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Time to bin ASH before it trashes another part of the economy

By Angela Harbutt
October 25th, 2010 at 4:31 pm | 12 Comments | Posted in Uncategorized

Apologies for the delay in spotting this one, but it has just come to my attention that the ludicrously well-funded ASH Scotland (which has somehow reversed the Barnett Formula, receiving copiously more than its (also over-funded) English partner organisation… but more on this later) has just published it’s latest list of anti-smoking proposals for Scotland…

On the day that David Cameron has promised the business world a “forensic, relentless focus on growth”  my attention has been drawn to an excellent analysis of ASH Scotlands’ proposals by the Tobacco Retailers Alliance. You should check out the full article yourself, but to summarise, they identify two of ASH Scotland proposals that are particularly insane (my words not theirs!) as far as business is concerned.

1. Govt should increase the cost of smoking by 5% above the rate of inflation every year

2.Govt should look at options for introducing a positive award or incentives scheme for retailers who choose not to sell tobacco.

Both options are likely to result in only one thing – an INCREASE in the amount of tobacco that is sold illicitly – depriving the country of tax revenue (which we desperately need in case ASH had not noticed) whilst putting more money and influence into the hands of criminal gangs.  Do these people learn nothing?

Concerning the second proposal specifically, the Tobacco Retailers Alliance points out that for many small retailers tobacco sales accounts for a third of their trade, so the bill for such a policy to the Scottish Government would be stupendous…. So that, frankly is (almost certainly) a dead duck. At least while the country is broke… But don’t expect the drive to eliminate tobacco retailing to stop,  just because the powers that be have no money right now.  Read this and weep …

“…The idea that retailers should be discouraged from selling tobacco, and encouraged to sell other things in its place, is one that keeps coming up and I expect we’ll hear a lot more of it over the next few years. I once asked an official in the Scottish Government just what exactly retailers could sell in place of tobacco – what product would bring a hundred customers through a newsagent’s door every day, give him a profit equating to four Mars Bars per transaction and drive more add-on purchases than any other product category? After a long pause for thought, she shrugged her shoulders and replied, “Apples?”….

This, my friends, is what we are up against – idiotic dogma and evangelism – with no practical understanding (or just perhaps concern) as to the likely real impact of their insane ideas – all of it funded by taxpayer. And when it comes to ASH Scotland…WHAT FUNDING!!!!!  Simon Clark (Director of the smokers lobby group FOREST) highlighted the cost to the taxpayer of ASH Scotland just last week…

In 2008-09 ASH Scotland received £921,837 from the Scottish Government. In December 2009 they received a further £500,000 grant from the Big Lottery to fund a three-year research project into smoke-free homes in Scotland.

“At a time when governments are reviewing public spending we would seriously question the use of public money to fund a group that employs almost three times as many staff as its sister organisation in England.

“How can that possibly be justified at a time when all taxpayers, smokers and non-smokers alike, are being asked to tighten their belts?”

The Save Our Pubs and Clubs campaign will need to become the Save Our Pubs and Clubs and Newsagents campaign if ASH  & Co get their way…

.. I am hoping it won’t come to this. I trust that today’s rhetoric from the Prime Minister about supporting business will prove not to be empty words and that this coalition will get off the backs of SME’s (and “big tobacco” for that matter) trying to keep this country afloat.

I also thought that Mr Cameron had called a halt to government departments spending money to lobby other parts of Government..surely Government funding to ASH is all this is ? and should stop now.

And for those that missed it.. and specifically for ASH and other Government meddlars here is a video we highlighted recently pointing out the issues surrounding the illicit trade in tobacco.

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Cool video…..

By Angela Harbutt
October 13th, 2010 at 11:59 pm | 1 Comment | Posted in freedom, Personal Freedom

Here is a really cool video I came across on my travels.  It highlights, as powerfully as anything I have seen anywhere, the issues surrounding the growing illicit trade in tobacco. MP’s (especially those of you who did not support yesterday’s Bill for an amendment to the smoking ban) take note…. To everyone else – please spread the word, email the Youtube link to friends, put it up on your sites…you know the drill.

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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’, knilu381@student.otago.ac.nz , Dr George Thomson george.thomson@otago.ac.nz, Dr Nick Wilson nick.wilson@otago.ac.nz – 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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Govt proposals written on a back of a fag packet..

By Angela Harbutt
February 1st, 2010 at 7:26 pm | 5 Comments | Posted in UK Politics

fag-packet-initiativesAndy Burnham today announced his plan to cut the number of smokers from 21% of the population to 10% in the next decade. This seems to be at the cost of intellectual property rights and freedom of trade of tobacco companies; will result in a huge increase in counterfeiting, causing pain for legitimate companies and consumers; put money into the pockets of organised crime, whilst reducing government tax revenue; and will impinge on our rights as European citizens to move goods and trade freely around the EU. How many lawsuits will follow? Plenty I reckon.

 To be specific. Todays illiberal plans announced by Oberführer Burnham include…

*A review of the law to consider if areas like entrances to buildings should be included in the smoking ban as part of further measures to protect children which would include the promotion of smoke-free homes and cars.

Yes folks they really are thinking of banning people from using a perfectly legal product within their own homes. If Government had its own way we would have neighbour spying on and reporting neightbour. Remind you of anything? Mr Burnham has said that he thinks that banning smoking in ones own home may be a step to far against freedom of choice – ha! – but you can tell he would do it if he could. More likely this will involve a ban on smoking within say 10 (20?) yards or so of any entrance to a public building. Assuming that is in anyway enforcable, non-smokers entering a pub may not have to walk past a dozen cold and wet individuals puffing on their smokes – but where does anyone expect smokers to go. You may say glibly “into the side alley”. But if you are really proposing that young women are forced to stand in dimly lit side alleys to indulge in a perfectly legal activity – then be prepared to see a increase in assaults, rapes and goodness knows what else as a result. Expect a further reduction in smokers visiting pubs – and therefore another swathe of pub closures – as people choose to stay at home.

* Stopping the sale of tobacco from vending machines, considered a significant source of tobacco for young people.

The argument is that this is to stop easy access of cigarettes to children. Never mind that solutions such as machines requiring a token to be handed from the owner of the vending machine for the machine to work would solve this problem. And if kids want to smoke – trust me they will find a way – they always do.

* Immediate investment in extra overseas officers to stop 200 million illicit cigarettes entering the UK every year.

I dont have a problem with this – except I can think of ooh about a hundred ways to spend the money on things that actually matter. And by the way has no one told Mr Burnham we know , even if he doesnt,  that we dont have the money for this sort of frivolity. And if this becomes an excuse to stop the ordinary consumer from purchasing large quantitities of cigarettes for their own consumption from countries within the EU then I do have a problem – you cant pick and choose which bits of free trade within the EU you are going to allow and which bits you are not.

* NHS support for every smoker who wants to give up, at times and in places that suit them.

Did no one tell this Govt that we are teetering on the brink of bankruptcy – yet here we have a government spending money like a man with no arms. This is because, we are told, that the NHS bill of smokers is £2.7 billion a year. Whats the Government income from excise and VAT from tobacco companies? About £10 billion? What is the government doing with the other £7billion that’s what I want to know?

* Government consideration of the case for plain packaging for cigarettes.

The most obvious result of such a move will be mass counterfeiting – mainly from organised crime I imagine, and it will impinge on intellectual property rights and freedom of trade of the legitimate tax-paying companies.  This will surely be vigorously challenged in courts of law -and rightly. I wonder how much tax revenue the Government will actually lose as  result? Consumers will no longer know if they are buying authentic or phoney products. Lawsuits aplenty will follow. I also fail to see what real EVIDENCE there is that branding on cigarette packets is causing people to take up smoking. Sure, without branding people may SWITCH from an expensive brand to a cheaper one – but that is about market share, not the size of the market. Cigarettes are sexy to kids because they are not allowed them – not because Marlboro or Silk Cut have marketing skills on a par with Derren Brown.

CONFUSED?

I am . The Health Bill 2009 was introduced to Parliament on 15 January 2010. It already includes proposals to tackle smoking. Specifically it proposes to remove tobacco displays in shops and to restrict the sale of cigarettes from vending machines. So why are the government proposing a DOUBLE ban on the sale of cigarettes from vending machines or is Andy Burnham and this decaying Government up to their old tricks – cobbling together new iniatives that are not throught-through and rehash old initiatives ( just not THAT old on this occassion)to make it look more impressive than it is. Why introduce a HEALTH BILL dealing with tobacco on January 15th, then introduce FURTHER regulation on smoking a couple of weeks later.? I will tell you why. Because this sad and sorry Government has announced yet another set of “initiatives” cobbled together on the back of a FAG packet to grab a few cheap headlines.

So muggers, rapists, crime lords, counterfeiters and lawyers rejoice.This charter is for you. Liberals, law-abiding citizens, young women, pub-goers, parents, taxpayers, publicans and newsagents, be afraid because its you they are out to make your life a whole lot harder if not down-right dangerous.

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