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Fun, facts and fag-packets at Forest event

By Editor
February 27th, 2015 at 11:21 am | No Comments | Posted in Personal Freedom, Uncategorized

The Hands Off Our Packs “Stop the Nonsense: Plain Speaking on Plain Packaging” event was held on Tuesday night. What a joy it was.MArk Littlewood southampton FC

All Forest shindigs are must-go-to events as far as we are concerned. They are lively and fun; the speakers are invariably excellent value; the alcohol flows; and the pavements/terraces/balconies are alive with smokers and non-smokers alike celebrating life, the universe and everything else.

This event was no less fun, informative and innovative than we have come to expect. We had intended to write up the event in  more detail, but Dick Puddlecote has pretty much said it all – so just go read his post.

[PS his added note was an eye-rolling moment..

“*An interesting note on David Cameron and his view of plain packs. He came out with a quip during yesterday’s PMQs which went something like this – “Now we are committed to plain paper packaging of cigarettes, it will give more space for the opposition to write their policies on”. Yep, it looks like David Cameron doesn’t have a first clue about the policy he is legislating on! “

Let us just add our salute to Simon Clark (Forest Director) for coming up with such an innovative format (8 or so quick fire speeches- each lasting no more than 2 or 3 minutes).

Hats off to our very own Angela Harbutt who kicked of the formal speeches delivering the plain facts from Australia and ending up with an ask that MPs “consider the facts – not the wishful fiction of state-funded lobby groups and self-serving Whitehall bureaucrats”.

We should also salute Mark Littlewood, formerly of this Parish, and now Director General of the free-market Institute of Economic Affairs. Not only did he deliver a suitably rousing finish to the formal part of the evening, he managed to namecheck (yet again) his much-beloved Southampton Football Club!

Not without merit…(though he rarely needs an excuse in our experience).  He simply pointed out that he had acquired a (very robust and rather snazzy) “SaintsFC cig box” into which he drops his chosen cigarette pack. Given the interest in the room that evening , we suspect many more will be doing likewise (acquiring their own bespoke cig case – not necessarily creating a Saints FC one.)

Forest has promised to put a video of the speeches up on YouTube in the coming days. But here is a close up pic of the much-discussed cig case.

ML cig case

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Norman Lamb: Doh!

By Angela Harbutt

 

Only a short while ago Norman Lamb MP was one of our best. He stood up, and spoke out, on principle against needless government intrusion. A true poster boy for all those liberals amongst us who object to the nanny state telling adults how to live our lives.

Back in 2008, when the the Labour government suggested hiding cigarettes behind shutters in shops, Norman was one of the first to speak out. As Shadow Health Minister he rightly stated :

“This is the nanny state going too far.”

And he didn’t stop there. He also said

“This will hit small businesses with added costs while there is no clear evidence that it will actually reduce the number of young people smoking.”

And indeed he said this:

“The Government is obsessed with headline-grabbing gimmicks instead of tackling the real problems. Buying tobacco for children must be made a criminal offence. Ministers also need to clamp down on the shockingly high amount of tobacco that is smuggled illegally into this country.”

Where is that man we wonder? Roll on to 2013 and, when in a position to actually have an impact on the excesses of the nanny state, low and behold he pops up in the Guardian saying:

“As a liberal I would always defend someone’s right to smoke, if that’s what they choose to do. But, given we’re dealing here with a product that kills between 80,000 and 100,000 people a year, I think it’s legitimate for government to seek to control the marketing of that deadly product…”

 

Well, Norman, nothing has changed since 2008. Cigarettes are bad for you. Sure. But no more than they were in 2008, when you were against the display ban. Adults should be treated as adults – even when you are in power.

If ever there was a policy that was nothing more than a “headline-grabbing gimmick” (your words), banning coloured boxes must surely be it? What happened to your concern about the impact of policy gimmicks on small businesses? And why choose this point to ignore the 500,000 voters who registered their opposition to this policy during the consultation? Back in 2008 your concern was rightly focused on the black-market and proxy purchasing. Why, when in power, choose to support a policy that will make it actually easier and cheaper for organised crime to counterfeit cigarettes? You were against the tobacco display ban – but it was introduced anyway – why not at least wait to measure the effectiveness of that policy (and the ban on tobacco vending machines) before arguing for yet more legislation?

Picture courtesy of "Hands Off Our Packs"

Picture courtesy of “Hands Off Our Packs”

You say that:

“I think it would be a legacy for this government to have legislated on something which would be a landmark public health reform and to be out there in front in Europe.”

Great. If that’s the case [or indeed if it is, as it seems, just the usual politician’s desire to be “seen” to be doing something]  here are a few policies that may assist you in leaving a health legacy you can actually be proud of.

 

1. Clear the path for e-cigarettes. This revolution is leaving you behind. Hundreds of thousands are electing to choose this product – yet you waste your time on ruling what colour of boxes you think adults should look at – a campaign gimmick that is untried, untested and unwanted. If you want to be “out there in front of Europe” then let’s get as many e-cigarettes out there as possible. If you hadn’t noticed – they are working – unlike the tired, unimaginative and dangerous “more of the same” policies coming from those in tobacco control. Note that Chris Davies [Libdem] MEP seems to be way ahead of you [see “Politics at it should be done“]

2. Introduce a ban on proxy purchasing (your idea from 2008). Smoking is an adult pursuit. If your concern is children, then make it illegal to purchase cigarettes on behalf of minors.

3. And while you are at it, increase the penalties on those caught selling cigarettes to kids.

4. Act on counterfeiting. Fake cigarettes sell at half the price of UK duty paid cigarettes. Quite attractive to cash strapped youngsters don’t you think? They are sold to minors at school gates, car book sales and markets. They don’t ask for ID, and they don’t care who they sell to. Why not introduce some serious penalties for smuggling and counterfeiting?

That is just four for starters – and they really do start to look like a liberal legacy we can all be proud of.

PS: With great relief we note that education minister, David Laws, and the Home Office minister, Jeremy Browne are reported to remain firmly against this policy.

Seen elsewhere on this topic: “Norman Lamb:Perfect Example of the Genre” and “Open Minded?

Angela Harbutt is currently campaigning against the introduction of plain packaging of tobacco.

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Tackling the Shiraz riots of 2012

By Angela Harbutt
October 20th, 2012 at 1:38 pm | 1 Comment | Posted in Nannying, Nudge Dredd, Personal Freedom

 

The Telegraph is carrying the stark warning today that the government is set to outlaw the discounting of bulk deals on wine by supermarkets, as part of a review on alcohol pricing. Ministers, they say, believe such promotions give customers a financial incentive to purchase more alcohol than they intended to buy and should be banned. It is said this is another measure being championed by the PM himself.

When this whole alcohol review was launched, the alcohol review was billed as all about trouble-making youths and other anti-social drinkers. 

The availability of cheap alcohol has been a key contributing factor in the development of this country’s binge-drinking culture. The government will no longer tolerate the sale of heavily discounted alcohol which leads to irresponsible behaviour and unacceptable levels of crime and health harms.”

To be clear I am totally against minimum pricing of alcohol, it is regressive, nannying, unfair and won’t work.  We have laws to deal with “anti-social” behaviour and crime. But this latest proposal really is paternalism gone mad. Who, I wonder “preloads” with bottles of Merlot before hitting the night clubs? Since when did Chardonnay drinkers hang around the city centre on a Saturday night hurling abuse at passers by? I don’t know and I bet the government doesn’t know either.

So what business is it of government if a shop offers me a deal, that incentivises me to buy 2 botttles of wine rather than 1, indeed 24 bottles of wine instead of 12? Isn’t that between me and the shop? It doesn’t mean I have to drink it all in one session. I frequently buy 24 toilet rolls in one session. I probably only intended to buy 4, but the shop “incentivised” me. I have also been known to buy as many as 36 cans of Coke in one go because the price was great and frankly it is more convenient for me to buy in bulk and saves me precious time and money.  I don’t rush home and consume them all at once, but even if I did whose business is it? Certainly not the government’s.

Bizarrely the Government appears to be leaving wine clubs untouched. It seems it is OK to plan to buy case loads of wine, just unacceptable to pick up a bargain whilst doing the weekly shop. Perhaps supermarkets have been added to the list of sinners, including bankers and energy companies on David Cameron’s hit list. Or maybe it is that wine clubs are the preserves of the rich middle classes who can be relied upon to decant their wine, sniff and sip, and behave in an altogether more refined manner.

I doubt there will be Shiraz riots any time soon. To be frank the supermarkets will just cut the bottle price rather than offer multi-buy discounts and life will go on. For now.

But the language being used here “the government will not tolerate ….” is very worrying. So too is the assault on the right of socially responsible people to buy a legal product in the quantities, and at the price, they choose without interference from government. Banning people from purchasing discounted wine from Waitrose or Tescos is clearly not about binge-drinking, anti-social behaviour or criminal activity – so why is this particularly bizarre proposal being seemingly led by the Home Office?

It is hard to tell how far the creeping influence of health lobby groups has actually reached – but it seems even to the Home Office. That combined with the paternalistic nature of a certain number of those in power, (Mr Cameron at the top of that list) who seem to say one thing (“individual responsibility”) but do something very different, has led us to this place.

There is a meeting scheduled next week between Mr Cameron and the Home Office. Here is hoping the likes of Damian Green and Jeremy Browne can remind the PM of what he said back in 2010

“…all these insights lead to one conclusion that is central to Conservatism: the more responsibility we give people, the more likely they are to make ethical decisions. “

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Hats off to Norman Baker

By Tom Papworth
August 3rd, 2012 at 2:34 pm | 1 Comment | Posted in freedom, Liberal Democrats, Libertarians, Nannying, Personal Freedom, Transport

Stephen Tall, Research Associate at Centre Forum and Editor of Lib Dem Voice, has kindly posted my choice for Liberal Hero of the Week on the Centre Forum blog.

So (ahem!) hats off to Norman Baker, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport with responsibility for cycling, who described as his “libertarian right” to cycle without a helmet on.

And if you want to find out why, you can read the full article on the Centre Forum blog.

transport-ministers-cycling

(PS: Do I win a prize for squeezing the most links into my opening sentence?)

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Smokers – State Approved Hate and Intolerance is UK Policy

By Guest
April 16th, 2012 at 12:23 pm | 5 Comments | Posted in freedom, Personal Freedom, Uncategorized

 

I have previously commented on nations more liberal and more tolerant than ours with respect to their treatment of those who choose to smoke. In addition to Germany and The Netherlands I have observed pragmatic approaches that guarantee smoke free air for the many without victimising the significant few in France, Austria and Switzerland.

It is mildly surprising that Switzerland offers some of the best facilities for travelling smokers despite being home to the WHO an organization that seeks to impose its politicised extra budgetary funded will on all without actually having to do anything as inconvenient as obtaining a popular mandate.  My experiences are based on Basel and things may become decreasingly liberal as one approaches Geneva.

Basel provides airside facilities for smokers in both arrivals and departures. They have chairs, tables and other comfort features that tend to be absent from smoking facilities in the UK where our laws are intended to punish and coerce.  UK facilities lack even the basics like an appropriate number of walls.

The Swiss authorities seem unconcerned that the mere sight of a cigarette brand will cause a mass surge in smoking uptake suggesting that they are reasonable, sane individuals unlike their increasingly ridiculous UK counterparts. Imagine not only allowing a cigarette manufacturer to advertise on a smoking lounge but having the intelligence to work out that it might be a good way to help cover the costs of providing such facilities.

Basel airport links directly to an international high speed rail network and it is a short walk from the terminal to the train station.  On arrival there smokers are greeted by the amazing sight of a cafe with a ventilated separate smoking lounge. Yes, smokers can sit down and have a drink in some comfort and apparently without bothering non-smokers.

In the UK smoking facilities are exclusively outdoors and not segregated which seems to create an issue for some non-smokers. I have never really observed unwanted smoke in my workplace but I have noticed that these days I seem to experience greater exposure to environmental smoke outside UK buildings.

It seems I am not alone. Here is a selection of reader’s comments from media forums:

 “I object to having to walk on the road because you’re all standing outside the pub/restaurant on the pavement. When I have to stand close to you and you smell so bad I want to be sick”

 “I for one am tired of the thick wall of foul smelling smoke outside of every shop on every high street in every town as the inconsiderate people who smoke stand in the doorway indulging in their foul habit”

 “Smokers are by nature dirty. They stand outside smoking without a care for anybody else walking past them and blowing their smoke in faces…”

It would appear that a more reasoned approach that did not force smokers onto the streets might benefit everyone but instead, our government encourages social division through laws that inevitably create conflict. Should anyone be in any doubt about the degree of hate and prejudice that has been encouraged towards those who smoke, here are a few more readers’ comments:

“Smokers disgust me. Me and my friends do see them as second class citizens. We all look down our noses at them and their disgusting and filthy habit. We make sure they know it too.”

 “Smoking is disgusting and dirty. And so are smokers.”

 “It’s a no brainer. If you smoke, you are stupid. If you are stupid, you are probably low-income or no income beyond benfits”

“smokers are weak minded addicts and should be removed from society if they can’t be helped or refuse help.”

“We could always just change the law to allow people to legally shoot dead anyone caught with a cig between their lips outside the four walls of their home…”

 And from 2 people commenting on a BBC forum:

 “Smoking is darwinian”

 “An excellent point. My only objection is that procreation often takes place prior to demise.”

 It is difficult to imagine that comments like these would be considered acceptable if directed against any other minority but thanks to a myopic adherence to the one dimensional “quit or die” mantra of the activists and an ongoing “denormalization” campaign, UK politicians have given legitimacy to this hate, which is an inevitable consequence of trying to force social change through coercion and state sponsored intolerance combined with deliberate distortion of the facts.

Politicians who continue to support such strategies despite their manifest failure are entitled to their opinion in an allegedly free society but those who promote intimidation, exclusion and hatred as a means of engineering change should not call themselves liberal. Hiding behind the pretence that it is possible to “denormalize” an established activity without “denormalizing” the millions who indulge in it is not a valid excuse.

By Chris Oakley. Chris has previously posted on Liberal Vision:   Alcohol is Old News – Minimum Pricing for Digestives is the “Next Logical Step” , Soviet Style Alcohol Suppression Campaign Called for By Public Health Activists , Alcohol Taxation: The truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth , A Liberal Tolerant nation? and  What hope is there for liberty if truth becomes the plaything of political lobbyists.

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