Wednesday, 22 October 2014

ASH Is Not The Vaper's Friend

Sigh. Another day; another vacuous e-cig ban is installed by the lazy and ill-informed.
E-cigarettes have been banned on the entire public transport network in London, the Standard has learnt. 
Passengers face fines for “vaping” on Tube, trains and buses as well as stations, platforms and depots. 
Transport for London implemented the ban in late August without any public announcement to  minimise the response from passengers.
We all know who's responsible for this, of course. ASH and their smokefree coalition, whose scaremongering transformed a country in 2007 from one which was largely unconcerned with ambient smoke to one which now empowers a minority of precious lambs in society who see vapour and either believe that they are about to die horribly, or complain of feeling "uncomfortable".

In other news today, e-cigs are being partly blamed/credited for a drop in tobacco sales.
The global cigarette market is expected to shrink this year as more people quit smoking or switch to e-cigarettes and as a weak global economy curbs their ability to spend.
This should surely be cause for Debs, Hazel or Amanda to pop down the Shoreditch Tesco Express for a bottle of bubbly, especially since they claim to be supportive of e-cigs. Yet I've often wondered why they sit idly by whilst bans on vaping like Transport for London's are spreading like wildfire.

Courtesy of the Sunday Times, we may have a clue.
THE estimated 2m people who use ecigarettes instead of tobacco face widespread bans on their use in coffee chains, shops and attractions. 
Starbucks confirmed this weekend it has banned the use of ecigarettes in its outlets, joining rail firms and airlines that already prohibit vaping. 
The announcement follows the publication of a report by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in August that recommended that ecigarettes should not be used indoors. Critics said the report was flawed and misleading. 
In addition to Starbucks, All Bar One, Caffe Nero, Pret A Manger, KFC and Nicholson’s pubs confirmed that they have banned ecigarettes. 
The National Portrait Gallery, the Tate Gallery, the Royal Opera House and the Natural History Museum are among main attractions that also prohibit their use. Some hotels, including Claridge’s in London, have also introduced bans.
Yes, and you can add all Premiership football grounds and Aviva Premiership rugby clubs to that as well -indoors and outdoors - as we see from the recent ASA consultation.

All of this activity and yet there is not a peep out of ASH. Neither do they stick their oar in at the Times, but the article does carry a graphic of polling performed by YouGov though.

I'm sorry, but I just don't believe those figures on e-cigs, since a similar BBC poll in an article in November last year entitled "Public 'seem to like' e-cigarettes" claimed "most support [e-cig] use in public places and don't want to see a ban".

But then, that was before all the negative publicity created by the World Health Organisation in August, and before this weekend's COP6 declaration that vape bans should be encouraged.

So we firstly have to look at the credibility of the pollsters. YouGov, of course, is ASH's pet as their President is Peter Kellner who also serves on ASH's board; has helped produce reports for them; and regularly displays his conflicts of interest. As far as I know, BBC Breakfast can't be accused of the same.

Unless Kellner has gone rogue, there is no chance whatsoever that ASH were not aware of this poll being sent to the Sunday Times, yet they didn't think it worthwhile to insist inclusion of a quote from them in support of e-cigs. Or perhaps they considered it but thought it more in their interests to support YouGov backing up their "delight" at the proposal for smoking bans in city parks. Priorities, eh?

Add into the mix that Deborah Arnott attended COP6 as a representative of the FCA; enthusiastically wrote some of their most vehement anti-smoking stuff, including threatening democratically-elected governments; but failed to speak out publicly against the FCTC's ludicrous recommendations towards e-cigs. Remember also that her organisation changed its terms of reference from controlling tobacco to controlling nicotine in 2010, and we get a full picture of what seems to be going on here.

ASH don't appear remotely concerned about vaping bans despite their public face of being a friend of the vaper. In fact they appear quite content to not rock the boat until the MHRA/TPD regulations are installed in 2016, and are complacent about COP6 recommendations rapidly resulting in wholesale restrictions on e-cigs for no justifiable reason.

It seems that ASH can issue press releases on a whim about all manner of irrelevant nonsense but remain consistently comfortable with disinformation and mounting e-cig bans which are - as the latest statistics prove - actively deterring people from switching from tobacco.

The silence is starting to become cacophonous.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Mascot Watch #30: Questions A Tory Minister Can't Answer

Our esteemed blog mascot/knight has been ruffling feathers again.
Philip Davies (Shipley) took aim at Public Health Minister Jane Ellison in the Commons as he railed against plans to introduce cigarette plain packaging, stop smoking in cars where children are present and alcohol taxes. 
Tory backbencher Mr Davies told Ms Ellison: "You are pursuing a long list of nanny state proposals which we might have better expected from (Labour), including plain packaging of tobacco, outlawing parents smoking in cars and having higher taxes on alcohol. 
"Could you give us a list of which policies, if any, you're pursuing which have a Conservative flavour to them?"
Predictably, Jane didn't answer the question.
Ms Ellison replied: "Well, following on from (Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt's) previous answer, tobacco control is an integral part of tackling cancer in our country and I'm delighted to let the House know that smoking prevalence among adults in England fell to 18.4% in 2013. 
"This is a record low which means that the Government has hit its tobacco control plan target for 2015 two years early. 
"I'm sure even you would welcome that news."
No, Jane, our Phil was asking if you have any policies which could remotely be described as 'Conservative'.

These generally involve respecting freedom of choice, not crushing it; educating personal responsibility, not dismissing it; condemning coercion, not partaking in it; reducing taxation, not increasing it; and lessening bureaucracy, not encouraging it.

I might add that Jane's party also used to not be too happy about handing taxpayer cash to unaccountable groups with which to lobby government; acting on half-baked policies for which there is no evidence whatsoever of efficacy; counting liars amongst their parliamentary party; and the claiming of credit for something which had diddley squat to do with their un-Conservative policies.

OK, forget that last one, every politician likes to pretend they had a hand in events that occurred naturally, it's just how they roll. Silly me.

So, Jane, I have another question. Why do you think it is that voters are abandoning the lying, deceitful, question-avoiding, principle-abandoning, old parties en masse? Take your time, I left you some clues above.

Monday, 20 October 2014

Hope Flickers At The #Battleofideas

There are days when I feel there is still hope of rekindling 21st century Britain's - once fierce but now suffocated and flickering - flame of respect for hard-won freedoms, and yesterday was one of them.

Not the whole day, though, which is both the exhilarating and infuriating appeal of the excellent annual Battle of Ideas festival, now in its tenth incarnation. Each of the sessions - as I and others have found in previous events - carries a capacity to throw up what I would term 'pantomime' baddies if it weren't for their very real existence.

It was at the second of two sessions I attended at the Barbican yesterday where self-described Blairite Dan Hodges became my prime villain for 2014. In answer to the question "Kindergarten culture: why does government treat us like children?" he preached to those of us who are obviously not as wise as him that "government treats people like children, because they act like them". You see, "from eating too much to polluting the planet", Dan is convinced that the public will always choose wrongly so need to be guided by those who know better. It's not that Dan thinks we are incapable of making the right decisions, far from it. He believes we can make the 'correct' decisions, but only if we are told to make them by politicians (no, I'm not making this up, I have witnesses).

His justification for being part of the elite who feel they are able to judge whether our decisions are correct or not - as usual for those who are blasé about freedom of choice - were the precedents of seat belt laws and the smoking ban. Describing himself as a "mild statist" and basing his arguments on our being part of a "collective", his view is that restricting our liberties for our own sake is an empirical good which is beyond debate. The smoking ban, for example, was incontestably good because "my pub is much better now because my clothes don't smell after a night out". He must be a very hard-working man if he owns a pub as well as writing for the Telegraph, I thought, but other publicans - especially ones whose clientèle and staff were perfectly happy without a ban but whose businesses have now closed - might not view the expropriation of their property rights in the same enthusiastic manner.

At least his point was made with honesty; it was solely his personal satisfaction he cited as proof of success, not some fake concocted health scare which bamboozled politicians who rely on state-funded vested interests for their information. You know, those politicians who are then adequately informed to impart their wisdom and make decisions for all of us in the form of one-size-fits-all illiberal laws, with no equivocation or exemptions of any kind. Err, in a nation of 64 million people.

Equally unconcerned by proscription of behaviour by the state was Dan's fellow panellist Martha Gill of the Economist. She saw a threat to freedom with not allowing assisted dying - something on which I can happily agree - but not with the 'research' of 'experts'. It's all good, see, because "people don't have time to read all the nutritional information of the back of a Haribo packet or read thousands of research papers about the hazardous effects of tobacco".

Her view of sin taxes was that they just make our free choices that bit more expensive - not that choice is being gradually extinguished - and she cheerfully dismissed JS Mill's widely-accepted theory on the effect of sin taxes.
“Every increase of cost is a prohibition, to those whose means do not come up to the augmented price.”
She was understandably not aware of events in Russia during the preceding week, but - such is her unshakeable belief in state interference - I'm not even sure a baldly stated aim of prohibition by way of taxation (while press types like Martha were excluded) would have swayed her if this had turned up during her regular spot as a Sky News newspaper reviewer.
You may ask, then, why I was so encouraged by this year's Battle of Ideas. Well, it's because of the quality of the mostly young audiences (which preliminary rumours from organisers were estimated as being a historic high of close to 5,000, but don't quote me on it).
We should, of course, expect our elected leaders to be able to pick apart flimsy, lazy and irresponsibly credulous views which harm our self-determination, but they don't. Instead, Dan and Martha were both skewered by an audience member - who I later found out was a student doctor - pointing out that a basic tenet of the medical profession is that no procedure can be embarked upon without the patient's consent. How, then, is population health cited as the reason for surgical evisceration of our liberties without our being able to opt out, he asked?

It's a question Dan was unable to answer, but he valiantly tried. He referred to children of parents with strict religious beliefs and said that the state should be required to step in on their behalf. "But we're talking about adults here", retorted the stubborn student. Martha then attempted to counter his principle with an example whereby a patient may be presented with such overwhelming evidence by his GP that refusing treatment would be unconscionable. "But they still have a choice", replied the future medic, to stymied silence.

Unfortunately for Dan (especially) and Martha, unless they had been present during the preceding session in the hothouse basement of the Pit Theatre they wouldn't have been aware that their trust in 'experts' and government expertise had already been rendered superficial and almost puerile.

The Barbican website states that the room holds 200, and I saw precious few empty seats as Timandra Harkness hosted the session entitled "The science of public health: where’s the evidence?" with customary humorous brilliance. It was a 90 minutes which was as entertaining as it was revealing.

Dr Michael Fitzpatrick, a real GP with real regular contact with patients, was proper box office. He began by strongly questioning why Lord Darzi - a surgeon - should be proposing parks smoking bans in London at all when evidence for health benefits of parks bans (there is none - DP) is not remotely associated with his area of expertise. He followed with a hilarious anecdote of being present at an event to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Richard Doll's world famous doctors' study where the distinguished doc was told to shut up for repeatedly telling the audience that the passive smoking health scare is bunkum, before Fitzpatrick moved on to pointing out that the 5 a day advice for fruit and vegetables government tells us is essential is based on zero evidence.

Henry Ashworth observed that those performing 'research' into perceived public health threats are almost always now the same people who advocate for laws to condemn behaviours, and that "when best evidence is merely a computer model, we have to be very careful" (minimum pricing, plain packs anyone?). He also astutely identified the fact that just about every 'public health' lobbying group can be linked with industries who will benefit from their pre-conceived research conclusions (e-cig bans come to mind).

Dr Elizabeth Pisani also had the aisles rocking with an account of an Australian 'public health' seminar where success was measured by highlighting how causes of death in years past were ranked in order and predictions for the future made. Those present trumpeted how cardiovascular disease was being beaten by prohibitionist policies, and that future problems would only be benign stuff like dementia and depression. Pisani noted that this was a great success, "after a lifetime of not drinking, smoking and eating all the correct foods, we can enjoy an old age of being demented and depressed".

Lastly, Michael Blastland - a statistician who is one of the few honest people to identify smoking ban heart attack 'miracles' as pure junk science, and on the BBC no less - queried why there is no big public health attack on "Big Sofa" considering inactivity is as bad as smoking. Perhaps, he suggested, it is because there is "no identifiable enemy". He also described a UCL anti-drinking campaign poster in the university bar - which was brutal in its message but resulted in an increase in drinking - to explain why he doubts that public health cares about the efficacy of their policies. "I find that interesting but I see no interest from 'public health' in it".

The panel may have been united in doubts about the public health industry and its grossly exaggerated expertise, but it was probably for the best because the mostly young audience in the post-panel Q&A were fizzing in condemnation. Sitting near to me was a 30 something who audibly agreed with everything she had heard. She was one of the first up to declare that she works with youths in college and university who present themselves to her insisting that they are unhealthy and require help; are terrified of eating the wrong foods; and worry themselves senseless about how much water they are supposed to be drinking.

An audience member from Brighton vehemently complained that calm enjoyment of life was "covered by the damp clammy hand of public health", while a representative from the Pregnancy Advisory Service declared her conflict of interest as being involved in issuing the press release which condemned anti-alcohol scare stories for causing petrified mums-to-be to demand abortions. She claimed that her team were contacted and put under pressure to retract it; that "you can't say that, it confuses the public health message, it should be simple and say there should be no drinking at all".

None of this would cut any ice with Dan and Martha. For them, 'public health' is an unimpeachable source of sage advice, and politicians the conduit for their expert opinion. I don't think Dan, for example, is even capable of considering questioning the core of the advice being offered. As a mild statist, it would be heresy to him.

For the the thousands who attended the Battle of Ideas, though, these are fundamental issues which need addressing and it's illogical that someone like Dan can assume everyone else is stupid and unable to make what he has decided - without in-depth investigation - are 'correct' decisions.

Yes. Yesterday at the Battle of Ideas proved that the concept of personal freedoms is not yet dead; that the flickering flame has not yet been extinguished in the young; and it was, most definitely, a very good day.

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Mike Daube And His Funding Merry-Go-Round

Note to tobacco controllers: When you are instrumental in taking an appallingly prejudiced and stupid decision which makes global news and embarrasses your country - and you also lie about it - it's very likely to come back and smash your face in.

Last week, Australian anti-smoker obsessive Mike Daube was caught lying about the decision to ban the opera Carmen because it is set in a cigarette factory. To recap:
To cut a long story short, a state government body, Healthway - of which Mike Daube is a board member - forced the West Australian Opera to ditch a production of the 1875 composition because it is set in a cigarette factory. This prompted global hilarity at Aussie state censorship, but had Western Australia's Premier spitting blood about the embarrassment and the Australian Prime Minister chipping in with condemnation too.
Daube, being a tobacco controller, refused to show contrition for such an absurd outcome, and instead pretended it was nothing to do with him by blaming the opera company instead.

However, such was the absurdity of the decision and the embarrassment of Australian citizens, politicians and media, it didn't take long for someone to leak Healthway minutes which showed that Daube had openly lied to the media.
Leaked minutes of Healthway's April meeting show its arts advisory committee put forward three options to handle problems caused by a longstanding ban on funding performances that contained depictions of smoking. 
The minutes are directly at odds with versions of the funding row given by both Healthway and the WA Opera.  
But the minutes show the bid to water down the policy was vigorously opposed by anti-smoking campaigner Mike Daube.  
"Professor Daube stated there was no pressure for Healthway to change its current position," the minutes say.
Healthway have since been given a severe rap on the knuckles and told not to be so bloody stupid again. But the stink of Daube's actions must still be acrid to Australians because two different news sources have been researching his involvement with Healthway.

The West Australian looked into the funding handed out by the organisation, and the Australian has also run the story. It don't look good.
"TWO lobby groups run by anti-smoking activist Mike Daube have secured $2 million in ­taxpayer-funded grants from West Australian government agency Healthway since the Perth academic joined the board in 2010. 
The Australian Council on Smoking and Health, of which Professor Daube is president, has been one of the biggest recipients of Healthway’s grants over the past three years, receiving $225,000 in 2011, $231,000 in 2012 and $237,000 last year. 
Professor Daube’s campaigns at ACOSH include lobbying to ban smoking in people’s homes, mental health facilities and the nation’s prisons. Another group, the Public Health Advocacy Institute of WA, of which Professor Daube is director, has received $1.28m in grants since 2010. 
Grants made to ACOSH and PHAIWA since Professor Daube joined the Healthway board total $1.97m, according to an examination of the agency’s annual reports.
Healthway insist that Daube was not involved in the actual committees awarding these funds, so I suppose his pet projects receiving huge sums of taxpayer cash from an organisation Daube is a board member of is just an uncanny coincidence.

As a side note, this whole palaver - which could have been avoided if Daube hadn't exercised such a psychotic error of judgement - has also highlighted the insane nature of 'public health' funding in Australia.
The grants were made to two PHAIWA programs that promote public health advocacy through “professional development” and “knowledge transfer”. 
Professor Daube established the institute in 2008 at Curtin University, where he is employed. It lists Healthway as its biggest sponsor. The institute focuses on reducing obesity and alcohol consumption and runs courses to train “emerging leaders” in how to become the “advocates of tomorrow” in areas such as lobbying governments.
Just think about that for a moment. Not only has Daube made himself a decades long career of receiving government money to use for lobbying the government - a stunning abuse of taxpayer funds in itself - he is also using government money to train others how to use government money to lobby government!

And Healthway, of which he is a board member, is the organisation awarding government money to Daube's organisation ... which uses government money to train others how to use government money to lobby government.

Is your mind boggled yet?

Mike Daube's similarly obsessive mates - as we have come to expect of the tobacco control industry - are desperately pretending that the truth didn't happen and that he's done nothing wrong, but they should really be listening to advice from WA Today.
Number one rule, do not lie to the media as it will only come back to bite you. 
Quite. In this case, to the tune of $2 million.

Link Tank 18/10

That's yer lot.

When nanny staters say ‘choice’, what they really mean is ‘less choice’

The smoking ban: Just another form of illiberal leftist social control

The perfect pub: is there one left in Britain?

WHO battles climate and sugar, misses Ebola

London's beer flood - 200 years ago this week

Rand Paul: "Most interesting man in politics"

Putin's war against McDonald's

Spreadable beer is a thing now

Nigerian capital bans car horns

Japan's fast food battle of the black burgers (pic)

Thursday, 16 October 2014

A Glimpse Through The Blackout Curtain

This week is proving to be a defining one for the tobacco control industry. They appear to have taken a decision to go all out and prove me right in saying that their motivation has nothing whatsoever to do with health.

First we had proven liar and debate-phobic Lord Narzi proposing an evidence-free policy which is solely designed to bully smokers and incubate hatred towards them, now it seems the WHO are going down the same route with e-cigs.

Snowdon explains.
Apologies for the poor quality of the image. You can click to enlarge, but this is what it says (all strikes and underlines are in the original. ENDs are 'Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems', a daft term that only 'public health' people use for e-cigarettes):
(b) minimize as far as possible potential health risks to ENDS users and protecting non-users from exposure to their emissions;

3. The Parties are invited to consider banning or regulating ENDS including as tobacco products, medicinal products or consumer products [or other categories as appropriate] taking into account a high level of protection for human health with special attention to vulnerable groups such as pregnant women.

Urges Parties to consider banning or restricting advertising, promotion and sponsorship of ENDs.
Again, there is no credible evidence anywhere that e-cigs are harmful to bystanders, nor will there ever be. Likewise, there is no credible evidence or reasonable justification for banning e-cigs - in fact, the research so far conducted points in entirely the opposite direction. None of this puts off the COP6 movers and shakers though because, between the 24 of them, they trousered over $10 million in the past two years ... tax free (page 19).

This is just how tobacco control rolls. They increasingly don't deal in proper evidence and facts, just whatever affords them the greatest income. They don't care that outdoor smoking bans will have no positive effect on public health - they know that they won't - they just care that they have to be seen doing something or their funding gets canned.

With the WHO and e-cigs it is even more damning. They couldn't give a monkey's chuff if all the former smokers who have quit using e-cigs revert to tobacco, they merely see smokers quitting without their "help" as a danger to their future prosperity.

So they do what tobacco control has always done; simply repeat lies over and over until the shallow and ignorant in governments believe it's real. They are the adult equivalent of a kid throwing itself on a supermarket floor in tantrum and screaming until they get what they want.

I don't have intricate knowledge of the many deranged tobacco-hating delegations to this shameful gathering in Putin's backyard, but I can certainly comment on our own.

It's interesting to note that ASH (who helped Narzi to lie in 2009 remember?) went out of their way to say how "delighted" they were yesterday about a policy deliberately designed to attack smokers - which they should be appalled by considering their website claims they don't do such things - yet they've been silent on this issue today despite recently positioning themselves as the vaper's friend.

They regularly say bugger all about the rising tide of e-cig bans all over the country, let alone challenge the organisations proposing them or - God forbid - actively throw their weight behind vapers to get the bans rescinded. Today, their staff are in Moscow while this dangerous buffoonery is being played out but - since the public and press have been barred - we don't have a clue what ASH delegates said about it. They could have been nodding it all through enthusiastically and we'd be none the wiser - how convenient, eh?

So perhaps Debs Arnott holds no sway whatsoever with the FCTC; perhaps she has been overruled by the Department of Health's Andrew Black; or perhaps she's not really that bothered if laws start springing up all over the place banning or stupidly regulating e-cigs. The silence from Moscow and on ASH's media timelines certainly don't suggest her organisation is spitting blood about the FCTC putting forward such nonsensical proposals, does it?

If the final edit comes out anywhere close to what the picture above suggests, my guess is that ASH will say something along the lines of "well, we tried, but there was nothing we could do" ... and then just carry on as usual while vaping is systematically strangled. No big fuss, no stepping out of line and risking a customary tobacco control Mafia blackballing. Just sitting back taking the cash and hoping no-one will give them too much grief.

All just supposition until refuted (ha!) but I'll finish by just leaving this here.