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Ministers reject WHO guidelines on tobacco

14th November 2010.

Three international trading organisations have rejected the latest proposals by the World Health Organisation's Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, according to a press release from the International Tobacco Growers' Association (see link below). The latest is the Council of Ministers of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States (ACP), and this 'follows calls by the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and the African Union (AU) to reject or put back these decisions on the grounds that they could cause major economic and social devastation to developing countries'. The proposed bans cover ingredients used to blend tobacco, but 'the ban is being proposed despite WHO acknowledgments that products without ingredients are just as harmful as those with'. I covered this story two days ago using reports from Zimbabwe and the Philippines, and also from the Framework Convention Alliance, a body supporting the FCTC. Most remarkably, although the FCA declares that the FCTC can claim to represent 89 per cent of the world's population, they still declined to allow ITGA, representing an estimated 30 million tobacco growers, to participate in discussions. Quite right that such bodies (councils of ministers) should reject policies that will mean that countless farmers in their respective countries will lose their livelihoods. The FCTC contains provisions for alternative sources of livelihood, but the ITGA hold that these are not feasible. Even if they were feasible, the exclusion of ITGA from talks on these issues is sufficient reason to reject their conclusions. You can read more about the ITGA and its concerns on its website here. This site also includes an online petition.   Go To Story

More European Bans Down Pan

30th June 2010.

Here's more good news on the smoking ban front. Bulgaria's smoking ban lasted just three days, making it the shortest smoking ban in the world – shorter even than the ban imposed in the European Parliament in 2007, which lasted six weeks. Amendments were brought in to relax the smoking ban, prompted by fears of damage to the economy, especially the tourist trade. The changes will allow discretion to allow smoking in certain establishments and provision to be made for smoking staff. In the Netherlands, landlords have always adopted a rebellious attitude to the ban, and have gained considerable public support and funding, while many of them choose to risk fines rather than take the economic hits that would result from turning their smoking customers out of doors. Now a change of government is likely to consider changes, with one health spokesman conceding, 'It's hard for small bars.' Are you listening, Mr Lansley? Licencees' adherence to the ban cost thousands of them their livelihoods, and the affection of many smokers to boot.  Easy Targets: Bans in Prison and Hospital

30th June 2010.

The main story is an editorial from the New Zealand Herald making the sensible case that complete ban in the prison, due to be implemented one year from now (1 July 2011) 'has all the appearance of a sledge hammer being used to crack a relatively minor nut'. How refreshing to see some perspective applied in a leading editorial. The article expresses concern about the cost of smoking cessation needed to provide relief to prisoners, and the information that prisoners released from bans where smoking bans are applied generally take up smoking again on release. A black market in tobacco in the prisons is a certainty. Meanwhile, tomorrow sees the beginning of a complete no-smoking regime in the mental health facilites in Canterbury (also NZ), even for sectioned patients ('we'll be giving them plenty of free nicotine replacement therapy'). Since four-fifths of the city's psychiatric patients smoke, this measure will require considerable enforcement and has aroused considerable anxiety amongst staff, which is well reflected in this article. Unbelievably a small bunch of Scottish MSPs has signed a motion to 'bring NHS mental health facilities into line with other NHS premises concerning smoking in the grounds; believes that the no smoking policy on NHS premises sends out a positive lifestyle message and helps protect patients, staff and visitors from the harmful effects of tobacco smoke;' etc., etc. (my emphasis). There is no law against smoking outdoors anywhere in the NHS, and this motion, knowingly or otherwise, seeks to convey that bans outdoors are the norm. In reality more than one hospital has been forced to rebuild shelters after finding that a complete (Trust-imposed) ban created more problems than it solved (see Bournemouth and Swindon). Clearly, certain authorities have no compunction about enforcing total bans on soft targets, people who have no freedom of movement and precious little freedom of choice. Is this a precursor of how they would like to treat everybody, especially those who are vulnerable and easy to isolate. Only a cynic would say that included in the policy is a certainty of a huge captive market for nicotine replacement therapies – I'll say it anyway as this is what it amounts to. And let those who push for smoking restrictions prove that they have no interest in these markets, or in the culture that promotes the treatments.   Go To Story

Gian Turci, In Memory

10th March 2010.

Today, National No Smoking Day, somewhat ironically marks an important anniversary. One year ago today we were shocked to learn of the death of Gian Turci, after a short illness. Gian was the CEO and founder of Forces International and also a founder of The International Coalition Against Prohibition, an inspiring leader and stirring orator. He spent the last thirteen years of his life fighting against anti-tobacco ('bastardos'), and never led anyone to believe that the fight was an easy one. Not having known Gian well myself, I give you the appreciation of his friends and close colleagues - see main story. The second World Conference of the The International Coalition Against Prohibition, dedicated to Gian Turci, takes place next Monday, 15 March. Entitled 'Are Guests Welcome?', it will cover a variety of topics, including smoking (tobacco and hoookah), alcohol, and the corrupting effects of anti-tobacco. Gian's memory will be honoured but we will miss his presence. (A live video link will be available so that those not able to attend will be able to follow the proceedings.) Finally, Nick Hogan was one of the people who were able to travel to Italy to pay their final respects to Gian at his funeral last year. It is most fitting in 2010 that Nick's release from incarceration also should fall on this day.   Go To Story

Second TICAP Conference Registration Reminder

18th January 2010.

Delegates are invited to register for the Second World Conference of The International Coalition Against Prohibition The second conference will take place in The Hague, 15 March 2010.  Entitled 'Are Guests Welcome? Prohibition and the Hospitality Industry', the conference is dedicated to the memory of Gian Turci, who died suddenly two months after TICAP's inaugural conference. Gian was the CEO of Forces International and contributed significantly in developing TICAP. The venue is the Nieuspoort conference centre at The Hague. Further conference details and programme at the link below.     Go To Story

Roll Up For Free Hypnosis

4th January 2010.

A press release offering two free sessions to anyone visiting their website points out the failure rate of nicotine replacement therapies (conservatively at 90 per cent!). A link to an article on the Stop Smoking Tips website elaborates: 'If You're Ready To Stop Smoking, Products With Nicotine Are No Help', it declares.  But what I can say is this: 90% of the time, nicotine replacement therapy doesn’t work. I’m talking about quit-smoking products like nicotine gum, patches, lozenges, nasal sprays, and all the rest. I don’t want to knock these products, but let’s think about this for a second. If you’re trying to end your addiction to nicotine, why use products that just fill your body with more nicotine? Does this make sense? That’s no way to make a clean break. And: Too many people make the mistake of thinking that the most popular stop-smoking products are also the most effective. It’s simply not true. Nicotine replacement products are so popular because they’re brilliantly marketed and very easy to get. Plus, they’re perfect for people who want to look like they’re trying to quit smoking but who are not actually ready to do so. In other words nicotine gum and patches are an effective and relatively painless way to fail, for anyone so inclined. If you’re truly ready to face up to this challenge, you’ll go nicotine-free right off the bat. Depending on how you choose to quit, you may invest in herbal products to quit smoking, or you may use things like stop smoking hypnosis, acupuncture, meditation, or therapy. All of these things work. They may be more painful than using nicotine replacement products, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Pain is just the first stage of healing, and you’ll never heal from your nicotine addiction if you don’t steel yourself for a week or two of hard times. After all, there are worse things in the world. All these are slogans and selling points and Freedom2choose would avoid some of this kind of terminology (for example the term 'addiction' applied to tobacco). Giving up is entirely an individual's choice. However within the cessation market it is good to see more remedies coming from outside the pharmaceutical model, and moreoever from a source that is explicitly critical of the claims made by the pharmaceutical industry. (For a similarly outspoken UK hypnotherapy practice see The Truth Will Out). We likewise deplore the outright promotion of nicotine replacement therapies to would-be quitters. They do not work well and are a lucrative money-spinner for major pharmaceutical companies: furthermore they attract public subsidies in many instances of their use. An example is the recently reported Isle of Man prison, which has banned smoking completely for prisoners. We look forward to a growing awareness of the profitable growth industry of smoking cessation, and to increased resistance to its political arm, the health lobby, as a result.   Go To Story

Volume History of Rampant Antismoking

17th December 2009.

George Godber, British delegate to the 1975 Third World Conference on Smoking and Health, said that in order to prevent people smoking it would be 'essential to foster an atmosphere where it was perceived that active smokers would injure those around them, especially their family and infants or young children who would be exposed involuntarily to the smoke in the air'. Rampant Antismoking is a 2003 book that the author has recently made available as a free download. This extract from the Rampant Antismoking website is the result of subsequent research and presents more of the conclusions from that conference, and the author's reflections on it; and an extract from 'The Godber blueprint': In the 1970s, the idea of disease attributed to smoking was questionable. The ‘death toll’, a statistical exercise, attributed to smoking was questionable. The idea of ‘nicotine addiction’ was questionable. A glaring absence in the literature and official reports was/is coherent causal argument. There was/is only the constant assumption of cause, made to substitute for explanation. All that was required in epidemiological circles is that a small group concluded that a relationship was causal for that relationship to be promoted so, i.e., ‘causation’ by consensus. (see also RASGD) [...] Secondly, it must be emphasized that the many claims pre-date ‘evidence’. For example, there is a call for research to explore whether environmental tobacco smoke poses a danger to nonsmokers. Yet, Godber already refers to such “harm” and Banzhaf wanted a warning of such on cigarette packs. The ‘Conclusions’ section indicates “[a]ll organizations and associations concerned with matters of smoking and health should utilize their resources for, and provide their whole-hearted vigorous and unequivocal support to, legislative, administrative and other measures or initiatives for the protection of the health of non-smokers.” [...] Fifthly, of those presenting papers, by invitation only, at the conference, there is not one on tobacco-plant science or on psychology – either concerning psychological aspects of smoking or on the psychology of fanaticism. The view presented at the conference represents a very narrow, flawed view of smoking and a very flawed and dangerous view of Public Health. And, it would appear that this absence of expertise was not coincidental: The intent was/is to promote antismoking globally. While there has been ample opportunity over the ensuing three-plus decades to correct wayward claims, this has not occurred. Rather, an entire bureaucracy has been built to protect the original Blueprint and its fulfillment. THE ‘BLUEPRINT’ SUMMARY: Demonize the tobacco industry. Eradicate all industry advertising. The tobacco industry will be portrayed as always evil, public health as always good. Public health is always right - anyone questioning public health will be smeared (argument ad hominem) as a tobacco industry shill or sympathizer/apologist, i.e. wrong by association. Smoking will be punished through taxation and the removal of smoking-permitted areas. Any reference to smoking/smokers will always be negative and never positive. Smoking will always be referred to as abnormal behavior. Smoking will be depicted as a non-normal or abnormal behavior. Smokers would be depicted, in a wholly derogatory sense, as ‘nicotine addicts’: Smoking would be ‘reduced’ to no more than nicotine addiction. In short, nonsmokers are ‘superior’, smokers are ‘inferior’. Those in education and public health will be the first to be brainwashed into antismoking, and should be ‘exemplars’ of ‘normal’, nonsmoking behavior. Those choosing to smoke should have their employment terminated in these ‘exemplar’ industries, to begin with. Most interesting is that in the ensuing three-plus decades since the Godber Blueprint, the research themes, ‘findings’, ‘interpretations’, re-definitions, and policy demands ALL magically align, one by one, with the Blueprint.     Go To Story

Another Ban Bites The Dust

Helen Daniels
1st December 2009.

Plucky little Balkans?  I’d refer to the people of Croatia with a lot more admiration than that. They used people-power, and have now had their smoking ban revoked. 'What have the Balkans ever done for us?' asks this Guardian writer – Guardian writer!! 'Until I saw this picture, I would have said pretty bloody little.' In Ulster, the free spirits, all those broths of boys so full of the rebel songs, lined up to smoke in the soft, soft rain. The thrawn, torn-faced Scots embraced the ban with hacking Calvinist fervour. England and Wales made angry noises, then succumbed: smokers through all these isles, for all our fine words, gave in like meek, coughing lambs. Yet, as the article states, there is hope. In fact there is a lot of hope, as several bans have now been relaxed or revoked throughout Europe and the US. All our citizens should be suitably catered for, and I wonder how much more damage needs to be inflicted upon our economy, our communities and our families before our politicians realise this, and before the people realise that they can call politicians to account for it all.   Go To Story

Tobacco Company Nomination Appals Anti-smokers

24th November 2009.

This main story reports ASH (New Zealand) outrage at the nomination of British American Tobacco in JRA Best Workplaces Awards. According to the story, the nomination was made by employees of BAT. ASH's concern arises from disapproval of BAT's product, and calls the nomination a 'cynical corporate responsibility stunt'  – but they don't supply evidence that it is not a genuine recommendation from the company's employees. The irrepressible Ben Youdan (director of ASH NZ) alleges: This is a classical move by the tobacco industry to present itself as a normal business. They no longer succeed in making smoking appear normal, so they're putting effort in to making themselves seem like a respectable corporate entity ... The actual merits of being a good employer don't enter the equation. Anti-smoking group Te Reo Marama's director Shane Bradbrook is quoted as saying, 'any company that sold a deadly product should not be eligible for such an award'. Professional anti-smokers occupy a very narrow world in which the only recognisable hazards are posed by tobacco and no other issue can take precedence. Last week we reported this story, in which a health authority is blind to its own discriminatory practices against smokers simply because they are not so defined in law. Similary anti-smoking groups expect the organisers of this competition to disqualify potential winners of a good workplace competition simply because of distaste for its products. Disqualifying tobacco companies from such competitions would lead to more stories like this. Stories come to light of tobacco involving child slavery and environmental degradation – factors common to many industries in locations where children are commonly used as labour and environmental protection is limited. But attempting to make out that tobacco production uniquely exploits children and wrecks the environment is selective reporting, with the aim of discrediting a specific industry. The anti-smoking lobby does itself no favours by both condemning the tobacco industry for bad employment practices in developing countries, and then condemning it for achieving a nomination for good workplace practices in a developed country. Denying companies the right to compete on the basis of workplace practices, based on disliking the company's product, will not make anyone's life better or safer. (This is not to say that there is no room for improvement in Malawian child welfare – of course there is.) It would be quite unreasonable for the competition organisers to rule out certain industries from its contest on the basis of subjective judgments about the industry's worth to society. Promoting good workplaces, where workers can expect to be well renumerated and in general treated fairly, is a worthwhile goal in its own right. Fortunately JRA, the organisers, insist on being objective, and keeping the option available for any company to win a good workplace award.   Go To Story

Smokers Need Not Apply. This Isn't Discrimination!

21st November 2009.

Smokers will be barred from employment with Susquehanna Health, Pennsylvania, from 1 January. Susquehanna Health states that it can get away with this because smokers are not protected under the law.  As usual Michael Siegel succinctly explains why this is nonsense: Let's first get one thing straight. The Susquehanna Health systems spokesperson is dead wrong when she states that: "tobacco users are not a protected class under the law, so prohibiting the hiring of tobacco users is not discrimination." It's not illegal discrimination, but it sure as heck is discrimination. The spokesperson herself essentially admits this later on in the article when she acknowledges that she is "aware that we may lose some top candidates as a result of this policy." She is thus stating that the policy represents a systematic exclusion of a group of people from employment upon a criterion that is not directly related to the qualifications for employment. That is, in fact, the definition of employment discrimination. [my emphasis, original emphasis on 'definition' only] This employer is in fact putting good health care secondary to pursuing a policy against smokers that is, as Siegel explains, based purely and simply on discrimination. The criteria for employing people should be their suitability. This decision must be contested. This employer will lose good employees to its competitors.  Not discriminating means not discriminating. It doesn't mean looking for those people who are unprotected in law and picking on them. It doesn' t entitle you to say, 'It's not discrmination because smokers are not protected'. Indeed it is hard to see what twist of logic would allow someone to morally justify discriminating against people simply because the law allows it. This is a despicable policy with no legitimacy. It should also serve to illustrate that discrimination should be enshrined in law in a way that protects everybody – rather than on specific groups such as race, gender, sexual or otherwise. Only if applied to everyone does it protect us all from discrimination.   Go To Story

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