Frank Davis

Banging on about the Smoking Ban

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It's been one of those days when you turn on the box and find yourself caught up in an unfolding drama. I've been watching footage of the Japanese earthquake and tsunami disaster. It's astonishing that I've been able to see it within hours of it being shot.

Particularly arresting was the Al Jazeera video clip below (there's a similar clip in the Guardian), which shows the tsunami in Kamaishi city docks. There's an astonishing amount happening in it.

It was only after I'd watched it four or five times that I realised that the water level in the harbour was rising. At 26 seconds in, the water is several feet below a large Japanese sign beneath the windows on the white building. At 57 seconds in, it's reached the top of the window. So it's risen something like 15 feet in 30 seconds. And already at 26 seconds it looks like it's already 10 feet above ground level.

The same speed is apparent on the elevated roadway, which slopes down towards ground level in the distance. At 30 seconds you can see a couple of vehicles driving up this slope towards the camera. By 53 seconds, that slope has been covered in water. At 57 seconds, it's risen almost to the top of the slope, and white water is visble behind a couple of trucks stopped at the top.

What the hell was any traffic doing on this road anyway, driving along the waterfront? What the hell were the two cars doing driving through puddles of water at ground level underneath the elevated road, visible at 22 seconds? The tsunami took about an hour to get to the east coast of Japan after the earthquake. So why hadn't low-lying coast roads been closed, and traffic directed away from the waterfront?

Did those two drivers survive? There was already quite a lot of water on the road, and it was rising. Chances are that a few hundred yards further on they could have found the water was impassable. And there would have been no escape.

There's really quite a lot of traffic on these roads, it seems. And given the rate at which the water was rising, it seems entirely plausible that dozens of cars and trucks got caught, and never got out. There might have been 100 people drowning in their cars on the streets of Kamaishi by the 57 second mark.

And that doesn't count the pedestrians who were on the streets, or on the ground or first floors of buildings. There could easily have been another 100 of them. Or more. After all, if car and truck drivers were cheerfully driving along the front, and were even standing on the elevated road gawping at it all, then it's very likely that shoppers and shopkeepers and dock workers and boat crews didn't think there was much danger either.

The more I looked at this scene, the more likely it seemed to me that, just in the camera field of vision, a few hundred people could have lost their lives. In the whole of Kamaishi, which has a population of 40,000 or so, maybe 1000 people were caught.

And quite needlessly, it would seem. They had a whole hour to clear the lowest-lying ground. It's not as if they don't know about tsunamis. It's a Japanese word, after all.

But as I write, the death toll in the whole of Japan is set at just 1000. Since Kamaishi is just one town among hundreds all along the eastern Japanese seaboard, the actual death toll looks to me more likely to be more like 100,000.

And then, apart from all the lives lost, there's the damage. Hundreds of thousands of smashed cars and trucks and boats. Tens of thousands of houses swept away. Roads feet deep in mud and detritus. All the drains will be blocked. Most of the power will be out. A lot of people will be homeless. All damage done just by the tsunami, not the earthquake.

See also this for a terrifying 9 minute amateur video.

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It really is odd, is it not, that people post as 'anon'. It is not difficult to put your name at the end of a post, even if you have no 'livejournal' account, or whatever. I used to do that. Any name will do - it just makes it easier to refer to a comment with a name than one without.

There will be a huge death toll from this tsunami. A report that I read said something like '200 dead and 100,000 missing'. Obviously, these figures are just guesstimates, but even so, they are likely to be in the right area.

The numbers are so big that the mind boggles. It is almost as if we cannot empathise with such huge numbers (did that not happen with the tsunami which hit Indonesia?) What can one say, other than that it is all very sad? What else can one say?

But there is also the massive destruction. This cannot just be ignored. Is it wrong to compare the destruction of power stations and the consequences of that destruction with the building of windmills in the sea? Would the windmills withstand a tsunami which the power stations cannot? Would the windmills be able to withstand an earthquake of that magnitude? Is it wrong to ask these questions, even though the human cost of the tsunami in Japan has not yet been established?

Is it wrong to draw attention to our Government's obsession with trivia like passive smoking harm, and the massive waste of resources involved, when massive disasters like Japan, Christchurch and Libya are happening - thousands and thousands being killed?

the anti-smoking zealot answer, of course, is that smoking is killing even more, but their statement is not actual fact. The actual fact is the death toll of the earthquake - there is no actual fact of death from SHS.

Lansley has said more than once that the death toll from smoking is 80,000 per an. I have a letter from a Health Dept Lansley representative ("The Health Sec has asked me to respond to your letter") which says 100,000. These figures are comical in their inexactitude.

There is actually a very serious point here. The question is:

For how long are we going to fund organisations like ASH, at enormous expense, with the objective of raising the average age at death beyond 80 years?

These things can be complex - for example, one might say that the Gov does not really fund ASH all that much. Most of the funding comes from Big Pharm. But, ultimately, Big Pharm will recoup that expense from THE PEOPLE. Even CRUK is guilty of misdirecting funds which have been contributed for 'cancer research' into 'smoking prevention'.

The whole situation is complex because of the number of organisations which have a finger in the pie. Corruption is rife.

It may be true that the people are being infantilised, but the really seriously important thing is the infantilisation of Government.

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