Monday, September 14, 2009

Smoke,mirrors and farm animals.

Two issues caught my eye this week. In my home of West Australia new legislation is being passed to make smoking in cars illegal when there are children present( link 1). This is as usual being hailed as a measure that will “save lives”.

Whilst this sounds great there are some unanswered “awkward” questions. Firstly how exactly is such a law to be enforced? Police are busy enough without trying to see whether cars contain someone smoking in the presence of a child under 17. Practically speaking unless a police car pulls up next to you at the lights your chances of being caught are minimal. Furthermore those who smoke in cars will also smoke at home. Given most people spend more time at home than in a car then how much less smoke are these children being exposed to?

Now the supporters of the bill will say that now that it is illegal, people wont do it because they don’t want to break the law. In other words they will do the right thing. This is the crux of the matter. Issues like this are a matter of personal judgment and not law enforcement. Those who want to smoke in their car will continue to do so, children present or not. Given the extremely low likelihood of penalty the behavior will not change. Those who wouldn’t do so already are doing the “right thing”. Legislating in areas of personal behavior (such as smoking) sends a message that it is the governments responsibility not that of the individual.

Lets be honest-Smoking is not good for you. No one who has started smoking in the last 35 years is not aware of this - yet choose to do so anyway. Petty laws will not change this. As I wrote on June 5 (link 2) the best way to stop smoking is to just stop smoking.

The other issue this week is our old friend the swine flu. Australian Health Department figures show that the spread in Australia is diminishing and that the virus is generally mild. Total deaths associated with H1N1 have been 150. This is significantly less than the usual flu toll in winter.

Despite this plans continue for a mass vaccine roll out. As I predicted on August 28, the government has stepped in to indemnify doctors who administer the vaccine. A special consent form will be used and its distribution will be under a legal clause that endorses its safety. We now have special immunity from damages claims for both manufacturers and doctors, a vaccine which has had little testing and is to be administered from multi dose vials which were effectively banned many years ago.

Public health officials worry that the row over indemnity may have damaged public confidence in the vaccine. If the vaccine is so safe why the need for special indemnity for the manufacturers and the doctors?

For unknown reasons and despite clear evidence to the contrary, public health officials continue to treat H1N1 like they were chicken little and claim the sky is falling. Is this some bizarre farm animal thing? Chicken little doesn’t like the pigs?? Memo to the powers that be -the sky isn’t falling.

Interestingly according to Australian Doctor magazine (Sept 4) a poll of UK doctors revealed 60% would refuse to be vaccinated and 71% of Australian doctors were either unsure or would refuse.

This tells you something. For the record I am in the group that will refuse a vaccine and I will not let my family have one either.



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