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Tuesday
Nov132012

The state marches on

The early counts in the referendum on the rights of children in Ireland are showing that 60% are in favour with 40% against.

At first viewing, it certainly appears that all of the public money spent by the Government has had the desired effect. Ireland, then, is obsessed with its 'precious children'.

Or is it?

Well, firstly, only one-third of the eligible electorate actually bothered to vote yesterday. So the 60% in favour amounts to less than 20% of the total available voters. This raises the knotty question "what do the other 80% think or want?”

This is often the problem with democracy. Now that the final tally is in, the picture has remained the same. The motion is carried, as it were, and our 'precious children’ are now guaranteed to be protected or abused, depending on which if these you believe the state is most likely to do. And all it took was less than 20% of the available voters to ensure this.

One of my biggest worries at the introduction of the smoking ban here was the infringement on private property rights.

They have now positioned the state as the central character in the home and assumed the authority to override parental responsibility at a stroke. The new law means that a child can be removed from any home in the state by force and put up for legal adoption. This is a truly frightening development. The official text argues that it is only in extreme cases of child abuse. But, in this nanny state run by failed school teachers, smoking in front of a child has become extreme child abuse. Parents will no longer have the right to police their children's internet usage, and doubtless "childline" will be the first port of call for any teenager denied access to the bullying on the social networks.

Each month now, it seems to me, more of our rights are being taken away from us in the name of progress. We smokers have felt the wrath of the influence the vested interests vented upon us. There appears to be a mind-set evolving in government that they can get away with anything they like.

I'm a free man born into a free Republic. Our forefathers cast off the British to achieve our freedom. In my lifetime, we have cast off the Church to enhance that freedom. But, in a short few recent years, all of that has been mortgaged away to a faceless Europe who appears to want each and every one of us shackled for life in debt. Using that debt as leverage and the apparatus of a fawning state as a blunt instrument, we are being marshalled like some dumb herd into an aimless existence without rights or recourse.

The smoking ban started it and the twin vote on Lisbon showed it even more clearly. Socialising the private debt of the banks cemented it and our inability to respond has confirmed in the government's mind that they have actually got away with it.

But have they?

Friday
Nov092012

HSE waste

Since its inception the HSE has often been in trouble, usually on several fronts simultaneously.

As the old saying goes "follow the money and you will find the source of the problem" and it is no coincidence that the HSE's problems always seem to revolve around finance. It is the biggest recipients of our tax monies and boy, do they know how to waste it.

Smokers will already know that there is no shortage of funds from the HSE for anybody who wishes to demonise or coerce smokers. We saw an example recently when they decided to attack smoking in hospital grounds and a single sign in one area cost €11,000. Hundreds of these will be bought, despite the fact that it is perfectly legal to smoke anywhere outdoors. This means that smokers may simply ignore those signs rendering them a complete waste of money.

God alone knows how many millions they have channelled via ASH, the IHF and the ICS to support the war against smokers. Since they began wasting our money on this the numbers smoking have risen alarmingly.

And their scandalous waste continues.

An absolutely vital high tech machine, costing €1m five ago, still lies idle in Mallow Hospital because the HSE never budgeted for a trained operative to work it. Incredibly, no single individual accepted blame for this and the machine, still in its packing cases, will be obsolete fairly soon too.

Today we learn that our hospital consultants, who are struggling to get by on salaries over €200,000 a year, are being handed a further €43,000 to do a bit of hospital paperwork. And because they routinely make glaring errors (with nobody held accountable of course) the HSE finds itself a regular visitor to the Four Goldmines to defend the indefensible.

Yesterday a circuit court judge said it is amazing how the HSE claims to have funding shortages and yet has no problem in paying €800 an hour to legal teams to represent it in court. Well said M'lud!.

Tuesday
Nov062012

Sparring on the radio 

On Thursday morning, as I drank my second coffee (to get my heart started, naturally) I had a call from "Newstalk". They were inviting me to debate a call by ASH Ireland to increase (yet again) the price of twenty cigarettes in the forthcoming budget.

I was surprised to hear that the fanatics were not calling for €100.00 to be applied, but accepted the invitation anyway. That old pillar of intolerance, Professor Luke Clancy, was my sparring partner for the debate. I stuck to my beliefs on pricing that high price causes greater smuggling via the increased profit motive, unauthorised selling allows for easy access to children and the retail trade and the state are the big losers in all of this.

I am continually amazed that the Tobacco Control Industry persists in its denial that there is any link between price and smuggling. I suppose they would have to because otherwise, a case could be made that their lobbying was funding terrorism in some quarters. But, that kind of hysteria aside, high price is the first part of cause, course & consequence. Anyway, Looney Luke on the radio morning dismissed my concerns that pricing could be bad in any way and mis-defined it as "encouragement" instead of "coercion" which is what it really is. Coercion is a first cousin of force, as we know.

Interesting then that www.breakingnews.ie had a poll tonight with a question that said "an anti-smoking group is calling for an increase in the price of a pack of cigarettes in the budget. Do you think the price rise will force people to give up?" Amazingly, 2,246 people voted, of which, 407 declared that "yes, the price rise will turn people away from smoking". A further 629 said that "no, people will continue to buy cigarettes regardless of the price".

A staggering 1,210 people (or 53.8% of the respondents) said that "no, it will just force people to buy their cigarettes from illegal outlets". I rest my case.

In fairness to Looney Luke, he did say that my argument sounded intuitive.

Wednesday
Oct312012

A licence to smoke!

Check out this new study by a researcher at Oxford University and published in the Lancet.

It says that smoking is harmless up to the age of thirty, and almost harmless up to forty. What’s more, you can smoke as much as you like in your youth, it makes no difference.

Plus, ‘social smoking’ might be okay too at any age.

Good news for smokers, but you wouldn’t have guessed it by the way this story is reported in the media and by the health lobbyists!

Monday
Oct292012

Where are the CAB?

The usual voices are raised in today's newspapers about the epidemic of smuggling in Ireland.

The articles are so predictable these days that even I could write them now. As usual the admission is that state revenue from tobacco products is the big loser. But what always brings a wry smile to my face is the statements of facts and figures that accompany these snippets of news. In this case we read that the illegal trade costs €860m a year. They may as well write €860,147,674 and thirty two cents for all the relevance it has. Figures like these are pure speculation and fantasy and the true numbers could be five times as much or even one fifth of the numbers quoted.

In terms of showing the way, Ireland truly set a standard way back in 1996 in terms of law enforcement. The problem then was illicit drugs and the resultant lawlessness around our city streets as gangs vied for territory. The Godfathers of the trade directed operations but never risked their own skins and the story was the same in terms of facts and figures too. It was still the era of common sense and relative truth and the Garda Siochana knew that whatever the figure was for drugs, it was huge. They also brilliantly surmised that the organised gangs were in it for the money (imagine that) and most of the profits went to the Godfathers. How's that for lateral thinking?

In a flash of pure inspiration they figured out that the Godfathers were taking the money and spending it on luxuries, flashing about in their big 'rollers' as they dispensed their largesse. Like Al Capone, though, they had not filed tax returns and some clear thinking mind came up with the idea of the "Criminal Assets Bureau" (CAB). Instead of wasting police time chasing around the country trying to defeat the smugglers’ ingenious schemes, they concentrated on their profits instead. The CAB was given the powers to seize assets under suspicion and, to retrieve their goodies, the Godfathers had to show where the money came from to buy them in the first place. It took the fun out of drug smuggling for a lot of them.

As the authorities in the U.S. have admitted, the drugs trade will probably never be defeated, but the CAB in Ireland certainly got it back under some control with many of the more prominent Godfathers ending up in Spain or Mountjoy. But I suspect that many respectable people in positions of power are a little nervous of the CAB. Their insistence on a credible paper trail to justify every penny might expose everyone from a Health Minister to an ex-IRA gunman to the kind of scrutiny that could see them lose everything. The CAB lads have a simple formula. "Have you a receipt for that?" followed by "Where did you get the money to pay for it?" followed by "Prove it". Scotland Yard had the CAB boys over to show them how to do it, it was that effective.

As is often the case in these things, the CAB people probably know the major figures behind tobacco smuggling now. Strange then that your favourite "charities" are not jumping up and down and demanding that these uniformed accountants are let off the leash in the border counties. Could it be that an examination of their own books might unearth some ah, irregularities? Certainly, their end-of-year figures shed no light on where their money comes from, nor where it all goes to. The fact that some venerable accountancy firm signed them off is pretty meaningless as we learned from the banks.

Instead, the charities are demanding more 'plod' on the ground around our ports to seize the illicit tobacco goods as they arrive, much like the unsuccessful attempts with the drugs trade before the CAB arrived.

The CAB are no respecters of a ministerial threat either, particularly if they smell a rat. Michael Lowery famously discovered this to his cost. But do they make the quango charities in the Tobacco Control Industry nervous as well? There is one sure way to find out.

Thursday
Oct252012

Cash point bullying

If you are an Ulster Bank customer and you want to persecute smokers further, it has now been made so easier for you to do so.

Users of the banks ATM's can give directly between €1 and €250 to the Irish Cancer Society or the Irish Heart Foundation using the 'donate to a charity' option on screen at these machines.

You can use the eighty/twenty rule, (or the ninety/ten rule for charities), to estimate how much of your donation will actually go towards your chosen persecution. With eighty or ninety per cent of it going towards "costs" you can figure that between ten and twenty per cent of your donation will go to actually harming smokers’ rights. The balance will ensure that a variety of professors, doctors, lobbyists and researchers will remain in the comfort they have become accustomed to.

However, the few coppers that do get through will go towards dividing society by making lepers out of a third of the population at your behest. In time, if things progress as they are going, these 'charities' may make it even easier for you by deducting your money at source.

It's up there with paying for Bertie Ahern's generous pension for all he did for us.

Tuesday
Oct232012

Deadly apps

As of 2012 the number of 'apps' available for your iPhone (if you have one) is heading for 500,000. But beware! Researchers from the University of Sydney in Australia have issued a dire warning about some of these apps.

Apparently, these white coats were given hard cash by somebody (I wonder who?) to rigorously examine these apps for any mention of smoking and associated unhealthy behaviour. They have discovered that there are 65 apps (out of 500,000) that actually refer to "smoking", "smoke", "cigarette", "cigar" and "tobacco", and it appears that these magical words have people dropping everything and rushing out to buy cigarettes. None of the other 499,935 apps available can induce such an instant reaction.

That is what the article in today's Examiner suggests at any rate. It must be said that, as usual, we are not told how much this academic exercise cost or who paid for it, and there is no opportunity for the reader to see the actual research documents either.

So for all we know they may have discovered that these harmless app references have no effect at all. But, by reading the article as published by our newspapers (the Indo carried it as well) it becomes apparent how all of this was done.

Firstly, a simple word search was run on the App Store to find the few offending apps. This is the work of two minutes. Having found sixty five instances, these were looked at individually for, say, a couple of hours. A few were then picked and looked at more closely, probably taking the researcher up to lunchtime that day. In the afternoon the team must have sat down and spun the rest of the story to produce ‘shock and awe’ from incidental, innocuous facts.

The last paragraph explains why they might do so when it suggests that "individual countries could also include monitoring of app stores when enforcing tobacco control policies, as the current technical infrastructure of the Apple and Android app stores could be used to apply local laws and regulations."

So, this research team is in favour of tobacco control polices and from that you can deduce that a) they set out to find a specific thing and avoided objective research, and b) the funding came from some state-sponsored 'charity' or its pharmaceutical buddies.

The important point from the researchers’ point of view is the suggestion that individual countries should be paying ‘monitors’ (i.e. researchers) a sum of money every year to update the search for new apps. The sponsors of this garbage from Australia will, no doubt, lobby the local state governments with the suggestion that fines they can impose on their citizens will pay for the monitors.

Public Health has become very sick indeed!

Thursday
Oct182012

Pre budget thoughts for Michael Noonan

Are we Irish just a nation of shysters and smugglers?

When the vehicle registration tax was introduced, the yellow registration plates began to pop up everywhere. Does anyone remember that? Even today I know of a guy who brings in all of his cars from the UK and somehow sells them on again after a few months.

A retired publican told me about the glory days during the 'Troubles' in the North. Lorry loads of cheap booze were nightly coming down South over unapproved roads and pubs all over the country were slyly adding to their bottom line.

The diesel heists have been going on at the border for years now and Customs & Excise are stopping articulated trucks everywhere and dipping the tanks. They could authorise pink diesel with yellow stripes and it would make no difference.

Illegal firearms were also imported and sold to the kind of people who wanted to use them. In order to pay their debts, these likely lads simply robbed banks. One famous importer was a TD and government minister and he had the help of a senior army officer. Even the clergy had an interesting line in tax free income, picking up unwanted babies here and selling them in the USA for adoption.

Oddly too, the period of the Celtic Tiger saw a huge business in Irish people taking their teeth to Eastern Europe to be fixed and filled, coming home hundreds of Euro better off despite the travelling costs. And, who can forget the suitcases packed with prescribed medicines, bought at a fraction of the Irish price during Mediterranean holidays?

Illicit drugs, of course, have always been coming in through our long and porous south coast. A city docker explained to me that packages were thrown off the huge weekly banana boats from South America near the coastline and then local small boats would home in on the bobbing buoys to pick up the stash. In that case, I recall the docker explaining that our government had handed over the fishing grounds to the then E.E.C. and the local lads had nothing else they could fish for except these bales of promised joy. When we learned that seven million euros worth were found in one operation alone, it begged the question "how much actually gets through"?

Last week the Irish Independent reported that "Drugs to fight impotence, weight gain and anxiety accounted for the biggest haul among the 121,000 imported tablets which have been seized in a new crackdown". In this case, the haul came to €375,000 worth.

But who would have thought in the old days that cigarettes would ever need to be smuggled? In my own lifetime I can remember bringing two hundred cigarettes with me to training courses in England as they were expensive over there at the time. Now any chance I get I will organise to bring in duty-paid tobacco (for my own consumption) from literally any other EU Country and be guaranteed to save money.

For as long as I can remember we Irish have been a reasonable people. We know that we have to pay a premium for things we can't make or grow ourselves, and as an island nation we accept that transport costs will always be higher for us. Added to this, our small population means that we cannot take advantage of volume discounts either. But it seems to me that when the legal variety of anything becomes 25 -30% higher than the illegal variety, some enterprising group will see the opportunity and start a business on the wrong side of the law.

Tobacco now is up to 600% more expensive here than say, Belgium, and yet the tobacco control industry see no 'correlation', never mind 'causation', and those are terms that are in their daily vocabulary. Put simply, they have created the problem with their constant lobbying.

In these straightened times their actions have created two major problems. Firstly, revenue is falling now for the legal tobacco products sold through the shops, while costs are rising to fund efforts to battle the illegal products flooding into the country from abroad.

So, Michael Noonan, if you are reading this here is an economic problem you might consider for your next budget. Your Government funds so-called ‘charities’, or quangos as the rest of us call them. That is our money that you're giving them, and according to your laws they do not even have to tell you what they spend it on.

But they certainly lash out some of it on expensive professional lobbyists who push you to increase the price of tobacco. Inevitably when revenue from tobacco falls and smuggling reaches epidemic proportions, they send their lobbyists back to you to demand you spend more of our money combatting the problem they forced you to create. Maybe while they are with you they also take the opportunity to lobby for an increase in their own funding as well. Who knows?

And guess what, Michael? If you do not do what they order you to do they will publicly criticise you all over the media after the budget.

They are obviously not your friends, Michael, and they most certainly don't care about the rest of us either. Besides, you are not the Minister for Health but rather your responsibilities cover our economic health. So the question you must ask yourself is, can you resist the emotional blackmail of the health lobbyists and do the right thing for the economy this time?

The average price of twenty cigarettes around the EU is five euro and, as you may know, it is twice that price here. Have you got what it takes to address that problem and ignore the hectoring of the vested interests from the medical world?

Wednesday
Oct172012

3 blind mice

Three smoking related stories are all I have from the last little while. Are we all getting bored with the whole scam? Is it possible we may have a few more pressing problems?

Anyway, according to the Indo, teenagers are smoking to lose weight. That is hardly news. When the ban came in, doctors were on the radio weekly, warning that smoking suppressed the appetite and resulted in weight loss. From the horses mouth, so to speak.

The usual nonsense from researchers at a university are reported online too. In this case, a set of questionnaires gave the white coats all they needed to proclaim proudly that ETS causes memory loss in non-smokers. Mind you, no such so-called study would be complete without "we hope our work will stimulate further research in the field in order to gain a better understanding of the links between exposure to second-hand smoke, health problems and everyday cognitive function.” In english, this would read as "we sincerely hope we will get away with this sensationalist bullshit this year and some deep pocket will pay us to do even more of it next year".

Then, there's a weird one, in the Indo again. A publican (and journalist) called Billy Keane makes an impassioned plea to have smoking banned outright. As usual the writer has known friends who have died. They were smokers or may have smoked at one time and he therefore attributes their deaths solely to smoking. On this basis of emotional blackmail, then, he confidently demands an outright ban. For a journalist cum publican it is a flimsy, badly written piece and I was sorely tempted to write a full blog on it, tearing it apart. But, I checked him out to discover that some time ago he had decided to take his own life. I am currently engaged with an outfit to train me to spot and talk to people with such thoughts about themselves, so my sympathies go out to Billy.

Suffice it to say though, I utterly refute what he wrote about smoking.

Tuesday
Oct162012

Rent seeking in the clouds

There is a warning from researchers at University College Cork today of new, serious risks of developing MS, cancer, age-related mental decline, schizophrenia, and cardiovascular diseases among others.

Now, you and I are left in no doubt that you cannot get cancer or cardiovascular diseases unless you smoke. Indeed, a wag suggested to me recently that left hand drive cars are caused by tobacco. There was drink involved, don't ask.

But the white coats at UCC are completely serious about this one. Under the heading "Lack of sunlight exposes Irish to severe illnesses", Denise Calnan at the Examiner breathlessly reports that "Groundbreaking research at University College Cork is set to discover how we can improve our intake of vitamin D". At first glance one has to agree that our vitamin D does come mostly from exposure to sunlight. But the sensation in all of this (because you must have sensations to get the research grant money) is that it is all down to a lousy summer.

Call me a cynic but I was wondering where the money will come from to pay for this latest ruse to frighten us all. Will they set up a tax free charity called 'Action on Rain & Cloud' (ARC)? Indeed, given the diseases involved, it would be a perfect vehicle for the ICS & the IHF to club together again. They could demand a ban on bad weather and restrictions on clouds that would see them only gathering night. They'd get a lot of public support for these moves also. But surely, it's not the cash cow that tobacco has proven to be.

However, the lights came on as I continued reading. "The study is expected to influence European recommendations on the daily dose of the vitamins", it read.

"Aha", says I. A study shows you are going to die screaming because of bad weather, which causes a vitamin deficiency (check). Europe makes 'recommendations', which soon become law, that everyone must buy vitamin tablets (check). Large Pharmaceutical Company charges way over the odds for a 'multi-Vit' tablet that you must buy by law (check). Government introduces fines for people who have not bought their pills (check). Rates of cancer, age-related mental decline, schizophrenia, and cardiovascular diseases rise (check). Researchers ask Large Pharmaceutical Companies for more money for research to find out why (check).

Taxpayer gets screwed again (check).

Another delightful scam then, based on the fear and stupidity of the public, that should add to the widely reported comforts of the UCC president and his lackeys. The Tobacco Control Industry racket has a lot to answer for.

Wednesday
Oct102012

From the pollster's mouth

Back in 2005 I remember a poll taken on the subject of the smoking ban which claimed to show that 92% were in favour of it.

I also remember my own reaction to that poll. Seven years ago, I was naive and trusting and presumed that some independent body had commissioned Red-C to truly find out what the electorate really wanted.

While I still personally opposed the ban, that poll was what made me shrug and accept it. Since then, of course, I have discovered how these polls work (and why), so perhaps I have become a tad more cynical. Certainly, the voices who proclaim the huge success of the smoking ban are louder and more consistent than those who consider it was the wrong thing to do. Of course, if you have endless public money, you can make that happen anyway.

Despite accusations of heavy tobacco company backing, Forest Eireann has never had the wherewithal to pay for a poll of its own. I did explore the option once and was stunned at the costs involved. It is apparently necessary to poll over a thousand people to make any poll meaningful, and our meagre resources would not stretch to it. And on top of that they charge per question. I had cheerfully penned ten questions that I would have loved the answer to, until I discovered that my house would have to be mortgaged to discover those answers.

Naturally it would have represented petty cash to the Irish Cancer Society, the Irish Heart Foundation, the HSE or even ASH themselves. So the polls you have seen so far have all been commissioned from that quarter. This poses another question. Do you think those people might ever have asked a simple question like "as the Swiss go to the polls today to vote on their smoking ban, we ask: How would you have voted on our ban"?

That is a straight question and it has the advantage of being retrospective. The various outcomes of the ban have already been experienced and respondents are all the wiser for that. It is a single question too, not ten as I so ambitiously had in mind. However, if one of those venerable organisations had flashed their petty cash with it, and discovered that 52pc of respondents said they would have voted against the ban, do you seriously believe they would have gone public with findings like that?

Neither do I. Instead, their question would have been something like "do you believe smokers have the right to kill and injure innocent children with their disgusting habit?" and you know what the answer to that would have been. The screaming headlines would have read "Ninety two per cent in favour of the smoking ban".

So, eight years on from the introduction of the smoking ban the Journal.ie asked this exact question, straight and direct. Incredibly, over 4,800 people responded to it as well. Truly incredibly though, only 37% would have voted in favour of it!!!!

While 9% didn't know, a whopping 52% would have voted against the introduction of the smoking ban. I certainly did not pay the 'Journal' to ask that question nor do I suspect the charities of flinging them a few bob either. But this poll is five times larger than what would be considered meaningful, which makes it very meaningful indeed.

Monday
Oct082012

Controlling the lobbyists

How’s this for a demonstration of good government?

The Australian State of Queensland is apparently legislating to stop taxpayer-funded NGO’s from lobbying government, as reported by the Free Society web site. We should do the same here. If you’re a ‘charity’ largely funded by taxpayer money you should behave like other arms of government (a.k.a. the civil service), with political impartiality.

Health charities in particular should concentrate on curing disease rather than pestering politicians. Government-on-government lobbying is one of the curses of modern democracy.
The trouble is that politicians are now in a trap of their own making. They have funded these lobbyists so well that trying to control them risks being turned upon by their own Frankenstein.
The Queensland legislators have shown real courage in that respect. What chance our won following suit?

Friday
Oct052012

Frozen chips

The health section of the Indo, rarely lets a week pass without informing us of a new cancer scare/epidemic/call-for-restrictions/etc.

This week, it is 'frozen chips'.

"Frozen chips could be a cause of cancer", their article begins, and if you'd like to, you can read it here.

Personally, I didn't bother!

Thursday
Oct042012

The letter writing lessons

It looks like the transition year English class in the Knocknaheeney School are on a project of some kind.

Last Saturday, as alluded to here, a seventeen year old student from that parish bemoaned his smoking addiction due to the Government's inaction at banning it outright. The Examiner duly published the piece, though they might just as well have published the "About ASH" page verbatim.

For years the "charities" have had their more extreme volunteers engage in a letter writing campaign to the press and the on-line media, so I naturally believed that Saturday's letter writer was most probably one of these. But no! It could actually have been half genuine.

On Tuesday in the letters page of the same Irish Examiner this appeared. In this case the letter is from a lad by the name of Paul Pepper (maybe the local Garda Sargent's son) and he is energised by the "issue of obesity". He wants more PE in his school and classes in the correct nutrition. Quoting from some organisation such as "Fitness Action Time" (FAT), he has all the 'facts' such as "In Ireland 327,000 children are either obese or overweight and experts have warned Ireland is heading towards figures of 33% of the population who will have weight problems in Ireland by the end of the decade".

So the boys from Knocknaheeney are on a crusade, or maybe it's just a letter writing competition. And what better way to get your name in print than to express your contempt for your fellow man? Now that the 'fatties' and the 'chimneys' have been duly chastised, can the boozers be far behind? I am anticipating a letter like this in the coming days:

Sir,

I am riteing bout drink like and we want it banned now like. It's a shagg …… a disgrace that I can buy twenty four tins of Dutch Gold above in de shop every nite for ten cents like.
The Guverment have gotta like, crack down or sumting and send all alco ………boozers to jail for their miserable lives and save the hospitals lots of like, dough by not havin to fix dem. Our teacher, Miz Collins says dere all wife beaters and should be horse-whipped like.
Because of the Guverment, I'm drinkin a bottle of vodka every morning for breakfast like, and it's killin me. And I'm only seventeen and I'm doin it cause like, everyone is, ya know like.
So, we urgently need to make it against the law to drink like and ban it and stuff like dat like,

Gerry (Pisshead) Murphy
Knocknaheeney,
Cork.

Wednesday
Oct032012

Letter from a phantom teenager

The Irish Examiner in the past has refused to publish letters from me on the topic of smoking.

And yet they have no problem printing a specimen like this one on Saturday. Let's have a look in more detail at what their letters editor considers worthy. Its author, Daniel Field, informs us in the first paragraph that "I am a student, 17, and I smoke, but if it was banned I would have to give up".

Now forgive me for being pedantic, but Daniel is breaking the law as a seventeen year old schoolboy if he is smoking. But he further portrays himself as some kind of ‘God-love-us’ whose only motivation to quit would be a legal ban on smoking. So he doesn't mind breaking the law now, but he would cease to do so if we were all banned. Sorry Daniel, I don't believe you. I wouldn’t be surprised if you didn’t smoke at all and some adult put you up to writing this garbage.

And he offers further evidence to support my conclusions. Daniel writes that "in America, smoking is banned in all public places, both indoors and outdoors, even in public parks. We should do that too". The fact is that many States in the Union allow smoking in pubs and only two, California and New York, have any outdoor restrictions at all. Poor Daniel has been fed falsehoods by some extreme phobic adult. This is shown when the adult involved goes on to claim that "our government is always talking about banning smoking in all public places, but nothing happens". Another lie fed to the impressionable youth.

But what else would one expect when his 'facts' are so blatantly wrong. For the lad’s information, Excise & VAT combined yield €1.5Bn and not €2Bn as he wrongly states, and the most extreme voices from the Tobacco Control Industry are wildly claiming that 5,500 people die of smoking-related diseases every year and not the 5,800 figure that Daniel states. And while there is no confirmed official figure for the cost of smoking illnesses to the HSE, our young hero happily claims that it stands at €2Bn.

So this letter, alleging to come from a teenager who is worried about me smoking, is probably nothing more than a sneaky piece of cheap propaganda from an adult ASH volunteer, who would like the reader to believe that teenagers everywhere wish to see the freedom to smoke being curtailed and maybe even banned outright. If they are going to engage in such subterfuge they should have the decency to put a bit more effort into it. Better again, the Examiner should send a police car to Knocknaheeny to arrest the parents of the writer, if they can find such an address.

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