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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.


Shorthall falls short

Well, well, well, it didn't take long. Late last week we learnt that St. Roisin Shorthall has resigned after a meeting with Stubbs Reilly. Behind closed doors no doubt, Reilly gave full vent to his not inconsiderable spleen, and a bully that size could intimidate most people up close.

She must have known that it was career limiting to humiliate an animal like Stubbs in public. He suffers from the illusion that he is widely popular, because he surrounds himself with paid yes-men and bought-out stragglers that benefit from his personal largesse with the public purse.

But Shorthall is not the only casualty. That dreadful woman over at Alcohol Action Ireland was so close to the public goldmine, that money fountain gift that never stops giving to those so-called "Charities" with the Ministerial ear. She will have to stagger along on the few paltry millions currently tossed like crumbs in her direction instead. And you can expect the war on alcohol to dwindle away for now also, leaving the big money on persecuting the smoker and cranking up the heat on the overweight.

So, with St. Shorthall out of the way you can expect the Supermarkets to make a few changes in the coming weeks. While the humble packet of twenty might now be hidden in an armoured car outside the shop and retail for €60.00, you'll probably be able to pick up a case of Carlsberg for 24 cent, and there'll be a big complimentary basket of assorted vegetables going with that as well. The bottle of Vodka might hit 10 cent with a bowl of fruit thrown in and we'll all be so pissed and happy we won't notice that Dail Eireann is shut and our politicians are all living in Belgium, to be close to "De Job".


The scandal of pliable statistics

"The Office of Tobacco Control." Remember them?

Well, as Gerry Adams might say, "they're not gone away you know". Hidden deep in its pages last Saturday, the Irish Times had a piece on why we smokers are all going blind, to add to our woes.

But, while that is what the headline suggests, the article actually refers to all of us Irish people who, they claim, are "more genetically predisposed to develop Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD) than other Caucasian populations". And diet is pointed to as well as smoking as contributing factors. But, if you can get over the fact that it is par for the course to blame every ailment or knock on smoking, then the piece is only really newsworthy for the mention of the O.T.C. itself.

What bowled me over was the sentence, "Data from the National Tobacco Control Office indicates that 23.6 per cent of Irish people smoked as of June 2010". As late as two weeks ago, Stubbs Reilly quoted the 29% figure again, which has been in the public domain steadily for nearly three years now. The latest Eurobarometer findings confirmed this 29% figure just last month. What is stunning therefore is a 4.4pc rise in the smoking prevalence happening SO QUICKLY. That's about sixty thousand people who must have taken up smoking at the height of the restrictions. Remember also that this figure presupposes that not a single person gave up smoking during the same period.

What utter nonsense! The people in the Office of Tobacco Control are in full time, well paid jobs, funded by Irish citizens. They have a damned narrow brief given their job security and pensions. All they have to do is know what is going on in the world of the Irish smoker and report accurately their findings. The various big-wigs from the Tobacco Control Industry that I lock horns with on radio regularly use statistics and figures from the O.T.C. in support of their arguments. That is what is so frustrating about the whole sorry mess.

None of it is based on fact whether we talk about the alleged effects of E.T.S. or what constitutes a smoking related illness and now even how many people smoke in Ireland. It is not about health, but politics. And politics is a dirty lying business at best. When Stubbs Reilly now wants to justify new restrictions, he will quote the 29pc figure and when he wants to show these restrictions are working, he will simply quote the 23.6pc figure, and naturally neither are correct nor accurate.

Today, my attention was drawn to a research project that claims to show the cost of smoking to the Health Service. But at its launch some time ago, its author, Dr Fenton Howell, admitted to a journalist that the HIPE did not record the number of smokers in their admittance system to hospital. So, the lively Fenton simply made up a suitable number to do his research.
This is neither science nor medical research, but instead it reeks of the dirtiest tricks of politics and propaganda. That these lies and fabrications will be presented as incontrovertible facts to the Irish public is inevitable. That the Irish public are so keen to believe it is depressing. But that public money is being spent to cook up these lies is the real scandal of the scenario.


The politics of prohibition in modern Ireland

St. Roisin Shorthall, patron saint of saving us from ourselves, took a calculated risk in the Dail last week in her condemnation of her boss "Stubbs Reilly".

Prior to a vote of confidence that could have seen our favorite roly-poly bounced out the door on his ministerial arse, the strident Shorthall rose and delivered a withering speech that damned the bearded Stubbs more devastatingly than Brutus could have with his knife. And she never mentioned his name even once, though given her content she didn't have to. As her colleagues cringed under the party whip, Roisin stuck out her craggy neck, with all the dash and confidence of a true crusader.

And Stubbs could only sit there, ashen faced in rage like some punchbag and have the shit verbally kicked out of him by a pip-squeak he doesn't even rate. What spoiled the spectacle somewhat, for the more seasoned listener, was that awful, put-on, grating fake sincerity that characterises all of Shorthalls sermons. She doesn't so much make a speech as sermonise and demonise in equal measure, but in sickly sugary tones that merely nauseate. Sprinkled everywhere in her words are the inevitable 'precious children' to be protected by 'best practice' and then the usual 'crackdowns', 'bans' and 'fines', all the tools of the morally corrupt.

Shorthall has morphed into the military wing of Alcohol Action Ireland (the ASH of booze), with all the dodgy rhetoric, tactics, spin and propaganda necessary to make a case for a war on drinkers. And yet for a moment back there last week, she sounded like she actually cared about our crumbling health service, such was her venom for the job her boss was doing running it.

Happily, all has returned to normal today. Preening herself in front of the microphones earlier, her true motives were outlined, but between the lines of course. Speaking for Stubbs, she outlined his undying support for her crusade to banish alcohol from the land. Pouring it on with a trowel, she gushed about how strongly he felt about her being right all along about the dreaded drink and how ten million Irish people are dying every four minutes from its horrible effects. Yup, the humiliated one is right behind his tormentor and is as determined as she is to "do something" about the evils of drink, or so she claims.

You can take it that Stubbs just got a shot across his bows last week and the sugary Roisin has some more heavy shells in her arsenal if the lad will not start seeing alcohol as a bigger problem than tobacco, like she wants him to do.

Shrewd and all as she is at the game of politics, one wonders whether he will take her down with him when he goes, as he most inevitably will, sooner rather than later.

All this Public Health is a dirty business indeed.


Back to the same old rubbish

I scan the papers every morning and rarely does a reference to smoking or tobacco control get past me. So with a big red face I must confess that this little item, stowed away in the Indo last week, slid under my radar.

Basically it is a report of an EU wide survey by Eurobarometer, but there's something wrong with it. The piece is not accredited to a journalist. In fact, it is not accredited at all. But it reads like the most virulent lump of smoker-hating propaganda, penned by a hopeless phobic who must be raking in the bribes and inducements. Even ASH have toned down their lies from the heyday of the ban, but whoever wrote this rubbish is repeating all the old falsehoods, opinions and lies at the end of the article.

Now, bear in mind that the actual Eurobarometer survey is unavailable to the reader so the poisoned pen has simply offered what he wants to, allegedly as snippets from the original research.

Famously, one time, the WHO commissioned and paid for an exhaustive research project into the effects of secondhand smoke. To their horror, the researchers found that its dangers were negligible. Having paid the money and announced they had research findings, they simply didn't release the project for peer review. Instead, they made a press announcement that they had discovered how terribly dangerous it was and said the matter was now beyond debate. How's that for bare faced cheek.

I suspect the author of this Eurobarometer report has done something similar. He begins by claiming that, "the survey found high numbers of smokers would like to see a range of tougher measures to make cigarette smoking less attractive". This is hardly credible given that you either give up or shut up. But, he goes on to claim that "90pc wanted picture health warnings on packs and 81pc wanted a ban on colours, logos and promotional elements from packs". Now you know he's lying, but if you still have doubts, then he adds that, "65pc want increased taxes and 73pc want a ban on sale of cigarettes from vending machines".

So let me get this straight. A thousand Irish smokers were asked a series of dopey questions and the findings were that they want to willingly pay far more for a product that is harder to find, must be packed in a revolting package, festooned with warnings about impending pain and hardship for them and they want Nanny to get tough with them because they can't cope alone. Is that it?
I don't believe a word of word of it and I don't think the board of the Irish Independent do either. Perhaps they consider it a harmless price to pay for a series of ads for nicotine replacement products appearing in their pages soon. Maybe they are thinking, 'Surely none of our readers will believe this shite'. I don't know. But what I do know is, if I send a letter picking holes in the article, it will not get printed. And that is just one of the many reasons our newspapers are slowly dying.


From smoking to drinking

I'm back on the smuggling theme again, courtesy of the "".

In an article entitled "Wexford is a hub for smuggling, say retailers", the usual shock-horror story unfolds.

It appears to amaze and confound the respectable classes that certain groups would run the gauntlet of the forces of law and order to make a hundred per cent profit for their efforts. What am I saying? In many places in Asia, you can buy twenty cigarettes in the shops for under a Euro, and I have no doubt there would be a discount available for larger orders like, say, thirty million fags. Twenty smokes here sets you back nearly a tenner. So maybe the profit margin runs to a thousand per cent, who knows. The smugglers don't file VAT returns, you see.
Peter Steemers, a shopkeeper in Bunclody, Co Wexford says that “on average cigarette sales account for twenty to twenty five per cent of overall sales". I'd have more sympathy with the retailers if I didn't have the sneaking suspicion that these upstanding pillars of society privately supported all of the coercive restrictions on smokers over the years.

But, given the road to ultimate conflict that we are on, one can only speculate how it will all blow up eventually. For example, Michael Noonan could simply double the price of tobacco at the stroke of a pen. Sales through the shops would all but dry up overnight, with only doctors, bankers and politicians able to afford the new price. The extremists in the Tobacco Control Industry would break out the soft drinks in celebration and smuggling would go mad. Over a million smokers would be outlawed and, with the profit motive removed, the Tobacco Control Industry would morph into the Alcohol Control Industry, and over two million drinkers would begin their path to criminality also.


The fag break

Working temporarily in a new environment recently, I have been pleasantly surprised by the manner of my relaxed and friendly new colleagues there.

Prior to trotting along day one to an unknown "workplace", I wondered at the arrangements they might have (or might not) for smokers in their office. Happily, I need not have worried. They have a lovely sheltered spot with a picnic table in the garden.

I found myself out there the other day at break time, mentally running over the things to be done when I got back inside. I was joined by a big man who had just come out for some fresh air. Within a short time of engaging with him, he volunteered that he'd smoked from twenty years of age until he turned thirty six.

My heart sank at this news. You know the way the ex-smoker is often 'holier than thou', knows it all and generally despises anyone who has not seen the light like themselves. I cannot explain this except to say it is a trend I have noticed.

But this fellow's tone did not sound hectoring and I began to wonder if he was going to launch into a sermon at all. And he didn't.

Instead, he told me he'd really enjoyed his years smoking, and remembered those years for many other happy reasons also. He still loved the smell of tobacco and maintained that smokers were friendlier and more interesting as far as he was concerned. He had neither wish nor need to try smoking now, but liked to see others enjoying the experience for themselves. Needless to say, he had strong opinions on the Tobacco Control Industry, equating them with bankers among others.
So, a relaxing smoke and a refreshing encounter over, I went back inside. I can only conclude that I must have met a "de-normal person".


Winter supply

I got in my winter supply of rolled tobacco recently, and just in time too. I was down to my last three pouches from last year’s purchase. In October (2011), I got thirty pouches weighing 50 grams each from a well-known European Capital, and repeated the dose again last week.

You see, here in tourist-starved Ireland, one of these pouches costs just short of €20.00, so my stash amounts to €600.00 worth in Irish prices. Last week's legally imported supply cost me the princely sum of €114.00, and will last me until Springtime.

But, so much for the legal stuff. Our Customs & Excise people are tripping over the illegal variety in sea-ports up and down the land. Just this week, nearly four million smuggled cigarettes were seized in two separate operations in Wexford and Dublin.

In the grand scheme of things this hardly rates a mention in our newspapers these days. The real story you see is what actually got past the men and women in uniform. My sympathy lies with the forces of law and order who have been handed an impossible job to do by the gormless dopes who insisted we make tobacco in Ireland the most expensive in the EU.

The fundamental principle of the European Union is the idea of open borders between members. If one member artificially inflates the price of a commodity in their legislative area, the citizens can simply bring in that product legally and more cheaply from another member state. After all, the EU began life as an "economic union". Minister Noonan might take this into account before he sits down to pen the next budget in December.

As a smoker on the ground in modern Ireland, I can attest that it is almost easier to find smuggled cigarettes on the streets than it is to locate the taxed variety, and at half the price too. You can also beat the smuggler on price if you bring in your own tobacco legally, with local taxes paid in a member state.

So, Michael Noonan, what would you do?


A smuggling spat

On the 7th September Eugene Ryan wrote an interesting piece in the Irish Times making the simple point that if the Government truly wished to combat tobacco smuggling, then they should lower the (legal) price.

Check out his impeccable logic here.

Naturally he was not going to get away with having the temerity to tell the truth on the subject of Tobacco Control. Cue, one of its highly paid heavy hitters the very next day. Kathleen O'Meara splashed onto the IT letters page, all guns blazing, but they were loaded with blanks, as you will see:


Sir, – Eugene Regan (Opinion Analysis, September 7th) writes that a decrease in the price of cigarettes would lead to a reduction in illicit tobacco trade without having a significant effect on the level of smoking in Ireland. This is not the case.

Mr Regan refers to a recent report by EPS Consulting, which estimated that €526 million of revenue is lost each year because of tobacco smuggling. This figure is based on inaccurate data. The Revenue Commissioners and the Department of Finance have found that 14 per cent of cigarettes smoked in Ireland are smuggled into the country. This is an unacceptable level, but it is 10 per cent lower than the rate claimed by tobacco industry sources in the EPS Consulting Report. The difference in figures is because data used is supplied by the tobacco industry, which has a clear conflict of interest in supplying data of this kind.

A reduction in price is not the solution to smuggling. High levels of smuggling exist between countries with similar legitimate tobacco prices and smuggling is also a problem in many countries where tobacco taxation and prices are very low.

The price of cigarettes has a major impact on cigarette consumption. Higher prices reduce smoking rates and smoking-related illness as people cut down, quit, or never start because of the high cost. Smoking is the main cause of preventable death and disease in Ireland. It is important that we keep price high in order to encourage people to quit.

Tobacco smuggling is a problem in Ireland. The illicit tobacco trade undermines the work being done to reduce smoking rates and deprives the exchequer of much-needed revenue. However, the solution to this problem is not a reduction in price.

Smuggling is a criminal issue and needs to be treated as such. More resources are needed to tackle tobacco smuggling in Ireland. The implementation of a national strategy to reduce tobacco smuggling in the UK has reduced the illicit tobacco market from 21 per cent to 11 per cent in 10 years. We need to take a similar approach in Ireland. – Yours, etc,

Irish Cancer Society

My response to this utter nonsense was, surprisingly, published the day after, as follows:

Sir, – Eugene Regan (Opinion Analysis, September 7th) writes that a decrease in the price of cigarettes would lead to a reduction in illicit tobacco trade, to which you would have to say, "Of course it would".

But while this is simply stating the obvious, I note with dismay the comments of Kathleen O'Meara in response. Voicing a mantra of the "Tobacco Control Industry", she states that, "A reduction in price is not the solution to smuggling. High levels of smuggling exist between countries with similar legitimate tobacco prices and smuggling is also a problem in many countries where tobacco taxation and prices are very low".

Using the same logic, Spaniards on holiday here must be flocking to our pharmacies to stock up on our high priced medicines to circumvent their low pricing at home. Indeed, they may also be panic buying their cigarettes here also, at a mere three times the price they can purchase them anywhere in Spain.

Eugene Ryan is to be complemented for speaking the truth with common sense, while sadly, the spokesperson for the "Irish Cancer Society" appears to be out of touch with reality on this occasion.

John Mallon
Forest Éireann

Of course, the Tobacco Control Industry has to get the last word (they are used to having the only word usually). As such, a Dr Morgan, self-styled new leader of the military wing of the Irish Cancer Society, or ASH as they call themselves, slipped in a letter the morning after. Mind you, it such a piece of rambling nonsense that I have not included it here, but you'll get it in their archive if you are truly that lonely!


The racket laid bare

An article published in the journal Tobacco Control challenges the prevailing wisdom in the tobacco control industry by arguing that nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) is ineffective for smoking cessation and that therefore public expenditures on NRT provision to smokers is a waste of resources. This is according to the Harvard School of Public Health.

"This study shows that using NRT is no more effective in helping people stop smoking cigarettes in the long-term than trying to quit on one's own", said lead author Hillel Alpert, research scientist at HSPH, and co-author Lois Biener of the University of Massachusetts Boston's Center for Survey Research. Theirs was a large study done between 2001 and 2006.

So, a large respected bastion of ‘public health’ publishes in the tobacco control industry's own bible that they, the puritans, are approaching this perceived problem all the wrong way! If someone wants to quit they should do so on their own, simple as that. Perhaps, as I have stated many times, nicotine is not the attraction at all and smoking is not an addiction, but a strong habit. Habits can be changed or broken, if the will is there to do so.

But the real issue then becomes for those, like myself, who enjoy a smoke as a part of the everyday and do not wish to try to quit. This is, I believe, the vast majority of smokers. And it is we who are subject to nasty coercive campaigns to switch our money from tobacco to nicotine drugs to swell the profits of the pharmaceutical industry. Because, if you listen to the propaganda, all they offer is a helpline. That helpline has one core message and that is "buy pharmaceutical nicotine replacement products now". Your GP will give you the same advice because the tobacco control racket runs the helplines and has got to all of the dispensing GPs also.

Bringing into being the ludicrous scenario whereby public money is pumped into an effort that has been proven not to work in order to line the pockets of the propaganda lobbyists and their pharmaceutical buddies.

It is not the smoker who should feel embarrassed or ashamed.


Plain common sense

In light of the accusations that tobacco companies are targeting teenagers with their flashy packaging, I went back to the only survey of teenagers I could find that was actually carried out in Ireland.

Damien Mully, of Mully Communications, did his own survey of teen smoking in 2011. Granted, only 78 teenagers were polled, but it is a damned sight better than not asking them at all and instead going to the media with the answers you would have liked them to have given, as is the case elsewhere.

So, when these teenagers decide to go to the shop, what is the motivation for the brand they order? Under the heading "Choosing your brand", no respondents even thought to mention the packaging. Instead, 41 per cent said they chose on quality, 23 per cent smoked the brand they first tried, 22 per cent chose on price and 14 per cent because their friends smoked that brand.
Quality, for God’s sake! Surely there is a law against suggesting that tobacco has any qualities, but I digress.

Nearly a quarter chose the brand they first tried, so why did they have that first cigarette? Well, interestingly, 64 per cent cited peer pressure/friends that smoke. It is so damned obvious and yet this would be big news if it ever got into mainstream thinking.

In the absence of anyone else talking to teenagers about why they smoke and actually publishing their results, have a look at Damien's survey.

Times have not changed much "since I were a lad"!


A spark of liberty

At least somewhere someone’s talking sense.

Just as ‘plain packaging’ for tobacco products (meaning no logos but grotesque images) is being imposed in Australia, an American court has taken the opposite view.

An appeal court has ruled that ‘graphic images’ on cigarette packs are an unwarranted imposition on companies because they are forced to act against their own commercial interest. No doubt this will be challenged to fury by the lobbyists and their puppet politicians, but its good to see the Land of the Free living up to its name.


The classic health scare scam

This is how health scares work and how health & safety gets funded.

A report in the Irish Independent blares out the headline "Pan frying meat can increase prostate cancer risk by 40pc, new research finds".

The detail, though, is where you will find the sleight of hand. It goes on to say "new research has found that eating red meat cooked at a high temperature can increase the risk of developing prostate cancer by as much as 40pc". Now, the first question is, what is a high temperature ? We are, of course, not told.

The next two questions should be, how much meat and for how long is it, or should it be cooked? And if there is a reported 40 per cent increase, what is it an increase on? According to the American Cancer Society, 16 per cent of men will get prostate cancer, most in old age and most will survive it. But eighty four per cent of all men will not get it. The forty per cent increase, if correct, amounts to about a six per cent increased risk overall, and that is if every single male in the land dug into an unspecified quantity of red meats cooked at high temperatures.

Now we get down to the meat of it, as it were. This shocking finding and its frightening percentages are all based on a questionnaire. We are not talking clinical trials here using expensive lab equipment. This is a bunch of photocopied questions, filled in by 2,000 volunteers. You could claim to eat a raw cow every week and they would factor it in. And questions can be phrased suggestively in an attempt to garner a chosen answer too. A lot of guys would not know the difference between an ounce and a kilo and a lot of men still have their food cooked for them, either at home or in a restaurant. What answers did they give?

Vegetarians can get prostate cancer too. Were any of these included? Like all cancers, there is a hereditary element with the disease regardless of what is consumed and finally there's meat and there's meat. The animals’ diet, you would have to believe, plays a significant part as well. And the older the respondent the higher the risk anyway (of everything).

Health scare, my bo****ks !


In denial

As a regular reader and sometimes contributor to the press it can be frustrating to read blatant inaccuracies and sometimes outright lies posing as news in the papers.

It becomes doubly frustrating when I write to correct the article, only for my letter to be ignored. The letter below is just one such example from last week.


Your article entitled, "Tobacco smuggling claims not accurate" (21/8/2012), makes interesting reading on two counts.

It is ironic that the Irish Cancer Society & the Irish Heart Foundation should think themselves in a position to criticise Retail Ireland over tobacco smuggling figures. Customs and Excise themselves admit that their figures are estimates and one supposes that the lack of hard numbers is because the smugglers are not filing tax returns either. Indeed, the IHF & the ICS have themselves engaged in guesswork many times on this topic also.

However, it is denial in the extreme to suggest there is no correlation between the exorbitant prices in Ireland and the racketeering in tobacco. They are directly linked, as the Customs & Excise have said, and to claim otherwise is pure foolishness.

John Mallon
Forest Éireann


The scandal of fake smoking ban notices

Under the headline "Smoking ban swings into 100 playgrounds", Eilish O'Regan, the Health Correspondent with the Irish Independent, plays fast and loose with the facts.

While she correctly reports that signs asking smokers to desist from smoking have been erected in 100 playgrounds, this is not in fact a ban at all.

She does explain later in her piece that it is not an offense to light up a cigarette in these playgrounds, admitting that this is not a ban as her headline claims. They could just as easily have put up signs saying "Please desist from shouting", but as it is not an offense to do so, nor is there a fine or punishment for so-doing, it is not the law either.

A ban is employed to officially or legally prevent something, and the local authorities behind this latest move are not banning anything, and with good reason. There is no evidence nor proof that smoking outdoors harms anyone in its vicinity. Children are perfectly safe in the open air, even if they were to be surrounded by smokers. It would open a can of worms if some local authority attempted to enforce a fine without basis through the courts.

But the real scandal in all of this is the huge cost factor involved in so many unnecessary sturdy metal signs being erected around these playgrounds. If, as reported, over one hundred of them have been festooned with these unwanted signs, you could presume then that over two hundred of them have been put up, at great cost. The signs themselves come at a premium to begin with and when you factor in the manpower to fix them all firmly on-site, you have a genuine high cost story to report.
These authorities are supposed to be cash-strapped. A property tax for all of us is being introduced to help to fund them. Is this, then, how they think public monies are best spent?

So why are they wasting their precious funds on this nonsense? Well, Eilish casts some light on this. "There is no record of any official recommendation to local authorities from the minister or his officials, and the Department of the Environment has also said it has not pursued the measure", she tells us on the one hand.
And yet she goes on to explain that "the main pressure has come from the anti-smoking group ASH, which wrote to all local authorities over the past year asking that the councils stub out smoking in playgrounds".

So that is the real story. ASH Ireland, set up and funded by the ICS and the IHF, is dictating to local authorities around the country how to spend your taxes, and while loads of money is available to put up unnecessary signs in playgrounds, those same "authorities" are threatening to turn off your street lights due to lack of funds. Do us all a public service, Eilish, and write that story.

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