Saturday, 27 June 2015

Public Health Luddites

The Industrial Revolution began somewhere around 1760 and slowly gained momentum right into the mid-1800's where it (quite literally in some cases) really caught fire. It was the period when man finally began moving from hand production methods into machines. It was a period of great innovation and kickstarted the ever changing technological world we see around us today.

It began with water-power, then moved on to steam-power as man discovered the qualities of burning coal - which started the steam age. It was a turning point in human innovation. From this point on our world would never be the same again.

Even in those days, there were people who feared what the industrial revolution would bring. The 'Luddites' also came into being at around this time. Where the name came from is open to much debate, but the commonly accepted theory is that the Luddites were named after one 'Ned Ludd', a young man who smashed two stocking frames in 1779 and whose name became emblematic of all the folk who delighted in smashing machinery. Their fear was that such machinery would lead to fewer jobs available as the machines would do all the work.

Of course, history shows that it had the opposite effect. Most certainly in those days anyway. Early machinery was unreliable, needed constant maintenance and was often downright dangerous. This meant that many more jobs were created than had originally been lost.

It has to be said however that the work created by the industrial revolution was harsh. From the woollen mills, to the railways, the coal mines, the steel industry and even the copper industry (the epicentre of which was my hometown - Swansea - nicknamed 'Copperopolis'). The working environment was onerous, unrelenting and perilous to anyone who did not 'keep on their toes' for their entire shift.

Of course, Public Health didn't exist in those days. If they had, then they would likely have had apoplexy over pollution of both air and land, and also the dangerous working conditions. That said, if Public Health had existed in those days then it is doubtful that humankind would have advanced to the technological levels we now take for granted every day. Yes, there are still some prime examples of how the industrial revolution has forever stained and changed the land. The Lower Swansea Valley - where much of the copper smelting industry was located - still bears the scars even today. Much of land that is now the 'Enterprise Zone', full of shops, businesses and also the Liberty Stadium is still highly contaminated with various chemicals such as arsenic. You don't even have to dig that far down to find it either. It is also true that much of that type of polluting industry is not that far in our past. I grew up in a mining village where the majority of the population was employed in the coal industry (and I most certainly remember the deaths that happened in them). I still remember trips down to Swansea when I was but a child in the 70's, where the skeletal remains of the copper industry could still be viewed as we passed.

But while those days are gone, it should be remembered that the UK only has the stature it has in the modern world BECAUSE of those dirty, polluting industries. The industrial revolution was born in the UK, and it changed not just the UK, but the whole world. The British Empire was built on the back of those industries and very much on the back of some of the most villified products in the modern world - sugar and tobacco to name but two.

These days, we are striving to move toward cleaner energy. We still have the remnants of the polluting old world we are slowly leaving behind. We still have some coal-fired power stations. We still have remnants of the once powerful steel industry (Port Talbot is just down the road from me and still spews great clouds of pollution into the air). We also have other polluting habits. Our love affair with transport, in particular the motor car, means we still pump unimaginable amounts of pollution into the air.

But these days, such pollution is slowly being consigned to history. We look for, and have started to develop, cleaner more sustainable ways of producing the vast quantities of energy we need and consume. We have also started to clean up our polluting transport systems by moving toward more eco-friendly electric or gas-powered machinery.

But this is where a conundrum raises its head in regard to Public Health. Public Health support the move to more cleaner, and hopefully safer, transport systems and industry. The key words you are looking for there is 'cleaner' and 'safer'.

Why ? Because Public Health seem to have double standards when they talk about 'cleaner' and 'safer'. They are happy to see 'cleaner' transport and industry. They are delighted that both transport and industry are also 'safer'.

Why are they happy with these things ? Well, it's because they produce less pollution and so (in theory at least) they are cleaner they should lead to a healthier life for the public. They are happy with the safety too because it means that far fewer people are maimed or killed by either of these things. Notice there no calls to ban any of these things. That they are cleaner and safer is enough for them to happily back them, and their development and innovation.

So why do they apply a completely different standard when it come to eCigarettes ?

eCigarettes are cleaner than their combustible tobacco counterparts. They contain none of the dangerous chemicals that are found in tobacco cigarettes. What chemicals they do produce (and they are few) are at such low levels as to be barely traceable.

eCigarettes are safer too, and not just because they do not contain the dangerous chemicals found in their tobacco counterparts. They do little or no harm to either the vaper nor anyone alse around them. A large number of studies have been completed that show eCigarettes pose no environmental risk whatsoever. Furthermore, because there is neither naked flame nor combustion involved, they are also much less of a fire risk. In fact, they are no more a fire risk than any other regulated electrical item (and make no mistake that eCigarettes ARE regulated as electrical items).

Herein lies the conundrum and also the inexplicable double-standards of Public Health. They are happy to support safer and cleaner products in industry and transport (and we could name many other areas where this applies), but they do not support a cleaner and safer way to enjoy nicotine. Despite anything you may read to the contrary, nicotine is neither more harmful or more addictive than caffeine (yet Public Health have no issues with anyone freely consuming caffeine).

Yep, the strange world of Public Health and their double-standards. Public Health are like the Luddites of old. The world is moving on. The 'Kodak' moment has arrived. But Public Health are still stuck in the 19th century with 19th century values and mentality (Temperance Movement anyone ?).

Public Health, the world is changing. People are far more informed these days thanks to the modern world. We do not need to rely on you to get the information we need. We are perfectly capable of finding and disseminating it ourselves (and understand it far better than you it seems). Your dream of making smoking history is actually within your grasp. But you need to get onboard with what the modern world is.

You need to stop bitching when anybody challenges you on social media. You also need to get to grips with what social media is and stop having tantrums like a spoilt child every time someone disagrees with you or proves you wrong. The modern world is passing you by. You don't understand computers, you don't understand the nature of the internet, and you don't understand that the enjoyment of nicotine has evolved.

Get on board or get out of the way. Another revolution has started and you do not even know it.

Public Health - YOU ARE LUDDITES !!

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