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Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Newsletter-February 2011


ASH is furious. The longed-for Scottish display ban, scheduled for October 1st this year, has been postponed because Imperial Tobacco is taking legal action - not for the first time! Typically, ASH has thrown the proverbial dummy out of the pram, with not a care for the loss of businesses, jobs and homes such a ban would inevitably cause.

Rubbing salt into the wound, JTI, the giant Japanese cigarette manufacturers, have signed a 5-year sponsorship deal with a leading British charity, enabling thousands of disabled people the privilege of computer usage. The Leonard Cheshire Charity is what we would all consider to be truly charitable: committed to doing everything they can to help people with disabilities; financed out of good will; independent of government funding and supported by over 2,500 volunteers unlike ASH.

Congratulations from F2c to Ignacio Cubilla Banos of Cuba who, on Jan 13th, reached the impressive age of 111. Bilbo Baggins needed the services of a wizard to light up his eleventy-first but, for Snr. Banos, the company of many of his 11 children, 40 grandchildren and 15 great-grandchildren - and a fine cigar – were celebration enough!


Spiked editor Brendan O’Neill bemoans the triumph of healthism over art.  This time it’s Mark Twain’s cigar that’s being airbrushed from history, making American actor Hal Holbroke’s one man show, Mark Twain Tonight! increasingly difficult to stage, not only at home but across segments of Europe, too.

Holbroke might try his luck in France, where the dead hand of Evin Law has at last been lifted by a government prepared to acknowledge that: 
"The falsification of history, the censorship of works of the mind, the denial of reality must remain the heinous marks of totalitarian regimes". 

Originally intended to prevent the promotion of tobacco,
Evin Law caused outrage by robbing such French cultural icons as Jacques Tati, Coco Channel and Jean-Paul Satre of their trademark smokes.

"Before the law, nobody was complaining"

And, staying with France, comes a report that the ban in nightclubs in the South of France is
all but over.

In a Google translation entitled Marseilles: the great return of smoking in bars and nightclubs, we learn that those ‘irreducible love cigarettes’ are back on the South of France club scene because, "we quickly realized the harm she [the ban] has done."


Expect to see more Smokers as Arsonists reports as the date for mandatory fire-safe cigarettes draws near.  The EU expects us all to be puffing on carpet glue come autumn, when the normal, fire-unsafe cigarette will become a thing of the past.

London Fire Brigade led the successful lobby, egged-on by ASH who, if reports from the USA are to be believed, quite possibly see RIP as a promising ‘quit smoking’ mechanism.

Much research has gone into the technicalities of RIP,  virtually none into its health implications.  Harvard University found a significant increase in some chemicals already present in the processed tobacco, from which they concluded, ‘Who cares?  They're only smokers.'


From Scotland we can report that, following Holland's  welcome repeal, the Scottish Licensed Trade Association recently called for an amendment to the law to provide for pubs to offer smoking rooms.  No further statements have been issued by the association, which advocates the use of air cleaning technology in smoking rooms.

Progress in implementing the tobacco display ban in Scotland has been halted by legal action against the legislation taken by Imperial Tobacco, who argued that the Scottish Government is not competent to pass the legislation.  In spite of losing at the first hearing in September, the company has persevered, and the ban will not now be implemented in October this year as planned.

exposed to secondary smoke are reported  to be about to call the Scottish Government's bluff by claiming damages.  Whether the Government will deny all responsibility, or open itself to unknown numbers of potential claims, remains to be seen.


Banning smoking in cars is proving popular with anti-smokers especially north of the border.  It appears to be a logical step to evade privacy issues and opens the door to stopping you smoking in your own home – as housing officials in Watford are discovering.  They propose sending tenants in rent-arrears to smoking cessation courses.  
The tobacco-display ban lobby was given a leg up by The Guardian who resurrected last November’s study from the UK Centre for Tobacco Control. This study concluded that young people’s awareness of cigarettes in shops falls in the wake of a display ban.  Gosh.  Not a bit like their smoking, then,  which carries on regardless.
Unbelievably, main stream journalism appears to be taking Third Hand Smoke seriously.  The Independent’s ‘simple tips’ for keeping the children safe: shower after smoking; wash clothes immediately, do not smoke indoors…

While lazy, gullible journalists are nothing new, what does alarm is the willingness of some medical professionals  to adopt this latest ‘little white lie’ in their increasingly desperate war on tobacco.
Chosen targets  - young parents
Inevitable outcome - fearful, ignorant, guilt-ridden young parents.


beefed up anti-smoker law came into effect on Jan 2nd – followed three days later by reports of widespread defiance.

Restaurant owners
are organising petitions, displaying signs that openly proclaim ‘business as usual’ and calling for solidarity within the trade.  In Spain’s current financial plight, they are justifiable fearful for their future. What a good job, then, that Spanish tobacco control group NCPT is on hand with the reassurances.  According to NCPT: 

Ireland, for example, saw a 13.7 percent increase in employment in the sector… while in Britain the number of bars increased by about 14 percent.

This extension
to the ban makes smoking in some open spaces illegal, surpassing even the EU’s demands for all 27 member states to have banned smoking in enclosed areas by 2012.

Spain shares its problems with GREECE, another Mediterranean country on its uppers and facing a dissatisfied populace.  Greece’s extended ban has been universally ignored since September, giving rise to a brief flurry of hope that the government would launch a smoking license scheme.  The rumour was scotched within hours by Prime Minister George Papandreou, a dedicated anti-smoker, who  has enlisted an army of 800 inspectors to police this widely unpopular law.


Continuing bad news for British pubs, with both Enterprise and R&L Properties blaming tough trading conditions for the sale of, between them, a possible 707 venues.  The much smaller night-club/restaurant operators Cougar Leisure Properties is, like R&L Properties, in administration  and selling its remaining stock of 6 pubs and bars, all located in the north of England.
Signs of desperation in the West Country, where the Plymouth Herald publish three separate pleas in the space of two days on the ‘use them or lose them’ theme, only one of which gives a passing nod to smokers.
Continuing carnage both sides of the Irish border: 100 pubs in NI are currently in receivership whilst latest figures from the Republic cite the closure of 1,300 pubs in the last 5 years, bringing the post-ban total up to almost 2,000.
The British Beer and Pubs Association are estimating a £257m shortfall in tax to the British exchequer. “Pub beer sales have fallen by a dramatic 20.2 per cent in the past three years alone, as tax rises have hit trade.”
(Our emphasis)


British Universities’ research finds that smoking bans significantly reduce the life satisfaction of smokers who experience "diminished perceptions of freedom" and a sense of stigmatisation. Will this be considered when the Happiness Index team gets to work?

It was certainly never mentioned by a new campaign launched last month and aiming to highlight the problem of loneliness, very much on the increase for older people of whom 1 in 10 say they are ‘intensely lonely’.  The Campaign to End Loneliness believes lonely old people are a Public Health issue:
Loneliness has been shown to be closely linked with depression and research has revealed that loneliness makes it harder to regulate behaviour, leaving people more likely to drink excessively, have unhealthier diets or take less exercise.”
Loneliness, once more, lies at the root of a really serious situation developing in Ireland.

Kerry South coroner, Terence Casey, says
"there is a trend that suggests social isolation and loneliness are at the root of a surge in the numbers of older people taking their lives… this sense of being abandoned was caused, in part at least, by the closure of traditional centres of social interaction — the local pub, the post office and a huge range of small, community-based businesses.”

Ohio; USA:  Keith and Pam Parker are among a group of bar-owners who, since August last year, have been invoicing their Health Department for the cost of policing the ban.

Pam admits she doesn't expect the Health Dept to cough up but explains:
"If they want to put in writing that it's THEIR job, not ours, then our reply will be to have one of their inspectors report to work at our tavern every day at noon.  They can't have it both ways."

So far there has been NO response from the authorities - so a 10% penalty has been added to the outstanding bill.

Ohio has spent $4m dollars enforcing the ban, and penalised some 939  businesses, the vast majority of which are family-run establishments and private clubs.  The bar-owners are seeking an exemption for licensed bars, which traditionally cater to smokers and are, in any case, strictly off-limits to under-21s.


On this side of the pond, it’s heartening to know that in the absence of any organised trade resistance at all, we have politicians like Philip Davies (Con, Shipley) and working men’s club member David Ward (Lib Dem, Bradford East).  Both men are willing to put their heads above the parapet in support of the people they represent.

Philip Davies is a veteran of many a run-in with the Nannies of Westminster. Here, he explains his position on the smoking ban:
“I don’t think I was sent to Parliament to ban everybody else doing things that I don’t like myself, so whatever attempts there are to amend the smoking ban to allow a pub to have a dedicated smoking room, I would absolutely support.”


Bulgaria’s Prime Minister, Boyko Borisov, announces that the planned full ban will not now go ahead until 2014, giving the hospitality industry time to prepare.
Smoking is to be banned on all US submarines, despite the fact that twice as many submariners smoke (40%) than average.
China has yet to enforce a smoking ban as prescribed by the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control to which China signed up five years ago.  The Government is said to be reluctant to impose a ban, which was due to come into effect Jan. 9th.
A top pharmaceutical company could be facing as many as 1,200 lawsuits from dissatisfied customers who say that Pfizer’s stop-smoking drug Chantix (UK Champix) causes neurological problems, most frequently depression and suicidal thoughts.  Pfizer will contest any action.
One to make your heart bleed – Scottish MPs have been booted out of their smoking corner-of-choice after complaints from non-smoking colleagues.  “It seems like a heavy-handed approach,” bleats one vagrant smoker, horrified to find himself now exposed to the elements and to public gaze. 

You don’t say!
And finally – evidence at last that within the clipboard-wielding ranks of NHS Grampian, there flickers a spark of human kindness.  Bucking the national trend, Dr Roelf Dijkhuizen says he would like to see imaginative ways of accommodating smokers in the region’s hospital grounds, adding,
“we should look at alternative ways of providing designated areas without forcing people to stand in the rain.”

A sentiment  shared, no doubt, by one or two MSPs!

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