Smoke gets in your eyes: The man who fought the right to light up when and where he liked

Smoke gets in your eyes: The man who fought the right to light up when and where he liked

In November 1992 Michael White dressed up as Sir Walter Raleigh, the man credited with bringing tobacco back from the New World, in protest against moves by National Express to ban smoking from their coaches

Michael White

Bodger

First published in News
Last updated

FORMER scrap dealer and cardboard recycler, one-time butcher and ex-market trader turned occasional model maker Michael White is sitting on a double-decker bus next to peer of the realm Lord Stoddart of Swindon beneath a formidable fug of bluey-grey smoke.

They are chatting away, nodding in agreement, occasionally shaking their heads in annoyance, Michael’s broad Cockney accent easily louder than anyone else’s in the vehicle but failing to drown out that of his companion, a veteran of Parliamentary debate.

On the face of it Michael, who spent several years in the Army and who could well be described as something of a rum character, would appear to have little in common with the respected senior politician who served Swindon for 13 years.

But there is a link between the pair, and it is wafting hazily through the bus as it stands outside Swindon Central Library in the town centre on this drizzly morning in October, 1991. Sixty-a-day man Michael is pulling on a roll-up while other seats are occupied by smokers who are doing their level best to fill the conveyance with tobacco fumes.

I am fairly certain that Lord Stoddart – Swindon’s Labour MP from 1970 to 1983 – would love to join them. But he cannot because he gave up his once customary pipe four years earlier after suffering a heart attack.

However, he is keen to be here to support those who, unlike himself, wish to smoke on public transport but have now been told not so much to stub it out as to not even think about lighting up on the buses in the first place.

Both Thamesdown Transport and Swindon and District Buses have introduced six-month trial smoking bans. Michael, “Stoddy,” and a dozen or so others, ranging from hardline smokers to non-partakers, will present a 2,300 signature petition to bus chiefs calling for the ban to be extinguished.

Before they hand it in, though, their specially-hired vehicle will take them on a jolly around the streets of Swindon enabling them to puff away in transit, defiantly reveling in their vice of choice.

David Stoddart says: “It’s a matter of civil liberties. I find it quite amazing that bus companies in Swindon and other places too, should seek to discriminate against one section of their passengers.”

Michael, 45, calculates that he has smoked more than a million cigarettes over the past 23 years. He later tells me: “It was good of him (Lord Stoddart) to join us. ‘E’s a gentleman – unlike you,” he laughs, jabbing a finger in my direction for some reason, before rollin’ another.

Just over a year later Michael, still fuming at what he views as an outrageous onslaught against those who enjoy a spot of ‘baccy’, goes one better. He is standing outside Swindon Bus Station dressed as Sir Walter Raleigh, although he looks uncannily like Henry VIII.

In his theatric Tudor garb, he cuts an odd though not unimpressive figure.

He unrolls a screed of verse that he intends to read to the bosses of National Express poetically enjoining them not go ahead with the proposed banishment of smoking on their coaches. “Ban ye not this evil weed,” says the Adver. Sir Walter, of course, is credited with bringing the evil weed Michael so relishes back to Merry England during his 16th Century voyages to our future colonies.

Every time I read about a new anti-smoking initiative, like the recent national No Smoking Day (which he once characteristically dismissed as “a load of rubbish”) I think of Michael White.

He is a very likeable bloke in the diamond geezer/barrow boy mode. There isn’t an ounce of hypocrisy about him. He walks it like he talks it. He says exactly what he thinks. Michael White doesn’t like being told what to do. Or, in this case, what he cannot do.

A divorced man and one of eight children, Michael started smoking when he was 13, quickly becoming a 20-a-day guy before progressing at one stage to a lung-bursting 100 – a ton-up triumph which meant that he spent more than eight hours of his waking hours with a cigarette drooping from his mouth.

Eventually reverting to a modest 60, he liked to claim that he was only ever afflicted with one cough during his entire life – and that was caused by inhaling dust.

Roll-ups were his passion and his weed of preference was a subtle, aromatic blend of Clan pipe tobacco and Old Holborn. As a non-smoker I haven’t a clue what this tastes like.

Michael’s ongoing altercations with the stub-it-out brigade began when he was prevented from lighting up on a London-bound coach from Swindon around 1991.

“There were no no-smoking signs. It didn’t say I couldn’t smoke on my bus ticket. I thought ‘bugger this. When I get back I’m going to start a campaign’.’” He launched SOS – Smokers of Swindon, a group that fought for the rights of local smokers against a mounting avalanche of “unreasonable” – Mick’s description – salvos aimed at those with the temerity to ignore Government health warnings and carry on dragging.

“I’m not saying that smoking is healthy,” he conceded. “But people should have the freedom of choice.” His big thing was passive smoking. The risks, he declared, were minimal. That’s what Dr Michael reckoned, anyway. Having been run over by a car in Welcombe Avenue in 1990 and subsequently invalided out of work, he dedicated much of his time to SOS, even producing a campaign newsletter.

Over the next couple of years Michael was the man to go to when a quote was required for stories outlining the latest assault on the dwindling liberties of smokers. There was even talk back in the early Nineties of a smoking ban in pubs which, as everyone knew, could never happen.

And then, all of a sudden, Michael White, founder, leader and driving force of SOS, vanished… as if in a puff of smoke.

The last time I spoke to Michael, early 1993 I’m guessing, he said he was off to take part in a survival course up north. Couldn’t raise him after that. No reply at his flat in Lyndhurst Crescent, Park North. Even the “Smokers Welcome” sign had been taken down.

A year or so later I’m watching regional TV news and there’s an article about this hardy old eccentric who had ‘gone back to his roots’ by living a simple life in a tent in the wilds of Gloucestershire. He is on camera brewing-up over a blazing log fire in the middle of the woods.

Suddenly, I’m sitting up in the sofa, a big grin plastered across my face: the beard; the swaggering Cockney brogue and, of course the tell-tale plume of cigarette smoke.

It’s him alright. Michael had reinvented himself as woodsman Bodger White. Swindon’s smokers’ champion had done a Reggie Perrin.

The man who fought for the right to light up when and where he liked

Michael White launched an SOS from his home in Park North – the campaign group Smokers of Swindon which fought for the rights of local people to light up in the face of what he saw as increasing discrimination.

The town’s former MP Lord Stoddart of Swindon had given up his once customary pipe but was keen to support SOS in its spirited but ultimately unsuccessful bid to thwart a smoking ban on the buses

Bodger is still making his voice heard

Over the years stories have occasionally emerged about Bodger White and his life in our ancient woodlands.

For almost a decade, it is encouraging to learn, he became a “gnarly old thorn” in the side of Stroud council.

He had stubbornly ignored their repeated threats and legal actions to shift him out of forests in Stroud and the Dursley Valley. He had cost the Stroud taxpayer around £20,000. Excellent!

In recent years Bodger – now a bone fide woodsman and an admired rustic – has been living in North Wiltshire as one of the West’s last traditional coppicers and bodgers.

He has dedicated the last 20 years or so to “pursuing ancient woodcrafts, making tent pegs, walking sticks and rustic fencing from tree branches.”

He has been chasing grants to teach others these age old rural skills and woodland management techniques, thus ensuring such countrified essentials do not die out. Good on you Michael, nice one Bodger… blissfully at one with nature and your rollies!

Comments (7)

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2:26pm Wed 7 May 14

harleyrider1777 says...

This pretty well destroys the Myth of second hand smoke:

http://vitals.nbcnew
s.com/_news/2013/01/
28/16741714-lungs-fr
om-pack-a-day-smoker
s-safe-for-transplan
t-study-finds?lite

Lungs from pack-a-day smokers safe for transplant, study finds.

By JoNel Aleccia, Staff Writer, NBC News.

Using lung transplants from heavy smokers may sound like a cruel joke, but a new study finds that organs taken from people who puffed a pack a day for more than 20 years are likely safe.

What’s more, the analysis of lung transplant data from the U.S. between 2005 and 2011 confirms what transplant experts say they already know: For some patients on a crowded organ waiting list, lungs from smokers are better than none.

“I think people are grateful just to have a shot at getting lungs,” said Dr. Sharven Taghavi, a cardiovascular surgical resident at Temple University Hospital in Philadelphia, who led the new study...............
............

Ive done the math here and this is how it works out with second ahnd smoke and people inhaling it!

The 16 cities study conducted by the U.S. DEPT OF ENERGY and later by Oakridge National laboratories discovered:

Cigarette smoke, bartenders annual exposure to smoke rises, at most, to the equivalent of 6 cigarettes/year.

146,000 CIGARETTES SMOKED IN 20 YEARS AT 1 PACK A DAY.

A bartender would have to work in second hand smoke for 2433 years to get an equivalent dose.

Then the average non-smoker in a ventilated restaurant for an hour would have to go back and forth each day for 119,000 years to get an equivalent 20 years of smoking a pack a day! Pretty well impossible ehh!
This pretty well destroys the Myth of second hand smoke: http://vitals.nbcnew s.com/_news/2013/01/ 28/16741714-lungs-fr om-pack-a-day-smoker s-safe-for-transplan t-study-finds?lite Lungs from pack-a-day smokers safe for transplant, study finds. By JoNel Aleccia, Staff Writer, NBC News. Using lung transplants from heavy smokers may sound like a cruel joke, but a new study finds that organs taken from people who puffed a pack a day for more than 20 years are likely safe. What’s more, the analysis of lung transplant data from the U.S. between 2005 and 2011 confirms what transplant experts say they already know: For some patients on a crowded organ waiting list, lungs from smokers are better than none. “I think people are grateful just to have a shot at getting lungs,” said Dr. Sharven Taghavi, a cardiovascular surgical resident at Temple University Hospital in Philadelphia, who led the new study............... ............ Ive done the math here and this is how it works out with second ahnd smoke and people inhaling it! The 16 cities study conducted by the U.S. DEPT OF ENERGY and later by Oakridge National laboratories discovered: Cigarette smoke, bartenders annual exposure to smoke rises, at most, to the equivalent of 6 cigarettes/year. 146,000 CIGARETTES SMOKED IN 20 YEARS AT 1 PACK A DAY. A bartender would have to work in second hand smoke for 2433 years to get an equivalent dose. Then the average non-smoker in a ventilated restaurant for an hour would have to go back and forth each day for 119,000 years to get an equivalent 20 years of smoking a pack a day! Pretty well impossible ehh! harleyrider1777
  • Score: -1

7:53pm Wed 7 May 14

harleyrider1777 says...

Reference Manual on Scientific Evidence: Third Edition

nap.edu

This sorta says it all

These limits generally are based on assessments of health risk and calculations of concentrations that are associated with what the regulators believe to be negligibly small risks. The calculations are made after first identifying the total dose of a chemical that is safe (poses a negligible risk) and then determining the concentration of that chemical in the medium of concern that should not be exceeded if exposed individuals (typically those at the high end of media contact) are not to incur a dose greater than the safe one.

So OSHA standards are what is the guideline for what is acceptable ''SAFE LEVELS''

OSHA SAFE LEVELS

All this is in a small sealed room 9x20 and must occur in ONE HOUR.

For Benzopyrene, 222,000 cigarettes.

"For Acetone, 118,000 cigarettes.

"Toluene would require 50,000 packs of simultaneously smoldering cigarettes.

Acetaldehyde or Hydrazine, more than 14,000 smokers would need to light up.

"For Hydroquinone, "only" 1250 cigarettes.

For arsenic 2 million 500,000 smokers at one time.

The same number of cigarettes required for the other so called chemicals in shs/ets will have the same outcomes.

So, OSHA finally makes a statement on shs/ets :

Field studies of environmental tobacco smoke indicate that under normal conditions, the components in tobacco smoke are diluted below existing Permissible Exposure Levels (PELS.) as referenced in the Air Contaminant Standard (29 CFR 1910.1000)...It would be very rare to find a workplace with so much smoking that any individual PEL would be exceeded." -Letter From Greg Watchman, Acting Sec'y, OSHA.

Why are their any smoking bans at all they have absolutely no validity to the courts or to science!
Reference Manual on Scientific Evidence: Third Edition nap.edu This sorta says it all These limits generally are based on assessments of health risk and calculations of concentrations that are associated with what the regulators believe to be negligibly small risks. The calculations are made after first identifying the total dose of a chemical that is safe (poses a negligible risk) and then determining the concentration of that chemical in the medium of concern that should not be exceeded if exposed individuals (typically those at the high end of media contact) are not to incur a dose greater than the safe one. So OSHA standards are what is the guideline for what is acceptable ''SAFE LEVELS'' OSHA SAFE LEVELS All this is in a small sealed room 9x20 and must occur in ONE HOUR. For Benzo[a]pyrene, 222,000 cigarettes. "For Acetone, 118,000 cigarettes. "Toluene would require 50,000 packs of simultaneously smoldering cigarettes. Acetaldehyde or Hydrazine, more than 14,000 smokers would need to light up. "For Hydroquinone, "only" 1250 cigarettes. For arsenic 2 million 500,000 smokers at one time. The same number of cigarettes required for the other so called chemicals in shs/ets will have the same outcomes. So, OSHA finally makes a statement on shs/ets : Field studies of environmental tobacco smoke indicate that under normal conditions, the components in tobacco smoke are diluted below existing Permissible Exposure Levels (PELS.) as referenced in the Air Contaminant Standard (29 CFR 1910.1000)...It would be very rare to find a workplace with so much smoking that any individual PEL would be exceeded." -Letter From Greg Watchman, Acting Sec'y, OSHA. Why are their any smoking bans at all they have absolutely no validity to the courts or to science! harleyrider1777
  • Score: 0

8:15pm Wed 7 May 14

Davey Gravey says...

Smoking stinks and is disgusting. Even if it was good for you it is unpleasant to non smokers
Smoking stinks and is disgusting. Even if it was good for you it is unpleasant to non smokers Davey Gravey
  • Score: 1

9:04pm Wed 7 May 14

harleyrider1777 says...

Non-Inherent rights are also protected via the 9th Amendment of the Bill of rights

” The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people ”

I say to all Free People it is your duty to defy and fight back against such Tyrannies as to protect your rights and those of your children in future generations to behold and live the right to be a ” FREE AMERICAN “.
Non-Inherent rights are also protected via the 9th Amendment of the Bill of rights ” The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people ” I say to all Free People it is your duty to defy and fight back against such Tyrannies as to protect your rights and those of your children in future generations to behold and live the right to be a ” FREE AMERICAN “. harleyrider1777
  • Score: 0

9:12pm Wed 7 May 14

harleyrider1777 says...

Davey Gravey wrote:
Smoking stinks and is disgusting. Even if it was good for you it is unpleasant to non smokers
It only stinks if you think it stinks,there are so many offensive odors out there where do we start outlawing,all of them maybe. Say your cologne stinks would it be fair to say your now a criminal for wearing it and offending someone. Perhaps your new car stinks inside from all the formaldehyde leeching from all that newness in the plastic and cloth in it...........what would you do?

Its silly to think of outlawing smoking based upon smell or odor just as its insane to outlaw other smells just because you think them Offensive.

But then again its bigotry not offensive smell that's behind the smoking bans and the denormalization of it which has been a mass failure as more people are smoking today than 20 years ago even though they keep trying to claim a reduction rate its the black market the world over that shows the increased rates not based upon sales of legal high taxed smokes!
[quote][p][bold]Davey Gravey[/bold] wrote: Smoking stinks and is disgusting. Even if it was good for you it is unpleasant to non smokers[/p][/quote]It only stinks if you think it stinks,there are so many offensive odors out there where do we start outlawing,all of them maybe. Say your cologne stinks would it be fair to say your now a criminal for wearing it and offending someone. Perhaps your new car stinks inside from all the formaldehyde leeching from all that newness in the plastic and cloth in it...........what would you do? Its silly to think of outlawing smoking based upon smell or odor just as its insane to outlaw other smells just because you think them Offensive. But then again its bigotry not offensive smell that's behind the smoking bans and the denormalization of it which has been a mass failure as more people are smoking today than 20 years ago even though they keep trying to claim a reduction rate its the black market the world over that shows the increased rates not based upon sales of legal high taxed smokes! harleyrider1777
  • Score: 0

9:16pm Wed 7 May 14

harleyrider1777 says...

World Atlas: More People Smoking Cigarettes than Ever


There are more people smoking now than ever before, despite health warnings and the rising price of cigarettes. In 1980, 4,453 billion cigarettes went up in smoke, which increased to 6,319 billion in 2010. By 2020, you can expect to find nearly seven billion cigarette ends littering the world.

Top of the charts in terms of nicotine addiction are Asia and Australia, which is where 57 percent of cigarettes are smoked today.

These alarming statistics are among many of the intriguing facts laid bare in the ninth edition of Dan Smith's The State of the World Atlas.
....................
.........

SMOKING RATES WENT UP ACROSS THE COUNTRY

March 13, 2014 at 4:54 pm

http://www.gallup.co
m/poll/167771/smokin
g-rate-lowest-utah-h
ighest-kentucky.aspx


All the smoking rates WENT UP! In the Gallup poll but in my tobacco free kids smoking rates from 2009 are much lower
World Atlas: More People Smoking Cigarettes than Ever There are more people smoking now than ever before, despite health warnings and the rising price of cigarettes. In 1980, 4,453 billion cigarettes went up in smoke, which increased to 6,319 billion in 2010. By 2020, you can expect to find nearly seven billion cigarette ends littering the world. Top of the charts in terms of nicotine addiction are Asia and Australia, which is where 57 percent of cigarettes are smoked today. These alarming statistics are among many of the intriguing facts laid bare in the ninth edition of Dan Smith's The State of the World Atlas. .................... ......... SMOKING RATES WENT UP ACROSS THE COUNTRY March 13, 2014 at 4:54 pm http://www.gallup.co m/poll/167771/smokin g-rate-lowest-utah-h ighest-kentucky.aspx All the smoking rates WENT UP! In the Gallup poll but in my tobacco free kids smoking rates from 2009 are much lower harleyrider1777
  • Score: -1

12:53pm Thu 8 May 14

Ollie Dognacky says...

It only stinks if you think it stinks


No. It really DOES stink.
That's why even smokers don't like to use their own car ashtrays
[quote]It only stinks if you think it stinks[/quote] No. It really DOES stink. That's why even smokers don't like to use their own car ashtrays Ollie Dognacky
  • Score: -2

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