Sunday, March 02, 2008

Conservative Party Pressure 2

The next stage in my one-man Conservative Party Pressure campaign is this considered reply to the email address that masquerades as David Cameron:

Dear David, Anna or which ever “correspondence secretary reads this”,

It is good to get a reply when writing to the head of an organisation. This feeling is always tainted by the use of pre-prepared stock phrases especially when they are delivered by a thinly disguised public relations office. The feelings then evoked are those of insignificance, belittlement or simply being ignored or palmed off. I know the weight of Mr Cameron’s inbox makes this a way of ensuring some sort of reply for many, but is it really worth it if this is the standard of response? I cannot tell you how many times the sentences in your letter have been pasted into letters sent to me and my smoking friends. One does potentially tire of the situation, most noticeably for me when my constituency MP, Sir George Young, decided to include a personal attack in his reply, indicating his clear intent not to represent his constituent. Then again, I do persist on this occasion and would hope that my correspondence might me passed on to Mr Cameron himself.

The first sentence of your response states that a smoking ban came into force and that it means that smoking is banned. I thought that was very instructive. I shall attempt to make that my last sarcastic remark. The remainder of your response reveals that the author has a superficial knowledge of the background facts, being employed simply to regurgitate sound bites. The worse thing about this reply is that reference is made to Caroline Flint as if the author somehow trusts her to do what she says. This is at best naïve and if that is the party’s or Mr Cameron’s view then the Conservative Party is indeed lost.

You said: “Whatever one’s own views,”
I recognise that as the opener used solely by anti-smokers or the stooges of organisations that support an anti-smoking stance. It always precedes the bad news.

You said: “,it is very clear that public opinion has demanded a ban on smoking in public places for some time.”
My friends and I have heard this said before. The figures that we have available, however unreliably obtained, badly presented or inaccurately reported are from the Office of National Statistics. They have conducted surveys annually for a little while entitled “Smoking related attitudes and behaviour”. Their news releases report on the previous years statistics. Figures from the 2005 data tell us 33% of people surveyed were in favour of a ban in public places. To most objective observers this means that 67% were not in favour of a ban. These people preferred alternative measures allowing smokers to remain part of the community and go to places with their non-smoking friends. Put another way the majority of people favoured restrictions not a ban. The 2006 data was presented differently. It asked how much the people surveyed “agreed with legislation which will make all enclosed public places and workplaces smokefree”. A massive 77% agreed with this statement. The apparent sea change in opinion was simply brought about by confusing the issue and is not a true representation of change. The term “smokefree” was not taken to mean “smokersfreezingtheirbacksidesoff” as it was clearly meant to convey. The labour government changed their proposals for the said legislation and at the time of the survey no-one could have appreciated their intentions or the consequences of the draconian Act that followed. So, your glib statement is actually far from the truth, and it is an insult to write such statements in your reply.

You said: “There is also a considerable body of scientific evidence to point to the harmful health effects of second-hand smoke.”
This is where Mr Cameron seems to assume I don’t know what I’m talking about. Quite a naïve assumption, as I would not be writing on the subject unless I had a great interest in the subject. I do have a rather in depth knowledge of the subject of Environmental Tobacco Smoke, the available scientific evidence and the propaganda campaign initially recommended by the World Health Organisation that has aimed to create a fear of tobacco smoke in the general public. We now know that WHO are suspected of bias in scientific reporting. We also know that SCOTH, from whom all government advice on tobacco smoke has been derived is principally made up from people with additional competing agendas, for example relating to their work for the pharmaceutical industry. Now is not the place to list the scientific evidence or lack of it for the harmful effects of second-hand smoke, but the views of Professor Doll and more recently Le Grand summarize it well: “There is no risk”. So, once again a rather insulting remark from Mr Cameron’s correspondence secretary.

You next devote a paragraph to directing me to details on the legislation. I live the legislation every day of my weather dependant, tramp-like existence. I am only too aware of the consequences of the legislation as are many wet led pubs, bingo halls and working men’s clubs. As are the brewing industry and the thriving tobacco industry who us smokers continue to support to the hilt. We are also fortunately still able to contribute far more to the chancellor than any fictitious calculation on the cost we incur for the Health Service. Is this any way to treat law abiding citizens? There are other possible solutions which work well in other countries. Spanish hospitality providers may choose to allow smoking if their premises are of a sufficient size to allow separate well ventilated areas. Why can we not actively consider this type of more inclusive and permissive arrangement?

The altruistic aim continually quoted is to improve the health of the nation. If this is to be an earnest objective it needs to pay far more attention and give much more credence to the mental health of the nation. The current situation segregates the people and socially isolates a large part of the electorate. The continual politically lead pressure to demonise smokers and pressurise smokers to stop smoking which pervades our lives via television and radio advertising produces a form of apartheid which can by no stretch of the imagination be considered as healthy for the nation.

The rest of your response attempts to convince me that the opposition is in some way doing it’s job and that there will be health benefits from this legislation. It may now be apparent to you that I do not wear that. I can assure you that the mental health of many smokers has deteriorated dramatically. If Mr Cameron would like to now actually answer my original questions I would be prepared to delay my complete conversion to UKIP. However, I won’t hold my breath. Can I remind him that at least 13 million people still smoke and that we will be voting in the next general election. It is likely that we will all be single issue voters as the impact of The Health Act on our lives has been all consuming. Where we do not have the opportunity to vote UKIP, we will have to resort to the best tactical vote possible.

I beg the party leaders to consider this matter actively.

Yours sincerely

Dr Phil Button BM DA(UK) DRCOG
Associate Specialist in Anaesthesia