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Thursday 31 May 2012

If Only We Could Ban Everything

The World Hate Organisation's (WHO) propaganda machine is operating at warp factor 9 today to inflict World No Tobacco Day on the unsuspecting and wearied global population.  It's ongoing mission is to seek out and destroy freedom and free speech tobacco companies' interference:
The campaign will focus on the need to expose and counter the tobacco industry's brazen and increasingly aggressive attempts to undermine global tobacco control efforts.

This is the exact uniform that every Big Tobacco employee wears, so they should be easy to spot.
Personally, I would like to stop all WHO interference in my life. I don't need nannying technocratic fuckwits like these people saving me from myself.  That's all I have to say about it.  Feel free to peruse their hate literature...

So, in honour of a global culture of "ban everything" I thought I'd see what the general UK population would like to ban these days by checking the e-petitions site.

In the Slippery Slope category, here we see someone asking to ban advertising of baby formula. Seriously? Formula?  Is it really as bad as cigarettes?  Apparently, yes:
Ban all advertising of formula including follow-on milks
This petition calls for the government to ban all advertising of formula including 'follow-on' milks.
The advertising of these products undermines and misinterprets the WHO and NHS breastfeeding recommendations and guidelines.

'WHO strongly recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life. At six months, other foods should complement breastfeeding for up to two years or more'

'Exclusive breastfeeding (with no other food or drink) is recommended for around the first six months of a baby's life. After this, breastfeed alongside other foods for as long as you and your baby wish. This might be into their second year or beyond.'

Good to see the WHO's involvement there. Never mind those women who are physically incapable of breastfeeding and might want to know about alternatives.  I suppose they'll just have to starve their newborns.  Although, I do see a cottage industry possibility here. If you have any spare breast milk, you know what to do.
* * *
Next up, and this one is clearly meant as parody (I hope) but I like it, let's ban Google. It has 7 signatures so far. (emphasis added to denote initial facetiousness):
Ban Google
We, the undersigned, wish for the banning of Google.

This sparsely used search engine carries out its purpose by providing links to desired sites.
However, with one search, it provides users with hundreds of thousands of torrent and other illegal sites connected to shady activity. If the judicial system is willing to ban other sites for part of their user base illegally downloading data (see:, we should ban Google on exactly the same principle.
I recommend signing that one immediately.
* * *
In the "Lonely Hearts Scrooge" category, let's ban Christmas:
Ban Christmas
Chistmas (sic) is a time of enourmous (sic) emotional distress for the lonely and as such is discriminatory and repressive and should be banned.

Christmas always sees a high rate of suicide which wouldnt (sic) happen if Christmas was banned. As such Christmas is dangerous to peoples (sic) health and an event we can do with out.

Christmas is also expensive and in this time of austerity we can do without it.
Sorry, Santa. The 99% don't want you.
* * *
Carrying on with the "Holy Shit! Does This Really Exist? WTF?" category, let's ban cage fighting for children:
Ban Child Cage Fighting
Ban under 16 cage fighting and any event which promotes violence upon and between children for adult entertainment
We'll, I'm intrigued. Where's the next match? 
* * *
Next we have the "Is This Really a Problem?" petition asking to ban those pesky flying lanterns (160 signatures by the way):
Ban Chinese Lanterns
We want the Government to ban Chinese Lanterns which are littering the countryside, dangerous to animals, a fire hazzard (sic), and unsafe when let off.
Shh! Don't tell Prof. Brian Cox about this one. Pretty sure I saw him setting several of these aloft in his Wonders of the Solar System / Universe series...  Thanks, Brian. Thanks a-fucking-lot.
* * *
OK, if all that weren't enough, here we have someone asking to ban man's best friend:
Ban Dog Ownership
Ban all dog ownerhip (sic) in the UK except for single pensioners and all working dogs such as police, army, sheep dogs, guide and hearing dogs. Only dogs of practical benefit to society should be allowed.
Why stop at dogs, mate?  Perhaps only people of practical benefit should be allowed to exist. Yeah?  Sorry, pet lovers, no dogs for you.
* * *
Back to the always popular "Must Be Parody" category, let's ban marriage for straight couples:
Ban Heterosexual Marriage
It is unacceptable that this country continues to allow heterosexual marriage.

It is unnatural and against nature.

The heterosexual agenda is now being pushed in our newspapers and our schools.

For years now, explicity (sic) heterosexual interactions have been displayed in our TV, film and advertising.
Heterosexual marriage takes this agenda a step too far and this must be stopped. Ban heterosexuals from getting married and instead allow them a civil partnership like everyone else.
At least it's not asking to ban sex between straight people. That would be a step too far.
* * *
I could keep going all day here, but one last one to protect children from their beauty pageant-loving parents:
Ban Botox 4 Babes
I am appalled that mother's (sic) are allowed to legally inject Botox into their daughter's (sic) faces both here and in the USA - some as young as 8 years old! This practise it is not only immoral - but also child abuse.

This dreadful behaviour MUST BE MADE ILLEGAL

In the USA the Bill to Ban Botox for minors (A3838) is on the government’s agenda - advancing in the US Senate to become LAW. Shouldn't we in the UK not do the same? YES Children do not have wrinkles! Children’s skin has not yet finished growing!

Mother's (sic) are unaware of the potential injury they may inadvertently inflict.

Most mother's (sic) are not specifically medically trained in the procedure and do not know the location of the muscles in their child's (sic) faces the muscles. Therefore they are potentially injecting blindly! WORSE STILL - Out of date or banned Botox substitutes are available on the Internet and may be used to save money! For more information and links
I'm sure she means well, even if she's completely unable to punctuate or put together a grammatically-correct sentence (e.g. "Shouldn't we in the UK not do the same.").  Just a tip, dear.  I'm 40-years-old, and my skin hasn't finished growing either.  It never stops growing.
* * *

There you have it, people. Enjoy your day of banning everything we don't like because there is no other solution.  

For more silly potential bans on everything, follow this link to the government's e-petition site:

Wednesday 30 May 2012

Compassion and Consideration is the Wrong Message - Updated

In these modern times where it's completely acceptable and encouraged to torment smokers relentlessly, it's very nice to see that one UK hospital wants to build some smoking shelters for patients and visitors. Typically we see hospitals seeking all-out bans on the property, forcing smokers to walk hundreds of metres, cross busy roads, hide in bushes, and sometimes die of exposure from the cold.  So, this blog thanks The James Paget Hospital for its compassion and consideration.
Hospital spokesman Kirk Lower said: "We encourage people not to smoke, but the reality is that people want to and we're trying to manage that situation."
See that? Encourage. That's OK. Encourage away, people. Do not force. Do not legislate. Do not be nannying tyrants. Encouragement is acceptable.

The main issue for the hospital is that people are lighting up outside the main entrance despite the no smoking signs. To address that problem, the hospital feels it is best to build some shelters away from the entrance.  That's a good solution, as long as they aren't a million miles away. Still, I think it's pretty cool to handle it this way, rather than sending out staff or guards to harass people, which wasn't working for them.

This plan is definitely not cool for Dr Patrick Thompson, chairman and/or patient representative of the patients' group Norfolk LINk.  How does he feel about the hospital's compassion? Dr Thompson said (emphasis added):

[...] rebuilding smoking shelters on hospital grounds sent out the wrong message.

"We'd like the site to be a non-smoking site, but 'the site' is only covered by the building and not the outside areas.

"We don't want to see it happen, but I think to encourage smokers moving away from where they are at the moment and have to walk even further - they might consider given up even more."

Dr Thompson
Image via

So, this blog would also like to give Dr Thompson two fingers for his lack of compassion and consideration towards smokers.  It's people like you that make our lives miserable. I don't suppose you even realise that, or care what we think.

Are these yours, sir? 
Image via Apple Copywriting

UPDATE - With thanks to Christopher Snowdon for tweeting it, the BBC has also produced this video on the hospital building the shelters for smokers. Worth watching. 

Tuesday 29 May 2012

Put A Little Spin On That

In America, they say "put a little english on it."  They're talking about putting some side (or spin) on a cue ball when playing pool. I don't know how it came to be called english, but maybe Americans should start saying "put a little scottish on it."

The AP and are reporting "record numbers try to stop smoking" in Scotland.  Big emphasis on the word try.  At least the AP's article accurately reports the actual quit rate after one year, that rate being only 6%. Scotland's news release on its site doesn't bother telling you that. I'll get to that percentage in a moment. Technically, the data for 2011 is still preliminary since it cannot be finalised until after the end of this year.  But that doesn't stop Scotland's public health minister from putting on a brave face and a whole lot of spin.  From both articles, Michael Matheson says:
2011 saw the largest ever increase in Scots trying to stop smoking, which is the biggest single step anyone can take to improve their health. I welcome that one in ten smokers - over 100,000 Scots - took advantage of NHS Scotland stop smoking services last year . . .
OK, that's great. Right?  I mean, if you want to quit smoking, do it. I support that 100%. It's your body. You decide what you do or don't do to it.

But you know, something is bothering me. I can't quite place it... Oh!  I know.  It's this line from Matheson (emphasis added):
We know that most smokers want to quit and enjoy the many health, social and economic benefits of being a non-smoker.
Is that right, Matheson? Social and economic benefits?  Really? Don't you fucking dare...  Wasn't it you fuckers who denormalised us?  We don't have a social life because you arseholes kicked us out of our pubs and made them utterly unsociable for us. And is it not you nannying tyrants that are taxing us to death with enormous duties on tobacco goods?  You caused this for -- what exactly?  A measly fucking 6% quit rate after one year in 2010?

Value for money, this programme of yours?  Let's see.  First, how much did Scotland allocate towards promoting NHS cessation services?  As best as I can determine, it looks like about 11 million pounds for 2010 (pdf - pg 7).  This doesn't even count prescriptions for nicotine replacement therapy, so the spend figure must be a lot higher. Nonetheless, let's look at the figures, shall we?

On page 9 of the NHS Smoking Cessation Service Statistics (Scotland) 1st January to 31st December 2011 report, we see:
There were a total of 83,925 quit attempts made in 2010 (revised 2010 figures). Of these, 32,857 were recorded as a successful quit at one month (self-reported), 14,294 were recorded as quit at three months and 4,927 quit at 12 months. This represents a quit rate of 39% at one month, reducing to 17% at three months and 6% at 12 months...
 Here's a chart if the text is too much for you:
One-month quits are bollocks - they don't count.  Three-month quits, getting there, but apparently you can have up to five cigarettes and still be considered quit. (Nice way to pad out the three-month figures.)  One-year quits are pretty good, although two-year quits would be better, since that's how long it supposedly takes for all the damage caused by smoking to be reversed.  Anyway... for actual "successes" of one-year quits, it comes out to spending about £2,232.60 per person. Another way of looking at this is that £10,340,000 was wasted (i.e £131 per person of the 94% that failed to quit.) That's probably not a fair way to look at it, but a 6% quit rate is horrible. The cessation programme is not working for 94% of people, and no one would consider a 6% success rate as being successful. No one would consider 17% or 39% successful either.  If you're not over 50% it simply doesn't count.

Even so, the smoking rate in Scotland has increased according to this article.  So what do you do?  You spend even more money for the next three years to lose the battle.
£40 million over the next three years on a broad programme of smoking reduction measures including NHS cessation services and smoking prevention activities across Scotland.
That works out to spending over 13.3 million per year for cessation services that do not fucking work. Economic benefits my arse.  Let me give you an image to illustrate that futility:
Image via Fotosearch and some other blog out there on the web
Maybe you ought to stop giving money to ASH Scotland (pdf)?  It ain't working for you. They are stealing your money for no perceivable gain.  None.

Oh, and perhaps you ought to stop putting a little "scottish" on the ball and start telling the truth and stop wasting taxpayer money on things that do not work. People are going to smoke. I'm just sayin' is all.

Australia Gets Award For Hating Its Citizens

Reported here at the Australian Medical Association's website, ASH Australia and their merry band of hating denormalisers have awarded their government a Global Leadership Award.  Whoopee!
The Award – presented by the AMA, the Australian Council on Smoking and Health (ACOSH), and Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) Australia – was accepted on behalf of the Government by Health Minister, Tanya Plibersek, at the AMA National Conference in Melbourne.

AMA President, Dr Steve Hambleton, said the Australian Government won the Global Leadership Award for leading international action on tobacco over the past year.

“Australia is setting an example for the rest of the world to follow in the ongoing battle to stop people smoking and destroying their health, and is not afraid to take on Big Tobacco in the process,” Dr Hambleton said.
Nice going, Australia. You suck.

Monday 28 May 2012

Of Course Tobacco is Unique - Redux

Via Angela Harbutt on Twitter and the Irish Times, we can once again see that there is no other product on the planet as uniquely capable for harming consumers as tobacco.  Not buying that?  Neither am I.  Now alcohol companies are under threat to have their advertising and sponsorship taken away in Ireland.  Won't be long before plain bottles, because that will be the last "loophole" of marketing to close.  Let's have a quick peek at some quotes:
Referring to the research, Mr McConalogue said “alcohol abuse has become a cancer in our society in recent years” and he demanded to know the Government’s response to the report and what it would do to address the problem.
That one is particularly good. It's got the word "cancer" in it. That ought to be enough. But no, it is not enough. It's never enough. He demands government to address it. 
The report also said alcohol marketing led to young people starting to drink at a younger age and drinking more. And 16-21-year-olds “list alcohol advertisements as five of their top 10 favourite advertisements”.
Fucking-A. Sold on that one -- it is just like CRUK's shocking, shocking, SHOCKING video. If kids like it, then clearly it should be banned.  One last quote:
Mr McConalogue highlighted the cost of alcohol-related illness in Ireland at €1.2 billion in 2007 and alcohol-related crime cost €1.19 billion that year. Alcohol abuse was responsible for 2,000 hospital beds being occupied every night.
Good god on a gecko!  Drinking costs the health service billions every year! The bloody cheek of you selfish drinkers!  None of this vaguely sounds like ASH's claim that there is no precedent, that tobacco is unique.  No, not at all.

So who is this Charlie McConalogue? Nobody, really. Just a spokesperson on children for the Republican Party Fianna Fáil in Donegal North East. Looks like this young whippersnapper is trying to carve a niche for himself in the protect the children racket.  Good luck with that, Chuck. 

Can you all please stop having children now so we few adults who are capable of thinking for ourselves may have a life free from the imperious nanny state?  It's getting old, this neo-puritan prohibition.

Monday Madness

Here are a few things to start your day and annoy you.

We are the 75%

The Independent reports that one-quarter of Britons would cheerfully buy stolen goods from that guy down at the pub. A little over 2000 people were surveyed -- is that even a statistically significant sample in order to make the bold claim that 25% of us are criminals?  From a population of over 62 million, 2000 people equals about 0.000035%.  I mean, we're not even in the 1% range at all.  But it gets better. Who took part in the survey?

The research was undertaken by home insurer LV= and involved interviews with burglary victims and convicted thieves.

So let me get this straight.  Setting aside the criminals who are probably exaggerating, as they are wont to do, the others are people who have had their stuff nicked and I would imagine they are pretty fucking livid.  Perhaps they're off out to the pub to see if they can recover their stolen goods, and in a fit of rage and despair for lack of finding their trusty iPod, iPad, iPhone or anything else that begins with a lowercase letter "I", they end up buying a bottle of Chanel perfume as a consolation gift for themselves.  At least they will smell pretty.  Nice research there, LV=.  Now, if they had interviewed little old ladies at Sunday Service and got the same result, then that would have been something. Eh?  In any case, the headline is misleading.  It should read "Quarter of Britons Surveyed Would Buy Stolen Goods."  That is more accurate.  Also, not one mention of illicit tobacco in that article. I'm shocked. Truly.  And annoyed.

"There Is Something Very Wrong With This Country" - Dick Puddlecote

Pretty much everything DP has been posting up lately is making me very annoyed and angry.  From how the plain packs consultation is rigged; how the evidence is also rigged; and now this good, short piece of investigative journalism of a little incestuous chicanery for ASH Wales via the Lottery Fund.  Not quite a million pounds, but close enough.  Will the mainstream media report this? No it will not. Does the public care that the money they spend on lottery tickets is being used for hate campaigns?  Probably not.  Everything tobacco control does is shady and deceitful.  Let us not forget that the British Heart Foundation also gives ASH money for ASH's salaried positions of hate.  They're all in it together, all plotting to take more of our money each day so they can legislate your lifestyles and get rich off their hate.  I do hope I live long enough to see some kind of reckoning against all of these motherfuckers from hell. But I'm a smoker, which means I should be dead from cancer within the next hour or so. Nice knowing you all.

Across The Pond

California is a hotbed of anti-smoker hate campaign activism. It always has been, no thanks to people like dickhead Stanton Glantz.  But after banning smoking in people's own apartments, now we see the hate extending outside with this outdoor smoking ban in San Jose, where some twit named Margot Sidener says "“Breathing should not be a hazard of everyday life."  Of course breathing is a hazard in San Jose.  Jesus, lady. Does you even live on the same planet as us? Have you ever seen San Jose?  It's the third-largest city in California and tenth-largest in all of the U.S. It's not exactly untouched prairie land, you know?  There are two fucking airports right there in the middle of it all, not to mention all that traffic during rush hour, you daft bint.  Car emissions, jet plane emissions -- heh, these things are good for you. No hazard at all there.  Tiny whiffs of burning tobacco, that will kill you in under one minute, probably two. Annoying? You bet.

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Saturday 26 May 2012

The 4000 Club

I remember a game-cum-experiment in one of my classes in school.  The game illustrated how information can be corrupted as it passes from person to person.  One kid (the source) was given a simple sentence or two and she whispered it to the next kid, who in turn whispered to another, and so on.  By the time the information had been passed to the very last kid, it did not even remotely resemble the source's information. It was wildly inaccurate.

The same goes for anti-smoker propaganda.  I will leave the task of defining chemicals, their actual hazards to the body, and debunking any of the information presented below to people like Dave Atherton or Carl Phillips, both of these gentlemen are far better placed to do so than I am.  All I want to do here is show you that few of these groups actually agree on their own figures.  The figures are distorted either accidentally or purposefully by each group to suit their agendas.  And I am reminded of the saying that "if you repeat a lie often enough, it becomes the truth."  Except that every cop and prosecutor knows that liars don't always remember all the details correctly each time they tell and retell a story...

So what is the actual truth?  Which of the below quotes are the truth, if any?  Who do you trust?  Granted, different studies produce different results, but even so the results vary wildly in some cases.  Have a look below at a very small sampling and see how the information is distorted or perhaps simply made up from out of the ether as it passes through various groups (emphasis added in all cases):
Cigarette smoke contains more than 3,800 individual chemicals, and more than 40 are carcinogenic (cancer causing).
Cigarette smoke contains 11 chemical compounds that are known to cause cancer.
More than 4,000 toxic or carcinogenic chemicals have been found in tobacco smoke.
Tobacco also contains more than 19 known cancer-causing chemicals (most are collectively known as "tar") and more than 4,000 other chemicals
Cigarette smoke contains over 4,000 chemicals, including 43 known cancer-causing (carcinogenic) compounds and 400 other toxins.$File/chemicalconstituentscigarettespriorities.pdf
It has been estimated that there are over 4000 chemical constituents in tobacco smoke (British Columbia Ministry of Health, 1998). Of these, about 400 have been measured or estimated in mainstream and sidestream smoke (Cal/EPA 1997). Of the 400, a significant amount of toxicology data exist for less than 100. In all, 95 chemicals in cigarette smoke were identified. These 95 chemicals include 45 known or suspected carcinogens, according to the International Agency for Research on Cancer, and many other chemicals with non-cancer adverse health effects.
Tobacco smoke contains over 4,000 different chemicals, at least 50 are known to be carcinogens (cause cancer in humans) and many are poisonous.
Of the 4,000 chemicals in tobacco smoke, at least 250 are known to be harmful ... more than 50 have been found to cause cancer.
It is estimated that there are more than 4,000 chemicals in tobacco smoke and at least 50 of them have been proven to cause cancer.
Tobacco products can contain up to 4000 chemicals, 200 of which are deadly and 60 of which can cause cancer.
More than 4,000 different chemicals have been found in tobacco and tobacco smoke. Among these are more than 60 chemicals that are known to cause cancer.
But when it burns, it releases a dangerous cocktail of about 4,000 chemicals including: more than 70 cancer-causing chemicals; hundreds of other poisons; nicotine, a highly addictive drug, and many additives designed to make cigarettes taste nicer and keep smokers hooked.
Cigarette smoke contains about 4,000 different chemicals which can damage the cells and systems of the human body. These include at least 80 chemicals that can cause cancer...
Retail cigarettes contain 4,300 different chemicals in their smoke, including 43 known to cause cancer. (ed note: This is a site that sells rolling machines... WTF?)
cigarette smoke contains over 4,800 chemicals, 69 of which are known to cause cancer.
Of the more than 7,000 chemicals in tobacco smoke, at least 250 are known to be harmful, including hydrogen cyanide, carbon monoxide, and ammonia (1, 4). Among the 250 known harmful chemicals in tobacco smoke, at least 69 can cause cancer
Cigarette smoke is toxic and poisonous to the human body. It contains about 7,000 chemical agents, including almost 70 that cause cancer.

So, as you can see for yourself, the figures go from a few hundred fewer than 4000 chemicals to up to stunning 7000 chemicals, and somewhere between 11 and 80 of those gazillion chemicals can or might cause or have been proven to cause cancer.  Again, this is a very small sampling. Do your own searches, and you'll find even more variations on this theme. I didn't even bother to use the reader comments on newspapers and blogs -- those are even better.

As always, I leave it to you to draw your own conclusions. 

Friday 25 May 2012

In Which I Boycott Everything

Last night at dinner the wine on our table was a bottle of  New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. It was an inexpensive table wine: nice, drinkable, not a whole lot of finish or body to it, but still it tastes all right.  Certainly good enough for a quiet unassuming dinner at home for two.  Yet the bottle mocked me. It sat there dripping with condensation, smirking and glassy while I ate because the New Zealand government had profited a little from the small amount of money we spent on the wine and was using that money to denormalise smokers.  It pissed me off, it did.

"You know what," I said to my wife, who I think was expecting me to say the meal she had made was delicious and lovely (it was) and thank you honey, you're the greatest (she is), and I love you (I do).  Well, I like to keep her on her toes, you see.  "I'm fucking boycotting both New Zealand and Australian wines.  I'm not having any more of them in this house."

"What --? No, you're not," she said. "I really like this wine. It's better than some of --"

"Too bad. I can't live with the idea of giving these countries my money so they can use it to attack smokers."

"But the winemakers aren't the ones doing it, so why boycott them?"

"The winemakers aren't speaking out against it either." My classic and utterly worthless parry. She tried to interject but I waved a hand to stop her. "Look," I said, softening my tone.  "I know it's not the winemakers fault all of this happening and it could be seen as unfair to them to hurt their business.  But if everyone stopped buying stuff from New Zealand and Australia, we could make a difference and maybe, just maybe, get their governments to reconsider their stances on tobacco control."

It was a good plan.  Boycott every product that Australia and New Zealand exports.  My mind's eye could see it all in motion, churning, ticking away in that clockwork fashion leading to an inevitable result. Two nations held ransom by foreign consumers because of those nations' hateful tobacco control policies.  It would work.  It had to work. What else could we do apart from sending armies there to enforce our will (or more amusingly pissing in Simon Chapman's koi fish pond)?  The only power I have over any business is to choose whether I give them my money.  If businesses don't make money, they go out of business. If enough go out of business, then the government gets less money.  If the government is strapped for cash, they will abandon their prohibition policies. Foolproof.  Fucking brilliant! Yeah?  Hell yeah!

A few moments of silence came over us and it felt like forever. Outside in the distance a sheep baaed -- could have been a lamb, actually.  Instantly I thought of The Silence of the Lambs. "Still hearing those lambs, Clarice?"  Argh! Damn it. Thanks for that, Sir Anthony.  Jerk.  Where was I? Oh, yeah. I forced my attention to the present.  Must focus. Shoo, Anthony!  Begone!  Do not get distracted, Jay. You're winning this one, dude.  You got her on the ropes.  I studied my wife's expression.  I could see her jaw working slowly while she considered her response -- or perhaps she was only chewing her food.  Whatever.  My logic was sound. She had nothing, but I knew she would fight this. Bare knuckles if she had to. She would say something about how pointless a one-man boycott was, and she would be right about that.  I mean, I know it wouldn't make much difference. I could pretend that people would join me even though I know they couldn't be at all bothered.  I could tell myself that at least I was doing something. But still, I would have the moral-fucking-high-ground. King of the bloody fucking hill, baby! So take that, woman!  Pish.

Then, at last, her lips parted a little, a brief intake of air, and I was ready for the onslaught. Bring it!  Come on!  What you got?  I'm ready for anything. 

She shrugged. "Fine. Have your boycott."

I started to defend myself, another parry readied, but I stopped. What the...? I won?  Aw, hell no I didn't. I never win these things.  Something was not right.  She's tricking me.  I dipped a figurative toe in the water.  "I can?" I asked sheepishly.  Outside, the lamb called out to me in solidarity.  Baa.

"But we're never boycotting French wine. You hear me?  Never. Don't even--"

"No, no, no, babe. Of course not.  Wouldn't dream of it, love."  Not like it mattered. The French would probably boycott us first anyway. Right?

That was easy. Nary a scratch. As I savoured my victory and my delicious home-cooked meal made from scratch by my wonderful wife, I began to wonder ... what else could I boycott? 

Fantasy Island

Often I dream of living on my own semi-private island free from the despotic nanny state supporting neo-puritans, who seek to control all of our lives through fear, deception and regressive legislation.

I like to imagine that my island is haven for freedom-loving tourists, a place for grown-ups to enjoy life as they wish and to have fun at their own risk. There would be few laws -- your basic ones, like don't kill or harm others, don't steal or defraud.  My island would be self-sustaining and tax-free for both businesses and persons, nor would there be any import duties.  Any money made on my island would be rightfully earned and never taken from you to prop up any other business that is unable to survive on its own merits.  There would be no socialised anything, no government interference in your private lives -- it is your body and you can do anything you like with it. You could walk around naked if you choose to. Every shop owner, pub or restaurant can decide for themselves whether to allow smoking, whether to serve spirits and beer.  Local currency would be based on the gold-standard.  And most importantly government would be constitutionally limited in its powers and kept small, essentially there to ensure free trade with other countries, to ensure no one can take away your freedom. To keep corruption to a minimum, those who would serve in government could only do so for a few years and they would receive no pay for their public service.

So, yeah, it's a fantasy island. Never going to happen. Because the world does not work this way. People do not work this way.

There are always those who will exploit others and cause great harm given the opportunity. There are always those who feel entitled to take what is not theirs for their own personal gain. There are always those who believe they know what is best for everyone else and will seek to enforce those beliefs on others, often hypocritically since they believe or act if these things do not apply to themselves.  Some people do not want to think for themselves and prefer to let others do it for them.  Some able-bodied people do not want to work nor contribute to their community, and therefore will demand that others take care of them in the name of civilised society.  And there always those who will turn a blind eye and refuse to help those who truly need it because the needy are not of the same ilk.

We are very much selfish creatures, perhaps necessitated by our need to survive individually and collectively, so in some respects we may not be far removed from a great majority of animal species on this planet. We are different, we create and understand a great many things, we like to believe we are special and unique, and yet peel back the veil of society and civilisation and we are all merely animals surviving on this planet, some better than others. Our larger brains have given us a greater capacity for stupidity.  And cruelty.  Our compassion and love for one group can lead to horrific violence and subjugation against another. It often does.

My little island of freedom is a pipe dream. To realise that dream, a radical, fundamental change to human nature would be required, which is impossible.  Otherwise, I would need to live on my island in solitude, which is hardly my idea of freedom, or risk becoming the oppressive dictator enforcing my ideal of freedom on others.

A perfect world or society is impossible. Do not allow anyone to tell you or convince otherwise -- these are the most dangerous people. Utopia cannot exist because we are not perfect. Every attempt to create perfection will very likely lead to a disaster of epic proportions.  Even the late 70s early 80s TV show Fantasy Island showed that one's ideal fantasy could become a nightmare rather easily.  Be careful what you wish for.

So perhaps one thing we could try is to let others live their lives as they choose, even when you vehemently disagree with those personal choices for yourself. It's not a perfect solution to all of the problems that plague society, but it's a very small step in the right direction by giving each person the ability to create their own little island of freedom.  Mr Roarke and Tattoo would be out of a job, I imagine...

Image via

Thursday 24 May 2012

How Much Is One Life Worth?

The anti-smoker hate crusade loves to promulgate that smokers and smoking-related illnesses (whatever that means) cost the NHS billions of pounds.  The intent of this con-trick is to make small-minded non-smoking taxpayers despise those who choose to smoke, as if smokers are somehow stealing your money and socialised healthcare thus degrading your quality of life, and ultimately sustaining the tireless hate campaign against people whose lifestyle does not conform with their agenda of extermination.   While we can all some of us can agree that smokers pay far more in taxes than what tobacco control claims the NHS spends on smoking-related illnesses, I have said before that anyone would use the costs of treating one group of people over another is detestable. It is indefensible.  It is inhumane.

Yet I wonder . . .

How much is  just one life worth to groups like the NHS, CRUK, BHF, Fresh, and ASH?  We know how much they have spent on degrading smokers recently. We have seen their ad campaigns, and their patently false propaganda using children to deceive the public into supporting plain packs. So, spending money is not a problem for them. I would like to know how much would any of these groups pay to get just one person to quit smoking and "save a life" as it were.  Do they really care about people quitting smoking?  How about my life?  How much am I worth? 

Let us find out:

My Quit Smoking Pledge

Dear All Tobacco Control and Health Charity Organisations,

I hereby promise to quit smoking forever if you are willing to voluntarily pay me only £200,000.  The money may come from one organisation, or it may be pooled from any number of tobacco control organisations -- I leave the logistics and details to you.  Is my life worth that much to you?  I believe that I am worth even more, because every life is precious and invaluable. Correct? But £200k seems a fair trade off for something I love to do. And I will miss it terribly.

As a bonus, upon receipt of your payment, I will even give up blogging about tobacco control and civil liberties, save for one final post praising your compassion for humanity, apologising for all the things I have written, and then I will delete all other posts and comments on this blog. I will even allow you to test me annually or semi-annually to confirm that I have indeed quit smoking. I do not require any NRT or cessation help.  I can do this alone.

If you have any other pre-conditions, please let me know.  You may contact me here.

Thank you, and I look forward to hearing from you at your earliest convenience.

Kind regards,

Wednesday 23 May 2012

Censored in York

I meant to post about this sooner, but it slipped through the cracks for which I apologise; fortunately a tweet this morning reminded me of it. A little over a month ago, SadButMadLad (SBML) advised me that York Council had blacklisted and banned this site on its free public wi-fi near Guild Hall in York Centre.  He also sent this image as proof:

Since I am not one to leap to conclusions, I asked him to check to see if any other pro-tobacco blogs had been banned, along with any tobacco company web sites. SBML obliged and duly reported a day later that only my site had been blocked.  In his words:
Well I tried a number of blog links from Dick Puddlecote's and other than yours found no problems. I didn't check 100% as the signal strength was very low and kept dropping out but I checked the most obvious ones. I also checked a number of Philip Morris' sites and could access them without problem. I could get through to Tim Worstall's which I can't normally via my smartphone ([provider redacted]) unless I give age verification.

So, based on his checks, I suppose we can safely assume that "tobacco" is not the likely reason for the ban.  I should point out here that a) I have not yet asked York Council why my blog is banned or if they would unblock it upon request, and b) I strongly suspect that my site is auto-blocked by their child-protection software, perhaps due to language.  I do use very bad words sometimes. But then so do others. Again, looking at the image that SBML sent to me, it shows the reason as "Content of type: Pornography blocked - Content Filtering."  My site is certainly not porn, not even for smoking fetishists.  So, does the word "cunt" automatically equal pornography these days?  Or perhaps these words are flagged:  fuck, motherfucker, pussy, slag, bitch, hooker, whore, porn, tranny, gay, lesbian, bisexual, cocksucker, blowjob, cum, MILF, wank, wanker, etc., etc.  They are only words -- I don't find any of the words particularly dangerous or harmful. Do you?

It is odd that my blog had only been active for almost two weeks when it found itself blocked on York Council's wi-fi.  This seems awfully quick to me -- how often is their blacklist updated?  How is it updated?  Who is responsible for updating it?  I don't know.  I've done a very limited search on it, but I can't find anything apart from this in respect of York's library computers (emphasis added):

As you browse the internet at our libraries, you may occasionally find that some webpages have been blocked by our automatic filter.  The aim of this filter is to block illegal or harmful sites - it is not intended to be a barrier to any legitimate internet use.  With any automated system there are some mistakes, and we ask users to let us know if they come across a site which they believe has been blocked in error. 
All right, that seems fair enough - anyone can contact them and let them know a site is blocked incorrectly.  But what, precisely, is a harmful site?  How is that defined?  Who defines it?  Do the words listed above count as harmful? 

I suppose York Council does not want to be sued for providing access to porn or other "harmful content." There is the larger issue of unbridled censorship at play.  It is this idea that children need to be protected from "harmful content."  This is the same argument that plain packs supporters use -- children are harmed by graphics on a cigarette pack.  It's complete fucking bullshit.  All we have done is created a culture of fear, which leads to absurdities like this story.  Parents need to take back their responsibility for protecting their own children. The Nanny State cannot do it without destroying everyone's civil liberties, and it is harming your kids in a far greater measure than any creepy paedo could, or some random web site that uses bad words.  Censorship protects no one except for those who would seek to keep the truth from you. For a truly free society, we need to have it all out there for debate (and no, I'm not at all suggesting that kiddy porn is acceptable and should be out there -- there are always some limits to freedom, and no sane person would ever support sexually abusing young children), and parents need to monitor their own kids.

Right. So if you are out and about and accessing public wi-fi anywhere, and you discover that my site or someone else's is blocked, send them a message asking for it to be unblocked.  Do also feel free to let me know, copy me in, or tell me separately.  Perhaps I'll compile of list of "nannying fussbuckets" as SBML likes to call them. 

Tuesday 22 May 2012

The Radical Tobacco Endgame in New Zealand

The New Zealand Herald today reports that "Smokers support tighter regulation and eventual ban."  So, you might be wondering, who did the survey and was it impartial?

The answers should not surprise you.  It was ... [insert drum roll here] ... done by tobacco control advocates, and no, I do not believe it was impartial, not even remotely.  [Insert cymbal crash and rim shot here.] I cannot view the actual survey (published here in the Tobacco Control journal), because you have to pay for that, and I'll be fucking damned if I'm giving my money to TC willingly, particularly since so many of them get taxpayer money anyway.  Although, do let me know if anyone is clever enough to socially engineer a copy from the lead author, Professor Richard Edwards (see bottom of page of this link) So let's examine the freely-available abstract:

Firstly, note the aim of the study is to seek smoker support for an all-out ban on cigarette sales.

Secondly, note the methodology, and how the authors "carried out multivariate analyses to identify significant associations among potential determinants (demographics, socioeconomic status, mental health and smoking-related beliefs and behaviours) of support.  That sounds rather scientific, it does.  It actually means a great deal of fuck-all.  How hard is it to ask someone if they want a ban on cigarettes?  Do you really need a multivariate anything in this case??

Thirdly, note the results.  65% of smokers in NZ support greater regulation of the tobacco industry. What the holy fuck does that mean exactly?  59% want the government to do more.  Well that's because they are used to be nannied at this point, and frankly people prefer to let others think for themselves. No surprise there.  46% supported a ban in 10 years' time.  Really?  Did anyone ask them that if banning of tobacco in NZ might subsequently lead to increased crime rates and contraband smuggling, like during the prohibition era, would they then support an all-out ban on cigarettes? I doubt it.  I doubt it very fucking much.

Finally, note the conclusion utterly follows the tobacco control script, and here I'm going to highlight two very key sentences (emphasis added to both):

The findings suggest that most smokers will support stronger government action to control the tobacco industry and that many support radical ‘endgame’ approaches

Perceived difficulties in gaining public support should not impede the introduction of rigorous tobacco control measures needed to achieve a tobacco-free New Zealand.

Christ-on-a-bike!  Without looking at the study, I can safely infer from the entire abstract that it is one big pile of bollocks designed for one thing:  To further the ever-hateful tobacco control agenda.  "Radical endgame approach." Gotta love that. Doesn't that sound a bit ... oh, I dunno, 1930s and 40s Germany perhaps?

It doesn't take a genius to realise that smokers are constantly bullied and harassed by anti-smokers, pressure charities and governments.  If you are constantly being told that you're a baby killer, that you're harming everyone, and that you are personally responsible for causing the death of the entire fucking world, would you not also think "hmm, maybe if there was no tobacco, I wouldn't smoke, and then people would stop kicking me in the teeth every day."

Because that's just part of the plan of tobacco control, to use smokers against smokers.

Raise your hand if you feel guilty for smoking...


OK, good.  Thank you.

Now look, if you raised your hand and feel ashamed because you smoke, if you honestly believe you are harming kids and others by smoking, allow me to give you some advice:  quit smoking and feel better about yourself. The playground bullies have beaten you into submission and it's game-fucking-over, man.  You are not helping to advance civil liberties and freedom, you are perhaps an unwitting hindrance. 

To everyone else, stop participating in biased studies and surveys commissioned by tobacco control.  Tell them to fuck off and maybe poke them in the eye or something.  Kick them in scrotum and run away...

How to Deal With Tobacco Control Survey Takers

Monday 21 May 2012

Your Privacy, Governments and Special Privileges

"Most companies do not tell users about government requests for their data."  - Christopher Soghoian.

Watch this Ted Talk video by Chris.  It's about 15 minutes long, and it's U.S.-centric, but do not fret little reader, because what he says holds true all over the world -- in some places it worse. 

H/T: Big Brother Watch on Twitter.

The above is not surprising to me, and I already knew most of this.  Many of you, like me, have installed browser add-ons for a modicum of privacy protection as well as ad-blockers. These only go so far, of course. Your ISP may also keep detailed records of what you do on-line.  You can even mitigate some of your ISP's data collection to an extent, but essentially nearly everything you do on-line is recorded by some entity for possible monetary gain. 

My on-line activities are entirely legal and so I don't worry about the copyright police turning up at my door.  I don't download music or use bit torrent sites for anything. I do, however, use SoundCloud to listen to new musicians and to upload original music I create. If I decide I want to buy music, I usually get a CD and rip that to my computer -- I don't even have an iPod or similar device -- although musicians are increasingly avoiding record labels and are self-publishing their material.  If I want to watch a film, I typically rent it from a service like LoveFilm, and sometimes even buy a Blu-Ray or two if I really like something, like the Fringe series on TV.  I never watch films on-line -- not even on LoveFilm's streaming service.  Perhaps I'm just old-fashioned.

All of that said, I have still taken the time to fully encrypt my hard drives to protect my data from prying eyes. Good luck getting me to reveal the encryption passwords, because I'd rather languish in jail than hand them over to the police or the government.  There is nothing illegal on my computers, but we know that won't stop governments seizing computers to see what you've been up to on-line, or to merely harass you into compliance. Do they really need to know how many times I watched a particular porn vid on xHamster?  Look what happened to AGW sceptic blogger Tallbloke, for instance. He did nothing illegal, and yet the police came in and took away his computers and his modem.  It's unlikely anything like this will happen to me, but I'm prepared just in case someone posts a comment with a link that the police don't like. If they want to know where it came from, they can ask Google.

Of course, fuckwit cum asswipe cum AGW alarmist Peter Gleick actually does something illegal and admits to it, and he gets a pass.  Sorta. Aw, shucks, pardner. Don't believe in government conspiracies so much, me, but why are the nanny state governments going after Tallbloke and the guy who released the Climategate e-mails, which were legally subject to FOI requests anyway since we all paid for them and the research many times over, and not going after Peter fuckwit Gleick?  Boggles, it does.  Must be there are special privileges for those who tend to get paid with money from the public purse.

I still think we need a new Internet.  It will be interesting to see what the next 25 years of interwebby goodness will bring our way.  A total surveillance state, perhaps?  Probably not. With any luck, in an alternate Fringe-like universe maybe the Internet is all about user privacy.  Here, in ours, we are not yet so lucky.

Image via

Of Course Tobacco Is Unique

 The Yahoo! Canada news blog headline reads:

"Is Coca-Cola the new cigarette? Soda industry fight looking a lot like cigarette industry one over past decades"

For the health nannies and technocrats, the "answer is plainly 'yes.'"  But so is most any "fatty food" or beverage these days.  My fellow bloggers, as shown in the blogroll at right, have been saying for years that the nannies will not stop at tobacco -- they will go after alcohol and fast food, and perhaps even sleeping.

The Yahoo! article goes on to say:

"With new packaging and calorie cutting, it's hard not to see a similarity between the soft drink industry now and the cigarette industry from a few decades ago. When studies began to show the negative effects of smoking, the industry fought it with a number of court battles, arguing they had no part in the death of people who smoked."

And so it now goes with the fizzy drinks industry. Can I just say to you, Coca-Cola and Pepsi, that now would be a very good time to speak out against plain packaging for cigarettes. They are coming for you next, and you can deny that all you'd like and pretend it won't happen, but you are now just as evil and life-destroying as tobacco companies in the minds of the nannying tyrants. Voluntarily agreeing to reformulate your products so that they contain fewer calories is the first step in capitulating to the health movement that seeks to destroy you.  Remember when cigarette companies were forced to create "light" cigarettes with less tar due to government intervention?  What happened then?  Tobacco control later decided that light cigarettes were deceptive and attacked the tobacco companies for that.  Next up will be warning labels for your soft-drink products, showing grotesquely obese children, rotting teeth and diseased organs -- these warnings on your soft drinks are coming.  These warnings will not work. They will be ignored just as they are on tobacco products.  And the nannies will insist that to protect our gullible children and adults that the "answer is plain."  It is coming for you.  Do not act surprised when it happens.

Back in the late 70s early 80s, my mother and step-father already knew that moderation was important in respect of sweet soft drinks like Coca-Cola. The issue then was not its caloric content, rather it was "caffeine."  So, my parents did not allow us to drink Coke or Pepsi very often, perhaps once every few weeks if even that, in very small amounts.  At some point, somebody had mistakenly informed my parents that a particular fizzy drink had no caffeine, so my parents bought some of it and brought it home. They never checked to see if the drink truly was caffeine-free. They relaxed the fizzy drinks rule a little to one per day, because that drink was OK for kids, and my brother and I were very excited.  Except it wasn't OK.  At the dinner table one night, I read the ingredients list on the can and proudly announced to everyone that our drinks did have caffeine, at which point my parents stood up, took our drinks away from us, emptied them into the sink and duly served us water instead.  My brother didn't talk to me for weeks, he was very angry.  I think he's still angry over that one.

Anyway, if you drink 8 litres of Coke per day, like that woman who recently died, there are going to be negative consequences because of your habit.  I said, "habit," not "addiction."  Once upon a time, smoking was considered a habit. When nicotine replacement therapies arrived in the early 80s, the pharmaceutical companies replaced the word "habit" with "addiction" and the result of that clever word swap haunts all of us to this day.  Smokers, they tell you now, are full-blown addicts, considered more or less the same as dangerous heroin junkies begging or stealing to scrape up enough change for their daily fix, and utterly unable to quit even when they want to do so.  Something must be done to stop this horrible smoking addiction!  And guess what, Coca-Cola and Pepsi, nothing you do will be good enough to sate the nannies' desire to keep everyone safe from themselves. Something will be done to stop you from harming the public, in the name of protecting the children. And gullible adults. Because we're all stupid according to the technocrats.

Oh, they have got your number now, Coke and Pepsi.  The media will not side with you, either. You could join us in the fight, but you won't because you are worried about your image, which is getting worse each passing day.  So good luck, and nice knowing you.

H/T: J Johnson on Twitter

Say goodbye to your advertising, Coke. Image: Wikipedia Commons

Sunday 20 May 2012

Out of Sight Out of Mind

I suspect that most of you have already seen Jamie Whyte's opinion piece in City A.M. that draws a wonderfully apt analogy between burqas or niqabs and plain packs.  The final paragraph truly says it all (emphasis added):

Those self-appointed carers for the British people, who would protect us by dictating what we may see, really are no better than the religious police of Saudi Arabia. They conflate what is good for other people with how those other people would live if they shared the carers’ preferences. People possessed of such moral arrogance find it easy to believe they are helping us by depriving us of liberties.

How can you tell that Whyte's analogy is spot-on?  Because Simon Fucking Chapman, our Root of All Evil, felt obligated to comment on it.  He could have ignored it. He should have ignored it if he were wise.  But his over-inflated ego, sense of self-importance, and his desire to be the pettiest, most despicable and hateful man on the planet could not bear the thought of letting it go unchallenged, albeit very weakly.  Of course, he has no real argument to make against it, because it's all true. Merely this sad little tweet, which is what you always see or hear from the haters when they have no argument:

The old adage "Out of sight, out of mind" is tobacco control's mantra of choice. They truly believe that if you hide something away, people won't think about it.  We know this is fallacious prima facie. Just like, as Mr Whyte points out, some people believe that women cannot tempt men if they are completely covered up, which often leads to increased desire for the opposite sex.  Or perhaps like keeping drugs, both illegal and prescription drugs out of sight and within locked cabinets do nothing to stop demand. Strange that, eh?  Regardless of how you view burqas and niqabs, whether they are symbols of oppression and hate against women, or just a garment that people can wear if they choose to for religious or any other reasons, there are some who would use the burqa and niqab to control people, certainly.  On the other hand:

Wow! Very nice! ! !  Image via
My only opinion on the matter is that I think that all people should be free to wear whatever they like. If you want to wear something, for any reason, then do. If you don't, then don't. Why do humans feel the need to control every aspect of others' lives, down to the very clothes we wear?  I also feel this way about dress codes at workplaces.  Does wearing a suit really make any difference, or is it just a social uniform, a means of conformity and class identity, a means of control to equalise everyone?  If we all look the same, then we can only be judged on our merits and work. Yeah?  Maybe. Every culture has a different viewpoint. The trick lies in respecting other people's rights to do whatever the hell they want to do and to not be an arrogant moral busybody inflicting your beliefs on others. I personally believe that individuality is a beautiful thing.  Likewise, I feel the same about plain packs. We do not need to have cigarette packs all dressed up the same way.  It is wrong on every level, and those who would support plain packs as a means to control children's behaviour are going to be very sorry when their kids grow up to be incompetent morons incapable of making logical, reasoned decisions for themselves. 

There is another saying that I remember an old girlfriend once telling me when I was in the military and about to go away for many months:  "Absence makes the heart grow fonder."  This is certainly true many times. We tend to miss those things we no longer have, and sometimes regret we have lost them.

I would wager we will regret the end result of plain packs should the nannies succeed in its implementation. It's potential for harm and abuse, as well the slippery slope into other products, is enormous.

Saturday 19 May 2012

Google, You Make Me Sad

Remember this takedown post?  It's only been a few weeks, but I would love to know the precise reason for the takedown.  I should have the right to know, and Google should send a copy of it to my e-mail address.  But guess what?  I'm not going to know any time soon, because Google won't send to me the notice. They will only send it to Chilling Effects, which is volunteer-run by a handful of people in their spare time and they have an enormous backlog that could take a year or more.  So I cannot challenge the takedown by filing a counter-claim. And this, as you might expect, suits Google (and by extension, Blogger) just fine.  It means they don't have to do any work; it means Google wants to make it hard for you to challenge the takedown. They just remove your post and too-bad-so-sad little blogger.

For my six or so Australian readers (hello there, Root of All Evil, how's your ego and your koi fish pond, dickhead?), you cannot view the original Bruce Guthrie - Epic Hater post.  And that is exactly the intent of the takedown. Censorship of material that someone didn't like, without any due process, legal justification or ability to challenge it in a timely manner. It's an abuse of process and Google doesn't give a fuck at all; it is merely protecting itself from legal harm whilst harming our free speech.  I suppose it's good it was only the Australian page that got blocked, which is a result of Google changing the URL structure of Blogger to redirect to country-specific URLs.  The rest of you can view the original post in all its glory.

So all I've got is speculation as to why it was taken down. I know I haven't defamed anyone -- I merely pointed out that Bruce Guthrie is selfish little shitbag who thinks he should have all the best seats everywhere in public because he doesn't smoke now, which is of course an opinion. I haven't libelled anyone -- I linked to the opinion piece for full context and I didn't exaggerate or invent any information. I did hyperlink and display an image from the American History Museum, a nice little pic of a KKK outfit, but the image remains up for those in the US, so I'm guessing -- but really don't know -- it is not a problem for the museum.  I only quoted a very small portion of Guthrie's opinion, which falls under fair use in nearly every country in the world. Perhaps a year from now, I will learn the reason for the takedown, if I even care by then. 

The point of this post isn't only to moan about Google, although they make me very sad.  It's to illustrate to you the techniques and the lengths that tobacco control advocates, these hateful motherfuckers from hell, will go to silence opinion on the opposing side. And isn't it curious that the colours of ASH Australia's logo are precisely the same as the KKK's logo?  Yes, perhaps ASH was ripping off Marlboro, and really it's all just a coincidence. ASH Australia are stupid hateful people, but even they would never support the KKK or any kind of end-date thinking, would they?  Nah, I think it very unlikely.  Eradicating tobacco use is not the same as eradicating smokers and hoping they all die soon.

So, I had a takedown. I'll not know why for some time to come.  It's frustrating, sure. On the bright side, we should count ourselves lucky that tobacco control is not (yet) rounding us up and marching us to concentration camps for our "evil ways."  It may come to pass, however, so be prepared. Trust no one. 

Journalism And Fun With Stats

Few journalists independently verify "facts" and figures these days, and many fail to seek out contrary viewpoints . Perhaps they never have done so, because honestly who has the time?  Journalists often work under extremely tight deadlines, they are usually working on several dozen pieces simultaneously, and they rarely have support staff to assist them in finding out information. Out of necessity, journalists rely on trusted contacts, insiders, university and college published studies, and publicly-available government statistics to present the "facts" of any given story.  In other words, anything you can find on the Internet these days.

Moreover, to write a good article for public consumption, it needs an air of sensationalism to it to grab the reader's attention.  It does seem to me that people prefer to be entertained by their news much like they want to be wowed by their fiction, so editors and journalists are eager to find some calamity or Armageddon angle to oblige their readers.  The news has always been sensationalised, and it is inaccurate to suggest otherwise.  "If it bleeds, it leads." 

It will be no surprise to any regular reader here that I despise the mainstream media. I rarely read the news unless I'm searching for something specific, because honestly I do not trust the media.  It's not the sensationalism.  I expect that, although it does annoy.  No, it's the presentation of opinion as if it were fact.  It's presenting bollocks estimates of figures as though they are entirely accurate without seeking independent verification. Hey, I know you media guys don't have much time, but come on, couldn't you at least try to be fair and honest for the sake of your readers and viewers? Could you at least include a line that says you didn't bother to check these things out fully and completely for the sake of your own integrity? I could be happy with that.

All of this brings me to a recent plain packs article by Michael Skapinger, columnist for  Now, I am vaguely familiar with Mr Skapinger. Three years ago he wrote a pretty fair opinion piece about smokers in the workplace from his viewpoint as a non-smoker.  The gist of that article was that smokers are more social at work, are better at networking with colleagues, and therefore benefit from their smoke breaks despite any of the harm smoking may cause. I think he even felt bad for smokers being forced to stand outside once the ban came in.  So, I have to admit that I when read this latest article by Skapinger, titled "Tobacco companies versus the plain truth," (note: registration may be required) I was a bit stunned to read this (emphasis added):

"So when Alison Cooper, chief executive of Imperial Tobacco, says that forcing tobacco companies to sell cigarettes in plain packets is not about health but is just anti-business, every other business person should tell her not to taint them with her death and disease-ridden trade."

This sounds a lot like Glyn Moody's hack piece on trade marks, doesn't it?

Even so, I will concede that Skapinger has a right to an opinion like anyone else. What I take issue with is his presentation of "facts."  He cites a UK government report (DH report) as the basis for saying that smoking kills more people than "drink, drugs, road crashes, all other accidents, suicide and preventable diabetes combined."

Well, this is quite selective in itself by limiting it to only these other causes of death, but it doesn't actually represent the full picture of UK mortality rates and leading causes of death .  In the DH report, it claims that 81,400 people die from smoking-related disease.  The report derived that number from an NHS document, "Statistics on Smoking: England, 2010; NHS Information Centre for Health and Social Care" (NHS report).  The DH report even gives you the handy graph below to work it all out how they came to the 81,400 figure.  Simple, right?

But, no, it's not so simple at all.  Because "attributable to smoking" is not the same thing as "definitely caused by smoking."  Now we need to go to the NHS report and see how they came to those figures, where we learn in the introduction to section 4 pg 76, that "These figures are estimates of the numbers of admissions and deaths in England which were caused by smoking."  OK, we have estimates only.  If you were to peruse the NHS report, you would see a whole lot of "can be caused" but nowhere do you see any real data on the actual cause of death by smoking.  Why?  Because the NHS doesn't keep track of that information.  So a statistician estimated it based on -- "In 2009, there were a total of 448,230 deaths of adults aged 35 and over in England, 81,400 (18%) of which were estimated to be attributable to smoking."  There you go.

And how did the statistician derive the estimate for 18%?  I'll tell you.  It is currently estimated that between 18 to 23% of the UK population are smokers. This estimate includes occasional smokers, you know that very friendly girl who bums fag after fag off you at the pub after she's had three vodka Red Bulls. Of course, it's all estimates. Nobody really knows the actual number, so it's an assumption. It is, quite possibly, unknowable.  So you take the low end of the estimate (although using a mean may have been preferred from a tobacco control perspective) and you tally up the deaths, split it among women and men smokers, and away you go to your nicely round figure of 81,400 deaths per year attributable to smoking.

Bollocks?  You bet, yet it is good enough for tobacco control's lies, the NHS, and for journalists apparently.  But let's have some fun with bullshit and completely inaccurate representation of facts, because I'm not going to drill down to precise causes of death -- indeed, who has time for that?  If they can do it, so can I.  For this exercise, I will use the 81,400 figure (for illustrative purposes, because it's handy) along with the mortality figures from 2010 (MS Excel).  I recommend downloading the Excel spreadsheet, because it's quite fascinating, particularly the number of "unknown causes of death."  Anyway...

We will focus on only two tables in the spreadsheet, table 5.2 - Neoplasms (all cancer types) and table 5.9 - Diseases of the circulatory system; both of these are the primary sources for determining smoking deaths and I've rounded the percentages up a bit. 

In 2010, there were 493,242 total deaths of all ages, not just 35 and over, but all ages.

29% of all deaths are due to neoplasms (all types of cancer). Total neoplasms / cancer deaths = 141,116.

32% of all deaths are due to circulatory diseases.  Total circulatory disease deaths = 158,084

So we know that 61% of all deaths are due to cancers or circulatory diseases.  Total deaths = 299,232

Obviously, not all of these deaths could be attributed to tobacco use, but again, time is a factor so I haven't isolated particular causes of death.  Anal cancer is included in these figures, but do not be alarmed, smoking causes ALL CANCERS!  That's what they tell you.  Moving on...

Using the DH's 2009 figure of 81,400 (again it is an estimate only and not accurate), only 27% of the 61% of cancer and circulatory deaths are "smoking-related."  So, roughly 1 in 4. Right?  That means about 73% of non-smokers, or approx 217,832 people died in 2010 from these two types of "smoking-related" diseases somehow.  So you really cannot say that "smoking is the leading cause of preventable death" because it just isn't (and there is no such thing as premature death or perhaps even preventable death. It is just death).  Still, how do you explain the other three quarters? Why are they dying from cancer or heart diseases?  Which makes you wonder what is really causing all these deaths... it couldn't be getting old could it?

Furthermore, if we use the 81,400 figure against the overall death, we see that "smoking deaths" hover around 16.5% of all deaths annually (less than the estimated percentage of smokers), compared to the 61% of all cancer and heart disease deaths combined.  So what is going on here?  Shouldn't non-smokers be living forever?  Why are more non-smokers dying of smoking-related deaths than smokers?  This just doesn't make sense to me.  But, hey, like anyone, I'm just having fun with statistics, picking and choosing what I like, mixing up the years, and presenting all of it in a particular way to support my viewpoint.  If they can do it, so can I.  So who is more accurate?  Them? Me?  Does it really fucking matter?  We are all going to die, some of us quite horribly, it is very sad to say.  Nothing can stop death. It comes for all of us.

But I would expect journalists to exercise a little due diligence when presenting figures as facts.  They should fact check and look to see how the data was derived all the way to the original source, and not just be witting or unwitting mouthpieces for tobacco control and hateful government agendas. They should provide independent verification of figures, even when figures are derived from reports supplied by the government, or at least admit they haven't done any of this.  But they don't. Maybe they cannot due to time, or maybe they simply cannot be bothered.  After all, why let facts get in the way of a good story.  Hmmm...?

(For further study you may also wish to view the Leading Causes of Death by age group in England and Wales (MS Excel), which is incredibly illuminating.  Also, a good reference starting point for future research is here.)

Friday 18 May 2012

Should We Save the British Pub?

Conspicuously absent from the right side of the page is the Save Our Pubs & Clubs campaign banner, which looks like this:

I have to admit, I am very much on the fence on whether to include it in the sidebar at right.  On the one hand, I fully support an amendment to the current smoking ban to allow separate smoking rooms, which is precisely what the campaign sets out to do.  I know this one little thing will do more to save the traditional British pub than anything else.  On the other hand, and selfishly, I am disappointed with a great many publicans for not putting up any kind of fight against the ban, either pre- or post-ban.  And like many who have chosen to forego pubs and instead are holding a smoky-drinky with close friends, it has become increasingly difficult for me to feel any sympathy for pub owners who do not speak out against the ban.  So I want to save pubs, and at the same time I want the pubs to save themselves.

Simon Clark's feature on the smoking ban in pubs five years on and its accompanying article have been published here, and if you haven't read both of these, I would recommend doing so.  The article estimates that 5,000 pubs have closed since the ban was introduced.  The Guardian estimates about 20 pubs close per week, a little over 1,000 per year.  This is compared to an estimated 300+ pubs closing per year prior to the ban.  We also need to consider that new pubs also open for business or reopen after closing, so the actual net closures could be lower.  Presently, there are approximately 51,500 pubs still in business here, so we have a while yet before the great British pub disappears.

Furthermore, the beer and pub trade generates an estimated £11 billion GBP in tax revenue, and provides almost a million jobs in the UK.  I do not believe that employment figure considers any ancillary businesses which also depend on the pub trade, such as delivery drivers, food suppliers, beer mat printers, and so on. So I would think there are many more jobs dependent on a thriving pub trade in the UK.  In any case, we are looking at a sizeable percentage of the public who could take the battle to Westminster, if they wanted to do so.

But the sad truth is most people do not wish to get involved nor are they willing to challenge government.  They merely accept their fate which has been handed down to them by Parliament and then when things go wrong they bitch about their lot in life and blame government, when they ought to blame themselves at least partially. Of course, not every pub wants to bring smoking back, and that's acceptable. Private businesses ought to be able to decide for themselves whether to allow smoking. I take no issue with the Wetherspoons chain banning smoking inside their pubs prior to the ban in England and Wales.  It's their business, and they can do whatever they like with it.  Although one could make a case that not every owner of a Wetherspoons pub wanted to ban smoking in their pub, but that's something for them to take up with the top brass of the chain.

Anyway, I figure that if all of the pub owners and ancillary businesses could join together and stand united against the smoking ban (even if some of those didn't want to allow smoking), their combined might along with all of the smokers out there in addition, then we would easily get the smoking ban amended.  But the pubs won't do that, because just like tobacco companies that  compete against each other, and fail to unite against a law because it could increase their market share, so it goes with individual pubs and larger chains in the trade.  And honestly, because of their utter lack of will to stand against the nanny state, I'm just finding it harder each day to give a fuck about pubs closing. Maybe it is because I'm getting old. 

The title of this blog begins with "Citizens United."  The idea behind that (despite the acronym) is to get us all united to fight for a common goal.  It doesn't have to be here on this blog. It could be anywhere or on anyone's blog, or some organisation like FOREST or even the Save Our Pubs & Clubs campaign.  We simply need to come together and stand united.

You know the famous motto: "United We Stand, Divided We Fall."  Well, we are all in free-fall right now, a disjointed collective of individuals tumbling through the black abyss of nanny statism.  We could change that, if you wanted to change it. We have more than enough numbers to turn things around.  The question is, how do we get everyone to come together and fight?  What is the magic catalyst that is needed to inspire you to get involved?

I wish I knew. 

In a day or so, I'll add the Save Our Pubs banner to the sidebar, because despite my selfishness and being pissy with pub owners for not fighting the ban, I recognise that we need to support each other if we're going to defeat the creeping (and creepy!) nanny state that is ruining our lives by slow degrees each waking hour.  Because this blog, this campaign against the nannies -- it isn't about me at all. It's about all of us. Together.  United. 

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