House of Albion

Discussing life on a small island

Smoking: Frowned upon or illegal?

Wednesday, March 24

The Royal College of Physicians (RCP) have today launched their report tackling the impact that passive smoking has on children and announcing their calls for a ban on smoking in all areas where children may be affected.

Professor John Britton, Chair of the RCP Tobacco Advisory Group says: “This report isn’t just about protecting children from passive smoking; it’s about taking smoking completely out of children’s lives.”

The report in question claims that smoking in public places may cause direct physical harm and indirectly influences children to become smokers themselves. It then goes further by calling for smoke free homes and a complete ban on smoking in cars when children are present.

As we know, smoking was banned in enclosed public environments in 2007 and the RCP are hailing the measures as a success, claiming that there has been a dramatic reduction in the number of smokers since then.

Office of National Statistic (ONS) figures, however, demonstrate that since 1974 the number of smokers had already voluntarily reduced by 40%, a reduction, year on year, of around 2%.

The most recent ONS figures available show that in the years since the much lauded smoking ban that the annual reduction has not altered dramatically at all. The ban did however manage to dramatically reduce the number of publicans still in business.

Chris Ogden, Chief Executive of the Tobacco Manufacturers’ Association, said: “In private vehicles adults should be free to smoke, provided they do not light up or smoke in a way that would distract from safe driving. They should also show due consideration for other occupants and dispose of cigarette ends responsibly in ashtrays. The proposal to ban smoking in what is a private space is a step too far and an unwarranted intrusion on individual freedom. ”

Smoking is bad for your health, I doubt that anybody would even bother to debate that particular point but the RCP do not appear to be able or willing to demonstrate how they isolate passive smoking as the causative factor when faced with a new case of asthma, middle ear disease or lower respiratory tract infection.

Is, for example, the incidence of these conditions higher in urban areas than rural ones? I can attest to the fact that when driving along major roads and surveying the buildings adjacent to them that a curious blackening seems to occur.

Is it possible that ambient pollutants are causing this or should we assume that, once again, cigarette smoke is the culprit? If the ambient pollutants are capable of turning brick and concrete black, I would hate to see what they can do to a child’s lungs, ears and lower respiratory tract.

Currently smoking is illegal in all public, indoor areas in this country. Extending the ban to encompass anywhere where children may be present (because lets face it, they are everywhere) effectively produces one result, a complete ban on smoking in the UK.

Slowly, bit by bit, removing the areas in which a particular activity can be engaged is simply a piecemeal ban rather than an outright blanket statutory prohibition. Tactically outmaneuvering the smoking public in this way may seem like a victory for the non smoker but the consequences of encouraging an increasingly intrusive state are unlikely to stop there and as a society we will only have ourselves to blame as the inevitable meddling continues.


March 24, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Rich, famous and hopeless.

Wednesday, March 10.

I tuned into BBC’s new social experiment at 9pm last night for which Larry Lamb, Emma Parker-Bowles, Meg Matthews and Diarmuid Gavin gave up advantaged lives to live in council flats on £40 worth of job seekers allowance for four days. The premise being that even the most successful among us would struggle to find employment.

In the spirit of optimism I wanted to see whether the program would be a genuine attempt to uncover the issues faced by those of us caught in the poverty trap or yet another example of television bosses boosting ratings by getting minor celebrities to do stupid things

I feel compelled to report that I was pleasantly surprised, although I am still wondering what Emma wanted the Vaseline for!

The individual experiences highlighted real problems and coping strategies that emerge when people face these challenges.

Even Larry Lamb who, quite entertainingly, rebelled and spent his days reading the paper and taking strolls on the beach, inadvertently illustrated a mentality that emerges when doors are continually slammed in your face. He decided that if he had enough food and a roof over his head, attempting to find work was an unnecessary struggle.

For me, the crowning glory was how well the show demonstrated that, as human beings, we can endure all manner of hardship but it is the loss of hope that is the real killer.

Hope is a fragile flame that, when constant in a life, can drive us to carve out successful careers, raise families and overcome divorce or illness. It lights up our way and pulls us relentlessly ever onward toward our goals however challenging our circumstances.

When caught in the poverty trap it is easy to see how the light can go out.

The loss of that temporal guide is the most bitter and devastating that a human life can suffer and the aftermath of viewing Famous, rich and jobless left me with the feeling that there but for the grace of God, go I.

What did you think?

© House of Albion

March 10, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Alcoholism: The last taboo?

Monday, March 8

During the first chapter of Thomas Hardy’s 1886 classic, The Mayor of Casterbridge, Michael Henchard gets drunk and sells his wife and child. The following morning, Henchard bitterly regrets his actions and swears an oath to abstain from alcohol.

Unbelievably, more than a century later, very little has changed. The Jekyll & Hyde effect of excessive alcohol consumption still ensures that every morning, all around the country, people regain conciousness only to discover, with horror, what they said and did last night.

Turn on the news, visit your local town centre or accident and emergency and you will find the devastating consequences of alcohol misuse, not only alive and kicking, escalating.

Shockingly, Office of National Statistic (ONS) figures estimate that more than 70% of adults consume at least one alcoholic drink a day and at the time of interview, 20% of school children had consumed an average of 13 units of alcohol in the preceding week.

With more than 6500 alcohol related deaths a year and an annual cost to the NHS of more than 2.6 billion pounds, we need to be asking what we can do to address this situation.

Compounding the problem is that diagnosis of alcohol addiction is primarily reliant on self assessment. Unsurprisingly, confronting this reality can be overwhelming and terrifying. Even if a sufferer accepts their condition, where do they go from there?

Alcoholics Anonymous is, undeniably, a superb organisation. It is run by addicts who understand the problem, accept the individual and believe that helping other addicts aids their own recovery.

Is it realistic, however, to think that we can continue to ignore sufferers of alcoholism by expecting untrained individuals, however well-meaning, in a community centre setting, to take the strain and provide the solutions that we so desperately need.

To paraphrase psychologist Phil McGraw, is it working for us?

Rehabilitation facilities operate on the premise that recovery from addiction requires intensive and holistic therapy. Removal from the subjects home environment for a minimum of 28 days is key in order to allow for detox, if necessary, and thorough reprogramming of unhelpful behaviours.

Admittance to a rehab facility costs around a thousand pounds a week, prohibitively expensive to the majority of sufferers, however real they are being or however seriously they are taking responsibility for their condition.

In the USA alcohol related crimes can be subject to an enforced period of rehab and arguably a similar approach could be successfully adopted here in the UK.

There is no doubt, however, that state funded rehab facilities would benefit sufferers of alcoholism and just as importantly, the wider community. Even the most hardened alcoholic will, at some point, gain moments of clarity during which they recognise and accept their condition. Services need to be there at that very moment to respond. An hour or a day is too long to leave them alone with their addiction which will be, in most cases, stronger than them.

Alcoholism is an isolating, humiliating and degrading condition and the most frightening thing about it is that it is democratic. It attacks all social, economic and educational groups without discrimination.

It is likely that you will, at some point in your life, come into contact with the horrifying consequences of alcohol abuse. It is not restricted to the weak and feckless in our society and given the right circumstances, it can strike anyone, anywhere.

As demonstrated there are positive steps that we, as a country, can take to address the problem of alcoholism but removing the stigma and secrecy of alcohol addiction would at least slice through the isolation, shame and humiliation that perpetuates the misery for sufferers.

© House of Albion, 2010.

March 8, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | 2 Comments

March 6, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment


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So don’t keep quiet, speak out.

March 5, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment