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A Liberal Tolerant Nation?

By Guest
October 20th, 2011 at 10:58 am | 5 Comments | Posted in freedom, Personal Freedom

For much of my life I have had frequent cause to feel proud to be part of a nation with a liberal tradition, famed for its ability to compromise and with a long history of standing against tyranny and oppression. The 2006 Health Act has helped to shatter my illusions. Not because I feel that it is wrong to protect people from breathing unwanted smoke but because the legislation goes far beyond what might reasonably be considered necessary and in effect turns millions of people into second class citizens.

If we temporarily ignore the debate over the health impact of passive smoking and accept that even if that case is not proven it is still reasonable in a civilised society for the majority who don’t smoke not to be subjected to detrimental effect from the minority who do, then it is possible to justify legislation and perhaps, by using the broadest definition of “harm”, to claim that such legislation is consistent with liberal values.

However, in a civilised society that claims to value liberty and democracy, legislation to protect the majority might also be reasonably expected to do so without unnecessary detrimental impact on the minority, especially when the minority is otherwise behaving within the law.

Travelling around Europe, I have noticed the ingenious solutions that many countries have adopted in order to provide smoke free environments for the majority whilst accommodating the sizeable minority who choose to smoke. This is especially noticeable in public spaces such as airports where technology has provided one answer. Indoor smoking facilities are provided at many European airports and as a non-smoker I can attest to their effectiveness. Only those who preach the anti-science doctrine of “no safe minimum exposure” could possibly argue against this approach on health grounds.

The contrast with the UK is striking. Most airports do not offer any smoking facilities airside and when facilities do exist, they take the form of a draughty open air cage.

I believe that the solutions arrived at by our more enlightened and more liberal neighbours are aligned with the majority viewpoint and are compatible with the British traditions of tolerance and fairness. They are not possible in the UK however because the 2006 Health Act intentionally goes beyond what is reasonably necessary to protect non-smokers. Apologists for this illiberal piece of legislation effectively penned by pressure groups and enacted at the expense of a broken manifesto pledge, refuse to consider provision for those who smoke even when this can evidently be achieved without significant impact on those who prefer not to be exposed to second hand smoke. This is hardly surprising as they also appear to advocate state bullying, intimidation and coercion on the basis that, in the case of public health statistics, “the end justifies the means”.

We might expect the social engineers of the far left or right to make that argument, but parliamentarians who support this legislation in its current form while claiming to espouse liberal values should hang their heads in shame. I just feel shame for my country.

Written by Chris Oakely. All photographs are the authors own.


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Smokers are now being attacked for being too good….

By Angela Harbutt
August 27th, 2010 at 1:36 pm | 8 Comments | Posted in Personal Freedom

smoking-makes-me-hornyYou really couldn’t make it up….

A “Research Study” (oh how I hate those words) in New Zealand has concluded that “The tobacco industry may be using websites such as YouTube to get around a ban on advertising cigarettes” (note the word “MAY” in that sentence).

How have they arrived at this conclusion? Well, the researchers searched for five tobacco brands on YouTube and analysed the first 20 pages of video clips containing any reference to the firms. They looked at 163 clips in total and concluded that “20 looked very professionally made” .

Evidence of well-made pro-tobacco videos onYouTube is, according to these people who really ought to get a proper job, “consistent with indirect marketing activity by tobacco companies or their proxies,”

How disappointed must they have been? All that time slaving over a hot pc looking at shed loads of evil…. and their smoking gun (excuse the pun) is …….that 20 pro-smoking videos on YouTube look great ?

Who is to say that these brilliant videos were NOT made by a number of motivated, gifted individuals, with a video camera and/or some editing equipment, sharing their passion with the wider world? Why is it that the quality/brilliance of the videos is taken to mean that they are bound to have been made by the tobacco giants or their ad agencies…. Have these people not checked out just how many brilliantly made, professional looking, videos are being put out there on YouTube these days?

Of course not,  they are too busy looking for problems relating to tobacco. Get a life people.

It is no surprise to find of course that this, frankly laughable, report was funded by the Health Research Council of New Zealand, and that one or more of the authors of this report has several anti-tobacco “reports” under their belt. Well that explains the conclusions….

Conclusions Pro-tobacco videos have a significant presence on YouTube, consistent with indirect marketing activity by tobacco companies or their proxies. Since content may be removed from YouTube if it is found to breach copyright or if it contains offensive material, there is scope for the public and health organisations to request the removal of pro-tobacco content containing copyright or offensive material. Governments should also consider implementing Framework Convention on Tobacco Control requirements on the internet, to further reduce such pro-tobacco content.

Yep that’s it folks. A research study that proves nada – apart from the fact that a lot of people, passionate about smoking, make videos about their passion, and some are rather good at it shock horror – concludes that public health organisations should press YouTube to remove the videos on the grounds of copyright and/or offensiveness.

Copyright is the domain of the tobacco companies frankly. As for offensiveness… If it is genuinely offensive – oh I don’t know like forcing a puppy to smoke a cigarette for example – then I can see a reason for YouTube to remove it.. But if offensive is defined as those videos that  health quango’s don’t like – then I trust YouTube will tell them where to go.

But some good may come of this….. I am thinking of emailing the authors of the research study – Lucy Elkin’, , Dr George Thomson, Dr Nick Wilson – asking if they wouldn’t mind posting links to the 20 videos that looked “very professionally made” so that we cant put them up on LV.  Long live freedom of expression.

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Simon Clark – a man with va va voom

By Angela Harbutt
March 24th, 2010 at 4:27 pm | 8 Comments | Posted in Personal Freedom

I like Simon Clark from Forest. He is calm, bright, thoughtful and very polite man who writes entertaining and informative blogs.  When he pops up on TV and radio I listen to his reassuring words and think “yes. That’s the right thing to say” ..”oh good point”..” how does this man know so much?” etc etc.

I am a big fan. I rarely, however, cry out in sheer delight at the passion. Well today I did. Moans of delight could be heard as I listened to Mr Clark show more va va voom than a hot french car with Thierry Henry at the wheel.   Like all great seducers he starts slowly, (the tease) – but builds and builds and builds to a wonderful crescendo that had me crying “yes yes yes” as my fists banged the table in sheer ecstasy.

In case you missed it, I have edited highlights from the programme in question here. Along with Simon you will hear from Ms Crossfield. She is Director of Smokefree Northwest – yet another government funded group. Why is it that all my money is seemingly being spent employing people whose dedicated aim is to stop me indulging in a few simple legal pleasures (to which I have added listening to Simon on the radio by the way!).

You can listen to the full programme on iplayer (Radio Five Live Breakfast Phone in: should smoking be banned in cars? March 24th 2010).

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Does the tobacco fight back start here?

By Angela Harbutt
February 12th, 2010 at 11:19 am | 17 Comments | Posted in Personal Freedom

ban-on-vending-machinesAt last, a tobacco manufacturer sticks its head over the parapet and says to government enough is enough. Imperial Tobacco has issued a statement stating that its subsidiary will challenge the government plans to ban vending machines.

And why not?  There are – as stated on this site before – many ways that the children can be prevented from purchasing cigarettes, mostly obviously by ensuring that “tokens” must be issued over the counter to use the machines. Anyone under age will not be sold a token and so be unable to use the machines. (There are other systems, equally effective I should add) Simple! This would eradicate the problem of underage purchases in one fell swoop, whilst not limiting the rights of business to sell, and consumers to buy, this perfectly legal product. Everyone happy.

Unless of course this is NOT about under age usage – but an evangelical mission by the Health Secretary to “eradicate” smokers from the face of the earth?

Ok, it may be a bit strong to say “the tobacco fight back starts here”. I am sure that tobacco companies have done much behind the scenes to stand their ground in recent years. But ordinary folks like me dont always get to see they are doing. So well done Imperial Tobacco.

The press release from Imperial Tobacco reads…. 

“Imperial Tobacco Group PLC announces today that its subsidiary cigarette vending machine company Sinclair Collis is seeking a judicial review of the relevant sections of the Health Act 2009 which seek to ban sales of tobacco from vending machines from October 2011.

Gareth Davis, Chief Executive, said: “Legal action is always a last resort but the Government’s decision to ban cigarette vending machines is so disproportionate and unnecessary that it must be challenged.

“We do not want children to smoke and supported the Government’s proposal to stop underage access through the introduction of electronic ID cards, token mechanisms and remote control technology.

“These are effective solutions which have been implemented in a number of other countries and it is a matter of great regret that the UK Government ultimately chose to disregard all of these options in favour of a ban that will result in significant job losses in the vending industry.”

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Here’s censoring you, kid

By Mark Littlewood
August 11th, 2009 at 9:19 am | 5 Comments | Posted in Culture

humphrey-bogartLiberal (sic) Democrat-run Liverpool City Council has opened a consultation on whether to impose an 18 certificate on films that feature the smoking of tobacco. The proposal is supported by the Liverpool Primary Care Trust.

Where to start?

Well, the good news is that historical figures who actually smoked would be allowed to be portrayed accurately. Any new movies featuring Winston Churchill will not need to  show the great man eating tofu and practising yoga to secure a prized PG certificate.

Also, portraying the “clear and umabiguous” dangers of smoking (and second hand smoke) would be acceptable. I think this means that Darth Vader can light up in a new Star Wars movie (that guy has one hell of a wheezy cough) but that a number of James Bond films would be seen as fit for adults only. One of the greatest epics of all time – Casablanca – would have become illegal to show to A-level students, if it was made now.

I’m fascinated by how “clear and unambiguous” the anti-smoking message needs to be. Imagine a gangster film set in the 1950s. If our hero smokes, that gets an 18 certificate. If, however, he is captured by the baddies and they threaten to kill him by exhaling their cigars in his face, I guess that’s family entertainment.

You can respond to Liverpool City Council’s consultation here. Please do so, and help talk them out of this ludicrous cultural vandalism.

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