Frank Davis

Banging on about the Smoking Ban

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A Separate Reality
The current draconian Spanish smoking ban came into force on 2 Jan 2011. Translated from El Correo.

Doctors and restaurateurs have declared war. Navarra Basque Society for the Prevention of Smoking entered yesterday into the controversy of the 'smoking ban' to attack the restaurants with two accusations that could hurt them a lot. Health professionals claimed that owners of bars and cafes of "being sponsored by the tobacco industry" and said they do not believe they have been losing money since it was forbidden to smoke on their premises. The sector's response was immediate. "We challenge Navarra Basque society to say openly that our association has received some support from the tobacco industry, and it will be in court immediately," the federation said.

The stakes are high. A document sent to the mail by the president of the Basque Navarre Society for the Prevention of Smoking, Carlos Cortijo, said that the statistics of membership of the Social Security Ministry of Labour "shows that the number of people employed by the industry increased "from January 2010 to January 2011."

So let's get this right. A bunch of antismoking doctors have claimed that Spanish restaurants and bars are being paid by tobacco companies to protest about the smoking ban. In addition, they say that restaurants and bars haven't actually been losing money as a result of the ban. Their evidence? The fact that they took on more staff last year.

This is crazy. It's completely unhinged. It's more or less routine for antismokers to claim that anyone who disagrees with them is in the pay of Big Tobacco. And indeed sometimes they are. But the entire hospitality industry? That's crazy. But even crazier is the notion that the trade must be doing fine this year, simply because it was last year. It's as if these antismokers occupy a separate reality.

And that's perhaps exactly how it is.

For the reality of things according to the antismokers is that smoking bans don't harm business, but actually improve it. And that smokers almost universally approve of smoking bans, and carry on going to restaurants and bars just like they always did, only more so. And that there are dramatic improvements in public health. And that smoking bans are always a great success, and there have been countless examples of this success. This, as far as the antismokers are concerned, is the simple reality of the matter. Anyone who disagrees is either uneducated or in the pay of tobacco companies.

And so, when the antismokers read reports of bars and restaurants losing business, they know that it simply isn't true, and that it has to be those damn tobacco companies up to their usual mischief.

It would seem that these new realities (and the antismoking reality is not the only one) are conceived and nurtured in small closed communities (a bit like Heaven's Gate), very often in San Francisco, in which all concerned become true believers before they set out to bring their new reality to the wider world. There it circulates first in the highest strata of society, among politicians and journalists and senior executives and professionals of every sort. And then, once safely ensconced there, it is rolled out for general public consumption. And only a few hundred top executives and opinion formers may be needed to do that. A prince or two helps, of course.

It seems entirely plausible that there was a one-day seminar held somewhere in London in, say, 2004 for a number of top executives from the BBC, ITV, Channel 4, and several newspapers, and also the CEOs of a number of pubcos, and several senior politicians from the Labour and Conservative and Lib Dem parties, and maybe a couple of celebrities as well. Senior doctors like Sir Liam Donaldson or Sir Charles George would have addressed this select gathering, outlining the known dangers of tobacco smoking, and the newly discovered menace of secondhand smoke, and the medical imperative of denormalising smoking. In a slick Powerpoint presentation, somebody from ASH would have assured all those present that smoking bans had proved to be a great success in America, particularly in California, and there had been no loss of trade in bars and restaurants, and a dramatic improvement in public health and worker productivity. Afterwards, over tea and smoked salmon and egg-and-cress sandwiches, many of these executives would have no doubt expressed their enthusiasm for the idea of smoking bans, given the many clear benefits, and the zero costs. Any doubters would have been referred to the relevant pages of the accompanying glossy brochure for them to be quickly assured that, for example, 70% of smokers wanted to give up smoking. Once everyone was on board, the smoking ban could be rolled out across the nation with the all the political parties and the whole of the mass media and most of the hospitality trade each playing their pre-assigned roles. All that had been needed to be done was to persuade a hundred or so key figures of the coming new reality, and they could be counted on to do their bit to help to create that reality.

Of course, more or less everything they were told was untrue, or was a half-truth. But these busy executives didn't have the time to give the matter serious consideration. They were as impressionable as anybody. All they needed to know was that Sir Liam Donaldson and Sir Charles George had 'Sir' in front of their name to trust them implicitly. Furthermore most of them hadn't been inside a pub or a cafe in years. And many of them no longer smoked.

And so when the ban was introduced, they all did their bit to help launch it, and it was accordingly immediately hailed as a great success, particularly among smokers. And almost immediately, as ever, the usual health benefits were claimed.

But if this is how the 'new reality' was created in Britain, why isn't it quite working in Spain? The answer may be that the British mass media, and the hospitality business, and political power, is concentrated in relatively few hands, and so relatively few people needed to agree among themselves to make it work. And in Britain we currently have pretty much a one-party state, with Labour and Lib Dems and Conservatives all but indistinguishable from each other. And most pubs belong to chains of one sort or other, and for the proprietors of these chains they are simply another business opportunity, not different from a baking or a mining business. And there are only a handful of media outlets. Relatively few people were needed to help create the new non-smoking reality.

But this couldn't be done in Spain where most bars and restaurants are small family businesses, and where the mass media isn't quite so centralised, and where politics is rather more fractured. In Spain, and even less so in Greece, it wan't possible to create and sustain this new reality. In fact, it can probably only be done in fairly advanced Western societies, with well-established media outlets (like the BBC), well-established political parties, and well-established hospitality chains (e.g. Starbucks). For they all have to work together to create and sustain the new reality.

And of course the new reality, when it is rolled out in public, comes up against the old reality, which is one of traditional smoky pubs and bars. It becomes a struggle of one reality against another reality. It becomes a struggle of the political class, the media, and the hotel and restaurant and pub chains, against the ordinary pubgoer, whose reality - all too often of broken communities, fractured friendships, isolation, exclusion, and loneliness - can never be allowed to mar the perfection of the new reality (by being reported, for example).

The new reality is an illusion, of course. But if the illusion can be sustained for long enough, it may become reality. If people can be got to stop smoking for long enough, the ancient vice might yet be expunged from society.

And what applies to the new antismoking reality that has been rolled out over the world also applies to several other new realities. The global warming reality. The European Union reality. And probably a whole bunch more realities. All of them conflict with pre-existing realities in one way or other. And the wars between these realities are all conducted the same way, by suppressing the old reality as far as possible, and supplanting it with the new reality. So the old smokers are never allowed any say. And nor are climate sceptics. Nor eurosceptics. They mustn't even be permitted to be seen. In this manner a new public consensus is created, without any apparent dissenters, with which even ordinary members of the public often feel unable to openly disagree.

Nevertheless, none of these new realities has yet been successfully installed in the public arena. While most of the European political class, with one or two notable exceptions (e.g. Vaclav Klaus), is on board for the EU, the general public in almost every European country is becoming increasingly disenchanted with it. And the global warming reality struck a rock in the form of Climategate last year, and hasn't recovered. And the antismoking reality has encountered strong resistance in Holland and Spain and Greece and most of the old Eastern bloc countries.

It's far from over.

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It seems entirely plausible that there was a one-day seminar held somewhere in London in, say, 2004 for a number of top executives from the BBC, ITV, Channel 4, and several newspapers, and also the CEOs of a number of pubcos, and several senior politicians from the Labour and Conservative and Lib Dem parties, and maybe a couple of celebrities as well. Senior doctors like Sir Liam Donaldson or Sir Charles George would have addressed this select gathering, outlining the known dangers of tobacco smoking, and the newly discovered menace of secondhand smoke, and the medical imperative of denormalising smoking.

If I remember correctly something along these lines was the case back then.
Nevertheless, the anti-smoking brigade must be alarmed by the recent failures of enforcing a total smoking ban in the by Frank listed countries, whilst our current government is wringing their hands over lost tobacco revenue. (BBC 1, 7.3.11; Panorama - illegal tobacco trade)
Now we have been informed that there is something worse than smoking: smoking "fake" brands, sold illegally in the streets.
"Fake" brands have always been around - where are the statistics of smokers dying of e.g. lead poisoning?
This I added last night to Saturdays essay:

After reading this utter nonsense:

the suggestion "to shoot them TODAY" (Saturday, 5.3.11) appears somewhat appealing. As a person who would not like to be called a hypocrite, rather than turning the gun on me when finished, I would like to smoke myself to death, though.

It is beginning to look like the anti-smoking brigade found another section of "poor smoke victims" after the "the children, they are our future" babble has lost it's impact - THE POOR HELPLESS WOMEN.
Ah yeah.... RIGHT...... Well done to that desperate lot, CRUK, you have just kicked the women who insist on true equality (none of the Alice Schwartzer cr*p) right in the teeth!!!

and..... this ad is right underneath the article:

Woman quitting smoking
Champix could be provided in Canadian province

The quit-smoking medication Champix could be provided on the public health service in Ontario,....
Read more

Are there more insults on the way?

Re: Reality

"The quit-smoking medication Champix could be provided on the public health service"

In New Zealand, the scene changed very rapidly over the last year or so from:

Quit-smoking pill sparks health warning - NZ Herald 19 May 2009

"Health authorities have issued a new warning on the mental health risks of a quit-smoking pill introduced to New Zealand in 2007.

More than 3300 people were prescribed Champix, which contains the chemical varenicline, in the first year of its use in New Zealand.

There were 22 reports of people experiencing depression for the first time after taking Champix. Recurrence or worsening of existing depression, and other psychiatric and neurological symptoms, were also reported.

The majority of the new cases of depression were probably caused by the tablets, according to the Intensive Medicines Monitoring Programme, which collected the data from pharmacists and doctors. Three of these people also thought about suicide and two of these cases were resolved after stopping the medicine, says the programme's director, Dr Mira Harrison-Woolrych, in a Health Ministry newsletter to prescribers.

"Psychiatric reactions have emerged as a potential safety issue with varenicline and patients should be advised accordingly," she says.

Dr Stewart Jessamine, group manager of the ministry's Medsafe unit, said yesterday the monitoring programme's findings reflected international experience with Champix."


Anti-smoking drug concerns - NZ Herald News Aug 2010

"Ten deaths including a suicide have been tracked by health authorities monitoring an anti-smoking drug that is in line for massive public rollout with taxpayer funding.

The deaths were reported to a special monitoring unit tracking side-effects associated with Champix, a hugely successful drug used to quit smoking.

Government drug funder Pharmac has previously refused to subsidise Champix because of "safety concerns". But it has now agreed to help fund it in a massive drug deal with pharmaceutical giant Pfizer.

Anti-smoking advocates have welcomed Pharmac's backing, saying the benefits of the drugs outweigh the risks.

The deal will bring the price of the $200-a-month drug down to about $130 a month. It is estimated to be successful in up to half the cases in which people use it to try to stop smoking.

Champix will be available under tight restrictions after Pharmac agreed to take a package of four drugs from Pfizer. The other drugs were sought after by Pharmac, but it had previously been caught up on the price Pfizer demanded and its insistence it owned the patent to one of the drugs.

The package deal of drugs comes after Pharmac stepped aside from its concerns over Champix."


Anti-smoking MPs welcome drug funding - NZ Herald Oct 28, 2010

"MPs crusading to stamp out smoking have welcomed a move by government drug buying agency Pharmac to subsidise the drug Champix.
Associate Health Minister Tariana Turia said nicotine was one of the strongest addictions, and those who were ready to quit smoking needed to have as many options and as much support as possible without costs being prohibitive.
Labour associate health spokesperson Iain Lees-Galloway said providing another option for those who want to quit by removing price barriers was a big step towards reducing tobacco consumption and smoking prevalence.

However, he said action also needed to be taken to create an environment that discouraged young people from starting smoking in the first place. "One of the first things we can do is remove the last bastion of tobacco advertising - retail displays of tobacco.""


So suddenly money talks. Pfizer wouldn't budge on price, except with a bulk deal with other drugs, and Pharmac capitulated. Shortly after that, massive advertising on TV for it.

They're only smokers after all; who cares if they get depressed or commit suicide!


All with constant media anti-smoking input:


Re: Reality

"All with constant media anti-smoking input:"

I hadn't caught up with the smoking news in the last weeks; look at the "stinkers" and "state funded trolls" out in force in this (very rare - only in editorials & the odd opinion piece, newer press releases, unlike elsewhere) opportunity for "comments".

Editorial: Smoking ban outdoors could be step too far

Will have to write later - 1:33 am here now!


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