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Frank Davis

Banging on about the Smoking Ban


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EU War on Smokers 2
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I've spent much of the day following up yesterday's post, and learning a bit about the structure of the EU. It seems that the proposal for a 100% smoking ban came from the EU Commission in June 2009, and that it was adopted by the EU Parliament on 26 Nov 2009, with the EU Council recommendation published on 20 Nov 2009. Essentially, the Council recommendation is the same as the Commission proposal.

The language of the EU parliament document could have been, and probably was, written by rabid antismokers. Its preamble included the following:

it is estimated that 25 % of all cancer deaths and 15 % of all deaths in the EU could be attributed to smoking(5) ; whereas according to conservative estimates, 7 300 adults, including 2 800 non-smokers, died as a result of exposure to environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) at their workplace in the EU in 2002; and whereas a further 72 000 adult deaths, including those of 16 400 non-smokers, were linked to ETS exposure at home(6)...

children are particularly vulnerable to ETS...

tobacco smoke is a complex toxic mixture of more than 4 000 gaseous and particulate compounds, including 69 known carcinogens and numerous toxic agents...

there is no safe level of exposure to second-hand tobacco smoke...

The debate in the EU parliament on 25 Nov 2009 wasn't much better. Fourteen people spoke, and of those only 3 spoke in English. I presume that EU interpreters translated as they spoke, and maybe those translations are available on the videos. The three English speakers were all antismokers. Here's Mairead McGuinness:

"Madam President, during the 2004 European elections, Ireland introduced a ban on smoking in the workplace, so we met many irate voters outside restaurants and public houses. They were furious about the ban. But this is 2009, and there has been a huge acceptance that what we did was good for workers, good for employers and good for the public health system. People have come to live with it..."

And Seán Kelly

"In Ireland, I have also seen the transformation in attitudes to smoking and I have seen a transformation in the habits of Irish smokers. I was President of the Gaelic Athletic Association, which is Ireland’s largest sporting body. We introduced a ban in our biggest stadium, which can hold 82 500 people. People resisted it but now they accept it. There is a complete change."

And a quarter of Irish pubs have gone bust. Here's Chris Davies:

"Madam President, people have the right to smoke but I bow to no one in saying that others should not have to breathe in the smoke at the workplace or any establishment that is breathed out by others. Personally I hate the stuff – just loathe the stuff – and I welcome the ban that has been introduced in my country. But I do not think the decision should be taken at European level. I do not think we should be calling for binding legislation to apply to every Member State."

To give him credit, the last speaker made the same point as I did yesterday, that this sort of legislation should be left to member states. Ominously, his reference to 'binding legislation' suggests that, if the current 'recommendation' isn't binding, it shortly will be.

So, 3 speakers out of the the 3 English speakers were antismokers. It was clear that several of the other speakers were antismokers too. Hardly representative of a Europe in which one third of people are smokers.

While I was discovering this, I was also looking at the structure of the EU. The EU parliament is the only body directly elected by EU citizens. The EU Council, which seems to be the top tier, is made of current EU member state ministers. The EU Commission is the bit of the EU which formulates proposals for new laws. The EU parliament can't do that. They just vote on proposals by the Commission. So who makes up the Commission? Basically recycled politicians:

They have all held political positions in their countries of origin and many have been government ministers,

And furthermore, the President of the Commission, who is elected by EU Member governments for a 5-year term, gets to pick who will be the other members of the Commission

The Commission President-designate, in discussion with the Member State governments, chooses the other Members of the Commission.

So he can pick like-minded people, if he wants. Which, of course, he will want. The EU parliament then has the opportunity to reject the candidate Commissioners - only not individually, but only in toto.

Thw current President of the EU Commission is Portugal's Jose Manuel Barroso, Prime Minister of Portugal 2002-2004 (and therefore a recycled politician), and one-time Maoist. Barroso unveiled his choice of fellow Commissioners in November 2009. There's no sign I can find that Barroso is a smoker. If the Barroso-led Commission has proposed a 100% smoking ban, it rather suggests that Barroso - and most of his Commissioners - are virulent antismokers.

My conclusions? I still don't know why Bild ran this story a couple of days ago. And I still don't know whether the legislation is binding. What's quite clear is that if it isn't now, it soon will be.

The EU political classes are profoundly antismoking in ways that do not reflect the wider EU electorate. This includes the EU parliament. The EU Commission could propose a shoot-on-sight 'recommendation' for smokers to the EU parliament, and they'd rubber-stamp it. And there'd be nothing that anyone could do about it.

One of the arguments I've repeatedly heard in favour of the EU is that it would prevent another 'European civil war' like WWI and WWII. As far as I can see, by setting smokers against non-smokers, the EU is actually more likely to start one.
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Euro government/law confusion

(Anonymous)
I once tried to understand how the government works in the UK. How are the powers balanced? What Rights are guaranteed? What is government forbidden from doing? How does the legislative process work?

I gave up. It gave me a headache.

Similarly, I don't how the EU is supposed to work. How authoritative is the EU? What power do the member nations have? Is it supposed to be like different states operating under a federal government, like in the US? What is the EU, anyway? What's the purpose of it?

When I first heard of the EU, I naively assumed its purpose was to introduce a common currency, loosen borders, facilitate free trade, and get rid off bureaucratic legal barriers that existed between countries that are cloistered so closely together.

I ask about these things because I have a clear idea of what the implications could be if a governmental, deliberative body in the U.S. openly called for "high-profile prosecutions".

I don't really know what the implications are when it comes to the nations in Europe, though.

I don't ask this hoping that anyone is going to explain all of these complicated matters to me in this short space. I hope I don't sound disrespectful if I ask if Europeans even know? For example, is there a UK Constitution that anyone can obtain?

I've seen the EU constitution. It says that Rights will "be respected". That's not much of a guarantee of anything. WS.

Re: Euro government/law confusion

how the government works in the UK. How are the powers balanced? What Rights are guaranteed? What is government forbidden from doing? How does the legislative process work? .... Similarly, I don't how the EU is supposed to work. How authoritative is the EU? What power do the member nations have? Is it supposed to be like different states operating under a federal government, like in the US? What is the EU, anyway? What's the purpose of it?

The UK constitution is, as best I know (which isn't much), is an unwritten constitution. That is, it's an imaginary constitution. I think that there's a lot in the UK system of government that is of this nature. It's like a gentleman's club in which most rules are unwritten, but everybody knows that you mustn't wear blazers in the common room, or brown shoes on Wednesdays. But it all muddles through somehow. It's the consequence of a slow accretion of powers, largely at the expense of the crown, over centuries.

The EU is much more explicit in nature. It is, after all, barely 50 years old (if that), and can't rely on custom and tradition. It's got a European bill of rights (I think), and a European court, and a legislature with fairly clear procedural rules. As for its aims, you have to go back to its founding fathers at the Treaty of Rome. I've been reading about Jean Monnet recently.

I probably know more about the US constitution than either the UK or the EU constitution. And even then, it's just what I've picked up over a long period of time. The USA has a written constitution and a bill of rights. It also has a much more direct electoral system, in that US voters directly elect their representatives and senators and president. I think that in many cities they even directly elect their dog-catchers. In the UK we directly elect MPs, and they elect the Prime Minister. The House of Lords (equivalent to the US Senate, but less powerful) is unelected, and is mostly full of appointed recycled politicians (and a few law lords and bishops).

I'm not a 'political' type. All I want to do is sit in a pub and enjoy a beer and a cigarette, like I have for most of my life. I've never paid too much attention to politics, even if I'm a regular voter. I just expect politicians to be moderately sensible sorts of people, and let them get on with it. Looks like those days are over. And now I'm on something of a steep learning curve.


From Junican.

Regarding your post above, WS,s comment and your response.

It seems to me that our UK lack of a written constitution only adds to the general confusion of the nature and purpose of the EU.
For certuries, we have muddled along, allowing our constitution to mutate as required by circumstances. I don't suppose that when our leaders decided to join the French, Germans and Italians in the EU that they thought for one moment that our lack of a written constitution was of any significance - after all, we were joining what was essentially only a trading arrangement. However, the expansion of the EU's remit to include human rights and health and climate etc has thrown our constitutional arrangements into disarray. Our lack of written constitution has, in effect, come to mean that we have no constitution. This, in its turn, means that we have no constitutional 'defence' against the EU's blandishments. You may remember that a few months ago, Gordon Brown was vaguely talking about having a written constitution, and I think that this was the reason. But, of course, ordinary people are just too stupid to be privy to discussions of these matters.

That aside, what has bothered me about the smoking laws and regulations being proposed by the EU is the sheer lack of opposition. You pointed this out. But I am not sure to what extent it is clearly understood by everyone, MPs, EMPs and the political elite in general just how ephemeral is the danger of SHS. Or is it that they, collectively, simply do not want to know, for some reason best known to themselves.
I have no doubt that you have read today's post by Dick Puddlecote about Oona King's call for cripples to figure in cartoons. For an ex-MP and recently appointed 'diversity officer' to be so muddled in her thinking is beyond comprehension.

Thinking about our muddled constitution and the muddled thinking of our MPs, an innovative idea came into my mind and I wonder what you think about it.

Somehow, smokers and all those who value our liberty need to bypass the likes of ASH, CRUK, WHO, IPCC etc. It struck me that the combination of e-petition to the Prime Minister and Freedom of Information could be the vehicle necessary to achieve this. As a simple and possibly silly example, people could send an e-petition to the PM requesting, under the Freedom of Information Act, by whom, when and how was it decided that x number of units of alcohol per day was appropriate for a male person. In other words, you petition the PM to supply the information. You might petition the PM to provide the climate data seemingly 'lost' by the U of EA. Equally, you might ask for the raw data regarding SHS.

Of course, you would need as many people as possible to sign the petition. To this end, a specific website could be created specifically for smokers to sign such a petition. On this website, there would be no 'for', 'against' or 'don't know'. The only question would be, "Do you want to sign this petition?" Thus, the manipulations of ASH etc would be negated.

Interesting, do you not think? Needs a lot of development though.

Regarding above

(Anonymous)
First, thank you, Frank, for taking the time to provide me with that brief overview. Discussing the usefulness of a concise, written constitution versus the lack of one is a very interesting topic. I'm not going to tempt myself with getting into it here.

Regarding Junican's suggestion: I've often thought about something similar myself. It's entirely reasonable to expect that an organization should produce results. In the free market, organizations die if they don't. But government organizations can go on without producing anything. If 40,000 people die from each year from ETS exposure, then demographics should reveal far fewer deaths a year after smoking bans. A few years ago, a movie came out called "Super Size Me". That movie blamed obesity on people's ability to easily obtain large quantities of unhealthy food at fast food restaurants. In response, fast food restaurants eliminated the "super size" option. Somehow, no one mentions that this panacea did nothing. In fact, anti-obesity crusaders will claim that things have gotten worse in the meantime.

The saying goes, "you're entitled to your own opinions, but you're not entitled to your own facts". Public health interests, it seems, are somehow entitled to both. In fact, they're able to simultaneously claim both success and failure. They'll claim, for instance, that smoking bans have prevented heart attacks. Simultaneously, annual statistics will show no such corresponding drop in heart attack rates. There may be a modest drop, but it's related to secular trends that have nothing to do with smoking bans.

When organizations are propped up by government in the name of progressive goals like "prevention" and "awareness", they're only required to present results in form rather than function. Anti-tobacco crusaders ostensibly wish to prevent cancer. If that's the case, then they should have to demonstrate that their efforts have prevented cancer. They're not asked to do that, though. They're just asked to show that they prevented smoking. This is unlikely to ever show a meaningful result.

Why not? Because even in a Utopian world where everyone exercises daily, breaths "clean" air, and eats an optimal diet, the average human lifespan expectancy is unlikely to increase very much past what it is now. The average expected US lifespan increased from 48 years in 1900 to 68 years in 1950. This was overwhelmingly due to two factors: conquering the spread of infectious diseases and lowering the rate of infant mortality. Since 1950, the average US lifespan has increased by only 10 years, to about 78 years. To sum up, we gained 20 years of increased lifespan between 1900 and 1950, but only 10 years of increased lifespan in the sixty years since. Exercise, dieting, medical breakthroughs, pharmaceuticals have had limited returns.

People in the Western world die today primarily of cancer and heart disease. If all of the external risk factors for cancer and heart disease are removed, it's likely that these will still be the two leading causes of death. Excluding dramatic breakthroughs in cloning and bio/nano-technology, humans are unlikely to see an increase in lifespan in the next 50 years that rivals the increase of the previous 50 years. In 2060, absent dramatic scientific breakthroughs unrelated to prevention, people will probably be able to expect to live to 83 or 84, instead of 78.

Anti-tobacco is very good at churning out statistics, but anti-tobacco fails to produce statistics that can contribute to a meaningful understanding that supports all of its claims. It's safe to say that more precise and accurate statistics are available to the public for sports teams than are available regarding tobacco use and public health. If you follow sports, you know how poor these statistics can be at predicting actual outcomes.

There's a tremendous lack of transparency regarding these matters that has been fostered by the very interests promoting them. Not only do they demand tremendous expense, but they simultaneously rob people of their liberties and their property. For what real return? The interests promoting these causes are never asked to produce that return. Instead, they run solely on spreading and promoting fear at tremendous, tangible human cost. WS.

Re e-petition to the PM, he's already got a website for this purpose, and various petitions are lodged there, and after a while some anodyne response is posted up. I don't know of a single e-petition that has ever actually achieved anything.

I also think that petitioning anybody for anything means starting from a position of weakness. It's begging. Smokers really ought to be demanding from a position of strength. After all, there's something like 2 billion of us in the world

An FOI request is slightly different. That might be worth doing. But we already know what underlies the recommended units per day: nothing whatsoever - as Richard Smith, the one-time editor of the BMJ has revealed.

Anti-smoking health campaigns have long since passed beyond any sort of rational science, if they were ever based on any at all in the first place. It's simply about creating a public perception of the perils of smoking and tobacco smoke. The same applies to drinking and 'obesity'. There's nothing that could properly be called science underpinning it, because - I would suggest - it's an essentially moral campaign based upon crude eugenic thinking.

This is why I take such a lot of interest in the AGW debate. It's exactly the same there, where pseudoscience (of a much more sophisticated sort) is being used to suggest that we're 'killing the planet' and that we need to fundamentally change our ways. Once again there's a barely-disguised moral/political campaign underlying the 'science'. The collapse of AGW science, which is now well under way, should be a guide to what's likely to happen once anti-smoking 'science' (which is far less rigorous) also begins to come apart.

Frank

Incidentally, for anyone who wants to use HTML to produce italic, bold, and underline text as well as links to places like here, I've put the image below in the right hand margin to explain how to do it.

html

One good thing about Livejournal is that you can include images in comments (although I haven't explained how to do that).

Many thanks for that, Frank. I've often tried to use the HTML characters, but have never known how to turn them "off" at the end of a word, so have usually had to resort to capitals instead of italics which makes me look as if I SHOUT ALL THE TIME!!!

The whole issue of a British Constitution is complicated. There are a number of fairly ancient Charters which, when put together, do pretty much make up what might be considered a "constitution" in any other country - the best-known one of which is, of course, the Magna Carta. However, it gets complicated when you start looking at the text of these documents and you see the constant reference to "freemen" of England, because then you get into that whole debate about what is and isn't a "freeman" - it's a very different thing, legally speaking, from just being a "person" as we think of it. I don't know if you've ever looked into that whole side of things, Frank, and I certainly won't go into it here because it's massively lengthy and complicated, but suffice to say that all the time people don't know what a "freeman" really is, then no amount of Magna Cartas or their ilk can protect the freedoms to which we think we are entitled in the UK.

Hey, look at that! I used the "italic" facility and it worked!

Glad to help.

I've read some of Captain Ranty's stuff about freemen, but I get lost pretty rapidly. It seems like it's pretty complicated to become a freeman of England, and I'm not sure that even Ranty's managed it yet. Nor am I sure what the benefits of it are once you've become one. But all power to his elbow anyway!

Frank

Actually, it isn’t that complicated – certainly no more so than these days it is to, say, fill in a tax return, or sign on, or sell/buy a house, and probably less so. Essentially, all you have to do is to make a declaration that you are re-claiming your rights as a freeman. It takes a bit of thought as to what you put into your “declaration” because, essentially, you have to decide your own rules for living - apart from the Common Laws of the land which always apply to everyone - so it can be as lengthy or as short as you wish. It isn’t the complication or otherwise which prevents those who know about it from going ahead with it – it’s fear of the unknown. Unfortunately, few of the websites which I’ve visited are very good at answering questions from “waverers” like myself – indeed many of the forums where one might expect to glean from those more experienced some insight into what is, for most people, an alien and rather scary way of thinking (because it is so different from everything we’ve been brought up to think/believe) seem to be populated with pretty defensive types who regard even perfectly reasonable, sensible questions as a direct “you lot are all talking rubbish” kind of challenge, and who respond accordingly. Not very encouraging for people who are simply wishing to learn more about a complicated subject, and certainly not a reaction which is inclined to greatly swell their numbers, which is a pity. If I find a good one which explains things in a rational, sensible fashion and answers questions with clarity and common-sense, I’ll let you know!

To go into the advantages would take a long time, and, like anything in life, I’m sure there are disadvantages, too, although the aforementioned problems with the websites I’ve visited means that there is almost zero information about any of those. But there is one major advantage for the likes of you and me. And that is that, as freemen, we personally wouldn’t be legally bound by any aspect of this wretched smoking ban. Of course, your local pub landlord would, which would still be a problem (unless he could be persuaded to declare himself a freeman, too – very unlikely), but if they are now genuinely proposing to extend the ban more widely (although I confess I’m still not convinced that this isn’t just a last-ditch measure from a dying movement which has realised that it has served its function and is therefore desperate to resurrect this particular dead horse in order to maintain their now-threatened flow of funding – but I digress) then being a freeman would be a distinct advantage.

But there is one major advantage for the likes of you and me. And that is that, as freemen, we personally wouldn’t be legally bound by any aspect of this wretched smoking ban.

Ah! Now you're talking!

But how does that work? Suppose you have a pub, a free house, owned and run by one of these freemen. And all the customers are freemen (can you have freewomen?), and they all come to the pub and sit and drink beer and smoke cigarettes. And the local council gets to hear about it, and sends around an Environmental Health Officer, and next thing the landlord and customers are called up before the beak. What do they do? Say, "Sorry, but this law doesn't apply to us." And what does the law in all its majesty reply?

Frank

From Junican.

Thanks for the info, Frank. Have written it down. Will try in out on you!

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