In April 2014 I attended an ASH Scotland conference on the subject in Glasgow. The chair was Donald Henderson - Head of Public Health Policy in the Scottish Government. I've just dug out the notes I made at the time to avoid the risk of misquoting him, and this is what he had to say about smokers:
"Well none of us want to stand next to one do we?"
And when asked whether Scotland should follow the Welsh and ban vaping wherever smoking is banned:
"We would like to follow the Welsh lead but we don't have the argument of second hand smoke. The argument will be public nuisance based and we will get away with that."As I said by way of reply, it's nice to finally get some honesty from these people.
For anyone who has done even the most cursory research into secondhand smoke studies, it's instantly recognisable as piss poor science which only confessed to a derisory relative risk after being tortured to destruction by collecting together cherry-picked studies. The figure decided by the BMA and ASH for the UK was a RR of 1.24, or a 24% relative risk of an already rare event. This was the exact same RR which we were told was to be ignored as "a low actual risk" by the BBC and others in 'public health' when applied to taking of painkillers, for example.
Add into the mix that passive smoke studies were designed to find a pre-conceived conclusion so focussed on long-term exposure indoors over a long period of time and yet still couldn't find anything more compelling than an almost insignificant 1.24 RR, and it's clear that anyone who believes this is barking. Yet here we are with politicians furrowing their brows and panicking about smoke wafting near people at bus stops, in hospital car parks, and wide open unenclosed spaces like Trafalgar Square! We are already through the looking glass and making policy based on the Mad Hatter's rantings.
But Henderson has neatly let slip - as others are increasingly doing - the real motivation behind all these bans worldwide. Some people just don't like smoke and smokers. And, err, that's it. After all, "none of us want to stand next to one do we?".
It's never been about health.
Fortunately, e-cigs have arrived and are proving to be a truth serum against this bullshit because people like Henderson are starting to reveal what it's really all been about. In their arrogant zeal to do the same to vaping as they have done to smoking - that is, to hide e-cigs from the precious anti-social psychos who are happy for the freedom of others to be confiscated so that the world can revolve around them - they're showing their hand. Unfortunately, in the case of e-cigs they have nothing but a pair of twos so they are reduced to grubby Doyle Lonnegan tactics - they crookedly lie, and they shamelessly cheat.
Henderson has effectively admitted that the Scottish Government - which has evidently decided months before any consultation that they want to ban e-cigs - doesn't have even the fig leaf of pretending it's about harm or health. Nope, they'll say they are a "public nuisance" and "will get away with that".
Now, if you can think of a set of people less qualified to decide what is and isn't a public nuisance than politicians, please feel free to enlighten me. And if the public ever gets wind that it's that easy to inflict bans on such flimsy premises, politicians are pretty soon going to be pumping out white papers on everything from curry house odours to the eating of Wotsits in a public place at the behest of curtain-twitching wankers everywhere.
In a week where heads of state have descended on Paris to declare themselves principled guardians of our liberties, I wonder how "we'll get away with that" stands by way of a monument to the political class and the ideals they stand for?