A smoking ban in all cars, yes even private ones just like you and I drive, and even if you’re driving alone, is the latest brainwave from doctors’ trade union the BMA. It’s something they threaten us with every so often and this week, in a nanny state double whammy, it coincides with the temperance movement’s ‘Alcohol Awareness Week’.
The misinformation, half truths and downright lies are being peddled out by the usual, often publicly funded, cleverly acronymed-up suspects. We just don’t know what’s good for us, see. How can we, as lowly members of the public, be trusted to make our own decisions about our own lives. We must, it seems, be told what’s good for us. Whether it’s the truth or not.
The obvious lie, trotted out again by a woman from the BMA on BBC Breakfast this morning advocating the car smoking ban, is that 'research shows the level of toxins in a car can be up to 23 times higher than in a smoky bar.' Now aside from the very flimsy definition 'smoky bar' this figure was discredited some time ago as an unsubstantiated quote from a local Canadian newspaper in 1998, without any medical or scientific evidence. Still it’s not stopped the untruth becoming ‘fact’ by simple process of repetition. Something the BMA seem either completely unaware of, or chose to ignore, indeed it’s just been trotted out on the radio again by them as I type.
So, before you can say 'won't someone please think of the children' a ban from smoking in public slithers towards a ban on smoking by yourself. In your own property
Predictably, the precedent of the smoking ban in pubs has been used. Its worked there we're told. It's been a success. Well that depends on your definition of success. If success is the catastrophic effect it's had on the pub trade, then it was a belter! On average more than a thousand more pubs closed each year after the ban than before (an average of 331 pre-ban 1990-2006 and 1550 2006-10). Ask anyone in the pub trade or any of the regulars left in the tap room and they'll tell you what the British public really think about the smoking ban in pubs. They don't like it, they're staying away, smoking at home instead. The disincentive is the fine for publicans, not the line peddled by the health lobby. It's just another nail in the coffin of the traditional British pub. Part of the last government's – and seemingly this too despite the good work of the likes of Gregg Mulholland MP – war on pubs.
Another porkie and trumpeted 'success' for the ban on smoking in public (which includes pubs) was a claim by the Department of Health of a decline in heart attack rates of 10%. But as Christopher Snowden shows this is trend that existed before the smoking ban. But the spin placed on statistics like this shows a success. And success sets a precedent. And politicans and the health lobby love a precedent. It gives them carte blance to chip away just that little further at our private lives. So, before you can say 'won't someone please think of the children' a ban from smoking in public slithers towards a ban on smoking by yourself. In your own property.
We're told the NHS spends £5bn a year on treating smoking related illnesses. That smokers are a burden. That they should feel guilty. It's their own fault. Smokers might have some sympathy were they not providing the government with £8.8bn (as of 2009/10 and presumably in excess of that now) a year.
Cost is the stick the temperence movement has been beating drinkers with too this week as part of Alcohol Awareness Week. An unassuming name for something which is more or less saying 'you lot shouldn't drink at all.' We're told the cost to the NHS in 2006/7 for example was £2.7bn and the the NHS is unsustainable if this carries on, yet the same year the revenue raised via alcohol duty was £7.913bn. A figure that continues to rise. Drinkers, like smokers, are keeping the NHS funded, and the very (well paid) doctors who criticise them, and expensive think tanks and research groups who compile reports condemning them, in jobs. They should be thanking us.
If we're demonising unsustainable expenses to the NHS, why not look at sport? After all 30% of the nation pick up 22 million sporting injuries each year, that's 250,000 hospital admissions a year. What cost to the NHS is that? Why isn't there a tax on the dangerous activities of these people needlessly putting themselves in harms way? Then there's the long term affects of participating in sport. I can point you in the direction of plenty of ex professional footballers for example with premature arthritis. But of course, they brought it on themselves didn't they?
The pomposity of some doctors knows no bounds. Forgetting a past of advocating grave robbing, opposing the foundation of the NHS and counting Harold Shipman as one of their colleagues
The pomposity of some doctors knows no bounds. Forgetting a past of advocating grave robbing, opposing the foundation of the NHS and counting Harold Shipman as one of their colleagues, they seem to have an inflated opinion of their role in society. They feature in articles provocatively bracketing alcohol with 'battles' and 'wars'. Take Dr Chris Healey, claiming Britain is 'sleepwalking' towards a 'tragic' situation with 'alcohol becoming a major killer.' But his figures show 17 in 100,000 'dying as a direct result of alcohol in the Bradford area.' Going by the national figure of 896 deaths per 100,000 in total in 2009 it doesn't appear to be something that merits the type of prohibition that Dr Healey is alluding to. Note he says: "We are trying to capture people before they are damaged by alcohol. Everyone who attends A&E is asked if they drink alcohol." Not 'drink to excess', but 'drink alcohol'. And yet these are the type of people who we are supposed to unquestioningly bow down to despite their often out and out lies. This isn't the thin end of the wedge. The wedge has well and truly been hammered under the door til it's hanging off its hinges.
The likes of Alcohol Concern, the lobby group behind Alcohol Awarenes Week, rarely balance their criticism with research that shows moderate drinking is beneficial or that the ludicrous weekly 'recommendations' that have somehow become 'weekly limits' were '"plucked out of the air" in the absence of any clear evidence about how much alcohol constitutes a risk to health'. Yes, those units you see on adverts, and on bottles, that made no sense anyway were completely made up.
They claim alcohol is cheaper than ever, when was the last time they were in a pub? A pint of ale is edging towards the £3 even in Bradford, and London prices give me a cold sweat just thinking about them. The fact is alcohol is actually 20% more expensive in real terms now than it was in 1980 in the UK. The UK has the fourth highest spirits duty in the UK, the third highest beer duty and the second highest wine duty. And despite the claims from Dr Healey, alcohol consumption has dropped by 9% since 2004. Still, if you're getting paid a wedge to demonise alcohol, and normal people, for a living then why let facts get in the way.
the ludicrous weekly 'recommendations' that have somehow become 'weekly limits' were '"plucked out of the air" in the absence of any clear evidence about how much alcohol constitutes a risk to healt
This type of puritanical mass bullying was typified in an error filled report by the Royal College of Psychiatrists, that hilariously labelled those over 65 who drank over a pint a day as 'invisible addicts. A report superbly rebutted by The Nottingham Drinker's Steve Westby: "...now we seem happy to treat them [our elders] with patronising contempt. Well, I for one am not putting up with it, I am having a beer when I fancy one and will drink a much of it as I like and if they don't like it they can shove it where the sun doesn't shine!"
Just as drinkers are finally standing up this puritanical mass bullying, it's up to smokers to do the same. It's your body, your car and you're paying well over the odds for the privilege of both. The government, the doctors and the nanny state can keep their noses out and let us enjoy life's simple pleasures in peace. We know best, not them.