes that even non-smokers prefer for sweets et cetera. 2) These same flavourings are used to make alcoholic drinks palatable. No one has ever, to my knowledge, suggested that pubs should be allowed to serve only vodka in order that young people do not become alcoholics. 3) If sweet flavourings are more attractive, and encourage more smokers to quit, then, surely, this is precisely what the moral purists have been trying to encourage! And in whose interest would it be if young people took up smoking? Not the e-cig and e-liquid suppliers, but the tobacco companies, and the tax collectors would get the lion's share!

Then we have the argument that children will fail to recognise the difference between e-cigs and tobacco cigarettes, and will take to smoking if they see adults with e-cigs. This is clearly ludicrous because children can easily tell the difference between things. I have never known a child to attempt to eat a ball because he or she has eaten an orange, or to make a telephone call on a remote control, or to walk up curtains because they resemble carpet. Swords and table knives have a similarity, but we teach our youngsters to tell them apart, and to understand the difference in use. I do not know of a child that cannot tell the difference between a policeman and a fireman. And in any event, should we not be teaching our children about the hazards they will face in life, and helping them to choose safer options?

Finally, we come to the crux of the matter. Moral purists do not want e-cigs because they do not want anyone to enjoy anything that they themselves do not enjoy, or that they think is 'sinful' or 'unnecessary'. They would un-invent the car, the television, the radio, the computer, but if we were riding on horseback, they would argue that we should walk. So they will not tolerate anything that undermines their moral high ground. Obviously, they were not truly intent on securing smoke-free public places; they have achieved that already, but a world in which no-one consumes nicotine, or puffs out water vapour, or even looks as though they might be getting a little enjoyment out of life. Along that route lies a dark and sinister world. As guardians of the public health, you should ask yourself, “Can I ever make the world 100% safe? Would life be worth living in such a world?” And, “If no-one is being harmed, should I interfere?”. A single 'No' should mean that it is time to let others make their own life choices, as it is their right so to do!

Sunday, 11 May 2014

When Did They Change The Law?

When did they change the law?

“Ignorance of the law,” they say, “is no excuse.” Is there any excuse, then, for those who make and enforce the laws to twist the law until it breaks? The law, of course, is “a ass” as one Charles Dickens knew only too well. But how well do the authorities know their own law? Pretty well, you might think, since they write it, uphold it, and enforce it.

Let us go back to a basic principle of law, “innocent until proven guilty”. Simple, yes? It is not for the accused to prove himself innocent, but for the accuser to prove him guilty. If guilt has not been proved then the defendant cannot be punished. How does that work with electronic cigarettes? Let us see.

Smoking has been proved to be harmful to the smoker. It is suspected of being harmful to non-smokers but evidence is unclear. Expert witnesses have been called for both sides, and they cannot agree. On the balance of probability, it has been decided that there may be some possibility of harm from 'passive smoking', so smoking has not been made illegal, but it has been banned in specified enclosed public places for the safety of the public by virtue of the Health Act 2006. The provisions of this act prohibit the carrying of lit tobacco products in a place to which the public has access. Note that smokers have thus been denied their basic right to carry out a legal practice in places where they have a legal right to be, when no guilt has been proved.

E-cigarettes are not made from tobacco but from metal and plastic or glass. They use a battery to heat a cartridge or atomiser to vapourise a very small amount of glycerine or propylene glycol, which usually contains a tiny drop of flavouring, none of which ingredients are tobacco products, and each of which can be found in foodstuffs, toothpaste and many products found in every home. This 'e-liquid' may (or may not) contain a very small amount of nicotine, a plant alkaloid found in tobacco, and also in many common foodstuffs of the Solanaceae family including potatoes and tomatoes, aubergines and peppers, that are not tobacco products by any definition. Typically the nicotine content of e-liquids is between 1 and 3 percent of the volume held in the atomiser, this rarely exceeding 1.2 millilitres (ml), sufficient for up 200 'puffs'. This would suggest that very few e-cigs hold more than 0.009mg of nicotine and any one puff would not contain more than 0.00005mg. Ignoring the fact that one of the first principles of law that I was taught in school was that “the law does not concern itself with trifles”, bear also in mind that e-liquids may contain absolutely no nicotine at all. Thus the question may be asked, is an e-cigarette a tobacco product within the law? And the answer must be not necessarily in every case. So should taking a puff from an e-cigarette be covered by the ban on smoking, especially since the water vapour is definitely not smoke?

Secondly there is the question of 'lit'. There is no combustion of substances in e-cigs. The vapour is gently warmed for a matter of seconds exactly in the way that a kettle vaporises water to produce steam. And steam is all that is released by an e-cig; harmless water vapour. One would think, therefore, that e-cigarettes are outside the scope of the ban on smoking, and can be used anywhere, this being the prime reason for their popularity with former smokers.

The problem is that people want to use the e-cig to replace the tobacco cigarettes they cannot smoke whilst in places covered by the ban, as is their right as citizens; to do something which is permitted by law, or not forbidden by any existing law. But the tobacco control fascists do not tolerate anyone exercising their rights, especially if it conflicts with their obsessive desire to eradicate smoking, and anything even remotely connected to it. Thus they either attempt to use the law to enforce what the law does not enforce, or to seek to extend the law even against the principles of justice. In the first instance we see bodies such as hospital trusts applying the smoking ban beyond the 'enclosed or substantially enclosed' places specified by the Health Act, in order to include car parks, roadways and open spaces within the hospital grounds, which are in no sense enclosed. Then they seek to extend their ban beyond tobacco products to include e-cigs, thus exceeding both the letter and the spirit of the Act.

The zealots wish to go further, too. They wish to extend the law that they already exceed, to cover e-cigs by declaring them tobacco products, and by doing away with 'lit' to include any means of vapourising, and all this simply to include something that has not harmed anyone! Something that has, in fact, saved hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people from the very thing that the Health Act was intended to fight, the smoke from tobacco! E-cigs are being condemned by association with tobacco, by being used by people NOT to smoke! This is similar to treating as an accessory to murder, a bystander who tried to prevent the murder taking place by removing the murder weapon from the killer! What judge could condemn in such a case, other than one who has total contempt for every basic principle of law?

The zealots argue too that e-cigs should be banned like tobacco because the act of 'vaping' is vaguely similar to that of smoking. Like a motorist driving at 30 mph is guilty of looking like another doing 120? If a man looks as though he is making a bomb, although he is repairing a clock, is he to be considered a terrorist? Is a man carrying a sack guilty of burglary, a gardener guilty of preventing a lawful burial? The 'stop-and-search' rules will need to be rapidly re-written to accommodate such changes! Justice requires evidence of guilt, not of similarity! Furthermore, it is normal before passing a law to circumscribe anything, to ascertain whether that thing has actually done any harm, and to seek evidence of the harm done. E-cigs have caused no harm.

E-cigs have been accused of the 'potential' to do harm by 'renormalising' smoking. For many people smoking is normal, whatever the purists may believe. But when did the law ever punish someone for having the 'potential' to offend, anyway? Should we condemn politicians for the potential to make war? Strike off doctors for having the potential to murder us? Punish bank managers for having the potential to rob us? E-cigs have little or no potential for harm; they have the potential to save millions of lives, and to end the smoking of tobacco, as the purists seek! The truly guilty parties are those who prevent the good doing good deeds, not the other way round.

So, when did the law change? Was it when ideologists found that natural justice got in their way. Others have walked that route, and the world was always a worse place for it, not better!

My Non-Smoking Story

I am not normally a soap-box orator, but some matters get me fighting mad.

I used to smoke. Over a fifty-year period I consumed cigarettes (untipped and tipped), pipe tobacco, cigars, and even snuff! At stressful times my consumption came close to chain smoking. I must have smoked some half a million cigarettes, and it is well 'known' to the self-appointed guardians of the public health that just 15 cigarettes are sufficient to kill. Statistically, then, it seems that I must inevitably have died at a very early age, however, somehow, I have survived to the age of 65, and gathered some wisdom along the way. That wisdom has taught me that the common man has more common sense than he is given credit for by anyone in the House of Commons! These are the thoughts of one common man on the subject of e-cigarettes, and their place in the new world order as defined by our political masters.

Over the last twenty years successive governments and their paid lackeys in the NHS have mounted a campaign of demonising tobacco, and its ability to offer smokers a little bit of pleasure. They told us how we would all die a premature death (like the smoking icon Winston Churchill or the late Queen Mother?), but not enough of us listened and quit. So they decided that smokers should finance the NHS in its entirety, and introduced swingeing tax penalties instead, But not enough of us cut our losses and quit. So they changed tack; since we were not dying as quickly as they thought we should, we were instead breeding and forcing our children to follow our example, so they banned tobacco advertising, and started indoctrinating the children in nursery school on the evils of tobacco. But still not enough of us quit (or died off), so they offered us help to quit, with support services, and counselling, and nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) in the form of patches and gum, and little plastic tubes that tasted of nothing and just made us look silly. But still too few managed to quit.

Having failed to convince us that we were killing ourselves, the pundits changed tack again, and decided to utilise peer pressure by convincing the general public that smokers were out to kill them all. They pointed out that hundreds of thousands of entertainers, barmaids, landlords, waiters, cinema usherettes, taxi drivers etc. were falling dead all over the place due to 'passive smoking' - well Roy Castle anyway. So they decided to ban smoking in pubs, clubs, cinemas and restaurants, and even some smokers applauded, until they realised that the ban also encompassed ALL enclosed spaces to which the public MIGHT have access, including anywhere where even smokers worked, effectively meaning everywhere except the home. The hospital hierarchies, and bodies such as the rail companies even took the term 'enclosed' to mean 'inclosed', as in anything inclosed in our site perimeter! Indeed, some institutions even seek to prohibit smoking on public roads adjacent to their sites! It seems that a certain village in Anglesey, Llanfair (it seems they’ve rescinded the joke against the English speakers) are even trying to extend the prohibition to the parish boundary. Thus enshrined in law, tobacco prohibition meant that smokers were forced to huddle in doorways and side alleys, where they could be subjected to the baleful glances of the greater British public, who were able to go about their healthful business without being suffocated by the noxious smog they had been forced to suffer for over 500 years.

And so the beleaguered smoker was delighted when a new device was developed which gave him/her the ability to take in nicotine without recourse to tobacco, something to do with his hands, something which tasted better than plastic tubes, and which could not possibly cause harm to his children or neighbours since it produced only water vapour - the electronic cigarette, or e-cig. And moreover, since it did not involve lit tobacco, it was (and still is) totally legal to use indoors or out. So he tried it, liked it, and did exactly what the anti-smoking establishment had tried to force him to do for years - he QUIT! In the thousands, the millions, he became a NON-SMOKER! He felt better, he smelt better, he breathed more easily, he had more cash in his pocket, he became a happy VAPER! I know, because I'm one of the number. Personally, I haven't touched a cigarette in sixteen months, and I don't want to! I don't fancy a smoke at all! In fact, I wish we'd had e-cigs fifty years ago!

Then the establishment bigots came back on the scene.
"You can't use an e-cig", they said, "because you can't prove (to our satisfaction) that it's safe!". Now, it could be extremely difficult to prove that a car, bus, lorry, train or plane is safe - but when were they banned?  Many people are injured or killed each year by household cutlery or kitchen utensils. Are we to ban their use in the home? No, we teach our children to use them with care, we handle them carefully ourselves, and we do not let young people buy them. Has anyone ever proved conclusively that tomatoes, for example, are totally safe? Tomatoes are one of a family of plants (Solanum) that includes potatoes along with Deadly Nightshade - and, of course, Nicotiana, the Tobacco plant. When did anyone force-feed beagles with tomatoes to see what ill-effects ensued. People in Bunol, Spain occasionally get injured by flying tomatoes; should La Tomatina be banned?

"You will cause children to think smoking glamorous, and undo all our good work of juvenile indoctrination", they said. Well, I didn't smoke because I saw my parents smoke. I think I smoked my first cigarette because I wanted to see what it felt and tasted like, just as I tried my first banana, my first sherbert lemon, my first tomato, my first girlfriend! I didn't much like that first fag, but when I started work most of my colleagues were smokers. Seeing them smoking cigarettes made my try cigarettes. My boss smoked a pipe; I tried a pipe. The MD smoked cigars; I tried cigars. If they had been vaping e-cigs, I would almost certainly have tried e-cigs! And, if I had liked it, I might have continued for life - or not. I cannot imagine that it would have made me take snuff, or start chewing Nicotiana stems, or gateposts for that matter. Young people model themselves on their peers rather more than they do on on their elders. But what they experience in the earliest years can affect their later life. Unlike feeding kids sweets and fizzy drinks that might set them on an addiction to sugar, setting them a good example (like choosing safe options, or learning to make their own decisions) may bring benefits in later life. Making cannabis, heroin, et cetera illegal never stopped them being available to young people! Sensible advice is always better than high-handed governmental propaganda and legislation, however well-intended. After all, do we ban children from the beach because of the undisputed dangers to be found there. On the contrary, we explain the dangers, provide them with any necessary protection, and let them enjoy themselves! Oh, if only we could do the same for the common man!

"Using an e-cig 'normalises' smoking", they said. What, NOT smoking normalises smoking? E-cigs normalise tobacco? The clean and hygienic vaporisation of propylen glycol normalises the dirty combustion of paper and leaves? What parallel universe do these idiots inhabit? Oh, Wales, Ireland and California, hmmm.... I wonder about this term, 'normalisation'. Does a vote for nationalist Plaid Cymru normalise neo-nazism, which is universally and rightly condemned? Does gay marriage normalise heterosexuality, or heterosexual marriage normalise homophobia, both of which many people will find unacceptable? Does badger culling normalise ethnic cleansing or animal cruelty? Do the words of 'Men of Harlech' promote racial hatred and normalise tribal warfare? Does the game of Rugby normalise violence and aggressive competitiveness?  Does voting someone into power make them immune to criticism, and normalise dictatorship?

When the decision is made as to the correctness of banning e-cigs, let the legislators take account of the views of those who have carefully considered ALL aspects of the argument, not just those who are blinkered by their desire to force their ideology on everyone else. Let common sense prevail, and let the common man make his own decisions!