Keep Calm and Stop Smoking!

I can understand why some smokers shout “hooray” for Bull Brand products like an ashtray that reads “Keep Calm and Have a Smoke”.  The ‘isolation’ and stigmatisation of smokers is extremely unhelpful in tackling the problem, provoking hardened nicotine addicts to band together against what they see as oppressive forces, also known as “Dreadful’s Gang”.

However, we cannot stand idly by condoning exploitative industries that encourage and enable their ‘consumers’ to smoke themselves to an early, excruciatingly painful and socially-costly grave.  Cigarettes are dreadful products that are rightly excoriated in public health campaigns and by medical practitioners.  Did you know that cigarettes make about a penny of profit for each one sold, which means the value of a life to Big Tobacco is about $10,000?

This slogan is tragically ironic.  A famous World War II Public Safety message has been turned on its head to falsely paint fags as some magical cure for anxiety.  The opposite is true because of nicotine cravings and the fact there is nothing soothing in being slowly, torturously killed over many years.  Moreover, as government debates stripping cigarette packets of all branding to make even more space for the graphic danger warnings, how on earth can this promotional gimmick be legal?

Obviously, we should not constrain free speech, but businesses must be forced to face up to their responsibilities and this item displays the worst excesses of capitalist profiteering.  I first saw this ashtray at the end of tills in Poundland – right in the eye line of young, impressionable kids queuing to pay for their sweets.  Madness! 

If we truly want a better society, we need to be serious about tackling the many causes of our woes, from tobacco smoke to binge drinking, obesity to skin cancer.  We should be working together to help one another, not making a quick buck by exploiting our neighbour’s misery. 


Sheep wool insulation

The Computer Aided Design class at Moray College were discussing different ways to insulate and heat the home they were tasked to design.  As part of the debate, I was thrilled to hear about environmentally-friendly sheep wool insulation.  

This material is brilliant for the job.  Back in 2008, demand for wool was so low, Welsh farmers were forced to settle for 33p a kilo – less than the cost of shearing the animals.  Although by 2013 this price had more than trebled to 108p/kilo, this fleecy material is naturally recurring and still fabulously priced.

Additional benefits over traditional man-made mineral fibre materials include ease of disposal (biodegrades quickly, so can enrich ground as part of compost, or possibly incinerated to produce energy) and the ability of the likes of NatuWool to absorb up to 35% of its own weight in moisture without significant changes to thermal performance.  Moreover, NatuWool can be fitted by hand, without gloves or masks, as it’s pleasant to handle and does not irritate skin.

 B&Q are now selling this excellent product, but sadly the price seems rather expensive.  At £16.98 for a smallish roll, which makes buying direct from the farmer a much more economical option, though I’m not sure how easy this would be.  Still, I’m glad to hear that we’re recognising how useful wool can be and making more of our natural resources.