Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Ministry of Silly Coughs

by Bladimir Tolstoy

I guess many of you have been both irritated and amused by the pseudo coughs of anti-smokers in public places. Yes, you know, there you are sitting in a covered area outside a pub, which is designated for smokers, and some silly selfish anti will deliberately come and sit in it just so they can make little coughing noises.

Of course, people like these like to say that smokers are selfish when, in fact, they are the ones who are selfish as they now think the world revolves entirely around them.  So there they go, sitting in smoking areas and coughing or making other daft remarks in the face of any little tiny of smoke.  You would think from the over reactions of some of them that they were practising for future incarnations as kippers. Not a bad idea though, some of you may think, for the picture of an anti with a skewer up his or her arse is rather a delightful one.

I usually give short shrift to these people and sometimes cough along with them in an equally pathetic way.  You see, they think they are actually making you feel awkward when in fact you're just thinking "silly f****r".  Moreover, if they don't like smoking, then they should just stay out of the smoking area.  Get it, just don't come in, stay out, you don't have to go there! 

To round this little criticism off, firstly, does anyone remember the story about Daphne?  If not, here is our link:


Secondly, I'm not letting these silly bastards off the hook so lightly.  So I've compiled a sample of their silly coughs for our readers' amusement.

1. The Standard



2. My Car Won't Start



3. The Old Banger



4. The Complete Prat



5. The Female Chipmunk



6. The Big Noise



7. Can We Leave, Darling?



8. Oh, It's So Dreadfully Smokey In Here, Cedric!

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Monday, May 25, 2009

The Irish Smoking Ban: A Deception Revealed

By Blad Tolstoy

The peculiar thing about smoking bans is that their proponents have to lie so much to bring them about and then lie again to convince people that their implementation is a success. Here is an interesting story about Ireland which reveals just what a farce their ban has become.

What follows is an e-mail interaction between a Forces Germany activist and Elaine Phillips of the Irish Office of Tobacco Control followed by some comments from Irish pro-choice activist, John Mallon, who has contributed to this blog before.

What Forces Germany pointed out is that in terms of one of its key goals the Irish smoking ban has failed with smoking rates in Ireland going up not down (as is, in fact, the case in many parts of the world). Phillips then counters by trying to pretend that this was not a primary goal at all, but that the primary goal was just to save workers from second hand smoke. This is not true either as the German activist demonstrates in their second e-mail.

An interesting exchange and John Mallon’s comments at the end are particularly illuminating.


1) From Forces Germany

Subject: Smoking trends
Dear Tobacco Research Department,

Now, at the fifth anniversary, I am eager to learn the actual smoking trends in your country, but all I can find, are data from last year. And even these are devastating regarding your goal. The trend raised again, right? Or why do you not publish data since a year - while you conduct monthly surveys?

Could you please inform me about the actual smoking trends in Ireland, the impact of anti smokers legislation on this smoking trend and the opinion of the Office of Tobacco Control about the success of Irish anti smoker's laws?

I would like to inform you, that I will use your answer for a planned publication in Germany, about tobacco prohibition.

Yours faithfully, etc.


2) Elaine Phillips’ Reply

Thank you for your recent query.

In relation to your query re prevalence data, the OTC will be publishing further data on its website in the coming months and through its 2008 Annual Report.

As regards your comment re changes in prevalence, this appears to link the success of the smoke-free workplace legislation in Ireland to changes in the numbers smoking. This legislation was implemented first and foremost, to protect the health of all workers – including those in the service and hospitality industries – by eliminating the harmful effects of second-hand (environmental tobacco) smoke. Of course, any measure that reduces the numbers smoking is very welcome but this was not the primary aim of the legislation.

In terms of content for your planned publication, you may find the following of interest. These are links to the findings of studies that were undertaken to assess the early health benefits arising from the introduction of smoke-free workplaces:

The OTC part-funded - through the Research Institute for a Tobacco Free Society (RIFTFS) - the All Ireland Bar Study led by Dr Shane Allwright on the health impacts of the smoke-free workplace legislation. The study clearly indicates that the high rate of compliance with this new measure is translating into better air quality in bars resulting in improved health for workers.

The first results of the study were published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) during 2005.

http://bmj.bmjjournals.com/cgi/content/full/331/7525/1117

Another study, led by Professor Luke Clancy, Director General of the RIFTFS, was published in 2007 in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine. The paper showed the findings of a major Irish study on the reduction in air pollution and improvement in respiratory health of workers in Irish pubs as a result of the workplace-smoking ban.

http://ajrccm.atsjournals.org/cgi/content/abstract/175/8/840

The introduction of smoke-free workplace legislation in Ireland has been highly successful, as the studies above indicate. Please also refer to the following press release marking the 5 year anniversary. This also includes compliance figures for use in your publication:

http://www.otc.ie/article.asp?article=430

Finally, I am pleased to confirm that as of from July 1 2009, it will be a requirement that all tobacco advertising and product display is removed from retail premises. The commencement of the relevant provisions of the Public Health (Tobacco) Acts, 2002 and 2004, will result in:

1. A ban on all in-store / point-of-sale advertising of tobacco products, for example, branding backdrops in shops and change mats on counters;

2. A ban on the display of tobacco products in retail premises;

3. The introduction of a closed container / dispenser provision;

4. Tighter controls on the location and operation of tobacco vending
machines;

5. The introduction of a retail register.

(this policy has failed in both Canada and Iceland with youth smoking rates now up not down but tobacco control bodies still hail these countries as successes - my italics)

These measures are being introduced to tackle the issue of youth initiation into smoking. The location of prominent tobacco displays in retail outlets plays a role in promoting tobacco consumption. Its placement in proximity to everyday consumer goods such as newspapers and sweets helps tobacco to be seen as another benign consumer product. Research shows that tobacco advertising is a key factor in a young person starting and continuing to smoke. If smoking initiation can be delayed, the numbers of young people becoming addicted and suffering smoking related illnesses will be reduced. Smoking initiation is largely a childhood phenomenon. More than three-quarters of all smokers in Ireland started to smoke before they reached the age of 18. Over 6000 Irish smokers die every year from tobacco related diseases.

The Office of Tobacco Control is committed to working with all stakeholders within the tobacco control community to reduce the terrible burden of death and disease caused by the tobacco epidemic. What is required to reduce the numbers smoking is a concerted and sustained effort across a number of areas. These include:

(“stakeholders” seldom includes smokers – only those interested in doing things for them for their own good – my italics)

- Protection of children and young people from the dangers of tobacco to include regular price increases significantly above the rate of inflation. Best national and international evidence indicates that the single most effective means of addressing tobacco consumption is through price increases.

(so why are smoking rates going up in so many places? and no wonder the black market is booming – my italics)

- Further awareness building around the dangers of smoking and passive smoking;

- Continued investment in cessation supports;

- Commencement and full enforcement of all measures outlined in the Public Health (Tobacco) Acts, 2002 and 2004.

I trust you will find this information of interest.

Regards,
Elaine Phillips
Office of Tobacco Control


3) Forces Germany’s Reply to Elaine Phillips

Thank you for your rapid and thorough response.

In the meantime, I found Data in the SLAN [Survey of Lifestyle, Attitudes and Nutrition] survey, showing that smokers prevalence went up from 27% in 2002 to 29% .

In linking the success of the ban to changes in numbers smoking, I may cite a speech of Health Minister Martin during the legislative process in 2003:

“Our success in improving the health status of the nation is linked to further reducing the level of tobacco usage and in particular preventing young persons from starting to smoke. If the incidence of tobacco use can be reduced further we can make considerable progress towards a tobacco-free and a healthier society in the years to come. I am not suggesting that legislation alone, no matter how comprehensive, can create and sustain the environment necessary to prevent people from starting to smoke and to assist those who have already started to quit. Our anti-tobacco strategy will be multifaceted, containing as it will strong legislative controls and effective enforcement powers. However, the strategy will also have a fiscal element and the supports required by smokers to quit.

The implementation of this comprehensive strategy will, in time, effect the necessary attitudinal changes in society to tobacco consumption followed by the necessary behavioural changes. We owe it to ourselves, to the younger generation, and, indeed, to future generations to ensure that the war against tobacco is won. We must ensure that the children and young people of today do not become future victims of the tobacco industry, whether through being induced to smoke tobacco products or through exposure to and inhalation of
environmental tobacco smoke.”

He didn't even mention bar workers and only one sentence of his speech was about reducing secondhand smoke for workers.

The goals he stressed are clearly missed. Prevalence was rising, young people did not reduce tobacco use. And general health data indicate, that there are no statistically significant improvements that could be linked to the smoking ban or other legislative cures.

Ireland is still, as OECD health data show, the country with the highest rate of respiratory diseases. Twice as many Irish people die from as in Greece, but Greece has twice as many smokers and a public smoking ban in Greece had to be overturned because it was thoroughly neglected. I would not call the Irish way a success, but an example of misled efforts.

The studies you mentioned do NOT show real health data. They rely on questioning and self assessment instead of facts. So they just prove that bar workers believe they are healthier now, but they lack 'hard' data like working hours lost due to respiratory illness.

You say: "Research shows that tobacco advertising is a key factor in a young person starting and continuing to smoke".

But almost all advertising is already banned and these existing bans had absolutely no positive influence on smoking habits. So, the reliability of this research should be questioned.

Do you really think, the scheduled display ban, a mere prick compared to all the other bans, will now turn the tide after many bigger efforts failed to do so? I doubt strongly. And you will secretly agree.
My opinion.

Faithfully etc.


4) John Mallon’s Commentary on This Exchange

Folks,

I have spoken to Elaine Philips in the past and the experience was akin to talking to the radio.

Might I suggest that a visit to the Irish Central Statistics Office (www.cso.ie) might be of benefit to the writer of this article for Forces Germany.

I might add a few observations on the OTC response:

1. Smoking is on the increase since the introduction of the ban here but pubs continue to close at the rate of one per day.

2. Those smokers who decided to "cut down" rather than quit, switched to packets of ten and then the OTC had these banned also.

3. I do not know who is behind bans in other countries, but here, The Irish Cancer Society and the Irish Heart Foundation were set up as 'charities' and are funded by taxpayers money (and some limited fund raising by their own volunteers). The award of charitable status in Ireland is a joke though. In theory, anyone can apply and then a faceless civil servant in the Dept. of Finance decides on whether you qualify. Needless to say, it's based on who you know but its a tax free scam with no accountability.

4. ASH Ireland also registered as a charity in the same funding and then in turn, gets its funding from the other two societies. What is laughable is that the characters involved such as Looney-Luke Clancy, Shane Allwright and Fenton Howell have at various times, appeared on the boards of one or more of these societies. The OTC set up it's operation and then at just the moment Dr Looney Luke stepped down as Chief Exec. of ASH, the OTC announced a new research arm and guess who pooped up as head of this? Looney Luke had a new income as researcher for the OTC and his first project which took a year to complete, found incredibly, that since smoking was banned in(side) pubs, "THERE WAS LESS SMOKE INSIDE PUBS" !!! That's what passes for serious research over here.

5. Take note also that since all of these characters are Doctors, they have long standing and formal ties with the Pharmaceutical Industry.

6. The most regular old chestnut dredged up to defend the ban is compliance. Please report in large capitals that failure to comply brings a fine of €3,000 for the offending customer and up to €6,000 for the pub owner. I imagine that the original intention was that these fines would go towards funding the OTC. And speaking of that, in every press release from these sleazy characters, you will find a reference to the urgent need for more investment in their crusade. These bastards are in it for the money ......

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Sunday, May 24, 2009

Smoke! Smoke! Smoke! (That Cigarette)

A compilation of TV and film advertising set to a background of western swing music from "Asleep at the Wheel".

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Fool for a Cigarette

This rather excellent bit of acoustic blues guitar by Ry Cooder caught Blad's attention. It certainly adds to the contemplative mood of a smoke. Enjoy!

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Monday, May 18, 2009

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ASH Conference Wales

By Blad Tolstoy

Here we go again, Wales will be taking another hit as ASH promote sales of nicotine  replacement therapy for their pharmaceutical paymasters from Pfizer and McNeil. Yes, it's the make cash in Wales conference deigned to ultimately ram that near useless pharmaceutical garbage down the throats of the public whether it likes it or not.

As usual, we have an event headed up by the great and the good who know exactly what's good for us, don't they just. Indeed, one may contemplate the supreme vanity of these anally retentive narcissists as they pursue the belief that they will change mankind for good. They won't, of course, as no movement's effects last forever and it's worth remembering the old adage that life is like a swimming pool. You get in and splash about a lot but after you get out no-one knows you've been there.

Aha, so who's top of the list of the great and the good? Why, it's Rhodri Morgan, that near political has-been. Well, he's not got much else to do except pursue his obsession with the belief that stopping smoking will help reduce the number of asthma sufferers. I could say a great deal about that contentious issue, but would Morgan explain to the world how it is that the number of asthma sufferers has increased threefold over the last thirty years whilst the number of smokers has halved?

I'm sure there will be a ringing silence. Anyway, the ASH Wales Conference, yawn, but take a look if you like....zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz...

http://www.smoking-conference-wales.org.uk/

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Tuesday, May 12, 2009

A Victory in Holland!

By Blad Tolstoy

Court throws out smoking ban for small bars

Published: Tuesday 12 May 2009 11:58 UTC

A court in Den Bosch has ruled that there is no legal basis for the smoking ban to apply to bars if they employ no staff. The ruling comes in a case against the owners of Café Victoria in Breda. Its owners were fined for allowing their customers to smoke on the premises and ended up in court last month when they refused to pay.

The court then also found in the café's favour, but for a different reason. It ruled that small bars like Café Victoria faced unfair competition as a consequence of the smoking ban.

The Justice Ministry appealed against the verdict. However, the appeal court has now ruled that the law does not provide for a smoking ban in cafés whose owners do not employ any staff. The smoking ban, which came into force on 1 July last year, is essentially health and safety legislation designed to protect employees.

Campaigning organisations representing small bars and restaurants without staff have welcomed the verdict. The public prosecutor's office immediately lodged an appeal.

In a similar case in February, the owners of Café De Kachel in Groningen were also fined 1200 euros for failing to comply with the smoking ban. Their appeal is due to be heard at the end of May.

http://www.radionetherlands.nl/news/zijlijn/6296385/Court-throws-out-smoking-ban-for-small-bars

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Nasty Granny - I love it!

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Sunday, May 10, 2009

Silence is Golden

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Green Lightbulbs Poison Workers

By Blad Tolstoy

Anyone already fed up with the new green lightbulbs? I know I am. Their light is poor, it pulsates unpleasantly giving me a headache, and they contain small doses of mercury. Note, I did say "small doses" as it is not the substance per se that makes the poison but the dose. That is the first law of toxicology and as true now as it was in Paracelsus' time.

Unlike most of the anti-smoker cannon fodder, which consists of well-meaning but gullible and badly informed do-gooders, I am not, therefore, out to condemn something simply because it contains a particular substance. However, having said that, mercury has a toxic effect at low doses and those who manufacture these bulbs, along with the government, have been at pains to assure us that there is no danger to be had from them.

In response to that, I am nevertheless concerned that when these bulbs are disposed of in waste sites, then the amount or sum of mercury in those locations will increase drastically and I am trying to imagine how toxic they will become. This should provide some food for thought. Moreover, if we take a look at this link, provided by Steve Milloy, we discover that large numbers of workers in China who make these bulbs have experienced mercury poisoning (very unpleasant).

http://greenhellblog.wordpress.com/2009/05/05/green-lightbulbs-poison-workers/

Are these light bulbs a sensible introduction, or are they justy another silly invention created to satisfy the irresponsibly politically correct?

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Saturday, May 09, 2009

Tobacco Control’s New Look

By Blad Tolstoy

Ever wondered what tobacco control operatives get up to at their conferences? Well, if not, let’s take a little trip back in time to the 2007 – UK National Smoking Cessation Conference also known as “UKNSCC”, pronounced as it’s spelt, and taken from and old one-word Mongolian phrase meaning: “exterminate filthy smokers”. So there, now you know, and for those of you interested in paying this charming little website a visit, please see: http://www.uknscc.org/ where you will be able to note that another of these costly little junkets is planned for this year and all courtesy of that well-known nicotine replacement therapy provider (NRT), Pfizer.



Yes, indeed, it must be nice for this pharmaceutical company to have so many willing sales representatives at its disposal to market its well-nigh useless products. What? You don’t believe NRT is useless? Well, take a look at this recent BMJ study which finds it has a failure rate of 98.4%. See: Effectiveness and safety of nicotine replacement therapy assisted reduction to stop smoking: systematic review and meta-analysis:

http://www.bmj.com/cgi/content/full/338/apr02_3/b1024

and for Michael Siegel’s commentaries, see:

Rapid Response Questions Conclusions of Nicotine Replacement Therapy Study, Asks Whether Financial Conflict of Interest Biased Study Conclusions

and:

New Study Demonstrates How Conflicts of Interest with Big Pharma Influence Reporting of the Effectiveness of Smoking Cessation Drug Treatment

both currently located at:

http://tobaccoanalysis.blogspot.com/search?q=NRT

Ho-ho, this is not he first study to find poor results for NRT, and the picture is not too good for fans of smoking cessation with smoking rates throughout the world, almost ubiquitously, either stabilised or up.

So what goes on at these conferences then? Well, lots of hand-wringing about how to tyrannise smokers further and mutual admiration, for certain, accompanied by lots of back slapping and self-delusion as project and study figures are manipulated and trotted out to meet every occasion and to place a positive spin on every dodgy result. However, without digressing further to explain how tobacco control is failing, I can now reveal the outcome of the secret plans that were laid at the 2007 – UK National Smoking Cessation Conference (catchy, isn’t it?).

Oh yes, I can reveal that smoking cessation aficionados are now sporting new authoritarian style uniforms of the Gestapo variety and all thanks to plans laid at this most excellent conference where social orgasm was the order of the day. After all, it’s so nice to be among friends when you don’t have any amongst normal people.



Who’s this? Why, it’s our old friend the walking Brillo pad - Paul Hooper of Smokefree England - and one of the conference delegates. Here he is relaxing at an Exterminate a Smoker party in Birmingham all camped up in his new look as Obersturmbahnfuhrer Hooper.



And here’s ASH’s little Debbie Arnott as Gruppenfuhrer Arnott. What a transformation!

From this:


To this:


What a plucky little trooper she is!

Here are some more of the new tobacco control outfits, the last one modeled by Martin Dockrell, ASH’s Head of Policy, who prefers to remain anonymous. Well, are you surprised?



Yes, it’s so exciting to know that tobacco control operatives are now running round our streets in Gestapo clobber. That will give them the authority and respect they crave, you see if it doesn’t! Oh…And remember’ it could only happen in New Labour Britain where any tosser can be a government minister.

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