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Wednesday
Feb132013

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.

Tuesday
Feb122013

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!

Tuesday
Feb052013

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.

Friday
Feb012013

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.

Thursday
Jan312013

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.

Monday
Jan282013

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.

Tuesday
Jan222013

Unpopular packs

The Journal.ie 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!

Thursday
Jan172013

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!

Wednesday
Jan162013

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!

Tuesday
Jan152013

Cessation costs

Greg Harkin had an article in the Independent last week that showed smokers in the South pay far more for cessation products than those in the North.

Meanwhile an editorial in the Examiner included the line, "the Department of Health estimates that it costs €1bn a year to provide health services for smokers". The combined Excise & VAT from tobacco purchases here amount to €1.5bn a year because we have the most expensive tobacco in the EU. Now, bear in mind that smokers are just ordinary Irish citizens who pay all of the usual taxes and charges that everyone does and have the same entitlements also. In all, they not only cover all of the costs associated with their habit, they pay in a further five hundred million year extra each year to help to treat others who do not smoke.

These then are the smelly disgusting addicts that you like to look down on as they stand outside in the rain. These are the very people you would like to see hounded and coerced, marginalized and eventually criminalised. It has always annoyed me that otherwise nice people will invite me to their homes with the proviso that I do not smoke while there. The honest approach is that you are welcome, but your shitty habit is not. These same people would be offended if you were to decline the invitation too. By implication then, they are perfect themselves and feel empowered to sit in judgement of you because you enjoy a smoke and they do not. There are very few people I know that do not have their own annoying little habits, myself included.

But back to the numbers. We already know that we pay the highest price in the EU for our tobacco and now we learn that we probably also pay the highest price for cessation products. But, on tobacco products, 80% of what we pay goes in revenue to run the State. It would be informative to find out what percentage of the Pharmaceutical cessation products contribute to our common welfare also, wouldn't it? Oh, and incidentally, cessation products have been shown not to work!

Monday
Jan142013

Smoking in cars to be banned

At a time when Garda numbers are being reduced, stations all over the country are being closed and the budgets for overtime being hit, the Government now sees fit to introduce yet another bad law for the Gardaí to enforce.

The Government has warned that this new law, which covers smoking in your private car with children present, will carry a disproportionate fine of €3,000 upon conviction. This is in stark contrast to the tiny minority of wealthy individuals who have cost this country billions of euros without arrest or conviction.

While Forest Eireann urges all responsible parents not to smoke in their cars with children present, we object strongly to this proposed legislation because it is unnecessary (few people smoke with children in the car) and draconian.

Its proponents, including Senator and oncologist Professor John Crowne, refer to the law as "education," whereas in reality it is nothing short of State bullying, disguised as "caring."
And to further demonstrate the lopsided hatred for smokers in some quarters, this law can be enforced by the simple mechanism of allowing for Gardaí to rely solely on visual evidence if cases come before the courts. This means that any Garda can stand in the witness box and say they thought they saw a cigarette, and the plaintiff is hit with a fine of €3,000.

Any citizen attached to the ideals of democracy should be appalled by this proposed move. Regardless of your opinion on smoking, laws like this should be opposed. The danger is that while tobacco is in the spotlight now, a collection of precedents are being set to attack anything that is deemed politically incorrect by certain wealthy influential cabals. Similar tactics can equally be applied to most of our freedoms as we move further away from our democratic principles.

Thursday
Jan102013

Bar sense

I actually went out for a pint yesterday, and I can't say enough about the pleasant atmosphere in my local, The Cotton Ball in Mayfield.

As I sat relaxed on the high stool, a reasonable book taking me effortlessly to the sands of Saudi Arabia, the owner Jack appeared before me on the other side of the bar. As always with him conversation is interesting, informative and refreshing.

Discussing his plans for the pub in the coming years, he mused that the business of being a publican had always come and gone in waves. He summarised this as, "Change comes and then it changes back". I was intrigued by his observations as he has been in the business for what seems like a thousand years.Listening to him talk about the old days, you can almost imagine that he was serving Republicans in the front bar and the Black and Tans in the back bar.

Today, he says, the habit of just going to a pub for a drink is dwindling. His plans then include extending his menu to feature something novel in the food line. He suggested other changes, looking for feedback on the desirability and feasibility of each. But his earlier comments on things changing back, were still in my head, so I asked about those in light of his plans.

His humane and intelligent observation was that, possibly a war or an extreme weather event, will completely change public perspectives and the pub as a location or destination, will revert to how it has always been, and that included smoking too. In the meantime, he will play along with the politically correct nonsense that passes for society today.

It has been a long time since I have heard plain common sense talked so well.

Wednesday
Jan092013

New Year numbers

At the beginning of any year, the previous year’s activities appear in numbers.

The Journal.ie informs us about some of these. "Revenue officials seized a total of €49.3 million worth of drugs in 2012. Cocaine and heroin made up the vast majority of the drug seizures, accounting for €33 million worth of seizures. Just over €50 million worth of illegal tobacco was seized throughout the year, including 95.6 million cigarettes".

The ridiculous irony in those numbers is that the illegal substances were outdone by the legal substances. What is even worse from the Government's point of view is that only about ten per cent of smuggled goods are apprehended. It would suggest that the market for illegal tobacco in Ireland stands at around €500bn per annum.

I respectfully suggest that ten years ago, before the start of this unnecessary war on smokers, the illicit trade in tobacco was probably worth less than a million a year. Simply put, the so-called war included falsely driving up the price of tobacco to the point where the smugglers flourished.

That particular genie will not be easily put back in the bottle and I confidently predict that revenue from tobacco products for Michael Noonan will now begin to fall, leading to ward closures by the HSE. Meanwhile, the fat charities will announce that the fall in revenue is due to their hate-filled messages finally getting through.

Crazy, isn't it ?

Tuesday
Jan082013

Now it's the drink

An article in the Irish Independent last week suggests that there is no safe level of alcohol consumption.

Even a pint of beer is too much, they say, and in support of this they rattle off a list of cancers whose risk is increased due to contact with the booze and your good self. We are only a short step away from second hand alcohol or environmental alcohol fumes ("EAF").

The "they" behind this bad news are, of course, an array of doctors and researching white coats who are playing with numbers, not actual people. These same people thrive on their own inaccuracies and are capable of torturing any data set to suit a pre-determined outcome. We have seen this with the hysteria they created around the humble tobacco leaf.

But even as they struggle to become the white coat that sets the official level of drinking, they have a dissenting voice. In 2007 Richard Smith, one of the members of the group and a former editor of the 'British Medical Journal', said it could not say what a safe limit was because of this lack of data. "Those limits were really plucked out of the air," he said. "They were not based on any firm evidence at all."

For the trusting citizen then, you need to understand the difference between scientific research and propaganda. One is biased information designed to mis-lead you, the other is an honest attempt to present the truth to you. What this Independent article shows is that all of the so-called warnings on safe levels of drinking to date have been false because they just don't have enough information to know for sure. Nevertheless, this bullshit has already filled decent ordinary people with guilt and dread and has also made them far easier to control en-masse.
And that, folks, is what propaganda is all about. It is the power to control the stupid masses. It is the power to impose crippling austerity without a peep of opposition and critically, those in power who make those decisions, ensure they themselves are never affected. So you should be deeply suspicious of any kind of propaganda you read on any topic in 2013.

Wednesday
Jan022013

New Year's Resolutions

If you are reading this then you have got through the Christmas holiday, one way or another.

The traditional Christmas gives way to the traditional New Year resolutions and these always entail self-denial in one shape or other. We Catholics love that, don't we? As night follows day, then, smokers are under extra pressure to quit smoking at this time of the year, and I want to address that here.

Dr Fenton Howell, that old warhorse and smoker-hater, is in the news this week to announce yet another HSE sponsored campaign aimed at marginalizing us even further. Public money, which is in short supply everywhere else, is being lavished on an on-line assault on smokers’ freedom via Facebook.

While any of you out there who are actually thinking of quitting have my full support, and I sincerely wish you well in your quest, I will also continue this year to defend the rights of those of you who freely choose to smoke instead. Shortly after Christmas Day I did review things with an eye to a New Year's resolution of my own. The question I had to ask myself was what would I attempt to give up or deny myself this year?

My conclusion was rather simple and may apply to you also if you think about it. With four years now of continued austerity, I have already been forced to give up much of what I enjoy and want, as you will have also. Indeed, in response to austerity, I made a pledge to myself three years ago not to buy anything that I wanted, but rather to only use my dwindling resources on paying for what we need. So, I will not be trading my Fiesta for an Aston Martin in 2013. I paid one Euro for the Fiesta (it's a long story), it passed its NCT and critically, I need it. The Aston is desirable, but I don't need it.

I have already severely curtailed my alcohol intake week-on-week and patrol that quarter closely. As I patrol my eating habits too, that just leaves smoking then. Fenton Howell tells me that 70% of smokers want to quit, which places me squarely in the 30% category. Five years ago now I switched from packets to 'rollies', saving a fortune in cash every day by that move alone. Shortly afterwards, I switched from rolled tobacco bought in Ireland, to the same bought almost anywhere else in the EU, reducing the cost of smoking drastically. I am not even half way through the stash I brought in legally from Spain last June. So, smoking for me is a mild luxury and now it is the only real one I have left.

Therefore, my New Year's resolution is that the Government and the EU have made all of my resolutions for me already, and they have taken care of the next ten years of them too.

Simples!!

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