Posts tagged ‘smoking’

e-cigarettes and c2c rail

Following on from Dick’s post on Wednesday evening I thought I’d contact the train operating company I have the pleasure of using and ask for their official policy on e-cigarette use by customers using their facilities.

I’d previously seen a not very encouraging twitter reply to a fellow passenger…

…but I thought I’d confirm this, just in case the twitter account called it wrong…

Dear Misanthrope Girl,

Thank you for taking the time to contact c2c.

Because of their similarity in appearance to cigarettes and the vapour they produce, their use could cause confusion for staff and could potentially cause tension with other customers. Like many other operators, we don’t allow E-Cigarettes to be used in areas where smoking is banned, this includes platforms and on board trains. Our posters will be updated in due course to provide advice to our customers.

I hope this information assists you, if there is anything further that we can help with then please let me know.

Yours sincerely,

Jon Bradley
Customer Services Executive
c2c Rail

…but it seems that they didn’t.

I’m still debating whether or not to reply to Mr. Bradley pointing out that not all e-cigarettes look like cigarettes and that the vapour he is so concerned about is nothing but water. Somehow I think I’d be wasting my time though.

By the way, does anyone know why smoking is (apparently by law) banned on platforms? I can understand it on those that fit the description of what constitutes an enclosed public space but since so many platforms are exposed to the elements, I’m unsure as to why it is banned on those.

Crawling out of the woodwork

Australia’s crusade to make their country more attractive to smugglers whilst trying to stop people using the product of the tobacco plant continues with the news that, as of now, people entering the country will only be allowed to bring in two packs of smokes under duty-free rules. Bring in anything more and you have a choice (ha!) between having your cigarettes stolen or your wallet looted.

Moving (physically although not spiritually) away from the convicts, it appears that the recent antics of the tobacco control fools in Tasmania has led to their real goal becoming more and more transparent – not that it was well disguised to the more realistic members of the proletariat.

Whilst it is perhaps no surprise that the government of Singapore* is considering a similar legislation to Tasmania, it seems that the Finns are also thinking about it as well. To someone who hasn’t kept as close eye as some on the tobacco control lobby this was more surprising but some googling reveals that Finland is something of an early adopter when it comes to controlling tobacco.

Lest however you think that this mania is just something Johnny Foreigner is getting himself worked up about, news emerges of something closer to home:

GUERNSEY is set to demonstrate ‘similarly bold measures’ to a potential ban on cigarette sales to anyone born after the year 2000, the Guernsey Adolescent Smokefree Project chairman has said.

GASP (how original!) is, I’m sure you’ll be shocked to hear, at least partly funded by the Guernsey taxpayer

This silliness though isn’t just confined to a group of islands too close to France for their own good.

Senior doctors and anti-smoking campaigners have told Sky News they are working towards making the UK a no smoking nation within the next 20 years.

Leading specialist Professor John Britton has called on the Government to back the goal, describing it as entirely realistic.

“Andrew Lansley could make himself a legacy greater than that of almost any other Health Secretary in history,” Professor Britton, who chairs the Royal College of Physicians Tobacco Advisory Group, said.

Yes folks, things have come so far in recent times that the ultimate goal of the tobacco control lobby is now openly admitted to after so many years of pretending otherwise whilst they incrementally shifted the goal posts just that little bit closer to their destination with the passing of each piece of dictatorial legislation.

I would say that alcohol will be next but that campaign, along with the one against the wrong types of food, has been underway for a while.

Forget the various bastardisations of the Pastor Niemoller quote, they have (unless you are a non-smoking, teetotaller who has never eaten anything unhealthy in your life) already come for you. Do you fight as they drag you off for re-education or do you meekly surrender and become the drone that they want you to be?

* Pretty much a dictatorship in all but name.

The enemy has another face

Cllr John Butcher, Conservative, Surrey County Councillor

Meet Councillor John Butcher, a Conservative member of Surrey County Council and the latest little Hitler to emerge from the cesspit which the health fascists inhabit.

Cllr Butcher believes that if you live in Surrey and you fall ill with something which could be related to smoking, drinking, drug use or excessive weight you should be treated as a second class citizen by the NHS – pushed to the back of the queue in favour of the ‘more virtuous’.

Such a policy would, he believes, encourage people who fall into the ‘unworthy’ camp out of the county, reducing the burden on Surrey NHS.

If the NHS in Surrey were to be run on the basis that patients with self-inflicted morbidity (mainly – smoking, alcohol, narcotics, obesity) and injury (dangerous activities) are, following due warning, placed in a much slower-moving queue for healthcare than ‘other’ patients, this would encourage the self-inflicted to move away from Surrey, to areas where there is no differentiation between patients on the grounds of their contribution towards their condition.

“And it would deter the self-inflicted from coming to live in Surrey. Over time, that would result in the healthcare for the ‘other’ patients in Surrey being significantly better than the average national level for all patients, as the resources deployed to the self-inflicted would be very much reduced.

“Eventually the self-inflicted patients would end up living in ‘equality’ areas that are dominated by politicians who pander to their needs, thus driving more ‘other’ patients out of those areas, as healthcare there will be badly affected by the over-dominance of the self-inflicted.

“Eventually the country will be sharply divided into two types of area: the ‘equality’ ones, where the self-inflicted unhealthy are treated the same as all patients, and the ‘others’, such as, hopefully, Surrey.

“Average life expectancy will be substantially lower (by, say, 20 years) in the ‘equality’ areas.”

A few thoughts immediately spring to mind:

  1. As a general rule, the older people are, the more use they tend to make of the NHS as their bodies break down. The biggest of these costs will be cancers and dementia/Alzheimer’s.
  2. By dying at younger age, heavy smokers, drinkers, drug users and the terminally obese usually end up being net contributors to the system via taxes paid.
  3. Those who can afford private healthcare – or who have it via their employer – will use this to bypass the NHS bureaucracy and thus avoid the slow-queue. Get enough people doing this and private healthcare in Surrey will become a growth market.

With this in mind, I’m not sure Cllr Butcher will get quite the result he was looking for when he started his spleen vent.

But wait, there is more. Given the opportunity to defend his lunacy, he makes the most of it and plants his other foot right in next to the first one.

Firstly, he doesn’t think his proposals should apply to the addicted:

I need to make it clear that, under my proposals, a condition would not be regarded as ‘self-inflicted’ if the patient is unable to prevent the condition, as is the case with an addict, even if he or she was able to have done that before addiction set in.

Which rather leaves those of us who enjoy our vices in moderate-to-heavy doses but don’t need them as a crutch squarely in the firing line…

Still, he isn’t finished yet:

3 Alcohol and narcotics abuse also need to be tackled with other policies, that are aimed at prevention and discouragement. There is, generally in society, an amazing level of toleration of such abuse, especially by persons in positions of public responsibility and influence. If sports can ban performance-enhancing drug use, then entertainment etc. should ban narcotics and alcohol abuse. By setting a firm example from the top, the message will soon get around that such abuse is unacceptable – with enormous benefits to society.

3.1 Everyone in, or aspiring to, a position of public responsibility and everyone in a position to influence the public, including entertainers etc, should be asked to sign a voluntary pledge not to take illegal narcotics or consume excessive alcohol, or drive when so affected.

3.2 Anyone who fails to sign that pledge, or who signs it and breaches it, should be excluded from positions of public responsibility and influence. All public organisations, included regulated broadcasters etc, should agree to impose this exclusion.

3.3 There would be a Trust to manage this pledge and to determine breaches, with a right of appeal. The costs of running it would be funded by fees from signatories, donations from philanthropists and a grant from the government – the grant being greatly exceeded by the savings in cost to the Exchequer, due to the substantial reduction in such abuse that will follow.

*boggles*

Sports ban performance-enhancing drugs because they create an unequal playing field, elevating one person above another not because of skill or stamina but because of chemical engineering. I’m not sure how you can think that narcotics and alcohol* consumption would be in any way performance-enhancing in fields which are not directly competitive.

He calls his proposal of a pledge to not overdo it a voluntary one, yet in the very next paragraph says that anyone who doesn’t sign it or who breaches it should be penalised by being banned from ‘positions of public responsibility and influence’. Obviously some policing this ‘voluntary’ pledge will be necessary so he proposes that this can be done by the formation of an organisation funded by theft, aka compulsory subscriptions, taxpayer money and ‘charitable’ donations. He doesn’t mention who the big white chief of this new quango should be but I’m willing I’d bet he’d have his eye on it should such a monstrosity ever come to pass.

In conclusion I can only assume that John Butcher is a brainwashed, non-smoking teetotaller who has never had a day of fun in his whole life which is why he appears to take so much pleasure in being a tediously boring and self-righteous control freak who, quite frankly, should just piss off and leave us all alone.

* Though there are no doubt a number of sportsmen and women out there who will claim that they play better after a drink or three. :)

Welcome to Nanny Town

Don’t let the theft of intellectual property by our sorry excuse for a government go unresisted.

That budget then

So, George Osborne has delivered this year’s budget – or, more accurately, confirmed the press leaks of the last few days. Quite frankly one wonders why he bothered standing up.

I think it is safe to skip rapidly over the growth forecasts provided by the OBR as the record of their gypsy fortune-tellers predictions is poor to say the least.

Equally, the less said about his wish for a balanced economy the better. Wishing for it is fine but I’d be happy if the government kept its paws out of the matter* as much as possible and left it up to the free market to sort out.

Borrowing

As he stated back in the Autumn, the government will continue to live beyond what it steals from the taxpayer past the end of this parliament (assuming it goes the distance). Indeed it doesn’t forecast a ‘balanced’ budget before 2017/18. In the mean time the National Debt is forecast to increase by £126bn (2012/13), £120bn, £98bn, £75bn, £52bn and £21bn (2016/17). That is a whopping £492bn – and all of which may, one day, have to be paid back.

I say one day because as we know the traditional way for government to deal with debt is to inflate it away and in 100 years time it is more than likely that that £492bn will be a lot closer to chump change than it is now. Gideon’s wheeze for delaying the inevitable for as long as possible is 100-year or perhaps even perpetual (i.e. non-repayable) gilts.**

Public Sector

Sadly there was no announcement of an immediate end of national pay bargaining. The Chancellor did though appear to thank the opposition for suggesting the end of national benefit rates – perhaps the only useful idea to emerge from Labour in a while. It would also make sense to make the NMW regionalised (assuming it is politically impossible at present to scrap it entirely).

Taxes

Let’s face it, the only thing anyone really cares about is how much the government is planning on stealing from them in direct taxation each year. The stupidity of it is how pathetically grateful we all get when we learn that it might not be as much as last year… without realising that they generally claw it back through indirect taxation instead.

The apparent good news for anyone earning less than £100k is that the government has decided it won’t start its thieving in the forthcoming tax year until you’ve earnt £8,105 – and next year is pushing that level up £9,205.

Obviously this is a good thing for anyone earning minimum wage sort of levels. Personally I think it would be better if no-one doing a 40hr week at NMW (which currently works out to £12,646.40) paid any tax but things seem to be moving in the right direction. The test will be what happens once the £10k level, as agreed at the start of the collation, is reached.

The likely option is that government of the day will starting treating it just like they do the the other tax thresholds and allow it to increase slower than wages, thus once again catching more people in the net.

What the Chancellor didn’t mention whilst he was crowing about the changes to the 0% band was that the £630 increase there is mirrored by pulling the 40% threshold down by £630, shrinking the 20% band by £1,260. This ensures that – for those under 65 – that the the 40% band still starts at anything over £42,475. This is the same tactic that the one-eyed Scottish idiot employed on a few occasions.

Together with the lack of change of the levels at which the tax free allowance is withdrawn and the highest rate of Income Tax is levied, the government is once again ensuring that, as wages rise, more people are dragged into the higher tax brackets.

Unlikely those of us who are earning to try to keep ourselves in drinking money, those who have reached pensionable age will find their 0% band frozen from 2013. If I am to guess, this is in order to equalise them with the rates for the under 65s in preparation for the merger of Income Tax and National Insurance – something which will also hit pensioners as they do not currently pay NI.

The positive sides of merging IT and NI should be
a) simplification of the tax code, and
b) give the population a better idea of what the basic rate of tax (excluding Employer’s NI) is.

With any luck, being told that the basic rate is actually over 30% (rather than the 20% they believe) may result in the sheeple demanding that it comes down…

For those on very high incomes, the semi-good news is that the highest rate of income tax is coming down. Not yet scrapped altogether (hopefully in a future budget) but being halved. Given the flagrant avoidance that took place before the 50% rate come into effect – and which will be duplicated now as people who can hold off until 2013 – this can only be a good thing. Will 45p in the pound (and the potential direction of travel) tempt those who haven’t yet upped sticks to stay though?

Excellent news for companies employees, shareholders and customers is that corporate tax is coming down even further with the aim of getting it to 22% from 2014. Not quite Ireland but better than France and Germany which may encourage those financial institutions who were thinking of leaving before a Tobin tax in introduced in those places. The increase in the bank levy may however put them off.

The so-called sin taxes generally slipped by without change to already announced increases except for the price a tobacco***. I imagine that the only people who were cheering this rise of inflation plus 5% (plus consultation on making tobacco-free cigarettes liable to excise duty) were the smugglers. As a non-smoker I would be open to the idea of bringing back duty-free smokes for people when re-entering the country…

Regulation

As trailed, Sunday trading laws are to be relaxed during the Olympics. Hopefully they will then be scrapped altogether as an anachronism.

Planning – perhaps the major reason for the cost of housing being so high – is being simplified. Supposedly the guidance is being cut to just 5% of its previous size although there is no word of whether part of this has been achieved by the use of single instead of double line spacing and a reduced font size.

We are also getting more ‘enterprise zones’. Why not just make the entire country one?

And Michael ‘Tarzan’ Heseltine is back. Has anyone checked him for knives?

Infrastructure

It would seem that the Government has finally realised that we do need more (or bigger) airports. Will Heathrow be getting that third runway after all? We might find out come the summer.

Annoyingly (but not surprisingly) the Government will continue to waste money on ‘green’ energy but in better news looks to be reversing the hit it gave the North Sea oil and gas industry last year.

Conclusion

One thing that this is not is a Libertarian budget. Government spending is still going up and Peter, let alone Paul, is being robbed to pay Peter.

To the laywoman (i.e. me) it appears to be yet another budget that just tinkers with things whilst fleecing the public for more money – a speciality which Gordon Brown perfected. There is however some future potential in it if some things (the IT and NI merger, national pay bargaining) do happen. To mis-quote that school report line no-one ever wanted to see: “could do a damn sight better”.

* Yeah, I know. Government leaving alone is wishful thinking, huh? Let’s just be thankful he isn’t attempting to plan the economy.

** It is ideas like this which make me glad that I’m never going to have children.

*** Ok, gambling as well as tax will be imposed at point of consumption in an effort to stop online gambling moving offshore.

Smoking ban petition

We petition the Government to review the impact of the smoking ban on pubs and clubs and consider an amendment that would give licensees the option of separate well-ventilated smoking rooms.

So reads the Review the Smoking Ban petition on the government’s e-petitions website.

I am no fan of the smoking ban, considering it to be a very bad piece of legislation designed solely to appease the anti-smoking lobby and grossly un-libertarian. I would therefore like to see the thing overturned but accept that to go from where we are now to where we were 5 years ago is sadly not going to happen given the puritanical bent that seems to run through the political and lobbying classes we currently have.

Given that, what this petition is calling for is probably a good first step, asking, as it does, for them to evaluate the fallout of their actions. Ok, we all know that governments like to look at the evidence and then do what they were going to do anyway but if it is out there, says what many suspect it does about the effect of the ban on the pub trade and has the government stamp on it then it’ll (hopefully) be harder for the anti’s to dismiss it.

On that basis I have signed it and I urge anyone who supports civil liberties, regardless of whether or not you smoke, to do likewise.

On Manoeuvres in Stony Stratford

As many will no doubt be aware Paul Bartlett, a somewhat puritanical councillor in Stony Stratford, has come up with a quite ridiculous wheeze, viz a proposal to ban smoking in public within the town.

This idea will be debated at a council meeting on Wednesday 19th July.

Ahead of that meeting Dick Puddlecote is organising a protest in the town on Saturday 16th July, the details of which can be found on Facebook and on his blog.

This non-smoker is planning on being there – public transport permitting.

Hope to see you there.