17,410,742 UK Smokers

Well, that’s enough excitement for one week. In fact, enough excitement for an entire year.

But has it got us anywhere nearer repealing smoking bans?

I think it has, in an important way. The wave of European smoking bans over the past decade were almost all instigated via the UN, the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), and the EU. In this last respect, H/T Rose for The Help Programme 2005-2007 moving towards a smoke-free Europe which told us that:

The European Union has made the fight against smoking one of its top public health priorities…

On the 1st March 2005, the European Commission launched a large media campaign, aimed at tobacco prevention and cessation, in the, then, 25 European Union Member States. Today, in all the 27 EU countries, the European Commission’s campaign “HELP – For a life without tobacco” is one of the largest public health awareness-raising initiatives ever organised in the world. The general motto of the campaign is providing “Help and support”. The “Help” campaign aims to offer help not to take up tobacco, help to resist peer pressure, or help to address passive smoking.

In fact, in November 2004 the UK had signed the FCTC, and Sir Charles George of the BMA and BHF had called for a public smoking ban. All over Europe, civil servants had begun working on smoking ban legislation.

(Rose has today turned up a far earlier EU Council resolution – in July 1989 – to ban smoking in enclosed premises open to the public.)

But all of this was essentially an exercise in top-down control of the peoples of Europe by the EU and UN and WHO. There was nothing democratic about it. It was something imposed on them from above by legislators, doctors, scientists, and assorted experts, who knew better than them what was good for them. They themselves were not consulted.

Ten years on, and multiple smoking bans later, there’s a growing bottom-up reaction to this by all the peoples of Europe. The referendum vote for Brexit last week was an example of bottom up reaction to top down control.

The entire EU elite project is now coming under increasing threat from the citizens of Europe, who are turning in ever-increasing numbers against their arrogant overlords in Brussels. And if the imposition of smoking bans is an example of top down control, the repeal of smoking bans will be a consequence of countervailing power being exerted from the bottom up. And should it occur, the collapse and disintegration of the EU will be accompanied by a wave of repeals of smoking bans across Europe. Because, apart from a few zealots in the medical profession, nobody really wanted them anyway. And there will no longer be any supra-national authority to impose them. And smoking more than anything else will symbolise freedom.

So if Britain really does succeed in breaking away from the EU, and revoking its signature on the FCTC, there’s a very good chance that a sovereign UK parliament will repeal the 2007 smoking ban. Or certainly a much better chance than if it stays inside the EU.

I thought last week that every single one of Britain’s smokers should take the opportunity of the referendum to vote for Brexit, for the reasons set out above. Britain’s smokers are found predominantly in the north of England, and there are not many in London or any of the big cities where smoking is illegal more or less everywhere. It’s generally supposed that there are currently about 10 million of them. A few years ago the figure was 13 million of them. But in the light of the referendum last week, I have arrived at a new figure – which includes all the secret smokers, and the occasional social smokers who don’t think of themselves as smokers, and people who don’t know that they’re smokers†, and also mad people like Joan Bakewell.

My new estimate is that there are actually 17,410,742 smokers in the UK.

For this is the number of people who voted to leave the EU last week.

  I came across one of these when collecting data for the ISIS survey. She was sitting at a table outside a pub with a lit cigarette in her hand. When I asked her if she would like to complete a short survey of smokers, she immediately declared very forcefully, “I don’t smoke!” I said nothing, but fixed my eyes on the cigarette between her fingers. And eventually her eyes were drawn to it too, and she beheld it with a look of horror and amazement. Clearly she had simply never known that she was a smoker until I drew her attention to the fact.

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Chaos For Months

I’m beginning to wonder whether David Cameron is really a closet Brexiter. First of all he goes to Brussels and very publicly fails to get a “new deal” for Britain. Then he conducts a campaign of fear and threats that was more or less guaranteed to get a lot of people’s backs up.

And then, as soon as Brexit has won, he firstly immediately accepts the result, and announces his resignation not now, but in 4 or 5 months time. And what that means, it seems to me, is that he has bought the Conservative party 4 or 5 months to not only elect a new leader, but also start to begin to figure out how to actually best get out of the EU – because nobody really knows how to do it.

So that means that nothing is going to happen for months. And I think that’s a good thing. There’s no need to rush. Also, it’ll mean that nothing will happen to overturn the result (if it can be overturned) for months. It introduces a pause, a breathing space.

The EU, on the other hand, wants the whole process over and done with as quickly as possible, so they can re-normalise European politics and return to business as usual. If there’s going to be a divorce, they don’t want the soon-to-be ex-wife still living in the family home, and arguing about who owns the car and the kids and the cat. And while it’s all hanging over them, there are going to be more and more EU member states calling for their own referendums. The EU might get snowed under, and become completely paralysed.

But paralysis is what there’s going to be. And there’s going to be political chaos for months.

The pause also happens to coincide with the upcoming US Presidential election. Donald Trump is going to be telling Americans that “the Brits have taken their country back, and Americans need to do the same.” In fact, that’s exactly what he has already said while visiting Scotland during the referendum (amazing timing for the visit).

So there’s going to be political paralysis and chaos in Britain, and political paralysis and chaos in Europe, and an accompanying political firestorm in the USA (where there is one already).

Is it all completely accidental? Did David Cameron ever have to promise a referendum? Didn’t he realise that he might lose it? Was he secretly trying to lose it? He couldn’t have done a much better job of losing it.

We’ll probably never know. But it’s thrown a monkey wrench into politics not just in the UK, but also the entire EU, and even the USA, and maybe the entire world.

It might almost be better for the EU to say right now, “Forget about Article 50! Have whatever terms you like! But we must agree them immediately. Because we can’t go on like this, even if you can.”

And David Cameron holds all the cards.

And while the uncertainty lasts, stock markets will shudder. Everything will creak and groan. There will be strange portents in the sky, birds seen flying upside down, sea monsters washed up on beaches, UFOs, earthquakes, and volcanoes.

As a matter of interest, U.S. conservative talk radio has been all over the Brexit vote, approving of the British vote.

Here’s Mark Levin on Friday:

And Rush Limbaugh on Friday:

 

 

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The Divine Wind

Yesterday, after I’d voted, and was sitting outside a pub with a beer and a cigarette, a woman walked by with her dog. Someone must have asked her if she was on her way to the polling station up the road, where I’d just voted to save Britain from EU tyranny, because she gaily replied:

“I’m going to change the world!”

And that’s exactly what she went and did. Because since then, the Prime Minister has resigned, the pound has been falling, stock markets have been crashing, and world leaders have been huddling together for urgent consultations.

My aims had been modest: I merely wanted to save Britain from tyranny. But she wanted to change the whole world. What high ambition.

In fact the English weather may have had a big hand in changing the world. For throughout the day there was a band of cloud streaming north-eastward over London and south-east England, bringing bucket-loads of rain. There were reports of flooding in London.

bbc_11.28am

The result may have been a low voter turn-out in London and the South-East, where most of England’s Remainers turned out to be living (see BBC map above).  It was sunny everywhere else.

This won’t have been the first time Britain has been saved by a storm. On the 4th of August 1588, the Spanish Armada, which was about to land an army on England’s south coast, began to experience an adverse wind (much like yesterday’s storm wind) that blew it east along the coast, all the way to Calais, and then all the way round Britain and back to Spain.

When I visited Japan about 10 years ago, I happened to stay in the city of Fukuoka, which had also been saved from a Mongol invasion fleet from Korea by The Divine Wind – Kamikaze – in 1274.

Anyway no-one seems to be complaining too much about the rain. And the result of the referendum seems to have been accepted in Brussels. No doubt there’ll be calls for another referendum in Scotland, since the Scots largely voted to remain in the EU. But there have been surprising calls for independence for London – “Londipendence” -, and the uniting of Ireland.

And we may have prevented World War III, according to Paul Craig Roberts:

The Brexit Vote

What does it mean?

Hopefully, a breakup of the EU and NATO and, thereby, the avoidance of World War III.

Not that I had any hand in it.

It was all the work of that woman and her dog.

We’ll be needing her again soon. And needing more divine winds.

Finally, Ambrose Evans-Pritchard:

This referendum was never a fight between Britain and Europe, as so widely depicted. It was the first episode of a pan-Europe uprising against the Caesaropapism of the EU Project and its technocrat priesthood. It will not be the last.

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My Ballot Paper

How I saw the ballot paper today:

You may either vote

boxYes, I’d like to continue to be the heir of William Shakespeare, John Bunyan, William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Charles Dickens, Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, Joseph Priestley, Michael Faraday, William Makepeace Thackeray, the Duke of Wellington, Winston Churchill, Sir Francis Drake, Queen Elizabeth I, Piers Plowman, Boadicea, Caractacus, Kate Moss, William Holman Hunt, Edward Lear, John Lennon, Lewis Carroll, Horatio Nelson, Sherlock Holmes, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Thomas Gainsborough, Isambard Kingdom Brunel, Thomas Cranmer, Oliver Cromwell, Henry VIII, Richard III, Mary Shelley, Florence Nightingale, George Orwell, Stanley Matthews, Bobby Moore, Thomas Becket, Bernard Montgomery, Laurence Olivier, Tommy Cooper, Tony Hancock, T. E. Lawrence, Lord Kitchener, Lord Byron, Robert Graves, James Bond, Ronnie O’Sullivan, Roger Bacon, Peter Pan, Edmund Burke, David Bowie, William Tyndale, Joanna Lumley, Sir James Jeans, John Maynard Keynes, Ted Dexter, James Hunt, Robert Hooke, John Peel, Anne Boleyn, Edmond Halley, Dick Turpin, Thomas Malthus, Kate Bush, Jeremy Bentham, Rupert Brooke, Ralph Vaughan Williams, Christine Keeler,  Charles Babbage, Thomas More, Alan Turing, Dirk Bogarde, Liz Hurley, Tom Paine, Cathy McGowan, Dan Dare, Captain James Cook, Mick Jagger, William Turner, Geoffrey Chaucer, T. S. Eliot, Robin Hood, Ned Ludd, Tony Benn, G. K. Chesterton,  H. G. Wells, Eric Frank Russell, Keith Richards, George Best, Douglas Haig, Jean Shrimpton, Francis Bacon, Keith Floyd, Alfred the Great, Thomas Wolsey, William Laud, Stirling Moss, Margaret Thatcher, Patrick Moore, Capability Brown, John Wesley, Richard the Lionheart, Bill Shankly, Thomas Cromwell, Sir Walter Raleigh, Adam Smith, P. G. Wodehouse, Alexander Fleming, Ian Botham, R. J. Mitchell, Barnes Wallis, James Lovelock, Arthur C. Clarke, Henry Moore, Richard Arkwright, Rudyard Kipling, Alfred Tennyson, John Constable, Oscar Wilde, William Morris, Mary Quant, John Dalton, John Cabot, Samuel Plimsoll, Douglas Bader, Frank Whittle, Matt Busby, Henry Morgan, Walter de la Mare, Francis Bassett, and any number of others.

or

box

 

No, I’d rather not.

 

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Expect Bad Tempers For A Long Time

Well, this time tomorrow it’ll be all over. And the outcome may not become clear until deep into the night. I’m not sure if I’ll stay up late.

I still have no idea what the outcome will be. A week or so back it looked like Brexit were on a roll, but then Jo Cox was murdered and the steam went out of it all. Nigel Farage was bemoaning the fact on Monday:

Nigel Farage On Brexit: “We Had Momentum Until This Terrible Tragedy”

Other reports had everyone breathing a collective sigh of relief. Britain was going to remain in the EU. There was almost celebration in the air.

“It is stunning how quickly we have spun to the assumption that Remain is a done deal.”

But today there came yet another twist.

Stocks and sterling are sliding once again as a second poll hits showing “leave” leading massively 49% Leave vs 42% Remain…

And over the past day or two a number of people have been asking whether the Jo Cox murder was a false flag attack to bounce the British people into voting to remain.

For myself, my mind has been made up since long before the campaign started. But if I had been been sitting on the fence, I’m very far from sure that the stream of scares and threats coming from the Remain camp would have induced me to vote to remain. In fact, I can imagine that it would have had the opposite effect. They could have run a charm offensive featuring Italian cars, French blondes, Spanish footballers, German lagers, plus dancers and jugglers and street musicians. But no. Instead it’s all been very, very menacing. But then, that’s standard practice in the EU these days.

I’m just wondering what will happen if Brexit wins. Because I suspect that our europhile parliament and political class will simply refuse to do anything about it. Or will drag their feet to ensure that Britain never quite gets round to actually leaving.

Whatever happens, I’m beginning to believe that the EU is going to disintegrate anyway, and everyone will be exiting it, whether they want to or not. I spent some time today writing an essay setting out my reasoning. I’ll probably publish it sometime in the next few days.

And also, whatever happens, British politics will be bad-tempered for a long time to come. There are divisions that have opened up over the past few months which aren’t going to close any time soon. And if the vote is very close, nobody is going to take it as decisive.

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Alexithymia

I was reading today that Rome has just elected its first woman mayor:

Virginia-Raggi-640x480

Virginia Raggi, the telegenic populist candidate from Italy’s 5-Star Movement (M5S), has won a landslide victory to become the first female mayor of Rome, defeating the Democratic Party candidate Roberto Giachetti by more than thirty points in Sunday’s runoff election.

“This is a historic moment, a turning point,” said Raggi, who has been called “the Trump of Rome.”

This sounded promising, 5-Star is the populist party of comedian Bepe Grillo. A few clicks later I was reading about him.

…he was in hot water when, in 1986, he made a scathing joke — perhaps his most famous — about corruption in the inner circle of Bettino Craxi, Italy’s socialist prime minister at the time. “If everyone in China is a socialist, from whom do they steal?” he said. Grillo was barred from state television…

“It’s because the corrupt don’t think they’re corrupt. Those who use public funds for their own fucking business think it’s their money. And they buy champagne, dinners, vibrators, and petrol vouchers with it.”…

“I don’t know, it’s always the same story. Every nation has lost its sovereignty.”…

He starts attacking “those people” who have a stranglehold on Europe’s economy. “They have a kind of illness, it’s called alexithymia, which means difficulty recognising the emotions of others: pain, pleasure, joy,” he says. Does he mean people like Merkel and Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European Commission? “Yes,” he responds. “They don’t care if they have to put tens of millions of people into hunger to balance an account, it’s collateral damage.

Alexithymia. That’s a new one on me. Wikipedia:

Alexithymia /ˌeɪlɛksəˈθaɪmiə/ is a personality construct characterized by the sub-clinical inability to identify and describe emotions in the self.

Scientific American, The Emotional Blindness of Alexithymia:

Difficulty identifying different types of feelings
Limited understanding of what causes feelings
Difficulty expressing feelings
Difficulty recognizing facial cues in others
Limited or rigid imagination
Constricted style of thinking
Hypersensitive to physical sensations
Detached or tentative connection to others

Alexithymia was first mentioned as a psychological construct in 1976 and was viewed as a deficit in emotional awareness. Research suggests that approximately 8% of males and 2% of females experience alexithymia, and that it can come in mild, moderate and severe intensities.

Maybe most politicians are alexithymic? And Tobacco Controllers too? What’s always missing is any empathy for excluded and denormalised smokers. The only thing that matters is “health”. They don’t recognise smoking as a pleasure. Or being exiled to the outdoors as a pain.

Which reminds me that Dmitri Kosyrev emailed me yesterday to tell me about a terrible experience he’d just had. He’d been at a Nicotine (vaping) conference in Warsaw, and guess who he unwittingly found himself sitting next to?

Deborah Arnott.

He only realised when she stood up, identified herself, and asked a question in a “baritone” voice.

What a horrible shock! Like finding yourself sitting next to Himmler or Goebbels.

I could readily empathise. I’m not alexithymic.

What would you do in that circumstance? Try to strangle them, right then and there? Most likely, like the gentlemanly Dmitri, you’d do nothing. And that’s why we have all these Himmlers and Goebbels and Arnotts: everyone’s far too polite to them.

And Deborah Arnott (and also Linda Bauld, who was also there) is probably alexithymic. When she wrote that “smokers will be exiled to the outdoors”, it was without any trace of recognition of how smokers might feel about that.

At least both Deborah Arnott and Linda Bauld were booed at the conference.

Hillary Clinton is probably another alexithymic. But probably not Donald Trump.

I learned a new word today, courtesy of Bepe Grillo.

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New Smoking Technologies

I’m getting thoroughly sick of the EU referendum.

Here are a couple of slip-on cigarette covers by Australian cartoonist Bill Leak.

bill_leak3

bill_leak4

It seems that there are lots of things like this in Australia, where there’s been “plain packaging” for some time already.

Good, isn’t it? You buy a product, and then you have to buy another product to conceal the first product.

And my e-lighters arrived a few days ago, probably all the way from China.

My ones were already charged when I unpacked them, so I just started using one.

They work perfectly well. The only thing I found was that it’s a bit tricky to guide a cigarette onto the circular heating element, though you probably get the knack pretty quickly. With a standard cigarette lighter, the flame is usually quite large, and you don’t have to be particularly accurate about where you stick the cigarette into the flame.

The other thing I found was that, with my roll-ups, there’s usually not much tobacco at the ends, and I started out lighting just the paper on several roll-ups. But if the roll-up is pushed firmly onto the heating element, it’s not a problem. Again, this isn’t a problem with ordinary lighters, because the larger flame lights both the paper and the tobacco.

And also ordinary lighter flames appear instantly, while there’s a delay of a second or so before the e-lighter element starts glowing, and only a second or two while it stays glowing, so you have to be quick to get the cigarette onto the element.

I used the e-lighter for an entire evening, and I used it again today sitting out in a fairly breezy pub garden. I estimate that I must have got something like 30 lights out of it so far, sometimes relighting a roll-up 4 or 5 times, without recharging it – although I haven’t been counting carefully.

I suspect that if the thing has any weakness, it’ll be the little heating element. The one on mine seems to have got a bit bent already, under the impact of roll-ups being pressed against it. And the element tends to get coated with tobacco residue (although I’ve managed to scrape this off quite easily).

My general impression of it is pretty favourable, although for speed and simplicity a standard lighter has the edge.

It’s good to see new smoking technologies appearing in this anti-smoking era.

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