Sunday 31 March 2013

Perils Of Puddlecote Update

Earlier this week, I wrote of the curious incident of the towed vehicle and institutional lack of giving a toss. Do go read for background if you didn't see it, as I have a brief update to relate.

In short, one of our legally parked vehicles was rammed by an incompetent driver. The police were informed and failed to notify us. Instead it was towed (the council didn't notify us either) and we were left with a hefty bill, along with the extra hassle and expenses which come with it.

I said that we'd heard not a peep out of the police after providing CCTV footage, but I was premature. The peep - and it is only that - arrived yesterday.
After consideration of all the available evidence and in view of the minor damage sustained, it has been decided that it would not be in the public interest to pursue a prosecution in this case and as a result no further action will be taken.
That's all right then, obviously.

Now, I read that as saying that they've investigated and worked out that the other party had done nothing wrong. This is true - it is pretty clear that they reported the incident so there was no 'hit and run'. The incompetence and lack of regard to property was wholly on the part of public sector bodies, namely the police and council.

So, despite tangible harm being done to a business through no fault of our own, case is closed. We're told to take it up with our insurance company and have been left high and dry. We've been informed that we can ask for owner details from DVLA via form V888 but - if they had bothered to watch the footage - the CCTV was from the side so no registration mark is visible. The only people who have details of the driver are the police to whom it was reported.

Needless to say, I'll be following Chris Woods' advice Tuesday morning.

While this would appear to be a case of the police hoping the problem will just go away because there is no crime to answer to, the reasoning is in stark contrast to another incident just two weeks prior.

That was the time when one of our most valuable vehicles was really stolen. It was taken three miles away and - although neatly parked - meant that it was out of commission for the day. We knew it was three miles away because it is fitted with a GPS tracker so accurate that it tells us exactly what road it is in.

Stupidly, we thought the police would be interested. You know, take fingerprints and stuff; search CCTV or known criminals who might be prone to preying on other vehicles not so secure? Not a bit of it. We told them precisely where it was so they did a 'drive by'. They rang us back and said it wasn't there.

I don't know if they really did do a 'drive by' because we described it, gave them the registration number and its position in a road around an eighth of a mile long. Nope, no sign of it, they said. So Mr P Snr drove there in case the tracker had been ripped out, and took pictures of it just to help them out.

I'm sure you won't be surprised that the response was "well, you've found it now, so case closed".

Looks like even six figure tax bills don't ever mean you get some kind of a 'win'. I'd like to suggest we just don't bother paying until we get a decent service, but they have guns and we don't.

Friday 29 March 2013

The Monster Under The Bed

Further to last week's post about P&O's undocumented e-cig policy, a reply has been received to a complaint lodged by the passengers concerned. It's the same lazy, lily-livered crap as usual, and reads something like this.
Dear Mr So-and-so 
We accept that e-cigs are harmless but we're shit scared that someone will see the vapour and light up a real cigarette. 
This would make our staff have to do some work in approaching customers and telling them to stop. 
Yours sincerely
I.M.A. Pussy
Now, thousands of venues across the country are perfectly comfortable with allowing e-cigs, in fact three of us were vaping openly in a packed central London bar just a couple of weeks ago with full permission from the enlightened owner. Not an eyebrow was raised, let alone others sparking up in sympathy. There is also the small matter of the hundreds of thousands of RyanAir flights where they are encouraged, without any apparent problem.

Considering this, have there ever been any reports, anywhere, of P&O's scenario actually happening? If so, I can't say I'm come across them.

E-cigs prompting mass ban-breaking is like the monster under the bed. Some kids may be scared of it, but it simply doesn't exist anywhere but in the kid's imagination.

Besides, if it is so tiresome to approach people and ask them to stop doing something, perhaps ignorant P&O could avoid stressing their poor overworked staff by telling them not to hassle innocent vapers, eh?

Wednesday 27 March 2013

The Perils Of Puddlecote

If you're an assiduous reader, you may remember my hinting at a bizarre transport-related incident I was involved in earlier this month.
All this alongside a curious incident surrounding a towed vehicle which has taken up an inordinate amount of time. Believe me, though, the latter is a story of odd random human behaviour coupled with astounding public sector obstruction and incompetence that begs to be written about here at some point (it may even rival the fox palaver).
It all started one brisk agreeable Monday morning. Actually, scratch that, I remember now that it was snowing the big one and not a day you want to be leaving the desk once your seat is nicely warmed.

The Theft

We got a call from one of our groupage drivers that went something like this:

"It gone! My van, it gone! Stolen!" (he's Chinese, so therefore one of our best).

We were, naturally, very disturbed at this revelation especially since he had a pick up in 30 minutes' time. So Mr P Snr rang to urgently report it to the Police.

... After he had unsuccessfully reported it to the police on the much-trumpeted 101 number only to be met with a cheery recording saying that he couldn't be connected and, err, 'goodbye', he then Googled for an alternative which is nigh on impossible since local and national websites now carry nothing but the 101 non-emergency number.

Half an hour later (while other staff were shifting drivers around to cover the work), after a call to the neighbourhood support office - answered by a guy who sounded out of breath through walking the beat or something (though he could just as easily have been sorting out naughty Niki from the local newsagent for all we know) - we had a real number with a chance to talk to a real, live police-person.

Well, I say that, but it was only after the obligatory five menu options first. Anyway, to cut a long story short, we finally found out that the vehicle hadn't been stolen at all. The TRACE system was checked by the difficult to understand Spanish-accented operative, whereby we learned that it had been towed for being parked on a yellow line and was currently lazing around uneconomically in the council pound. In fact, on ringing the pound, we learned that it was very uneconomically going to cost us over £300 to reclaim it.

Note that it had been there for nearly 48 hours and no-one, but no-one, in the vast public sector transport machinery had bothered to tell us.

Not only that, but if we didn't get there by 10:33am, we would be charged another £40 for 24 hours storage as it had been taken at that time on the Saturday ... 25 minutes after it was ticketed.

We were, as you can imagine, rather pissed off at our driver and rang to ask what on Earth he was thinking by parking it there for the weekend when he has a permit which we supply. "I park in bay, I park in bay!", he agitatedly replied, the spittle almost travelling down the phone line to us such was his insistence.

No time to debate this further, as we had to get down there and retrieve it as soon as possible.

The Pound

What did we need to bring so that they'd let us take possession of our own property ... apart from a fistful of cash, of course?

"The owner must come and get it", they said.
"But the company owns it", we said.
"In that case, we need a director of the company to attend and bring a letter of authority along with the V5 and proof of ID".

That was my morning of assessing tenders for new business bollocksed, then.

So I hastily wrote a letter of authority with my name at the bottom of it, printed it off, and signed it before setting off with our maintenance guy as someone had to drive the thing back (that was his morning of, you know, maintaining vehicles bollocksed, too).

We did ask why it wasn't felt necessary to contact the owners and inform us where the vehicle was. Apparently, they only do that if it has been there for a week! How we are supposed to know where the fuck a vehicle has disappeared to without being notified is anyone's guess.

That was how we found ourselves in an 'office' at 10:28 which looked like it had been transported to the 21st Century in an errant and very mischievous Tardis. A payphone on the wall which looked like it belonged in a 1970s sitcom set; carpet which was undoubtedly reclaimed from a skip - a clue being that it didn't reach the skirting board on any of its four sides; age-weathered wooden blocks nailed to the floor as doorstops; and - inexplicably - two grubby plastic chairs with legs set into two strips of wood, presumably so they wouldn't move ... because I cannot believe anyone would try to steal them past the state of the art security-locked doors. Taxpayer comfort obviously comes a distant second to staff safety in this particular state establishment.

The chairs did come in useful, mind, as we had to wait while a poor sap in front of us went through the rigmarole of trying to get his own vehicle out of the prison-like electronic sliding gates. We just had to make sure we didn't stick to them when it was time to stand up.

"So, what do I need to bring?", he asked.

At this point I felt pretty smug that we'd rung ahead, while also a trifle worried that we were only five minutes from an extra £40 charge.

"V5, your driving licence, and the payment by card or cash", replied the woman behind the counter tersely.

I feel it adds to the narrative of this stage in the saga by describing her. She was, without doubt, one of the ugliest - perhaps even the ugliest - person I have ever encountered. It's not just because her face was like a bag of spanners after being trampled by a herd of buffalo, Lord knows I've met many of those who were actually very beautiful people, but also that her attitude stunk the place out. If she was born with any charm whatsoever, it had quite obviously been sucked out of her with an industrial Dyson.

"So, I bring all that, and I can get my car back, yeah?", asked the fella in front of us, still in shock at the price he was being asked to pay.
"Only if you're back by 11:45, or else it's another forty quid", she smirked back through lips permanently aged and wrinkled by years of sneering.
"OK, can I borrow your pen?"
"Why?", she droned.
"So I can write this down."

There was a pause while the woman - safely ensconced behind a bank-style glass screen - decided if she would allow him to use it or not.

"Please", he said, "I have already lost a day's work and want to make sure I don't forget anything when I come back".

She then, reluctantly, threw a chewed bookie's pen through the hatch.

"Thanks", he said, and after jotting down details, politely asked the standard question "what's your name for reference?"
"We don't give out names!", she barked, "what do you want my name for?"
"In case you're not here when I get back", his eyes showing that he was truly amazed that she had a problem with this.
"We don't give out names!", and, believe me, her scowl brought the temperature in the room down another ten degrees.

By this time, we were only left with a couple of minutes before another £40 ticked over, and I was less than confident that this woman would be one to gloss over the odd minute even if we'd been visibly waiting well before the 10:33 deadline. I wasn't wrong. When our turn came. she asked for the documents and pored over them. She then photocopied the lot before checking the clock and - I kid you not - going off to "talk to my supervisor as you were two minutes after 10:33 when I'd finished with your documentation".

A muffled conversation ensued out of our sight, before she re-emerged and - without letting us know the outcome of her conflab with the boss, nor even the courtesy of eye contact - simply asked how we were going to pay. I took this to mean that the pre-stated charge stood and produced the company debit card.

Paperwork completed, we were buzzed into the yard to collect our vehicle.

"You know what?", my colleague opined as headed to the bay she had noted down for us, "I reckon the only reason she didn't charge us the extra was cos we were polite".
"Perhaps", said I, "but how does anyone become as utterly charmless as that?".
"Well, she must meet some right angry people in there."
"I would expect so, yes, but if she wasn't such a shitty person she might meet a damn sight less of them!"
"Maybe she enjoys the aggro, then". I couldn't really argue, I have to say.

The Shunt

As you do, we cursorily checked over the van before taking it back. That was when we noticed the damage.

Nothing too serious, but a rear reflector was cracked, the bumper slightly bent, and paint cracked and flaking from the rear offside corner of the bodywork. The pound staff said they knew nothing about it, and that it couldn't have been through towing as it was loaded onto a flat-bed truck which involved only lifting with straps round the wheel areas. The handbrake was still applied and doors locked, so no-one could have driven it and it couldn't have rolled into anything, especially since it was parked nose first down a slight decline in the road anyway.

Returning to the office, it began to make sense. You see, our industrious Chinaman had got himself into a blue funk about this and spent the intervening period badgering a few businesses in the road to look at their CCTV. His persistence produced a result too, as one had footage which he had filmed on his iPhone.

We watched open-mouthed as the images showed our van being whacked heavily from behind and rolling two house lengths down the hill before stopping in front of a dropped kerb ... on a yellow line! What's more, we knew who did it too, since the woman driving the car instantly hopped out and comically ran down the road after it with her arms in the air in panic. It was the stuff of Norman Wisdom vintage right there in front of us.

"See? Told you. I park in bay! I park in bay! I park in bay!", screeched our driver almost bouncing off the walls with glee.

The Police ... Again

Now, this put an entirely different complexion on the matter. Far from being nasty anti-social transgressors, it was now unmistakeable that we were victims who had just been taken for £300+ due to the incompetence of others.

The incident had not been reported to us so it was a cast-iron case of hit and run, surely? So we rang the police again ...

... Another half hour - and three different call centre staff later - we found that it wasn't that at all. The incident had, indeed, been reported to the police. They even had a CAD number for it.

So, what had happened was that someone had badly shunted our vehicle onto a yellow line, causing damage in the process. The person who did so had rung the police to report the accident. The police - instead of notifying the owner - had called the local council, who promptly attended the scene ... and ticketed then towed it.

Two days later, after intensive digging, we finally found out what had happened to our property and then spent a day retrieving it and piecing the whole mess together. Did I mention, by the way, that our company last year paid in the region of £180,000 in taxation over to HMRC to fund our wonderful public services? That's without counting business rates which, if you didn't know, doesn't include picking up our bins ... that's extra. Just thought I'd throw that in.

Despite the incident already having been reported, we were told that our best bet for reclaiming this £300 from someone (anyone!) would be to fill in a 'self report incident form'. So we phoned our neighbourhood support team again.

"Hello?", said our perennially breathless copper, still seemingly running a marathon or boinking naught Niki.
"Hi, would you be able to pop over our place when you're passing as we have a disc with CCTV footage on it and want to report a traffic incident".
"No, you'll have to go to a police station for that, the nearest one is three miles up the road.", why did I not guess?

I could tell you more about that process. The incredibly charming black police officer behind shiny, expensive-looking, remote control glass sliding doors for his security ... who instead chose to leave reception and come out of the side door to talk while holding it open with his foot; the 10 page form I was to fill in rather than just give a CAD number and show the CCTV footage; the picture I was told I must draw on the form regardless that I had filmed evidence; or even the legally-mandated disabled lift that simply didn't work meaning that a woman with a pushchair had to be helped up the stairs by two guys who were in the station to do their weekly reporting after an anti-social behaviour charge.

But I won't. All I will say is that now - three weeks on - we are still £300+ down; have heard not a peep out of the police; and are pretty unimpressed with the whole experience. It's true that we've probably expended about the same £300 in time, effort and expenses, but what would you do?

The Lesson

We've learned a lot from it, though, but I'd venture to say not in a good way.

We've learned that despite state monoliths having been intelligently built to track vehicles, their sale, regulations, road tax, and insurance, none of it is used to help the public. If you're not taxed, insured, or you parked in the wrong place, they will nab you in an instant, maybe even crush the bloody thing . If simple notification is required, however, those expensive systems cease to be operable, apparently.

Another lesson is that traffic enforcement doesn't have any bearing on circumstances. Towing as a first option could be understandable if it seriously impedes traffic flow, but this incident occurred in a cul-de-sac.

We've also learned that style over substance would appear to be the case with the police. Years of public expenditure on systems, centralisation and localism, simplification (ha!) and openness have led to it being more difficult than ever to speak to an actual copper, about an actual problem.

Additionally, we have learned that next time we are charged £300 for a tow, it is economically more astute for us to just suck it up and not waste our time and resources investigating any further. Doing what is right is not encouraged in the 21st century.

Lastly, and most sadly, we are reminded yet again that the state is not your friend. You pay into it a huge sum but - like the poor guy who was charged £300 plus earnings from a day's work - losses to the economy are what it is good at. And it is doing this nationwide. Every day.

I'm not giving up just yet, though. I'll be ringing our neighbourhood support geezer again tomorrow to see how his, ahem, mountain-climbing is going.

Tuesday 26 March 2013

We Have A Winner!

I've said before that there must be some competition going on between global tobacco control activists to come up with the most ridiculous heart attack 'miracle' study. But I think we might have just seen the most miraculous of all.

For background, Snowdon exposes many of these, and his article in 2009 is a damn good guide as to how they are universally designed to mislead.
It is not a question of having a closed mind or being unduly suspicious. Smoking bans cannot bring about huge reductions in the heart attack rate of 10, 20 or 30 per cent because it is a mathematical impossibility
And so it is like watching David Copperfield doing his flying trick. It might look impressive but you know it's just a trick. With magic, the fun is in trying to work out how it's done. And just as the flying trick is always going to involve some form of industrial strength wire, the explanation to a heart attack miracle is always going to involve some form of cherry-picking.
In the UK, we have seen the Scottish example described by the BBC as "the facts in the way of a good story".
There is also a suggestion that the StopIt study compared 10 months before the ban in March 2006, with 10 months after. So the two periods might have spanned different parts of the year.
Indeed this was the case. That aspect was quite important as it was designed to exclude months of the year which were colder, a known contributory factor in heart attacks.

In fact, even that statistical fraud was just a small part of the lie as a whole. Real life hospital admissions showed it up to be demonstrable nonsense, yet politicians still to this day quote the 17% reduction lie.

Stung by The Times calling the Scottish 'miracle' out as one of the top ten junk stats of the year, Anna Gilmore's lies to produce the subsequent English 'miracle' of 2.4% were much more convoluted and nuanced.
As you can see, the decline in admissions in the year after the smoking ban was larger than the year before but smaller than the year before that. In fact, the average in the previous two years was 4.2%—almost exactly what it was in the year after the ban (4.26%). 
Desperate to spin gold from straw, Gilmore throws everything she can at the data. She makes adjustments for surface air temperature, flu seasons, population size and Christmas holidays but she does not address more significant factors like smoking status, diet, exercise or stress (that's not her fault—the NHS does not have this data—but let's not pretend she is isolating smoking in public as the sole uncontrolled risk factor). 
None of these calculations are shown or can be verified, but these manipulated data are then fed into a series of computer programs to arrive at an adjusted average daily admissions figure. Although Gilmore uses the July-June figures for all pre-ban years, she goes up to September 2008 for her post-ban year, thereby leaving in July and August, which is when the AMI rate is invariably at its lowest. It's baffling and more than a little suspicious. Why not go up to June 2009? Or at least stop at June 2008? 
From this almost incomprehensible mass of heavily adjusted data, she arrives at the figure of 2.4% mentioned above. This 2.4% is the supposed decline in AMI admissions that she directly attributes to the smoking ban.
It's all designed to produce a headline via science by press release, of course. And the dolts at the BBC duly oblige every time, like the useful idiots that the health section have consistently proven to be (latest example was just the other day, funnily enough). 

But none of those, surely, comes even close to the jaw-dropping mendacity of this from Prince Edward Island (yes, I had to look it up too, it's in Canada apparently).
A study published online in the journal PLoS ONE concludes that a partial smoking ban in Prince Edward Island resulted in a 14%-24% decline in heart attack admissions, while the study data show that the rate of heart attacks actually increased in the five-year period following the smoking ban compared to the five-year period before the ban. 
The study conclusion is based entirely on the abnormally low heart attack rates observed during the period 1995-1997. If one compares the trend in heart attacks from 1998-2003 (five years prior to the smoking ban) with the trend from 2003-2008 (five years after the smoking ban), one finds that the smoking ban was actually associated with an increase in the rate of heart attacks. 
Here are the approximate trends in the heart attack rates in the five-year periods before and after the smoking ban:

1998-2003 (PRIOR TO BAN): -0.4% per year
2003-2008 (AFTER BAN): +1.1% per year
So, err, they compared historical rates from eight years prior to the ban and compared them with five years after the ban, ignoring an entire five years simply because it didn't fit their pre-determined outcome?

Yes. Yes, they did.

Author of the above couple of paras, Dr Michael Siegel, reckons there might be something whiffy going on here.
At this point, it has become clear to me that there exists a strong investigator bias in favor of finding a significant effect of smoking bans on the reduction of heart attacks. So many studies have drawn conclusions that are simply not supported by the data that it is apparent that investigators want to find an effect.
Masterful understatement, Mickey-boy.

How on Earth does appalling guff like this get published (as a vandal might say)? They'll probably big up that it's been peer-reviewed too, as if that means anything at all.

Because, while reviewing, if no-one in the public health community can spot some kind of methodological problem with the data set in this 'study' - along with the dozens of others which have been run along exactly the same junk lines - you have to wonder about your safety in other areas when it's clear that irresponsible, self-enriching propagandists are being entrusted to 'scientifically' advise on worldwide government health policy.

Prince Edward Island, you won, OK? I hope that $1 bet was worth the global trashing of method and trust in modern public health advocacy. 

Monday 25 March 2013

Tobacco Controller Condemns Tobacco Control Methods As "Pathetic"

If you've ever spoken out to object to any anti-tobacco measures whatsoever on blogs, forums, newspaper comment sections or - God forbid - the Guardian's Comment Is Free pages, at some point you will have been accused of being in the pay of Big Tobacco.

Here is a perfect example directed at hugely-respected political commentator Iain Martin.

This is because a planned tactic from the earliest days of tobacco control has been to place this debate-avoidance tool into the mind of every raving anti-smoker on the planet. It is, as Michael Siegel explains, Tobacco Control 101.
In the 20 years that I was a member of the tobacco control movement, I was led to believe that there were only two sides to any anti-smoking issue: our side and the tobacco industry side. Therefore, anyone who disagreed with our position had to be, in some way, affiliated with the tobacco industry. I was also taught to respond to their arguments not on any scientific grounds or on the merit of their arguments, but by simply discrediting the person by attacking their affiliation with the tobacco companies.
If you take part in secondhand smoke policy training in the tobacco control movement, chances are that you will be taught that all opposition to smoking bans is orchestrated by the tobacco industry, that anyone who challenges the science connecting secondhand smoke exposure and severe health effects is a paid lackey of Big Tobacco, and that any group which disseminates information challenging these health effects is a tobacco industry front group. Consequently, the chief strategy of tobacco control is to smear the opposition by accusing them of being tobacco industry moles. And in no situation should one say anything positive about an opponent, even if true.
Who is this rogue? A tobacco shill himself? Well, no. Quite the opposite, in fact.
How do I know this? 
Because for many years, I was one of the main trainers of tobacco control advocates in the United States. And this is what I taught, because this was what I was led to believe. I attended many conferences and trainings and this is precisely what I was taught. I accepted it for the truth, and passed it along to others. 
But it's OK. One of the world's most prominent tobacco controllers has now seen the light and declared the tactic "quite pathetic".

So there you have it. Next time someone accuses you in such a way, you can confidently call them pathetic and cite Mr Chapman the proud law-breaking sociologist as your 'expert' source. 

It is inevitable that he'll be condemning the website set up by Bath University - precisely for this "quite pathetic" purpose - very soon. 

Yep, won't be long now, for sure.

The Stuff Of Prohibitionist Nightmares

BBFC guidance: Contains scenes of gratuitous fast food eating, references to alcohol, and cracking legs.

Lord, I hope some burger company replicates this kind of thing here. There would be the possibility of health lobby heads literally exploding like something out of Scanners.

Sunday 24 March 2013

More From The Hotline To Sydney?

Back in September, I pointed out an incredible coincidence concerning a geriatric vandal from Sydney.
Consider a tweet from Simon Chapman in June - who, remember, lives 10,000 miles away - which states with absolute certainty that those opposing plain packs are universally dodgy.

Again, this is news to anyone who was following the debate in this country, yet conveniently came just a few days after Andrew Black of the Department of Health had written to Simon Clark of Forest about something he claimed to have seen. Not that anyone here knew that at the time, of course.

Chapman offered no link, nor was there any news coverage anywhere of this 'story'. In fact, it wasn't until three months later on the 13th September that the allegations were placed on the Department of Health website surrounding something the department's dedicated Aussie anti-smoker - Andrew Black - says he saw just a few days before Chapman's tweet. Uncannily enough, it concerned "screeds of made up names" being collected. What a coincidence!
Well, it seems he again seems to know more than any of us plebs on this side of the planet.

Yes. Apparently, despite Anna Soubry and David Cameron claiming to the contrary, the debate over plain packaging of tobacco has already been "won" in the UK.

Now, we could ask if the Department of Health has been talking to Mr Chapman, but it could just as easily be his own Ministry of Health. You know, the same ones who extended the UK consultation by a month because their Health Minister was on holiday.

Or is he just a liar? I suppose only time will tell.

Thursday 21 March 2013

E-Cigs Banned On P&O Ferries, Avoid

The latest company to exhibit their ill-informed ignorance over e-cigs would appear to be P&O Ferries. For the story, click to enlarge this letter produced to one of their recent travellers.

It's interesting that the author refers to the Terms and Conditions of travel (twice), because they contain no mention of e-cigs at all.

Now, I don't know about you, but 'smoking' - as I understand it - involves tobacco and, you know, smoke. 

But to reciprocate, I can see where Ms Visser is "coming from" too, as P&O Ferries can make up whatever rules they like as a private business. However, our intrepid traveller pointed out that the Terms and Conditions did not prohibit e-cigs but was told that it was "going to be in them", not that it already was. 

I'm sure you don't need me to remind you that e-cigs are not illegal, and the Health Act 2006 does not ban their use, erm, anywhere. 

On the other hand, under the Package Travel, Package Holidays and Package Tours Regulations 1992, P&O Ferries do have some obligations to their travellers if they offer travel and accommodation for over 24 hours. P&O mini-cruises perform exactly that function as the cabin is booked for the duration.

Under these regulations, P&O have no right to refuse return travel if the use of e-cigs is not prohibited in their stated terms and conditions. The rules are very clear about this.
9. (1) The other party to the contract shall ensure that: 
(b) all the terms of the contract are set out in writing or such other form as is comprehensible and accessible to the consumer and are communicated to the consumer before the contract is made; and 
(c) a written copy of these terms is supplied to the consumer.
This was satisfied, as the copy of T&Cs above proves. Therefore, refusal to abide by the contract (that is, return travel) is a breach of the law and punishable by damages unless the change in terms was communicated to the consumer before travel so that they could decide if they wished to proceed or ask for a refund. That not being satisfied, P&O were obliged to supply an alternative return carrier at their own expense.

So the cruisers were breaking no law, but P&O were. Interesting, huh?

Of course, these particular vapers - including a disabled passenger who was being ordered to the smoking areas on the outer decks with the rest - could have had this argument with the On Board Services Manager, but she would have probably looked blankly at them while her brain screamed "does not compute!".

Neanderthal companies like this will one day be brought knuckle-dragging and braying into the 21st century but, for now, it might be best for the one million UK vapers to consider P&O's ignorant and unenlightened attitude, and simply not use them.

H/T Mr W's 'first mate'

Wednesday 20 March 2013


Overall, I actually quite liked the budget from what I've seen of it - busy days seem to be coming thick and fast these days, and getting ever busier in themselves.

As a business owner I'm of course pleased with the National Insurance relief and bringing forward a 1% Corporation Tax reduction, and pleased that our staff will pay even less tax with the £10k free pay threshold being rushed in.

The beer duty escalator scrapped and even reversed was a delight (I really must check out Alcohol Concern's Twitter feed) and I reckon a mere 2% over inflation on snout was about the best we could hope for from the current mindset of fake charity enthralled politicos (must check ASH's too). Not that I've paid UK tobacco duty for quite some time, it has to be said.

Here are, for me, a couple of stand-out quotes from today's BBC coverage.
[Mike Benner, chief executive of the Campaign for Real Ale (Camra), said:] "Since the duty escalator was introduced in 2008, 5,800 pubs have been forced to call last orders for good. What could have been the final nail in the coffin for our pubs has been decisively avoided by the chancellor in a move that will spark celebration in pubs across the UK."
A bit of over-enthusiasm for show is it, Mike mate? Chances are they won't even notice it - after 100 pints they'll be able to buy one extra product in Poundland, it's not exactly Whisky Galore, is it?

And about those 5,800 pub losses, I think you know very well what caused the majority of them. Clue: it ain't the beer tax.
"We've now frozen fuel duty for two years," Mr Osborne said. "This has not been easy. The government has foregone £6bn in revenues to date."
My heart bleeds, Georgie-boy. It must be horrendous to be forced by public opinion to only steal the same amount from us this year as you did last. How Al Capone's Chicago shopkeepers must have similarly wept for his deprivation when he generously froze their eye-watering protection racket premiums.

Tuesday 19 March 2013

Plain Packs Consultation Bias Busted Wide Open

Earlier today, Guido published a report on what we jewel robbers already know. That being the disgraceful shenanigans behind the scenes of the government's consultation on plain packaging.
Setting up a policy consultation that doesn’t actually do any proper consulting seems to be a growing theme under Dave. A report by Rupert Darwall, the policy wonk who helped expose the Civil Service foul up over the Virgin West Coast train franchise, has laid into the Department of Health’s consultation on plain packaging. Darwall’s report finds:
- The consultation was deliberately framed to garner support for plain packaging, presenting policy-makers with a loaded question.
- Questionable evidence: no causal link between packaging and smoking.
- Department of Health admitted the consultation was biased but has done nothing about it.
- Consultation does not consider negative impacts such as reducing barriers to illegal tobacco.
- Overall the consultation creates a misleading impression that plain packaging will cut smoking.
You can read it in full here - it is pretty devastating.

Of course, already those who should be breaking this kind of grubby abuse of democracy are doing their utmost to avoid reading it.

Wintour, you may remember, is the journo who unveiled the story about how plain packs are scheduled for the Queen's Speech, before Cameron denied it. I suggest he may be somewhat compromised as an unbiased commentator, whaddya reckon?

It's the same old debate-avoidance mechanism as usual, except that there is a wealth of real dirt in this report, some of which I have already written about. Consider this para from the executive summary, for example (click to enlarge).

I recognise this bit ...
Bias enters the consultation through the DH's reliance for its evidence base on a narrative synthesis of research papers (the Stirling University review) selected and commented on by researchers, two of whom are self-declared advocates of plain packaging;
... because I commented as such back in May last year.
The first thing you might notice if you do a word search on it is that the lead author, Crawford Moodie, is referenced 80 times in all in the review. This is because it is mostly a collection of studies conducted by the people who wrote the bloody thing. Studies either authored or co-authored by fellow lead names Linda Bauld, Ann McNeil, Kathryn Angus and Gerard Hastings, are also quoted as sources of *cough* independent research. 
As far as I can see, out of the 37 studies cherry-picked selected by the report's authors, 16 were written or co-written by those who compiled the evidence review on which Lansley's department is relying for information. 
If such woeful bias is allowable for something as important as a systematic evidence review, I think I'll have to pitch for my own slice of the easy money. I can find 37 articles saying the whole idea is crap. OK, so 16 were written by me and my mates, but what the hell? It's 'science', innit.
The Darwall report also hints at more manipulation that I seem to remember chatting about.
And the DH's subjective elicitation exercise, in which selected experts are asked their opinions on the quantified effect of what the policy might be. Even though the DH considered impartiality impracticable with respect to the last, it refuses to disclose each individual expert's name, what they said and what their interests are.  
Yep, if I'm not mistaken, that was covered here too, also in May.
Now, forgive me if I'm wrong, but this would seem to suggest that the 'experts' to be appointed for this purpose will all be people paid to come up with tobacco control policies ... like plain packaging. 
The tract admits that there's no way they will be impartial, and that many will have a personal stake in seeing one side of the argument prevail over the other. However, the civil service doesn't seem to envisage any problem with this. 
It's like handing control of the Leveson Inquiry to an associate of Rebekah Brooks, or even Rebekah Brooks herself with James Murdoch as a fellow panel member. Or Alex Ferguson appointing four members of the Manchester United Supporters Club to be officials for an important Champions League fixture. 
In the scenario above, it's not inconceivable that the 'experts' recruited to offer 'subjective' judgements on plain packaging could include Simon Chapman, Linda Bauld and Stanton Glantz! 
This is what passes for democratic process in this wonderful free country of ours.
Now, those who seem happy to allow their cult-like advocacy over-ride the principles of democratic process can squeal as much as they like about funding, but it still doesn't hide a couple of very important points.

The author has been proven to be more able than government to spot gaping flaws in their procedures - as the West Coast mainline fiasco illustrated publicly and unequivocally - and secondly, that what he says would appear to be 100% demonstrably true so far.

Even a glorified hairy-arse trucker like me can see that, so why can't the Department of Health and a fair chunk of Fleet Street/Wapping?

I reckon I'll be returning to this research quite often in coming days and weeks, there's tons more damning stuff, believe you me!

Blu Movies

Movie expert Kristy Puchko has done some quality photo-shopping to show what iconic movies would be like if tobacco was replaced with e-cigs.
Pics Prove Movies Would Be Really Lame With E-Cigarettes 
We know smoking is lame. Like, *we know.* It’s a terrible habit, and it causes cancer, and on an on. But can you imagine how some of your favorite onscreen smokers would look if they went for the (somewhat) healthier option of getting their nicotine via e-cigarette?
There are more than the examples above in her article, so do go look and see what you think.

Now, I like e-cigs but her point is a valid one. There is a certain photogenic calmness and panache conveyed by the casual smoke of a cigarette ... which is why psycho anti-tobacco obsessives hate these scenes so very much and want them banned.

But then, we are living in different times where devil-may-care and smoulderingly dangerous are often shunned in favour of blandness and can't-be-too-careful. So who's to say that the future will not provide equally striking scenes, but with curling, twisting vapour rather than smoke? There's certainly something so very satisfying about watching heart-throb Johnny Depp vaping directly beneath a no smoking sign, doncha think?

However, particularly interesting for me was to note that all Puchko's pictures featured the Blu e-cig brand, recently purchased by major tobacco company Lorillard. On this evidence it could be that their increased marketing and high-profile advertising may have taken Blu e-cigs to new levels of recognition, even perhaps placing them as the perceived market leader in the US.

High fives for big tobacco, then. Money very well spent, much to the chagrin of at least one odious ex-smoker I reckon.

H/T JJ via FB

Monday 18 March 2013

If State Control Is Success, What Does Failure Look Like?

Wow! What a weekend that was! Two unrelated celebrations - apart from both involving joyous consumption of wine, of course - in Puddlecoteville has meant that I've barely touched a computer ... not even to place the almost religious Saturday bet.

However, catching up last night and today it's clear that the EU has finally stopped pretending and admitted that it is an elaborate grand larceny scam, while all three main UK parties have dispensed with one of the last of the country's freedoms so the press and blogs are hindered in the role of holding the state to account.

The Cyprus situation is truly staggering! Without warning and, I expect, not even the smallest of small print of any bank contract saying that it could be a possibility, savers are to have 6%-10% of their already taxed savings stolen by the super state. As it stands, it appears that those savings aren't even allowed to be accessed at all ... politicians have effectively frozen them until Thursday as usually can only happen if criminality is suspected.

But then, states are used to treating all of us like criminals unless proven otherwise.

Here we are crippled by a recession unsolvable due to worldwide over-spending by politicians, and it's the public who are being punished for it. Yet you just know, don't you, that come Question Time on Thursday the same exhortation will spew forth from the audience ... "what is the government going to do about it?"

Governments have collectively gotten us into a position where their spending is through the roof; they are universally despised for fighting wars it is clear they lied about; they have systematically dismantled democracy; turned our schools into a political tool; installed themselves as nannies over how we choose to live; yet many seem to think we need more of their incompetent interference, not less.

There are reports that Osborne may increase the beer duty escalator despite pubs (which politicians really like, apparently) already suffering through years of political interference. For why? Well, to appease the unelected, state-funded health lobby and to fund a freeze on fuel duty which effectively means they will generously stop stealing from us for a short few months.

Courts are to be given powers to hold secret hearings, thereby dispensing with centuries of a transparent judicial system. But it's OK, politicians assure us they can be trusted ... just like their expenses claims in 2009 and their cast-iron guarantees and their assurances about WMDs.

Seriously, why does anyone believe that more tinkering by government is any kind of solution to anything when every time they poke their arrogant noses in, things just get worse?

Random image: Father Ted fixes a tiny dent on a new car
As a result of the EU's decision to go all Boardwalk Empire on us, Twitter is alive with innovative ways of converting savings into other tangible investments; customers in other Eurozone countries are independently creating a multi-country run on banks to divert to any continent but Europe; and stocks are probably being traded over to the Far East as I write. While smug UK politicos are congratulating each other for a confusing and illiberal measure which looks like raising open revolt from the media just to satisfy a guy who used to be in Four Weddings and his equally irresponsible and myopic ideologues.

The state is not any friend of yours or mine, it is the enemy. The state is an entity which says it cares about cost of living rises while simultaneously raising the cost of everything you buy with ridiculous over-regulation; an entity which claims it endorses free speech while passing laws to censor it; an entity which talks about austerity for its employers while blithely pissing your money down the drain on pet schemes. Indeed, even an entity which is appalling with your healthcare but still says it is brilliant because it tackles the chocolate orange.

I don't know about you, but I hear the faint twang of piano wire.

Friday 15 March 2013

Canadian Minimum Alcohol Pricing Evidence Fails The Laugh Test

As the debate rages on about minimum alcohol pricing - well, I say debate, it's more accurately described as mendacious rhetoric from a collection of of highly-paid vested interests who refuse debate - there is one thing that is becoming clear as crystal.

One of the globe's most prominent advocates simply cannot be trusted as a source of 'evidence'..

Canadian Dr Tim Stockwell has already been caught lying with statistics to a credulous BBC; exposed as producing studies which only use data which agree with his pre-determined conclusions; and seen his 'availability theory' rubbished by his own profession.

 The criticism just keeps on coming, though.

George Mason University conclude that his methods "raise more questions than answers".
So while there seems to be an overall trend of decreased death with increased prices, the failure to account for multiple testing means there could be true correlation (note, not causation - DP) or there could be just a statistical fluke.
While Forbes comments.
It is not uncharitable to say the Canadian study is confusing, and it is not unwarranted to say its findings might be the result of chance as a real correlation. This means the certainty reported in the media and by other scientists is misleading.
In other words, whenever you hear some anti-alcohol blowhard burble about "evidence from Canada says ...", they are talking about the work of a proven manipulator of statistics whose results - however hard he may try - fail to reach past the level of vague coincidence.

This is how far the public health industry has sunk. Pasteur would weep into his milk if he could see their antics.

H/T Crampton

Thursday 14 March 2013

Dr Hilary Jones Lies On The BBC

Well, wasn't yesterday fun, eh?

No Smoking Day was forgotten as desperate health lobbyists scrambled to a three line whip by whining, pleading, scaremongering and - most disgracefully - lying about minimum alcohol pricing on every media outlet they could manage.

Thanks to all of you who e-mailed or tweeted the shameful nonsense you'd seen or heard peddled as fact (special plaudits to the two who fired off complaints to the BBC) but I feel I have to pick a winner.

Runner-up for the utter garbage award goes to serial liars the BMA who claimed that minimum pricing is to be implemented in Scotland next month. But stand out liar of the whole day of astonishing mendacity must surely be Dr Hilary Jones who stated on Steve Wright's Radio 2 show that minimum pricing is not only already in force north of the border - which it most certainly isn't - but has also been proven to be a success!

Yes, he really did also say that government should be ashamed of "keeping pubs open".

Was he challenged on any of this demonstrable poppycock? Of course not, it was on "internationally respected news service", the BBC.

Truly we are living in insane times, ladies and gents.

Congrats Frankie

So, we have a new Pope, then. Time for Cardinals to celebrate a job well done.

... And also with you
Image courtesy of this lot, from where I know not, and posted for no other reason than I thought you might like it.

It brings to mind this article by Andrew Brown from 2010.
Persistent reports over the last few years indicate that Pope Benedict XVI enjoys an occasional cigarette – Marlboro Red, it is claimed – in quiet moments, away from prying cameras. 
During World Youth Day in Australia in 2008, a bodyguard claimed that the Holy Father had smoked three cigarettes in quick succession. To think of the Pope enjoying a relaxing draw on a King Size cigarette packed with smooth Virginia tobaccos… it only makes me admire him more.
Amen, I say. Amen.

Wednesday 13 March 2013

"Electronic Cigarettes, I Tell You, Are ... Brilliant!"

Today is No Smoking Day, apparently, not that it's ever registered much on my radar.

However, if it's your bag, you could do worse than follow the advice of ITV This Morning's Dr Chris who yesterday enthused that he thinks e-cigs are "brilliant".

It's not the first time Dr Chris has expressed this view either, he did the same last year.

At this rate, he should be very wary of telling such truths. Soon he'll be either smeared as a tobacco shill or find a horse's head under his duvet courtesy of the tobacco control industry mafia!

Of course, if that does happen he might not have to look far for likely candidates. He could perhaps top the list with one of No Smoking Day's most prominent celebrity ambassadors with a documented propensity for bullying.

Here's a health tip for you, Dr Chris. Excellent advice, sunshine, but watch your back, eh?

PS If anyone can upload the video corresponding to the sound file above that would be, well, "brilliant" too.

Tuesday 12 March 2013

Raise A Glass To A Rare Outbreak Of Westminster Sanity

Things have been awfully busy this week with around £350k pa worth of tenders from four different sources requiring some attention, plus planning for a trip to Sussex tomorrow for a meeting on even more promising business. All this alongside a curious incident surrounding a towed vehicle which has taken up an inordinate amount of time. Believe me, though, the latter is a story of odd random human behaviour coupled with astounding public sector obstruction and incompetence that begs to be written about here at some point (it may even rival the fox palaver).  I'll try not to disappoint.

But for now, it's impossible to let this BBC article pass without brief comment.
Plans for minimum pricing on alcohol in England and Wales may be dropped because Conservative ministers are split over the proposals. 
David Cameron supports minimum alcohol pricing and the government has been consulting on a price of 45p per unit. 
BBC political correspondent Louise Stewart says several cabinet ministers, including Theresa May, Michael Gove and Andrew Lansley, do not back the plans.
Sky have got wind of it too.

It's significant that Theresa May has been mentioned for the first time as a dissenter. Remember that this is a Home Office initiative and - considering May is the Home Secretary - she announced the consultation back in November.

If even she is getting cold feet - and the health lobby's greatest friend Nanny Beeb is reporting so -  it looks like this really could be the beginning of the end for the stupid idea after rumoured reports from other sources. 

Perhaps MPs finally looked at each other in a rare moment of clarity and asked a bog standard, common sense question which they should have thought of before wasting everyone's fucking time.

Charge your glasses, Ladies and Gents, and raise a toast - along with the thousands flooding Twitter with jubilant messages - to a brief respite from government harassment.

Unless you're Scottish, of course, in which case you've got a few more months before the EU tells provincial Holyrood dickheads that their misplaced smug idiocy is illegal.

Monday 11 March 2013

The Tobacco Industry Is More Honest Than Stanton Glantz

Like a punch-drunk boxer incapable of realising his time is up, one by one the dinosaurs of the global tobacco control industry continue to embarrass themselves. The latest to put his foot hilariously into a super-sized gob is Stanton Glantz.

Snowdon yesterday described how his recent laughable 'study' led to questions being asked of a shame-shrunken state agency official as to why this geriatric wacko was handed $678,952 of taxpayer cash - ear-marked for health research - to produce an insane political conspiracy theory.

In short, the rebuttal could only stretch to an admission of guilt for not checking out the old duffer's antics properly.
Dr Collins: Of course we thought we were funding a different kind of research when these grants were made.
It is only getting worse for Mr Glantz's long-tarnished reputation now, though. The barbs just keep on coming.

You can pick out whichever you think are the most delicious from this article by the assistant editor of a serious technology journal, with "shoddy", "mediocre" and "muckraking" featuring prominently, but I personally enjoyed this bit.
But this particular scandal is about more than the wasting of taxpayer dollars on frivolous research. It is also about the misuse of science for partisan political purposes, which corrupts both our political and our scientific institutions. 
The kind of politicized “science” on display in Glantz’s paper is distinct from what we normally talk about when we talk about “politicized science.” That term usually refers to scientific claims that are distorted or exaggerated, by either scientists or politicians, to support some preferred policy. This year’s State of the Union speech had a classic example of this kind of politicized science when the president said that it was the “overwhelming judgment of science” that Superstorm Sandy and other recent extreme-weather events were caused by climate change. (Not so.) Another good example is the pseudoscience purveyed by the notorious Tobacco Institute (an entity dissolved in 1998 following the tobacco settlement), such as the “research” trying to cast doubt on the epidemiological science that links smoking to cancer and other diseases. This sort of politicization of science is a serious and complicated problem, because having reliable and objective scientific advice is essential for policymaking.
I do believe Glantz just got compared to the tobacco industry whose methods he is apparently so disgusted by. How delightful.
In the case of the Glantz paper, however, scientists are not distorting scientific claims to support their policy preferences. This paper does not make anything resembling a scientific claim that would be relevant to policy decisions about tobacco regulation. And even if it were true that tea-party organizations were “astroturf” laid down by the tobacco-industry lobby, that in itself would not be a reason to enact any tobacco-control policies. Instead of offering evidence to support their preferred policy positions, Glantz and his co-authors make insinuations about political groups they oppose in order to cast these groups in an unfavorable light.
No, sorry, my bad. Glantz is being described as worse than the tobacco industry whose methods he is apparently so disgusted by. Even more delightful!
They even imply that the Tea Party’s advocacy for “private property rights, consumer choice, and limited government” merely echoes “tobacco industry arguments.” Private-property rights and limited government are certainly very important principles for the Tea Party, and a strong commitment to them does stand in the way of the extensive regulations that tobacco-control advocates would like to see enacted. But that does not mean that these principles are mere rhetorical devices utilized to advance corporate interests — indeed, these principles are at the core of Western democracy.
In fact, scrap that last bit too. He's not only worse than tobacco companies whose methods he is apparently disgusted by, he is also taking the right presidential piss out of key principles of the US democratic system. And doing so by playing fast and loose with public money as if it's his own personal stash.

I look forward to the next time the senile fantasist talks of tobacco industry corruption on his hysterical (heavily-censored) blog.

Of course - whether it be lizards under the poles or Mayan predictions of apocalypse - there are always the easily-gulled willing to believe any cult woo.

Sunday 10 March 2013

It's Not Junk When WE Do It

One day, the dictionary definition of chutzpah will simply carry a picture of Simon Chapman.

He is referring to a study which correctly argues that e-cigs are a far better tool for quitting smoking than disastrously ineffective pharma products. You see, he hates e-cigs so very much.

According to former Tobacco Control Editor Chapman, no serious health journal would ever consider publishing research based on such a small group of subjects.

Unlike this one published last year in, err, Tobacco Control.
Methods The authors conducted 13 in-depth interviews with young adult social smokers aged between 19 and 25 years and used thematic analysis to interpret the transcripts. 
Conclusions Participants strongly supported extending the smoke-free areas outside bars, a measure that would help decouple their alcohol-fuelled behaviours from the identity to which they aspire.
That study - which is massively different to the one rubbished by Mr Chapman the sociologist - was conducted by botanist, zoologist and Beowulf expert Janet Hoek of New Zealand's Otago University.

The same Janet Hoek who has - for many years - called for processed food to be treated like it were tobacco.

Mr Chapman likes outdoor smoking bans very much so Hoek is therefore not a crank writing in a junk journal. D'you see?

Good. I'm glad we cleared that up.

Friday 8 March 2013

Plain Packaging Fine Cigars

The occasional commenter - both here and on other sites - has posed the question as to what will happen to cigars if plain packaging were to be implemented.

Well, in the case of Café Creme or Hamlet, they'll be festooned with anti-smoker porn, of course. But for the higher end, it's an interesting question which has been answered in an e-mail by a fellow jewel robber from the asylum formerly known as Down Under.

Here is a pic of some seriously expensive cigars once the absurd Labor government got hold of them (Click to enlarge).

You may note that the little band around them has been replaced by a government-mandated one in small, plain font. Gone is, for example, the San Cristobal Mercaderes branding ...

Y'see, plain packaging is all to do with the children. If they were to notice a one inch piece of gold in a venue they're not allowed to enter, they would be immediately compelled to shell out the equivalent of £35 to buy one.

Stop laughing ... politicians actually believe this crap!

Thursday 7 March 2013

Return Of The Illicit Deniers

Back in October, I described how the tobacco control industry were reporting out-of-date statistics to 'prove' that tobacco companies were lying about current trends. Ironic, huh?
He was referring to this page from Cancer Research UK (ASH carried something similar the day before).
Rates of tobacco smuggling into the UK have fallen despite earlier claims from the tobacco industry that tax rises would prompt an increase in the illicit trade, official figures show
An estimated nine per cent of cigarettes consumed in the UK in 2010/11 were illicit, compared with 11 per cent in the previous year, according to HM Revenue & Customs.
I think you can see the problem there, can't you? Yes, the figures are almost two years out of date.
A few days earlier, The Sun had carried more recent stats - you know, ones which were relevant to October 2012 not 2010 - that were quite startling.
THE trade in illicit cigarettes has exploded in the past year - with nearly 16.5 per cent of all fags now fake or counterfeit. 
Shock figures last night revealed the black market rise - and piled pressure on to ministers. The proportion of “illicit” cigarettes smoked in the UK has soared by almost a FIFTH over the last 12 months, up from 13.8 to 16.4 per cent.
In fact, so alarming has the rise been recently that it is considered a very real concern by Westminster.
A parliamentary committee is to investigate the illicit trade in tobacco for the first time. 
The intention of the Home Affairs Select Committee to launch an inquiry into the black market comes as the world’s fourth-largest tobacco company warned yesterday that first-half adjusted operating profit would be dented by “increasing levels of illicit trade” in Europe.
Since October, though, the phenomenon appears to have become more acute still.
More than one in four cigarettes smoked in Britain is illicit and Gillingham in Kent has emerged as the town with the worst habit.
Especially in London.
About one in three of all cigarettes smoked in London are either illicit or counterfeit imports, a new survey reveals today. 
Organised crime gangs are behind a surge in the number of counterfeit or smuggled cigarettes flooding into the UK, it is claimed. One former Scotland Yard detective said cigarette smuggling was taking over from the drug trade as the crime of choice for many London gangs. 
Former Yard detective chief inspector Will O’Reilly said the trade was the fastest growing crime in the UK.
All seem to be agreed, then. The evidence is pretty conclusive that there is a sharp and observable rise in the illicit trade.

Well no, apparently not. The latest from tobacco control to play the part of Comical Ali is Jean King of Cancer Research UK.
While illicit tobacco is still a problem, figures from HM Revenue and Customs show smuggling has more than halved since its peak, now down to 9 per cent for cigarettes.
Can you guess what year the figures she is using come from? (I'll give you a clue - it's not 2013 or 2012, and I've already mentioned it above)

I refer you to the same suggestion I raised when this chucklesome fingers-in-ears exercise surfaced before.
So, shall we just file this - like others where these morons exhibit their stupidity - in the ever-burgeoning folder labelled "tobacco control talking utter bollocks"?
Yes. Yes, I think we shall.