Monday, 14 December 2009
Of duty and sense.
I like absinthe. I take my hat off to it, in fact. Its weedy cousin, Pernod, just doesn't cut it. Not on strength but on taste. Both have the aniseed, both go cloudy on addition of a little water, but only absinthe has the bitterness of wormwood.
These drinks came into being as a result of a set of long-ago French Righteous. Those Righteous wanted to clamp down on alcohol so they introduced punitive taxation. Being Righteous, and therefore incapable of seeing the consequences of their actions, they set the tax on the volume of booze produced. A litre of beer attracted the same tax as a litre of gin. It was a stupid way to do it but it suited the simpletons who ran the show at the time.
It must have taken all of half an hour for someone to realise that they could produce an alcoholic drink at 60-80% alcoholic strength, pay the tax per litre and then dilute it for consumption later. Absinthe is meant to be diluted four to six times before consumption. If you drink it at full strength you'll soon find how deadly it is. Yes, I tried a shot, and no, I won't try again. I lost all feeling in my tongue for at least an hour.
The point is that the tax was applied to the volume produced, not the alcoholic strength. If absinthe was shipped as it was meant to be consumed, the producers would have paid four to six times as much tax.
These days, taxes are much more convoluted and arbitrary and which drinks are hit depends on nothing more scientific than which drinks the Chancer of the day likes or dislikes. The absinthe trick doesn't work any more. It was available here for a while but it's vanished again now. At £25 for a bottle it was never going to be the booze of choice for the Red Stripe brigade but it's probably been deemed too dangerous to let us have any.
Naturally, there are those of us who don't care about Nanny's rules.
Nanny will be furious if she catches us with any of the Naughty Things. The naughtiest of all naughty things is, of course, any form of smoking. Tobacco trumps guns, knives, porn or booze every time. Therefore tobacco must have all indication of what it is stripped from the packaging and these new anonymous packets stored under the counter in case a passing five-year-old decides to buy some.
Smokers are to sneak into the shop, wait until nobody's watching and then whisper 'tobacco' to the counter staff. Rather like a sixteen-year-old buying his first pack of condoms, we'll probably emerge from the shop with yet another toothbrush because there was a young girl serving. I'd be inclined to go into the shop, slap down half a dozen copies of Wanker's Weekly, demand the biggest pack of condoms in a very loud voice, ask if they have any merkins in stock, demand to know why not, and then lean over and whisper '...and a pack of tobacco,' but I won't. I won't buy tobacco there at all. Never again.
This was the last straw. Nanny now wants to ban smoking in our own homes. Oh, at first it's 'for the cheeeldren' but it's not going to stop there. It never does. Next will be smokers who live with non-smokers, whether the non-smoker objects or not. Then it will be all smokers, just in case someone wants to visit and to drive the point home, smoke police will visit all houses (all, not just smokers, in case of 'smoker sympathisers') to check at random intervals. As with pubs, restaurants and all business premises, you will not be allowed to decide whether anyone smokes in your house even if you're the only one living there. You might move, and the next occupier might pick up a molecule of tobacco smoke and spontaneously explode.
Rented accomodation? Forget it. Your landlord cannot permit you to smoke in there because he'll be fined if he does. Selling your house? Expect to be asked by the estate agent whether you're a smoker, and to lose several thousand pounds if you say yes. Ads will have to include whether the current owner is a smoker or not.
Smokers are now not merely denormalised. We are so reviled that we cannot be allowed to smoke even in the one place those antismokers will never, ever visit. Our own homes. And yet we pay for this through duty. We pay these people billions to treat us like utter scum but still it's not enough.
- a commitment to continued real-terms increases in tobacco duty to keep the price of cigarettes rising;
Keep putting the prices up. It won't matter any more because with every increase, fewer of us will be buying it.
- more stringent implementation of guidelines on smoking in films and television programmes;
They aren't guidelines. They are no-compromise demands. There is nothing voluntary about them and no discussion is possible. Even Popeye's iconic pipe is too much for them to bear and he's just a drawing. I refuse to pay people to tell me I can't watch a cartoon because there's a drawing that looks like smoke in it.
- new controls on the marketing of tobacco accessories;
This is the most sinister one. It's the one they'll use to control Electrofag. It won't be applied to patches and gum because Big Pharma won't let that happen. It will be applied to anything that looks like smoking.
- further investment in accessible and effective NHS "stop smoking" services;
Patches and gum. It's all they offer. Anything else is banned even if it's more effective. They don't want to succeed because they need that duty income. I'm not paying any more. Especially not to the NHS, who don't even want to treat me for any illness at all because I'm an evil smoker.
- imposing a total ban on smoking and the sale of cigarettes within the London 2012 Olympic site.
I hadn't planned to go anyway but if you're a smoker and you did, don't bother. You could stay home and watch if through the window while you stand in the garden but the Olympic no-smoking zone now covers London. You'll need to get to Reading to light up. This, I hope, will result in some countries' teams refusing to attend at all. Those who do turn up are supporting this draconian Righteous action and are not people I'm at all interested in watching. So I won't.
There cannot be a single smoker in the country who doesn't know of a dodgy tobacco supplier, or knows someone who does. That industry is about to boom. It's a pity they can't list on the Stock Exchange because they'd knock it up ten points on their own.
As for Electrofag, well, it's even easier to move than real tobacco. Like absinthe, the juice can be concentrated for transport and diluted for use. Propylene glycol and flavourings are food additives. Banning those will send the food industry apoplectic and simply set up another underground supply chain. Current electrofags are made to look like cigarettes but they don't need to be. They can look like a fountain pen or a pencil and they can even be made to act like those things.
This action will do nothing at all to persuade people to stop smoking because it's not even trying to do that. It's ordering people to stop smoking and we aren't going to respond to that with 'Well, okay'. We're going to respond with 'Stuff you.'
I will not pay these people to do this to me any more. You want duty, fine, that's not a problem in itself but when you use that money to buy yet another stick to beat me with, the money stops. I will not stop smoking. Every non-smoker who visits anywhere overseas can sell me their tobacco allowance at a profit. I will pay no more duty until this continual harassment is stopped.
As for Electrofag, I think I'll stock up with the highest strength fluids and some of the propylene glycol solution to dilute it. It's only a matter of time before they strike at what is actually the most effective smoking cessation device ever.
They don't want us to stop smoking because if we do that, the income dries up. Yet they are happy to use that income to beat us up and to encourage others to do the same.
No more from me, Chancer.
Oh, sure, there'll be 'crackdowns on those smoking imported stuff' but so what? The act of smoking is now so despised that it really doesn't matter whether what we're smoking is legal or not.
We'll be treated as criminals anyway.
Posted by Leg-iron at 19:59