Raising awareness

Author: Pat Nurse
Article Published: 2009/02/09

I expected Big Tobacco executives, and coughing and spluttering delegates, but what I found at the first ever international anti-prohibition conference was a healthy majority of British working class people in despair at how Big Government, aided by Big Pharma and Big Charity, is taking control of their lives and making them thoroughly miserable.

They intended to meet in the European Parliament building in Brussels but due to an objection from a smoke-free organisation, the event was banned leaving the organisers - The International Coalition Against Prohibition - having to find an alternative venue just days before delegates were due to arrive.

This angered the host Godfrey Bloom, the UK Independence Party MEP, who said it was disgraceful that freedom of speech could be so easily infringed by a well-funded, unelected organisation which has no interest in debate.

Ironically, after the conference, a tour of the EU building ended with smokers gathering in his office. MEPs can smoke at work and there are designated places for smokers inside the building. Bizarrely, It would seem that smoking is permitted in the centre of European democracy but talking about it is not.

“That is because there is one rule for me and other MEPs and another for the rest of you,” he said. “The EU is democracy by A La Carte menu but you simply cannot pick and choose which parts you support and which parts you don’t.”

Florence Berteletti-Kemp from the Smoke Free Partnership said that if the EU allowed the conference it would go against it’s own guidelines on tobacco control. She also argued it “was against the dignity of Parliament.”

There were also scurrilous allegations that the delegates were somehow funded or supported by the tobacco industry. A claim that didn’t go down well with the ordinary working class attendees including pensioners, plumbers, shop assistants, bar workers, and factory workers who paid for the trip out of their own pockets because they are seriously disturbed at the danger the march of prohibition can do if left unchecked.

They are just as angry with Big Tobacco for turning its back on them in this time of persecution as they are furious with Big Pharma for ploughing billions into charities and the NHS in a bid to compete in supplying them with nicotine.

Just as 1920s prohibition in the US led to an increase in alcohol intake, it would seem that the new puritanical and fanatical stance on smoking in public, that led to the smoking ban, has led to a rise in the number of people taking up the habit. Big Tobacco has no interest in the plight of its consumers. Smoking bans are very good for business.

During the conference, I didn’t hear one word about promoting smoking as a habit. Indeed there was a discussion about what could be done to turn young people away from it.

Speaker Dr John Luik, joint author of Diet Nation: Exposing the Obesity Crusade, said perhaps a more persuasive message to reduce youth smoking would be : “Warning - Your parents think smoking is cool!“

No, this conference and it’s only concern was about choice, the right to control your own body and what you put into it, and why it is dangerous to give it over to the state “for your own good”.

The alleged scientific “evidence” used to justify smoking bans was put into context and the funding for the charities, that appear to inflate statistics for their own ends, including ASH, The British Heart Foundation, Cancer Research UK and the WHO, was revealed by author Christopher Snowdon. Serious questions must be asked about the impartiality of these organisations that have lost the moral argument because of the massive amount of funding they get from Big Pharma.

Certainly one UK pensioner Barry Connaughton told of his own efforts to turn the tide of hatred against smokers, which in turn is damaging business. Out of his own limited personal finances, he has funded leaflets, and walked the streets of his home town day after day in a bid to spread the message that the smoking ban is killing pubs and working men’s clubs and isolating people who don’t deserve to be shunned and excluded in this way.

University of Amsterdam Psychophysiologist Dr Jan Snel gave a presentation on how smoking bans can damage mental health, cause depression and lead to suicide.

Economist Barrie Craven, an Associate of the University of Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, and author of the “Economic Effects Of Smoking Bans in Restaurants and Pubs” told of the devastation in the hospitality industry. He said arguably smoking prohibition discriminated against the working classes with massive culls made in their traditional meeting places such as bingo halls and working men’s clubs.

He also mentioned the bizarre methods used by some bar owners to please their customers while complying with the law - such as the German pub with three holes carved into the walls for smokers (see pic here )

Prohibitionists are now moving on with an attack on those who drink alcohol and those who are offensively called clinically obese. It was the passive smoking argument that led to the smoking ban. We now hear of passive drinking and lately, from America, passive obesity.

Maryetta Ables from the US said this latest concept was gaining credence across the pond.

“They say people who have an obese friend are more likely to become obese themselves as a result.,“ she said.

I was certainly left bemused after the conference ended at how silly these public health arguments can be and how dangerous it can be for free nations if we let the prohibitionists take control of our bodies.

The smoking and non-smoking delegates from Britain who attended were mostly former Labour supporters who now feel abandoned by the party. They, along with the other 12 million British smokers, are looking at who deserves their vote at the next election.

Meanwhile, they were happily contented to find smoking allowed in most places in Brussels which treated them warmly, welcomed them inside, and gave them an opportunity to have a great time socially for the first time since July 1, 2007.

Article as published by the UK Sunday Express on February 1st, 2009

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