Wednesday 31 August 2011

The Ugly Are Doing Very Well, Ta

Yes, I'm being lazy again. Too much quality cricket around, I'm afraid.

Here's an article which may tickle you, though. Apparently, there is a need for positive discrimination in favour of ugly people.

[...] why not offer legal protections to the ugly, as we do with racial, ethnic and religious minorities, women and handicapped individuals?
If you read the whole piece, there is a flaw in the author's reasoning. You see, he is talking from an American perspective about private sector industries.

In our own fair country, it's a positive boon if you can curdle milk with a smile ... the usual response is to put you in charge of a fake charity and hand you a six figure budget.

Tuesday 30 August 2011

Sweden: Showing The World How To Dictate Your Personal Choice

August is panning out much as I had anticipated, with many plates needing to be kept spinning in Puddlecoteville. Hence the lack of burblings here of late.

A story from elsewhere demands highlighting, though. This, from the model 'progressive' nation that is Sweden.

Landskrona municipality in southern Sweden is mulling introducing a ban on staff smoking during working hours, even if they are working from home.

The ban under consideration by Landskrona will mean that staff are not allowed to go outside onto the street during, for example, the group coffee breaks in the morning and afternoon which are common practice in many Swedish workplaces.

Causing further controversy is that the ban is set to cover those working in open spaces and even staff working from home.
Sadly, it's the inevitable end product of delegating rights over private property to any state body. They will eventually take the piss.

Such a scenario being played out in the UK isn't too far off, either. The opening salvo was fired a few years ago.

Sutton's policy, which will come into effect in February, will ban smoking from anywhere in or near council buildings and council vehicles, car parks and parks. The policy also puts a stop to cigarette breaks and forbids employees smoking anywhere in publicwhile wearing the council symbol or identity badge.

Sutton had originally included a further clause banning employees from smoking in their own cars while driving to and from work but this was amended after opposition.
In the current climate, does anyone doubt that such proposals will be far more likely in the future than less?

In fact, here is one area where alcohol is already on equal footing with tobacco. I've mentioned before that public sector competitive tendering conditions now routinely insist on private companies committing to a 'drugs and alcohol policy' which insists on total abstinence during lunch breaks, and advising of the same outside of work too.

And this is the easily-transportable part of the Swedish initiative - it isn't based on preventing harm to others, it is solely to prevent the employee indulging in behaviour which they, personally, enjoy, but of which the employer disapproves.

"We think that working hours should be completely free of tobacco and should also include snus. The most important thing is that adults set a good example," said the education committee chairperson Lisa Flinth to the newspaper.
Once clauses like this become ubiquitous - which they will - employers will be able to dictate their staff's lifestyles on a whim.

One wonders when the first lunchtime McDonald's ban will be considered ... if it hasn't been already.

Friday 26 August 2011

Not Planning On A Cruise Anytime Soon, Are You?*

As it's still holiday time ... just.

Nearly half of British cruise passengers want smoking on-board to be banned, Travel Daily News has reported.

According to a survey of 1,271 cruisers, conducted by, 48 per cent were in favour of a total ban on smoking, while 11 per cent there should be a designated smoking area on cruise ships.

When asked why they wanted smoking to be banned, the health implications of passive smoking was the most popular response, given by 37 per cent, while 22 per cent thought that lighting up on a cruise ship was dangerous.
You've got to admit they have a point.

Who can forget the Mary Celeste, deserted by the crew once someone lit a pipe? Remember the RMS Titanic, where thousands died after a cigar interfered with navigational equipment and sent the hull into a bastard of an iceberg? Or, err, all those, err, other maritime disasters caused by tobacco. managing director, Danielle Fear, commented, “Society seems to have easily adapted to the smoking ban that has made it illegal to smoke in public places such as restaurants, bars and bus stops."
You know, those other places we spend many thousands of pounds and two weeks of our time on without anywhere else to go.

“I can see the logic of spreading this ban across cruise ships; after all, many non-smokers find being around cigarette smoke unpleasant.”
I take it you're not looking to expand your business anytime soon, then, Danielle?

All to please people who simply cannot tolerate others enjoying tobacco, even on a balcony attached to their own cabin where no-one else is allowed to go.

Better muzzle those great big chimneys too, I reckon. Who knows what such gullible, effete flowers might complain about next?

* If you are cruising soon, here's a handy guide to current cruise liner policies (

Thursday 25 August 2011

Lack Of Evidence On Salt ---> Urgent Global Action Required

While flicking through the thousands of RSS entries I've missed in the aftermath of the wedding, this scary commentary at the British Medical Journal drove face to palm (emphasis mine).

High dietary salt has detrimental effects on blood pressure and cardiovascular outcomes. The question, say Francesco Cappuccio and colleagues, is not whether to reduce salt intake but how to do so. With the upcoming United Nations High Level Meeting on non-communicable diseases in mind, they make the case for population level policy interventions.
This refers to the same non-communicable diseases summit I mentioned in this piece, where finger-waggers from around the globe will gather to decide how you should be be forced to live as they demand that you do.

The 'rapid responses' to the BMJ article are very interesting, especially this one.

The sodium phantom

Robert A. Da Prato, Physician
Military Entrance Process Station, Portland OR 97220

It remains remarkable to me that the anti-salt medical faction ignores or is intolerant of the obvious evidence that certain Asian populations (Japanese, Chinese, and Koreans, for example) have a sodium intake far in excess of the average Westerner, have normal/low blood pressure, and live longer. Huang (1) noted that in her hometown in northern China "hypertension is a rare disease and arteriosclerosis is a virtually unknown condition" despite an average sodium chloride intake of 30 grams per day, perhaps three or more times that in England and America.
Chinese food is, indeed, rich in salt as the BBC were more than happy to highlight in a graphic from 2008.

Now, I found this very interesting for anecdotal reasons. Last weekend, Mrs P and I spent a couple of days in a town around 60 miles away. On the recommendation of a friend who used to live there, we had pre-booked a table at a particularly fine Chinese restaurant on Saturday night.

Although far from home, there was no salt on any of the tables - just as is the case at the two local Chinese places we frequent. We don't see this with any other genre of food around our way ... just Chinese.

Now, I do like to enliven my rice with a sprinkling of the stuff, so asked for some, only to be met with the same reticence as I do back home - an almost shocked look coupled with a feeling that they really don't know what to do when faced with such a request (though I'm sure it must happen quite regularly). It's not the disdain one might expect if it is seen as insulting the chef, either. No, this is a more uneasy, or even fearful, reaction.

When they do bring some to the table at our most local restaurant, out comes a tiny white bowl not much bigger than a thimble, containing about half a teaspoonful. I'd always wondered why the big deal at these places about salt when it is well known that Chinese food uses quite a bit of it in preparation.

On reading at the BMJ that a full-scale global 'population level policy' is not only being debated, but has almost been decided on in advance, I'm starting to believe that Chinese restaurateurs may be feeling the heat from the ever-growing demonisation of salt. Perhaps even pre-emptively going on the defensive.

Anyway, I digress.

So, is there cause for such urgent global action over salt? Is the debate really over? Is there overwhelming evidence as Francesco Cappuccio insists?

Regular readers here will have noticed the rent-seeking buzzwords above and be instantly cynical. I won't disappoint you. The answer is, of course not.

The jury was out in 2009.

The best available evidence on how salt consumption affects our health comes from observational studies, in which groups of subjects are investigated to identify any correlations between usual sodium intake and subsequent heart attacks and strokes. Nine such studies, looking at a total of more than 100,000 participants [...] have had mixed results. In four of them, reduced dietary salt was associated with an increased incidence of death and disability from heart attacks and strokes. In one that focused on obese people, more salt was associated with increased cardiovascular mortality. And in the remaining four, no association between salt and health was seen.
And, if anything, the evidence to justify global policies to reduce salt has evaporated since.

A new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (May 4 [2011]), reports that among 3,681 study subjects followed for as long as 23 years, the cardiovascular death rate was more than 50 percent higher among those on who consumed less salt.

The researchers concluded that their findings, “refute the estimates of computer model of lives saved and health care costs reduced with lower salt intake” and they do not support “the current recommendations of a generalized and indiscriminate reduction in salt intake at the population level.”
I've mentioned before how the UK movement against salt is one guy who has identified a lifetime of rent-seeking. But he is not alone.

The entire anti-salt industry is based on nothing more than woo, and scientific principles of a century ago, as described by Oxford Journals.

The modern salt saga started in 1904 with a paper by Ambard and Brochard who showed an association between salt intake and blood pressure in six patients. On the basis of these observations they created a salt–blood pressure hypothesis.

[...] in the mean time, we have got so many more efficient medical treatments that the place of sodium reduction in the treatment of hypertension is probably rather marginal. Today we even have a dietary measure that is more efficient and more acceptable for the patients than sodium reduction, namely the intake of fruits and vegetables.

[...] considering that the salt controversy now is dealing with an effect size of about 1 mm Hg, one may ask, has it been worth 100 years of effort?
Not really, no. But it's certainly worth it for those who now earn a pretty penny by keeping the scaremongery going.

The effects of too much salt are inconsequential, while the benefits of reduced salt consumption are on a par with those of homeopathy.

Yet here we are, in the 21st Century, with a Health Secretary committed to wasting time and resources tackling a tiny problem, to the detriment of personal choice.

And Chinese restaurants.

Funny old world, innit?

Wednesday 24 August 2011

How Fake Charities Work

Remember this online survey by Alcohol Concern back in May? You might recall that they were quite excited about it at the time.

That was tweeted in early June but still no sign of them. In fact, the only footprint to show that the survey ever existed is this brief sentence in their latest evidence-free assertion that the drinks industry are targeting children.

In an Alcohol Concern survey of 2,484 young people in 2011, 80% of respondents stated that age affirmation pages are inadequate to prevent under-18s from accessing alcohol websites.67
The reference being ...

67. Alcohol Concern’s Youth Policy survey 2011, forthcoming.
So they haven't published it yet. Rather coy of them, don't you think? Perhaps the responses weren't much to their liking.

Still, there's more than one way to skin a cat, as they say. So, instead of relying on a large number of kids to provide the ammunition they need, why not just cherry-pick a few, eh? This, via a fellow jewel robber's son's inbox.

Earlier this year you completed the ‘Alcohol Ads and You’ survey. You wanted to be involved in future campaigns: here is a great opportunity!

The Youth Policy project is recruiting 6 young people to form part of the Youth Advertising Standards Authority.

Aim: To decide whether you feel alcohol advertising sticks to the rules. If it doesn’t, together we can create awareness and maybe even get the rules changed!

What: The group will meet every 3 months to judge new adverts against the existing rules. What you decide will be written up and published after each meeting. This has never been done before and we think it’s something that will generate lots of interest!

Who: Anybody under 18 years old

First meeting: Friday 26th August, 11:30-2:30pm, 64 Leman St, London E1 8EU

If you would like to be involved, or simply want more information email me with your contact details ASAP.

Travel costs covered and lunch will be provided
Aww, ain't that nice?

I wonder if there is anything in the progressive dictionary to rationalise such righteous consequentialism?

More Tobacco Control Group-Think Fail

Your host was blessed in once having a blunt Grandmother with some quality sayings. One which leapt into my mind recently was this doozy (earthy grammar left in for historical accuracy).

"When everyone is thinking the same, they ain't thinking at all"
She said that in the 70s but it applies like a mofo to ASH and their often quite absurd friends.

You see, it's now the consensus amongst failure-addicted tobacco controllers that scaring the crap out of smokers is a winning strategy, despite the policy increasingly looking dated considering regular doubts as to its efficacy, as mentioned here on Monday.

the Ashtray Blog came to a similarly unflattering conclusion on graphic warnings when they ran their own survey recently. That will be discarded with an arrogant chuckle by ASH as being not peer-reviewed, natch. But this one at Medical News presumably has been.

University of Missouri researchers have found that using a combination of disturbing images and threatening messages to prevent smoking is not effective and could potentially cause an unexpected reaction.

"We noticed in our collection of anti-tobacco public service announcements a number of ads that contained very disturbing images, such as cholesterol being squeezed from a human artery, a diseased lung, or a cancer-riddled tongue," [Glenn] Leshner [of the Psychological Research on Information and Media Effects (PRIME) Lab at the University of Missouri School of Journalism] said. "Presumably, these messages are designed to scare people so that they don't smoke. It appears that this strategy may backfire."
Coupled with the ridiculous stance that anti-tobacco is taking in blocking non-combustible tobacco harm reduction at every opportunity, you'd be forgiven for believing that their role is to ensure smokers keep smoking until such time as they fall into line and buy products promoted by pharmaceutical paymasters.

ASH, of course, could blow this apart by coming out in unequivocal vocal endorsement of electronic cigarettes, smokeless and dissolvable tobacco, snus, and other harm reduction options. Not sure we'll see that anytime soon, mind.

Mortgages don't pay themselves, you know.

Tuesday 23 August 2011

A Speck In One Eye, A Plank In Another*

Sigh. The non-story continues, ably led by the *cough* impartial BBC.

Coulson got News International cash while working for Tories

News International paid the Conservatives' former communications director a severance package worth several hundred thousand pounds.
Shock! Horror!

BBC business editor Robert Peston said the instalments received by Mr Coulson totalled the full entitlement under his two-year contract as editor of the now closed tabloid.
Otherwise known as 'honouring obligations under an employment contract'. Something Labour are normally hot as a furnace on.

A Labour spokesman said: "David Cameron now faces allegations that one of his top advisers was also in the pay of News International.

"There are serious questions to answer about Mr Coulson's employment in Downing Street and the country should not have to wait for full transparency."
I think Labour are reaching a bit here, and there's not just a whiff of envy at the sum involved, but also the stench of some quite incredible hypocrisy.

Let's just rejig that Labour quote, shall we? Considering the charge (which is the only charge which can possibly be laid) is that Coulson had conflicting interests while doing his parliamentary job.

"Gordon Brown now faces allegations that one of his top advisers was also in the pay of the European Union"

"There are serious questions to answer about Mr Mandelson's/Mr Kinnock's employment in Downing Street/Westminster and the country should not have to wait for full transparency"
Coulson may well have been gentle on News International while the payments were running their finite course.

Mandelson and Kinnock (and probably others in Labour ranks) are in receipt of an indefinite pension (in fact, I believe Mandelson has two from the EU), which can be confiscated the moment they do or say anything which conflicts with anything Brussels wants to push through.

Coulson may have selfishly glad-handed NI for a bit while his dosh was being transferred; Mandelson and Kinnock were obligated to stifle any dissent to the EU while Brown signed the Lisbon Treaty in a back room against the wishes of his people and the manifesto upon which his party was elected.

Which do you, seriously, think is the more appalling abuse of power for personal financial ends?

This country descends into farce more every day.

* Matthew 7:3-5

Sprinkle Liberally Around The Web

As you would expect, I am in full support of the e-petition - as detailed at Taking Liberties this morning - to amend the smoking ban. Tabled by TV chef Antony Worrall Thompson, the exact wording is short and to the point:

We petition the Government to review the impact of the smoking ban on pubs and clubs and consider an amendment that would give licensees the option of separate well-ventilated smoking rooms.
Signing is very simple and will take less than a minute if already logged into your e-mail. Please do add your signature and also forward the link to all fair-minded friends, family and acquaintances if you can.

To access the e-petition, CLICK HERE.

Any further promotion of this initiative would be much appreciated. Please post it at your blog if you have one, or add a sidebar link to the petition as I have done. Alternatively, alerting Facebook friends or retweeting the URL to your followers would be very helpful.

We know there is support for such an amendment, all that's needed is to spread the word. The more we reach before the closing date, the better.

Ta in advance, folks.

UPDATE: Having been prompted by commenters (thirsty to sign more petitions, which is good), it's worth putting up links to others which are relevant.

We have two more along the same lines which deserve support:

Amend the smoking ban by Daniel Connolly
Amend the smoking ban by Gary Robinson

And, of course, this one is also a must while you have your e-pen out to e-sign.

Stop government funding of ASH by David Walker

Or, you could sign Councillor Paul Bartlett's one, which he wrote in crayon and submitted in a Peppa Pig envelope. Bless.

Monday 22 August 2011

Was It All Worth It?

The answer to the question posed above - in relation to graphic health warnings on tobacco - would appear to be an emphatic NO.

A new study from the National Centre for Social Research (London) and the Institute for Social Marketing, University of Stirling shows no effect of England's graphic warning labels on cigarette smoking.

The following were the major findings of the study regarding the effects of the graphic warning labels on smoking behavior:

1. There was no observed effect of the graphic warning labels on cigarette smoking prevalence.

2. There was no observed effect of the warning labels on cigarette consumption.

3. There was no observed effect of the warning labels on smoking reduction (measured as forgoing cigarettes due to the warning labels).

Thus, there was no observed effect of the new warning labels on any aspect of smoking behavior.
An abject failure of epic proportion, then.

So what is the current policy of anti-smoking NGOs throughout Europe?

Arguments were presented to increase the size of the pictorial warnings to 80% of the pack, to regularly rotate warning messages to maintain the ‘freshness’ of each statement, and to include information on the packaging about a 'quit line' to help stop smoking.
Make them bigger, spend money on producing more of them, and add something about a quitline. Yep, that'll be the game-changers right there ...

"The only significant change in behaviour was that more adult smokers reported using a technique to avoid seeing the messages."
... even if very few will actually notice.

Do we yet have some way of weaning these monumentally stupid dickheads off of their psychological addiction to failure?

Some gum, or a patch, or something?

Sunday 21 August 2011

What Fresh Hell Is This?

I've been away again.

Yes, there are still plenty around. I can heartily recommend this website, so do bookmark it for future reference, it may come in very handy.

While I'm on, Mudgie has highlighted a remarkable piece at the Sunday Telegraph.

Two mothers were refused alcoholic drinks in a pub because the barman said it would "inappropriate" for them to drink in front of their children.
Now, you can be as cynical as you like about the story being reported by two women who run a PR company, or that one of them is married to an actor with a new film out. But that's not the aspect which is particularly scary here.

The comments beneath are, though.

"Drinking alcohol is not a good thing. Being in charge of children after any amount is not a good thing. Good on the barman! Why cannot these people exist with a soft drink only? Are they alcoholics - cannot go without ANY alcohol for one month?" Markus Petx 7:11am

"Quite often, parents will address their craving for alcohol and 'forget' the existence of their offspring who, being understandably bored in an adult environment, charge round the place annoying the responsible drinkers. Well done that barman, standing up for responsible parents who don't go on the booze with their children." jimmyclaret 8:00am

"Could it be that the barman was merely trying to avoid the situation where an adult will buy alcohol for "themselves" and then let the child drink it once out of sight of the bar staff?" katb 8:46am

"Should you drink during the day in front of your kids for no reason other than refreshment? Probably not." Stephen Le Mansell 9:30am
So many excuses and wild hyperbole, and that's without the two Alcohol Concern stooges with their cut and pasted soundbite.

"There is some logic to the barman's attitude. You are not allowed to be drunk in charge of a motor vehicle, so why should it be acceptable to be drunk in charge of children??" by Mogulfield 8:08am and KOKO at 10:38am
There were, happily, some people who kinda get how this is going.

"If the 2 mothers whilst sitting outside drinking their soft drinks had lit up cigarettes, would he have chastised them for smoking in front of their children too?" jpotter 9:11am
Because this really is another side to the same coin. The same denormalisation template is being used, after all.

The reply was prompt and highly telling, horrified exclamation mark and everything.

"We can only hope so!" Stephen Le Mansell 9:12am
Divide and conquer/rule. Call it what you like, but the anti-smoker movement has afforded every single issue nutjob carte blanche to interfere in any aspect of your life that they don't personally agree with.

All funded generously from your taxes.

Next time any politician talks of 'anti-social behaviour', you might like to remind them that their own policies and grants shovel cash towards the most spiteful, mentally-unbalanced, and anti-social people this country has the misfortune to accommodate.

Let the buck stop where it belongs, eh?

Friday 19 August 2011

Though Isolated, Stony Stratford Councillor Gamely Struggles On

Here's something especially for one of my most recent e-mail subscribers.


[...] while the move may seem to be an obvious step forward for anti-smoking campaigners, some believe it would actually be detrimental – claiming it could force smokers indoors, where the effects of passive smoking are far higher.

"Our priority must be reducing the known health risks (sic) associated with second-hand smoke exposure," explained Sheila Duffy of Ash Scotland. "These risks are at their highest in enclosed indoor spaces and while some find smoke exposure outdoors unpleasant, the health risks of outdoor exposure are likely to be small in comparison.

"Prohibiting smoking in large areas like whole towns or city centres could displace smoking to areas like cars and homes where the risks are higher or more vulnerable groups like children can be exposed."
Oh dear. It would seem that even ASH think you're as nutty as a bag of KP, Herr Bartlett.

Cue more swivel-eyed e-mail craziness, I suspect.

While we're on the subject, here's a date for your diary, fellow jewel robbers: Tuesday 20th September, 7pm, St Mary & St Giles Church in Stony Stratford. According to an impeccable local source, "a certain councillor will move to have smoking banned in the High Street ... should be lively!".

Thursday 18 August 2011

Err, What Did You Really Expect When You Disrupted Choice?

Let's briefly pop over to the Channel Islands for a model lesson in state incompetence (complete with video goodness).

Jersey's Health Department say they are "disappointed" that two retailers are advertising cheap cigarettes in their shop windows on the island.

Both Checkers and Iceland stores, owned by the Sandpiper group, are promoting reduced tobacco deals.

The Health Promotion Unit say the move undermines their years of work trying to reduce smoking in the island and advertisements such as those on display today are openly promoting a habit that kills.
This is a bit of a novelty as I'm not sure how a generic message stating "cut price cigarettes" would go down in good old freedom-loving Britain (yes, that was a joke). No branding is mentioned, but perhaps government is ahead of us here and has already banned the use of 'cigarettes' and 'cheap' in the same sentence. I certainly wouldn't put it past them.

Do watch the vid, as the well-practiced furrowed brow on their local bansturbator has to be seen to be believed. I almost stood and applauded such consummate righteous pleading.

"I'm scared, Mummy state, please help!"

'Disappointed', so he is. Aww, bless.

Andrew Heaven from the Health Promotion Jersey said: "We're really disappointed. The States of Jersey has endorsed tobacco control strategy which tries to protect young people and tries to reduce the number (sic) of tobacco consumed on the island and we are currently pursuing regulations that would prohibit advertising of smoking like this."
Firstly, nice irrelevant insertion of 'young people' into your little soundbite, Andrew. You are - I assume - well aware that you already have a rigidly enforced law stopping those under 18 from buying tobacco? You should be, because you enthusiastically endorsed it!

But Andrew, Andrew, Andrew. Have you ever stopped to wonder exactly why companies home in on products like this to attract customers?

YES, it's because the state has interfered in the market so brutally with punitive taxation that consumers no longer consider it fair. Private companies know that these - legal, I might add - products will be bought and that if they can just get people through their doors on the promise of disproportionately expensive goods being sold at a price somewhere nearer their true value, they will stay and fill their trolleys with the rest of their weekly shopping.

It's called economic reality. You should acquaint yourself with it sometime.

Consider - along with this case - some of the other 'bargain' offers routinely promoted by supermarkets to draw the masses. Deals on cases of beer, 5p off a litre of petrol if spending over a certain amount, multi-purchase discounts on wine and spirits.

Do you see the common thread running through them? Yep, the price of every one has been inflated beyond the Laffer Curve by idiotic state ideology. Even Pigou would be wetting himself laughing at the ineptitude of you guys.

If you don't want these products advertised so heavily, stop pushing them into the unaffordable territory which makes them so attractive to those who advertise. It really is that simple.

If government doubled the price of loo roll, or cat food, or washing powder, you'd see those products stacked up at the front of stores on discounted terms or BOGOF offers, too*.


Nope. People like Andrew Heaven never will. Because he is either economically stupid or - probably more likely - wedded to that lovely state-funded salary he receives.

And while his dullard response will be is to call for even more daft legislation - to counteract the daft legislation which caused the problem in the first place - the public will continue to desire being allowed to make their own choices, and companies will continue to strive to accommodate them.

More than ever before, it's us normal folk, against them who think they know better how we should live our lives.

There's a word for people like Jersey Andrew, and it ain't pretty.

* Just as Coca-Cola will be once the now inevitable fizzy drink tax is eventually brought in.

Wednesday 17 August 2011

Annual Begging Bowl Post For 2011

Still catching up here at Puddlecote Towers and have only picked up on this with just two days left! So here's the blogging equivalent of an activist offering you a lift to the polling station at 8:30pm on election day.

I'd assumed that once Iain Dale went all nuclear that the Total Politics Blog Poll was going to be forgotten. However - via excellent bloggers far more on the ball than me - it's still happening this year, albeit a bit later than usual.

In fact, if anything they've made the whole shebang easier this time round. Here's the instruction manual.

The rules are simple.

1.Your votes must be ranked from 1 to 10. The higher you rank a blog or author, the higher up they will appear in the aggregated results. You must enter a minimum of five names for your vote to count. If you don't want to enter more than five, just write 'blank' in the remaining boxes. Every box must have some text in for the vote to be submitted successfully.

2.Only submit your vote once. If you vote more than once, it won’t be counted.

3.Only blogs based in the UK, run by UK residents and based on UK politics are eligible. However, this does not mean blogs hosted outside the UK, or blogs with contributors who don't live in the UK aren't eligible.

4.Anonymous votes left in the comments on the Total Politics website or emailed to members of staff will not count. You must submit your vote via the survey and you must enter a valid email address when you do so.
To have a bash, just click this link and make your selections by midnight on Friday 19th August (see? Told you I was playing catch-up). And if you could see your way to including a certain jewel robber in your list, that'd be right dandy.

If you're not sure which blogs to choose, there is a comprehensive selection here, as well as the 'Daily Reads' to the right.

By way of background, this humble drivel made 78th and 42nd in the past two years.

Here endeth Operation Get-The-Vote-Out.

En France, You Only Vive Twice

It seems that the most dangerous substance known to man, secondhand smoke, is even more lethal than we thought. In France, it's now apparently hazardous to the dead!

Interdiction des bureaux de tabac en «zones protégées»

Cela concerne notamment les écoles, les lieux de culte, les établissements de santé ou stades et aussi curieusement les cimetières…
Your host actually listened during French classes at school so got the gist of that. The article talks about new proposals for banning smoking in 'protected areas'.

The word which jumps out of the page on first read is 'cimetières', meaning cemeteries in Frog.

Like the author, I'm curious to know exactly how much danger passive smoke poses to corpses buried six feet under!

Vraiment, les connards anti-tabac français ont sauté le requin*.

* Hint: French. Anti-smoking. Jumping the shark.

Tuesday 16 August 2011

More Tobacco Control Back-Scratching In SW1

A little bit of advice. When sending Freedom of Information Act requests, it's well worth setting up an e-mail folder to house them in.

I found this out yesterday when receiving a response to a Cabinet Office request that I'd forgotten about. In my defence, it arrived nearly two weeks after the mandated 21 days response time. Why the delay for an uncomplicated three line query? I don't know.

It was regarding this parliamentary question in July.

Luciana Berger (Liverpool, Wavertree, Labour)

To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office what progress the Behavioural Insight Team has made in relation to reductions in levels of smoking.

Francis Maude (Minister for the Cabinet Office; Horsham, Conservative)

The Behavioural Insights Team and the Department of Health are working in partnership with Boots and a leading UK academic in the field of smoking cessation to trial ways to encourage more smokers to successfully quit smoking. Results are expected in 2012.
I thought Maude was rather coy about the 'academic' in question, so asked his identity.

It turns out that he was talking about Professor Robert West, the justification for his appointment being described thus - "details of Professor West’s provenance are already easily available to the public"

Indeed they are, as are details of why he is entirely unsuitable for such a role due to very transparent vested interests.

Declaration of interest: Robert West undertakes research and consultancy and receives fees for speaking from companies that develop and manufacture smoking cessation medications. He also has a share of a patent for a novel nicotine delivery device.
And that's without mentioning his Department of Health funding.

I can just imagine the e-mail.

"Hi Rob

Could you just pop into Whitehall a few days a week, expenses fully paid, of course. We need to discuss how to fill your pockets with lots of lovely lolly.

But at least Boots are a fine upstanding intermediary. Nothing awry with them, is there?

Former health secretary Patricia Hewitt takes lucrative job with Boots

During her time in office Miss Hewitt was accused of "back-door" privatisation of primary care services by paving the way for NHS GPs and consultants to be available in branches of Boots.

Now she has been appointed "special consultant" to the company, one of the biggest chemist chains in the world.

She will fulfil the role for about three weeks of the year.
Is this the same Patricia Hewitt who voted for a last minute amendment to the Health Bill - thereby going against her own party's policy and the manifesto that Labour were elected on in 2005 - which transformed the smoking ban into the hideous, dictatorial monstrosity that it is now? I think it is, you know.

Nice and cosy up at Westminster's top table, isn't it? Trebles all round.

In other news, the Department of Health will soon be inviting the CEO of British American Tobacco to advise on the dangers of Champix. Not.

Good grief.

Monday 15 August 2011

My Big Fat Tipsy Wedding

There are times when one hangs on the long-range weather forecasts from a variety of sources which, for me, have always previously revolved around cricket matches. They generally change over time but accuracy improves the nearer the day comes. I'm rather pleased, however, that the BBC and Met Office were so disastrously wrong on Friday.

On the morning of our wedding, both were forecasting cloud and rain at around 4pm in the vicinity of the venue, exactly the time that photographs were scheduled to be taken in and around the golf club grounds and its sunken garden. How pleasing it was, therefore, to enjoy an hour of uninterrupted warm sunshine just as the cheeky chappie with the camera was moving guests around in front of various backgrounds.

That was just one of many potential hiccups which happily didn't materialise. Six months after our decision to 'go for it' and initial bookings being made, the day simply couldn't have been more perfect.

I'm not going to bore you with extensive details, but there are some highlights which some may be interested in. The first was my one committed anti-smoking uncle turning up prior to the ceremony and dropping a bag containing 55 cigars in my lap! Damn good ones too. Gobsmacked? Of course.

My long-term partner, and now officially Mrs P, was moved to tears during the vows ... which in turn pushed me close, I can tell ya'!

Speeches - of which I have performed many over the years in front of a wide variety of audiences - have never posed problems before, yet my Groom speech occupied my mind, and shattered my nerves, like none before. I can only assume it was because I had afforded this one the utmost importance and that I was desperate that it be delivered well (for the first time in my life, I even planned it and used notes, which is alien to me). The laughter and tears at all the right times suggest I did OK.

Regularly reading fellow jewel thief - and occasional commenter - Bear Witch thought the whole day was great, and Penny Dreadful, who came along with Katabasis, was rightly impressed with the shapes I was throwing once the pre-speech Dutch courage kicked in heavily.

Tony Manero, eat your heart out.

In far too short a time, we were heading off to our hotel for the night. Rose on the pillow, fruit bowl, chocs and Champers and, YES, a celebratory Cuban thanks to this fine piece of forward planning, even if I say so myself.

Because there are still hotels which recognise that people who spend a hell of a lot of money would like to be catered for, despite the attentions of miserabilists seeking to eradicate all time-honoured pleasurable activities - in their march for further state funding utopian health - at the expense of property rights and personal choice.

I even gained a new reader for the night. She being my new wife, who doesn't normally do all this tabloid guff but read all the 46 messages that were below Friday's article at the time, with a Champagne flute in her hand and a tear or several in her eyes.

Yes, you made her cry on her wedding night. For that, I thank every one of you.

Sunday 14 August 2011

A Sad Sunday Evening

Thank you for all the messages we've received either here, on Facebook, Twitter, or via e-mail regarding Friday's wedding. I had planned to write something this evening about it but, after reading the sad news at Tom Paine's site, today is not the appropriate time.

I've met Tom on a few occasions, both on his brief visits to London while working abroad, and since his relocation here recently due to his wife's ill-health. He is immensely likeable, softly-spoken and of a calm and astute nature.

Within hours of the Stony Stratford event to protest an outdoor ban being mooted, Tom - a lifelong non-smoker - contacted me and generously offered transport there and back. What's more, he refused any contribution to the cost of petrol, spoke of his 'responsibility' to get me there on time, and even insisted on buying the first drink on arrival. As gents go, he is in the top drawer.

He is also a committed family man with an acute sense of care for others. A short anecdote arising from the correspondence surrounding the trip to Stony Stratford illustrates this.

I had received a polite, but anxious, e-mail from a bride-to-be whose wedding was scheduled for the day of our event in the town. Having already suffered a few setbacks to her long-booked plans including a forced change of venue and issues with suppliers, she had read about our protest at AboutMyArea/MK11 and had been in tears at the thought of it ruining her big day. I had reassured her by return that it would be a good-natured affair and entirely peaceful. In a warm reply, she expressed her relief, wished us all the best of luck and said that if she saw us, she would give us a wave from the nearby Cock Hotel when she left for the church.

On recounting this to Tom as we drove up the M1 in driving rain, his very first thoughts were about how sad he was that she should have such terrible weather for a July wedding, before talking with evident affection about his own marriage ceremony 31 years ago, and the pride he derives from the daughters he can now boast as a result.

As such, although he was restrained when mentioning his wife's illness - the sole reason he relocated back to this country in recent months - he will doubtless be deeply hurting tonight.

Considering my own position as a newly-wed, I can't imagine what would console in such circumstances, but would like to offer the oft-quoted words of Canon Henry Scott-Holland.

Death is nothing at all. It does not count. I have only slipped away into the next room. Nothing has happened. Everything remains exactly as it was. I am I, and you are you, and the old life that we lived so fondly together is untouched, unchanged. Whatever we were to each other, that we are still. Call me by the old familiar name. Speak of me in the easy way which you always used. Put no difference into your tone. Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow. Laugh as we always laughed at the little jokes that we enjoyed together. Play, smile, think of me, pray for me. Let my name be ever the household word that it always was. Let it be spoken without an effort, without the ghost of a shadow upon it. Life means all that it ever meant. It is the same as it ever was. There is absolute and unbroken continuity. What is this death but a negligible accident? Why should I be out of mind because I am out of sight? I am but waiting for you, for an interval, somewhere very near, just round the corner. All is well. Nothing is hurt; nothing is lost. One brief moment and all will be as it was before. How we shall laugh at the trouble of parting when we meet again!
RIP Mrs Paine. My thoughts are with you tonight, and with your devoted husband and family.

Friday 12 August 2011

No Bells, But Plenty Of Gordons

You know I mention Mrs P a fair bit? Well, it's always been kinda in the 'common law' sense. See, although having first met in the last millennium, we never got round to that weddingy stuff ... until now.

So don't expect anything from this site today as I shall mostly be getting married.

At 3:30pm to be precise, in a picturesque golf club setting. OK, it's a secular affair, but I've discussed it with my official theologian and been given his blessing - in fact, a cryptic reference appeared in his article yesterday.

Looking down the guest list, I reckon the venue is going to enjoy a bar takings bonanza later, and my celebratory cigar is already tucked safely into the suit top pocket in readiness. No righteous-friendly occasion, this.

I'm just off for a decadent barber's shave with hot and cold towels in preparation, then I shall look at my online bank account and cry a little bit, before me and the boy tog up all posh, like.

Wish me luck.

Wednesday 10 August 2011

Letter From An Earthquake Zone

I came across an article at Crampton's place which I was going to include in Saturday's link tank but - while I was hammering the hell out of some pork loins* - thought deserving of more comment.

I'll let the Kiwi author describe why it is relevant to those of us who are the right way up.

Dear UK rioters

If ever I question my faith in rebuilding our beautiful southern city, I will think of you and this last day and remember why Christchurch matters and why we bother doing what we’re doing.

I spent the day today at our city’s earthquake damaged stadium. Here we are agonising over how to fix the damage nature has done. You’ve spent the same day incinerating shops and homes, looting, trying hard to find new ways to burn down the place real English citizens call home.

We have fallen victim simply to gravity and we will rebuild stronger and better here. You who are striking down your cities are nasty little neanderthalic two bit muppets with too much time on your hands and pathetic hate in your hearts, the waste products of drugs, laziness and chronic dependency. You don’t have it in you to build. You only have it in you to destroy.
That's just a taster. I can recommend popping over there and reading the whole thing, juxtaposing as it does a citizen in an earthquake-torn community struggling to get everything back to normal, with a cosseted and destructive mindset on the other side of the globe.

It must be as heart-breaking as a starving African reading about a lardy American's tantrum over a McDonald's Drive-Through getting their order wrong.

The only part I'd take significant issue with is the suggestion that we citizens collectively created these people. So I'll just edit that bit a tad.

Dear UK Citizens – for you I mourn, I grieve, I send my love and compassion. Your rioters are a vile minority, but you your politicians have bred them and fostered them and unless you change the way you your politicians nurture them they will be with you for generations to come.
How we are supposed to do that in a three party state which has no intention of changing its line on ineffectual education, PC-led inertia and a lily-livered judicial system, I don't know.

But when even lefty blogs are admirably appalled, there is a tangible national will to do so. You just know it won't happen, though.

Just as we know that if, like Christchurch, London did suffer an earthquake tomorrow, the tax leeches who were on the streets for hours in London on Monday would be the very last ones to leave their homes to do something useful.

* Coat in chopped lemon and parsley, breadcrumbs, fry two minutes each side in olive oil on a high heat - lovely.

Tuesday 9 August 2011

Stop With The Angry Stuff, Already

I've not the time for commenting much on the empty-headed knuckle-draggers and state-funded baby machines running around London in the past few days. Besides, the world and his wife has an opinion so mine will be drowned out in a wall of noise, anyway.

But please, please, please can we stop hearing this crap about anger being a cause?

Prize bell end Livingstone gave us one example last night, while David Bond of the BBC talks of next year's Olympics being fairly safe since "They are unlikely to see the IOC or London 2012 as a target for their anger and frustration".


Is there anger in the giggles and "it's fun, dough" jumbled mess spouted by the two Croydon bints? Course not. Nor did Maurice MacLeod - who is impeccably qualified to comment (do read the whole piece) - notice any last night in Clapham.

This was not the modern-day version of the Toxteth or Brixton rioters. These were just opportunistic young people, looking as if they were having the time of their lives.

What was also strangely absent, especially watching the coverage of other areas, was anger or even a feeling of danger. The mood was more like a street party without the music. The looters and the onlookers were both stunned that this was being allowed to continue.
There's no anger. It's not some inevitable consequence of inequality as predicted in Wilkinson and Pickett's fiction novel, like at least one idiot MP tweeted this morning. Nor is rioting orchestrated via Blackberries and iPhone Twitter apps a symptom of poverty in London.

Stop making psychobabble excuses, already. It's vandalism, criminal damage, theft and commonplace thuggery, but with a profit motive.

When a mob is truly angry, the last thing they want to do is snaffle a couple of trackies from JD Sports.

Angry, my marshmallow arse!

Monday 8 August 2011

Your Vote Just Became Even More Irrelevant

Here's a small announcement which will certainly not have piqued the interest of any newspaper you might read. It probably wouldn't even have passed your MP's desk.

ASH will be very aware of it, though, and would probably have sent Dickrell down to Waitrose with petty cash money for some celebratory cream cakes on hearing the news.

The UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) granted special consultative status to FCA at its recent session.

This status will give FCA access to nearly all intergovernmental processes at the UN dealing with issues of interest to ECOSOC, including economic and social development, gender issues and sustainable development.

FCA will also be eligible for annual and short-term passes to the UN in New York, Geneva and Vienna.
To translate, this means that the FCA - an unelected supranational quango formed to press for draconian treatment of tobacco - has now been given carte blanche at ECOSOC which is, err, also an unelected supranational quango.

I suppose you could write to your, cough, democratic representative about it. But then, he's not likely to be anywhere near New York next month, is he?

This might permit increased FCA representation at the UN Summit on NCDs in New York, 19-20 September, although we still expect space there to be extremely limited.
Yep, they've already worked out what they're going to do with the massively increased influence which the electorate voted overwhelmingly for they lobbied a few unelected talking heads for.

Specifically, "rapid and effective implementation of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control". You know, crippling taxes; plain packaging; smoking bans everywhere; hideous unrealistic pictures; and stopping you buying cheaper abroad.

Of course, if you don't smoke this won't bother you at all, will it?

Oh, hold on!

NCD Summit Action Alert

We now have three weeks and three days to tell member states loud and clear that we expect them to respect the right to health of the people they represent. They need to hear that we are angry at these delays and expect them to get serious and reach consensus on time-bound commitments to action.


National tobacco tax strategies developed by 2013: There are a number of references to using fiscal policies to prevent NCDs, not just for tobacco but also for alcohol and unhealthy food and drink products.
Smelling the coffee yet?

The Stony Stratford Effect

I hope you don't mind, but I'll just leave this here as a permanent reminder that it did happen.

The leap into the top 20 is undoubtedly due to the Stony Stratford event which garnered one hell of a lot of attention. As such, everyone who viewed this blog in July, linked to it, or retweeted articles, has been instrumental in bumping us up from 24 to 17.

Please consider yourself enthusiastically virtually hugged by a grateful Dick.

As previously mentioned, this month will probably prove to be very sparse by comparison so a big fall will be in the offing, but if you're new to this 'ere tabloid guff please pull up a pew and make yourself a cuppa. You're most welcome.

Sunday 7 August 2011

The Limits Of Local Authority

Mr P Snr, myself, and the boy Puddlecote are just back from a very relaxing weekend on the coast doing the touristy bit by day, and availing ourselves of top-notch wine (well, not the lad, natch) and cuisine by night.

You may be interested in a little anecdote arising from our stay. While eating in one restaurant at around eight o'clock, we watched as a warden sniffed around a 'loading bay' with room for around five cars. Doing his job to the letter, he was intent on booking all those stationed there despite there being no way that anyone was going to be loading or unloading anything in the small street - composed entirely of restaurants - at such a time on a Saturday evening. In fact, the restaurant owners, who should be most concerned at the spaces being occupied if they were expecting deliveries, were taking it in turns to watch out for the warden before he arrived and put out the call to all their customers when he did.

While he was there, people scurried from the surrounding eateries and rescued their cars before he was able to issue a ticket.

All were removed in time except the one pictured below.

Now, I'm no expert on cars, but the general consensus was that this was a £200k motor and, although I've hidden the personalised reg plate, I can assure you that it would have cost a few thousand too.

The warden slapped it with a ticket; took two photographs for evidence; then took out his mobile and took three more from different angles with an appreciative smile on his face. He had to fight for room, mind, because the whole neighbourhood had come to take pics too, with many even posing next to it.

No-one knew whose car it was until around an hour later the owner and spouse left our restaurant duly sated, pocketed the ticket, then calmly got in and smoothly drove it down the road with a throaty growl.

Not too sure that he will have been much bothered about a £35 parking fine, to be honest.

Never has a local authority fine appeared more futile, and never their pompous power been shown to be more impotent.

Well, it made all those of us who witnessed it laugh anyway.

Thursday 4 August 2011

Seeing Reason On Graphic Warnings

In case you may have missed it, the busy little bunnies at have produced a succinct two minute critique of graphic tobacco warnings. Definitely worth a watch.

It would be remiss of me not to also recommend their update on the escalation of a story commented on here last year regarding 'the illiberal licensing racket'.

Puddlecote and son are heading to the coast this weekend, so if it all goes a bit quiet on these pages don't count your chickens too eagerly.

Panorama Scoop: The Hypocrisy Of Anne Milton

Scrupulously impartial, is our Annie

If only dodgy Beeb hack Richard Bilton had been more diligent, his dog's breakfast of a Panorama documentary on Monday could have at least boasted of one genuine scoop. That being Anne Milton's bald hypocrisy. From 11:25 in.

"We have to talk to people that we disagree with, but it's really important because, actually, when you look at public health - and alcohol as a public health issue - what we need to do is employ every tool in the box. And everybody, but everybody, has got a part to play."
Which is completely at odds with the parliamentary answer she gave to our esteemed mascot back in June, when quoting chapter 10 of the government's plans for tobacco.

10.1 The government takes very seriously its obligations as a party to the World Health organization’s framework convention on Tobacco control (FCTC). The FCTC places obligations on parties to protect the development of public health policy from the vested interests of the tobacco industry. As a result, the tobacco industry has not been involved in the development of this Tobacco control plan.
So, just to confirm. It's democratic and vitally in the public interest to listen to all sides of a public health debate ... unless ordered not to do so by an unelected body controlled by pharmaceutical interests.

Glad you straightened that one out for us, Anne.

Wednesday 3 August 2011

Would The Big Boned Please Report For Denormalisation

Having known more than a few porkers who act like appreciative clapping seals when restrictions on smoking and drinking are mentioned, it's difficult not to imagine them munching on a large bucket of popcorn and belly laughing at the recent acceleration of anti-tobacco and alcohol attacks.

All rather silly, really, considering they'll soon be in the same boat - after it has been widened, natch - as I hinted at in a tweet yesterday.

The linked article was from The Economist discussing plans on taxing food ... or even the fat themselves. And boy did the comments from sanctimonious fatty-botherers fly in with suggestions as to how severely they should be restricted (not, you note, whether they should be restricted at all).

If there is one social group who should be acutely worried about threats to personal responsibility in all areas, it is the BMI-challenged.

This isn't an isolated piece, either. The US is a hotbed of anti-obese sentiment right now, perhaps due to a shift in funding from smoker harassment to plump-bashing.

The day after that Econ piece was published, another reported on plans to ban advertising of any food which isn't 100% healthy.

Of the 100 most-consumed products in the country, 88 would have to be reformulated to meet these criteria or simply go unadvertised.
And more recently still, via CCF we can read of the latest exhortations from America's prime advocate of taxes on cakes and fizzy drinks. You see, anti-fat crusaders hold big meetings these days to discuss how best to demonise the overweight, just like other groups we could mention. Beginning with a bare-faced - but increasingly prevalent - lie, he has decided that individuals are simply not doing what they are told and therefore the anti-smoking template must be rolled out.

Kelly Brownell, director of the Yale Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity, told the crowd that children are now expected to lead shorter lives than their parents, which he linked to a “toxic relationship with food.” Simply educating the general public about healthy choices, he said, is not enough.

Food companies need to be regulated, he said, just as tobacco companies are.
Followed by graphic warnings, denormalisation, price, marketing, availability, yada, yada, yada. Repeat to fade.

I'm sure the concept of the US as a breeding ground for future UK health policy isn't unfamiliar to readers here.

Sorry to be blunt, but if you're an overweight anti-smoker or alcohol puritan, you're either woefully ignorant of the nature of public health steamrollering, wildly hypocritical, or in need of some time on a shrink's couch.

Tuesday 2 August 2011

Panorama Reveals Prohibitionist Shadows Of The Past

A lot of water has passed under the bridge since Panorama's heyday of game-changing investigative journalism, such as their sixty minute destruction of Robert Maxwell's business empire nine months before the tread wore out on his deck shoes.

Last night's appallingly poor edition was so flimsily thrown together that it was comprehensively filleted at Snowdon's gaff (a must read) within a couple hours of airing. As such there isn't much left to say about the whole sorry shambles, except to comment on a soundbite from the grotesque Ian Gilmore (18:50 in at this link for the next 12 days) which is remarkably familiar.

"We're not trying to have alcohol banned. And we do know that changing culture takes a long time. What we need to do is use the levers we've got. And those are price, marketing, availability."
Of course, every use of one of those levers is effectively a form of prohibition - or banning - for someone, somewhere. The very point of elevating price is to stop sections of the public being able to afford it; we've seen bans on marketing in tobacco control which is a stated goal of Gilmore's for alcohol; and if a product's availability is restricted, it's a ban by any other name. But Gilmore is adamant he isn't calling for a complete ban on alcohol. Yet.

Weasel words indeed, especially since he added the comment about changing culture which he knows is all that's needed before he can call for total prohibition. Our esteemed mascot sums up the likes of Gilmore very well.

The problem, however, as with all these matters, is that the report panders to the zealots in society who are never satisfied. I guarantee that if all the recommendations were introduced, Committee members would, within a few months at most, come back with further recommendations because the previous ones had not gone far enough. This lobby is impossible to satisfy.

It was interesting that Gilmore was subtitled as representing the Alcohol Health Alliance too - a collection of pressure groups inspired by the success of the Smokefree Action Coalition (these uncanny similarities seem to be getting more frequent, don't they?) - as their membership include some who very much would like to see alcohol banned.

One is the Institute of Alcohol Studies, funded by the Alliance Health Foundation. Their motto? "To spread the principles of total abstinence from alcoholic drinks and to promote the moral and physical welfare of the community", which is to be expected of an outfit which began life as the 'UK Alliance for the Suppression of the Traffic in all Intoxicating Liquors' and was known as the 'UK Temperance Alliance' up until 2003.

Not trying to have alcohol banned? Nope, but his corner is packed with many who would crack open the Champagne Appletise at the announcement of our own Volstead Act.

Still, maybe you think I'm being too harsh on the old fart and that he's really very trustworthy. Well, I'm sorry but I've seen his type before.

Clive Bates, director of anti-smoking group ASH, said: "This is a scaremongering story by a tobacco industry front group.

"No-one is seriously talking about a complete ban on smoking in pubs and restaurants."
On that basis, believe Gilmore at your peril boys and girls.

UPDATE: Spiked's Rob Lyons chips in with "Really, they ought to rename the programme Propaganda and have done". Please do go read Panorama’s addiction to pisspoor journalism.

Yours, Helpless Of Ireland

Just a minor fisking, if you don't mind.

Electronic cigarettes have been removed from the shelves of leading Irish pharmacies because the products may be unsafe.
Says who? Thus far available evidence says nothing of the sort.

Invented by a Chinese pharmacist, the devices can be charged through a computer and allow people to smoke where tobacco is banned.
Good, innit? Not helpful for sales of NRT products sold by, err, pharmacies though.

Concern has been expressed that the cigarettes, which contain nicotine, may produce harmful chemicals.
Again. By whom?

The EU needs to establish if they should be classified as medical devices, medicines or tobacco products.
Ah, I see. The behemoth universal European state as mother, father, auntie, uncle, and wet nurse to helpless effete Irish retailers.

Back on the fags then, Irish vapers.

Did I ever mention that it wasn't about health?

Monday 1 August 2011

Hanging Wiv Da Yoof

After a July which was the busiest ever for this blog, August may prove to be the most sparse.

This is partly because some mind-bending effort expended back in the Spring has potentially brought in a lot of work for Puddlecote Inc, but also due to a general increase in real life stuff getting in the way (and when that's not going on, there's cricket and some tangible summer-esque weather too).

The weekend did offer an interesting observation or two, though. It's been a messy one for your host after two heavy male-orientated nights on the town. Saturday was particularly eye-opening after a night spent in a town centre nightclub of the 'drinking barn' variety. I can't remember the last time I was attendant at one of those ... till 3am!

Of course, I had no knowledge prior to this weekend how such venues coped with the smoking ban. The one concerned was a multi-level meat shop (great, ahem, scenery) with no outdoor balcony, or any other area to speak of.

Which of course meant hundreds of people on the pavement out front for the duration (so wish I'd had the wherewithal to take a pic).

The club handled it very well but still required three front of house hired muscle just to make sure everything was OK (sneaking in without paying the entry would be quite simple without them there). There being just the one way in, this meant every single person entering the club was to do so by passing the smoking area. All those young people seeing smoking going on must have - according to anti-smoker logic - added another 20 or 30 new smokers to the ranks. Obviously.

What's more, there were three such clubs within close proximity. Two on one side of a one way street, and another opposite. To a passing pedestrian, smoking has never been more visible.

Anti-smokers like to talk of the 'externalities' of tobacco use, but their lauded ban has externalised the act of smoking to such an extent that it now appears more normal and sociable than ever before. All the while clubbers were inside the venue, external noise was not such an issue and the many local authority-paid 'street wardens' were pretty redundant unless someone was thrown out by bouncers. More staff are now needed too, which I'll bet club owners are right chuffed with ASH for.

One wonders how much this talk of "you can see the drunkenness on any city street every Friday night" is down to the fact that, yes, you now very much do see these people where you didn't before as they were inside until kicking out time.

There was an upside, though. While outside, it was a hell of a lot easier to strike up conversations with attractive strangers, plus when one runs out of tabs it's simple to pop over the road and buy more when before - in my more frequent clubbing days - if you exited the venue you were taking a gamble on being allowed back in at all.

You'll doubtless be pleased to know that I admirably survived this trial by £5.50 a shot Peronis, was a thoroughly good boy (stop that sniggering), and arrived home in one piece. Sadly, my computer chair can't boast the same after a friend leaned back in it too much as the sun came up at 5:30am, leaving the 7 year old stalwart in two irreparable pieces.

Until the new one arrives, that's just one more obstacle to my composing 'tabloid' guff, I'm afraid. But then again, I've said such things before so you never know.