Sunday, 6 July 2008

Cigarettes and alcohol

So, we have perfect weather today - sun in Wimbledon, rain in Silverstone. Fanatastic start by Hamilton. I will spend the duration of the British Grand Prix reading and replying to comments on the 'Smoke it' post. If you're not happy with the response, bear in my mind this blog's rules. If I've ignored you totally it will probably be because you've crossed the line between passionate advocacy of your cause, which is fine by me, and being gratuitously offensive, which isn't. And although, as you say, I'm an elected representative - I'm elected by voters in Bristol East and answerable to them, not the entire British electorate. Constituents get a different level of service, which they get by writing to me, emailing me or coming to see me at one of my surgeries - which is exactly as it should be. (To the one person who asked if he could come and see me - yes, if you live in Bristol East. I'm pretty sure all the Bristol MPs voted for the full ban, so if you live elsewhere in the city you can make the same points to whoever your elected representative is).

What I have done is to cut and paste all comments into a separate document - which runs to 102 pages. I'm going to read through, delete those which don't need (or possibly don't deserve) a response. Then I'll summarise the key themes, and respond to those en masse rather than referring to individual contributions. I will spend up to two hours on this, till the Grand Prix is over - and to prove I'm devoting this amount of time to it, I will insert a running commentary on Hamilton's progess. He's just overtaken Kovalainen.

First point - my comment about these responses being orchestrated by Forest, or other pro-smoking/ pro-choice groups. I was merely noting that these were people who already had a very fixed position on this issue, rather than representing a cross-section of views. Incidentally, it's interesting to note that recent press articles about the success of the smoking ban, citing the figures on heart attacks, public support, etc, have attracted only a handful of comments. Is this because they're moderated? Or is it more fun doling out abuse to an MP than to an anonymous journalist?

Second point - Godwin's law. The references to Nazis, etc are appalling. We're talking about a ban on smoking in pubs and clubs which means people have to stand on doorsteps - possibly in the cold and rain, admittedly - if they want to have a cigarette during an evening out. And - arguably - some pubs and clubs closing down. And that's comparable to millions of people being rounded up and sent to concentration camps and starved and gassed and shot? (See also the 'Hitler was a vegetarian argument').

Third point - the scientific evidence on passive smoking was debated and discussed at great length before Parliament voted on the ban. I considered it carefully, particularly the evidence on whether or not better ventilation or smoking areas would achieve the same objective. I was, and remain, convinced that passive smoking is a genuine risk to public health. I've blogged before about the perils of citing scientific evidence in politics, as each side can usually find facts and figures which support its own prejudices (e.g. on the badger cull, on GM crops, on nuclear energy, to name just a few issues). All we can do as politicians is to try to be as open-minded as possible, read the available information, try to determine which evidence is genuinely independent (as opposed to being funded by the tobacco industry or the pharmaceutical industry) and take a steer from people whose opinions we respect (e.g. in this case, Dr Ian Gibson and Doug Naysmith, two MPs with a huge amount of experience in the health field and both with scientific backgrounds). Which I have done. I don't think the quote from ASH negates anything I've said here or on previous posts. To summarise, I haven't changed my mind about (a) the dangers of smoking, (b) the health benefits of giving up smoking, and (c) the dangers of passive smoking. You will no doubt accuse me of ignoring the evidence; I haven't, I just don't think it's authoritative or compelling.

Fourth point - for me, passive smoking and its effect on bar/ restaurant staff was only one of the factors influencing my support for a ban on smoking in public places. This obviously isn't going to make me very popular with the Forest supporters, but I subscribe to the view that smoking is something that should be discouraged. Can any of you argue that smoking is a good thing, that it ought to be encouraged? Are you comfortable with the fact that British American Tobacco are now pushing their wares on children in the developing world, selling single cigarettes in a bid to get them hooked? You say it's a matter of choice. For you, yes. But my priority is young impressionable people who I don't want to see taking up smoking. They are more likely to do so if they see it as something which society tacitly encourages. And on the McDonald's point - I think it's a bad analogy; the Government is criticising junk food manufacturers and taking some steps against them as part of the obesity drive (e.g. the ban on pre-watershed junk food advertising, and vending machines in schools). The difference is that smoking is addictive. If someone is told their consumption of junk food is harming their health, they can give it up with a modicum of willpower. When my grandmother was diagnosed with lung cancer she was completely incapable of quitting, after nearly 60 years of smoking. I remember her on her death bed, as she wasted away, asking 'how long does it take to die?' She died at 73; her three sisters died at 98, 100 and 101. My uncle's partner, who spent most of her working life on a production line in a factory where everyone smoked, died of lung cancer a couple of years ago, in her fifties, a few months after diagnosis. My dad - who smoked roll-ups and always insisted that the link between cancer and smoking, or cancer and diet was 'not proven' - died of cancer ten years ago this week. He was 56. So that's where I'm coming from.

Fifth point - I was involved in discussions on this issue prior to Labour's 2005 election manifesto; in fact I argued for a full ban at Labour's National Policy Forum a few years prior to this, but John Reid won the day on that occasion. I agree it would therefore have been wrong for Government whips to have pushed the full ban through Parliament, given that it wasn't a manifesto commitment, but they didn't; there was a free vote. Parliament votes all the time on issues which aren't in the governing party's election manifesto - e.g. the recent free votes in the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill. So we were pledged to introduce a partial ban, and had a free vote on whether to take it further.

Sixth point - John Reid frequently made the 'class' point, describing smoking as one of the few 'working class pleasures'. I didn't agree with him then, and I didn't agree with him now. I actually think it's just as patronising to say you're defending a working class pleasure as it is to say that the working class need to be saved from themselves. I don't draw a distinction between who smokes. I just think it's a bit disingenuous of Forest to push this line when their idea of effective political lobbying is to congregate in private members clubs in Belgravia and host champagne tea parties in the Commons.

Seventh point - public support for the ban. I was quoting figures widely reported in the press, and I don't think in any case you are saying you have majority support? I can only base it on published figures (and I've cited references for those) and what I've seen in my constituency. I've had virtually no complaints - two, I think - since the ban and one of those was from someone who said he wasn't allowed to smoke in his own home anymore. It doesn't come up on the doorsteps either (once, I think). As I've said, my office is based above a labour club, in which we hold our local party meetings. Customers there haven't complained to me. I have, I admit, had a couple of letters recently about the potential impact on corner shop profits if cigarettes have to be kept under the counter and packets of ten are banned; shop owners tell me that 25% of their profits are based on cigarette sales. I have some sympathy with them if they're facing a threat to their livelihood, but given that I think smoking is something which should be discouraged, I can't exactly condone the fact that their profits are made from selling cigarettes. We can't continue to promote cigarette sales just to keep them in business. (And just to reiterate, I'm not saying people should be prevented from smoking; I just don't think we should facilitate it. I'm not interested in forcing people to give up, but I want to make it easier for them, and I definitely do want to discourage young people from taking it up.) I think this also answers the point about why I don't think separate bars for smokers is a good idea.

Eighth point - I know quite a few smokers, and they all support the ban. Some didn't support it before it was introduced, but do now. Some have actually said they prefer being in non-smoky pubs, even though they are smokers themselves. I have not been approached by a single landlord in east Bristol about the impact on their business. I'm told dry-cleaners' business has also been affected, as people's clothes no longer stink of smoke after a night out. So should we reverse the ban just to keep them in business? It doesn't make sense. As for Ireland, my father lives in a very rural part of Carlow (not to be confused with the 'dad' I mentioned earlier, who was my stepfather from the age of two) and he says that it's actually a Government crackdown on drink-driving which has had the biggest impact on his local pubs, not the smoking ban which came in earlier. Old boys who would drive from their villages to the pub in the evenings now stay at home and drink alone. Which is sad, but does it mean Irish authorities should turn a blind eye to drink-driving?

Anyway, I've spent two hours on this, Hamilton has won (and I've missed a phenomenal race).

I don't expect to make anyone happier as a result of what I've said. As for what happens now - you are of course free to comment on this post, which you no doubt will. I am not going to close the blog down, but I am not going to prolong the debate by responding to comments as we will just end up going round in circles. I will start moderating comments if necessary. And I am going to delete any comments about smoking on non-smoking related posts. As I said, I'm not prepared to allow this blog to be hijacked by proponents of a single cause, especially not one with which I so vehemently disagree.


Terry said...


Before we go any further, what will you do about all the families that have lost loved ones to cirrhosis, will you BAN ALCOHOL?

I will repeat this fair question, I would appreciate an answer.

If you are protecting bar staff from passive smoke, why do you allow people to join the Police force the Armed Forces etc. Now I don't believe in the passive risk, but let's go along with you. You are saying people cannot choose to work in a smoking pub because of the risk, BUT they can join the Police, Fire Brigade, Armed Forces. Now shouldn't you ban these professions for their safety, or ARE YOU GOING TO SAY, THEY KNOW THERE IS A RISK JOING THESE PROFESSIONS AND IT IS THEIR CHOICE. Bit of a dichotomy isn't it?

Terry said...


One very important point is the exemptions Europe have, if the evidence is so compelling, why have many European countries agreed to exemptions?

Dick Puddlecote said...

Excellent! For a couple of days I had this fear that you were going to post something that showed understanding towards smokers but ... Labour still heading for a disastrous landslide :-)

There is so much naivete in this post and so much to correct you on that it would take quite a while to post it all here, and you aren't going to listen anyway just as you didn't adequately test or question any of the evidence you were given before you voted. How you can say that you only listened to research not funded by either tobacco or pharma is quite staggering.

How's that white paper on banning tofu coming? ;-)

Terry said...

Kerry writes

I'm not saying people should be prevented from smoking;

This is a lie, you have prevented mentally ill patients smoking. You have lied on this blog Kerry.

westcoast2 said...

Kerry wrote
I subscribe to the view that smoking is something that should be discouraged. Can any of you argue that smoking is a good thing, that it ought to be encouraged?

That is fine, however the ban was not brought in on this basis, was it?

It also seems to have failed to achieve this aim. The numbers apparently giving up are lower than expected and in Ireland the numbers are now increasing.

What is your criteria for authoritative and compelling evidence?

Unfortunately this is not a 'single issue' as such as it impacts so many people in so many different ways from economic through freedom, health and social interaction.

In health terms a ban may also be counter-productive if you read the evidence on social isolation.

It was most pleasing that you took the time to give a comprehensive reply, though as you probably expected, your reply does
raise more questions than it answers.


Pat Nurse said...

Thanks Kerry for the response. I respect your views even if I don't agree with them.

I have spoken to my MP, Gillian Merron, personally and still await a reply following her promise to speak to the employment minister about the law which currently allows employers to advertise jobs to "non-smokers only" and protect those few smokers who have lost their jobs simply because of the fact that their employers are "anti-smokers".

I think I should also point out that I was a child smoker - I started at 8 years old and I'm 48 now.
Children today are better educated about the risks than I was but in a free world they must be able to make their own choices about it as adults - as I did. I could have quit if I'd wanted to but I never did - although I did give up aged 11 for a couple of months until my friends persuaded me back to it. There are times as an adult that I just don't want a cigarette and so I disagree about the "addiction."
Smoking is physcologically addtictive, I agree, but compared to alcohol and heroin, it is NOT physically addictive and does take just a modicum of willpower to stop. I know this because both my mother and father were life-long smokers and both gave up without too much difficulty because they wanted to. No-one in my family has ever died of cancer and for that I feel blessed.
If you have any doubt that smoking is addictive, rather than habit forming, try denying smokers, heroin addicts, and alcoholics their "pleasures" and see who at the end of a day is in physical difficulty and quite ill, and who is just short-tempered!

Smoking was everywhere when I was a child smoker in 1968 but it isn't, rightly so, now ... or wasn't until the smoking ban. Now we smokers are on the streets for all young people to see.

Children in my city can also see huge signs starting to appear stating "heated smoking garden here" for example,. The issue is now in full view of the young in a way it wasn't when we smokers were hidden inside which may cause them to be curious about smoking in a way that they weren't before.

It feels like we are being punished because we don't want to quit. We feel worse because outside we are forced to mix with people who really don't like what we do when before we were segregated and they didn't have to.

To consider a ban in open public spaces to improve the outisde air situation would be disproportionable and would make smokers like me feel even more excluded. How can you balance this with the Govt's aims for social inclusion?

I do appreciate you taking the time to respond to the posts on your blog which I did find through a link from Forest. I am sure you must know that it is impossible to always know where something of one's particular interest has been mentioned on the internet, but I can assure you that I always try to make my views known on smoking, and an adult's right to choose, whenever I hear it is being discussed online through Forest or another pro-choice group.

It is true that smokers are voters too, but please remember we are also people in a minority group who have been attacked in TV adverts, and Govt, media and health campaigns for more than 30 years which has led society to feel justified in abusing smokers, denying them the same rights as non-smokers (often called "decent members of society") and even to a point where they can legally be sacked from their jobs because of who they are and denied the chance to apply for vacancies.

I did once complain to the Equal Opportunities Commission regarding a job I wanted to apply for but was excluded from on the grounds that it asked for "non-smokers only". I was told that the law does not cover "lifestyle habits" and therefore the employer was not acting illegally. I question this because of laws that, rightly, protect people who choose other lifestyle habits such as homosexuality.

Thanks again for listening and repsponding. I, and I'm sure other posters on here, accept that you will not reply to abusive posts. I think, however, they show how angry and frustrated most smokers are at never being heard. The media does not and will not report the smoking/choice issue. As a journalist (I was very lucky to be able to rise from being a single mum in the underclass to the working class under the last Conservative Govt which allowed me to study as an adult for free unlike now) I can't tell you how many stories of unjust behaviour towards a smoker have been refused on the grounds that the editor is an "anti".

If you feel I have said anything above of human interest that deserves to be brought to the attention of the employment minister, health minister, or the PM, please pass it on. I fear my MP isn't listening.

Best wishes.

Pat Nurse said...

Apologies - I should make it clear that Gillian Merron is my potential MP. My area will be swallowed up by the consituency in boundary changes and Ms Merron will be my MP if she wins the seat in the next election.

Douglas Hogg QC (Con) is currently my MP. He voted against a ban.

I thought I should point it out as Ms Merron, perhaps, doesn't feel that she has a responsibility to help with this matter yet.

If you would prefer not to pass on the information above, please let me know.


andy said...

First point -Do you and the Government not have a fixed point on this too?
That no matter how much contrary evidence is provided you still wont reconsider or even recognize that you are not totally right on all the related issues.

Second point -Personally I would avoid the Nazi comparison, as it gives ammunition to opponents to dismiss the cause. However let me clarify where I feel the comparison is being made.
Nazis were the inventors of passive smoking as a concept(passivrauchen). They too knew it was a pack of lies but used it to justify smoking bans and to demonise and denormalise smokers, and categorise them into groups whom they considered undesirable.
Sound familiar?

Third point -The evidence you were presented with (via SCOTH) was a result of a meta-analysis of studies by Prof. Konrad Jamrosik. SCOTH are (all but one member) made up of ASH members, Jamrosik who is a renowned ant-smoker was paid by ASH to complete this study.
Jamrosik chose to ignore the two most comprehensive studies(mentioned on this blog before) and chose to extrapolate selectively. He then made a further extrapolation of 617 deaths a year from SHS based on a Relative Risk of 1.24. Lets put this into context. This risk which apart from being dubiously extrapolated, is less of a risk than cooking with olive oil. Where then is the ban on restaurants?
Are you aware of the toxicology of SHS? Are you aware that it is impossible outside of a laboratory to create levels of SHS that are harmful. Look it up if you dare. The HSE’s Workplace exposure limits cover all the carcinogenic constituents of SHS. None of which come near to exceeding these limits.
Air Management Systems can remover 99.97% of these and other airborne particulates. These making all working and socializing environments far cleaner than outside.

Fourth point- I find it hard to believe that the ban protects children. Inside how many pubs and clubs do you find children? Yet what law stops children from walking past pubs, and being influenced by the ‘cool’ smokers stood chatting outside?
Regarding smoking and illness; why are smoking rates at an all-time low, yet cancer rates and indeed asthma at an all-time high? As with passive smoking studies, it is impossible to attribute illness directly with smoking when there are so many confounders and other variables to consider.

Fifth/Sixth/Seventh point The ONS survey pre-ban reported that 67% of the population wanted a partial ban as per Labour manifesto. Why then go against that pledge and public opinion, and even spin the survey by missing out the bit that the support was actually for a partial-ban.

Eighth point- How many smokers would prefer to have their own facilities, and the choice to use them? How many smokers would support the ban if they knew that they aren’t really murderers and that their second hand smoke is harmless?

If economic is not a viable reason for banning causes of ill-health then why isn’t every cause of pollution banned? Starting with our entire transport infrastructure and chemical industry. The by-products of these are far more dangerous than smoking.

Your concern is selective, your research is selective, as are your sympathies.
Why can you not now open your mind and your heart and consider the huge amount of people adversely affected by the ban, and as I said before, demonstrate an ounce of honesty and integrity?

Basil Brown said...

"And just to reiterate, I'm not saying people should be prevented from smoking; I just don't think we should facilitate it."

But, from an earlier post, Visit to Millpond School, you said:

"A lot of the questions were about what politicians could do to stop people smoking, drinking, dropping rubbish, carrying knives, carrying guns, etc, including this: "If smoking kills, as it says on cigarette packets, why isn't it illegal?" Good point!"

Now then; vis-a-vis Nazi references and "Godwin's Law". I don't think anyone here is conflating the current War On Smokers [propaganda and legislative] with the genocide perpetrated by Adolf's lot. This is a straw man argument and quite disingenuous.

It is though, a matter of historical record that the Third Reich were vehemently anti-smoking in line with their "purity" ideals and it was their epidemiological research-methodologies that were picked up by Allied scientists after the war, so it is entirely legitimate to reference and research these links. This is not the same as saying "anyone who doesn't like smoking is a Nazi because Hitler didn't like smoking either".

You may be interested to read this article by Dr. Micheal Fitzpatrick, in which he compares the similarities and differences between Nazi anti-smoking methods and those used against smoking today.

Jay said...

With regard to your first point there are a number of reasons why online articles might attract only a handful of comments

1) like youself smokers have busy lives and may not have come across relevant articles

2) sometimes posters are allowed only a limited number of characters with which to make a point

3) it is believed that no-one of note will see the comments or take them seriously

4) it becomes very wearing to make points of a serious nature only to find abuse hurled back in response by people who are interested only in goading smokers. The comment made on the original thread of your blog by Nigel Saint is typical and reflects a contempt for decent people who just happen to smoke which you and your government have instigated through this ban. You have sent a message that smokers endanger the health of others so much that they must not be allowed to inhabit the same room and backed this up with a campaign of TV, radio and press advertising that re-inforces the message that passive smoking kills. The less intelligent and gullible in our society now believe that they have carte blanche to treat smokers with a disdain which would quite simply, and rightly, cause outrage were it applied to any other group of people.

I wonder if you would feel comfortable were your much-loved grandmother to have been subjected to such treatment.

Terry said...

What do we all know for SURE.

Brown is the most unpopular PM in decades, possibly ever.

Labour's overall ratings slide deeper by the week.

Labour expect us to believe scientific evidence, this from the same party that told us about 45 minutes.

Labour a govt that agree to attack Iraq then leave people to be slaughtered in Zimbabwe.

Labour a party who say, we are not forcing people to stop smoking, then FORCE mental patients to give up.

Labour a party of the past, a joke, FINISHED.

Jay said...

With regard to your third point about the evidence of the dangers of ETS, the sponsors of research should be immaterial since the scientific method is wholly objective underpinned, as it is, by the principles of rigour.

The point is that the ETS studies are not 'proper' scientific studies and, within their own framework of reference, are flawed in terms of methodology, results and the inference to findings and conclusions

I would be very interested to know whether you accepted the evidence presented to you by tobacco control advocates only after due diligence and, if so, on what grounds you find critiques of the studies to be unsound.

Jay said...

With regard to your remark in your third point that the health of bar workers etc was only one factor in your support for the ban, it should have been the only factor. It is unjustifiable in a democracy that the ostensible case for an act of legislation is corrupted by other considerations - in fact I believe that some-one on the original thread stated that it's illegal.

I, too, believe that smoking should be discouraged but I beg to differ on the extent to which it is the legitimate business of government. Leaving aside the moot point whether the impressionable young are more likely to take up smoking if that is a behaviour that society tacitly accepts or a behaviour that society rejects, I'd like to make a couple of points:

1) MPs are elected to serve the interests of the entire community, not what they regard as the interests of one section, in this case the impressionable young

2) government exists to handle issues that are best served at a societal level and it is not the legitimate domain of government to intervene at the personal level. Neither government, nor I, as an individual, have either the right or the responsibility to intervene in other people's individual choices. Proper responsibility for the impressionable young lies with their parents. If there is a place for government, it is to offer educational support based, not on propaganda, but on facts.

Even if you reject the above opinion can you really justify your method entailing, as it did, the spearheading of a campaign of demonisation of law-abiding citizens?

As for your remark about BAT marketing its product in Africa, I take the view that it is none of your business as an MP to allow such a consideration to inform your behaviour with regard to the lives of British subjects. If you find it abhorrent then, by all means, take action as a private individual.

Dick Puddlecote said...

My personal favourite was Kerry's refusal to help local businesses who worry about 25% of their profits being lost by totally unnecessary Labour legislation (ordered by ASH, the real Government)

I take it she was just as happy to see 260 Bristol people losing work as Imperial Tobacco upped sticks and moved their cigar-making to tolerant Spain last month. No point in fighting on behalf of them. They weren't forced to work there, they could have chosen somewhere else, they don't need protecting ... oh hold on! ;-)

Karen said...

Hi Kerry

It was thoughtful of you to take so much time in responding to the many people posting on your last blog. I wasn’t amongst them because I’m not a resident of Bristol East, and because anything I thought worth saying had already been covered.

However, in response to this one, there are one or two inconsistencies I couldn’t help noticing. The first, in point 4, concerns the evidence for passive smoking, which you say you considered carefully. May I suggest that this attention to detail sits rather awkwardly alongside your willingness to accept the opinion of just one person (albeit your father) on the demise of the Irish pub? Did you really look at all the evidence, or just that presented by ASH, with whom you share a common viewpoint?

In addition, Point 5 suggests that your mind was already made up on the subject, which is rather at odds with the statement in point 3 that politicians should ‘try to be as open-minded as possible’.

I was sorry to hear about your dad who, like mine, died of cancer. You don’t say what kind, and of course it’s no damned business of mine - but are you aware that some cancers are less prevalent in smokers than non-smokers?

When tobacco was first introduced to Europe it was considered a panacea – there was hardly an ailment it couldn’t cure or alleviate if smoked, swallowed, sniffed or shoved up one’s bottom. Five hundred years later, and the pendulum has swung through 180 degrees. I suspect the truth lies somewhere in between so, in answer to your question, “Can any of you argue that smoking is a good thing?” I would say, “Like anything used in moderation, quite possibly yes.”

That probably makes me a heretic, but at least I can truthfully claim to be an open-minded heretic.

Dick Puddlecote said...

Oh go on then, I can't resist :-)

First Point: "People who already had a very fixed position on this issue" - Labour central office (we know this from Sir haha Liam Donaldson's quoted comments) gave you only the studies that were sponsored by those with 'a very fixed position on this issue'. Pro-choice groups were not invited.

As for the comments on newspaper articles being moderated. I dare you to try to get any comment against the ban on the Daily Mail site so a resounding YES for the moderation.

Second Point: No-one on this blog is saying that the smoking ban itself is akin to Nazi ideals (even though they started this nonsense). BUT the 'de-normalisation' of smokers (copywright EU & WHO) certainly is in keeping with that. I don't believe de-normalisation should be used on ANY part of a civilised society if they aren't breaking the law no matter the cause. You perhaps think it's OK but don't play the moral card when you are in a responsible position that should mean that you are standing up for all sections of society instead of ignoring those that don't agree with your view of the world. Are you going to ask that companies stop discriminating against smokers when recruiting? If not, you can sit in the moral LOW ground I'm afraid.

Third Point: "I considered it carefully, particularly the evidence on whether or not better ventilation or smoking areas would achieve the same objective". That would be the Repace & Johnson 'study' on ventilation. Johnson being a huge pharmaceutical company ... ooh you liar! You said you didn't listen to research by bodies that were funded by tobacco or pharma!

"All we can do as politicians is to try to be as open-minded as possible, read the available information, try to determine which evidence is genuinely independent"

Yeah right.

Like the SCoTH report (pharma biased), like the Repace Johnson report (pharma funded), and unlike the Enstrom/Kabat dismissal (pharma funded but found the opposite view) which was the biggest study ever compiled, and probably the most independent but which was ignored.

Fourth Point: "passive smoking and its effect on bar/ restaurant staff was only one of the factors influencing my support for a ban on smoking in public places"

Are you kidding me? You were asked to vote on the Health Act which specifically legislated on smoking where people were working! If you considered anything else you weren't voting on the issue. Good grief.

As far as young people go, kids have NEVER seen as much smoking as they do now. For kids, it is more normal than ever before as it is stuck in front of their noses when they go shopping in the High Street with their parents. "They are more likely to do so if they see it as something which society tacitly encourages" that is a funny comment - so 7 year olds form their opinions on the acceptability of smoking by watching the news and listening to Labour press releases rather than seeing a practice that is much more visibly prevalent now than ever before, do they?

Fifth Point: So you think it's perfectly OK that Labour received votes for one policy and then rode roughshod over it without discussing it with the electorate. OK, so what's the point in a manifesto and the Queen's Speech for Labour? Can't be trusted obviously.

Sixth Point: How many more times, Boisdales is NOT a members only club in Belgravia. You can repeat it as much as you like, it doesn't make it true. Sorry, but the Labour lying mechanism doesn't work when it's incontrovertible fact.

Seventh Point: "I'm not interested in forcing people to give up" ... yet you are happy that people ARE actually being forced to thanks to your legislation. You use anecdotal evidence so I can too. I run a business and our employees are required to go through medicals to get their licences. In the past year 3 of the 35 that went to their GP were told they wouldn't get a medical cert unless they enrolled in quit smoking classes, they are all under 40 and perfectly healthy. In another case, one of our staff didn't have a GP so signed up for one and was told if she didn't give up, they wouldn't even see her! Your party did that. (read your second point again and draw comparison).

And NO, you haven't addressed the issue of why smoking pubs would not be a good idea unless you again are saying that the public can't make their own choices without your telling them what they SHOULD be doing. (read your second point again and draw comparison)

Eighth Point: I know hundreds of smokers and know of only one that agrees with the smoking ban, but you mix in your elite, I mix with working class predominantly through my business and leisure. Your point here is irrelevant if you are talking about voting because of what your friends think. Your job in a free vote is to look out for the interests of all those affected. Buzz - irrelevant.

"As I said, I'm not prepared to allow this blog to be hijacked by proponents of a single cause, especially not one with which I so vehemently disagree."

And there's the reasoning behind your vote ... you don't agree and have fallen to confirmation bias. It's rather condescending of you to try to pretend that you actually considered anything apart from that really isn't it?

Bring back the good old Socialist Labour Party please, I disagreed with many of their policies but at least they were working for all of the people they represented rather than pretending that some don't exist.

Terry said...

What won't be forgotten is the fact we all are here for just a short time.

Kerry could live her life unaffected by some smoking bars. She has chosen to destroy millions of of peoples social lives by removing this basic freedom from them. She will be singing Red Red Wine in a couple of years.

pagar said...

"I am not going to close the blog down, but I am not going to prolong the debate by responding to comments as we will just end up going round in circles."

Don't bother responding- you have already demonstrated that you have a closed mind. Not a problem unless you insist on passing legislation based on it with the potential to affect my freedoms.

Don't close the blog down but I for one have read enough,

tim85 said...

It's interesting that people bring up discrimination of smokers and draw parallels with racism, homophobia, and other prejudices.

This presents problems because it is eerily accurate. All prejudices banished by the intellect re-emerge in the anti-smoking crusade. There are approximately twice as many gay and lesbian smokers, percentage wise, as compared with heterosexuals. Similarly, ethnic minorities generally smoke more than white people, and it is well known that the working class smoke more (hence John Reid's accurate statement about anti-smoking being a 'middle-class obsession').

I am not accusing anti-smokers of consciously seeking to persecute homosexuals, ethnic minorities and the poor. But there does seem to be a certain commonality in the personality traits of the leaders of movements which seek to prohibit or restrict products: they almost inevitably end up directing their efforts disproportionately at the social grouping which the philosopher Mario Gramsci would have delineated the 'subalternity'.

As for Godwin's law, one cannot make any reference to the Nazis without being accused of violating it, which is sometimes, although not often, irrational in its implementation. Looking at the anti-smoking crusade of the Nazis is perfectly valid. An academic author named Robert Proctor (an anti-tobacco advocate, incidentally) has done so to illuminating effect. Indeed, the reason that the most vociferous opponents of the ban are in Germany is because there are people old enough to remember the smoking ban under the Nazis.

Of course, there are calls now eradicate smoking by 2035 (today, from the BMA) which go further than anything Hitler would ever have dared dream of.

ChrisB said...

It is more fun doling out abuse to an MP or an anonymous journalist – Certainly not fun at all to either but regretfully it is necessary when their views abuse so many of the electorate.

Renormalization by any other name is still renormalization of many of the electorate.
Debated and discussed at great length by anti-smoking groups such as ASH set up in the early 1970s by the Royal College of Physicians with a single predetermined aim of reducing the pre-decided damage caused by a single substance – NOT to look to any other possibility. The discussions were always one-sided and their studies/science backed only by each other much like school children marking each others homework. Believe it or not many smokers including, I’m sure, members of FOREST and Freedom2Choose do not encourage smoking but have been denied any respect for their views or any inclusion in efforts to reduce smoking prevalence. What can be seen clearly is the ‘muck-raking’ of these people to discredit any view opposed to their own. It will be of little interest that I, as a smoking teacher, spent considerable time discouraging the habit and the laughter after pupils left the blatantly propaganda ridden health lessons.

Selective ‘personal’ or anecdotal evidence is certainly taboo if it goes against anti-smoking fact. The assumption by a lay person that a death is smoke related appears however to be fact enough. The effects of possible but not proven death/harm from SHS appears to be sufficient reason to destroy venues despite them being essential to the social health and cohesion of communities. A person is not allowed to risk assumed harm by working in a smoky environment providing comfort and support for others but it is perfectly acceptable, as was pointed out by one respondent, for other workers to face imminent death in their employment. Can it be right that other citizens can volunteer for the RLNI, the Coastguards and other rescue services where they put their lives at risk to give comfort and support for others? A friend, not long ago, pulled a bloated, stinking, two week old corpse from the bottom of the cliffs when no other rescue service could reach it. He is a farrier and despite attempting to clean off the smell, no horse would allow him close so he lost a days income. He arrived at his local seeking the comfort of a large whiskey and a cigarette for what he described as the worst thing he had ever had to do. His reward was a call out fee that didn’t even cover the cost of a drink and you now deny him that basic comfort at a time of great stress.

Your predetermined opinion for a full ban assumed a certainty of ‘right and wrong’ with no middle ground.

Good old John Reid, a person of true integrity who was willing to look to compromise despite the venom of many anti-smokers.

So public support can only be based on published figures? It all depends on who commissioned and published the figures. When ONS figures are publicly and conveniently ignored in favour of ASH/CRUK YouGov statistics I fear that no one of real integrity can claim a serious lack of bias. – (BTW -There is plenty of evidence that the banning of 10 packs has a detrimental effect upon smoking cessation – Many use them as a support for limiting their consumption and children will purchase larger packets in the time honoured manner of combining their cash. It’s just a show of muscle by the newly righteous.)
You know/I know in fact we all know people with differing opinions and experiences. Non of these opinions should give anyone a right to deny others from performing perfectly legal and, to many, acceptable activities on their own property. Britain was a country known for its independence and tolerance – its ability to accommodate the needs and wishes of all its people but …………… no longer. As a party you have decided that one group, the health lobby, should provide the basis of so much legislated guidance and advice to the British people.
Social Health has been surrendered for their dreams of avoiding death. Physical health alone cannot assure us of any quality of life.

Terry said...

I see Bottler Brown is telling people how they should eat, whatever next with this clown.

Adeimantus said...

I must say Miss McCarthy, you deserve considerable credit for taking the time to reply so comprehensively. It will probably come as no surprise to you that I find a great number of holes, critical thinking-wise, with your arguments (several covered already by other responses so I won't go into them), but nonetheless, thank you.

Rightly or wrongly, and whether anyone likes it or not, smoking and smokers exist, and it won't go away. There are risks of course, like so many things in life, and many people assuage these by employing moderation. More importantly, there are ample ways and means to avoid non-smokers having any significant exposure to smoke, by proper ventilation and segregation. To allow this is not to encourage smoking; it is simply to accommodate smoking, the only right and proper thing to do

Anonymous said...

Hi Kerry

I appreciate the time you've taken to reply to these points: especially to people who are not your constituents, and who are often over the top in their views. I think the moral equivalences people have made between Labour and the Nazis are ridiculous and offensive.

Here's a few points.

1) I came here via Forest, but I'm on the democratic left rather than the libertarian right. I do think sometimes it's necessary to have paternalistic legislation, particularly in regards to motorists. I agree with Forest on one issue only - the smoking ban - which is all they campaign on anyway.

2) Few people would argue about the dangers of passive smoking, but I can't see people developing lung cancer from working a few shifts in a well-ventilated bar.

3) Also, no one's arguing that smoking isn't bad for you. I too have had relatives who have died of smoking-related diseases. However, so many things compromise our health - alcohol, red meat, certain other foods. If we followed the example of prohibition in 1930s America no doubt people would live longer and healthier lives. What the ban lobby do not understand is that people are prepared to put short-term pleasure over long-term life span. Quality of life is as important as quantity.

Allow me to quote the Iranian writer Marjane Satrapi: 'Anything that has a relationship with pleasure we reject it. Eating, they talk about cholesterol; making love, they talk about Aids; you talk about smoking, they talk about cancer. It’s a very sick society that rejects pleasure.'

Quite so, and also: life without risk is not worth living.

I don't think we should be encouraging young people to smoke. The government is doing all it can to discourage people from smoking - which, perversely, has the effect of making smoking a taboo and therefore more 'cool'! And this is why young people try illegal drugs - because they are illegal.

Ironically, if we let young people make an informed choice about smoking, more would reject it.

As for the point about British American Tobacco getting children hooked on cigarettes - that is a very serious matter.

What actions are being taken by the government on this? And shouldn't the BAT scandal be a greater priority than hassling adult smokers who are simply trying to get on with their lives?

4) Re the 2005 manifesto - I take your point about parliamentary procedure, but feel that it was still a little duplicitous to outline a partial ban in 2005, then vote on a full ban in 2006. Most people would support a partial ban - I think it's the best compromise - but not a total one.

5) On class, one more time. Kerry - it was your original post that brought up the class issue by going on about Forest's champagne tea parties and Belgravia cigar bars - which was, I think, a clumsy attempt to insinuate that Forest and by extension people opposed to the ban are all a bunch of out-of-touch toffs. Come on, Kerry - this sort of thing didn't work in Crewe and it isn't working now.

Supporters of the ban should be able to argue their case without this kind of partisan smears. In any case, smoking is something enjoyed by all classes of society, although I suspect that the ban originated from a section of the upper middle class that does not like pubs and wants to turn them into restaurants.

6) Supporters of the ban tend to mistake compliance with active support. Most people are not criminals and will obey the law. Most publicans cannot risk a heavy fine given that pub landlords are among the least well paid professions in the country. The ban is obeyed because of the heavy penalties for breaking it.

To get a true picture of the scale of active support for the ban, consider that pubs have always had the option of going completely smokefree - they did not need legislation to do so. For obvious reasons, few pubs did go smokefree before they were forced to do so.

7) Everyone falls back on anecdotal evidence when talking about the ban. I can only say that I know a great deal of people, smokers and non smokers, who do not support it. I know someone who worked for ASH for several years in the 1980s and does not support the ban because she feels that smoking is an integral part of pub atmosphere.

I can only take your word as regards the picture in Bristol but up in Manchester, pubs without beer gardens are going to the wall and takings are generally down. This seems to be the case nationwide. From yesterday's Observer:

'Pubs have sold 175 million fewer pints in the past year as a direct result of the smoking ban, according to market analysts AC Nielsen.

Jake Shepherd, marketing director AC Nielsen, said: 'The winter months were particularly bad. Sales fell nine per cent through November to January when smokers would have been reluctant to stand outside in the cold to have a cigarette.'

The point is that, while smokers make up around 25% of the population, they make up a far larger proportion of pub customers.

What gets me is that the government talks incessantly about bringing communities together - yet is undermining the hubs of those communities and promoting isolation and atomisation.

Right, I think I've covered everything and feel free to respond.

Thank you again for your patience, and for taking the time to respond to the points raised in this debate.

DaveA said...

Kerry, thank you for reading and replying, I appreciate we are not going to have a meeting of minds. I do know people who are anti smoking and pleased with the ban, however most people I know are neutral or against, mainly on civil liberties grounds. I think that you have completely underestimated the dissent that smokers and non smokers have had too far chances to express it. You only have to go to the section of "Gordon is listening" thread of the Labour Party's website to see how many people mentioned the smoking ban. Also in the Crewe and Nantwich by election debacle, many comments mentioned the smoking ban too. You complete lack of empathy towards smokers will be reflected in the next General Election.

Lyn said...

Thank you for your response Ms McCarthy.

I would like to respond to your fourth poin, initially.

My first husband died of lung cancer at the age of 51 - it is still debatable whether or not this was solely or even at all as a result of smoking as there were a number of other factors that were more likely to have caused his cancer. Other than my first husband I have or had numerous family who either smoked or lived with a smoker and most of these lived well into their 90's with no real illnesses in their entire lives! Those who died earlier, including my father (72) all died from illnesses or causes totally unrelated to smoking or cancer. So, although I sympathise with you for the losses to cancer you have endured in your family, this is still not proof that it has anything to do with smoking or SHS.

For me, a sufferer of depression all my life, smoking has been the one thing that has saved my life on a number of occasions. I have attempted suicide a few times, but would have done so far more often and probably succeeded by now, if it wasn't for my cigarettes. Smoking also helps me to cope with the day to day struggles in life and particularly in the working environment, as I find this can be particularly stressful.

I have never been much of a drinker, but I now find that on the odd occasion I do go out I drink a lot more than I ever did before. Normally I will drink one to 2 glasses of wine a week, maximum. I went out for a meal with a friend the other week and drank a whole bottle! I would have preferred not to, but as I could not smoke inside I drank instead as it was not possible to spend the whole evening outside in order to smoke. My friend, who also suffers from depression and other related issues actually drank 2 bottles of wine! Again, because she was not free to smoke inside.

There is a great deal of added pressure for those of us with depression too with the talk about banning smoking whilst driving, for example. If this were to come in, then I would either have to break the law and spend more time watching out for police, so as not to get caught, rather than watching the road, or I would not be able to continue working as driving is stressful, due to my depression work can be very stressful - there are times it is very difficult for me and others in a similar position, to actually leave the house to go to work - and I would not consider having to drive without being able to smoke as this would likely bring on a panic attack too! I already have to take sedatives to get me through airports when I go abroad on holiday as I am terrified of being stuck in departures if the flight is delayed and not being able to smoke - it is so claustrophobic and causes a panic attack.

There is a great deal more anecdotal evidence that smoking does not cause any harm, in fact can, in some cases be beneficial and this evidence is a lot more believable than the junk science that has been produced, which is totally unbelievable, even to laypeople like myself. Some has already been mentioned, like how come, as the number of smokers has declined over the decades, the rates of cancer have increased? One not mentioned here yet, how come in the 50's and 60's it was quite normal to have a baby weighing in excess of 8 or 9 pounds when the majority of mothers smoked, but now we are warned that smoking can cause underweight babies? There is no logic here at all.

The one thing that has been on the increase, along with various cancers, are vehicle fumes! Also, the slower speed limits which mean that vehicles are not performing at their optimum and so are producing far more in the way of harmful toxins. Just think about it - again it has already been mentioned - if you were to shut 20 people in a garage, all but one of whom smoked, and they all chain smoked for an hour or so, the worst that would happen to any of them would be sore/dry throat and possibly runny/sore eyes. Do the same thing with a car engine running and the likelihood is most, of not all, will be dead or seriously ill from carbon monoxide poisoning!

I know I will not change your mind and as others here have said, it is not right that someone, like yourself, who has been elected to represent the people should allow their own personal views to sway their vote on anything to do with legislation that, especially that which so adversely affects so many people. Any politician, I believe, is voted in to voice the concerns and to vote on behalf of their constituency, which means representing the thoughts and opinions of those constituents, not your own!

HC said...

I think Ms McCathay’s response is well considered, balanced and evidenced. I find it quite surprising that no one has responded positively in all the 23 odd comments posted. Therefore, in the interests of balance (if nothing else) I would like to add a few comments.

The Government response to smoking is a straight forward response to a public health problem. Yes, the smoking ban has an impact to some extent on the freedom of smokers. But we regularly, as a society, make a choice between the ultimate freedom of individuals and the impact of their actions.

Smoking kills. It kills 50% of people who smoke regularly and it kills non-smokers who are exposed to it. The population deserves a Government who is willing to try and prevent 140,000 premature deaths a year from smoking because that is 140,000 unnecessary deaths. Can we honestly say that every single one of those smokers who died last year from their addiction made a clear and informed choice about their smoking habit? Or did they get hooked young and could never find the support to quit, or were they influenced by the smokers around them or did they never really take in the public health messages so ingrained was the imagery of the big tobacco companies?

So what if some smokers are inconvenienced? It is the price paid by society in order for more people to be alive and healthy. The way I see it, this is a straight choice between a small personal freedom and the health of many thousands of people. For me that’s no competition, but maybe that depends on your politics.

Leaving aside the smoking ban which is clearly popular, clearly saving lives and hopefully having a positive impact on society’s understanding of the risk associated with smoking.

I would never lecture an individual friend or relative to quit – it’s their choice, as so many of you rightly point out – but Government does not speak to us as individuals. We are a population, a society, a community and we are better off when less people are smoking. The Government has a duty, in my view, to do more to create a situation where less people smoke.

The Government shouldn’t ban people from smoking but it should do everything it can to demonstrate the risk, encourage people to stop and protect people from starting. We let people drive even though there is a risk, we balance it against the gains to society, but we don’t let them do it without regulating their behaviour, pointing out the risks and protecting other people. To get rid of the smoking ban and limit the Government’s other policies around smoking would be to abandon driving licences and be done with the Highway Code. I wouldn’t be surprised if such actions amounted to a similar risk to the nation’s health.

I have said that I see it as a straight choice between small personal freedom and public health, but I don’t. That ‘choice’ to start smoking, how much of a choice is that and how do we make it a real choice? We have limited advertising by tobacco companies but we need to eradicate it completely. We do remind people about the impact on their health, but we should step this up, particularly to children. We do help people to give up their addiction but we need to enable more and break the cycle in our communities.

Terry said...

hc writes

The Government shouldn’t ban people from smoking but it should do everything it can to demonstrate the risk, encourage people to stop and protect people from starting.

Then answer the question that Kerry avoids.


As with Kerry, I expect no reply.

Terry said...


I would suspect you believed the 45minute warning as well.

DaveA said...

HC here we go on passive smoking, here are some comments and scientific articles, firstly the lovely Caroline Flint, then the Enstrom/Kabat 39 year study into passive smoking.

"78. Given the evidence about the impact of passive smoking, we are concerned that the decision to ban smoking in public places may represent a disproportionate response to a relatively minor health concern. It may be that the unstated objective of policy is to encourage a reduction in active smoking by indirect means. This may well be a desirable policy objective, but if it is the objective, it should have been clearly stated."

"Conclusions The results do not support a causal relation between environmental tobacco smoke and tobacco related mortality, although they do not rule out a small effect. The association between exposure to environmental tobacco smoke and coronary heart disease and lung cancer may be considerably weaker than generally believed." And "Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, primarily asthma, bronchitis, and emphysema, has been associated with exposure to environmental tobacco smoke, but the evidence for increased mortality is sparse."

HC said...

Hi Terry,

Not being a politician I don't have to agree with everything in the law and I feel a bit dubious about this bit, but only this bit not the rest.

However, it is the law and it will be interesting to see how it ends up working. Those with a mental health problem are much more likely to smoke than the rest of society, they also die much younger than the rest of society. I know that this wasn't the reason for the ban in mental health units but maybe it will help to bring about a change of approach in mental health services and result in more people being supported to quit a habit which is killing them and damaging their health. That would be a brilliant outcome, however, I would agree with you that doing it via an enforced route in a mental health unit seems a step too far. But there are many others who would say that to not do it is to inflict smoke, which is lethal, on to staff and other non-smoking patients who have no choice either.

It’s a tricky one.

HC said...

Hello Davea,

My this is fun! Passive smoking's not real? Dear lord play another!

I give you the really very scientific Report of the Scientific Committee on Tobacco and Health - which I'm sure you've seen being so well informed and all.

There is plainly overwhelming evidence that smoking is harmful, the only possible justification for not moving to prevent people from breathing in smoke (either their own or others) must be a civil liberties argument which I've already addressed above.

Terry said...


With all due respect if murderers and rapists can smoke, please don't insult our intelligence by saying mental health patients would be inflicting passive smoke on staff. Really you've scored an own goal and discriminated against prison warders.

Pat Nurse said...


The smoking issue reminds me of how far backwards society has come in terms of equality, discrimination, ignorance, oppression, immorality and hypocrisy.

Any right thinking person gasps with horror when looking back at the old days when it was perfectly acceptable to post over the doors of pubs, restaurants and guest houses "no blacks, no Irish, no dogs" .

But in this "modern Britain" some of those same philanthropists accept without question the exclusion of smokers from every public place as a mark of how we have changed for the better. So entrenched is their hypocrisy, they cannot even see that they are being prejudicial in exactly the same way as their ancestors.

They should be ashamed of themselves, but even more, they should be angry that they have been misled, by the very fascists they claim to despise, into thinking that bullying one section of society to do what others want them to is right.

"Smokers are not excluded," they whine smugly whenever the question of discrimination surfaces. "You are welcome here. You just can’t smoke."

They just don’t get it. Smokers do not just smoke. Smoking is an embedded part of their culture. It makes them who they are. My grandparents, aunties, uncles, and friends smoked, my parents smoked, my brothers and sisters smoked. One sister never took up the habit and is the only one who ever had cancer.

Ahhh.. The antis say.. It must have been caused by passive smoking then. If you ask her, she will say no. Research revealed her breast cancer was caused by a certain sweetener in a popular fizzy drink that she drank consistently for 25 years. I went with her to chemotherapy sessions where the drink was stocked to capacity in the hospital vending machines but "No Smoking" signs were plastered everywhere. She found this offensive and disturbing.

As I said in my last post, I have smoked for 40 years. My mother smoked when I was in her womb so I guess I have always been a smoker except for the 8 years I gave up after I was born and before I tasted my first fag in a make-shift den along with the other kids I kicked about with on our council estate.

Back then, in the late 60s and early 70s, my teachers said it would stunt my growth. It didn’t and I still came first in the school cross country run eight years after I first inhaled the "wicked weed". A doctor told me that if I didn’t give up, I wouldn’t be able to climb a flight of stairs by the time I was 30. I’m 48 now and jog every night.

25 years ago, as a young mum, I sat with others who lived on our poor council estate bemoaning the trap we had fallen into. Smoking was the only pleasure we had in those days of abject poverty and thing that got us through it.

Margaret Thatcher’s "divide and rule" politics separated the working classes and created a new underclass - most of them still smokers and the subject of today’s discrimination in all sorts of ways.

Those fortunate enough to move up into the middle classes began to look down on their former communities and blamed them for all that was bad in Britain. And of course, by the time the propaganda machine churned out health hysteria to fever pitch, the underdogs were blamed for killing "good people" with their passive cigarette smoke while those accusing them were getting nice little earners from the health promotion machine which has wasted billions of NHS money over the last three decades.

The underclass was weak and therefore a decent, and legitimate, target for the hypocrites to attack.

When Labour won the 1997 election promising a change in Britain, who would’ve thought that change would take us back socially 100 years. Who would’ve thought that the party of the working class, with a socialist duty to protect the broken, the beaten and the damned, would betray their hopes and aspirations so ashamedly.

Discrimination may be more subtle these days, and wrapped up in the false premise of the greater good, but it is still built on prejudice, ignorance and false fear and it is still directed personally at one particular group of people.

The architects of this "modern Britain" should be ashamed of themselves for taking this proud nation, whose sense of fair play was the envy of the world, back to the dark days.

Thatcher’s plan to rob decent people of their hard earned cash through the unfair poll tax failed because civil disobedience made it unworkable. People were prosecuted but they refused to pay their fines and to keep the peace and authority, the system had to change.

What would the smoke police, the Government, the health control freaks, and the antis do if the 12 million smokers in Britain all converged on one town and lit up in every restaurant, pub and public place at the same time?

Now that’s something that they would have to take notice of… isn’t it?

Terry said...


As you seem pepared to answer some questions from another view point,I put this one to you.

Many families have had their young ones coming back from Iraq in body bags. Now is this right, should we have armed forces, if we should what is the risk? I raised this point with Kerry, many people choose to take risk in many activities. Now if we had a smokers pub where staff were not concerned about any so called risk, is that not their choice??

Formula 1, Mountaineering etc etc, do I need to go on. Many activities have led to families losing their loved ones. The ban has moved from passive to eradication, the BMA only today predicts a smoke free country by 2035 with MORE measures taken. Is all this democracy?

HC said...

In terms of prisons - seems a bonkers inconsistency in the law. If you ban it from mental health units than ban it from prisons, or don't. One or the other.

In terms of risk - some jobs carry a risk inherently. Being a solider carries a particularly heavy risk, particularly at the moment sadly. This risk though should at all times be minimised as it should in all jobs and as proportionate as possible.

I just can't see how exposing people to smoke is a necessary risk of working in particular environments and it seems completely proportionate to limit and remove that risk by saying people need to smoke outside.

Terry said...


Thanks for answering, but could you please address this particular point.

Now if we had a smokers pub where staff were not concerned about any so called risk, is that not their choice??

DaveA said...

HC Paragraph 3 of the SCOTH report, "In most studies considered
individually the observed odds ratios failed to reach statistical significance". I won't mention 12/14 members have links with NRT companies.

Professor George Smith editor of the BMJ.

"Given the small health risks associated with exposure to environmental tobacco smoke and thus the large study sizes required, meta-analysis has played an important part in establishing the apparent adverse health effects."

Sir Richard Peto being asked by Lord MacDonald in a House Of Lords enquiry into passive smoking. Sir Richard also helped Sir Richard Doll in the correlation between ACTIVE smoking and lung cancer research. "Measuring that risk reliably and directly is difficult. You can do it indirectly by suggesting approximate proportionality of hazard to exposure, but the assumptions become almost untestable. The arguments that have been forward for the various thresholds, that there is some dose below which there is absolutely no risk, have no scientific plausibility. They have come up a lot of times because, as you know, when there is the statement "there is some risk" then there is political pressure to get rid of that risk....That is definite, and the threshold arguments are often politically motivated inventions which do not have much scientific plausibility. I am sorry not to be more helpful; you want numbers and I could give you numbers by direct extrapolation, but what does one make of them? These hazards cannot be directly measured."

" Professor Sir Richard Peto: I am sorry, I know that is what you would like to be given, but the point is that these risks are small and difficult to measure directly."

Terry said...


I can only conclude your sudden silence means you agree with my last point.

Terry said...


I know you will read all the posts. Think about this. If the British Public were asked..

Now if we had a smokers pub where staff were not concerned about any so called risk, is that not their choice??

I think this would be a resounding YES.
Even the most anti of anti's would have a job saying the majority. would vote NO.

So this would be a question based on freedom of choice, morals and standards we once upheld. I am not a facebook blogger, but perhaps someone would put this question to a poll and inform us all.

Lyn said...

HC - with regard to your post regarding the mentally ill. Yes, many of them do smoke, but did you know that stress, anxiety and depression, amongst other things that many mentally ill people suffer from, are more likely to cause cancer than smoking is? You say to save them from themselves it is a duty to stop them smoking so that they won't die of cancer, or words to that effect, however, by forcing them to stop smoking and taking away the one thing that can help them better often than drugs can, is putting more stress and anxiety onto them which is far more harmful! That is the reason that people with mental illnesses are likely to die younger than others - that and the social pressure being put upon us that drive us to attempt suicide, which some do manage eventually and others manage at their first attempt.

I would have been dead a long time ago had it not been for my cigarettes. In today's climate of political correctness and bullying, disguised poorly as nannyism, and the discrimination that is both rife and permitted against smokers, there are many times still I wish I were dead!

We are not asking to condemn all those who believe in the myth of SHS by sharing their space, we are simply asking for our own venues and with regard to staff, there are plenty of bar staff and restaurant staff who themselves smoke and so would have no problem or worry in working in such environments.

HC said...

Terry, I don't agree at all - I've just been busy this afternoon. You should in no way see my silence as tacit agreement or capitulation. No doubt I will respond in due course to specifics tomorrow, time permitting.

The fundamental point is that people deserve to be kept safe, an outright ban achieves that and tinkering at the edges (in relation to entertainment venues) is merely an exercise in eroding the effectiveness of the whole at very minimal gain other than a couple of people get to have a fag indoors. Personally I can think of far more profound civil rights which are being eroded and would you not be better of getting hot under the collar over 42 day detention, which is probably an issue we could agree on.

Kerry said...

Terry - the answer to your question is pretty obvious. The army and the police force are fulfilling a public good; the danger is unfortunately something that goes with it, and can't be completely protected against. Doesn't apply to bar staff.

You are, typically, over-stating your case in saying that patients in mental health facilities have been banned from smoking. I have such a hospital in my constituency, and on visits have seen residents quite happily itting outside in the garden, having a cigarette. So they haven't been stopped from smoking, they just have to do it where they don't pollute the air for other people. I accept there's an inconsistency with the policy on prisons, but it was kept that way as prison governors said it would be very difficult to keep order if a ban on smoking in cells was introduced. It would be a bit more difficult for prisoners to pop outside for a fag!

And, Terry, I don't intend to answer any more of your questions - see rules re 'aggressive' posts.

Terry said...

Kerry writes

I accept there's an inconsistency with the policy on prisons, but it was kept that way as prison governors said it would be very difficult to keep order if a ban on smoking in cells was introduced. It would be a bit more difficult for prisoners to pop outside for a fag!

Now we have it, because millions of smokers are decent upstanding citizens we can inflict this law on them, but if your going to threaten disorder in prisons we'll let you smoke. Appalling! Hang your head in shame Kerry.

westcoast2 said...


Although some mental health facilities allow smoking in the grounds, as it seems in Bristol, not all do.

In a recent High Court ruling (May 2008?)
"Rampton is operated as a hospital by National Health Service staff and distinction between it and prisons and other accommodation is justified," he said.

"Like other hospitals, it is smoke-free. Both health and security considerations justify the ban even though smoking in the grounds, which may be possible at other hospitals, is not feasible at Rampton," Lord Justice Pill said in a decision made along with Mr Justice Silber.

This effectively means that some patients in some mental helath facilities have effectively been banned from smoking.

Terry said...

Kerry wrote

The army and the police force are fulfilling a public good; the danger is unfortunately something that goes with it, and can't be completely protected against.

Well we don't need your Formula 1, we don't need Boxing, these are just a couple of examples. Please ban these sports and protect these people, surely they deserve the same consideration as bar staff. Now remember if they choose these dangerous sports it doesn't matter, you must protect them. By the way how's the raffle in Scotland going?

andy said...

So much for equality in the workplace.
Is having an immunity to effects of SHS a pre-requisite for a job in the prison service?

If SHS was lethal as per the justification for the ban, then Prison Staff would have to be protected. If Police officers wear stab vests, builders wear hard-hats, why dont prison warders wear protective masks.

Kerry and your 1 supportere so far on this blog, why not consider reading the facts about SHS. The two most comprehensive studies would be a good start. Both commissioned by health organisations.Both were disregarded when formulating evidence to justify the smoking ban.

Read the toxicology behind SHS.

If you refuse to read anything beyond the anti-smoking mantra, at least dont insult the intelligence of the others on this blog by even implying SHS is just cause for this ban.

At least have the decency to admit you agree with the ban simply because you abhor smoking, and think that any measure you think will reduce and even eradicate smoking is a positive step.

Terry said...

So prison warders must lump it. Now Kerry believes passive smoking kills, surely the warders will sue the Govt.

Basil Brown said...


"I think Ms McCathay’s response is well considered, balanced and evidenced."

Quiet day at the office, is it? I found Kerry's response dismissive, evidentially selective and prejudiced. A statement. She's right and we're all wrong.

"The Government response to smoking is a straight forward response to a public health problem."

It is a straightforward cave-in to a hysterical and well-financed lobby-group who represent the tiny minority of people who don't like the smell of burning leaves and who enjoy looking down on those who do. Nu-Labor abandoned their manifesto-commitment on an issue that was to have a big impact on many of their core-voters. In many people's minds, it has become just another NuLabor manifesto-lie.

"Yes, the smoking ban has an impact to some extent on the freedom of smokers. But we regularly, as a society, make a choice between the ultimate freedom of individuals and the impact of their actions."

Using this logic, would you ban cars? There's no proof your "passive smoking" has ever killed anyone, but figures for actual pedestrian [i.e. "passive"] deaths on the roads are readily available. They do not need to be extrapolated from dodgy epidemiological stats derived from anecdotal memories of forty years ago before being rounded to three decimal places in order to give the false appearance of scientific rigour.

"Smoking kills. It kills 50% of people who smoke regularly and it kills non-smokers who are exposed to it."

The annual probability of not contracting lung-cancer, for an active smoker, is 99.88% if you choose to believe the widely-quoted Doll/Hill study. For a non-smoker, it's 99.99%. Extrapolating these figures out, the anti-smoking crusaders have managed to invent some Big Scary Numbers. No-one much minded when these were used to attack "Big Tobacco", as no-one likes the idea of fat-cats waxing off the alleged dependency of others, but now the anti-smoking zealots have turned on the consumers by deploying the ETS scam. Divide and conquer! Nu-Labor will pay the price for this, as yet another symptom of the political-class disempowering the electorate. We are not children.

"The population deserves a Government who is willing to try and prevent 140,000 premature deaths a year from smoking because that is 140,000 unnecessary deaths. Can we honestly say that every single one of those smokers who died last year from their addiction made a clear and informed choice about their smoking habit? Or did they get hooked young and could never find the support to quit, or were they influenced by the smokers around them or did they never really take in the public health messages so ingrained was the imagery of the big tobacco companies?

The population deserves a government prepared to reach reasonable accomodations on issues such as this, where there are strong feelings on both sides. I do not accept the figures for premature deaths you give, as they appear to be based on extrapolations from the highly-biased SCOTH report. Even accepting, as I do, some elevation of various health-risks from active-smoking [dose-dependent of course], this does not give anyone else the right to stop me from making my own choices as an informed adult. I do not hang-glide, I do not climb mountains, I do not eat tofu. And neither am I demanding those rights to enjoy said activities being denied to those who do get their kicks that way. This is called a "live and let live" ethos, which was once quite popular on the Left.

"So what if some smokers are inconvenienced?"

So What, indeed. It's not one of your freedoms being removed, is it?

"It is the price paid by society in order for more people to be alive and healthy. The way I see it, this is a straight choice between a small personal freedom and the health of many thousands of people. For me that’s no competition, but maybe that depends on your politics."

What is wrong with the principle of consenting adults making their own choices? Are they all "misinformed"? And what qualifies you to be the arbiter of what may or may not be considered "healthy" for others?

"Leaving aside the smoking ban which is clearly popular, clearly saving lives and hopefully having a positive impact on society’s understanding of the risk associated with smoking."

Oh, Lordy. Are we nearing the bottom of your DoH pamphlet yet? Depends on the question asked, who you ask and where you ask them. 70% of pub-customers were against a total ban. "clearly saving lives"... Whose? Can you name one? Or perhaps you're tacitly referring to that never-published but still headline-grabbing Jill Pell "study" on heart-attack rates which has been soundly debunked, even by some anti-tobacco activists. But the hardships of the ban ARE having a positive effect on many people's ability to see through Nu-Labor tractor-numbers and spin-based epidemiology. It has, in other words, formed part of the backlash against this venal corrupt and hypocritical government. The government I am now ashamed to admit I helped into power back in 1997.

"I would never lecture an individual friend or relative to quit – it’s their choice, as so many of you rightly point out – but Government does not speak to us as individuals. We are a population, a society, a community and we are better off when less people are smoking. The Government has a duty, in my view, to do more to create a situation where less people smoke."

The government has a duty to inform people... and in a balanced way; not to coerce, demonise and bully based on a fraudulent, self-interested health-scare.

"The Government shouldn’t ban people from smoking..."

Say it again! I don't think Kerry heard you.

"...but it should do everything it can to demonstrate the risk, encourage people to stop and protect people from starting. We let people drive even though there is a risk, we balance it against the gains to society, but we don’t let them do it without regulating their behaviour, pointing out the risks and protecting other people."

In what way does this justify a total smoking-ban? Those people wanting "protection" against the unquantifiable "risk" from ETS could have been provided for with seperate areas, ventilation, environmental health legislation on minimum air-quality standards etc. And then all those pubs and bingo halls wouldn't have had to close.

"To get rid of the smoking ban and limit the Government’s other policies around smoking would be to abandon driving licences and be done with the Highway Code. I wouldn’t be surprised if such actions amounted to a similar risk to the nation’s health."

Umm, how do you make that one out? Yes, most people accept regulation governing where and how fast one may drive, priority to the right, keep off the box-junction and all that etc. etc., but in what way does this argue for the total smoking-ban? Regulation is one thing, compulsion and complete removal of what has been a legitimate choice for hundreds of years is quite another.

"I have said that I see it as a straight choice between small personal freedom and public health, but I don’t. That ‘choice’ to start smoking, how much of a choice is that and how do we make it a real choice? We have limited advertising by tobacco companies but we need to eradicate it completely. We do remind people about the impact on their health, but we should step this up, particularly to children. We do help people to give up their addiction but we need to enable more and break the cycle in our communities."

Our communities? Enable more? You wouldn't be a politician, would you? On Kerry's £90,611 p.a. payroll, even?

It was my choice to start smoking. Not the tobacco companies, not my parents, not my peers, not Owd Ned dahn the pub. My choice. It was Against School Rules, unfashionable, punishable by cane-on-backside and I liked the smell of rebellion. Came to associate it with freedom. Thirty years on, I'm happily making the choice to continue. It gives me real pleasure. Is that okay with you, or would you really like to force me into making "better" choices?

Frankie said...

Quite right I say that our Kez invokes Godwins Law. Same as Max Moseley He does not deny that an orgy took place in his flat in Chelsea but is furious that his sexual acts were described as "Nazi role-play". Good fer im. Bottoms up I say.

Terry said...

I am asking Kerry as an MP to explain why she and her party are not protecting prison warders from a certain death ( passive smoke)?

Do you not owe this to their families Kerry, I quote you

To summarise, I haven't changed my mind about (a) the dangers of smoking, (b) the health benefits of giving up smoking, and (c) the dangers of passive smoking. You will no doubt accuse me of ignoring the evidence; I haven't, I just don't think it's authoritative or compelling.

Terry said...

Young one 8 just going to bed, what do we see on Sky Sports, a disgusting advert promoted by this Govt about drink, the one with food spillage and urination. I was happily watching a sports channel with my youngest child, then this filth came on without warning it's a disgrace. Don't subject my kids to this filth please Kerry, we were watching a sports channel.

ChrisB said...

Terry - I've seen the same advert - shock horror - so the Government and its out-of-touch experts think its hard hitting etc etc.
It's thrown out a challenge to young people. It's ridiculed them. It accuses them of having no respect for themselves. So what. the young people I've talked to are, in polite words they didn't use, totally unimpressed.
It's a waste of our money. Its another load of toffee (paraphrase) from that lot. Thy're all right ripping us off so they can earn a good screw, they ought to try paying my loan off with my cr*p wages.
Even our young are disgusted by your righteousness and preaching. You choose to accept the opinions of your experts leaving those you serve to assume we are of no importance.

Respect has to be earned yet this Government has shown so many of its people so little.

Terry said...


Good morning.

Kerry you are an MP and should answer your electorate.

Now this is important. How will you deal with manslaughter charges that will result from your govt forcing prison warders to inhale poisnous deadly toxins???

Now Kerry you can accuse me of being aggressive in posts, but the reality is it's your way of running away from issues.

david said...

Kerry, I'm actually quite impressed that you've replied (and there's no sarcasm there - I wrote to my own MP about this issue, as did several people I know, including Labour party members, and got no reply). Having said that, your response is, as others have said, a slightly strange mixture of anecdote, contradictory statements, and support for social engineering (something I wasn't aware was actually the role of government, but you live and learn). But well done anyway, at least you didn't duck out.

One thing I do want to bring up you touch on in point 6. Deliberately or not, I'm afraid this ban is very much a class thing, and that is what is going to cost Labour dearly. Working class people, and particularly working class Northern men, are far more likely to be lifelong and loyal Labour voters, as well as being more likely to smoke (cigarettes, anyway). You've now done something that directly impacts on our daily lives, you've imposed a ban that will shut down our pubs and clubs (really, you have). You might not believe this, and the middle class New Labour ex public school, Head of the School Debating Society Harmans and Milibands and the rest might not believe this, because all they can see is a world where we all sip Chardonnay in the All Bar Lloyds Living Room Corporate Chain Bar, but those scruffy smelly places are important to us. Every single one that closes down will cost Labour votes, and every one that struggles on with no atmosphere and no life to it will cost Labour votes, and every time the old bloke in the corner is told to stand in the rain for his smoke will cost Labour votes. And once you break the habit of Labour voting in a city like this (Newcastle), and people start to vote Lib Dem (or even BNP), Labour are in trouble. It's already happened here with the council, it's going to happen with the MPs too.

That's not meant as a threat - a sort of "well, I'll you lot out if you stop me smoking" - it's a statement of fact. I voted against Labour in the last council elections, the first time I haven't voted Labour in 25 years, and the world kept on turning. So I'm going to do it again, and again. And I'm afraid so is almost everyone I know. And by the way, that "voted against Labour" was deliberate, we aren't voting *for* anyone else, we're voting to get you lot out.

Terry said...

Oh dear Kerry!

Jay said...

With regard to your point about partial/full ban, the manifesto pledged to enact ONLY a partial ban. Surely, even in a free vote, Labour MPs should not have considered voting for anything else?

I'm sure that other people will echo my views regarding other points so I'll say no more except thank you for responding to the originating thread comments.

I, too, however, will never vote Labour again.

Blad said...

I am amazed that Kerry thinks that Terry's posts are aggressive.

I find this remark from her rather telling, in that, she and her chums in the parliamentary Labour Party like to dish it out from the safety of the parliamentary bubble, but are incapable of taking much heat from the public when it comes at them directly.

In addition, Kerry is prepared to make all sorts of excuses to herself as to why she shouldn't take any of these criticisms seriously. Moreover, I would respect people like her much more if they had the courage and integrity to come and talk to people like us (a wide cross section of society) face to face and really listen to the other side of the coin. As it stood, any consultations by government on the smoking issue completely ignored dissenters preferring instead to the "evidence" of ASH et al, which, in fact, contains much fraudulent data.

In similar vein, Kerry will be informing us next that there is no significant economic damage from the ban either. I suggest she keeps a keen eye on developments in Holland then, where a leading Dutch economist has just stated that the economic findings of the studies used by the anti lobby to demonstrate no significant economic damage following smoking bans, have just been declared invalid.

(Another ex-Labour voter.)

DaveA said...

Kerry as a final word from me and on this I would like a reply. We have discussed the economic effects and passive smoking health myths, but I feel that I should mention Labour's chances of re -election and possibly many Labour MPs losing their seat. As John Reid said that smoking is often a working class pleasure and as many people here and communications to Forest have stated, that the smoking ban has alienated traditional Labour voters. Here are some quotes and supporting URLs. Let me start off by quoting your colleague Sir Brian Iddon. "Bolton South East MP Dr Brian Iddon said the Government's plans to increase road tax would further alienate voters who were already "heavily bruised" from the smoking ban and rises in alcohol duty". Also if you go to the Labour Party's website and the secion "Gordon is listening" here are some typical quotes.


I am an ex-party member, I stopped my subscription 2 years ago as all I heard on the radio was nannying and coercion

I'm also more than disappointed that some Labour supporters here can't recognise the terrible damage the smoking ban has had on our support. I am a committe member at a British Legion Club in Surrey and I can attest to the fact that is a huge factor in the minds of our members, there is barely a day goes by without someone mentioning it and linking it with the Labour Party."...."Our membership dropped by 35% in January and we have lost 80% of our darts teams as we have no chance of offering a good place for smokers due to our location and restrictions from the local council. This is in a southern area where Labour don't have much representation, so I dread to think how the Labour vote is being decimated in strong Labour working areas in the north etc."

"Liesa Message left at 08:45 pm, Sat 3rd May 2008

I was a 3rd generation labour voter. My Granddad was a labour councilor and next to be Lord Mayor before his death. My parents were active labour activists. Why did I not vote for your party?....On top of that we have your wonderful, decisive smoking ban. Great to let one of the countries highest revenue payers suddenly become society's outcasts. Have you been to a Labour WMC in the north recently? The pensioners that fought for freedom? Heard what they have to say about the party that they held dear? Whilst stood under your parties idea of a humane smoking solution... a 50% enclosed 'shelter'that the RSPCA would not house a sick dog in? Listen and learn Mr. Brown. Boris has and will question the way you are treating the citizens of this country. Your voters have spoken. It would be in the Labour Party's interest to listen."

So if you want some feel good back in the UK, may I humbly suggest a partial relaxation of the smoking ban. Thanks again for your time.

Terry said...


The reality is most smokers feel the same way as all the posters on here. You can spin all you want, 45 minutes was a lie and impending death from passive smoke is a lie. If we want dictatorship we can live in Zimbabwe, we are, or were in a country of free speech, please don't insinuate we are some lunatic fringe. Your party will be destroyed in the next election, this coming from someone who was singing things can only get better in 1997, yes I was.

andy said...


Do you have a laser printer in your office? Did you know that the emissions from toner cartridges are carcinogenic?

It seems that there are many other and far more serious indoor air quality problems to worry about than SHS.
Unfortunately the smoking ban has made this problem far worse.

Indoor air quality is becoming a bigger issue all the time. Now we have legislation ‘protecting’ employees from poor air quality from SHS, who knows what sort of litigation could follow from exposure to less rigorously regulated indoor toxins.

Of course I agree with Chairman of Health England -Prof Julian Le Grand, who said’ I don't actually think the arguments on passive smoking are all that strong.'
However, I do think that support for banning smoking was more to do with the smell and minor irritation from tobacco smoke, rather than health dangers from carcinogens.
This is why we still happily use printers and visit restaurants that use Olive oil (higher risk ratio than SHS) and live and work in buildings designed to reduce carbon emissions at the expense of air quality.

Now if you are worried by this, there is an easy solution: Air Management technology.
The latest Air Cleaning filters- ULPA (Ultra Low Penetrating Air) Filters have an efficiency of 99.9997% for 0.12 micron particles or larger. Any indoor air quality issues are solved by these.
We could all be friends again by allowing people to tolerate smoking indoors and remain free of smelly clothes and hair.
Of course if the pre-ban consultation was inclusive of all sides of the argument, I’m sure these points would have been raised.
MP’s would have been better informed, and only the social engineers amongst them would have voted for the blanket ban.

Probably best to refer to electronic copies of your blog, Kerry.
Why risk your health by printing hard copies?

jonathan said...


First, can I point out this is not an orchestrated protest and this is the first issue about which I have felt strongly enough to devote time to sending emails and letters. I suspect this is the same for many.

Second, putting aside all the statistical and medical arguments, you are supporting legislation which prevents a group of people renting or buying a building and forming a smoking club staffed only by its members. To me this goes against natural justice and is not consistent with the law's treatment of other private and possibly hazardous pursuits. It shouldn't surprise you that many of us feel so strongly about this issue.

Terry said...

I think something needs to be addressed here. Kerry has shown complete and utter contempt for posters on here. These posters are people not a Panzer movement. Various points have been raised to cast serious doubt over Kerry's assertions, What does she do? Well she buries her head in the sand. Now she can call this an aggressive post. What would you call Kerry's attitude? One poster who suffers from depression made some excellent points, Kerry ignored this poster. This really is beyond belief, an MP uncaring, out of touch, implies people are a lunatic fringe. A disgusting insight into Labour and it's ideals.

ChrisB said...

Andy - The Health committee knew full well that ventilation was key to clearing the air but it was soundly rejected by ASH and 'other ventilation experts(?)'. Prof Dame Carol Black, an obvious ventilation expert (wasn't she president of the Royal College of Physicians? - you know, the ones that set up ASH - you know, the ones that pay James, it takes hurricane force winds, Repace to lecture them with his vast hatred and no mathematical integrity). Mr Shaun Woodward MP (you know the Tory defecter who's had more jobs within nuLabour than I've had hot meals) who might have cherry-picked OSHA by claiming "Ventilation doesn't work".
The Committee were even offered a demonstration of the latest ventilation systems but didn't bother to turn up (and be proved wrong). What can the man in the street do when he is so treated by such assumed superiority.
Ventilation can work and levels of SHS (apparently closely akin to the danger of mustard gas) can be reduced such that the air inside is better than that outside.
Cost also was exaggerated by the committee when "Mr Woodward pointed out that this would be “a pretty unfair burden” to put on businesses." - WOW !!!! And how much has it cost businesses to provide smoking shelters and go bankrupt? Even Government has faced costs through loss of taxes and the financial burden of the thousands of newly unemployed. None of this was in the Regulatory impact assessment!
I saw a report some time ago where a doctor in Africa had simply opened the window of his ward and almost elminated his problems of cross infection. A vast improvement without dispproportionate measures.
It's about time some sanity came into Government actions.
Never shout loud about inclusion, working together, partnership, protecting communities and 'I'll listen', we all know it's just SPIN. Nor should policians expect anything now but rejection from those you have clearly ignored.

Terry said...

Enjoy Kerry

You might be curious what techniques our public schools, the news media, our politicians, etc. etc. use to brainwash the public. Their methods are more sophisticated than you probably think. Some of the techniques used by orthodox medicine have already been discussed. Brainwashing is absolutely essential to the establishment. The reason is that in school or in life you are probably at some time going to run into a "renegade" who just refuses to believe what he or she is told and has a different point of view. It is brainwashing that conditions you to ignore what they say. If you don't believe me, just read on.

Hearing Both Sides of an Issue
To illustrate brainwashing, let me use Darwin's "Theory of Evolution" as an example of teaching what I want to get across, since that is a controversial area in which everyone seems to have an opinion. More importantly, it is the only theory that is allowed to be taught in our schools.

There are two broad categories of theories about evolution: first, are those who think that evolution occurred by total accident. Second, are those who think that God had a hand in evolution or God simply created each species independently. Let us call the first group the "evolutionists" and the second group the "creationists." There are actually several different camps (i.e. different theories) within each group, and there are hybrid groups (i.e. hybrid theories), but let us assume there are only two simple groups.

To visualize the two different camps, suppose there is a large field and there is a fence that bisects the field and you are standing at one end of the fence looking down the fence. On the right side of this fence are the evolutionists (the people who make up the "establishment") and on the left side of this fence are the creationists (the people who disagree with the "establishment" point of view).

You have the choice of siding with the establishment or the renegades. In some cases this choice could affect your job. For example, if you taught biology in a public high school, and you believed in creationism, and taught creationism in your classroom, you might lose your job.

If you are only looking for the benefits, and a promotion, then there is no question as to what theory you will teach. The evolution side of the fence has virtually all the benefits. But let us suppose you are one of those rare people who are more interested in truth than benefits. What are you going to do?

Suppose you want to know the truth (as best as you are capable of honestly determining as an "open-minded" person) - is evolutionism or creationism correct based on the evidence currently available?

Suppose that you decide to start your decision making journey by talking first with the evolutionists; because everything you have heard in school is that evolution has been proven to be true. So you head to the right side of the fence and start talking to an evolutionist.

Suppose this person tells you all the reasons why evolution occurred by accident. He might go into microevolution (what changes can occur within a species that shares the same genome), macroevolution (the creation of new genomes), why transitional species cannot be found in many cases, punctuated equilibrium, all the bones paleontologists have found, and so on.

After this conversation, you start to walk away, but the person stops you. Then this same evolutionist starts telling you all of the things that are wrong with the creationists. He tells you one theory after another of the creationists and why each theory cannot be true and what a bunch of goons they are.

After this conversation, you now feel that you understand both the evolutionist's and the creationist's theories of evolution. You decide it is not necessary to go to the left side of the fence and talk to a creationist because you already think you understand their views and why their views are wrong.

A Common Mistake
If you made such a decision, you would be making a common mistake: you have heard both sides of the issue, but from only one person on one side of the fence. You have really only heard how the people on one side of the fence feel about the issues. But you haven't heard the arguments of the creationists, from a creationist, nor have you heard why the creationists think that the evolutionists are wrong.

There are actually four categories of the two sides (these are the four things you need to hear to make an informed decision):

1) pro-evolution (from the evolutionist side),
2) anti-creation (from the evolutionist side),
3) pro-creation (from the creationist side),
4) anti-evolution (from the creationist side).

In other words, from the right side of the fence you have heard the pro-evolution arguments and also from the right side of the fence you have heard all of the anti-creationist arguments. But note that you have not heard the pro-creationist arguments, from a creationist, nor have you heard the anti-evolution arguments, from a creationist. You have only heard two of the four categories because you have only heard from one person who is on one side of the fence.

Do you really know both sides of the issue? No you don't! You only know one side of the issue and two of the four categories. Until you go to the left side of the fence and hear about the pro-creationist views, from a creationist, and you hear the anti-evolution views, from a creationist, you don't have a basis for making an objective decision.

The Way We Have Been Taught
At this point we need to stop and think for a moment. We have been conditioned all of our lives not to listen to the "renegades." In physics, you hear how wonderful Einstein was, but you are told never to talk to anyone who challenges Einstein (someone like Roland De Witte, for example). In science class you were taught that evolution has been proven to be true, and you have been taught that the creationists are all a bunch of religious nuts.

This same kind of bias has been drilled into you for every conceivable type of issue. You have graduated from school thinking you have all the answers and that there are no open issues that need to be debated. In other words, you think the establishment is all-knowing.

All your life you have been taught not to listen to the people on both sides of the fence. All your life you have been taught by people inside the "establishment" and you have been taught that what the "establishment" teaches is true, and you have been taught what is wrong with the renegades and you have been taught not to listen to them. All your life you have been taught two of the four things you need to make an informed decision. You have been brainwashed.

And now I come along and tell you to listen to the renegades. Why? Because, quite frankly, sometimes the "establishment" is wrong. Actually, it is frequently wrong. There, I said it, sometimes the renegades are right! You will never, never know when the renegades are right unless you talk to one of them with an open-mind!

Did it ever occur to you that what the "establishment" tells you about the creationists is not what the creationists really believe, or perhaps what you heard about the creationists is what only a very small percentage of them believe? You cannot trust an evolutionist to correctly represent the views of the creationists. They are biased. They will pick the most fantastic views of a small percentage of the creationists, then twist and contort their views. They will leave out the beliefs of the other 90% of the creationists. When they are done, what they say may not even remotely represent what a real creationist believes.

"Scientific" Research
But it goes much, much deeper than that. For example, the research done by paleontologists involves the dating of bones. In dating these bones there are a wide range of assumptions that must be made. Rather than give the public a huge range of dates for a bone (due to unknown issues such as moisture, radiation, etc.), they pick one specific date for the age of the bone, and that date is very generous to the evolutionists. In other words, they assume evolution is true when they pick a single date for the age of a bone, when in fact they should pick a very, very wide range of dates due to unknown information.

For example, many bones are found on the edge of rivers long dried up. Even if those bones were next to the river (when it was still flowing) for just a few hundred years, the moisture from the river could have had a huge affect on the estimated date of when that animal died.

Thus, by using generous assumptions, and not making it known that in fact there are assumptions made, they make it look like evolution "has been proven to be true." Evolution has not been proven to be true. Much of the evidence comes from generous assumptions with the data.

I can assure the reader that in some cases (my background is in mathematics and physics), the assumptions they make with the data amounts to 99% of the "evidence" used to reach their final conclusion. This is true in virtually every field of "science."

Truth Versus Benefits
But aside from all of these issues, did it ever occur to you that the people in the establishment have a conflict of interest? Let us go back to the point where you were standing at the end of the fence and had not yet moved. You had a choice to make. Before you ever decided to look into the issues you could have made your decision based on which side offered you the most benefits.

Did it ever occur to you that what you hear in the news media, for example, is being told to you by people who chose the "establishment" side for the sole reason the establishment had more benefits than the renegades? Did it ever occur to you that you have not been taught by "truth-seekers," but rather you have been taught by "benefit-seekers?"

The deciding issue for many people is not which side is right or wrong, but which side offers the most benefits. It is not a debate between truth and error, it is a debate between benefits. And many, many of the people you have listened to throughout your life have been people who have chosen benefits over truth!

We have been conditioned to believe that an "open-minded" person is someone who absorbs the propaganda of why the establishment is always right, and defends the storyline propaganda of why the renegades are always wrong.

So in reality "you" (the hypothetical person who is trying to find the truth about evolution) probably have absolutely no desire to talk to anyone on the left side of the fence. You have heard everything you think you need to hear. Thus, you are a member of the establishment and a certified "defender of the faith" of the evolutionists.

End of story - time to go home.

Your Trip To The Left Side of the Fence
Well, just for the heck of it, out of morbid curiosity and to test your debate skills, you decide to walk over to the left side of the fence and talk to a creationist. You carefully walk up to (gulp, drum roll): Hermann the Horrible Hermit Heretic. Be careful, you say to yourself, close your ears and don't listen, this person is an idiot. Oh well, its cold outside and your hands are in your pocket, so you listen.

You shake hands with Hermann and exchange pleasantries. Right away you are amazed at something: Hermann can talk! You had always been taught that creationists had the IQ of a rodent and wore beenie caps with rotors.

Hermann starts by talking about the first living organism, and about its DNA component and its cell membrane component. He states that even though it is absurd that a 300,000 nucleotide chain (300 genes with an average length of 1,000 nucleotides) can randomly form, even if it did, the statistical probability that the first DNA had a permutation of nucleotides, such that 300 viable proteins could be created by this DNA genome, has a probability that is far less than: 10-30,000 (this is a probability of 1 divided by a 1 with 30,000 zeros behind it).

(Note: the 10-30,000 figure is based on the assumption that 1 in 100 random permutations of 1,000 nucleotides will form a protein vital to a living organism. This is a very generous figure for the evolutionists, because the real figure is probably far, far less than 1 in a billion.)

He then stated that even if it could create 300 proteins, there is an absurdly small probability that these 300 proteins would form a set of proteins that could support the life of a new organism. He did not give a probability for this because there isn't enough known about sets of proteins.

You quickly do some math in your head. You remember from science class that there are 1080 atoms in our universe. Then, you imagine there are 1029,920 universes just like ours in a cluster (that is a one followed by 29,920 zeros). All of these universes combined would have 1030,000 atoms.

Suppose some government wants to do a lottery and in order to win the lottery you have to pick the single, correct atom from among all of the atoms in the 1029,920 universes. The probability of winning this lottery is 10-30,000. You ask yourself: "who is so bad at math they would buy a ticket in that lottery?"

Then you remember what your math teacher taught you: "the lottery is a tax on people who are bad at math." Then you realize there are a lot of people who would spend their life savings buying lottery tickets in that lottery. Finally, you come out of your daydreaming and realize that Hermann was talking while you were doing the math in your head.

Then you hear about the ridiculous probability of the first cell membrane forming by accident. For two hours Hermann gives you an earful about how incredibly complex a eukaryotic cell is. It is so complex that even the exobiologists admit that one could not form by accident from a prebiotic pool. Thus, they claim that the first cell was a prokaryotic cell, and that there are conditions where a prokaryotic cell can survive without an organic host (since this is the first cell, there are no organic hosts to feed on). But even so, prokaryotic cells still could not have formed by accident. Then you hear that the first DNA and first cell membrane could not have formed in the same prebiotic pool, and thus you are told it was virtually impossible that they could ever get together.

Hermann then starts talking about new genomes and macroevolution. You then learn about the improbability of irreducibly complex protein systems forming large numbers of complex inter-related proteins in the same random mutation event in macroevolution.

You learn about the mathematical absurdities caused by the issue of viable permutations of nucleotides from random mutations needed to create any new gene in any new genome. You hear that this is another case of absurd probabilities caused by permutations.

You then hear about the "morphing of the embryo." A new creature starts out as one type of cell, but when the "baby" is born it has many different kinds of cells. This means that some cells, when they divide, must divide into two different kinds of cells. The timing of these strange divisions has to be with pinpoint accuracy. You learn that the instructions for this pinpoint accuracy must be built into the DNA, thus making random mutations even less likely to be advantageous (i.e. requiring more precise chains of nucleotides). When Hermann started taking about the morphing "timing" issues and base-2 trees, you started thinking that Hermann might even be smart.

Then Hermann starts to talk about the evolutionists (this is the anti-evolution part, heard from a creationist viewpoint).

He tells you that the first argument the evolutionists use is that "we exist," thus our existence is proof of evolution. Hermann then likens this logic to the theory that all of Shakespeare's plays were written by six monkeys locked in the basement of a building. He states: is it logical that because Shakespeare's plays "exist," that the monkey theory is true?

You then hear how "punctuated equilibrium" is really a super irreducibly complex protein system, and how absurd it is to claim that it was not necessary for irreducibly complex protein systems to have mutated all at once, but at the same time to believe in punctuated equilibrium. You hear why the phylogenetic tree is really a cover-up for the gaps in transitional species. You also learn about the massive assumptions evolutionists make with regards to carbon dating bones. You also hear the totally unproven assumptions and very shallow logic evolutionists make with respect to mitochondrial DNA and nuclear DNA. And so on.

Ten hours pass and you realize the sun went down and it is now dark - and Hermann is still talking. You also realize it has been four hours since you had a clue what he was talking about. You also realize that this is not what you expected. You expected some wild and crazy theories. But in fact you realize that creationists are not stupid and they really do have some very strong arguments. Then you also realize that what you had been taught by the evolutionists, about what the creationists believe, has absolutely no relationship to what the creationists actually do believe.

You finally go home, very confused.

This simple story demonstrates the very sad state of affairs in America and throughout the world. Neither schools, nor corporations, nor governments want anyone to hear both sides of any issue from [the people on] both sides of the fence. They would rather have a brainwashed student than a thinking student. Schools act as if they have all of the answers and that it is not necessary to teach students to think for themselves. Students are graded on how well they regurgitate "facts," not on how well they think. Students learn very early on that all of the benefits are on one side of the fence and that they should spend their life gathering up the benefits.

"Education ... has produced a vast population able to read but unable to distinguish what is worth reading."
G.M. Trevelyan
People are taught from birth to assume and expect that those in the "establishment" (such as the schools, the news broadcasters and newspapers):
1) Have no vested interests or conflicts of interest,
2) Have perfect intelligence,
3) Have all the facts for both sides of the fence,
4) Are totally neutral and unbiased,
5) Have perfect integrity,
6) Have your best interests in mind, and
7) Are truly open-minded.

And above all, you are never, never allowed to think that money or power (i.e. benefits) could possibly influence what the establishment teaches you.

Dream on, this is the real world we are talking about.

It is quite probable, that from the time a person starts first grade, to the time they get a PhD or M.D., they never once hear both sides of any issue from the people on both sides of a fence. And even if they do, they have been so brainwashed by one side, or they are so interested in the benefits of one side, they simply pay no attention to the "other side."

As incredible as this sounds, it is difficult to get people to grasp the concept of hearing both sides of an issue from both sides of the fence. All your life you have been taught that it is not necessary. Society always has all of the answers, and anyone who does not agree with society is a crackpot, quack, moron, rebel, incorrigible, mentally unstable, or whatever.

Applying The Concepts of the Fence to Cancer
Now lets talk about the fence that separates orthodox medicine from alternative medicine (it is more like a steel-reinforced brick wall with machine gun towers on it, and the machine gun towers are all owned by the orthodox side).

When your doctor went through medical school, he or she was taught all the good things about chemotherapy, radiation treatments and all the other orthodox medical treatments for cancer. If your doctor was told anything about alternative treatments for cancer, it was the very biased bad things. Sound familiar? Has your doctor ever spent one hour listening to an expert on alternative treatments for cancer? It is very doubtful, though he or she has probably heard a few experiences from their patients.

Similarly, you are second level brainwashed, meaning you have been taught by your brainwashed doctor (who doesn't know anything truthful about alternative treatments for cancer), all of the good things about chemotherapy. You no doubt have heard many times how wonderful medical schools are and how they are based on a solid scientific foundation. You have been taught that the AMA (American Medical Association) is carefully watching out for your health. Not only are all of these things false, but there are about one hundred books that have been written to expose the falsity of these assumptions.

With all of the brainwashing from the media, your schools and your doctors, after all of this, suppose you pick up a copy of the book "World Without Cancer - The Story of Vitamin B17" by G. Edward Griffin. You decide to read this book with an open mind. IMPOSSIBLE! There is no possible way you can read this book with an open mind. If you read it at all you will read it to find the errors in it, and what is wrong with G. Edward Griffin.

Do you understand? Every day of your life, for all the years of your life, you have been brainwashed and have heard only two of the four elements of the debate. There is no possible way you can undo that brainwashing in 2 hours. You can't read that book with an open mind. It is impossible for you to ignore many years of solid, daily brainwashing. Everything you have seen on television, everything you have read in books, everything you have been taught in school, every magazine article you have read in your life, have all told you the same story line - orthodox medicine is far superior to alternative medicine.

So what can you do if you want to know the truth? You can't, but you can start. You have to have a clear understanding, and a clear admission to yourself, that you have only heard two of the four truth categories, and that now it is time to study the other two categories. You must want to hear the other two categories. Then, and only then, can you make the attempt to read it with an open mind.

Jay said...


What the author of your extract proposes is what universities (and I don't mean polyversities) used to be concerned with in the days before the education system was completely dumbed down: learning how to think - how to take complex material, analyse it, weigh up the evidence to support the different positions and arrive at a conclusion which may, in itself, be of tentative.

I'm puzzled by the use of the term 'student' which seems to have replaced the term 'pupil' to describe schoolchildren. The former relates to learning, the latter to teaching. I understood that schoolchildren were called pupils because, at that stage in their education, they are still being taught the basic knowledge in subjects that then allow them, at a later stage in their education, to become students, to learn. I suspect that the replacement of the term 'pupil' by 'student' reflects a confusion in the education system such that pupils are being expected to learn without the skills and knowledge that provide a firm foundation for learning. This might be why there seems to be crisis in higher education where academics in some universities express despair at the
calibre of students. The definitions of primary, secondary and tertiary education (and its sub divisions of further and higher education) now seem interchangeable and hopelessly muddled with the result that higher education can no longer be regarded as meritorious and valuable.

andy said...


Now you've had a little respite, may I ask that you take 5 minutes to read this webpage

Please will you be honest and say after being given this and so much other evidence, that the smoking ban is still justified on the basis of protecting workers from harm caused by SHS?

Its interesting to note that Prof Jamrosik described anyone who disagreed with him as "like an anti-semites who said that Jews ate christian babies"
What was that about Godwin's law?

I ask you again- Honesty, Integrity, a little humility.

Carlos said...


check out this video from Stranger's Bar in the House of Commons:

Authentic Connecticut Republican said...

We have anti-liberty loons running around loose in our congress here in the states as well.

However, having kept up with the draconian nonsense the folks in the UK have to deal with....and worse, the lunatics that favor such nonsense; I must say I am happy to live here not there.

Clearly the UK is headed for tyranny at an even faster rate than we are.

shaftmonde said...

H.C. Your link to makes interesting reading, coming as it does from SCOTH.
Do you honestly think that SCOTH is there to promote smoking? It's members are all quoted as Health Professionals,
one having connections with Glaxo-Welcome,
another having shares with Novartis and Roche,
another on the executive board of ASH and tobacco control,
another attendant at World conference supported by Glaxo UK Ltd.
another speaks for several pharmaceutical companies having smoking cessation products, and is Director of ASH.
another receives grants from ZILA Pharmaceutical Ltd.
and on, and on.
The document itself is a masterpiece of circular argument, starting as it does on the assumption of smoking risk. It then goes on quoting meta-analyses - a notoriously inaccurate methodology which selects the most fruitful sources to support any argument.
(Do you brush with Crest? You should do, because nine out of ten dentists recommend it.)
The circularity of the argument is based on the fact that certain diseases are automatically classified as 'smoking related', whether or not the patient was exposed to smoking or not.
Several times it makes the breathtaking statement that ETS is a cause of lung cancer! An entirely unproven statement.
At the end we are left with relative risks of 26% which, as you may know, equates to a relative risk of 1.26, similar to that found by the famous Enstrom-Kabat cohort study. And that's using a 95% confidence interval instead of the more usual 90% because the results appear more favourable to the antismoking movement.
In other words Not Scientifically Significant, as is anything less than 2.00, or to a reasonable person, 3.00
And just as an example of the thinking processes involved, just let me quote 2.15 from Part 2. It's a classic, concluding; "........Twenty years on the Committee has not seen such evidence."
Well of course not! Everyone knows it's impossible to prove a negative.
It's just too arduous to trawl through the whole document like this. They are paid to write this stuff. I am not.