It is now illegal throughout the EU to manufactur 60-watt incandescent light bulbs. This is an effort to encourage (force?) people to use energy efficient bulbs in order to help reduce our CO2 footprints. Is this a good idea or the EU being too draconian again?
The first thing to point out is that it won’t actually affect most people. To illustrate, hands up if you noticed that the 100-Watt or 75-Watt incandescent light has ceased to be produced for quite a while now? Exactly, if you don’t notice something is no longer there then it can’t be that important to you. All those who protest this piece of policy, remind me of those boyfriends when they suddenly find out their ‘favourite’ t-shirt had been thrown away by their girlfriend 6 months previously.
Yet, there are those such as Labour MP Sheila Gilmore who claim that these ‘new’ (and of course they are not new their design is just not hundreds of years old like Edisons) have detrimental health affects such as causing migraines. It is estimated by some that these new bulbs will have a detrimental affect on 2 million people, so the daily mail tells us. Even if this is true (and I would question what is deemed a detrimental affect) then the potential health consequences that may occur if the ban is implemented is minimal in comparison to the potential health consequences if we do not take measures to tackle climate change (at this point I would encourage anyone who hasn’t to read my blog on the human impact of climate change).
Ahh, but (I hear you cry) – by banning lightbulbs you are not going to tackle climate change. I would concede this point – you will not. What you will do though is reduce our total carbon footprint which will reduce the inevitable detrimental consequences of climate change. I have said it a million times before and I will say it again – climate change is not something that will either happen or not happen, it is something that IS happening. We are just trying to reduce the negative consequences by keeping average global temperature increases to a minimum. In other words what we experience will be a lot worse if we heat this planet up by 5 degree from 1990 levels than if we stuck to more modest 1.5 degree mark.
By banning incandescent light bulbs we will do this in a manner that has minimal negative consequences.
Every piece of social policy has negative consequences – there is no such thing as a perfect piece of social policy. The smoking ban for example (a piece of policy I strongly support) is A) illiberal, B) contributing to the closure of countries pubs (although not to the degree the tobacco lobby would suggest) and C) has forced some smoking bars to close costing communities central meeting places. Yet, in the grand scheme of things we can see it is broadly having a positive affect on society. I would argue – so will the ban on the manufacture (not use) of the incandescent light bulb.
Simply, this piece of policy, although not perfect, doesn’t cause significant harm – but has the potential to help us remove the threat of a potentially very serious form of harm. In my mind at least, this means it can be justified.
The Government has today announced its measures to try and tackle the health problems related to smoking tobacco. They have launched a paper called “Healthy lives, healthy people: A tobacco control plan for England” which includes their desire to ban displays of tobacco products.
There are some problems related to smoking tobacco that cannot be ignored.
- Over 80,000 people die in England each year from smoking related diseases, that’s more than all deaths from alcohol, road traffic and other accidents, suicide, illegal drugs and diabetes combined.
- Smoking causes 18% of all deaths in those aged over 35.
- Smoking is estimated to cost the NHS in England £2.7billion per year, or more than £50million per week.
- The overall cost of smoking to society is estimated at close to £14billion per year (taking into account health costs, lost productivity, and smoking related fires)
- Seven out of ten current smokers want to give up smoking and six smokers in ten make an attempt to quit each year.
These facts speak for themselves to illustrate the problem. Yet, this move, although welcomed by health groups have been met with a barrage of criticism.
One of the biggest concerns about the display ban is about the effect it will have on small business, but I think the government has tackled this issue by delaying the implementation date for small shops. This gives them time to adapt to what is essentially quite a small change.
Equally, people have highlighted this move as the “nanny state” trying to control or restrict individual freedoms [to do self harm]. Yet again, this argument does not seem to hold up, as there is no proposed ban on the purchasing or selling of these products, just that you will have to ask for them rather than be able to see them. The logical conclusion however is that shops should be forced to ban the display of all harmful products (saturated fats, alcohol…where does it stop)?
My concern with the ban is whether or not it will have the desired effect. In other words will it actually reduce smoking rates? The gov’t aims to by 2015 to reduce smoking rates:
- From 21.2% to 18.5% or less among adults;
- From 15% to 12% or less among 15 year olds; and
- From 14 % to 11% or less among pregnant mothers.
If it manages to reduce smoking rates as the government officials suggest then I fully support this ban. I cannot help but to think that the downsides of this ban are the last cries from an embattled industry. I do not think it is threatening our civil liberties. I do not think it will be the reason why small businesses go out of business. But I do think it may just help some of those thousands of people who are trying to give up smoking succeed.
For all those who don’t want to give up – you don’t have to. You are free to carry on smoking!
Filed under Health, Politics
Lord Pearson of UKIP, what a berk!
Cecilia Malmstroem, the EU Home Affairs Commissioner said yesterday that “I do not see the need for a European law on the burqa” when asked if there could be a ban across all of the EU one day. This comes in reflection to a number of Member States moving draft and first reading of bills through their parliaments.
Belgium is perhaps the closet to a full ban of the burqa. In April this year, they voted through the lower house a full ban. It now just needs to be passed by their senate. In France, who has the biggest Muslim population in the EU, the cabinet has approved a draft law to fully ban the burqa. It has already banned it from public spaces such as schools as it is a “religious symbol”. Just last week the Spanish (who currently hold the EU presidency) upper house approved a motion calling on their president to ban the burqa.
It is reassuring then, that at the very least, the EU Commission considers this to be a Member State issue, and not something to be tackled in Brussels.
It is curious to ponder for a short period why such emphasis is placed on the burqa. The first commonly quoted argument against the burqa is “suspicion”. “How do we know who is under this veils?”…”it breads suspicion if you cannot see someone’s face”. These arguments can be equally applied to face paints, balaclavas, full face helmets, cosmetic surgery or pretty much anything else that alters or hides away someone’s face. Another common argument you often is hear is that it is oppressive to women, that they should be “forced” into wearing veils. Lord Pearson (UKIP) once famously stated that the burqa were “is incompatible with Britain’s values of freedom and democracy” and it is “oppressive to women”.
The problem with this argument is that it removes all sense of agency from the individuals. It assumes that these girls and women, do not, and cannot choose to wear a burqa. Although there are clear cases where this is the case, it has to be noted that a significant number of women choose to wear a burqa. If, a universal ban is implemented within a country (or even worse a continent), then we slip down a very worrying slope about the state setting standards about what is, and isn’t acceptable, for it’s citizens to wear. For me, the argument is not about whether a women should be able to wear a burqa or not; it is about why some women feel forced into wearing it. This question will not be addressed by banning it. To empower women by criminalizing their action is absurd.