Published: 10/04/2003, Volume II3, No. 5850 Page 23

I do not work for or with any manufacturer, distributor or retailer of kava kava. Before the government announced a ban at the beginning of the year, I knew nothing about it.

I have never taken it as a medicine or food supplement. I have absolutely no personal interest in it at all.

So why am I against the ban?

Because I believe in freedom.

Kava kava is the national drink of Fiji and Tonga. It is a stress reliever for many in the UK and elsewhere. I believe that wherever possible people should be free to make and offer what services they like, and wherever possible people should be free to decide if they want to buy them.

Why is the government so keen to ban it? They say it is because kava kava could, in certain circumstances, cause liver damage. That is possible. We know that nuts can make some people violently, even dangerously, ill.

Despite this, we do not ban nuts. We do ask processed food manufacturers to put a clear label on products saying they may or do contain nuts.

The government says it cannot take this risk with kava kava because people do not know in advance whether they have this reaction. Nor do people with a nut allergy know, until they eat enough nuts to find out.

The same government gives forceful advice that smoking can cause death from cancer and bronchial diseases.

Most doctors tell their patients to give up smoking entirely.

Following the logic of their kava kava ban, they would now ban cigarettes completely.

There is overwhelming medical evidence about links between smoking and ill health but only very tenuous evidence between kava kava and liver disease.

The government should think again and allow consumers to choose.

John Redwood MP Wokingham