I wrote to my MP about prison smoking bans a couple of weeks back. Yesterday I received a reply:

Thank you for getting in touch with me regarding smoking in prisons. I have taken up your concerns with the government, and will let you know as soon as I receive a response.

I am standing by if I can be of any further assistance in the meantime.

I suppose that the government will now feel the tiny force of my concern as a pinprick of some sort. It will change nothing. Prison smoking bans will continue to be imposed on the unfortunate inmates, and they will continue to riot.

I suppose that if a lot of people wrote to their MPs, it would make for a lot more tiny pinpricks. Someone remarked recently that some MP had said that one letter on some matter was no cause for concern, but ten letters would be. And indeed there probably is a threshold beyond which protests become audible.

But why did I write about prison smoking bans? In conversation in the Smoky Drinky Bar last night, someone said that they only felt concern in matters which were likely to affect them personally, and being sent to prison or psychiatric hospital was rather unlikely. It was a perfectly valid – and realistic – point to make. But nevertheless I suppose that my attitude is much more one of: there but for the grace of God go I. After all, pub landlord Nick Hogan probably never thought that he’d end up in prison, but when he allowed his customers to carry on smoking, that’s exactly where he did end up. And if anyone would have suggested to me 10 years or more ago that I might one day be “exiled to the outdoors”, I would have regarded it as highly improbable – yet that is exactly what happened to me, so that there by the grace of God go I.

I suppose also that I’ve come to think of the world’s 1.5 billion smokers as one of the world’s largest persecuted minorities. And I’m one of them. And I should feel as concerned for any of them as I am for myself, whoever they are, in whatever country they live, whatever sex or colour or creed they may be. And this includes smokers in prisons and hospitals. As soon as anyone lights up a cigarette or a cigar or a pipe, he becomes a brother of mine. He becomes one of us.

I also take note of tiny gestures of support from non-smokers. I don’t think Dr Steve Pieczenik of is a smoker, but in describing how his local Florida community got together and helped each other out in the aftermath of hurricane Irma, he said (2:33 mins into the video below):

‘I was able to go to a liquor saloon where a young man without any teeth and many tattoos just gave me ice for free, and in turn I gave him a 20 dollar bill and he said, “No sir, I’m not selling the ice,” and I said, “Young man, I’m not buying the ice. I’m giving you money for your cigarette.” And he smiled and he laughed.’

However interpreted, that’s a gesture of support for a smoker, and one that was appreciated by the smoker – and also appreciated by me, on the other side of the Atlantic ocean. Pieczenik was talking about communities where people helped each other out, and smokers were part of his community. Once you start exiling smokers to the outdoors, you are destroying community.

In addition, I wrote to my MP because when I saw him speak last year, shortly before the Brexit vote, the one thing that he said that most impressed me was that he said he wanted to represent his constituents. My letter was a little test of that. Other MPs I have written to would have simply replied saying they didn’t agree with me about prison smoking bans, and would have done nothing more about it. But this one is doing what he said he wanted to do: he has taken my complaint to the government.

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17 Responses to Pinprick

  1. Rose says:

    I have always been interested in prison bans, because people in extremis find novel solutions to a problem that we all share.

    Like the Pellagra sufferers in the Southern States of America, chainsmoking and chewing tobacco to ward off the worst effects of the deficiency disease, right instincts, but too little niacin to reach the RDA that would prevent it.

    Now people are taxed into deeper poverty by a currently fashionable combination of TC and government for using an out of date and imperfect solution to a problem whose cure was already known in 1912.

    Nicotinic Acid
    Niacin, Pellagra-Preventive (P.P.) factor

    “Pellagra has been recognized as a disease since the eighteenth century in Italy. In 1912 Funk postulated a pellagra preventive vitamin. In 1926 pellagra was induced in volunteers by a deficient diet and both these volunteers and patients were cured with yeast. The isolation of nicotinic acid was accomplished in 1912 from yeast and its identity with the P.P. factor established in 1937.”

    “Therefore, with pellagra as the cause of the smoking of tobacco and niacin as the only antidote against pellagra, it is necessary for the minister of health to institute a rapid public education programme; in the proper use of niacin against pellagra.
    The minister would be doing the correct thing to control and help eradicate the disease so as to prevent the smoking of tobacco and whatsoever danger to health it caused in the mixture with the more and most deadly substances.
    This process is the light to destroy the darkness of making criminals of the victims of pellagra by criminalising the smoking of tobacco that cannot cure pellagra.”

    The prisoners boiling and smoking nicotine patches mixed together with the contents of tea bags in paper torn from bibles and lit by sparks from broken microwaves have been very badly and I suggest deliberately, misled.

  2. audreysilk says:

    It’s unfortunate how some people don’t think critically. Sure, one could say that people who have been locked up for a crime don’t deserve to be defended over something like a smoking ban. But that fails to view the bigger picture. As you say, it can be “there but for the grace of God…” But that’s somewhat (not all) being a victim of circumstance (e.g. Hogan). To round it out I add that it’s also the antis’ viewing this as as opportunity to affect a population as literal lab rats. This is the ultimate captive audience that they can control — force to stop smoking with no other options (e.g. go outside)– without risking much objection. That someone can’t see that and not be repulsed by it because they can’t otherwise identify with it on a personal level (which they should too because we also know how lab tests are a primer to go further) is the cross the rest of us have to bear.

    • Frank Davis says:

      literal lab rats.

      That’s a good point.

      • Rose says:

        The first lab rats were hospital patients.

        Nicotine Substitution Does Not Reduce Intensity of Withdrawal Symptoms in Hospitalised Smokers

        “VIENNA, Austria — September 22, 2009 — Offering nicotine substitution to smokers hospitalised for elective surgery does not have a significant effect on reducing cravings or other nicotine withdrawal symptoms, according to a phase 3 study presented here at the 19th Annual Congress of the European Respiratory Society (ERS).

        In addition, no further differences were seen in rates of smoking cessation 1 to 6 months following the study.

        “Hospitals have been smoke free by law since 2006 in Belgium, so we saw in-hospital smoking cessation as a teachable moment for patients,” explained Kris Nackaerts, MD, University Hospitals Leuven, Leuven, Belgium, on September 16.

        For the study, electively hospitalised patients at 4 academic hospitals were recruited between August 2006 and December 2008. All patients were aged 18 years and older and had smoked a minimum of 15 cigarettes per day for 3 years plus 10 per day in the week prior to admission. Patients were excluded for prior use of nicotine substitution (NS), drug use, or heavy alcohol use.

        Eligible patients (n = 296) were randomised to receive smoking-cessation counselling plus either NS patches of 15 mg/16 hours (n = 150) or placebo patches (n = 146) for a maximum of 7 days. Brief counselling (20-30 min) was given to each patient.

        The patients’ nicotine withdrawal symptoms were assessed using the Minnesota score and by measuring exhaled carbon monoxide (CO) levels. The study’s primary endpoint was the effects of short-term NS on withdrawal symptoms.

        There was no significant difference in Minnesota scores between NS and placebo patients at the end of the 7-day study period.

        There were no significant differences in quit rates between the NS group and the placebo group, and no reported side effects of NS. As expected, exhaled CO fell from 9.0-10.0 to 4.0-3.5 in both groups following hospitalisation and smoking cessation.”

        Clearly they needed a group of lab rats who would be incarcerated for much longer than just 7 days.

        “The smoking ban in the Isle of Man was introduced in April 2008, shortly before prisoners vacated the old Victoria Road prison and were moved up to the new building at Jurby.
        In October 2011, a report by the inspector of prisons condemned Jurby prison for ‘losing control’ of the smoking ban, claiming it was widely flouted and warders were doing little to enforce it.”

        Ex-prisoners speak out on smoking ban

        “The Isle of Man’s prison authorities remain adamant the prison smoking ban is working, despite a number of claims to the contrary from ex prisoners.

        The prison’s deputy governor Nigel Fisher recently told the Isle of Man Newspapers the smoking ban was effectively enforced and a report two years ago claiming the situation was out of control with the ban routinely flouted was ‘somewhat exaggerated’.

        But following that statement a number of former inmates have contacted the paper to dispute this.

        ‘The lads make up their own cigarettes which is obviously 10 times more harmful – so it’s obviously not working,’ said Aaron Roberts from Anagh Coar who served a couple of weeks two years ago.

        He said cigarettes were often fashioned using Bible pages as cigarette papers stuck together using wood glue.

        ‘That’s using pages with ink on and glue so there are chemicals in there.’

        All former prisoners who contacted Isle of Man Newspapers said prisoners were using nicotine patches, issued to them to help them stop smoking, to make cigarettes. This was done by boiling them in water to extract the nicotine then soaking anything from tea bags to dried fruit peel or even fluff from the tumble drier – whatever was available – in the fluid. The substances were then dried out, shredded and used in place of tobacco.

        If the ban was ignored, he said, it helped to keep the peace: ‘It makes the job easier for the screws. It means less hassle on the wing.
        ‘I smoked all the time I was in there and I still smoke now,’ he added”

      • waltc says:

        And then they move on to more captive lab rats who can’t fight back: the poor and disabled forced to live in public housing with no viable alternative. Then, increasingly, on to all rental housing w/i city limits since no one who can’t afford to buy a way overpriced (and then over property-taxed) private house has much of a choice aside from leaving town/job/kids’ schools.

        As for writing mp’s, or other reps at all levels of govt: do it! Also do letters to eds, usually doable by email, as opposed to just doing online comments. You never know if yours might be the tenth that trips Taking It Seriously. Newspapers, too, have a formula by which they calculate that every letter = x number of like-minded readers too lazy to write, and they too have a magic minimum number that leads to publication of at least one, if not more, of those letters. To both govt and the media, silence means assent and allows them to get away with boasting that their means are popular and the public stands behind them.

        somewhere I have several studies showing that smoking hospital patients given patches have a significantly higher mortality rate than those given nothing. If you’re interested, I’ll try to dig up the link

        • Rose says:

          Yes please, Walt, I’ve only got this one.

          Nicotine patches may boost intensive care risk – 2006

          “The team examined the intensive care records of 224 smokers, half of which received NRT, mostly via skin patches.

          Surprisingly, they found that 18 of the patients on NRT died, compared with just three of the smokers that did not receive nicotine. Also, the average duration of an ICU stay for patients given nicotine was 24.4 hours, about 2 hours longer than their cold-turkey counterparts.

          “We have to be aware that we may be doing some harm [by giving patients NRT],” Afessa warns.”

  3. Frank, we should ALL defend smokers. I’m just waiting to see if Theresa May continues to be Prime Minister and she’s getting another letter from me. On my blog for Vapingpoint, I’m constantly defending SMOKERS. I think I lose followers because I do that. Vapers seem to think they just have to defend vapers from all the lies and Tobacco Control anti-vaping information, not realising that THE NUB of it all is actually what has happened to SMOKERS. Someday, it would be wonderful if someone officially did a scientific study on how devious Tobacco Control is. It certainly has been exposed in the way vapers have been treated. All vapers were smokers once, we should defend our roots. Allways. In my head vapers and smokers are brothers and sisters. I’m a smoker in my head. I’m a hurt and angry smoker in my head. I was very badly treated as a smoker and I will never forget it. I haven’t smoked since 2011. I had no intention of stopping smoking. In fact my persecution made me more determined never to give up smoking – EVER.

    But an accident happened – I simply preferred vaping.

    Keep up the good work Frank. Neither smokers nor vapers should ever think “I’m all right Jack”, because we have a vicious, devious, totalitarian enemy intent on wiping us out!

    • Joe L. says:

      Amen, Liz. I wish more vapers shared your mentality. Vapers (mostly the ex-smoker variety) who tend to feel some kind of superiority over smokers fail to realize that in the eyes of Antismokers, they are considered “smokers.”

      Practically immediately after vaping became a “thing,” smoking bans were amended to also prohibit vaping. More vapers need to follow your lead, ditch their holier-than-thou attitudes and join forces with smokers in order to fight these tyrannical assholes as a united front. We are stronger together.

    • Frank Davis says:

      we should ALL defend smokers.

      In an ideal world, we all would. But the plain fact of the matter these days is that nobody defends smokers. I can’t think of any public figure who defends smokers, apart from Nigel Farage, and in many ways his defence of them is a bit half-hearted. His number one issue is independent self-government: that’s what UKIP is about. Nor can I think of any of my (former) friends who spoke up for smokers either. There’s dead silence all around.

      I mentioned yesterday’ Steve Pieczcenik, because he’d actually given money to a smoker to help him buy cigarettes (he recounted the episode for a second time a day or so ago, making this clear). Despite regarding themselves as engaged in a war with totalitarianism, Alex Jones’ infowars almost never mentions smoking. So this was as case of the silence being broken for a couple of seconds.

      Unfortunately it’s really only smokers who will defend smokers. And most smokers won’t even do that

    • beobrigitte says:

      On my blog for Vapingpoint, I’m constantly defending SMOKERS. I think I lose followers because I do that.
      I guess, that is the plan; avoid the vapers and smokers ganging up together.
      I totally do agree with your last sentence:
      Keep up the good work Frank. Neither smokers nor vapers should ever think “I’m all right Jack”, because we have a vicious, devious, totalitarian enemy intent on wiping us out!
      The vapers already can see the signs if they take a couple of steps back and look at their situation. They are kicked out with the smokers but at the same time vaping all of a sudden is hailed as smoking cessation “tool”.
      When the scared ones are done with the smokers the vapers go down our road.

      It’s high time we stop THAT total nonsense. Anti-smokers can you be scared privately somewhere? Other people have a life and are not scared. And healthy!

  4. jaxthefirst says:

    Whilst I understand the feelings of the person in the Smoky-Drinky who wasn’t concerned if a ban didn’t affect them personally – bans which affect you personally will always be more felt more strongly on a daily basis than those which don’t – I have to say that I think that’s a bit of a short-sighted attitude, because these little “fringe” bans are often precedent-setters. As we all know, Tobacco Control is never satisfied. Whatever it says it “just” wants one day will, as soon as it is achieved, then become “just” something else. Who else on here remembers when they “just” wanted non-smoking sections on aeroplanes!?

    Prisons were exempt from smoking bans because they were, in effect, someone’s “home,” despite the fact that they were “homed” there involuntarily and, usually, temporarily, and so as such they fell under the exemption for private homes. I think that TC like to “test the water” legally with bans like these (like the bans in psychiatric hospitals), to see if anyone calls them on it from a legal perspective – highlighting, if you like, the fact that they are moving away from the original Act and extending the bans in ever-increasing spaces, without actually going through the motions of getting an MP to table an amendment/change to the existing law. They’ve been lucky so far, because the legal profession, or those involved in it, appear to be as stuffed-to-the-gills with anti-smokers (or disinterested non-smokers) as everywhere else is, so, just as they raised not a peep of concern about the many worrying legal precedents set by the original Health Act, neither have any of them raised any questions about these more recent extensions to the original remit.

    So I think that letters like yours to your MP are important, because they show at least that not everyone adopts the classic non-smoker-style “doesn’t affect me, so I’m not bothered” attitude – an attitude which, I think, is disappointingly widespread in our society today (in respect of most things, not just smoking) and one which I think has enabled politicians to get away with the many erosions to our freedoms and interferences in our personal lives that they have done so far. Since the Health Act was passed, the tobacco template has been (or is now being) applied to many, many other areas of life, which is one reason why it is such a dangerous piece of legislation. It’s all about precedent.

    Also on: ”Someone remarked recently that some MP had said that one letter on some matter was no cause for concern, but ten letters would be.” I actually heard the opposite (although admittedly this was some years ago, when politicians weren’t quite as blasé as they are now), and that the general rule of thumb for MPs was that one letter actually written and sent in reality represented about 100 people who felt the same way, but for one reason or another hadn’t actually written. But as I say, that was some years ago, and the standards of “bothered-ness” amongst MPs has dropped significantly since then …

  5. waltc says:

    OT: As I always thought, lifestyle interference is about the money. Specifically, government money and the overall cost of the health care “system” to “society.”

    Watched a debate tonight– which included one of the key masterminds of Obamacare and the heads of systems like Kaiser–in which both ostensibly opposing sides agreed that to save money and increase efficiency healthcare needs to be further rationalized on the delivery end and requires more “community involvement” in terms of “prevention.” Oddly, while diet, exercise and alcohol were repeatedly mentioned, not a word about smoking though I somehow deduced that they either didn’t believe anyone smoked any more (problem solved) or that, considering the current and future level of meddling, that it would no longer be a major factor in the foreseeable future. However, it was overtly noted that people had a responsibility to be healthy and reduce their own levels of risk because it was a key to saving money.

    • jaxthefirst says:

      “Oddly, while diet, exercise and alcohol were repeatedly mentioned, not a word about smoking”

      I’ve noticed this quite a lot of late, and I’ve often wondered why they don’t bat on endlessly about smoking any more. Previously, you’d think that smoking was the only thing that ever made anyone ill – now smoking is (sometimes very conspicuously) absent from many health discussions. There are, to my mind, several possible reasons for this, which are that the Government have finally realised one or a combination of the following:

      (1) That pouring ever-increasing amounts of money into a movement directed against ever-decreasing numbers of people simply no longer represents good value for money but, knowing what a bunch of shriekers the antismokers are when there’s a threat to their funding, have quietly decided to concentrate any new “health” stories deliberately into other areas. After all, it’s a lot more difficult for the antismokers to protest against newly-announced funding for, say, anti-obesity measures than it is for them to protest against cuts to antismoking funding. Comparing the vastly differing amounts of publicity currently doing the rounds in respect of Stoptober (I’ve only seen one TV advert so far in the run-up) versus Sober October (loads of TV adverts, even more on the radio) would tend to support this theory.

      (2) That there is a very real danger of falling even further into deficit if (legal) tobacco sales drop even further. There are already murmurings of discontent from many quarters about the high levels of taxation generally and they’ve already pulled pretty much every trick they can out of the bag in terms of making up the shortfall in fines/penalties/new taxes etc, but have realised that they still need the tobacco take. So they’ve scaled anti-smoking measures back because they’re feeling the pinch from the “success” of previous campaigns.

      (3) That even non-smokers, unaffected as they were, have started to disbelieve the “smoking causes everything” mantra. Hard reality has played a part here, with more non-smokers than smokers now falling ill with lung cancer – the illness most particularly targeted by anti-smoking campaigns as associated with smoking – and just as many non-smokers as smokers getting heart attacks and strokes, there’s now a high liability that many people who previously believed the propaganda will have had a tough reality check by knowing someone who has fallen ill in this way, despite being non-smokers. So the “fear factor” around smoking has fallen and, as a side-effect, the “fear factor” around all sorts of other current “health hazards” is in danger of faltering also. If the PTB can’t scare people, how on earth can they force people to live their lives as they are told?

      (4) That the penny has finally dropped that the current obesity “epidemic” is due in no small part to the drop in the number of people smoking. Everybody with a pair of eyes in their head knows that the No 1 side-effect of stopping smoking is a very rapid piling on of the pounds, and not just temporarily, either (as the antismokers, some years ago, attempted to tell people). Oh no, that weight goes on and there it stays. So, in discussions about obesity (pretty much top of the list of “health issues” at the moment), smoking is deliberately not mentioned in an attempt to keep the two subjects separate, in the hope that Joe Public won’t realise that they are in any way connected

      (5) That, quite simply, it’s time to call the dogs off smokers. Over the years antismoker campaigns have increasingly morphed from their original roots as a well-meaning health-education movement into something more akin to a gratuitous bullying, persecution and punishment force and, as even non-smokers these days actually admit to thinking that smokers are treated unfairly now (even though they’re not bothered enough to do anything about it, sadly), it’s really not good PR for the government to be seen to be enthusiastically supporting any movement which has allowed itself to become so overbearing, aggressive and unfair.

      • Frank Davis says:

        I’ve often wondered why they don’t bat on endlessly about smoking any more.

        I take your word for it that this is happening, because I don’t watch TV any more.

        Perhaps it’s because Everybody Knows™ that Smoking Kills™, and it doesn’t need to be said.

    • DP says:

      Dear waltc

      Just shows you how little they know about ‘saving money’.

      A long ‘healthy’ life is expensive. The greatest savings to government come from the livestock conveniently dying the day after they retire.


  6. Pingback: Some Further Thoughts on Prison Smoking Bans | Frank Davis

  7. beobrigitte says:

    ‘I was able to go to a liquor saloon where a young man without any teeth and many tattoos just gave me ice for free, and in turn I gave him a 20 dollar bill and he said, “No sir, I’m not selling the ice,” and I said, “Young man, I’m not buying the ice. I’m giving you money for your cigarette.” And he smiled and he laughed.’
    Isn’t it ironic that in crisis situations Deborah Arnott and the WHO and the rest of the scared bunch become NOTHING. People help each other out. And what people wanted was ice and cigarettes.

    Proof of the shallow fear mongering and how deep this goes when there is a REAL problem.

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