Friday, 25 September 2015

Illiberalism and Social Exclusion

I am of an age that I can distinctly remember the kind of signs commonly seen displayed in the windows of the myriad of pubs and other buildings that I witnessed during my childhood in the 1960’s & 1970’s. During those days (and I dare say the decades before) it was not uncommon to see such signs saying ‘No Itinerants’, ‘No Gypsies’ and even on occasion ‘No Irish’. I dare say that in the decades before those, it might even have been possible to witness such signs saying ‘No Blacks’. 

Fortunately, society has moved on greatly since those days, and in the decades since those times laws have rightly been enacted to make such racist and discriminatory signage illegal. Furthermore, in recent times we have seen homosexuality decriminalised and latterly LGBT rights have moved on to equality such that they can now legally get married (for example). It has to be said that we have moved on to a much fairer society where most people are treated as equals.

You should make a keen note of the word ‘most’ in that last statement. I deliberately used that word because whilst society has made great strides in equality amongst the aforementioned subjects, it seems to be rapidly turning into reverse against other segments of society. A different type of discrimination is now rapidly coming openly and unabashed to the fore.

Whilst no politician or public health figure will admit this, it is evident that there is an undercurrent of intolerance sneaking back into society. You can see it in the news headlines every day. In any newspaper on any given day, you can always find a headline somewhere that is determined to persecute the obese, those who enjoy alcohol, smokers, and now vapers. We have the likes of Aseem Malhotra and Jamie Oliver telling us that as a society we are too fat and that we should be cutting down on our sugar intake. We have the Institute of Alcohol Studies telling us we drink too much, aided and abetted by the Scottish, Irish and Welsh Governments trying to impose Minimum Unit Pricing legislation to try and address the same so-called ‘problem’. We have just about everyone and his dog attacking smokers and making them feel like they should adopt the practice of medieval lepers of ringing a bell and shouting ‘unclean’ to warn others of their presence. Now, in recent years, we also have various aspects of public health, the BMA, and even governments attempting to curb vaping.

The common theme amongst all of this is that people are now being attacked for their lifestyles. This is something that should not be the business of anyone else but the person concerned. It is certainly not the concern of people like Jamie Oliver or Aseem Malhotra, organisations such as public health or the BMA, or even the concern of government. Now we also have Labour’s unbelievably illiberal prejudice against meat eaters thanks to their latest Shadow Minister for Food and Rural Affairs. 

We are adults and we can all make informed choices in how we live our lives. We do not need to be NANNIED.

It is completely illegal to discriminate against the LGBT society or the Traveller society based on their lifestyle choices. So why is it then acceptable to discriminate against vapers, smokers, drinkers or the obese based on their lifestyle choices ?

Over the past few weeks, I have been following the progress of the Welsh Government’s Public Health Bill through the Scrutiny and Evidence Sessions of the Health & Social Care Committee. Last week saw the BMA and the Royal College of GP’s give their ‘evidence’ on why they believe the Welsh Government is right to ban the use of ecigarettes in enclosed public spaces. However, throughout their session, they both failed to produce any actual evidence whatsoever. The best either of them could come up with is the vapour produced by ecigarettes is a pollutant and that it smells, that the flavours (especially the sweet/fruit flavours) are appealing to children and proof of marketing to children, and that nicotine is a drug that is ‘highly’ addictive. That was it. The sum total of their argument boiled down to those points. The problem is that they are completely wrong.

  1. The vapour exhaled has only trace levels of any chemical pollutant (inclusive of nicotine). Environmental Studies conducted by many leading scientists have proved this.
  2. Vapour does not hang in the air and dissipates very quickly
  3. Vapour may well have an aroma, but is it any worse than the smell of a man or woman who is absolutely plastered in perfume/after-shave ?  After all, by its very nature, perfume/after-shave is a cocktail of chemicals.
  4. Studies have shown that nicotine in itself is not very addictive at all. It only becomes addictive when mixed with the myriad of chemicals produced by a burning cigarette. Those chemicals are all absent from an ecigarette
  5. eCigarettes are an adult product. That they have sweet flavours does not mean they are being marketed to children. The sex industry produces many edible/sweet flavoured sex aids. Are those evidence of the sex industry targeting children ?  Adults like sweet flavours too !!

This week saw Labour’s Alun Davies completely fixated on the fact that some ecigarettes contain nicotine and that by moving from tobacco to ecigarettes, users were merely substituting one nicotine habit for another. It is extremely worrying that a person in a position of power, like Alun Davies is, cannot get his head around the fact that nicotine is not harmful. In his opinion users should be looking to quit nicotine completely. Why ?

What vices does Alun Davies have ?  Does he enjoy a pint of beer or a glass of wine ? Is he one of these people who simply cannot function in the morning until he has had his first cup of coffee/ tea ?

I’ll bet good money that Alun enjoys one or more of the above mentioned habits. Beer/wine contains alcohol. Coffee/tea contains caffeine. Both are drugs. Numerous scientists have stated that nicotine in itself is no more harmful than caffeine, and much less harmful than alcohol. Furthermore, alcohol is most certainly addictive and many proponents argue that caffeine is also addictive. So why is Alun Davies not also campaigning for people to give up alcohol and coffee ? Because he likely enjoys them himself, that’s why.

I find it interesting to note the hypocritical double-standards of Welsh Labour. For example, if a pub landlord was to refuse to serve someone from the Traveller society because he felt that Traveller smelled bad, then he would face the full force of the law telling him he is being discriminatory. However, it is (apparently) perfectly acceptable for Welsh Labour to legislate against a vaper enjoying a perfectly legal habit that is causing no harm to either himself or others and socially exclude him from enclosed public spaces because he/she (allegedly) smells. That is called an Oxymoron and is also an affront to Human Rights.

Earlier in the week, I witnessed the (un)Health Minister presenting to another committee. In that Committee, he made the startling statement that he was ‘unprepared to wait 8 years to find out whether there are health concerns over ecigarettes and that he must act now’. By doing so, the Health Minister is happy to broadcast the message to the Welsh Public that ecigarettes are no better than tobacco cigarettes. 

However, we already know that ecigarettes are at least 95% safer than tobacco cigarettes. There has been abundant evidence to back this up. Even the BMA and RCGP recognise that vaping is safer than smoking. Professor John Britton is often quoted as saying that ‘there is no circumstance where it is safer to smoke than to vape’. 

By misleading the Welsh Public on ecigarettes the Health Minister is saying that he is perfectly happy to see thousands of Welsh citizens die of smoking-related diseases while he waits for evidence that ecigarettes are safer – evidence that already exists by the bucketload. What an absolutely disgraceful  and irresponsible attitude for a Minister, supposedly responsible for Health, to take. 

Welsh Labour likes to portray itself as a party of the people, as a party that champions social injustice and rails against social injustice. The evidence presented here shows them to be very much the opposite.

Welsh Labour are a party promoting social exclusion. That social exclusion comes from a basis of prejudice, not evidence. They are unable to legislate against on vapers based on harm, so instead they look to legislate based on prejudice and dislike.

Labour of the past had a central role in the dismantling of many social injustices and prejudices that existed in the past, and that I discussed in the opening paragraphs of this blog. Labour of the present is guilty of returning those social injustices and prejudices by victimising other groups simply because they don’t agree on how those groups choose to live their lives.

Welsh Labour is an illiberal party guilty of social exclusion.

I actually like my local Labour AM. I genuinely believe that Mike Hedges is a good man who has his heart in the right place and that he works hard for his constituents. He is also very approachable and an amiable man to converse and discuss issues with. Unfortunately, as Mike represents the illiberal, socially exclusive Welsh Labour party, then I cannot in all good conscience vote for him in next May’s Assembly Elections. That vote will be going to another party.

The only way Welsh Labour will redeem this situation is by stopping their illiberal attitude, activities and persecutions of the personal lives of the Welsh electorate.

eCigarettes save lives. Leave us alone and we will save many more.