Friday 31 October 2014

E-Cig Crazies Of The Week

I'm currently overwhelmed at Puddlecote Inc with renegotiating current contracts and compiling bids for promising new business from two hefty potential suppliers. All this while also haggling over cost per square foot of new larger premises we are hoping to move into soon, getting quotes for shifting our whole operation in a weekend, and talking to businesses interested in renting our current freehold (the potential new business and the need for extra space are somewhat linked). As such, content here may well be sparse (as you may have already noticed).

To round off the week though, in the last few days I've noticed some desperate excuses from "experts" as to why e-cigs should be banned/taxed and what have you. Last weekend, we had some vacuous 1920s throwback on Sky News debating - if that's what you can call it - the merits or otherwise of vaping, with Clive Bates, and seriously thinking she had a decent argument with this.
OK, perhaps I'm being unfair. That wasn't her main argument, which was that e-cigs are just too cumbersome to take out with you so why not just discard them. Far more compelling, obviously.

Then, via Nicotine Science and Policy's daily news digest (which you really should sign up to, by the way), came this unutterable nonsense from some halfwit ... in the Indian government!
In his clearest message yet on the controversy over the safety of ENDS, health minister Harsh Vardhan ruled out their acceptability in the light of research findings by experts which have held that they are no less unsafe than the “real thing”, said a government statement. 
The minister, who was addressing global tobacco control experts at the 45th Union World Conference on Lung Health in Barcelona, Spain, said e-cigarettes and similar products push children towards the tobacco habit eventually via nicotine dependence.
India is truly screwed if it is run by people who can spout such truth-free cockwaffle as that.

But air-headed morons of the week must surely be the two "editorial writers" - that is, not amateur hour cud-chewing hicks clumping a keyboard, but the cream - at the Arizona Republic news service.
VALDEZ: For consistency, it makes sense to tax e-cigarettes. Smokers who really want to quit aren't going to be put off by a tax on e-cigarettes; they are already paying a tax on their expensive habit.
Splutter. Err, we should tax e-cigs because people who vape instead of smoke are accustomed to the taxes ... so they'll barely notice it? This, surely, is the worst anti-ecig excuse ever invented. Surely?
VALDEZ: But this is less about "bad" or "better" vices — or nanny governments. It's about consistency. It's also about a few sane voices in state government who are willing to face the fact we need more revenue to run schools, etc.
And in any case, who cares! It's all good because it means more private cash is ripped away by the state for no reason whatsoever except that they can. That's what the "sane" people say, apparently.

Fortunately (or not, as the case may be), opposition was on hand to {cough} sagely nail her absurd points to the wall.
MACEACHERN: The objections to them are less science-based than they are psychological: People see someone "smoking" an e-cig indoors and they instinctively see tobacco cigarettes. As an actual vice they are no more dangerous to bystanders than someone drinking a diet soda. Yet we don't advocate big tax increases on soda pop.
Christ on a Tomahawk! Do these people not read the news?

Tuesday 28 October 2014

Anna Soubry Blamed For 900 Northern Ireland Job Losses

Last night in Westminster, DUP MP Ian Paisley quite rightly ripped into incompetent former health minister Anna Soubry over the loss of 900 jobs in his constituency at an annual cost of £160 million to the UK economy (emphases mine).
The Prime Minister answered a parliamentary question earlier last year on minimum pack size, which is what the tobacco directive is all about. He said: 
“It does not, on the face of it, sound a very sensible approach. I was not aware of the specific issue, so let me have a look at it and get back to my hon. Friend.” - [Hansard, 9 October 2013; Vol. 568, c. 160.] 
The Prime Minister was answering a question from a Government Member, and I believe that he has been let down by a failure of his party and colleagues to negotiate the matter appropriately in Europe
While the then public health Minister, Anna Soubry, had control of tobacco products directive negotiations for the UK Government, she was required to keep Parliament informed of developments via the European Scrutiny Committee. When she was brought to that Committee on 17 July 2013, she had to apologise for poor political practice, saying: 
“I do not hesitate to apologise for the fact that this Committee has not been fully informed. I only wish that, as a Minister, I was aware of all the things that happen within my portfolio.” 
That is an appalling indictment of a Minister who took her eye off a brief and allowed the policy to be rammed through with the consequences that we are feeling today. We will reap a terrible harvest in Northern Ireland as a result. 
The provisions under the TPD on the minimum pack sizes that may be manufactured have the direct impact that 82% of the output of my constituency’s factory will be made illegal. The Government have done that with the sweep of a pen - it is little wonder that 900 people are being told that it is over for them. The Government could have said, “Let’s continue to manufacture, but not sell in the United Kingdom,” or looked at other options, but instead they implemented a policy even though their Minister said that she was not fully aware of what was happening. That is a betrayal. It is a scandal that the Government were not paying proper attention.
Indeed, she was not only disastrously negligent in not considering the consequences of the EU TPD for jobs in Northern Ireland, she was also - as reported here last July - completely ignorant of the terms of the TPD itself, wrongly believing e-cigs had been removed from the process entirely.

At the time, Soubry found herself in a unique position where she could have protected those jobs, but - as Paisley referred to in his speech above - she instead effectively threw 900 Ballymena workers on the dole by deliberately hiding EU proceedings from the European Scrutiny Committee and other government departments.
Incredibly, it emerged there had been no correspondence between Soubry and the Scrutiny Committee for six months between January and June 2013. Oddly enough, this is the very period when the Committee would have been expected to scrutinise the draft TPD which was published in December 2012. 
Officials (and Soubry) decided there was no time for proper scrutiny of a Directive that will affect millions of consumers in Britain, not to mention thousands of small businesses. 
So they asked for a waiver from the scrutiny committees in both Houses of Parliament (Lords and Commons). The Lords agreed but the Commons Scrutiny Committee said no. 
Concerned that any delay might delay the revised TPD (which includes plans to ban menthol cigarettes and restrict pack sizes) or tie the UK government's hands on plain packaging, Soubry and Black travelled to Luxembourg determined, it seems, to support the draft TPD regardless of any concerns elected members of parliament may have had. 
If I am reading this correctly, they failed even to seek clearance from other government departments.
It turns out that Soubry held something of a casting vote in proceedings, but rather than defend the UK's interests, she instead chose to cast it in favour of her own prejudices.
Soubry said she took full responsibility for the decision she took, and she was sorry that things were not done in the way that they should have been. 
“If we had not made a decision there was a danger that the moment would be gone for a very long time."
Just as 900 people in Northern Ireland will be ruing Soubry's incompetence for 'a very long time' - she may as well have signed their P45s herself. In case she pops by, here's what the hard-working people she unilaterally betrayed look and sound like.

EU-enthralled Conservative Soubry has since been shifted to organising the UK's defence. I'm sure that will make you feel safer in your bed tonight, eh?

Monday 27 October 2014

German Tobacco Control Demands Plain Packaging For E-Cigs

It seems that, for the German Cancer Research Centre (motto: "From science, to politics") the EU's TPD has not gone far enough in dealing with e-cigs. Not by a long shot.

In this document, they set out exactly what measures they'd like to see instead ... they being everything which currently applies to tobacco, and then some.

Click to enlarge for full wibbletasticness
To summarise, they are demanding a total ban on advertising; e-cigs to be classed as tobacco products and taxed at the same level; a ban on all flavours except tobacco; use of e-cigs to be banned everywhere that smoking is; and plain packaging. Yes, plain packaging! (How's that "domino theory is patently false" thang working out, Debs?).
Packaging of electronic inhalation products and liquids should be standardised in the following manner:  
- Unicoloured packaging;
- Text only without graphic elements;
- White reverse for the indication of ingredients and warnings in black Helvetica script; minimum font size 9 points
- Same format and opening mechanism as medicine packaging 
In order to avoid confusion with tobacco cigarettes and to prevent that products entice adolescents into tobacco consumption, a standardised form should be introduced for e-inhalation products. This form should clearly differ from cigarettes in shape and colour and should be as unattractive as possible to adolescents. Therefore, only grey or black should be permitted as colours for the products (obviously not familiar with the latest 'science' - DP).
Tobacco control being the one-trick pony that it is, naturally all of this atom-bomb-to-crush-peanut legislation is urgently required because, err, the children. The document takes a mere five minutes to read (and I do recommend you read it to understand how these truth-avoiding lunatics think) but mentions "adolescents" 30 times, "child" 25 times, "young" 13, and "youth" 9. Concepts such as common sense and basic sanity, on the other hand, are sadly conspicuous by their absence, as the section justifying a ban on e-cigs, err, everywhere shows quite clearly.
In order to ensure a preventive health protection, the population  should be protected against any pollution in indoor air. This can be achieved through the application of smoke-free policies to electronic inhalation products. E-inhalation products should not be used in enclosed public places including, but not restricted to public buildings, educational institutions, health care facilities, cultural and leisure facilities, sports clubs, pubs, public transport as well as all other facilities in which children and adolescents are present. Moreover, the inclusion of e-inhalation products in Non-Smoking Acts simplifies  the enforcement of the laws, as it is often not evident at first glance whether someone is smoking a cigarette or vaping an e-cigarette. 
Strict Non-Smoking Acts without exceptions have a greater effect on smoking behaviour – particularly in young people – than policies with exceptions. This is because smokers crave for a cigarette when they see others smoking – they even feel an urge to smoke when they see people using electronic cigarettes. Therefore, the use of e-cigarettes may cause smokers to smoke more and provoke a relapse in ex-smokers. Thus the use of e-inhalation products in non-smoking areas undermines an important side-effect of the Non-Smoking Acts: the motivation to smoke less or to stop completely.
But then, one of the authors is Martina Pötschke-Langer, a vintage tobacco control moon-howler of the first water who "fights for laws" so - it won't surprise you to know - has been working as adviser to the pharma-funded but unelected WHO since 1999, and who I'm pretty damn certain would have been front and centre during the totalitarian farce in Moscow earlier this month. She claims not to need 'science' to ban e-cigs because "we do not need a new nicotine product available on the market", so was an obvious choice as "curator of the knowledge" by Linda McAvan when she was rigging the EU's Tobacco Products Directive to drive through policies to kill off vaping for good.

Every day that the disgraceful assault on e-cigs by the tobacco control industry continues merely proves beyond doubt that it has never been about health. One day, politicians might start to notice instead of being manipulated and played by rancid self-enriching societal hooligans like Pötschke-Langer.

H/T Clive Bates on Twitter

Sunday 26 October 2014

Jane Ellison And The "Transparent" #COP6

Many of you will have seen the Sunday Express article today (also covered by the Mail) of an incredibly expensive party laid on by the potless WHO in Russia recently.
'Broke’ WHO host £1.6million caviar-fuelled beano
The Sunday Express can reveal the dinner gala, held last Monday, offered delegates Salmon carpaccio with cucumber tartar, Salmon as the main course, Vitello Tonnato beef with tuna fish sauce, Red caviar, Scallop with white wine sauce, a fish late of smoked halibut, smoked sturgeon, eel mix; Smoked eel, and Salmon under white syrup with flying fish caviar.
Very nice.
Of the five hotels assigned to delegates, two boast five-stars including the Government-owned Golden Ring Hotel, self-proclaimed as “one of the most luxurious” in Moscow, and the city’s Crowne Plaza which commands a majestic £1,169-a-day for a suite, though the WHO has secured a small corporate discount. 
Guests were even offered official excursions, including a visit to the Kremlin’s armory chamber. 
The article focusses on the cost of the whole shebang and sets it against the WHO's poverty pleas regarding the Ebola outbreak. All well and good, but much of the cost could have been covered by that nice Mr Putin, I suppose.

Or maybe even those even nicer (to the WHO) people in the pharmaceutical industry.
It’s the traditional ill wind that blows somebody good. The pharmaceutical companies bought a seat at the Moscow conference through its contributions to anti-tobacco nonprofits that have “observer” status, and were enabled to sit with delegates and lobby them where neutral observers were not allowed. The pharmaceuticals make nicotine patches, gums and mints that will become more popular if prohibitive tobacco taxes are imposed.
Considering the above and that the public were banned from the conference, closely followed by the press being physically restrained and excluded after a single negative article by the only US journalist covering the event, I don't think anyone could call COP6 "transparent", do you?

A $40,000 wifi facility was also wasted when tweets dried up on the second day, and Instagram accounts which had been sharing pictures went silent soon after. It seems that the WHO were desperate to ensure nothing escaped to the outside world about what they were discussing.

This was perhaps because of the other astonishing abuses of transparency and democratic procedure getting out of the sealed room - courtesy of the Washington Times's Drew Johnson - some deeply sinister.

With all those dissenters out of the way; with the hall packed with pharma lobbyists and security forcibly silencing any flies in the ointment, I suppose it made it quite easy for the FCA's original recommendation on e-cigs - for caution and a postponement of recommendations pending further study - to be steamrollered out in favour of encouraging wholesale bans. Then, world governments were ordered to implement these proposals - from a meeting which was compromised by pharma lobbying, exclusion of press scrutiny, lack of proper voting, intimidation of delegates and utter disregard for evidence - immediately.

This is the FCA, by the way, represented in Moscow by state-funded {cough} 'vaper's friend' Deborah Arnott of ASH. I kid you not.

Where this puts the Department of Health in the context of its government imposing sanctions on Russia - and the civil service code of conduct demanding impartiality - who knows? They certainly don't seem to be bothered by any accusations of hypocrisy, that's for sure, as our Phil rightly points out.
Last night Philip Davis MP questioned why Britain had sent two top-level dignitaries, including the Department of Health’s head of tobacco policy [Andrew] Black. 
Speaking to the Sunday Express, he said: “It’s quite worrying that, when we have an emerging Ebola crisis in the world, the WHO sees fit to waste money discussing tobacco controls. 
“I am asking why we continued to send British dignitaries to this showcase event when both the US and Canada saw fit to boycott it after it became clear that it would be hosted by Mr Putin.”
The whole thing should be shameful for the WHO and the Department of Health, but Under-Secretary of State for Health Jane Ellison sees absolutely nothing wrong with any of it!
Grahame Morris (Easington, Labour) 
To ask the Secretary of State for Health, what assessment he has made of the transparency and accountability of the Moscow Conference of the Parties to the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.
Ellison replied by stating when it occurred (I think Morris may have known that), listing some of the countries who attended and therefore concluding that it was transparent and accountable.
In addition, the next Conference to be held in 2016 will consider options that would further maximise transparency
"Further maximise" transparency? To describe a conference which minimised transparency on a Soviet scale and plans to do exactly the same again in two years time? Incredible!

Apparently, Jane Ellison is perfectly comfortable with delegate intimidation; denial of a free press; DoH staff enjoying hospitality possibly paid for by bribes from states in conflict with the UK; evidence-free demands from industry-entranced bodies; and global taxation regimes being decided without even so much as a vote from delegates to an unelected clique. In her book, this is termed as "maximising transparency".

The mind boggles as to what she would class as not being transparent.

Wednesday 22 October 2014

ASH Is Not The Vaper's Friend

Sigh. Another day; another vacuous e-cig ban is installed by the lazy and ill-informed.
E-cigarettes have been banned on the entire public transport network in London, the Standard has learnt. 
Passengers face fines for “vaping” on Tube, trains and buses as well as stations, platforms and depots. 
Transport for London implemented the ban in late August without any public announcement to  minimise the response from passengers.
We all know who's responsible for this, of course. ASH and their smokefree coalition, whose scaremongering transformed a country in 2007 from one which was largely unconcerned with ambient smoke to one which now empowers a minority of precious lambs in society who see vapour and either believe that they are about to die horribly, or complain of feeling "uncomfortable".

In other news today, e-cigs are being partly blamed/credited for a drop in tobacco sales.
The global cigarette market is expected to shrink this year as more people quit smoking or switch to e-cigarettes and as a weak global economy curbs their ability to spend.
This should surely be cause for Debs, Hazel or Amanda to pop down the Shoreditch Tesco Express for a bottle of bubbly, especially since they claim to be supportive of e-cigs. Yet I've often wondered why they sit idly by whilst bans on vaping like Transport for London's are spreading like wildfire.

Courtesy of the Sunday Times, we may have a clue.
THE estimated 2m people who use ecigarettes instead of tobacco face widespread bans on their use in coffee chains, shops and attractions. 
Starbucks confirmed this weekend it has banned the use of ecigarettes in its outlets, joining rail firms and airlines that already prohibit vaping. 
The announcement follows the publication of a report by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in August that recommended that ecigarettes should not be used indoors. Critics said the report was flawed and misleading. 
In addition to Starbucks, All Bar One, Caffe Nero, Pret A Manger, KFC and Nicholson’s pubs confirmed that they have banned ecigarettes. 
The National Portrait Gallery, the Tate Gallery, the Royal Opera House and the Natural History Museum are among main attractions that also prohibit their use. Some hotels, including Claridge’s in London, have also introduced bans.
Yes, and you can add all Premiership football grounds and Aviva Premiership rugby clubs to that as well -indoors and outdoors - as we see from the recent ASA consultation.

All of this activity and yet there is not a peep out of ASH. Neither do they stick their oar in at the Times, but the article does carry a graphic of polling performed by YouGov though.

I'm sorry, but I just don't believe those figures on e-cigs, since a similar BBC poll in an article in November last year entitled "Public 'seem to like' e-cigarettes" claimed "most support [e-cig] use in public places and don't want to see a ban".

But then, that was before all the negative publicity created by the World Health Organisation in August, and before this weekend's COP6 declaration that vape bans should be encouraged.

So we firstly have to look at the credibility of the pollsters. YouGov, of course, is ASH's pet as their President is Peter Kellner who also serves on ASH's board; has helped produce reports for them; and regularly displays his conflicts of interest. As far as I know, BBC Breakfast can't be accused of the same.

Unless Kellner has gone rogue, there is no chance whatsoever that ASH were not aware of this poll being sent to the Sunday Times, yet they didn't think it worthwhile to insist inclusion of a quote from them in support of e-cigs. Or perhaps they considered it but thought it more in their interests to support YouGov backing up their "delight" at the proposal for smoking bans in city parks. Priorities, eh?

Add into the mix that Deborah Arnott attended COP6 as a representative of the FCA; enthusiastically wrote some of their most vehement anti-smoking stuff, including threatening democratically-elected governments; but failed to speak out publicly against the FCTC's ludicrous recommendations towards e-cigs. Remember also that her organisation changed its terms of reference from controlling tobacco to controlling nicotine in 2010, and we get a full picture of what seems to be going on here.

ASH don't appear remotely concerned about vaping bans despite their public face of being a friend of the vaper. In fact they appear quite content to not rock the boat until the MHRA/TPD regulations are installed in 2016, and are complacent about COP6 recommendations rapidly resulting in wholesale restrictions on e-cigs for no justifiable reason.

It seems that ASH can issue press releases on a whim about all manner of irrelevant nonsense but remain consistently comfortable with disinformation and mounting e-cig bans which are - as the latest statistics prove - actively deterring people from switching from tobacco.

The silence is starting to become cacophonous.

Tuesday 21 October 2014

Mascot Watch #30: Questions A Tory Minister Can't Answer

Our esteemed blog mascot/knight has been ruffling feathers again.
Philip Davies (Shipley) took aim at Public Health Minister Jane Ellison in the Commons as he railed against plans to introduce cigarette plain packaging, stop smoking in cars where children are present and alcohol taxes. 
Tory backbencher Mr Davies told Ms Ellison: "You are pursuing a long list of nanny state proposals which we might have better expected from (Labour), including plain packaging of tobacco, outlawing parents smoking in cars and having higher taxes on alcohol. 
"Could you give us a list of which policies, if any, you're pursuing which have a Conservative flavour to them?"
Predictably, Jane didn't answer the question.
Ms Ellison replied: "Well, following on from (Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt's) previous answer, tobacco control is an integral part of tackling cancer in our country and I'm delighted to let the House know that smoking prevalence among adults in England fell to 18.4% in 2013. 
"This is a record low which means that the Government has hit its tobacco control plan target for 2015 two years early. 
"I'm sure even you would welcome that news."
No, Jane, our Phil was asking if you have any policies which could remotely be described as 'Conservative'.

These generally involve respecting freedom of choice, not crushing it; educating personal responsibility, not dismissing it; condemning coercion, not partaking in it; reducing taxation, not increasing it; and lessening bureaucracy, not encouraging it.

I might add that Jane's party also used to not be too happy about handing taxpayer cash to unaccountable groups with which to lobby government; acting on half-baked policies for which there is no evidence whatsoever of efficacy; counting liars amongst their parliamentary party; and the claiming of credit for something which had diddley squat to do with their un-Conservative policies.

OK, forget that last one, every politician likes to pretend they had a hand in events that occurred naturally, it's just how they roll. Silly me.

So, Jane, I have another question. Why do you think it is that voters are abandoning the lying, deceitful, question-avoiding, principle-abandoning, old parties en masse? Take your time, I left you some clues above.

Monday 20 October 2014

Hope Flickers At The #Battleofideas

There are days when I feel there is still hope of rekindling 21st century Britain's - once fierce but now suffocated and flickering - flame of respect for hard-won freedoms, and yesterday was one of them.

Not the whole day, though, which is both the exhilarating and infuriating appeal of the excellent annual Battle of Ideas festival, now in its tenth incarnation. Each of the sessions - as I and others have found in previous events - carries a capacity to throw up what I would term 'pantomime' baddies if it weren't for their very real existence.

It was at the second of two sessions I attended at the Barbican yesterday where self-described Blairite Dan Hodges became my prime villain for 2014. In answer to the question "Kindergarten culture: why does government treat us like children?" he preached to those of us who are obviously not as wise as him that "government treats people like children, because they act like them". You see, "from eating too much to polluting the planet", Dan is convinced that the public will always choose wrongly so need to be guided by those who know better. It's not that Dan thinks we are incapable of making the right decisions, far from it. He believes we can make the 'correct' decisions, but only if we are told to make them by politicians (no, I'm not making this up, I have witnesses).

His justification for being part of the elite who feel they are able to judge whether our decisions are correct or not - as usual for those who are blasé about freedom of choice - were the precedents of seat belt laws and the smoking ban. Describing himself as a "mild statist" and basing his arguments on our being part of a "collective", his view is that restricting our liberties for our own sake is an empirical good which is beyond debate. The smoking ban, for example, was incontestably good because "my pub is much better now because my clothes don't smell after a night out". He must be a very hard-working man if he owns a pub as well as writing for the Telegraph, I thought, but other publicans - especially ones whose clientèle and staff were perfectly happy without a ban but whose businesses have now closed - might not view the expropriation of their property rights in the same enthusiastic manner.

At least his point was made with honesty; it was solely his personal satisfaction he cited as proof of success, not some fake concocted health scare which bamboozled politicians who rely on state-funded vested interests for their information. You know, those politicians who are then adequately informed to impart their wisdom and make decisions for all of us in the form of one-size-fits-all illiberal laws, with no equivocation or exemptions of any kind. Err, in a nation of 64 million people.

Equally unconcerned by proscription of behaviour by the state was Dan's fellow panellist Martha Gill of the Economist. She saw a threat to freedom with not allowing assisted dying - something on which I can happily agree - but not with the 'research' of 'experts'. It's all good, see, because "people don't have time to read all the nutritional information of the back of a Haribo packet or read thousands of research papers about the hazardous effects of tobacco".

Her view of sin taxes was that they just make our free choices that bit more expensive - not that choice is being gradually extinguished - and she cheerfully dismissed JS Mill's widely-accepted theory on the effect of sin taxes.
“Every increase of cost is a prohibition, to those whose means do not come up to the augmented price.”
She was understandably not aware of events in Russia during the preceding week, but - such is her unshakeable belief in state interference - I'm not even sure a baldly stated aim of prohibition by way of taxation (while press types like Martha were excluded) would have swayed her if this had turned up during her regular spot as a Sky News newspaper reviewer.
You may ask, then, why I was so encouraged by this year's Battle of Ideas. Well, it's because of the quality of the mostly young audiences (which preliminary rumours from organisers were estimated as being a historic high of close to 5,000, but don't quote me on it).
We should, of course, expect our elected leaders to be able to pick apart flimsy, lazy and irresponsibly credulous views which harm our self-determination, but they don't. Instead, Dan and Martha were both skewered by an audience member - who I later found out was a student doctor - pointing out that a basic tenet of the medical profession is that no procedure can be embarked upon without the patient's consent. How, then, is population health cited as the reason for surgical evisceration of our liberties without our being able to opt out, he asked?

It's a question Dan was unable to answer, but he valiantly tried. He referred to children of parents with strict religious beliefs and said that the state should be required to step in on their behalf. "But we're talking about adults here", retorted the stubborn student. Martha then attempted to counter his principle with an example whereby a patient may be presented with such overwhelming evidence by his GP that refusing treatment would be unconscionable. "But they still have a choice", replied the future medic, to stymied silence.

Unfortunately for Dan (especially) and Martha, unless they had been present during the preceding session in the hothouse basement of the Pit Theatre they wouldn't have been aware that their trust in 'experts' and government expertise had already been rendered superficial and almost puerile.

The Barbican website states that the room holds 200, and I saw precious few empty seats as Timandra Harkness hosted the session entitled "The science of public health: where’s the evidence?" with customary humorous brilliance. It was a 90 minutes which was as entertaining as it was revealing.

Dr Michael Fitzpatrick, a real GP with real regular contact with patients, was proper box office. He began by strongly questioning why Lord Darzi - a surgeon - should be proposing parks smoking bans in London at all when evidence for health benefits of parks bans (there is none - DP) is not remotely associated with his area of expertise. He followed with a hilarious anecdote of being present at an event to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Richard Doll's world famous doctors' study where the distinguished doc was told to shut up for repeatedly telling the audience that the passive smoking health scare is bunkum, before Fitzpatrick moved on to pointing out that the 5 a day advice for fruit and vegetables government tells us is essential is based on zero evidence.

Henry Ashworth observed that those performing 'research' into perceived public health threats are almost always now the same people who advocate for laws to condemn behaviours, and that "when best evidence is merely a computer model, we have to be very careful" (minimum pricing, plain packs anyone?). He also astutely identified the fact that just about every 'public health' lobbying group can be linked with industries who will benefit from their pre-conceived research conclusions (e-cig bans come to mind).

Dr Elizabeth Pisani also had the aisles rocking with an account of an Australian 'public health' seminar where success was measured by highlighting how causes of death in years past were ranked in order and predictions for the future made. Those present trumpeted how cardiovascular disease was being beaten by prohibitionist policies, and that future problems would only be benign stuff like dementia and depression. Pisani noted that this was a great success, "after a lifetime of not drinking, smoking and eating all the correct foods, we can enjoy an old age of being demented and depressed".

Lastly, Michael Blastland - a statistician who is one of the few honest people to identify smoking ban heart attack 'miracles' as pure junk science, and on the BBC no less - queried why there is no big public health attack on "Big Sofa" considering inactivity is as bad as smoking. Perhaps, he suggested, it is because there is "no identifiable enemy". He also described a UCL anti-drinking campaign poster in the university bar - which was brutal in its message but resulted in an increase in drinking - to explain why he doubts that public health cares about the efficacy of their policies. "I find that interesting but I see no interest from 'public health' in it".

The panel may have been united in doubts about the public health industry and its grossly exaggerated expertise, but it was probably for the best because the mostly young audience in the post-panel Q&A were fizzing in condemnation. Sitting near to me was a 30 something who audibly agreed with everything she had heard. She was one of the first up to declare that she works with youths in college and university who present themselves to her insisting that they are unhealthy and require help; are terrified of eating the wrong foods; and worry themselves senseless about how much water they are supposed to be drinking.

An audience member from Brighton vehemently complained that calm enjoyment of life was "covered by the damp clammy hand of public health", while a representative from the Pregnancy Advisory Service declared her conflict of interest as being involved in issuing the press release which condemned anti-alcohol scare stories for causing petrified mums-to-be to demand abortions. She claimed that her team were contacted and put under pressure to retract it; that "you can't say that, it confuses the public health message, it should be simple and say there should be no drinking at all".

None of this would cut any ice with Dan and Martha. For them, 'public health' is an unimpeachable source of sage advice, and politicians the conduit for their expert opinion. I don't think Dan, for example, is even capable of considering questioning the core of the advice being offered. As a mild statist, it would be heresy to him.

For the the thousands who attended the Battle of Ideas, though, these are fundamental issues which need addressing and it's illogical that someone like Dan can assume everyone else is stupid and unable to make what he has decided - without in-depth investigation - are 'correct' decisions.

Yes. Yesterday at the Battle of Ideas proved that the concept of personal freedoms is not yet dead; that the flickering flame has not yet been extinguished in the young; and it was, most definitely, a very good day.

Saturday 18 October 2014

Mike Daube And His Funding Merry-Go-Round

Note to tobacco controllers: When you are instrumental in taking an appallingly prejudiced and stupid decision which makes global news and embarrasses your country - and you also lie about it - it's very likely to come back and smash your face in.

Last week, Australian anti-smoker obsessive Mike Daube was caught lying about the decision to ban the opera Carmen because it is set in a cigarette factory. To recap:
To cut a long story short, a state government body, Healthway - of which Mike Daube is a board member - forced the West Australian Opera to ditch a production of the 1875 composition because it is set in a cigarette factory. This prompted global hilarity at Aussie state censorship, but had Western Australia's Premier spitting blood about the embarrassment and the Australian Prime Minister chipping in with condemnation too.
Daube, being a tobacco controller, refused to show contrition for such an absurd outcome, and instead pretended it was nothing to do with him by blaming the opera company instead.

However, such was the absurdity of the decision and the embarrassment of Australian citizens, politicians and media, it didn't take long for someone to leak Healthway minutes which showed that Daube had openly lied to the media.
Leaked minutes of Healthway's April meeting show its arts advisory committee put forward three options to handle problems caused by a longstanding ban on funding performances that contained depictions of smoking. 
The minutes are directly at odds with versions of the funding row given by both Healthway and the WA Opera.  
But the minutes show the bid to water down the policy was vigorously opposed by anti-smoking campaigner Mike Daube.  
"Professor Daube stated there was no pressure for Healthway to change its current position," the minutes say.
Healthway have since been given a severe rap on the knuckles and told not to be so bloody stupid again. But the stink of Daube's actions must still be acrid to Australians because two different news sources have been researching his involvement with Healthway.

The West Australian looked into the funding handed out by the organisation, and the Australian has also run the story. It don't look good.
"TWO lobby groups run by anti-smoking activist Mike Daube have secured $2 million in ­taxpayer-funded grants from West Australian government agency Healthway since the Perth academic joined the board in 2010. 
The Australian Council on Smoking and Health, of which Professor Daube is president, has been one of the biggest recipients of Healthway’s grants over the past three years, receiving $225,000 in 2011, $231,000 in 2012 and $237,000 last year. 
Professor Daube’s campaigns at ACOSH include lobbying to ban smoking in people’s homes, mental health facilities and the nation’s prisons. Another group, the Public Health Advocacy Institute of WA, of which Professor Daube is director, has received $1.28m in grants since 2010. 
Grants made to ACOSH and PHAIWA since Professor Daube joined the Healthway board total $1.97m, according to an examination of the agency’s annual reports.
Healthway insist that Daube was not involved in the actual committees awarding these funds, so I suppose his pet projects receiving huge sums of taxpayer cash from an organisation Daube is a board member of is just an uncanny coincidence.

As a side note, this whole palaver - which could have been avoided if Daube hadn't exercised such a psychotic error of judgement - has also highlighted the insane nature of 'public health' funding in Australia.
The grants were made to two PHAIWA programs that promote public health advocacy through “professional development” and “knowledge transfer”. 
Professor Daube established the institute in 2008 at Curtin University, where he is employed. It lists Healthway as its biggest sponsor. The institute focuses on reducing obesity and alcohol consumption and runs courses to train “emerging leaders” in how to become the “advocates of tomorrow” in areas such as lobbying governments.
Just think about that for a moment. Not only has Daube made himself a decades long career of receiving government money to use for lobbying the government - a stunning abuse of taxpayer funds in itself - he is also using government money to train others how to use government money to lobby government!

And Healthway, of which he is a board member, is the organisation awarding government money to Daube's organisation ... which uses government money to train others how to use government money to lobby government.

Is your mind boggled yet?

Mike Daube's similarly obsessive mates - as we have come to expect of the tobacco control industry - are desperately pretending that the truth didn't happen and that he's done nothing wrong, but they should really be listening to advice from WA Today.
Number one rule, do not lie to the media as it will only come back to bite you. 
Quite. In this case, to the tune of $2 million.

Link Tank 18/10

That's yer lot.

When nanny staters say ‘choice’, what they really mean is ‘less choice’

The smoking ban: Just another form of illiberal leftist social control

The perfect pub: is there one left in Britain?

WHO battles climate and sugar, misses Ebola

London's beer flood - 200 years ago this week

Rand Paul: "Most interesting man in politics"

Putin's war against McDonald's

Spreadable beer is a thing now

Nigerian capital bans car horns

Japan's fast food battle of the black burgers (pic)

Thursday 16 October 2014

A Glimpse Through The Blackout Curtain

This week is proving to be a defining one for the tobacco control industry. They appear to have taken a decision to go all out and prove me right in saying that their motivation has nothing whatsoever to do with health.

First we had proven liar and debate-phobic Lord Narzi proposing an evidence-free policy which is solely designed to bully smokers and incubate hatred towards them, now it seems the WHO are going down the same route with e-cigs.

Snowdon explains.
Apologies for the poor quality of the image. You can click to enlarge, but this is what it says (all strikes and underlines are in the original. ENDs are 'Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems', a daft term that only 'public health' people use for e-cigarettes):
(b) minimize as far as possible potential health risks to ENDS users and protecting non-users from exposure to their emissions;

3. The Parties are invited to consider banning or regulating ENDS including as tobacco products, medicinal products or consumer products [or other categories as appropriate] taking into account a high level of protection for human health with special attention to vulnerable groups such as pregnant women.

Urges Parties to consider banning or restricting advertising, promotion and sponsorship of ENDs.
Again, there is no credible evidence anywhere that e-cigs are harmful to bystanders, nor will there ever be. Likewise, there is no credible evidence or reasonable justification for banning e-cigs - in fact, the research so far conducted points in entirely the opposite direction. None of this puts off the COP6 movers and shakers though because, between the 24 of them, they trousered over $10 million in the past two years ... tax free (page 19).

This is just how tobacco control rolls. They increasingly don't deal in proper evidence and facts, just whatever affords them the greatest income. They don't care that outdoor smoking bans will have no positive effect on public health - they know that they won't - they just care that they have to be seen doing something or their funding gets canned.

With the WHO and e-cigs it is even more damning. They couldn't give a monkey's chuff if all the former smokers who have quit using e-cigs revert to tobacco, they merely see smokers quitting without their "help" as a danger to their future prosperity.

So they do what tobacco control has always done; simply repeat lies over and over until the shallow and ignorant in governments believe it's real. They are the adult equivalent of a kid throwing itself on a supermarket floor in tantrum and screaming until they get what they want.

I don't have intricate knowledge of the many deranged tobacco-hating delegations to this shameful gathering in Putin's backyard, but I can certainly comment on our own.

It's interesting to note that ASH (who helped Narzi to lie in 2009 remember?) went out of their way to say how "delighted" they were yesterday about a policy deliberately designed to attack smokers - which they should be appalled by considering their website claims they don't do such things - yet they've been silent on this issue today despite recently positioning themselves as the vaper's friend.

They regularly say bugger all about the rising tide of e-cig bans all over the country, let alone challenge the organisations proposing them or - God forbid - actively throw their weight behind vapers to get the bans rescinded. Today, their staff are in Moscow while this dangerous buffoonery is being played out but - since the public and press have been barred - we don't have a clue what ASH delegates said about it. They could have been nodding it all through enthusiastically and we'd be none the wiser - how convenient, eh?

So perhaps Debs Arnott holds no sway whatsoever with the FCTC; perhaps she has been overruled by the Department of Health's Andrew Black; or perhaps she's not really that bothered if laws start springing up all over the place banning or stupidly regulating e-cigs. The silence from Moscow and on ASH's media timelines certainly don't suggest her organisation is spitting blood about the FCTC putting forward such nonsensical proposals, does it?

If the final edit comes out anywhere close to what the picture above suggests, my guess is that ASH will say something along the lines of "well, we tried, but there was nothing we could do" ... and then just carry on as usual while vaping is systematically strangled. No big fuss, no stepping out of line and risking a customary tobacco control Mafia blackballing. Just sitting back taking the cash and hoping no-one will give them too much grief.

All just supposition until refuted (ha!) but I'll finish by just leaving this here.

Wednesday 15 October 2014

Out Of The Woodwork

So, it seems that the London parks smoking ban suggested in a report commissioned by Boris isn't quite the slam dunk it first appeared.

But the period of time between the press release going out in the early hours and Boris's statement at lunchtime was open season for every irrational smoker-hating whacko, psychopath, and berserker to spew their bile on every possible platform. Lord Narzi and Sally Davies effectively signalled to thousands of society's most vile that hyperbolic hatred was officially sanctioned by the authorities.

Prime pick of a host of nasty screwballs calling in to a phone-in on Radio 5Live this morning was a doctor who revelled in the proposal because "if I tell a smoker not to smoke, he says he has as much right as me to use the park, but this law would entitle me to approach smokers and tell them to put their cigarette out".

A writer in the Metro considered he'd been given the green light to refer to smokers as "dis-gus-ting!".
It’s going to be welcomed by the silent majority of Londoners who scream in their heads ‘you’re dis-gus-ting!’ whenever anyone near them lights up. 
I know because I'm one of them. I think smoking is one of the most revolting things devised by humanity. 
It’s worse than that, though, because of the unpleasant knowledge that the stink of their revolting habit has passed through their tar-encrusted innards before washing all over you.
Meanwhile, over at the Mirror, Fleet Street Fox was penning similar stuff.
They stand outside pubs, puffing a fug to poison others trying to get through the door for a very important gin. 
They stand on street corners, exhaling wildly at passers-by. 
And they meander slowly along pavements leaving a trail of nasty nicotine to enter the unsuspecting nostrils of their fellow pedestrians. 
If smoking is your choice, then NOT smoking is mine. Keep it to yourself, you ill-mannered walking bonfire of suicidal stupidity.
Including bringing up a psycho anti-smoker favourite, the smoker-whacking snipers.
They are determinedly addicted and insensible to public health messages so the only effective method of stopping them lighting up in parks would need to involve snipers in trees, a method of removing their oxygen until they repent, or enabling vigilantes to set them alight and see how they like it. 
All of which, even a professor and a dame would have to admit, is a lot of effort when the rate of smoking is in a long-term steady decline and will probably sort itself out, if only because all the stupid people end up dead.
Everywhere on social media schizoids felt almost compelled to talk of "clouds of smoke" clogging up acres of parklands; that there is "nothing worse" than being near a smoker; that smokers were "killing children"; and, of course, that the ban doesn't go far enough ... smoking should be banned completely.

It's not that the state and their quangoes create these sick people, irrational smoke-haters have been around forever along with temperance fruitcakes, racists and anti-semites. It's just that civil society normally demands that they keep their odious, spittle-flecked bigotry to themselves. But when the state and/or its institutions legitimise these hateful views, we get Carrie Nations, Jewish businesses joyfully being vandalised and South Africans talking openly of their hatred of kaffirs.

It's an effect we've seen today, and one which ASH - who claim not to like smokers being attacked or condemned - say they are absolutely "delighted" about. Even Simon Chapman recognises that bans outdoors are "ethically unjustifiable", but ASH's ethics fly out of the window when an opportunity arises to express their joy in bullying others.

This is why it's becoming a mantra here now that we are most definitely on the side of the angels. What can be more civilised than respecting the preferences and life choices of others, and organising our own lives to fit in happily around them?

By contrast, ASH and their fellow professional finger-waggers only encourage the intolerant, anti-social and vile in society, while state bodies which listen to them pander to the most disgusting, base and grubby of human flaws.

Vote Tory, Get Labour

I take it that today's news means Boris has by extension placed himself in Room 101?

He is absolutely correct. The evidence of harm from secondhand smoke indoors is stratospherically exaggerated, so his gesture of lighting up a cigar as a signal of freedom was welcomed in the video's comments by all but a sparse few.

The evidence of harm from smoke in a huge open air park, though, is non-existent. So what's all this pony about, Boris?
Trafalgar and Parliament squares smoking ban call
Smoking could be banned in Trafalgar and Parliament squares as well as the city's parks if a report by London's Health Commission is implemented. 
The smoke free plan would see the mayor use his by-law powers over Trafalgar Square and Parliament Square and his influence over the Royal Parks, the board of which he appoints.
If it's not backed by evidence of harm to others, the only possible goal of this for the Mayor and his unelected report writers is to dictate to others how they should be living their lives. With fines and menaces.

Couple this with his other proposals - amongst a huge list - of pointless poor-bashing minimum alcohol pricing, mandatory and costly traffic light labelling of restaurant menus, and banning fast food outlets within 400 metres of schools - all without the inconvenience of having to be passed through a parliamentary vote - and the last vestiges of Boris's liberal credentials just flew down the khazi.

But get this! The a la carte menu of unelected lefty quangocrat policies (see Word doc download here) is being announced today at County Hall by Tory Boris and ... Labour peer Lord Darzi!

Vote Tory, Get Labour!

Labour and Conservative, bessie mates in ordering you about
Last mention of Lord Darzi on these pages was when he was caught deliberately lying to parliament - with eager help from ASH - about the cost of the tobacco display ban to convenience stores.

Other cheerleaders for this extremist manifesto are the incompetent and embarrassingly gullible Chief Medical Officer Sally Davies, and world-renowned public and democratic process-ignoring health fascist Michael Bloomberg.

In light of the recent big strides by UKIP, is this part of the big plan to regain credibility for professional politicians in the main three parties? By joining forces to declare war on what people freely choose to eat, drink and smoke?

They just don't get it, do they? No wonder the voting share for the entrenched - and on this evidence, allied - political establishment is going down faster than a nympho in a rugby club locker room.

Tuesday 14 October 2014

Postcard From #COP6

If you've not been able to keep up with the breathless excitement emanating from the WHO's anti-smoking conference in Moscow, here are a few highlights.

Day 1: A quite fantastic opener with the public excluded in case anyone looks at the delegates in an unapproved manner.

Delegates to Moscow were really happy to be able to distract attention from their being in Russia despite planes being shot down, human rights being liquidated, widespread sanctions, and the US and Canada boycotting the event ... by welcoming North Korea's best anti-smokers after paying for their travel expenses to be there.

Margaret Chan so happy to take a break from that boring Ebola stuff.

Everyone attending is dead happy about the catering. A bit steep at more than $12 for a tea and $45 for breakfast, but it's very nice and, who cares! It's taxpayers who foot the bill.

Twitter feed switched off because there is too much comment from the public, but other means of using the hugely expensive internet access have been devised.

And so to bed ... at cost to others of £200+ per night. Party with those crazy guys from Kim Jong Il's delegation from 9pm till late.

Day 2: Some guy wrote an article which didn't love the FCTC, so the press, obviously, have to be forcibly ejected too.
Reporters were forcibly removed and restrained Tuesday at the World Health Organization (WHO) meeting on tobacco control in Moscow. 
Washington Times editorial writer Drew Johnson told The Daily Caller that he was physically escorted out of the meeting’s convention hall by a guard while another reporter was physically restrained from entering the room, even though WHO never formally voted to restrict the media from the event.
The North Korean party animals loved that bit, made them feel right at home.

Margaret Chan was enjoying herself too, escaping all the tiresome paperwork in Geneva ...
... in favour of a well-deserved break fluttering eyelashes at a real macho man.

With all those people barred who could have raised objections, we got our work done in double-quick time too!
All indications were that the global tobacco tax would not pass until Thursday or Friday, if at all. Without the public and the media there to watch, delegates ratified the tax almost immediately.
Just the way we like it.

Looking forward to day 3 now. Party in the Libyan Health Minister's room tonight, his fascinating anecdotes of working with Gaddafi are to die for.
Anyway, excited as I am, I must stop writing now Jane, me and Deborah from ASH have lots to do tomorrow.

Andrew Black

PS You'd love the guys from Bhutan, on a freebie but with some great ideas.

Losers Weepers

By way of update to Sunday's post on "weird" UKIP policies, my transatlantic fellow jewel robber NorCal David G took me to task for not remembering this (as usual, click to enlarge).

So, UKIP's "weird" policy of amending the smoking ban to something more reasonable and grounded in common sense was once considered by the Conservatives too, an admission in itself that the law was excessive. More fool them for discarding the idea.

What's more, Andy Burnham admitted that his constituents were still angry at their communities being ripped apart twelve months afterwards and did absolutely sod all about it (I note that he has never sued the Sun about the article).

I reckon most people would find it very 'weird' that politicians would ignore all the obvious protests being thrown their way and, instead, listen to a comparatively tiny clique of unaccountable, anti-social state-funded loudmouths.

If UKIP then come along and pick up the ball (and the accompanying millions of votes) that the other - obviously utterly detached from the public mood - parties have dropped, then there can hardly be complaints. Now can there?

Monday 13 October 2014

Not News: Aussie Tobacco Controller Caught Lying

As good friend of this blog Mark Wadsworth said to me at an event in January last year, it's not really big news that anti-smoking organisations lie any more - it is, after all, what they do best - however, I still find it staggering how blatant and unashamed they are about it.

The latest to have been caught lying his arse off is Mike Daube over the ban on the opera Carmenreported on recently by Snowdon. You may remember Daube being the one who thinks passive smoke is more dangerous than exhaust fumes in a drive-in queue; who thinks Cadbury's are evil for sponsoring the Olympics; and who believes e-cigs are a tobacco industry conspiracy.

To cut a long story short, a state government body, Healthway - of which Mike Daube is a board member - forced the West Australian Opera to ditch a production of the 1875 composition because it is set in a cigarette factory. This prompted global hilarity at Aussie state censorship, but had Western Australia's Premier spitting blood about the embarrassment and the Australian Prime Minister chipping in with condemnation too.

Daube then promptly apologised for his organisation's huge error of judgement ...

... no, of course he didn't. The oleaginous creep instead tried to save face by swearing it wasn't Healthway's fault and blaming the opera company!
He told Radio 6PR that if WA Opera had no alternative, Healthway would not have had a problem with Carmen, providing smoking elements were excluded from any potential performance at schools. 
"If we're talking about censorship, this wasn't censorship because it was WA Opera's decision."
This, as it turns out, was a lie from the top drawer; a real tobacco control industry humdinger! You see, not only did Healthway leave the WA Opera no option whatsoever, but it was none other than Mike Daube himself who was the prime factor in ensuring the ban on Carmen went ahead.
Leaked minutes of Healthway's April meeting show its arts advisory committee put forward three options to handle problems caused by a longstanding ban on funding performances that contained depictions of smoking. 
The minutes are directly at odds with versions of the funding row given by both Healthway and the WA Opera. 
But the minutes show the bid to water down the policy was vigorously opposed by anti-smoking campaigner Mike Daube. 
"Professor Daube stated there was no pressure for Healthway to change its current position," the minutes say. 
"He stated that while some art productions may warrant a smoking component, organisations would need to understand that for the season where smoking appears as part of an arts performance, they would be ineligible for Healthway sponsorship." 
"The board provided strong support to maintain Healthway's current position of not sponsoring arts organisations that allow smoking on stage."
So, erm, it was WA Opera's decision only in the sense that they could perform another opera with money, or Carmen without any money.

What's more, it turns out that this isn't the first time it's happened.
WHEN the Blue Room Theatre in Perth staged an acclaimed play about addiction several years ago, lurking in the opening night audience was a bureaucrat who demanded one scene be axed from future performances. 
The man watching the first local production of British playwright Martin Crimp’s The Country was employed by the West Australian government’s health body Healthway, one of the theatre’s main sponsors. 
“He came to us afterwards to tell us we had to remove one scene that featured smoking,” recalled Blue Room former executive director Jansis O’Hanlon. 
“We weren't allowed to have smoking or language about smoking, and we weren't allowed to show any smoking paraphernalia ... The play was about addiction and there was also a scene with (heroin) needles, but they had no problem with us showing that.”
Beggars belief, doesn't it?
Ms O’Hanlon said the theatre withdrew from the sponsorship deal rather than compromise its artistic integrity. “It was a big gulp for us to say no,” she said, recalling that Healthway also had demanded to approve all scripts."
This, it seems, is what Daube and the tobacco control industry call 'choice'. It's their way or the highway, with censorship front and centre as a reason for their sponsorship. And if you get caught ... lie. Erich Honecker would be so proud.

As we are on an arts theme, perhaps paraphrasing a Shakespeare meme is in order. Mendacity, thy name is tobacco control.


A Smoker's Guide To New York

Note: I am not Dick Puddlecote.

Hi all. It has been around 18 months since my last contribution on Dick's blog so a reintroduction is in order. I am a business travelling bear who writes occasional posts drawing on my experiences to offer useful travelling information for smokers. You can read my other posts under the Bear Tripper tag.

I've just returned from a trip with a colleague to New York and thought you'd like to hear how even with Mayor Bloomberg's anti-smoking regime smokers are catered for quite adequately.

Hotels: Avoid the non-smoking hotels. Marriott banned it a few years ago for example. Do a little research when choosing your hotel and make sure you request a smoking room in the additional requests box, or if asked about room type when booking. Above all, ask when checking in. Nobody asks as they don't expect to find smoking rooms. This worked at the Crowne Plaza in Times Square. Not only did they have a smoking room, but it was available immediately (before usual check in time). Hotel Pennsylvania (opposite Penn Station) has them too. It is a basic hotel, but well situated and has the bonus of a number of smoking rooms.

Parks: Smoking is not allowed within parks but the signs are so very small you could miss them. The other issue is that there are no clear boundaries as to what is classed as the park area which is confusing in both Central Park and Battery Park. Liberty Island doesn't appear to have specific smoking areas but Ellis Island has a smokers post to left of main museum entrance which we took to mean you could smoke.

Streets: Open season for smokers. There are smokers posts here and there. There was some talk of smoking being banned at Times Square but there are smokers posts outside hotels in that area and I spotted a police car parked up in main area with driver's hand sticking out smoking a cigarette! The streets are littered with butts which looks terrible. There are smokers posts and bins which can be used. We used portable ashtrays and emptied them in bins. No point helping the anti-smoking agenda by littering!

Venues: The world famous Studio 54 were OK with you leaving to have a smoke outside at the interval. They just asked that you kept your ticket with you for re-admittance. Madison Square Garden does not allow this. You are in for the whole show. However, it was amusing that a couple sat near us flouted the ban and smoked at their seats. Nobody said anything and the people behind them asked them to blow the smoke in their direction. Still, it could have gone horribly wrong so just check the venue website for interval pass outs or commit for the evening. Contrary to popular belief, us smokers can go without a cig for a few hours.....proven by the fact you have spent 8 hours on a plane to get there in the first place!

Bars: The grandfathering law is quite unusual, but marvellous. There are bars where you can smoke. In addition, you will find outdoor areas which allow smoking. Just ask first! Downtown is more relaxed and that is where we found the smoking bars. Karma on W 4th street (Avenue 1) was a bit 'spit and sawdust' but boasted happy hour each day from 1pm till 9pm and the staff were friendly. Also, sitting at the bar meant fun conversation with smoking locals. Circa Tabac on Watts Street (end of Broome Street) was an absolute find. It was a little more expensive but a lovely place. If staying uptown, it was also handy for Spring Street subway and was a lot more comfortable during the week. The Friday night was a lot busier, but some may enjoy that more. Both bars had good music, but not loud enough to stifle conversation, so ideal.

I am off to Seoul next week for a long trip so will have some more insights to share on my return. I will try not to be a stranger here again.

In the meantime, if you have any good (or bad) experiences of New York - or any other travel information for anywhere on smoking or e-cig vaping for that matter - please share as I'd be very interested to read them.