Although I haven’t broadcasted it on here before, around two months ago I belatedly bowed to financial pressures and switched from smoking to vaping. My opinions on the rights of, and discrimination against, smokers haven’t altered; the decision wasn’t anything to do with me meekly surrendering to the fanatical anti-tobacco lobby, an admission that they were right and I was wrong all along; the simple fact is I couldn’t afford it anymore. The rising cost of a packet of fags – £10.50 for 20, last time I looked – hasn’t been in line with the price of everything else for a long time. The fact that, depending in which supermarket you shop, you can buy three bottles of wine for the same price as 20 cigarettes will cost you speaks volumes; and the drain on my finances was too much to sustain, so I stubbed out my final fag in August.

It helped that I instantly liked vaping and, as if to emphasise this, I still have a packet of Superkings containing four remaining fags that hasn’t been touched since the day I received my first e-cigarette; after almost 30 years of smoking between 30-40 cigs a day, I suppose that’s not bad going, and I can honestly say I don’t miss it at all. If the buzz from the drag is the key hook of the smoking process, I can get just the same nicotine hit from vaping and replicate the former gesture at a fraction of the cost. The vapours don’t linger in the room, they don’t discolour the fixtures and fittings, they don’t coat my clothes in a permanent odour, and they don’t dissuade non-smoking visitors anymore.

Immunity to the smell of cigarettes was a consequence of smoking them; only since I stopped have I become aware of it. It’s still entombed in my wardrobe because there are a lot of items on the coat-hangers there that haven’t been washed or worn since I ceased; but it’s amazing how strong the smell is on others now. When out and about, I can detect a cig from quite a distance, long before I see someone smoking it; and it’s remarkable how everyone I see with a fag hanging out of their mouth seems to be the most slovenly, scruffy slob imaginable; the archaic images of Marlene Dietrich or Lauren Bacall using cigarettes as a crucial element of their effortlessly cool personas aren’t being matched by the smokers I’m seeing. By contrast, the e-cigarette is a rather sexy, stylish object and, frankly, superior in all respects.

Not that the proven health (and financial) benefits of vaping deter the tobacco prohibitionists, who see it not as an escape route from smoking but as a gateway to the practice, the fools; the same limitations on ordinary cigarettes have been unfairly superimposed onto the e-cigarette, and I’m wondering when I’ll encounter opposition to it from the medical profession. I say this because the first time I remember being singled out by a GP for smoking was in the early 90s. I can’t remember the reason for being at the surgery, but I recall the doctor asking me if I smoked; when he received a reply in the affirmative, he placed a little sticker on the front of my file, which he presumably did for all smokers. Perhaps afterwards my file was slotted in a drawer along with the rest of his smoking patients, segregated from the non-smokers and downgraded in the case of an emergency when a choice might have to be made between the two groups.

Back then, it felt like a bit of an intrusion into my privacy, though smoking as heavily as I did was obviously a health risk, and I can understand to an extent that it would probably be in a GP’s remit to hint at what I already knew – i.e. smoking wasn’t good for me. What if it went further than that, though, into private areas that (unless the visit to the surgery was related to one’s ‘rude bits’) have no relation to one’s health in the same way? New NHS guidelines apparently imminent mean that health professionals will now be obliged to ask patients over-16 what their sexual orientation happens to be. It’s both a further extension of the nanny state’s nosy neighbour tendencies and the latest chapter in the ongoing ‘diversity’ agenda that has swept through every public body of late to seemingly appease a very small section of society with a very loud voice.

Doctors and nurses will now be recommended to inquire as to a patient’s sexual orientation at ‘every face-to-face contact with the patient, where no record of this data already exists’; what is horribly referred to as ‘sexual monitoring’ will be mandatory in England and Wales by 2019. Patients will be asked ‘Which of the following options best describes how you think of yourself – straight/gay or lesbian/bisexual/other sexual orientation’; presumably, the ‘other’ is paedophile or zoophile? Might I suggest an additional response on the part of the patient – ‘Mind your own f**king business’.

Thankfully, Dr Peter Swinyard, Chairman of the Family Doctor Association, was not impressed; in his opinion, the new guidelines were ‘potentially intrusive and offensive’, adding ‘Given the precious short amount of time a GP has with a patient, sexuality is not relevant’, rightly pointing out that sexual choice affected ‘relatively few medical conditions’. On the other hand, Paul Martin, chief executive of Manchester’s LGBT Foundation, says he is ‘so proud’ of the intrusion into patient’s private lives. His organisation has pushed for ‘sexual monitoring’, as it views the change as some kind of step forward to address perceived medical inequalities for those happy to be defined by the LGBT pigeonhole. Those patients who don’t want to disclose their sexual preferences – and why indeed should they? – will be placed in the ‘not stated’ category.

This compliance with the Equality Act 2010 by the medical profession is allegedly intended to ensure no patient is discriminated against; but if someone’s sexuality isn’t advertised on their file, no rush to judgement based upon it by a doctor who might hold prejudicial views can then be made – and doesn’t that make all patients equal? A doctor’s role is to treat whatever is wrong with the patient; a doctor doesn’t need further unnecessary data that bears no relation to the patient’s presence in their surgery – unless the patient smokes or vapes, of course; and then they deserve all the stickers their files can handle.

© The Editor


I’m not too great with dates once we dispensed with the ‘nineteen’ prefix, but I can at least be confident that I attended my grandma’s funeral ten years ago this week, as the after-service pub gathering took place in her neighbourhood boozer just a couple of days following the introduction of the smoking ban, introduced on 1 July 2007. Never a regular frequenter of taverns, this was my first visit to one since the powers-that-be decreed not even ‘smoking rooms’ were permissible in the hostelries of Britain anymore. Had my grandmother been buried a week earlier, I wouldn’t have spent half my time during the post-funeral bash constantly stepping outdoors.

Mind you, as was to become a recurring pattern over the coming decade, allegiances amongst the new social outcasts were forged as I ended up getting into fascinating conversations with distant relatives I’d never met before, conversations I probably wouldn’t have had if I’d stayed indoors with more immediate and familiar family members. At the same time, had the pub in question been able to divide its bars into smoking and non-smoking ones (as had been commonplace prior to the ban), no doubt the same conversations would have been entered into. The pub is now closed, by the way, having gone the way of many in the last ten years.

A friend of mine had returned from a trip to the States in the early 2000s and had told me of attending a jazz club in New York after the Big Apple’s own indoor smoking ban had been brought in, which had come into effect as of 2003. For him, the anticlimax of being in that kind of environment with such a crucial element to the ambience absent seemed an extreme extension of American Political Correctness; little did he know the same would apply in his home country just four years later. At the time, it was unimaginable that a traditional freedom for all over-16 was poised to be curtailed thanks to the relentless pressure of the powerful anti-smoking lobby.

Smoking bans may seem a relatively recent encroachment upon individual civil liberties, though if we overlook James I’s anti-tobacco rant of 1604, we have Nazi Germany to thank for the first attempt in modern history to impose the kind of restrictions on tobacco usage we’d find familiar today. Another plus point to add to Hitler’s blotted copybook along with the autobahns, no doubt. Post-war, many of the countries that sourced this neglected aspect of the Nazi master-plan did so gradually and in line with a growing awareness of the link between cigarettes and cancer. Initially, however, restrictions on public spaces arose in areas in which there was a proven fire risk, though the discouragement of smoking became more widespread through bans on television cigarette advertising. The last ad for cigs was screened on UK TV as far back as 1965, though such a ban was made a mockery of for decades with the continued sponsorship of sporting contests by tobacco companies.

Despite several American states passing laws that segregated smokers and non-smokers in places such as bars and restaurants in the 1970s and 80s, the increasing clout of the anti-tobacco lobby and the spreading cult of health and fitness enabled said lobby to press for more extreme measures. Surprisingly, however, Peru was the first country to impose an outright ban on smoking in all enclosed public places, setting a potent precedent in 1993. Bit by bit, as the 20th century approached its end, greater restrictions on smokers were gathering pace that would snowball come the Millennium.

In 2003, both India and New Zealand outlawed smoking in schools and workplaces, whereas, a little closer to home, Ireland followed suit in 2004; that same year, Bhutan achieved the undeniable ambition of the anti-smoking lobby by banning tobacco altogether, effectively placing it in the same category as all narcotics. As more countries have appeased those who had long complained of ‘passive smoking’ in public areas, however, even that is clearly insufficient legislation for the most fanatical anti-smokers, who probably won’t be content until the blueprint of Bhutan is adopted worldwide.

Even as a committed smoker, I fully understand the objections of those who demanded and have subsequently approved of indoor smoking bans; but the problem seems to be that no restrictions are ever enough for those with the power to impose them. The ridiculous need to persistently punish smokers, as reflected in the most recent ‘innovation’ of hiding cigarettes behind cupboard doors in newsagents and supermarkets (let alone the removal of branding from packets), are characteristic of a conscious programme to marginalise a section of society whose rights are diminishing with each new law. It is ironic that in a day and age in which every minority – whether that minority status arises from race, faith or sexually – is catered for and pandered to, the smoker is fair game for a legislative kicking, the whipping boy of the nanny state.

The way in which a proven healthy alternative such as vaping has been banned from public places in record time proves health concerns are (pardon the inevitable pun) a convenient smokescreen for the anti-smoking lobby, whose prohibitionist agenda has been exposed as a consequence. In 1859, John Stuart-Mill wrote ‘The only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilised community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others’. Vaping doesn’t harm those who don’t vape; the vapours evaporate in a matter of seconds and don’t linger either as an odour or a health hazard; so why is it bracketed along with actual tobacco as a social evil? I appreciate smoking is, and always will be, a divisive issue; but ten years after a long-held objective of non-smokers was achieved, enough is enough.

© The Editor


Yes, we’ve taken back control from Brussels and their consistent efforts to curb and censor our personal liberties in the most nitpicking petty little fashion! Those dirty, filthy vapers will be aware of how the EU has already interfered in their harmless habit by banning various products associated with it despite there being no concrete medical evidence of any damage to the users’ health. But why worry about the bloody Brussels Jobsworths when we’re more than capable of producing our own? When it comes to the fanatical anti-smoking lobby, we’ve never needed the EU to play the perennial party-poopers. Plans to ban smoking in prisons were announced last week and now we are told proposals are afoot to impose similar punishments upon council tenants.

New tenants of local authority or housing association homes could be forced to sign smoke-free agreements forbidding them to light-up on the property. The reason given is an old chestnut that has little relevance for many residing in council houses – it’s for the children. As with the infuriating lids on bottles of tablets seemingly designed to avoid being opened by anyone (regardless of age), taking children into account fails to acknowledge not every household has one. But, of course, we cannot question the motivations where kids are concerned; we all have to fall into line and put the precious cherubs before ourselves, even if we’d rather have rabies than babies.

The proposals regarding HM Prisons and council homes are merely the latest example of how the anti-smoking prohibitionists won’t be content until the freedom to choose one’s legal vice has been completely removed. Haringey Council last week put forward the notion of banning smoking from pub beer gardens and restaurant terraces, extending the interior ban to the point whereby smokers won’t be allowed within a hundred yards of the premises in question. Considering the endless column inches devoted to celebrating liberation from the worst kind of intervention in people’s private lives attributed to Brussels bureaucracy, it’s notable that smokers don’t count where this brave new Britain independent of the EU is concerned. We are effectively one notch above Paedos and bankers on the bedpost of shame.

Simon Clark, director of the pro-smoking group Forest (an organisation which has yet to be bracketed in the same undesirable category as the Paedophile Information Exchange, but give it time) said the proposed council tenant smoking ban ‘would penalise unfairly those who can’t afford to buy their own homes’, and that lucky homeowners will be excluded from these punitive proposals does evoke memories of Iain Duncan Smith’s idea that anyone claiming benefits should pay for their fags and booze via a card with a limited amount of money on it. It obviously hasn’t occurred to those who have never been detained at Her Majesty’s Pleasure or have been rooted at the bottom of society’s heap that being in such a trough might require a little liquid or chemical stimulation to simply get through the soul-destroying grind of the day. But if one’s concept of fags and booze is restricted to a bottle of Beaujolais nouveau with the evening meal and a cigar after it, empathy is hardly to be expected.

The fact that smokers being cast outdoors places them in the same permanently polluted environment as any non-smoking pedestrian, inhaling petrol exhaust carcinogens that can pump out more damage in just an hour than a smoker can inhale in a lifetime, means nothing when the rigid tunnel-vision of the anti-smoking lobby takes hold of public opinion. New Labour may have many crimes to answer for, but I’ll never forgive them and Blair’s blinkered crusading Public Health Minister Caroline Flint for forcing through the smoking ban – a ban which miraculously didn’t extend to the bars in the House of Commons, funnily enough. The previous sensible (and fair) approach of having smoking and non-smoking bars in pubs, therefore catering for the tastes of both parties, evidently didn’t fit the narrative of the smoker being the lowest of the low.

Since that ban came into being exactly ten years ago, the closure of public houses has accelerated at an alarming rate as smoking drinkers prefer to stay at home to indulge instead of being forced to shiver outside (this country’s climate wasn’t considered, of course), yet this clearly wasn’t enough for the anti-smoking brigade; they now feel the need to besiege the castle of the Englishman as well. Thanks to them, public places also now include bus shelters and station platforms, while drivers in the privacy of their own cars can no longer smoke should anyone under-18 be present in the vehicle (though can said under-18 smoke if he or she fancies a fag?). Censoring smoking in public places has given them the confidence to push a little further, to encroach deeper into the rights of the individual to live his or her life within the boundaries of the law – and lest we forget, purchasing and smoking cigarettes is still legal, even when they’re hidden behind closed doors and their packaging is now so uniform that the wrong brand is often sold to the customer.

When vaping was unveiled as a healthy alternative to the cigarette, they couldn’t even tolerate that and have successfully campaigned to also ban the e-cig from bars, shops and restaurants. Will Self has a theory that the most self-righteous puritanical zealots promoting anti-smoking are able to derive a smug sense of superiority when looking down at a small crowd of smokers huddled outside pubs and signing their own death warrants in the process, but when confronted by a vaper producing an e-cig indoors it’s such an affront to that superiority that the vaper may as well (in his own words) be ‘having a little wank in public’.

In his own way, Self may have hit the nail on the head – or in the coffin. The humourless narcissists who worship at the altar of their body temples – who don’t drink or smoke, who jog religiously, who spend all their leisure time in gyms, who monitor everything they eat and drink with obsessive fastidiousness, who control their lives with a strict regime that would be regarded as a bit extreme even by North Korean standards – cannot compute that some folk receive highs that can be achieved with such miniscule effort that it rubbishes their own back-breaking drive for perfection and proves that the shortness of life can at least be punctuated by simple pleasures that make it tolerable and render fitness fascism irrelevant.

How do they deal with this crushing realisation? They embark on a crusade to deny others the pleasures they themselves are incapable of enjoying by imposing their regime on everyone – and when they have a powerful lobby behind them, the age when grown-ups were treated as grown-ups (visible in any archive TV drama produced in the last century) evaporates quicker than the vapours from an e-cig. Whether or not one smokes, the persistent chipping away of the already limited rights of those that do should be of concern if personal liberties count for anything in a so-called free society.

© The Editor


SmokerBy now, we’re all familiar with the canny political tactic of burying bad news while headlines are claimed by more upbeat events; but on a day when anti-Semitism in the Labour Party has led to two high-profile suspensions, some good news has been relegated to the footnote of bulletins. The news? Well, the Royal College of Physicians has declared e-cigarettes a positive aid in stopping smoking the real thing. Despite the familiar bullying and propaganda of the anti-tobacco lobby, the men whose day-job it is to study the health of the nation have found the spurious claims made by those who want to outlaw anything that remotely resembles a fag are bollocks. Most of us resistant to the finger-wagging war on personal freedoms already knew so, but it’s nice that the professionals have issued official confirmation.

In the space of barely two or three years the increasing popularity of e-cigs as a halfway house between tobacco and a nicotine-free constitution has gone from being universally lauded to utterly demonised. The cafes that sprang up to cater for the vanishing vapours in the absence of any indoor venue where lighting-up is permitted were initially viewed as a grown-up approach to a perennial problem. The negatives non-smokers associated with the Real McCoy – passive inhaling, the lingering odour of the smoke itself, the varnished teeth and fingernails of smokers – were rendered obsolete by this new method of overcoming the craving for baccy, and the health risks were virtually zilch.

However, the sight of people rejecting the accepted guidebook for giving up smoking in favour of an inventive alternative was evidently too reminiscent of the old discredited liberty for some. That public spaces which had been forced into sending naughty children outside for a cig were now colonised by new clouds of lookalike smoke – even if these particular clouds disappeared in seconds rather than clinging to every surface within a twelve-foot radius of the smoker – was obviously too close to the civilised days when adults were allowed to express their individual choices free from the admonishments of those in disagreement with them. Something had to be done!

Perhaps stung by their disastrous record of running the NHS, the Welsh Assembly struck first by proposing e-cigs be banned in public places on health grounds. There then followed a fresh assault on personal freedoms by a series of scaremongering stories claiming e-cigarettes were serving to ‘normalise’ the image of adults smoking in the eyes of those innocent angels born and bred in cotton wool, AKA children. Calls were made to ban the sale of e-cigs to under-18s, that pure, untainted demographic that has never tried the real thing, let alone the pretend version, nor had their precious, saintly bodies polluted by booze or weed, of course. The Kids were being encouraged to take up smoking by the sight of a harmless silver object in the mouths of their role models, and this could not be allowed to continue. The celebrated benefits of e-cigs in aiding over-18s to consign the genuine article to the permanent ashtray didn’t matter if it meant our babies could be led down the path to oblivion by their very existence. Perish the thought that the fat little potentates might look up from their Smart-phones or tablets and see their parents sucking on substitutes for cigarettes! Just imagine the horrific consequences.

According to the Royal College of Physicians, the great majority of the 2.6 million users of e-cigarettes in the UK are grown-ups employing the e-cig as a useful crutch while they work nicotine out of their system. The fallacy propagated by the anti-smoking lobby that e-cigs act as a child’s gateway to the wicked world of real cigs is rubbished by the facts; this is no more a widespread likelihood than the equally silly theory that the occasional spliff will inevitably result in the toker becoming a shivering smack-head within months of his or her first sustained drag. Apparently, the few teens that have tried e-cigs have simultaneously given the good old-fashioned fag a go and tend to prefer the former, suggesting the e-cigarette is an exit from the nightmare realm of the tobacco addict as painted by the health nannies instead of an entrance.

The experts have spoken, though this won’t make much difference to fanatical fascists as they will no doubt continue their campaign to hound any form of smoking to the fringes of society, even if it’s a form of smoking that is helping more smokers to quit than any other failed campaign of the past. Proper smokers making a legal purchase already have to request the opening of a cupboard hiding their poison from view while the little cherubs at their feet can focus their nascent gaze on sensational sexual headlines screaming from the covers of trashy magazines within their reach; yet even the ones that seek to quell the craving by switching to a pollutant-free aid to eventual abstinence are being browbeaten and blacklisted by illogical puritans who are supposed to have their healthy interests at heart. It stinks – and far more than an overflowing ashtray.

© The Editor