Sigh.

A self-employed painter and decorator has been given a £30 on-the-spot fine for smoking in his own van because it is classified as a workplace.

Gordon Williams, 58, went out to buy some teabags for his wife when he was stopped as part of a roadside check by council officials.

Moments earlier he had lit a cigarette and was issued the penalty notice under anti-smoking legislation that bans it in the workplace. Mr Williams, a grandfather, is planning to appeal against the fine even though his wife has already paid it.

Erm, council officials have the right to undertake random roadside stops? Since when?

As it turns out the fine probably wasn\’t legally levied:

A careful reading of the smoke-free premises regulations for Wales suggests that the council officials may have been overzealous.

A spokesman for the Welsh Assembly, which drafted the legislation, said: “Smoking is permitted in vehicles used for work purposes that are for the sole use of the driver and are not used as a workplace by anyone else.”

But that\’s not the point. Are we really paying rising council tax so that random stops can be made on whether people are smoking in their cars?

If we are, should we be?

Visions of pitchforks and burning brands start to dance in my head….

This Could be Interesting

The Government\’s top doctor said England should follow Europe and America and ban teenage drivers from drinking any alcohol at all in order to prevent accidents.

Now it sounds as if such a ban should indeed help. Pass a law, everybody obeys it and Bob\’s your parental sibling of choice.

However, that little addition of "America" (rather than what was actually meant, Canada) provides us with a check. In the US, no one is allowed to drink under the age of 21. So, do they have a zero rate of teenage accidents involving alcohol?

Umm, no, they don\’t….so do they have a lower rate of such accidents?

I\’ve no idea and I\’m not going to pursue the numbers, but that is the way we should measure the value of these proposals. Does a ban on teenage drinking and driving actually stop all teenage drinking and driving….does it in fact reduce the rate at all? I wouldn\’t be surprised to find out that it doesn\’t.

Highly Worthwhile, Don\’t You Think?

Hundreds of thousands of parents will be banned from ferrying children to sports matches next year unless they have had criminal records checks, under new rules.

The clampdown is part of an escalation in child protection policies which will see 11 million adults vetted before they come into contact with children or vulnerable adults.

Under new regulations, parents who are asked by the organisers of a children\’s sports team to take other children to sports fixtures like football or cricket matches will have to be vetted.

However, the rules are open to misinterpretation because checks are not necessary if a parent offers to give a lift to a friend\’s children to a match without telling the local club.

So the same action, giving a kid a lift to a footie game, requires a CRB check if the club asks you to do it and does not if a parent asks you to do it?

It\’s difficult to escape the idea that the world\’s gone mad really.

Banning Mobile Phones

A nice piece of banstubation here. We have the first part, a real tragedy:

Drivers have been given a stark warning of the dangers of hands-free mobile phone calls after a haulier was jailed for causing a fatal crash whilst talking on a Bluetooth headset.

Then we have the call for the ban:

Relatives of Mr Buston and road safety charities called for an outright ban on making phone calls whilst driving, which makes drivers four times more likely to have an accident, even if they are using a hands-free kit.

Umm, four times more likely than what? Then we have the enumeration of the actual dangers:

Around 30 deaths on the roads each year are linked to mobile phone use, but the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) believes this is "just the tip of the iceberg" because so few drivers admit to using mobile phones when they cause crashes.

Which means that, given the 4,000 or so deaths a year on the road that mobile phones are resonsible for some 1% or so of them.

Then we come to the real crunch point:

Roger Vincent, a spokesman for RoSPA, urged the government to impose a blanket ban on making phone calls whilst driving, saying the current laws banning the use of hand-held mobiles failed the address the issue.

"It is the conversation itself that is the problem, because people get more and more involved in that and pay less and less attention to the road," he said.

So, are we to ban drivers from conversing with their passengers?

 

 

Government Explained

Dawn Primarolo, the public health minister, said: "Protecting children from smoking is a government priority and taking away temptation is one way to do this.

"If banning brightly coloured packets, removing cigarettes from display, and removing the cheap option of a pack of 10 helps save lives, then that is what we should do."

Eh? Since when was saving lives the only determinant of policy? Aren\’t we supposed to also weigh in the balance those little things called freedom and liberty? It\’s not so much these specific proposals as the ghastly arrogance with which they are justified.

Methinks Simon Heffer Wrote This

Leader in the Telegraph.

Yesterday, two things happened that may just start to turn that tide. Jacqui Smith, the Home Secretary, announced that the Government was ignoring the advice of its own Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs and will reclassify cannabis as a Class B drug – four years after it was downgraded to a Class C drug.

This does more than simply illustrate the gulf between Tony Blair\’s metropolitan liberalism and Gordon Brown\’s fastidious Presbyterianism. It is actually about policing.

The other important move was Boris Johnson\’s first significant announcement as Mayor of London – that the drinking of alcohol will be banned on all public transport in the capital from the beginning of next month.

In both cases we have millions of people being told what they may not do, both profoundly illiberal moves, on the spurious grounds of their possible effects on others. We already have rules agains being drunk and disorderly, we already have rules against bothering other passengers, we already have rules against any of the effects of either drugs or alcohol on other people.

But let\’s ban them just to be sure, eh?

Drug War Idiocy

Gordon Brown today gave his backing for cannabis to be reclassified as a more serious drug later this month in a move that will reverse its downgrading by his predecessor.

Sigh.

It\’s all been based on a quite startling campaign of misinformation.

After becoming Prime Minister last June, Mr Brown ordered a formal review into the classification of cannabis which is due to report later this month.

Today\’s comments from the Prime Minister suggest he will push ahead with reclassification regardless of what the review concludes.

Sigh.

The Prodnoses Again

We\’re going to end up like the Americans on this alcohol subject, you know? And that sort of hysteria isn\’t a good thing.

Pregnant women are warned they should drink no alcohol at all despite no evidence the occasional glass is harmful.

And despite the odd glass being relaxing, something beneficial.

The hysteria in the US can reach the stage that women can panic after eating a salad where wine was used in the preparation of the dressing. We simply don\’t need to go down that road.

The reason why it has been announced?

Dr Gillian Leng, of Nice, said the advice was tightened partly because of the recognition of the harm excessive drinking was doing in society generally.

So because some drink excessively and damage themselves, those who are actually benefitting themselves by drinking moderately should stop?

 

Hmm

Thousands of lives a year could be saved by a small rise in alcohol prices, doctors\’ leaders said yesterday as they put more pressure on Gordon Brown to tackle Britain\’s binge-drinking "epidemic".

More than a quarter of all drink-related deaths could be prevented by a 10 per cent rise in taxes on beer, wine and spirits, the British Medical Association (BMA) claimed.

You know, that really would be rather surprising.

Sir Charles George, the chairman of the BMA science and education board, said a 10 per cent rise would prevent 29 per cent of alcohol-related deaths in men and 27 per cent in women.

Are we to assume there that a 10% rise in tax (say, a 6 or 7 % rise in final price) will cut consumption by some 28%? That would make alcohol demand amazingly responsive to changes in price. An extremely elastic response.

Does anyone actually know what the elasticity of demand of alcohol is? Have there been any economic studies on this? Or is the BMA talking out of its arse?

Update: Looking here:

For example, a price elasticity of alcohol demand of -0.5 means that a 1-percent increase in price would reduce alcohol consumption by 0.5 percent (or a 10-percent increase in price would reduce consumption by 5 percent). An extensive review of the economic literature on alcohol demand concluded that based on studies using aggregate data (i.e., data that report the amount of alcohol consumed by large groups of people), the price elasticities of demand for beer, wine, and distilled spirits are -0.3, -1.0, and -1.5, respectively

So a 10% rise in price would reduce consumption of beer by 3%, wine by 10% and spirits by 15%. Is that enough to reduce the medical impact by 28%?

Or here, more specifically the elasticity of demand amongst young people:

The finding that drinking by young adults can be considered an addictive behavior has important implications for the effects of price on alcohol consumption. For example, when Grossman and colleagues (1998) used models that ignored the addictive aspects of alcohol consumption to analyze their data, they estimated an average price elasticity of alcohol demand of -0.29.

That is, a 10% rise in prices will reduce consumption in the age group by 2.9%….you don\’t think the BMA has got a little confused do you? Multiplied the effect by 10? Or forgotten to tell us that it\’s a 100% rise in tax that will reduce the effects by 28%?

Or Table 2.1 here. A meta-study of the research.

A summary of the own price elasticity, qp η , information — reported in absolute value
form — is presented in Table 2.1. Estimates are reported for 18 countries, and there are 46 beer
own-price elasticity estimates, bb η , 54 wine own price elasticity estimates, ww η , and 50 spirits
own-price elasticity estimates, ss η . The bb η estimates ranged from highly inelastic (0.09) to
elastic (1.20), with a mean bb η of 0.38. For the ww η the range of estimated values was slightly
greater; (0.05) to (1.80), ww η = 0.77. While the ss η estimates showed the greatest variation,
ranging from; (0.10) to (2.00), ss η = 0.70. The ww η estimate and the ss η estimate appear quite
similar, and statistical tests — details of which are given in Appendix II — indicate the ww η and
the ss η are not statistically different. Using the same approach, it is possible to conclude the
bb η is statistically different to both the ww η and the ss η .
Frequency distributions for the bb η , the ww η , and the ss η are presented in Figures 2.1,
2.2, and 2.3 and the plots clearly show the majority of estimates to be less than one. In
particular, 93 percent of the bb η estimates, 69 percent of the ww η estimates, and 80 percent of
the ss η estimates are less than one. Based on this result, it might seem reasonable to generalise
and conclude: The demand for all alcoholic beverages is inelastic, and beer is the most
inelastic beverage category.

If the price elasticity of alcohol is less than one, ie inelastic, then the BMA results are higly improbable (ie, what I really mean to say is that they\’re speaking out of their arses). A 10% rise in taxation, a 6 or 7 % rise in total price, will lead to a less than 6 or 7% drop in consumption, meaning that, well, at least I think it means that, there\’s no way that there can be a 28% drop in the medical effects of it.

 

 

 

Smoking in Pregnancy

Looks like it\’s not as bad as we are told:

The report uses data from the UK National Child Development Study, which provides details of mothers and their children between 1973 and 2000 — a total of 3,368 women and 6,860 children.

The information includes the mothers’ smoking habits, information about their families, and the birthweight and gestation period of the children.

Analysis of the data shows that smoking throughout pregnancy reduces birthweight by 5.6 per cent, and the gestation period by just over a day. But when the results are corrected for other factors, such as diet, lifestyle and alcohol, the effect of smoking on birthweight drops to 1.8 per cent and the reduction in gestation becomes insignificant.

A rule of thumb from many years ago: each cigarette smoked per day reduced, on average, the birth weight by 5 grammes. As a healthy baby is in the 2.5-3 kg range, 10 fags a day reduces birth weight by what, 2%?

E Numbers Hysteria

You really do have to hand it to our MPs and Lords: knowing arses from elbows is clearly an advanced manouvre for them.

All artificial colourings in food and soft drinks should be banned, a parliamentary committee urged yesterday in a report on the effect of diet on the brain.

The associate parliamentary food and health forum – a grouping of parliamentarians and outside experts such as nutritionists, doctors and the food industry – says at the end of a year-long inquiry that the Food Standards Agency should be taking a tougher line on E-numbers and additives, which some studies suggest may over-stimulate children\’s brains and make them hyperactive.

Now, it might be true that some of these chemicals are not quite what we want to feed into a growing brain. I would put the onus on parents to make this decision, but I\’m aware that there are those who might disagree. But that isn\’t my point here, rather, it\’s the insanity of their actual proposal.

For E numbers are not in fact some creation of the devil\’s spawn. It\’s simply a labelling system. There are certain things which are put into food and so that everyone knows what they can and cannot use when and where a single labelling system was drawn up for all in the EU. Not even I am against clarity through such cooperation (I might whine about the use of criminal law etc, but having information presented clearly is just fine by me).

Some E numbers do describe things made in the lab: others do not.

E140 Chlorophylls, Chlorophyllins:

Green colour occurs naturally in the cells of all plants and responsible for photosynthesis. A fairly unstable dye, which tends to fade easily (see E141). Not easy to obtain in a pure form and commercially available chloroyphyll usually contains other plant material impurities. The usual sources are nettles, spinach and grass with the chloroyphyll being extracted using acetone, ethanol, light petroleum, methylethylketone and diachloromethane. Lutein, E161b, may be extracted at the same time. Can be used for dyeing waxes and oils, used in medicines and cosmetics eg in chewing gum, fats and oils, ice cream, soaps, soups, sweets and, obviously, green vegetables. Has no maximum recommended daily intake and is not subject to any prohibitions.

We\’re going to ban the use of chlorophyll in food now, are we? Bye bye to all green vegetables then.

E160a Alpha-carotene, Beta-carotene, Gamma-carotene

Orange or yellow plant pigments, found mainly in carrots, green leafed vegetables and tomatoes, which the human body converts into \’Vitamin A\’ in the liver. Fades on exposure to light. Can be commercially manufactured in the laboratory but beta-carotene, with some alpha-carotene and gamma-carotene present, is normally extracted from carrots and other yellow or orange fruits and vegetables with hexane. Used in butter and soft margarines, coffee sponge cakes, milk products and soft drinks.

This is to go too? This is what is the stupidity: they\’ve confused the labelling system, the E numbers, with things that might do harm. But E numbers are simply a labelling scheme, nothing else. A blanket ban on the use of things with E numbers is insane.

E101 & E101a Riboflavin

Riboflavin is yellow or orange-yellow in colour and in addition to being used as a food colouring it is also used to fortify some foods. It can be found in such foods as baby foods, breakfast cereals, sauces, processed cheese, fruit drinks and vitamin-enriched milk products as well as being widely used in vitamin supplements. Also known as vitamin B2 occurs naturally in milk, cheese, leafy green vegetables, liver and yeast but exposure to light will destroy the Riboflavin in these natural sources. In processed foods it is very likely to be Genetically Modified as it can be produced synthetically using genetically modified Bacillus subtilis, altered to both increase the bacteria production of riboflavin and to introduce an antibiotic (ampicillin) resistance marker. It is an easily absorbed, water-soluble micronutrient with a key role in maintaining human health. Like the other B vitamins, it supports energy production by aiding in the metabolising of fats, carbohydrates and proteins. Vitamin B2 is also required for red blood cell formation and respiration, antibody production, and for regulating human growth and reproduction. It is essential for healthy skin, nails, hair growth and general good health, including regulating thyroid activity. Any excess is excreted in the urine but as the human body does not store Riboflavin it is thought deficiency is common. Riboflavin also helps in the prevention or treatment of many types of eye disorders, including some cases of cataracts. It may assist bloodshot, itching or burning eyes and abnormal sensitivity to light.

Cretins, simply cretins.

E150 Caramel

See?

Can we hang them all?

(Looking at the actual report, they took evidence on tartrazine alone and then decided that all artificial colourings should be banned. Swing bastards, swing.)

Bansturbation Again

Patio heaters could be banned by the European Union over fears that they are contributing to global warming.

Euro-MPs will today vote on energy efficiency proposals to phase out the sale of the popular gas-burning appliances which are increasingly found outside bars, cafés and restaurants since the indoor smoking ban.

Fiona Hall, a Liberal Democrat MEP, has led the calls for the ban, which is expected to be endorsed by the parliament in Brussels.

"Patio heaters are scandalous because they are burning fossil fuels in the open sky, so producing vast quantities of CO2 with very little heat benefit," she said.

Whether there is a benefit or not isn\’t actually for Ms. Hall to determine. That\’s for the consumer to work out. As long as the damage done by CO2 emissions, the externality, has been included in the prices paid via taxation, it\’s entirely up to the individual as to whether they use such a heater or not.

I\’ve no idea what the tax on natural gas is but I\’d be amazed if it\’s less than the $80 per tonne CO2 that would cover that externality.

Can we leave yet?

Official:

Community life is now anti-social.

Villagers have been barred from putting up posters inviting people to charity events because it is "anti-social".

Volunteers in the hamlet of Misterton, Somerset, regularly use the village hall for coffee mornings and jumble sales to raise money for good causes.

Because of the building\’s isolated location they often put notices up around the village to drum up interest for the functions.

However, they were threatened with prosecution after local council officials discovered notices pinned up on a lamp post advertising a children\’s charity bingo.

The town hall claimed that the organisers were flyposting, which was against the law and punishable by a £75 fine.

The council told Paul Bradly, the treasurer of the village hall committee who wrote to complain, that it had a duty to "enforce legislation in regards to anti-social behaviour".

My order for lengths of the best hempen will need to be increased again I see.

Metric Martyrs

I think I know howthis will play out:

She faces 13 charges which are set out in a document that runs to 67 pages. They include two counts alleging that she used imperial weighing scales without an official stamp. The charges were brought by Hackney Council.

Great emphasis will be placed on the fact that her scales did not have the requisite stamp (and checking weighing equipment and measures has long been a function of local government). That they were Imperial will be played down.

However, I doubt very much that Hackney will stamp as being accurate Imperial only scales, so everyone can say with a straight face that of course you can use Imperial, only you must have stamped scales, which you can\’t get.

The interesting question will be whether the jury buys this or tells them to bugger off.

Relatedly, I must admit that I hadn\’t known this amusing detail:

Julian Harman, of Camelford, Cornwall, was ordered to pay costs for selling Brussels sprouts using imperial measures.

NIMBYs Come in Many Flavours

Leading the campaign is Fred Lambton, grandson of Lord Lambton, the former Tory cabinet minister who lived out his life in Tuscany after resigning from the Heath government over a call-girl scandal.

Others include models Rose Hanbury and Zita Lloyd; Joseph Getty, grandson of billionaire Sir Paul Getty; George Frost, son of Sir David Frost; Rollo Weeks, an actor; Arthur Jeffes, a polar explorer; Marissa Montgomery, founder of the Pussy Glamore lingerie range; and members of such society families as the Guinnesses and the Heskeths.

The Save Siena group claims there are already enough airports within driving distance of the city to serve its 55,000 population. The streets are crowded each summer for the Palio, a medieval horse race around the Piazza del Campo, a square which has been declared a world heritage site by Unesco.

Lambton, 22, heir to the Earldom of Durham and stepson of Jools Holland, the musician and television presenter, said: “I spent a lot of time out there when my grandfather was alive and I have seen what the airport would do.

Hurrah, Hurrah!

The owner of a small German computer company has fired three non-smoking workers because they were threatening to disturb the peace after they requested a smoke-free environment.

The manager of the 10-person IT company in Buesum, named Thomas J., told the Hamburger Morgenpost newspaper he had fired the trio because their non-smoking was causing disruptions.

Germany introduced non-smoking rules in pubs and restaurants on January 1, but Germans working in small offices are still allowed to smoke.

"I can\’t be bothered with trouble-makers," Thomas was quoted saying. "We\’re on the phone all the time and it\’s just easier to work while smoking. Everyone picks on smokers these days. It\’s time for revenge. I\’m only going to hire smokers from now on."

If you\’re alowed to fire people for smoking, why not?