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« Animal magic | Main | Permission to smoke, master? »

Senior health advisor agrees with Forest!

julian%20le%20grand-100.jpg In September 2004 I was invited, with the late Lord Harris, chairman of Forest, to a meeting with John Reid, then Health Secretary. Apart from Reid, there were four other people present, who I took to be civil servants and advisors. One of them was Julian Le Grand (left) who has been making the news with his plan for a £10 permit for smokers.

Ralph Harris and I began the 30-minute meeting by outlining our objections to a ban on smoking in all enclosed public places. We spoke for five or six minutes, focussing on the issue of secondhand smoke. We highlighted the major studies and concluded that the evidence could not possibly justify a comprehensive ban. (Note: the meeting took place BEFORE Reid announced his plan to ban smoking in all workplaces except private members' clubs and pubs that don't serve food.)

When we finished, Reid turned to his senior advisor and asked: "What do you think?" Julian Le Grand didn't hesitate. "I agree with them," he said, nodding in our direction. Reid thought for a moment, then said (I paraphrase): "Yes, I've always been pretty dubious about passive smoking."

Less encouragingly, he went on to say that the threat of "passive smoking" was not the reason the government wanted further restrictions on public smoking. The real reason, he explained, was to encourage smokers to quit so the government could meet its target of reducing the smoking rate to 21 per cent by 2010. (That is why, despite our best efforts, the issue of passive smoking remains a sideshow to the main event.)

I am not aware of any official record of that conversation because it was a private meeting and Ralph and I felt honourbound to respect the confidential nature of our discussion. Sadly (to the best of my knowledge), neither John Reid nor his senior advisor ever went public with their true thoughts on secondhand smoke. 

Until last night.

On Radio Five's Stephen Nolan Show I reminded Le Grand of what he had said. He claimed not to remember but added, helpfully: "I don't actually think the arguments on passive smoking are all that strong."

So there we have it. Senior government advisor on health says:  "I don't think the arguments on passive smoking are all that strong." Who would have thought it?

PS. In interviews yesterday Professor Le Grand repeated the anti-smoking mantra that 70 per cent of smokers wish to quit. It's a figure that comes up all the time and it came up at our meeting in 2004. As I recall, John Reid was quick to dismiss it. In his opinion, the true figure was nearer 30 per cent. Now, who would you believe? A middle-class academic in his smoke-free ivory tower, or a former nicotine addict whose constituency has one of the highest smoking rates in the country?

Reader Comments (14)

I believe that all these numbers are pulled out of thin air, Simon, and that millions of people are being hounded and bullied for no other reason than those ridiculous numbers.

Who decided to reduce smoking to 21% by 2010? Whoever that person was directly opened the door to this bully state, and started the process of the roll-back of rights and laws that were put in place following the Holocaust in order to prevent anything of it's ilk ever happening again.

One number. Just one number, and look where it's led. Why that number? Why not a different one? Why not have no number at all?

This number is now so important that rights, freedoms, the isolation of elderly people, kicking people outdoors in freezing temperatures, the denial of small pleasures to people who fought for our freedoms mean nothing.

The government is so glued to this number that it has deemed this train to disaster as unstoppable.

Whoever thought that one little number, grabbed from thin air, could be so destructive? More important than kindness, generosity, heart, spirit, decency, tolerance, liberal attitudes. More important than celebrating difference and caring about your neighbour, warts an' all. More important than offering a helping hand to someone in need.

Seemingly more in important than anything. Ever.



Feel the power.

Feel the hate it generates.

Feel the fascism.

I will never look at this number in the same way again.

Who made it up? Whoever THAT was, is the truly malignant force in our society.

February 16, 2008 at 15:01 | Unregistered CommenterStruggling Spirit

It might have been someone in the WHO. It was a British doctor and public health ofticial's suggestion to the WHO that active smoking might be discouraged by fostering a belief in the harm done by smokers to non-smokers.

I found your post moving, Spirit, putting into perspective,as it did, ll the distress caused by someone no doubt just plucking a figure out of the air.

February 16, 2008 at 15:23 | Unregistered CommenterJoyce

Very well said, Struggling Spirit. I think you have covered all the salient points and I totally agree with you. We always knew it was all a farcical pantomime, now, at least someone who supposedly has some clout in this matter has actually said "I don't think the arguments on passive smoking are all that strong." Just a pity he can't be bothered to get off his backside and shout it from the rooftops. However, I guess the trouble is that the damage has already been done!

Politicians, corrupt, lying bastards, the lot of them!

February 16, 2008 at 19:21 | Unregistered CommenterLyn

I think we have made progress, Sandford and Arnott lie your way out of this one.

February 16, 2008 at 20:53 | Unregistered CommenterDave Atherton

Just typical of MPs and politicians they all lie through their backteeth to obtain what they and I repeat they want. Everyone that has ever read the reports that matter on SHS know it is harmless to others. I just wonder who is going to pick up all those millions of smokers votes at the next election, it wont be Labour or Liberal they voted for a total ban, Conservatives were 2 to 1 against it but I havnt heard Cameron sticking up for equal rights for smokers, so perhaps all of us smokers should just not bother to vote, its worthless anyway when political parties dump their manifestos like Labour has done. The have no respect, worth or integrity of the value of someones vote.

February 16, 2008 at 20:59 | Unregistered CommenterCharlie

I heard that admission from Mr Le Grand. The number of smokers have been decreasing for years and I believe that the smoking ban and any other restrictions will slow down any further decrease.

February 16, 2008 at 21:00 | Unregistered Commenterchas

Sorry for the shameless obsequiousness, well done Simon.

February 16, 2008 at 21:05 | Unregistered CommenterDave Atherton

yes were waiting Amanda and Deborah!

February 16, 2008 at 21:31 | Unregistered CommenterCarlo

Immediately after this interview, Stephen Nolan went onto a debate about obesity. One listener kept saying that it was the fault of the obese person for continually eating. Stephen was himself grossly overweight and has recently lost about three stone. The reason for over eating was blamed onto 'comfort' eating. I suppose the same could be said for smoking. This could be true because while the number of smokers have declined in recent years the numbers of obese have risen. What costs the Health service more, smoking or obesity?

February 17, 2008 at 11:10 | Unregistered Commenterchas

Hi Chas. Obesity is generally quoted ay $3.5-4 billion per year, just read alzheimers is £10 billion, smokers never get that of course. The figures from the Dutch study is a non smoker costs over a lifetime £211,000 and a smoker £165,000. Why don't we all get mentioned in the honours list, I'm up from an OBE myself?

February 17, 2008 at 17:05 | Unregistered CommenterDave Atherton

Dave. Alcohol is also drunk for 'comfort'. Again, the cost to the health service is far more than tabacco. You forgot to mention the amount of extra tax that smokers pay in duty and VAT. I don't want any honour, not when they are given out to our not so honourable MPs.

February 17, 2008 at 17:35 | Unregistered Commenterchas

The admission by Grande/Reid was echoed by the email I received from Lady Elaine Murphy after my visit over there. She said:

"Dear Mr McFadden,
You and many others have completely missed the point about smoking and health. The aim is reduce the public acceptability of smoking and the culture which surrounds it. We know that legislation which discourages all public smoking will have the better impact on public understanding and perception of smoking as an unacceptable habit.
Hence fewer people will smoke, hence health overall will improve."

Basically an admission that the smoking ban is based on a lie... the lie that it's about secondary smoke and "protecting the workers' health".

Michael J. McFadden
Author of "Dissecting Antismokers' Brains"

February 20, 2008 at 1:54 | Unregistered CommenterMichael J. McFadden

Michael -

WHO, exactly, IS this 'Lady Elaine Murphy' ?

I'm not sure about YOUR having 'completely missed the point etc etc': SHE seems to have completely lost the plot...................!

February 20, 2008 at 10:07 | Unregistered CommenterMartin V

They've bee rumbled on SHS and know it. Unable to argue their fraudulent "passive-smoking kills x,000s" extrapolation against informed opposition, they shift the focus and hope no-one notices. I note Lady Murphy's tone expects no-one to have the slightest problem either with her appalling social-engineering mentality, nor her concept of that which constitutes correct lifestyle.

February 20, 2008 at 18:46 | Unregistered CommenterBasil Brown

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