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Should Reilly be shutting the door on tobacco companies?

I'm beginning to wonder if there's something not entirely legit about the government's decision making process.

I met an old friend on Tuesday evening and we caught up on where we were at. He is in marketing and he must be good at it because he's still in marketing. We'd both had two kids and shared a few years in the same industry. He joked that he'd heard me a few times on radio, wanting to kill everyone with cigarettes.

But when he got serious he asked me about my contacts in government and which politicians I was meeting regularly there. When I told him that I wasn't, he was genuinely shocked. "You mean you are not at the table when decisions are being made?" he asked with raised eyebrows.

I then got a lecture along the lines of it's who you know and not what you know. He's a smoker himself, though he couldn't care less about restrictions and that sort of thing, but he couldn't imagine that government started this "lark" without someone else at the table with them, urging them to do so. He'd heard of ASH and I filled him in on the terrible twins, the Irish Cancer Society and the Irish Heart Foundation. I explained how they or their outriders are the direct advisors to government on so-called 'tobacco control'. So he asked directly why I wasn't forcing my way into the room.

By way of explanation, then, no stakeholders from the other side of the smoking story may be present when Stubbs Reilly sits down with like-minded fools to plot the path of repression. The retailers are not allowed in, the companies hired to make the packaging are not allowed in, I'm not allowed in and, you're not going to believe this, even the tobacco companies are denied a seat at the table. The very industry being regulated is not allowed any hand, act or part in the regulations themselves. No less a person than Stubbs himself has said several times that he wouldn't talk to them and that's that.

Or is it?

Read this document which I got following a Freedom of Information request. It's a letter to Chris Macey of the Irish Heart Foundation from the Tobacco Control Unit (the old OTC). It's clear that it is Department policy to speak with all the stakeholders, so is Reilly on a solo run (again)?

Part of it reads:

I wish to clarify an issue around the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) which appears to be causing some confusion at present. It has been stated on a number of occasions recently, that it is forbidden for Departmental officials and Ministers to meet with representatives of the tobacco industry and that such meetings are illegal. This is incorrect ...

Ireland has signed and ratified the treaty and therefore has obligations under Article 5.3 of the treaty. Non-binding guidelines were developed to assist parties meeting their obligations under Article 5.3. It should be noted that these are non-binding guidelines rather than protocols.

Officials from the Department of Health and Children meet with representatives of the tobacco industry, when such meetings are necessary to effectively regulate the industry and progress tobacco control policies. As regulators of a highly regulated industry, it would be unacceptable for the Department to refuse to meet with the industry that is being regulated. Such meetings do not infringe our obligations under Article 5.3 of the WHO FCTC.

Full letter here.


Poverty, health and hypocrisy

I was intrigued to read an article entitled "Poverty causes ill-health"

It is the work of two Doctors and it stands out because it is full of common sense and truth and lacking in lies and falsifications. Refreshing in other words.

It deals with the inequality in our living standards and the simple fact that access to medical services takes far longer with a medical card than it does with a wad of cash. It can take a year to get an MRI scan with the card, but you don't even need an appointment to pop into one of the many private clinics around the country for a date with the scanner, if you have the money of course.

The conclusion is simple too. You need money to be healthy. If you are broke, therefore, you are more likely to be a sick bunny. Access to justice is run the same the way here as well. An hour in the High Court could cost you your house, and if you don't own a house you won't get a look in. Never mind that our Constitution states that we are all born equal. Never mind also that we live in a Democracy and the Government is supposed to treat us all equally. In Ireland of the 21st century, when you discover that you are poor, you will get sick or jailed.

The Doctors in their article took smoking and drinking into account as well, and the rule still held. It doesn't matter whether you do either or both, the poor will still take to their beds. It occurs to me, on this evidence, that the real fight in society should be the war on poverty, if everybody was being above board. But, when there is money to be made by the individual in demonizing smokers, then the real problem can be overlooked.

The article referred to above comes from the "Irish Health" website, a very useful tool which is run by the more decent elements in the Medical Profession. Another site, is run by the self-serving parasites from that same profession. A measured examination of each will show the massive gulf in decency and integrity that exists in the caring professions.


A bad dream

Hot on the heels of the spat over illicit tobacco in Ireland comes the devastating health news regarding the quality of the smuggled variety.

For some time now the ‘Caring Charities’ have been hinting darkly at the increased health dangers contained in this ocean of illegal tobacco that has flooded the land since the high tax-price increases began. While skilfully avoiding any suggestion that there is a safe tobacco of any kind (even one cigarette could wipe out an army etc), they have consistently claimed that tobacco that has not been seriously overcharged for is absolutely lethal. It would appear that for any individual cigarette to become safe to smoke it would need to cost €10,000.00, but I digress.

So this morning I was only mildly surprised to hear that in a new exhaustive study conducted by the MRBI on behalf of the ICS, horse DNA was found in a cigarette in Dublin!!!

Well, it wasn't actually found as such. The MRBI asked two women on Moore Street about the taste of their cigarettes and one quipped that "It bleedin' might as well taste of a f***** horse, for all of a sh*** I give." The other one apparently just said that hers were "grand".
The ICS then cranked into action and immediately issued a press release with the startling headline that read: "Deadly horse DNA found in smuggled tobacco."

Warning that over 50% of all the tobacco smuggled illegally into Ireland is badly contaminated with horse meat, the 'charity' gave this stark warning to the lower social orders.
"Smoking even one of these cigarettes may cause your face to grow quite long. Persistent users will develop hooves and within a week of exposure to secondhand smoke from this source, innocent non-smokers may notice that they are growing a tail". Their spokesperson, Kathleen O'Dreary, went on to warn of many other dangers inherent in buying reasonably priced tobacco products.

"There is tons of research to show that many other poisonous substances have been found in these illegal products, and it is obvious that the smugglers do not care about the innocent children they are murdering. One brand is actually called "Camel" and it is our belief that buyers of this product run the risk of 'humpy back syndrome' in the short term," President O'Dreary claimed.

Mainstream tobacco companies got a broadside from the Saintly Lady too. Field Marshall O'Dreay told of plans by one of the 'evil empires' to launch a brand called "Lassie" aimed squarely at dog lovers. "We have seen how these companies spend billions on targeting specific groups with their slick marketing and this latest outrage wants to encourage dog-owners to have a smoke while they are out walking their pet."

She ended her tirade with the usual demand for hundreds of millions of euros for the ICS from the Government to "do things with." Saint Kathleen-Of-The-Privaleged-Classes appealed to everybody to give generously to the ICS and spoke of ambitious plans of theirs to run Daffodil Day every day in the future.

"Cheques can be made out to me personally, but cash is preferable", she went on, "And you can rest assured that, after costs, and that sort of thing, your money will go directly into exterminating smokers in this country and Ireland will once again lead the World …….. and all that kind of thing."

I woke up in a cold sweat at that point, so I didn't hear the rest of that interview. But you get the gist of it I'm sure!


Libertine or libertarian?

On radio in debate with Chris Lacey from the Irish Heart Foundation recently, he called me a "libertine". Foolishly believing that it meant one who is in favour of liberty, I did not set him right on his accusation.

But language is a peculiar thing sometimes, and to make sure I looked up 'libertine'. It is actually defined as "a person, especially a man, who freely indulges in sensual pleasures without regard to moral principles. A freethinker in matters of religion."

Now, I do not know about Chris, but looking back over my lifetime, I didn’t engage half enough in the sensual pleasures. Around every corner, as I remember, there lurked some serious issue that needed to be urgently addressed in lieu of any pleasures. So at best, while I might unfortunately not qualify as a libertine, I am something of a libertarian. My views on liberty have remained the same over the years. I was born a free man and wish to die in that state also. If I had lived during any time of oppression, I believe I would have taken up the gun and dedicated my life to destroying the oppressor. Better free and dead than alive and enslaved, would have been my motto.

"Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness" is a well-known phrase in the United States Declaration of Independence. The phrase is meant to exemplify the "unalienable rights" with which all human beings are endowed. For the protection of these, they institute governments. Though your elected Government may bring in laws, they are supposedly there to protect your personal freedom.

The anti-smoking legislation in Ireland denies me many freedoms I used to have. The freedom to associate now comes with the proviso that I may only associate and socialise in public if I do not smoke. The freedom to enjoy a pint with a cigarette has been curtailed too. I must now have one or the other, at different times and in different places. I can sip my pint in the pub, but must go out into the rain and cold to have my cigarette. Could you imagine bread and butter being so separated? Or indeed, a gin and tonic for that matter? “Breakfast for one, Sir? Very good. Your bacon will be along to your table shortly and your egg will be served in the car park.”

It all severely curtails my pursuit of happiness as well. Monotone people like Chris Lacey want society to frown on me and shun me for my free choices. He and his cohorts, in their attempts to de-normalise me and over a million Irish citizens like me, have made society itself “abnormal”. I have been in a pub on a wet afternoon where out of the ten customers one is inside and the other nine of us stand huddled on the back step, the barman included. Don’t tell me the one girl left on her own inside didn’t feel things were a bit abnormal. And to spite the puritans, we had a laugh out there too. Weddings I have been to have separated after the meal in similar fashion.

So Chris, if you are about these parts, you may have got the law to force me outdoors and you may have ruined several friendships I once enjoyed, but you will never win. It is you and the other grey men around you who need to be de-normalised. Get a bit of colour and variety into your life, Chris. Laugh a bit, and not just at other people’s misfortune. Indeed, have a shot at some of the sensual pleasures while you let it all hang out. You’d never know, ‘Chrissy’, you could well be a closet libertine yourself!


Why tobacco?

You may have missed this little gem from the Irish Times letters page on Monday February 11.

Though I may not agree with all of the good doctor’s observations, he certainly puts his finger on the pulse.

If tobacco growing was as big an industry as alcohol production (or indeed meat and potato production) in this country, would the government have smoking in its sights as public menace number one?


Welcome to the world of public health!

"Multinational Food, Drink and Alcohol industries are using similar strategies to the tobacco industry to undermine public health policies, a new paper has said."

Thus began a recent article in ''. You are hardly going to believe this, but private companies engaged in bringing food and drink to the market are actually advertising, marketing and talking up their products. Dr Reilly refers to that kind of thing as 'evil'. Just recently, Guinness spent €6m on a long black and white ad that so was so obscure I thought it must be a trailer for a movie. Last Saturday in my local supermarket a pork producer from West Cork had a stand with a frying pan, and they were actually giving away cooked sausages.

This surely is profoundly wicked. If that's not bad enough, our local boozer had a Heineken event for the rugby international last Saturday with cute little honeys giving out vouchers for free pints of the Dutch nectar. And as price wars in food and drink are an everyday thing now, the papers report this morning that prices in those sectors have come down by 8% since 2008.
How then are they aping the strategies of the tobacco companies? Those companies here have the highest prices in the EU for their products. Far from in-store promotions, their cigarettes are hidden from public view in every outlet. They do not advertise at all in any media and, as such, the media lose nothing by criticizing them regularly. I have not heard our red-faced Health Minister refer to the Kerry Group as evil, to the best of my knowledge. Indeed, tobacco is the best kept secret in town. In fact, the only reliable place to buy tobacco now is out of the booth of a stranger’s car.

So where, you ask, could such an article come from? Enter those well-heeled, non-regulated, non-elected lads in Public Health. With an apparently bottomless pit of money to spend, the Public Health boys can turn their "Public Purse" to researchers anywhere and prove the world is flat if they feel the need to. They have already made a fortune from demonizing the tobacco companies and perhaps sensing that this goldmine is all but exhausted now, they are turning their attention to another fat cow (if you'll excuse the pun). The Lancet and other medical journals have simply become weapons in the arsenal of Public Health. Dare I say, it is in fact Public Health that is now employing the same tactics they have used against tobacco and just switched their target.

Research with pre-determined results is paid for by pharma money via Public Health, peer-reviewed by paid lackeys of like mind, and published in the Lancet and other bibles of Public Health. Senior figures from Public Health in several countries will then congregate at lavish conferences in exotic locations sponsored by the pharmaceutical industry. Here, they decide the strategy, tactics, and terminology to use. Back at base, the agitation and lobbying begin until governments cave in and legislate for them. A recurring theme of these puritans is money and tax. They recommend increasing prices for commercial products as a deterrent to consumption, but their true aim is to provide government with funds to give to their Public Health crusade. This is their "public purse" and as we have seen in Ireland, such funds are completely unaccountable.

The amounts involved are staggering and allow Public Health to buy the media through expensive ad campaigns that warn against almost everything. When you read the Journal article though, you will spot the pay-back to Big Pharma. The main thrust of it is the need for regulation and medication. This translates into laws that force your money away from food and drink products and point you instead to pharmaceutical products. It is actually as simple as that. The Public Health lads get a generous and regular income, the pharmaceutical companies make wild profits and the Food & Drink lads pay the piper.

Welcome to Public Health, which has nothing to do with the health of the public!


Investment and return for Big Pharma

Given that the biggest financial beneficiaries of the Tobacco Control Industry are the pharmaceutical companies, shouldn't we have transparency as to who they are giving their money to?

Researchers and charities in other countries have already been warned by the WHO not to accept funds from Big Pharma!

In Ireland, the Government has sub-contracted all smoking cessation measures to the Irish Cancer Society. They are grant-aided to provide the Quitlines, send out the literature and provide counselling to smokers who contact the Quitline. Judging by the variety and amount of advertising at smokers on Radio & TV they must be receiving millions of our money. In this way, they have the opportunity to direct smokers’ money away from tobacco companies and re-direct it to pharmaceutical companies instead. The Irish tobacco market stands at about two billion euros a year, so the stakes are high.

The Irish Cancer Society, then, is coaxing you to take your daily intake of nicotine, but they just want you to change your supplier. They have lobbied the Irish Government relentlessly for more legislation that points smokers to this racket. The big question is where does the lobbying money come from? We know for sure that this 'charity' gets an annual amount of taxpayers’ money, has high cost, full-time staff, and some of the medical profession’s leading lights draw generous expenses for their activities with the ICS alongside their careers running elsewhere.

But because they are a registered charity we are not permitted to know where their money comes from, nor what it is spent on. They turned over €17m last year and have fixed assets of €6m too. However, I would suggest that if the hard-nosed executives in the pharmaceutical industry are in receipt of a potential two billion euro market from them, then they are no doubt willing to pay a high price for it.

Indeed, the pharmaceutical industry has made a big contribution to bans and restrictions around the world by lobbying politicians, and it appears that the big pay-back for all this activity is the referral of smokers to their products.

Easily worth all of the investments in junk science, foreign junkets for the white coats and local political lobbying and whatever their allies in the ICS ask for.


A new campaign that might really work!

In December, Tom highlighted a fun letter on the topic of gruesome images on cigarette packs and I want to develop the idea further in light of recent interviews I have given on the subject.

Like the smoking bans, the high pricing policy, the petty restrictions and all of the other devices used to de-normalise us, plans for grotesque images on cigarette packs will make absolutely no difference to the numbers smoking in this country. I am weary from locking horns with various fanatics that seek to demonise me personally while simultaneously lying through their teeth about smoking generally. It is leading me to believe that they are not serious about helping to reduce the numbers smoking at all. Instead they appear to be engaged in attracting more people to smoke to ensure their long time grant-aided employment.

As you know, Forest supports the efforts of individuals to quit smoking if they choose to do so freely, and in that spirit I have come up with an ingenious campaign designed to really put smokers off the dreaded weed for life. My suggestion is that truly repulsive images should decorate every pack, each carrying an appropriate warning. Let me explain.

The twenty pack of Carrolls Number One should have a full sized shot of James Reilly on the front and back. It should carry the legend "You are only making this sucker richer". I see the Rothman's Pack with a tent like full frontal of Mary Harney, with the legend, "You are paying this bitch's pension". The Benson & Hedges Pack lends itself to a photograph of Michael Martin with the legend, "You are only encouraging this fool". The Silk Cut pack should have a photograph of Phil Hogan to scare the teenagers. This might warn that "This idiot is loaded already". The Marlboro pack might have that photograph of Enda Kenny kissing Merkel while warning the would-be smoker that "You are paying this idiot to mortgage you children's future."

If those truly revolting images with their hard-hitting but truthful messages don't immediately make a difference, we could start using pictures of high profile bankers instead. If we did that, I could see shop-keepers refusing to stock tobacco under any circumstances. But I don't think we need to get that extreme. The picture of Bertie Ahern on the blue Player's pack with the legend "Go on you langer, give him some more of your money" would have smokers throwing up outside shops all over the land. It would be serious revulsion therapy, a bit on the extreme side I know, but we are apparently dealing with an epidemic here.

And these library pictures with their economic health warnings are so flexible and interchangeable that they can be used on alcoholic products and fatty foods packaging as well. Our political system also ensures a steady supply of new faces (and bodies) to repulse even the hardest of the hard. Who knows, if it is the soaraway success that I expect it to be, we could safely legalise heroin with the proviso that it be sold with such images too!


Smugglers' tales

The instances of tobacco smuggling are now so numerous that I hardly mention them here anymore. The discovery of millions of illicit cigarettes is so routine that it is hardly worth reporting.

But the stories still trickle through, usually when they reach the courts. The big smugglers are nasty lads and I fully support the Customs and Gardai in their battles with them. But what about the small guys?

Having returned recently from a weekend trip to Poland with enough rolled tobacco to take me through 2013, I speak with some authority on the matter of the small guy. My imports are legal, but nonetheless the savings involved in my Polish purchase practically paid for my flights and hotel there.

So two minor incidents in the papers caught my eye this week. "A 22-year-old Latvian national and resident in Gran Canaria was found carrying 14,600 ‘Ronhill’ cigarettes, with a retail value of €6,658 and a potential loss to the Exchequer of €5,244." When you work it out he had 73 boxes of 200's in his luggage. Now, that is not a case full, but it is not far off. And Gran Canaria is not one of the destinations from which you cannot legally bring back an amount for personal consumption. If he was resident there, then he was on a visit here, and it would take him two years in Ireland to consume that lot himself.

"In a second incident on Tuesday, 29,960 ‘Ronhill’ cigarettes – worth €13,663, and with a potential Exchequer loss of €12,592 – were discovered in the baggage of a 36-year-old Latvian national living in Tenerife." Now, this guy could legally bring in his own supply for his time here, but 30,000 cigarettes is pushing it, isn't it?

But, as with everything else, smuggling is a matter of scale. These two lads from the Baltic States were chancing their arm to make a few quid on the side. The IRA and the ex-drug Lords, though, are funding a war against society with their containers through our ports. So, which is the greater crime? One of the unlikely ex-communists got two months and had the gear taken from him and the other guy is awaiting sentence. You might expect therefore that the Kingpins should get ten years in jail. Watch this space, because it hasn't happened yet.


Will the assault on branding backfire?

One of the more pleasant aspects of buying an "Apple" product occurs when the parcel arrives. The packaging and branding illicit great confidence in the quality of the product inside and clearly differentiate an Apple product from any of its competitors.

That distinctive Apple logo (with the bite out of it) is the second most recognised logo on the Planet. An economic study in the USA four years ago attempted to put a price on the Apple logo and concluded that it was actually priceless.

Branding, packaging, logos and corporate image are core to intellectual property rights and are a corner stone of capitalism. Could you imagine a law in Italy that forced Ferrari to remove the prancing horse from all of its cars, insisting that every one must be painted brown, and all new Ferraris must have graphic pictures of people dying horrifically by the roadside, screened onto the bonnet and doors of that awful brown body? It is unimaginable. Ferrari may as well start making "Trabants" if that were the case.

And yet, we don't bat an eyelid when a law here states that another manufacturer must do just that with their products. Tomorrow, all Tobacco Companies must cover their packs with revolting images and by the summer, all of their logo markings and competitive branding must be removed. Laughing Joe Stalin could not have done it better.

Why not insist pharmaceutical companies make their tablets black, pack them in boxes that show the possible visually grotesque side effects, and deliver them in brown paper bags? Anyone for a picture of a diseased liver on the wine bottle at their next party? Perhaps the Irish rugby shirt should have an image of a young man in a wheelchair on it?

We in Ireland depend greatly on the foreign corporates that have sited their European Headquarters here. Each must be looking nervously now at a precedent being set that could apply to them on a political whim. Make no mistake, this is a most dangerous precedent for this vulnerable little country to set. If Apple or Ferrari, or Pfizer for that matter, were forced to add nearly 90 per cent in tax to the price of their products sold here, they would quickly pull out. Arthur Guinness would turn in his grave at such nonsense. And yet, this is already the law here on cigarettes.

The National Association of Manufacturers lobby group has warned Enda Kenny about this move on tobacco companies here. "We are deeply concerned that Ireland's proposed revisions of the Tobacco Products Directive will violate its international trade and investment obligations and undermine the rules-based international trading system well beyond tobacco," they warned in a letter to Mr Kenny.

“Well beyond tobacco, Mister Kenny". In other words, this threat to all corporates in Ireland is actual, not just implicit. Irish people might wake up too late when Microsoft or Google announce that they are moving to the UK or Germany because of actions taken by our own Government on our half. By then, Enda will be on his vulgar pension and will be only a bad memory.


War on smokers

In any conflict or war, the beginning of the end always comes about when the warring parties agree to sit down and discuss the causes and work out a plan to bring hostilities to an end.

Unfortunately, before any of that happens, many people must be hurt and suffer as the opposing parties try to beat each other first by whatever means they can. Some accept that this is just human nature while others will bemoan a lack of basic human intelligence. Either way, this trend can be seen in Northern Ireland, Lebanon and the wider Middle-East. Resentments turn to anger, as the established side refuse to speak or engage with those they perceive to be their enemies.

We are ten years into a declared war on tobacco in society and though, naturally, nobody has resorted to guns, it has all of the hallmarks of an outright war - a cold war if you like. But, in keeping with a major tactic of the real thing, one side is refusing to engage with anybody associated with the other side. The Tobacco Control Industry has contrived to ensure that neither they, nor our elected representatives, will ever hear the other side of the story, thus disenfranchising a third of the population.

This means that any evidence or proof that smoking bans cause business closures, for example, are simply repressed or hidden from the public. A recent exhaustive study into clean indoor technology was presented to the powers that be in Scotland and simply buried. It never came up for scrutiny or debate. Rather, it was hidden while only one side of the story was heard. Decisions on such a premise are biased and wrong-headed and are bound to fail. People instinctively know that this kind of thing is always going on, and as a result when shocking messages about the dangers of smoking are issued, they are largely ignored by smokers.

There is a general feeling that "they would say that, wouldn't they," and the core message is lost in the denials and lies. I've been on radio recently on the topic of plain packaging and the proposed shocking images that must now, by law, festoon the humble cigarette box. We all know that neither move will make one bit of a difference, but time and public money have still been poured into it. The wrong conclusions have been reached, simply because only one side of the argument is being discussed. Opinions contrary to the official line of the Tobacco Control Industry are banned from the table. It is incredible to think that no smoker will ever be asked for their opinion on measures that might actually reduce the numbers smoking.

Instead, a bunch of unelected fanatics who hate you because you choose to smoke have assumed frightening powers to make your life difficult if you do not obey them. They have instituted a hate campaign against smokers, bringing with it a quiet resentment and anger in many quarters. I suggest that anti-smoking campaigners relish the conflict they have created in society and only total victory will satisfy their extreme ambitions. These people are control freaks and if they get away with banning smoking they will not simply fold up their tent and go away. There is a lavish and powerful lifestyle to be had in the business of persecuting your fellow man and I suspect that the extremists in our midst have a vision of a very grey obedient society which they rule with an iron fist. I'm not sure what they plan to call it, but a representative democracy it certainly will not be.


A week in bed

I asked my Doctor what was the difference between the flu and a viral cold, or just a bad cold, or maybe just flu-like symptoms. The occasion, of course, was when I presented at his surgery on Tuesday with a death wish.

I don't know about you, but I ‘resent’ being sick. I take it personally and feel hard-done by if I am not feeling physically normal. The Doc did not differentiate or name which ailment was responsible apart from establishing that my temperature was "fierce high." There is no doubt in my mind though - it's full blown Man Flu! Since last Saturday then, I have not been as vigilant as usual when it comes to keeping tabs on the vested interests ranged against we smokers.
I was invited to appear on last Monday night's Frontline and had to turn down the offer due to an essential appointment I had here in Cork first thing on Tuesday morning. That essential appointment gave way to essential steroids and antibiotics with an absolutely essential date with the bed. I have only crawled out in the last few hours, and still feel most peculiar.
I took the precaution last Sunday, though, of asking a supporter of ours to scan the media for stories that are either about us or of interest to us smokers. It appears that I have missed a whole week of news, so I will condense it into the following:

On Monday, we learned from the Examiner that, "Seizures of illegal tobacco fall by 56%," leading them to surmise that the numbers smoking are on the wane. The real story might be the very opposite, though. It may just be that the smugglers and gangsters are getting more devious in their methods. There is certainly no shortage of the cheap variety on the streets, where we know that the legal products are hidden by law and the illegal ones are visible to all. And indeed, the Government is playing their part by increasing tobacco prices and sending business straight to the bad-lads in the smuggling trade.

On Monday also my attention was drawn to an article in The Scotsman which stated that "The bald truth is that smoking rates have been coming down gradually for years – but all the efforts of the tobacco haters of this world have made no perceptible impact. They might well have not bothered." The author, Brian Monteith, points to what I have been saying on this site for two years now - the Tobacco Control Industry is a leech on society. Remember when reading his article that the bans in Ireland, England, Scotland & Wales are the most restrictive in the World.

On Tuesday the Independent reported the comments of our fit looking Health Minister as follows: "Minister James Reilly said there is a real job of work to be done in educating people in lower income groups about the risks of smoking." He might also have added that there is a real job of work to be done by him, in explaining to those same people why their children are not wanted in the better schools or jobs and are discriminated against and marginlised in almost every situation they find themselves in.

But the portly Stubbs was on a bit of a roll. "Commenting on fears expressed by the ICS chairman, Dr John Kennedy, that some poorer people could suffer delayed diagnosis because they could not afford to go to the GP, the minister said he did not believe proposals to take 40,000 medical cards from people this year would exacerbate this." Is that right Minister? Well then, given that your Department has such budget overspend problems, why do not just cancel all medical cards at a stroke? Using his logic, it should not make a difference at all. The poor would simply find wads of cash lying around on the streets, I suppose, and rush directly to their GP with it. The man is so out of touch with reality that it is laughable when he pronounces on the lower social orders.


Unpopular packs

The asked the simple question last week: "Do you think the strict rules on cigarette packaging will make any difference?”

As usual, they cut through the political nonsense and propaganda and posed a straight question to the very people affected by the move, the ordinary citizen.

I have mentioned before that a paid for poll of 1,000 people is considered significant. I am reliably informed that this is just the method used to make the claim that 70 per cent of smokers want to quit. That is a mantra you hear very often now.

But, back to the Journal. They got 3,000 responses to their poll of readers and only 10 per cent of those thought the proposed moves would make a difference. I suggest that should they ask whether a ban on smoking in cars with children present would make a difference, they would get the same answer.

Several times last week on live radio, that was our Forest message. It won't make any difference and is therefore unnecessary. I added that if you applied a €3,000 fine to speeding for example, it would cut down on road deaths overnight. But, there would be uproar over that, wouldn't there? "What about our right to speed if we own a good car and we want to ?" A €3,000 fine would be disproportionate wouldn't it?

Too right it would!


The Divine Doctor

I had a hot tempered run in with a young Doctor the other day.

The reasons or context are unimportant, but suffice it to say the young whipper-snapper hinted that if I did not immediately give up my "smoking addiction" she would have a right not to treat me.

I have heard anecdotally that this kind of behaviour has begun to happen, but it is quite shocking to be confronted by it personally. One wonders, were this young woman to find herself in a M.A.S.H. unit on the front line, how she would react to wounded soldiers. Would she admonish then for getting shot and warn that if they do not stop playing with guns she might consider leaving them unaided?

What I am trying to fathom, though, is when did the medical profession decide to start playing God with people? These ‘caring professionals’ are tasked with treating us when we are ill, and the oath they swear upon qualification does not include ifs or buts. And I did find my Doctor's lecture pretty ironic, given what I read about Doctors generally in a recent edition of the Irish Times.

Under the heading ‘Addiction among doctors rises’, we now learn that, “alcohol and drug addiction is on the increase among doctors, with more than 70 per cent who attended a Medical Council health committee suffering addiction problems, a Medical Council annual conference was told yesterday." That is a lot of Doctors with a lot of problems. Seven out of every ten Doctors has a problem with drink or drugs. Unlike my smoking though, their addictions are behaviour-altering too. That would certainly account for the unwarranted verbal attack on me yesterday.
Now, lest the reader think that I have no sympathy with the white coats, nothing could be further from the truth. I honestly do not know where they get the courage, confidence and resilience to do what they do every day. It is one hard, lousy job and it is my personal belief that the good doctor is one who truly has a vocation for it.

But, if it is likely that you have addictions of your own, then do not start lecturing or threatening me about mine. To the little girl in the white coat of the other day, I respond well to reason and encouragement, but I can become very unreasonable with a bully. And if your only assistance to those who want to quit smoking is pharmaceutical nicotine, then you are not qualified to intervene in the first place.

Finally, I am an adult and make my own decisions on my own life. I can be convinced, but I cannot be forced. That is why your anti-smoker rhetoric falls on deaf ears. I suppose though, when you are playing God, only your opinion counts!


Goodbye free speech?

The latest scam to divert our attention from private debt having being socialised is an effort to charge websites for linking to newspaper articles.

See the following (for now of course).

If this comes into law, I will no longer be able to reference information or opinions voiced in our national dailys on smoking or anything else for that matter.

Worse than that, Alan Shatter is attempting to invest himself with the power to decide what is right and decent in our papers and he plans to introduce a law covering all media, including the internet, in Ireland. His supporters in political circles are citing the negative attitudes now apparent in the general populace towards the political classes, and are blaming free speech for it.

Supporters of common sense have long argued that we ceased to be a democracy or a republic years ago, which begged the question, "What are we"? If Shatter gets his way, we are heading for tyranny, make no mistake. Any pretence to citizens’ rights can be driven through with a carriage and four.

Of course, the first problem about linking to newspaper stories would disappear overnight, because there would simply be nothing worth linking to!

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