Plain obsession

I have three questions for our esteemed Minister, James Reilly.

The first is to ask how this plain packs lark is supposed to work.

For some time now there hasn't been a single advertisement for cigarettes anywhere.  They are banned from print, television, sports sponsorship and every other conceivable public spot.  I can guarantee that you can walk the length of Ireland and never see a single image of a cigarette apart from those ubiquitous no smoking signs [which in themselves ensure that cigarettes are constantly pushed into the consciousness?].

Furthermore if you go into any tobacconist or other shop you will not see a pack of cigarettes anywhere as they are all hidden behind panels.  In other words, the only place you will ever see a cigarette packet in this country is in the hands of a smoker as he or she briefly takes it out of a pocket.  So how precisely are plain packs supposed to make cigarettes less enticing for kids when they can't see them anyway?  How can changing the appearance of something that is invisible supposed to achieve anything?  Forget all those stupid "experiments" that proved nothing and just look at the simple logic.

The second question regards the assertion that this is "an important step in protecting our children". 

We have seen some of the most Draconian laws in Europe implemented here in Ireland in the last decade or so.  Presumably they were all "important steps" so why have they had no effect on smoking rates?  Why is this the next major step and why is it superior to any of the previous steps?  What can it possibly do when every other measure has failed?  It comes across as a desperate grasping at straws in a rearguard battle that cannot be won by force.  All this is doing is making cigarettes even more enticing for rebellious youth; a fact which appears to be born out by statistics from Australia.

The third question is to ask who is going to ay for all of this.

The tobacco companies have stated categorically that they will take Ireland to court.  It is not a threat; it is a fact.  One would assume that the companies involved have done their homework?  They have the resources and access to the best legal teams in the world, so a threat of litigation is not an idle one.  If it does go to court, it is unlikely to go in Ireland's favour, which will cost the Irish taxpayer millions in court costs and if the legislation goes ahead, millions more in compensation. Who is going to pay for this?  The ordinary tax payer, smoker and non-smoker, of course.  And if the legislation goes through and the smuggling rates go through the roof then there will be further massive losses to the exchequer.  Again, the tax payer will have to make up the loss in revenue.  From now on, just about any tax increase will in effect be a "plain packs tax" on every worker in the country.

This plain packs lark has gone too far.  It is nothing more than a delusional fantasy by a handful of people who are driven by an obsessional and irrational hatred.

A pox on their houses

There is a debate that has been rumbling on for a while in the background.

Should kids be vaccinated for Measles, Mumps and Rubella?

The debate has got somewhat overheated in spots and I have even seen one commentator [who I highly respect normally, but no names – no pack drill] suggest that all those who refuse the vaccination should be moved to the back end of beyond where they can't infect the rest of the world.

My views are quite simple.  Parents should be given the full facts and left to decide for themselves.

Unfortunately, it isn't that simple.

I have an ingrained distrust of Big Pharma.  I also have a major problem with the insertion of any substance into my bloodstream when I don't know exactly what is in that substance. 

It is difficult to reach my age without having come across a prescription for pills and potions at some stage on the way.  I grant that the majority of those pills and potions had the required results but on occasion I have had major problems with side effects.  For example, I am taking regular medication now for a problem that was directly caused by another prescription which I have long since ceased taking.  I know of another example where a medication very nearly caused severe [and permanent] paralysis of the legs.  Fortunately in that case the prescription was withdrawn but only on the insistence of the victim.  Big Pharma plays down the latter side effect but a quick search on-line will produce hundreds of cases where permanent damage has been done.  [just do a search for "statins" and "Peripheral neuropathy"]

We just don't know what effect these foreign bodies will have on our system.  Big Pharma bleats on about the wonderful benefits of their produce but they naturally try to hide the nasties.  There are enormous profits to be made from medication and naturally they don't want to damage sales.   Unfortunately Big Pharma is in the business of making profits and not, as they claim for benefiting the public, so I have an innate distrust of anything they claim.

Even assuming that the vaccinations are 100% beneficial with no side effects whatsoever, there is still the principle that no one should have the right to force someone to inject any foreign substance.  I object strenuously to the fact that I am forced to ingest fluoride and chlorine in my drinking water and I would equally resent the idea that I should be forced to inject something against my will.

Parents should be given the facts – and I mean all the facts – and then left to decide for themselves whether vaccinations are for them and their children.

Personally speaking, the welfare of my child is far more important to me than "the common good".

About About

I was given a nudge the other day.

Kirk M pointed out that I had a very out of date "About" page on this site.

For example, I mentioned Sandy, and Sandy of course is no longer with us.

I used to write a fair bit about Sandy.  She was a remarkable dog in many ways and even contributed to this site from time to time.

So you may wonder why I don't write so much about Penny?  The fact is that there is little to write about as she is nearly always asleep.  She is one of the laziest dogs I have ever come across.  At home she is usually to be found draped across a chair somewhere.  She always insists on traveling in the car with me, and where Sandy used to sit in the passenger seat and take a great interest in the road ahead, Penny just curls up on the back seat and goes to sleep again.  Even on walks, Penny will happily spend the first couple of hundred yards sniffing every fucking lamp post [it takes about twenty minutes to get from one end of the village to the other], but then she'll put on a pained expression and refuse to walk any further.


Sandy had some habits which frankly used to annoy the hell out of me.  One was her tendency to stray from the house so I had to spend hours scrabbling through the brambles and undergrowth blocking up holes in the fencing.  Another was her persistence in barking at me if ever I was in the garden.  That really pissed me off.  Penny on the other hand has little or no interest in the outside world and will happily ignore an open gate.  And the only time Penny barks is when there is someone out on the lane that she doesn't approve of.

Penny is basically the ideal dog.  I have a sneaking suspicion that Sandy had a paw in the matter when it came to finding her as she fits our lifestyle perfectly.

She does however have one flaw and it is one that annoys me.  She insists on dumping her shit on the front driveway.  She seems to be of the opinion that the gravel is her personal toilet and not only does she use it copiously but nearly always chooses the spots where people are most likely to walk.  As s result, I spend a lot of time out the front with my golf clubs, sailing turds into the neighbour's gardens. 

Anyhows, I have updated my "About" page.  I really don't know what to say in it so I have said little.

Is there anything I have left out?


How to use Twitter

I think I am finally coming to grips with Twitter.

I have a tab in my browser that points at it, and lately I have taken to glancing in from time to see what is going on.

Now Twitter is like Wembley Stadium packed to the gills with inane people who are just muttering idiotic drivel about nothing.  The trick is to find the interesting comments from the dross and this takes a tiny bit of practice.

The first rule is to ignore any comment that starts with "Excited to be going to….".  So someone is going somewhere and they want us all to know about it.  Frankly, my dears, I couldn't give a shite where you are going and whether you are excited or not.  "Can't wait …… " and "Delighted …" are others that fall into this category.

The word "inspirational" is another giveaway.  Whatever it is may inspire you but it doesn't inspire me.  Fuck off.

"About to….." is another one.  Just fucking do it and don't bother telling me about it.  If you do whatever it is and it's a fucking disaster then maybe I'll be interested but in the meantime just put a sock in it.

The word "awesome" is an automatic fuck off.

So having followed those simple little rules, I am now down to about 0.5% of the original Tweetload which is a little more manageable.

I then trawl the 0.5% and ignore any that are of no interest to me and that leaves me with about 0.000001%.

Reading 0.000001% is considerably easier on the eyes and my time.

As a footnote, I just dropped by to see how Twitter is doing today…….

Is it the law that everyone has to tweet something about Valentine's Day today?


I'll try again tomorrow.

Failing to prove the unprovable

As is so often the case, I am baffled.

Maybe I'm dense, or maybe they just aren't explaining it properly but either way I haven't a clue how this works.

Universities of Exeter and Bristol carried out research in which smokers had to choose between pressing a key that might earn cigarettes or a key that might earn chocolate.

Pressing a button "earns" a cigarette or a chocolate?  Did they actually get a physical smoke or chew, or was this just a vote sort of thing?  They had two buttons – cigarette or chocolate, and were shown three pictures – a normal pack of fags, a lurid "plain pack" or …  er … nothing.  Somehow they deduced that the cigarette button was pressed less after seeing a "plain pack", but all this proves is that lurid packs tend to make you press a different button which doesn't seem to relate to the real world in any shape manner or form.

I tried to imagine myself doing this test.  I am quite fond of chocolate [Mars bars especially, if anyone wants to send me a crate?] so there is a fair chance I would have pressed the chocolate button all the time, especially as pipe tobacco didn't seem to be on the menu.  There again, I may have just pressed the buttons at random, seeing as I apparently wasn't getting an actual cigarette or chocolate.  If pressing a button doesn't actually do anything then it really doesn't matter which one I press?

I think what we may have here is a beautiful example of "here is the result, so let's set up a project to prove it".  Bristol University in particular seems to favour this new way of approaching "research".

For once, however, even though the experiment was designed to prove something, even the "researchers" seem to be unsure of the results?

Researchers advised caution when interpreting their results.


The experiment only models the ability of pack stimuli to promote a cigarette-seeking choice.

or the ultimate –

It is not clear to what extent plain packaging will reduce smoking when these other factors are at play.

So even though the experiment was designed to prove their preconceived notions, it still failed to provide the goods, which either means they are shite at fiddling the figures or their preconceived theory is a load of bollox.  Seeing as Bristol is famous for doctoring numbers, then the latter must be the case.

Meanwhile, in a completely related article –

Over-regulation of cigarettes threatens rule of law and Good Friday Agreement

Make the most of it folks.

It's not often I cheer for a Paisley.