The muse is ’pon me

I RECEIVED this delightful festive poem by email this week. It’s from “Freedom2Choose” and it’s about that most seasonal of subjects: the smoking ban.

Wouldn’t you just love to go to a party thrown by this lot over the Christmas break? I’ll bet it’s a right old laugh riot listening to their many, many anecdotes about how miserable life is now that they can’t roll up and light up in pubs.

I present for you, the Freedom2Choose e-Christmas card. Enjoy.

xmase-card2picture-34

Okay, I admit that wasn’t strictly the original poem. I was just messin’ with your mind. This is the original:

xmase-card-original

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62 Comments

Filed under Society, Whimsy

62 responses to “The muse is ’pon me

  1. Andy

    Tom, its a valid point that at the worst possible time economically, Labour have hammered another nail into small businesses, in this case pubs.

    The landlord of my local has seen his trade cut by 40% since you brought in the ban.

    I’d guess its reasonable to assume the same is happening uk wide.

    So much for Brown helping small business eh?

  2. timbone

    Hello Tom. I am not sure what the reason was for your alteration of the original verse. Reading the actual verse, it is only an attempt to remind you that a lot of pubs have closed, and that the festive cheer had been spoilt for quite a significant minority.
    Don’t get me wrong Tom, I am all for tolerant and considerate restrictions in lifestyles which may not be comfortable for everyone. Traditional English pubs began to close at an alarming rate within weeks of the smoking ban on 1st July 2007, now peaking at five a day. Many of the patrons of those pubs were smokers or tolerant non smokers. They would have been quite happy with the promise made in the 2005 manifesto.
    Tom, I am quite aware of the epidemiological estimates which this ban was based on. I am also aware of the conference at the EU building in January, where qualified speakers will talk about the serious flaws which global bans are being based on.
    Five pubs a day closing. There is something wrong somewhere.

  3. Johnny Norfolk

    The trouble is Tom its true. Labour has done more to erode our traditional English way of life since Oliver Cromwell. We are not a happy country, everyone is complaining that does not have a government funded job.
    We just cannot wait for the next election and get rid of you all( well most of you) in England.
    We are less tollerent than ever I have known, smokers, drivers, drinkers, pensioners, Christians,fox hunters, savers, small businesses, pubs, clubs etc. ……………

    We feel we are under atack from Labour who do nothing apart from interfear in our lives. Is this not what people tell you.

  4. William McGonagal

    Aye, laddie, twas music te ma ears. At this festive time, here is ma contribution to yoor loveley wee blog, aboot how shopping trolleys always end up in the water:

    Beautiful Trolley on the bonnie banks of Tay,
    It’s a very bonnie spot in the months of June or May;
    The scenery there is charming and fascinating to see,
    Especially the surroundings of the old trolleee,

    Which leads up to the lake amongst the trees;
    And in the summer time it’s frequented with bees,
    And also crows with their unmusical cry,
    Which is a great annoyance to the villagers that live near by.

    As they view the trolley and scenery around
    It will help to cheer their spirits I’ll be bound;
    And if they wish to view Vomit Bay
    They can walk along the braes o’ the silvery Tay.

  5. Nick the Greek

    My sister-in-law is a singer in ‘clubland’ in the north and her gigs have dropped through the floor because of the smoking ban.

  6. Jay

    This ban HAS made people’s lives miserable with bingo halls and pubs closing because smokers stay at home rather than be treated like dogs. So much for another of the tobacco control lobby’s lies: that pubs would be overflowing with non-smokers if the filthy smokers were banished.

    It need never have come to this. There were other options that could have happily accommodated both non-smokers and smokers. Only the shrill fanatics in the TCL would have been unhappy. The Government refuses to admit the damage done by this ban but there are many very unhappy Labour voters as a result of it – as well as bar staff whose health is really well protected now that they’re standing in the dole queue.

  7. Steve

    I’m not the greatest supporter of the current labour party, but the smoking ban is one of the best things it has done. The only question was why it took 10 years to do it.

    The decline of the pub trade has many other reasons, as seen on the recent money programme (still available here http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b00g2knk/). Anyone who has known landlords has known that the tied agreements were the poison chalice in this story.

  8. Terry

    Of course, if you weren’t a complete bunch of hypocrites smoking inside would have been outlawed for the politicians as well as for the proles and plebs.

  9. Terry – what are you on about? Where are MPs allowed to smoke indoors, other than in their own homes? The only place in the palace of Westminster where MPs, staff and members of the public can have a fag is outside on the Terrace. Oh, but that doesn’t chime with the “one rule for them, another rule for us” guff, does it?

  10. Oh, and for the record, this wasn’t supposed to be about criticising punters who no longer feel welcome in their local pub: it was supposed to be making fun of “Freedom2Choose” and others who think that the smoking ban is the only important issue facing the country. “Bleak dismal sadness is the tune of the night” – give me a break!

  11. Terry

    This YouTube clip (which as far as I can tell has no copyright issues) claims to show people smoking in the Strangers bar.

    Perhaps you think it is a cleverly edited piece of guff designed to diminish respect for MPs. Not that many of the people I speak with have much respect for them anyway.

  12. So some eejit sneaks into the Strangers bar during the day when it’s nearly empty in order to be filmed having a surreptitious fag, and you take this as proof that you’re allowed to smoke there? My, what a naive person you are!

    I have been in the Strangers on numerous occasions (ahem!) since the ban was introduced and I have never seen anyone smoking there. Do you know why? Because it’s banned. I have no idea if the law covers royal palaces or not (so I don’t know if a financial penalty can be incurred by transgressors) but I do know that the ban is nevertheless respected by MPs.

    But that doesn’t suit your cosy little chip-on-the-shoulder MPs-are-privileged conspiracy theory, does it?

    As it happens, as a non-smoker, I think people should be allowed to smoke provided no food is being served, but I lost that argument on a free vote of the House of Commons and, being a democrat (unlike the prat in your video), I now feel the law should be upheld.

    Incidentally, did you know there is a place in the Commons called The Smoking Room, reserved for members only and which, if the House authorities so wished, could be used by MPs to have a smoke? Did you also know that the same House authorities decided to make Ther Smoking Room smoke-free as well?

    Ooh, your silly little conspiracy theory isn’t holding up well, is it?

  13. Thanks to the smoking ban thousands of people who work in pubs, clubs, casinos and other places will have the opportunity to celebrate Christmas in the future because they aren’t at risk of dying from lung cancer caused by breathing in second hand smoke.
    I can’t be arsed to turn that into a festive poem.

  14. Terry

    Oooh! I’ve really got under your skin here haven’t I. I’m afraid your little rant won’t change public perception though and that is, after all, what really matters. Do a google search on it, you’ll find loads of web-sites where people think you can still smoke in there. That appears to be what a lot of people think and people are now so cynical about MPs that protestations of innocence are just not believed.

  15. Fair enough. You’re right, of course: people believe what they want to believe, regardless of things like facts. There will always be those who can find justification for believing in all sorts of weird stuff, like the moon landings being faked, Diana being murdered, MPs being allowed to smoke, etc. But that doesn’t mean we should encourage such ignorance, does it?

  16. chas

    Tens of thousands of hospitality workers will be celebrating Christmas on the DOLE. I wish them a happy Xmas and the best of luck in TRYING to find another job.

  17. Marley

    Yes PhilC. and thanks to the smoking ban thousands of people who work in pubs, clubs, casinos and other places will have the opportunity to celebrate Christmas on the dole with zero money and after christmas will be able to look for new employment as more than 100.000 new jobseekers hit the market place. What a clever little government we have. NOT!

  18. Marley

    Mr Harris, pray tell what makes you think you have the right to make fun of a group of people who are seriously concerned about the choices of 25% of the population.and the way this government is acting more like the KKK with smokers. Please dont insult everyone with your arrogance, your position and salary are subsidised by that very same 25%. The smoking ban was only one way forward. (the most Draconian) A much better way would have been choice by the person to whom the business belongs. Market forces would then have sorted the problem out, but then the Nulabore nannies would have failed.
    In my opinion good management is acheived with a carrot and stick approach. Poor management uses only the stick. Be careful, that stick may be taken from you.

  19. So did no-one think my poem was at all funny?

  20. Tom, my understanding is that as HP is a royal palace, so smoking cannot be banned. However some internal nanny (ies) have banned it and as MPs you are fully compliant as it would be setting the wrong example.

    Please do not belittle smokers who cannot have a cigarette inside. If you went to a restaurant and the moment you came across the high cholesterol pate, the waiter came over and told you to go and eat it outside “for you and others ” own good, I am sure standing outside in -3 deg with a brisk breeze coming off the Clyde, you will be p155ed off too. “Next time I’ll go to Tescos, cook it myself and save £8 on the course.”

    Obviously millions of smokers are taking the same view, sharing my outrage as 2,500 pubs have closed since the ban started.

    It was as you rightly note was a free vote, so amending the ban to allow some choice will not mean Labour losing face. I think anti smokers should be not only be fully, but entirely catered for and separate well ventilated premises be made available. You could even change the 50% covering rule, as they are often outside to 75 or even 90%.

    In my humble opinion the UK’s 12 million smokers would have the best Christmas present and my estimate is a 2-4% swing in the polls.

  21. BARRY C

    DEAR TOM
    MY LOCAL MP VOTED FOR THE TOTAL BAN .
    I DONT KNOW ANYBODY IN MY TOWN
    THAT CAN NAME HIM.
    GET THEIR “X” AND STUFF ‘EM EH

  22. Marley

    How many NO’s would you like.

  23. Andy

    Well it’s not up there with the greats Tom, but to be fair neither was Freedom-to-choose’s!

  24. Marley + Chas: Yes, thousands of people are being made redundant in all sectors.
    But it’s a myth put out by the hospitality industry that smokefree legislation is the cause of all job losses in that sector.
    Everywhere in the world similar legislation has been passed the same claims were made and they were found to be bogus. They said the same when airplanes went smokefree. More people fly than ever.
    I reckon the claims are particularly hard to prove now when many other factors make trading conditions difficult.
    All that notwithstanding, why should workers be forced to be breathe cancerous chemicals for the sake of a pub’s bottom line?
    Workers in other industries who deal with dangerous chemicals get protection why shouldn’t bar staff?
    You haven’t even factored in the savings in NHS care, fire insurance, cleaning and repair bills for fixtures and fittings, days lost through ill health or the greater pool of people available to work because non-smokers are more likely to apply for jobs.
    Be angry at the state of the economy but the smoking ban is the wrong target.

  25. Tom: no. (but you gave yourself a tough job).

  26. Marley

    I think it is important to note that your Christmas card was not meant in jest but to make some deaf politicians LISTEN. If just one listens then some common sense may prevail. This political hot coal is not going to be allowed to go cold. Smoking will never be eradicated nor will alcohol, drugs and gambling, not ever. As long as they exist they will be used by all classes of our society and turning law abiding citizens into criminals is a very naive method of thinking you can control anything. NO total ban has ever worked, anywhere in the world, ever. Mr Harris are you listening to your paymasters?

  27. Belinda

    Aside from chuckling because you managed to make ‘miss’ rhyme with ‘pissed’, not really!

    It is not that smokers feel there is nothing else important other than the smoking ban. The smoking ban excludes them from the social situations they are accustomed to, besides wreaking economic havoc in the country, and its supporters attempt to belittle the plight of smokers by saying they brought it on themselves, and the publicans who have gone bankrupt by saying their establishments were badly run or that they haven’t moved with the times.

    And while we are talking about facts, Scottish protesters were told that it was too early too assess the effects of the ban and we would have to wait for a few years, only to find that the Scottish government had commissioned its own ‘post-legislative scrutiny’ and discovered a 17 per cent drop in heart attack admissions in Scottish hospitals.

    Heart attacks have been declining for years. The truth is at http://www.isdscotland.org/isd/5767.html: no more than 8 per cent drop can be discovered anywhere in the table. The latest *rise* in angina admissions runs at over 20 per cent. But as the BBC commented last year, let’s not let the facts get in the way of a good story, Tom. The 17 per cent story was ‘science by press release’, the results published well before any journal accepted the actual story. I think this is a more serious distortion of the facts than whether anyone was caught smoking in the House of Commons bar.

  28. Belinda – I’m not belittling people who can’t smoke in their pubs – I have genuine sympathy for them. But I am belittling Freedom2Choose because they imagine (a) that they speak for all smokers, even though I doubt if the vast majority of smokers have even heard of them; and (b) did you actually read their poem? Come on! That would depress Thomas Hardy!

  29. Marley

    PhilC, I assume that you are neither a smoker or a regular pub goer by your comments. If I may, I would suggest that you go to some pubs to check out the facts for yourself instead of believing all that you read. As an ex-pubbite I can see the devastation done to these businesses. This is no myth. As for workers having to ‘suffer’ carcinogens in their workplace, then for one it should be their choice to work in a smoking establishment or not, and two the risk is so minimal as to be dismissed by the HSA. Life involves an element of risk everyday. Are you and others like you so afraid of life that you want to relinquish your freedom to choose and let the nanny state legislate your life?
    If you are I pity you all, because I am not.

  30. soapy

    Firstly by bellittling any group you are treating them with comtempt I recommend you try and remember these people also vote but it will be your job on the line not mine, other people outside F2C may not feel able to vote for you if you continue to treat people with comtempt.

    Secondly you are in the legendary catch 22 situation, if you ignore them you are guilty of ignoring the electorate, if you comment and get it wrong then you receive posts like this however I would like to thank you for your efforts as by belittling F2C you acknowledge that they may actually have a point and that indeed impersonation is the sincerest form of flattery.

  31. Belinda

    Tom

    1. if you have ‘genuine sympathy’ for smokers, why aren’t you campaigning for a relaxation of the ban?

    2. I am a director of Freedom2choose so can’t get away with speaking of them in the third person! We may not speak for all smokers, but we do speak for a great many, as well as many non-smokers. The issue is not about smoking or health but about choice. It is also increasingly about government misinformation. If only two people in the whole country were presenting a valid case that goverment were misrepresenting the facts in order to press a political agenda, that would still be a serious matter.

    3. ASH and other organisations claimed that they were acting in the interests of non-smokers. Did you complain that they were misrepresenting the interests of people like me: non-smokers who didn’t consider that smoke was a significant risk and whose social lives have been disrupted by the ban? They didn’t represent all non-smokers. (I do smoke now but only socially.)

    4. Yes I did read the poem … we all got to write some of it! 🙂 The poem may not be up to Thomas Hardy’s standards but it says what it wants to say. Did you like the picture?

  32. timbone

    “So did no-one think my poem was at all funny?”

    haha I know Tom, it’s like when you tell a really good joke to a bunch of people and noone laughs isn’t it, and you just know it was a good joke.

    Unfortunately, it is a bit of a sore point for a lot of people. Yes, I know that there are lots of things far more tragic, like the widow and children of a Gherka colour seargent killed in Afghanistan being threatened with deportation for example. It is just that many many people used to de-stress by going to the pub, having a banter, a few pints, and maybe a pipe, cigar or cigarette. Why did our Government have to add another problem based on anti smoking propaganda when they could have offered the hospitality industry the freedom to choose.

    By the way, looking at it objectively, your own version of the poem does have some amusing moments – verse two is my favourite.

  33. luckymal

    Tom, can we have some answers from someone in authority why smokers are never asked for their opinion?

    The recent debate about hiding cigarettes from view and cigarette machines was at its best underhand and probably fraudulant.

    The consultation was rigged by all the stakeholder interests with weighted questions to get a favouable response.

    If it was not for the likes of F2C, forest and shopkeepers associations informing the public of the consultation then there would have been no opposition.

    You can only oppose things if you know about them and have a democratic set of questions, infact it appears that the outcome has been censored anyway have a look at this link. http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/132901.php

    Before the ban there were smoking and non smoking areas at the discretion of the owner very few people broke unwritten rules, please ensure that smokers are returned to indoor smoking areas asap.

  34. Marley: While you’re thinking up some actual answers have a read of this on the economics:
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/3930129.stm
    and this on the health effects of second hand smoke:
    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-187255/Health-chief-urges-public-smoking-ban.html
    I’m not a doctor, so when the Chief Medical Officer tells me it’s dangerous I believe him. Some might call that naive, I call it common sense.
    Belinda: How much funding does your organisation receive from the tobacco industry? Is your group another front like this one?
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2008/dec/14/tobacco-industry-small-retailers

  35. Tom, yes we all have been guilty of a sense of humour failure and you have gone to the trouble of writing your own version. Sincerely it is funny. However my head up the backside response was that my social life really has been compromised. My idea of a night out is going down the pub, with friends to drink and smoke. The two are inseperable. Yes there are greater problems in the UK, some effected me deeply especially as someone who was unemployed this year for 2 months.

    As a frankly, natural Tory voter I do not blame Labour for 95% of the country’s woes, the only difference I would of suggested is less public spending and more tax cuts. Labour are the victims of world politics and economics just as much as I am. However the smoking ban is one policy that is entirely under Labour’s control and you can amend, change and alter at your complete convenience, ideally in line with your 2005 manifesto.

  36. Belinda

    PhilC

    Since the government has already admitted that the smoking ban has damaged pubs, I don’t know why you are quoting the BBC quoting the Chief Medical Officer about smoking bans being good for business. Losing five pubs a day is good for business?

    No, we take no money at all from the tobacco industry. But you (and the Guardian writer) take a hysterical attitude to tobacco funding. Campaigning is an expensive affair. Funding need not determine the outcome of quality of either research or campaigning. Tobacco payments for a campaign does not mean that the campaign was run by the tobacco company, or that the initiative for the campaign was taken by the tobacco company. Disclosure is meant to enable others to beware of adverse influences or conflicting interests, not to condemn a campaign out of hand just on the ground of its funding source.

  37. PhilC. Do you believe the Sir Liam and ASH tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth?

    On tobacco displays, ASH stated “overwhelming public support” from their 96,000 responses. 93,000 responses came from government smoking cessation bodies such as SmokeFree NorthWest, Cancer Research and SmokeFreeAction. How disingenuous.

    Do you believe ASH when they say that a 30 minute exposure to SHS will trigger a heart attack? Amanda Sandford of ASH was getting grief from The New Scientist so wrote this following letter? “ASH, unlike some organisations, has never asserted that a single 30-minute exposure to second-hand smoke is enough to trigger a heart attack, and we are not aware of any UK health advocates who have done so.”

    http://www.newscientist.com/article.ns?id=mg19626320.100

    Professor Jill Pell’s Study in “17% reduction” in heart attacks following the smoking ban has been thoroughly discredited. Infact since the smoking ban heart attacks rose last year to pre ban levels

    http://www.velvetgloveironfist.com/index.php?page_id=58.

    So who should the public believe?

  38. Nannyknowsbest

    You know, I was going to write a long diatribe about my suport for F2C and how angry I was about the ban and all the other interferences in my personal life.
    I decided against it.
    Instead, I decided on a lame joke – so I could fit in with this Blogg.

    Have you hear the one about the Labour Minister who, one morning, having read about the desperate state of the country and rising public unrest, walks into Gordon Brown’s office and say “Gordon, we have to get out of the EU, we have to start listening to people before we ruin the country”. “Tell me more”, says Gordon………

    No – I haven’t heard it either.

    Is that the kind of light hearted humour you want?

  39. chas

    Phil C said: ‘Marley + Chas: Yes, thousands of people are being made redundant in all sectors’.
    Tens of thouasands in the hospitality trade were laid off before the the credit crunch or recession. The smoking ban was THE reason.

  40. chas

    Phil C said: I’m not a doctor, so when the Chief Medical Officer tells me it’s dangerous I believe him. Some might call that naive, I call it common sense’. No, I call it being controlled.

  41. Pendolino Warrior

    Well I thought it was funny. The ban is a bit inconsiderate on all those cardiologists, cancer specialists, GPs, nurses etc who will be out on the dole.

    And then there are the dry cleaners who find that the rest of us are no longer having to clean our togs just because we have been near a faggie.

    PS Don’t you find that smokers really smell? (Is that called “flaming”)

  42. Tim Clarke

    “I’m not a doctor, so when the Chief Medical Officer tells me it’s dangerous I believe him. Some might call that naive, I call it common sense.”

    Liam Donaldson also claimed that the vast majority of the public back an ‘opt-out’ of organ donation. No data for this exists.

    I suggest you do some research for yourself, as your argument is based solely upon a logical fallacy:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Appeal_to_authority

    “Incidentally, did you know there is a place in the Commons called The Smoking Room, reserved for members only and which, if the House authorities so wished, could be used by MPs to have a smoke? Did you also know that the same House authorities decided to make Ther Smoking Room smoke-free as well?”

    Fair enough. But as the Palace of Westminster is exempt from the ban, neither a smoker breaking the legally unenforceable ban nor the house authorities can be fined. If the ban is self-enforcing, and, as we are always told, widely respected, why not have this state of affairs mirrored across the country? Surely this would be a genuinely egalitarian state of affairs?

    I find it difficult to believe that some MPs don’t smoke anywhere in the Commons – ever. After all, they can commit the ‘crime’ with no fear of punishment.

    “Well I thought it was funny. The ban is a bit inconsiderate on all those cardiologists, cancer specialists, GPs, nurses etc who will be out on the dole.”

    Nah – it will merely keep them in work for longer. After all, according to official data, heart attacks have actually risen in Scotland since the ban came into force:

    http://www.velvetgloveironfist.com/index.php?page_id=65

  43. Phil Johnson

    Tom, I truly do pity this gov’t as they have been led up the garden path good ‘n proper! Sir Liam Donaldson had no option but to spout the tripe he spouted. There is no proof that SHS kills (Enstrom/Kabat, Wu/Williams & others all ignored because they didn’t report what gov’ts wanted them to report!) However exhaust fumes do kill yet gov’t are quite happy for toddlers & push chairs to be at exhaust fume level!
    Pubs never faltered this badly during other recessions-but then there wasn’t a smoke ban spearheading the destruction. When 12-15million voters use their power at the next election you will see just how freedom2choose (licensees for themselves) was of such importance! Just imagine this, an opposition party called Labour with less than 100 seats. Question is: would they even be the main opposition party after this 11 yr shambles?

  44. John Burkes

    I’ll put my cards on the table straight away and say that I am a member of Freedom 2 Choose. However, as a lifelong non-smoker I came to them relatively late – one year into the smoking ban to be precise. Indeed, it was the reporting of the aforementioned Pell study on the BBC that drew me to it. Not only did the results seem preposterous, but as an Academic I am fully aware of how long it takes articles to be peer-reviewed, accepted and published by journals and was confused as to how Professor Pell could conduct, write and submit the study, wait for the observed variable to have an effect AND have it peer-reviewed in a fraction of the time it normally takes. Upon investigation it turned out that she hadn’t bothered with any of that nonsense and that it was literally nothing more than her opinion (hence its being rubbished by both “The Times” and the BBC even though the Government still uses it as evidence of the “success” of the ban). I was so shocked by this shoddy work that I dug deeper into the research passive smoking and then into the anti-smoking movement and was quite simply stunned at what I found. Politicisation of science on a rampant scale; “charities” such as ASH being wholly funded by the Government and large pharmaceutical companies that benefit from the sale and promotion of nicotine replacement products; “consultations” that only involve said anti-smoking groups and ignore other stakeholders…. and most frightening of all, legislation based not on science (for those willing to actually look into the issue the science behind second-hand smoke is, even being generous, extraordinarily tenuous) but on the campaigning of focus groups that seem to carry sway by repeating lies often enough and loudly enough that it becomes accepted as fact.

    I admit, I personally don’t care about smoking in pubs either way (although the fact that the number of pubs closing went from 2 a week to 6 a day BEFORE the Credit Crunch even started is concerning). However, I am involved with this issue as I found the warping of scientific research and the basing of restrictive legislation upon such junk science to be profoundly disturbing. If Mr Harris and his colleagues think that the only people who are angry about this legislation are the tobacco industry, the hospitality trade and Big Tobacco (although that is a large enough group!) he is sadly mistaken. There are many people, smokers and non-smokers alike who object deeply to it, whether it be because of the wanton economic damage it has caused, because of libertarian issues or because of the clear warping of science that is being used to justify it.

    He should laugh while he can. This issue will not go away and more and more people are seeing through it.

  45. dastardly

    I think Labour have really fumbled the ball with this issue. Not only did they underestimate the economic impact it would have but they also underestimated the sheer anger it would incur in the UK’s 15,000,000 smokers. Most importantly though, despite the existence of this blog, I still don’t think they’ve quite got to grips with the Internet. When pontificating on the economy or on National security and so on, they can say what they like…. after all, the figures on American sub-prime hedge-funds and inter-Bank lending are complicated! Or the information is a matter of National security. But when Alan Johnson goes on the “Today” programme and says 100,000 people were consulted it only takes a quick Google search to find the original document and find that 98,000 of those “people” were Government-funded anti-smoking organisations. When he said that the evidence shows hiding fags under the counter has worked in Iceland you only have to visit Iceland’s national Statistics site to find that he is lying – the number of young smokers increased significantly in Iceland following that legislation. When he says the Ban is a success, it only takes a click or two to find that official NHS figures that show heart attack admissions in Scottish hospitals have increased since their Ban or to find statistics from the Pub trade that show that the number of pub closures increased fourteen times (!) between 2005 (pre-Ban) and 2007 (post Ban, but pre-Recession). Indeed, they don’t seem to realise that whole interviews on this topic can be discredited with a quick look on the Web as so much of the information is freely available. They also seem unaware that when people realise this they think, “Everything he has just said is a complete barefaced lie! What else are they lying about? Can I trust them on anything?” In addition, they don’t seem to realise how tangible the Ban is. It doesn’t just affect smokers – it affects their non-smoking friends. And they can repeat again and again how successful it is but people can see the boarded up pubs in their High Street. They can talk to the landlords who moan bitterly and blame the Ban almost entirely for their woes.

    Labour’s whole attitude to the Smoking Ban has more than a whiff of Iraq’s Media Minister about it; a desperate hope that if they repeat themselves enough people might actually start believing them. Or even better, it might actually start to come true!

  46. paganlass

    I think that it is unfair that small campaign groups are made fun of when they are trying to point out that 12 million smokers want to come in out of the cold for a drink and a cigarette. The non-smokers did not all rush out into the pubs and it is obvious that this smoking ban is not working. There is just no choice to have smoking and non-smoking establishments that would keep everyone happy.
    The reason that the smoking ban was implemented was that campaign groups such as ASH / CRUK etc were given millions of pounds by the pharmaceutical companies to promote a non-smoking environment in which to create a billion pound industry of NRT.
    freedom2choose are a small self funded group that have not got any backers with cash that can advertise the campaign. There are millions of smokers out there that the campaign has no way yet of reaching.
    Hopefully this blog will have reached a few more supporters and the campaign can eventually grow sufficiently to have their voice heard.

  47. Marley

    PhilC, sorry for not returning earlier but I have a life. Pointing me at the bbc propaganda sheet does nothing for truth nor the same regurgitated bit of verbal crap in the mail. If you choose to believe this nonsense then so be it. I prefer to question these opinions and well rehearsed lies and follow the money. Strange that all of these ‘experts are extremely well paid ‘officials’ of government funded outfits who stand to gain financially. If you would like to read the truth then you will have to trawl the wealth of information which debunks the majority of this so called science, as I have done and still do, unless of course you have no ability to think for yourself. I do not intend to be drawn into a personal debate with you on this on this blog but I do ask you to open your mind as I have. Goodbye.

  48. Amy Thompson

    Belinda says – ‘I am a director of Freedom2choose so can’t get away with speaking of them in the third person! We may not speak for all smokers, but we do speak for a great many, as well as many non-smokers.’

    Freedom2choose has 787 members. There are 15 million smokers in the uk.

    2nd division football club Bournemouth AFC’s Facebook site has over 1,000 members. The maximum gate at the Dean Court ground is 9,600.

    I don’t think you actually do speak for a great many smokers Belinda. Tom would get a better feel for the views of the electorate by listening to the people who run the Bournemouth AFC Facebook site. They will be just as fixated on a single issue (the Cherries current form) as freedom2choose are, but they represent many more voters.

  49. At this point, can I just remind people – again! – that the total ban was an amendment to a government Bill which originally provided for a partial ban. The vote for a full ban was agreed on a free vote – it wa snot whipped by either Labour or the Tories.

    It might also be worth reflecting that in Scotland, the ban was introduced by an SNP MSP. Two years later the SNP won the Scottish Parliament elections (not because the ban was wildly popular, but because most voters, even in Scotland, didn’t care enough about it).

    And lastly, the Tories are not, and will not be, committed to repealing the ban, so I’m not convinced that there will be anything more than a nominal protest vote against Labour on that particular issue.

  50. dastardly

    Timbone,

    A very good point. There are of course many issues more tragic, pressing and important than the Smoking Ban. But I think there are a few factors that get so many riled up about it.

    The first is that it is so arbitrary. Why have a blanket ban in the first place? Why not have smoking and non-smoking pubs? (As is overwhelmingly supported by the public in poll after poll). If they wanted to be more interventionist about it, then why not use the carrot rather than the stick? Tax relief or rate relief on pubs that went non-smoking, for example? That would have quickly shifted the number of smoking and non-smoking venues more in line with the ratio of smokers and non-smokers in the population and been good for the trade.

    Then there is the fact that the economic damage, and the jobs lost (now estimated at 100,ooo by the trade) is not only the result of the stroke of a pen but it could be reversed as easily. The global economy, the falling pound, International terrorism – the Government has influence on these things but most recognise that these are issues that are in many ways beyond their control. But this…. it seems so deliberately vindictive – especially since they refuse to even accept that it’s a bad thing. The Tories may have closed pit after pit and carried on regardless but at least they didn’t say that monetarism was good for the mining industry and that people who complained about it were a tiny, maladjusted minority. And they certainly didn’t post sniggering missives about the effects of their policy.

    Add the fact that the Ban is supported by blatant lies and repeated proclamations that it’ a success and people just feel that they’re not being listened to and that they are being controlled.

    Finally, there’s the very nature of the Ban. In many ways, people expect a bad time at work. We spend half our waking life doing it, we expect to have much of our money taken in tax and we expect to be told what to do and when. That’s the way it is and the way it always has been. But our social lives have aways been sacrosanct, away from bosses, away from Government; a time for friends and family and a time to blow off steam and reflect on the troubles the rest of our week has piled on us. But the smoking Ban has trampled all over that. Now many people feel that even their own time is no longer their own; their social lives too are now governed by dictat and regulation. Yes, ultimately it is a trivial issue (unless you’re one of those 100,000 who’ve lost their jobs, of course) but I don’t think the Government realise how bitter many, many people are because of it.

  51. dastardly

    Tom,

    Thank you for your reply.

    However, do you not agree that this particular issue is an example of where legislation was just not necessary and is in fact an example of the failure of the democratic process?

    As you say, none of the mainstream parties have amending or repealing the Ban in their manifestos, so as angry as people are the Ban will by default stay on the books as there is no realistic way of getting it amended. In the meantime pubs will continue to close, many people will grow increasingly disenfranchised (both politically and in some cases, socially) and the damage will continue.

    At the same time people feel that they were never consulted on the issue. So we have a ban that no-one actively voted for (when they voted in the last Election they made their choices for reasons other than the Ban – immigration, crime, the economy) and which there is no chance of getting amended for much the same reason.

    Just because no-one can vote on the issue doesn’t mean it isn’t an important one. When Alistair Darling admits that the Ban has caused pub closures and there has been no discernible benefit to public health (other than the negative impact of entrenching smokers’ attitudes) don’t you agree that saying “it isn’t a party political issue so it won’t get changed” is a little disingenuous? This is an issue that is causing massive economic damage, is based on fraudulent science and is ruining faith in both the Government and impartial scientific research and as such the Government has a responsibility to tackle it.

    Surely you can see that if the Ban was repealed in one area, for example, the pub trade would benefit enormously? But as you say that will never happen because there is realistically no way of getting rid of it. It should never have been an issue for legislation in the first place.

  52. Well Tom, it looks like you set out to ridicule, and ended up being ridiculed. Apart from around 2% of the comments here, the others are all in favour. I’d like to thank all those who spoke up for F2C.

    I’d also like to thank those members who spent several hours of their precious time emailing the 646 MPs in an attempt to remind them that their vindictive, divisive, unbelievably damaging smoker ban has failed in spectacular fashion.

    1. It fails on scientific grounds-for every study you show me that says SHS is harmful, I can show you six that says it isn’t.
    2. As previously noted, over 90% of the ban damage occurred before we were using the “R” word regularly.
    3. The finance argument fails too. In a recent study, it was shown that the “Healthy”, cost around £215,000 over their lifetime. The “Obese” cost around £185,000. And the smokers? A mere £155,000.
    4. Besides which, we send around £11 BILLION per annum to the Exchequer. We cost less than £1.5 BILLION to treat. Hell, drinkers in Scotland alone cost £2.5 BILLION per year to treat.
    5. No lives were threatened before the ban.
    6. No lives have been saved since the ban.
    7. A Boxer was murdered, as a direct result of the ban.
    8. A nurse was stabbed to death, as a direct result of the ban.
    9. Women have been raped because they were forced to step outside pubs for a smoke.
    10. Drink spikings have increased by over 400% in Scotland since the ban.

    If this is how you measure success Tom, just how do you measure failure?

    Labour have made some dreadful mistakes over the last 11 years. The smoker ban may not be the biggest, or the most important, but I kid you not Tom, it will be the hardest to live down.

    Labour’s biggest problem? They stopped listening to the electorate, and started listening to puritans.

    We think you’ll have plenty of time to regret your errors as you spend a decade or two on the opposition benches. 15 million voters should not be ignored in this fashion.

    All you had to do was listen.

  53. Marley

    Mr Harris, quote “At this point, can I just remind people – again! – that the total ban was an amendment to a government Bill which originally provided for a partial ban. The vote for a full ban was agreed on a free vote – it wa snot whipped by either Labour or the Tories.”
    You just love to show your superiority do you not.
    This vote was based on junk science and fear based propaganda and the suckers who voted for it will one day have to hang their heads and admit that they were sucked in by a few government funded con artists and charlatans who by the way have a lot to gain both financially and professionally. May I remind you again that no ban has ever succeded anywhere ever, especially when based on lies. The TRUTH will out. Now come clean there’s a good lad and admit that NuLabore has screwed up.

  54. dastardly

    My very last post as it’s getting late and I don’t want to monopolise Tom’s blog!

    But Amy Thompson’s point is a very weak one. Freedom 2 choose is run entirely by donations of its members – it has no funding from any big organisations, charities or bodies. As such it has no way of raising its profile or running advertising campaigns so that many, many people who agree with it simply do not know it exists. Using its membership is unfair – there are more visitors to the site than members – that figure of 787 is only people who have not only discovered them but have also coughed up hard-earned cash to support them.

    One only has to look at the Facebook “Let’s bring smoking back into pubs” group which has several hundred thousand members to see how many people agree with them but who have not joined. Or one only has to look at newspaper polls on the issue where 70+% of respondents routinely vote in favour of smoking and non-smoking pubs or against the blanket ban to see that while the group is small this is not because they represent a minority view.

    Throw in the fact that a third of the UK population have never even been online (a staggering figure, but still) and using F2C’s membership is very unfair. Especially since ASH, one of the most powerful anti-smoking lobbies in the land, only received £11,000 in donations last year. But then of course they had several hundred thousand in Government funding and several hundred thousand more from our friends in the Pharmaceutical industry to support their never-ending advertising and press releases.

  55. Dave Atherton

    Amy: ASH have a staff of 19, and 7 are part time and a budget of £900,000. Even more dispropotionate methinks than F2C, as ASH are an unelected quango with a distaste for the truth.

    Tom, don’t think the Labour have kicked the smoking issue into the long grass, we have retrieved it and want to put it back on the centre circle. There is quite a bit more to F2C than having a rant on blogs. I spend a lot of time lobbying mainly Tory MPs and went to their conference in Birmingham this year and met quite a few people.

    Tory rank and file share F2C’s outrage. Many MPs, shadow ministers and opinion formers I met were at worst non committal and a clear majority were hugely sympathetic. All that has to be done is to persuade Cameron that it is a vote winner (Boris Johnson’s campaign in London was on a pro choice ticket). I think the Tories will add it to a civil liberties ticket in their manifesto. There are a lot of Gentlemen’s Club, port swilling, cigar smoking types who share F2C’s outrage.

    As I mentioned earlier it is worth 2-4% in the polls in my humble opinion.

    I certainly will not rest until I can smoke in the warm.

  56. Helen

    You’re right Dastardly. The government don’t realise how bitter people are.
    Why have an outside smoking area that has to be 50% open to the elements? That’s inhumane.
    Why not cater for the elderly, disabled, infirm? I cannot understand this legislation.
    People are known to have died as a result of the ban, yet people are encouraged to say – so what! They’re only filthy smokers anyway – better off dead! That’s disgusting, but it appears that it is what New-Labour are promoting.
    I go to a labour club every week (in a labour heart-land) and have done so for the last 25 years. I can tell you from first hand experience Tom, that things aren’t very rosey in the garden for you anymore. Why? You may not think the smoking ban is important, but your ex-loyal supporters certainly do.
    People in this country expect everyone to be catered for and nobody to be bullied and picked on. Particularly in later life.

  57. Jay

    Tom, wrt to the free vote, it’s a fact that the majority of Tory MPs voted against the blanket ban and, had more Labour MPs done so – in accordance with the promise made in the Party’s manifesto – then there would have been no vote for a blanket ban. Labour MPs are responsible for this ban.

  58. chas

    The Government and ASH said that putting cigarettes under the counter reduced the number of smokers in Canada. On the ASH scotland web site, daily bullitin yesterday, they showed an article showing that it did not.

  59. dastardly

    Indeed, people have died as a direct result of the Ban. The effect on the pub trade is the “Big News” – something that can be used to fill slots on the TV and column inches in the newspapers.

    There is a lot of other damage that doesn’t get reported. The worrying increase in drink spikings for one. The assaults, rapes and murders that only get covered in the local Press and is ignored on the national stage.

    My own second-cousin was murdered last year. A lunatic followed her outside the pub where he found her on her own and killed her. Now I’m not going to be so unreasonable as to say “The Smoking Ban killed her!”; the guy was clearly insane, he was unknown to her and it was a motiveless attack. If he hadn’t killed her he may well have killed someone else. But the fact remains that only twelve months earlier she would have been surrounded by her companions and sat in an enclosed, safe area all night long. Three young children are now without a mother because this legislation forced her into a vulnerable position. And this is happened in a leafy Cathedral City, not some inner city hellhole.

    Real people are suffering in many ways, not just socially and economically. And the fact that it’s based on such junk science just sticks in one’s craw even more.

  60. Chris

    We have two pubs where I live. I was at the open one last night. There was the warmth of a log fire to welcome us but the pub was empty.
    All 17 customers (11 smokers and 6 non-smokers) together with the landlord and bar person were outside suffering the cold weather but enjoying the warmth of camaraderie.
    A major major influx of non-smokers was promised by ASH, CRUK, the Health Committee and those politicians who supported the Bill but my thoughts drifted to one the many acceptable ‘expert’ opinions offered to the Health Committee.
    From Dr Ashcroft to the Health Committee — ” The experience suggests that those who are really committed to the enjoyment of cigarette smoking, or tobacco smoking in any form, find other ways of sociability around their smoking. Smoking with their friends outside is no less a form of social interaction than smoking inside.”
    He may believe that but it’s a damned sight ‘less a form of social interaction’- I’d rather all 19 of us were sat by the fire with some of the older folk who we no longer see.

  61. RTS

    It’s easy to pass off the smoking ban as unimportant. It’s not as big a threat to freedom as, say, giving CSO’s powers more in line with proper police officers or 42 days detention, but unlike them, the ban effects millions of people in a small way every single day.
    That’s why, 18 months on and the nation is still grumbling about it. I lost count of how many people said it’s be a dead issue within a year and yet it was cited as one of the reasons for Labour’s defeat at the Glasgow East by-election.
    Whilst it might have been an SNP idea, you know as well as I do it’s the party in power who get saddled with the blame if things go sour.

    There’s also the idiocy of the law that many of us face on a daily basis. I’m looking out my office window onto the workshop where I can see a gas powered folklift truck running and a diesel van reversing in. All legal, just as running vehicle engines in the enclosed spaces of multi-storey car parks is legal and apparently “safe”, yet someone smoking a cigarette in these places is too dangerous to tolerate?!?

  62. luckymal

    Tom, interesting reading today from The Press association release that there has been no reduction in smoking since the ban, see Channel 4 news link.
    http://www.channel4.com/news/articles/society/health/smoking+levels+unaffected+by+ban/2885802

    No end product so it appears that billions of pounds have been wasted just to victimise smokers.

    All this wasted money could be spent keeping people in jobs.

    It is costing every working tax payer nearly £300 each per annum to keep this smoking ban going.

    I am sure that all the non smokers as well as smokers would rather have nearly £300 extra in their pockets to pay for higher energy bills etc.

    Can you please table some sort of motion to stop this lunacy?.

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