Seven minutes of insanity

Last week Christopher Snowdon posed the question "James Reilly: liar or simpleton?"

I would suggest that there is a third alternative – the man is insane.

In the following clip he quite deliberately and calculatedly presents a lie as a fact to the committee on plain packaging.

I must assume that Reilly is a reasonably intelligent person, seeing as he somehow managed to qualify as a doctor, so the explanation for this lie must either be that he failed to do any research and just went along with Tobacco Control's propaganda or else he sincerely believes that lying to his own parliament is perfectly acceptable as a weapon against the tobacco industry.

Reilly's obsessional hatred for the tobacco industry is patently obvious.  He all but says that those poor Swedes are slashing their gums because the industry forces them to.  They are hapless puppets in the face of the Evil Industry who will try anything to force people to consume tobacco. 

Reilly was interviewed on the radio yesterday.  I would urge you to have a listen.

He really does seem to believe that the tobacco industry is the epitome of all that is evil.  Apparently their sole aim is to corrupt "our cheeeldren" and the health of our nation?  If you are not 100% against them then you must be on their side.  If you have any dealings with them whatsoever then you are as evil as them.  He can barely bring himself to mention them by name and spits the words out as if to prevent himself from becoming contaminated.

One of his criticisms of the industry is "their inability to come out and tell the truth" which is somewhat bizarre after seeing the video above?

"We are fighting for the right for people to live their lives to their full potential here in Ireland, in Europe and across the World"?  Does this man seriously believe that he is on a crusade to save the world?

Note that the tobacco industry does not have customers – they are "addicted people"!

The part that worries me the most is his assertion that "we" will fight Big Tobacco to the very end in the courts regardless of cost.  Big Tobacco has "billions and billions and billions" but we have the Irish People and The Truth.  Somehow the latter is a winning combination and is going to defeat the finest legal minds?

The man is clearly out of touch with reality.  He is letting his obsessional hatred for an industry cloud his judgment and is going to cost this country billions to defend the "plain packs" idea that has proven to have little or no effect.

The man is not only insane but is dangerous.

A slap on the wrist from Big Health

Arthur Cox is a leading legal firm here in Ireland.

By my understanding, a legal firm deals with the law.  It doesn't matter a damn what the firm believes is right and wrong, as it's function is solely to interpret the law in any situation and to present a case based on that interpretation.  Because they may represent a murderer in court does not mean they are murderers themselves, that they practice murder in private or even that they condone murder.  They simply deal with the law in the best interests of their client.

Apparently the HSE doesn't realise this.  You see Arthur Cox provides legal advise to the HSE but it also represents JTI Ireland which is the tobacco company threatening to sue the gubmint.  The HSE is therefore hauling Arthur Cox over the coals for being in bed with Big Tobacco.

One of the more puerile arguments put forward by the Tobacco Control Industry is that anyone who has any dealing whatsoever with Big Tobacco is therefore inherently evil.  Big Tobacco is seen as the Devil incarnate and therefore anyone who has the remotest connections with them must de facto be evil also.  Presumably by this argument we must at all costs avoid any grocery shop and every supermarket chain as they all sell cigarettes and are therefore shills of Big Tobacco?

What we are witnessing here is the true passionate and completely irrational hatred for the tobacco industry.  In practice the tobacco industry and the pharmaceutical industry are almost identical – both are in business to sell products for which there is a demand [and which have physiological and psychological effects on the body] and to return a profit.  Their sole motive is profit and provided they make a profit, the use of their product is of no concern to them.  It could be argued that Pig Pharma probably causes far more damage with their products, taking into account wrong doses, side effects, unknown long term effects and overdoses but propaganda has made them the Good Guys and Big Tobacco the Bad Guys.

Big Tobacco is singled out and has its produce taxed at exorbitant rates which it accepts without a murmur yet Big Pharma charges €85,000 a year for a life saving cancer drug and nobody questions the fact they they are placing massive profits before lives?

We only have to witness the outburst from Crown yesterday where he demands a 99% tax on tobacco profits and cigarettes taxed at a rate of €1,000 for twenty to see the level of pathological and irrational hatred the man has for the industry.  The man is clearly insane yet he is one of the main drivers of the Irish Anti Smoker movement.  Equally, Reilly is forging ahead with his plans despite warnings and objections from US Industries, ten EU countries, our own police and customs, the retailers and the complete lack of any proof whatsoever that his plans will have any effect. 

I see today that Benson & Hedges increased its profits by €100 million in the UK just by changing the design on one of its packs.  I would love to know if they changed the design here in Ireland and what effect it may have had on sales, seeing as all branding is effectively removed by hiding cigarettes from view.  It illustrates two things though. 

It illustrate3 the huge importance of branding where changing a design can lead to an increase in sales, which is precisely why the industry is objecting to standard packaging.  This wasn't a sudden influx of new smokers but rather existing smokers switching brands, which is the whole aim of branding.

It also illustrates the scale of compensation Ireland can be expected to face if this insanity forges ahead.


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.

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.

Home Alone

Apparently loneliness in old age is like smoking fifteen cigarettes a day.

I have been trying to work out what they mean by this.  Are they saying that loneliness in old people will kill them before they get old?  In which case they wouldn't get to be old in the first place as we all know that smokers die at a very young age?  I don't think they thought that little paradox out to its natural conclusion.

Or are they saying that loneliness gives you all sorts of strange, nasty and unrelated diseases?

Or do they mean that if you are lonely you cannot enter the working place or the pub?

In the Good Old Days, the natural recourse for the single elderly was to nip down to the pub of an evening [or even an afternoon] and quietly sit with a pint and a smoke, passing an odd comment to the barman and maybe chatting to a few other locals.  Not only did it relieve the loneliness but it was also a handy way of keeping track of the elderly.  If Old Mick didn't turn up for his glass of stout of an evening, people would wonder where he was and would call on him to make sure he was OK.

But of course the Nannies have done away with that, so the elderly now have to sit in isolation at home which is apparently better for their health?  If they fall ill no one will be any the wiser and if they die a solitary death well, at least no one was irreparably damaged by an whiff of cigarette smoke.

Of course they could have meant that the sensation of loneliness is similar to the sensation of smoking fifteen fags a day, which wouldn't be too bad altogether?

Though personally I think I'll stick with the pipe.