Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Prodnoses, Fussbots and the Erosion of Liberty

Last year, my local authority - Swansea City Council - made national headlines when they decided to designate Caswell Bay (one of numerous award-winning beaches to be found on the Gower Peninsular) as a smoke-free beach. Whether it was successful or not I have no idea as I have not visited that particular beach this year and typically the Welsh weather throughout the summer months was not exactly conducive to enjoying a day at the beach.

What was evident is that in their 'due-diligence' before engaging the measure (i.e. they conducted surveys that quite obviously only spoke to non-smokers) was heavily slanted toward getting the result they desired - i.e. a ban on smoking. They chose not to include vaping in this ban, but that is only because I and several other Swansea Vapers were very vocal about this sleight on civil liberties and because we already had a vaping ally on Swansea Council in the form of Lib-Dem Councillor Peter Black (who asked several questions on the matter on our behalf).

This year, Swansea City Council are attempting to come back for a second bite at the cherry. They have launched a consultation of what people thought about the smoke-free beach in Caswell Bay and the way the survey is structured makes it clear that they are considering expanding these smoke-free spaces to other beaches within the region.

I encourage everyone who reads this blog to complete the survey - regardless of whether you are a smoker or non-smoker/vaper.You can find and complete the survey here

For those of you who do not know the Swansea area, understand that Swansea is a coastal City on the South West Wales coastline. As well as it's own large beachfront, Swansea City Council's coverage includes the entire Gower Peninsular - which is a designated area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (the first in the UK).

I have never counted the number of beaches on the Gower Peninsular (there are a huge number of official as well as unofficial beaches/coves to be found), but to give an idea of the extent you can have a look at the website dedicated to the Gower here

It is true to say that Swansea and the Gower relies heavily on the tourist trade. During the summer months one can find tourists of all nationalities holidaying in the area. On sunny days, the Gower roads (which are frequently little more than country lanes) are completely gridlocked with people flowing to the beaches. On top of that there are numerous hotels, guest-houses, B&B's and camping/caravan sites that rely on the tourist trade for their incomes. To immediately alienate any tourist that might be a smoker from visiting Swansea and the Gower would seem to be counter-productive to an area that relies on such trade. But hey, when have smoking bans ever been about health ?

Whilst I am not a smoker myself, I maintain grave concerns over the creeping prohibition that is being instigated by the anti-smoking people. Smoking is a legal activity still enjoyed by approximately 10 million people in the UK and smoke-free spaces such as being proposed by Swansea City Council is (in my humble opinion) discriminatory and affront to a so-called free society that we are supposed to enjoy in Wales and the UK in general. There is no evidence whatsoever that smoking in an open space causes any danger or nuisance to other people in the vicinity. There has been NO public clamour to clamp down on smoking in such spaces but Swansea City Council, which is Labour-controlled incidentally (aren't they all ?), seems to think that this is something that will earn them brownie points. As a council tax payer to Swansea City Council, I am only too aware of the cash shortage issues the Council have and I really think their money would be better spent on the many priorities and neglected areas of the City than on 'pie-in-the-sky' initiatives like this. Especially when nobody has asked for it and nobody is bothered about smoking in the areas (apart from the inevitable handful of snowflakes who always have a complaint about every little minutiae of other people's lives). In fact, as a council tax payer I strongly object to Swansea City Council wasting money on such measures - a fact that I have made clear in my submission to the survey.

There is nothing to suggest the ever creeping prohibition that has spread out from initial bans on smoking in public enclosed spaces includes vaping as yet. But unless this proposal is stopped at source, I think we can all see that ultimately they will eventually include vaping too.

It has always been my belief that people should be allowed to live their lives in peace the way that they choose to live that life (a fact that is enshrined in the Charter on Human Rights which this country supposedly adheres to). It is also true that a Council (or Local Authority if you prefer) is there to provide services (which all of us residents pay for). It is NOT there to police our lifestyle choices. Swansea City Council has already banned dogs from the beaches during the summer months (despite the fact that by deed of our council taxes, WE (Swansea Residents) own those beaches). Last year they banned smoking from Caswell Bay and by the look of things by next year they hope to ban smoking from ALL of the beaches in Swansea and the Gower. Where will it end ?

I implore you all to look at and complete the survey. It matters not where you live. The survey is open to all. As a resident of Swansea I felt compelled to give my opinion, but Swansea relies heavily on the tourist industry and therefore views from people anywhere in the world will count (in fact they may well carry even more weight than mine).

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Black Market Denial

Tobacco Control are a strange beast. They seem totally incapable of thinking the way a NORMAL person thinks. Their solution to everything they think consumers should not be enjoying is to seek to ban it. If they can't ban it, then their second preference is to try and hike the price.

Today, I was drawn by this tweet

The implication of this tweet is that increasing the price of tobacco as high as possible means that the 'kidz' will simply be unable to afford the tobacco. It makes you wonder if these people were ever kids themselves at any time in their lives because if a kid really wants to try something, they will find a way.

Thanks to Tobacco Control, it is Christmas 365 days a year for the smugglers/criminal gangs. With a pack of 20 cigarettes around £10 (in the UK at least), Tobacco Control have opened up a whole new market in illicit tobacco. The fact that packs of 10 are no longer legally sold in the UK anymore due to the TPD has simply exacerbated this fact.

I no longer smoke (I switched to Vaping over 6 years ago), but even I know of numerous places where I can buy smuggled or illicit cigarettes. If I can find them so easily, do Tobacco Control really think that your average 'young person' cannot also work out where to purchase illicit cigarettes ?

The thing is, if folk are buying illicit tobacco from criminal/smuggling gangs, then children can also do the same. Because it is illicit in the first place, such gangs will have no qualms whatsoever about who they are selling that illicit tobacco to. The bottom line to those gangs is simply to make as much money as they possibly can. In fact, illicit tobacco is such a profitable business these days that many criminals have switched from pushing drugs and now sell illicit tobacco instead.

Much illicit tobacco that can be found on the black market is genuine enough. It is simply sourced from other countries where the taxes are lower (or non-existent) and smuggled into the UK. Indeed, there is so much of it flooding into the UK in this way that Customs are very much fighting a losing battle to stop the tide. For every horde of illicit tobacco they do actually find (and seize), you can bet your bottom dollar on the fact that there are hundreds more around the country (or even the locality) that they have not detected. When the smuggling happens on such a scale, the smugglers can easily absorb the occasional loss or seizure of their stock. It is exactly the same mindset that drug traffickers use.

Then of course, you also have the 'home grown' tobacco. That is, counterfeit tobacco that may well have been manufactured within the UK and bulked up with all manner of 'nasties' to make the final product. For these types of operation, they have no qualms at all about hygiene or Health & Safety in their 'manufacturing' process because, as an illegal operation in the first place, they are not bound by such considerations.

Counterfeit tobacco can also be found with ease all over the UK. Yes, occasionally stock is seized by the Police or Customs, but as with smuggled tobacco there is plenty more where that came from so they can easily absorb the occasional seizure of stock.

Also, thanks to Tobacco Control exaggerating the effects of smoking (especially 2nd hand smoke), many people expect that Tobacco will kill them eventually anyway so why would they bother worrying about anything nasty being in counterfeit cigarettes ?

Don't believe me ?   Ask yourself how many newspaper headlines you have read in 2017 alone whereby people have died from taking a contaminated batch of drugs they have purchased in a nightclub or at a festival. That alone should tell you that when people want a product badly enough, then they will naturally take risks on that product when they know it is being bought from an illegal source - especially if the price is good.

Tobacco Control KNOW they are fuelling the black market by constantly pushing for the hiking of prices for tobacco, but they choose to ignore that. Then they simply exacerbate the problem by trying to ban the safer alternatives like snus or vaping. But then, as long as the money keeps flowing into their coffers to keep the gravy train going .....

It has NEVER been about Health, has it ?

Saturday, 1 July 2017

Media Misinformation

It is quite staggering the amount of media misinformation that can be found even through incidental reading these days. This should come as no surprise to smokers and vapers who are well used to the amount of clickbait spouting downright lies that has been fed to the mainstream MSM by the tax-sponging public health 'charities' and organisations to justify their continued funding.

As I write this blog, an article has just been shown on BBC Breakfast 'celebrating' 10 years of the smoking ban. It contains the usual contrived figures from the like of Deborah Arnott and Cancer Research UK stating that 10 years ago there were 10 million smokers and now there are only 8 million smokers - proving the success of their prohibitionist policies (according to them). Of course they make no mention of the fact that there are now 3 million Vapers in the UK since the smoking ban was introduced. Look at those figures I just quoted and tell me there is no correlation as to what is the REAL reason that smoking has reduced. In fact, the only person who acknowledged that ecigarettes had played any part in this reduction in smoking at all was Paul Cosford of Public Health England - and even he was claiming that the main benefit of ecigarettes was in cutting down smoking rates among the young. Furthermore, there were no voices of opposition consulted in the report. I am amazed that FOREST were not consulted at all in the report other than an acknowledgement of their recent Road To Ruin report about how many pubs have closed around the country.

Yesterday, I read an article in The Morning Advertiser (the pub trade magazine) which showed an incredible lack of understanding on what the law is around vaping in pubs. The article can be read here, but the part that really stood out is this

I do not know who advised The Morning Advertiser on the rules surrounding ecigarettes, but they are not very good at their jobs.

For those not sure of the current law, there is NO requirement for ecigarettes (or components) to be approved by the MHRA. All that is required is that all ecigarettes (and components) have to be compliant with the Tobacco Products Directive (TPD) that came into force on 20th May 2017.

The MHRA are not involved at all in the control of ecigarettes unless that product range is making a medical/medicinal claim. For that to happen, the product has to go through a rigorous (and expensive) testing/approval program by the MHRA before it is put on the approved list. To date, there is only ONE product that has undergone this procedure (a product owned, ironically, by a tobacco company) and been successful. That product has still (to the best of my knowledge) been placed on the market. Vape products not making medicinal/medical claims are NOT required to go through this process.

Is it any wonder that pubs are so confused as to what the law is regarding vaping when their own trade organisations/publications cannot get their facts right in regard to the law ?

Another (unrelated) article that caught my attention appeared in the prohibitionist Labour-supporting Trinity Mirror rag known as Walesonline - which is the online version of the Welsh newspaper known as The Western Mail. The article in question focusses on the town of Tonypandy and is all about why the South Wales Valleys 'hubs' (i.e. shopping centres) have suffered such terminal decline and what can be done to revive them.

But apparently, the sure signs that such a hub is in trouble is


So, according to this sorry rag, if a shopping centre has ecigarette stores, then that is a sure sign that it is in trouble and in desperate need of revitalisation. Never mind that ecigarette stores enable smokers to make the choice to switch to a safer alternative of consuming nicotine, never mind that those same ecigarette stores have a far greater success rate (and bigger custom) than any of the government-run Stop Smoking Wales shops that can also be found in such places, and never mind that those ecigarette stores have helped deliver the biggest reduction in Welsh smoking rates that has ever been seen. Nope according to this rag, the appearance of ecigarette stores is a detrimental sign in any shopping community and are 'undesirable'. 'Undesirable' to whom exactly ?  If they were 'undesirable' they would not be flourishing.

Of the course, the same rag does NOT recognise that those same 'deprived', 'depressed' and 'failing' shopping hubs are ALL in Labour-controlled areas. That those places have ALWAYS been Labour-controlled areas. That those areas have been left to rot and decay by the (so called party of the working man) Labour party. Nope, Walesonline is a true red Labour supporting paper so the Labour party is NOT to blame for the decline, but that terrible scourge known as the ecigarette IS the cause.

Little wonder that same Labour party tried (unsuccessfully) to ban the use of ecigarettes in enclosed public spaces. It is also the same Labour party that brought in the smoking ban 10 years ago and started the long decline of these areas as one by one the bingo halls, the snooker halls, the working mens clubs and of course the pubs - all of which are social hubs which brought custom into these areas - closed down.

The article goes on to make many other excuses about why the retail businesses closed down, whilst the bigger names moved out for the more lucrative city centres like Cardiff, but completely fails (or more likely refuses) to acknowledge that first and foremost such places have always been SOCIAL hubs. Without the businesses which give that social aspect (i.e. the pubs, clubs, bingo/snooker halls), there is little to attract people to come to them. THAT is the fault of the smoking ban.

Like I stated at the beginning of this article, the misinformation from the MSM is quite simply unbelievable. It is no wonder that people are turning to other sources to find the REAL news.