Thursday, 18 December 2014

How The Public Are Elbowed Out Of 'Public Consultations'

"Government agencies and councils in England that spend public money on lobbying ministers face a crackdown. Communities Secretary Eric Pickles said it was wrong that taxpayers' money was being spent on political lobbying." - Eric Pickles, August 2010
Having been very busy, I'm late to the subject of the all-too-predictable rubber-stamping of an upcoming ban on smoking in all cars - because, yes, that's what it will very soon morph into - and a lot (not all) of what I would have wanted to say has already been said elsewhere.

However, it has been a textbook example of how government routinely makes damned sure the public is not listened to in any meaningful way - On any issue - but the people they hand our taxes to are. As you can see for yourself from the government's consultation response published earlier this month in the section entitled ...
Limitations to elicit representative samples of public opinion
This is where the state machine makes it crystal clear that allowing the public to advance their opinions really isn't the point of a 'public consultation'.
2.15. The consultation process was not intended or designed to elicit representative samples of public opinion, instead it sought information, comments and views on the draft regulation, impact assessment and equality analysis.
Yes, you can comment on what they intend to do, but not whether they should do it. For why? Well, you might say the wrong thing.
2.16. It is in the nature of open consultation exercises that, generally, it is only those who already have an interest in the subject respond to the questions. The nature of consultation exercises means that respondents are self-selecting, and cannot therefore be considered to be a representative sample of public opinion.
God forbid smokers themselves might respond, eh? They, or people who may have read blogs about the subject, perhaps, or those who believe the state should not be setting a sinister precedent by poking their nose into private property. You know, that type of pesky ne'er-do-well who doesn't believe an omnipotent state is a perfectly brilliant thing.

Because, you see, they can be so tiresome, can't they?
The responses from members of the public displayed mixed views on the draft regulations in general terms.
For 'mixed views', read raising of many valid objections to a particularly stupid and pointless law. But despite 30% of the 201 responses being from switched-on and alert individuals, without exception all were summarily ignored.

By strange contrast, the same caution about the "self-selecting" views of state-paid organisations specifically set up precisely to demand such laws is not even considered. Of course.
Over 90% of the responses from organisations supported the proposed approach set out in the draft regulations. Local authorities and local tobacco control alliances made up the biggest proportion of organisations who responded. 
Now that's what the state calls a "representative sample"! If you want to see what the poor impoverished David against the tobacco industry's Goliath looks like, you can see the 'representative sample' - including the perfectly impartial and representative of UK opinion smokefree cars advocacy campaign group of New Zealand - listed on page 18 here.

In the face of so very many highly-paid professional lobbyists, and with an adjudicator intent on suppressing any and all dissent, the public doesn't stand a chance. A situation which government, its politicians and the tax spongers they lob our hard-earned to are very happy about.

I mean, why should the people who have to live under these laws to have any input, eh?

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

"Castigating Lifestyles", Polly? The Left Have No Equal

Via Simon Cooke, Polly Toynbee has done a superb job today in highlighting the disgraceful behaviour of the left towards working class people.

I mean, how else does she think saying this would have been turned out?
Some themes deep in the heart of Toryism just never go away. Up they pop, over and over. Control the lower orders, stop them breeding, check their spending, castigate their lifestyles. Poking, sneering, moralising and despising is hardwired within Tory DNA
Err, I don't believe Emily Thornberry is a Tory MP, is she?

As Simon points out, in every category Polly mentions, it has historically been the left who have been the most keen to "control the lower orders", and in the lifestyle choices we talk about here it has been the left in recent times and the present day who have been leading the charge for ever more intrusion into our lives.
[I]t's the left - including the last Labour government - who led the charge against people's lifestyles. Banning smoking in the pub, whacking a duty escalator on beer (while exempting wine and champagne), imposing planning restrictions on fast food takeaways and trying to ban gambling. It's the left that want taxes on fizzy drinks, bans on added sugar and salt, restrictions on portion sizes, the ending of multibuy offers and a host of other nannying interventions in people's lifestyle choices.
Simon uses the word "host", but I'd say it's been more of a deluge. Let's add a few more examples, eh?

It is Labour's Luciana Berger who has declared that plain packaging will be introduced if her party wins the next election, even though the public has soundly rejected it. She's not a loose cannon either, her party leader is right behind her.

It is Labour, not the Tories, who want to 'sneer' and 'moralise' on what families choose to buy their kids for breakfast by banning Frosties.

During last year's Brussels negotiations over the Tobacco Products Directive (TPD), it was Labour MEPs and their European friends on the left who - without exception - refused to listen to anyone who tried to persuade them of the benefits of e-cigs. The TPD itself was driven through by an elitist pharma-linked Labour politician who pulled every trick in the book to avoid letting the public have their say. By contrast, some Conservatives fought gamely to defend free choice.

And it is Labour who are fighting tooth and nail for the introduction of minimum alcohol pricing - which will punish the poor - despite the Tories having binned the idea a long time ago.

When it comes to castigating lifestyles; poking, sneering, and moralising, the left have absolutely no equal. Like Polly herself, in fact.
Is Britain uniquely uncouth in our filthy drinking habits, or do our peculiarly restrictive laws cause the desperate drink-to-get-drunk-quick mentality? Why, oh why, can’t we be more Italian? Take away the urgency and mystery, and maybe we could all tipple a little nip in the coffee without making a fetish of alcohol
Well, if we all had a villa in Tuscany from which to preach - like rich lefty elitist Polly - perhaps we too could all be a bit more Italian while despising the 'lower orders' and writing about how to control them, eh?

The hypocrisy is stunning, isn't it?

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Tobacco Control Dinosaurs vs Cornwall Waitress

On Saturday mornings, Radio 5 Live carry a sports humour show called Fighting Talk which features a round entitled "defend the indefensible". If I were ever allowed to choose four contestants who would be most suited to such a test, they would be Martin McKee, Simon Chapman, Mike Daube and Stanton Glantz for their stunning ability to be able to talk utter bollocks in the face of adversity.

Because it was with astonishment that I read on Friday that these global tobacco industry heavyweights had conspired to produce an attack piece over a Lancet article written by ... a housewife and part-time waitress from Cornwall.
We were surprised to read in The Lancet (Nov 1, p 1576), Lorien Jollye's criticisms of the public health community for, as she alleges, insulting and ignoring the supporters of electronic cigarettes
Now, for anyone who has followed the shenanigans of public health on social media, this isn't even debatable! As we saw from the John Ashton affair, it's part of these charlatans' routine to block social media comments from anyone who disagrees with them - often preemptively to avoid viewpoints which differ from their own - but continue to fire off insults anyway. McKee, Chapman and Glantz all do exactly the same, the only exception of the four is Daube ... because he's not on Twitter. But he was, as I understand it, responsible for calling authorities and getting a small business e-cig seller prosecuted in Western Australia.

In fact, they even block the opinions of those in their own tobacco control industry if they dare to say that e-cigs are a good idea. At least one of the four has, for example, even blocked arch anti-smoking activist Linda Bauld for that very reason.

As the Redhead says (do go read the whole thing), this more than adequately exceeds their own "scream test" criterion.
I’m sure you know what the tobacco control scream test is.
One of the measures used by anti tobacco campaigners to determine the effectiveness of an innovation, action, legislation or reform is how loudly the tobacco industry “screams”.
How wonderful it is then, that a brief article written by a lady who is a perfectly ordinary member of the public, and the activities of countless other people just like her, should elicit this plaintive cry for help from four of the most prominent figures in tobacco control…
However, the very effective campaign waged by their [e-cigarettes’] supporters has ensured that other measures of known effectiveness have almost disappeared from the debate on tobacco control.
They’re losing, and they know it. They know it, and it hurts. It hurts because very real and coherent challenges have come from entirely unexpected directions.
What is even more jaw-dropping is the justification given for the politically-juvenile Lancet tirade. You see, apparently they have given vapers plenty of options for engaging with them. No, really!
A recent Lancet–London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine Global Health Lab (held in London, on Nov 4, 2014) debating the tobacco endgame, that was widely advertised, was an opportunity to engage on this issue. Yet rather than put forward their arguments, advocates of e-cigarettes instead chose to remain silent in the lecture theatre while insulting the participants on twitter.
Oops, one of those spare time 'advocates' was me, as I described last month. One of the others there on the night has given a more accurate interpretation of the event.
McKee’s assertion that this was an opportunity for us to engage on the subject of e-cigarettes is absurd. The subject of the seminar was “Can the War on Tobacco be Won” and the presentations were almost entirely oriented around the ways in which the tobacco industry can be put out of business. E-cigarettes received no more than passing references, and then only in a derogatory context. The event itself was so utterly one sided and farcical that it was obvious that it was completely pointless to participate. Even in the Q&A session at the end McKee was taking questions from the audience then rewording them as he put them to the speakers as if for some reason the speakers themselves couldn't hear or understand the originators. Needless to say McKee’s translations of the questions suited his own agenda and barely reflected the original question where that question was a bit too liberal for his liking.
Indeed, the very reason we attended was to hear what part McKee and his colleagues considered that e-cigs would play in their fantasy "endgame" scenario. But it just didn't feature. Instead we heard fairy stories, cod psychology, primary school economic nonsense about tobacco industry share prices and how brilliant the FCTC has been in scaring the tobacco industry witless since 2007 ... as you can see from the graph below.

It is also laughable that the four screaming dummy-throwers can claim that event to have been the ideal place for the issue to be discussed. The blurb vaguely mentioned harm reduction so was hardly worth part-time waitressing housewives travelling over 200 miles to sit in the audience on a Tuesday night for an hour, now was it? That's even if they had noticed it at all. Back to the Redhead for an explanation.
Except it wasn't widely advertized. Now, given the track record of these people and their understanding of advertizing, I can kind of see where the confusion stems from. The event in question was, in fact, publicized in the LHSTM in-house newsletter. Hands up who subscribes to that? Anybody? No? I thought as much.
Of course, McKee and his pals were quite at liberty - if they truly wanted amateur and unpaid vapers to offer their opinions - to invite them along. But they didn't (perhaps because they'd blocked them all). By contrast, McKee was invited to the E-Cig Summit in London last year as a speaker but reportedly declined because he was "not interested". I suspect he was also invited to the Global Nicotine Forum in Warsaw on similar terms but didn't materialise there either. Vapers took annual leave and self-financed their attendance at both these events.

Now, forgive me for being cynical, but if McKee wants to declare himself an 'expert' on e-cigs, why on Earth is he not interested in a whole day summit - while being paid a salary and on expenses - which discusses them unless he has a pre-conceived agenda?

To accuse people who have to sort out their own travel and expenses of being indolent and scared of debate for not turning up to a barely noticeable event - as members of an audience with the off-chance that they might get a word in with a highly biased chairman - is truly astonishing when McKee and his co-authors refuse to engage even when they will be given a platform as {cough} 'experts'.

As to Lorien Jollye's claims of marginalisation and bullying by the four crusty authors of this Lancet tripe, it is backed up by testimony from tobacco industry commentator Jon Fell after he had the temerity to post a contrary response on a BMJ article by Simon Chapman (you can read his fully referenced Storify piece here).
As the tweets show, I was blocked by @SimonChapman6 soon after my BMJ blog response was published. It's interesting too that his first instinct seemed to be to 'play the man' as much as react to the arguments put forward; in addition to apparently querying my integrity by questioning the company @Clive_Bates was keeping, in digging out some remarks I had made about plain packaging in 2008 @SimonChapman6 also seemed to query my professional competence, notwithstanding that he had asked me for data for his book on a previous occasion. 
Though I had never previously had any interaction with him, 'Mike Daube' - who I assume to be the same Professor Mike Daube who also signed this week's Lancet letter - weighed in with a BMJ blog comment too. Professor Daube's remarks were also direct and relatively aggressive. 
After nearly twenty years working as an equity analyst at an investment bank I've developed a relatively thick skin when it comes to criticism of my views or analysis. The tone of the responses to me made by @SimonChapman6 and Professor Daube, either on Twitter or the BMJ blog, does not bother me particularly. But I can imagine that someone without my background - say, a vaping member of public - might have found their approach intimidating, verging on bullying. Here is a distinguished academic - who has posted an article in a public forum that he knows enables others to respond - saying, in effect, "how dare you question me?", while his academic friend sidles up behind to put the boot in too. 
I have never had any direct social media interaction with @martinmckee. I followed him on Twitter for a while, then one day found myself blocked - I do not know why.
All of which very closely resembles the content of Lorien's article which McKee, Chapman, Glantz and Daube somehow found so objectionable.
We are normal people trying to dispel fears and misconceptions with experience and knowledge. We have struggled to get the ear of the very people who are advising the Government, WHO, and the public. We have been insulted or ignored, often both, in a shockingly aggressive way. Why? 
The sense of frustration is palpable among us. No matter how polite or constructive we are, some of the most influential and media savvy in public health will instantly bemoan the so-called trolling they are having to endure, which closes doors to people we have never even spoken to.
If, like me, you didn't find what Lorien had to say controversial or untrue, that'll because it quite plainly isn't.

As I mentioned the other day, all four of them are being exposed daily as being incapable of debate and their reputations being shot to pieces by emerging evidence on e-cigs. The Lancet article is yet more proof that they have been backed into a corner by their stubborn adherence to fantasy scenarios, have nothing useful left to say and so are thrashing around in a vain effort to pretend they are still relevant.

Still, I'm sure the four highly-paid tobacco control industry has-beens felt immense gratification in beating up on an unpaid housewife and waitress from Cornwall. So that's all right then.

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Anti-Vaping Lie Comprehensively Busted (Again) By The NHS

To begin with a parish notice, the tumbleweed blowing around this corner of the internet recently has mostly been a result of pressure of work. I'm still mired in submitting for new business while also suffering the added complication of a sustained period of unusually heavy staff shortages which is shoving me out on the road on a regular basis.

The effort is paying off though, as we celebrated the largest remittance advice in our history landing in the Puddlecote Inc mail yesterday with one of our clients having a pre-Christmas clearout and paying £212,000 in one hit! Oh how I wish I'd had a Tardis at hand to go back and wave the little slip of paper in the face of the mid-90s me to assure him that the 16 hour days are/were worth it.

Yesterday was also a good day for producing this.
E-cigarette use rare in non-smokers, NHS survey shows 
Just 3% of adults are using e-cigarettes but almost all are current smokers or those who had given up, according to a new NHS survey of people’s health and lifestyles. 
The disclosure further allays fears voiced by some doctors and health campaigners that “vaping” could attract non-smokers who then get hooked on traditional cigarettes containing nicotine. 
The Health Survey for England 2013 found that 3% of its 8,800 participants aged 16 and over were using the devices, which have become popular in recent years. Some 29% of smokers and 6% of those who had quit said that they had used an e-cigarette, whereas just 1% of people who had never smoked had done so. Few children have tried them, it found.
This is yet more overwhelming evidence - after studies by ASH, the smoking toolkit and others in the UK which match the global trend - which proves that any tobacco controller or politician talking about there being a 'gateway' into smoking with regard to e-cigs is clearly a blinkered fantasist, an inveterate liar, or quite simply ignorant.

There isn't even any evidence that vast numbers of never-smokers are taking up vaping, let alone the extra absurd leap of logic which is required to claim that these pretend people would then bin their cheap, multi-flavoured e-cigs and plump instead for vastly more expensive, one-flavoured tobacco.

What's most amusing though, is the reaction of commenters at the Guardian piece to this new study. Mentions of the Pope's religion and bears shitting in the woods are woven into the thread as a recurring theme. Most are more worried that the NHS budget has been used to discover something so patently obvious. For example.
thomasdavid10 December 2014 11:22pm 
Er...why would I want to use an E-Cigarette if I dont smoke "normal" cigarettes?
So not only is the contrary evidence for this daft theory overwhelming, but the public wouldn't have expected it to be any other way. As hard sells go, it's right up there with flogging a guard fox to a chicken farmer. Any tobacco control industry dinosaur who still thinks pumping the 'gateway' line is a winning strategy is either incredibly stupid or so in hock to their pharma buddies at cost to their professional integrity as to require psychiatric supervision.

They're a bit like the Black Knight in Monty Python and The Holy Grail; you cut their legs off, you ...

Monday, 8 December 2014

Police Patsies

Across the Atlantic, some questions are finally being asked about the wisdom of sky high tobacco duties after the death of Eric Garner, an African American who sold loose cigarettes on New York streets. So sustained is the discussion that even the BBC has taken note.
According to a coroner's report, Eric Garner died due to "compression of neck (chokehold), compression of chest and prone positioning during physical restraint" as he was wrestled to the ground by Daniel Pantaleo and fellow New York City police officers. 
On Wednesday a grand jury, presented with the report and a video of the entire incident, declined to indict Mr Pantaleo on charges related to Garner's death. The move, coming on the heels of a similar grand jury decision in a police shooting in Ferguson, Missouri, has prompted two nights of massive protests in New York and widespread outrage in the media over alleged police brutality. 
For some, however, another party bears some responsibility in Garner's death - an out-of-control nanny-state government attempting to enforce a prohibition on the sale of untaxed cigarettes. 
"For someone to die over breaking that law, there really is no excuse for it," Kentucky Senator Paul said on MSNBC Wednesday night. "But I do blame the politicians. We put our police in a difficult situation with bad laws." 
Reason magazine's A Barton Hinkle explains how New York's high state and city cigarette taxes - totalling $5.95 a pack - have created a thriving black market on the city's streets.
This is, of course, economics 101 creation of a black market which the tobacco control industry consistently refuses to accept. It's all a figment of Big Tobacco's imagination, apparently.

Meanwhile, in the real world, it is the Police who have to enforce the short-sightedness of politicians.
The Daily Caller's W James Antle says that while public outrage is focusing on the level of force employed by the New York police, "let's not let the people who write the laws off the hook". 
"A man who is killed by government overreach, fueled by anti-tobacco fanaticism, is just as dead as one who smokes a carton of unfiltered Pall Malls every week for 30 years," he writes. 
"You want an all-encompassing state with the power to stop you from smoking?" writes the Hayride's Scott McKay. "Well, don't complain about the Eric Garner case. This is what big government looks like."
The US left are obviously not having it. They love big government and they love the state telling people what they can and can't do, so instead prefer to bash the police.

A less tragic case of public health absurdity harming the perception of the police occurred in Scotland earlier this year, which was described on Twitter by a Scottish licensing expert today as the best licensing headline of 2014 (best as in facepalm funny, that is).
Barman accused of breaking licensing law by serving undercover policeman a pint without a roll and sausage walks free from court after case collapses
THE case against a barman accused of serving one roll and sausage too few to undercover police ordering an early-morning pint collapsed in chaos yesterday. 
It’s estimated £25,000 of public money was wasted on the criminal prosecution over a 30p roll and sausage. 
The dad of three from Blantyre, Lanarkshire, was snared for serving pints to two undercover officers – known only as Archie and Davie – at 8.15am at the Empire Bar in Glasgow with one roll and sausage instead of two. 
Licensee John Longeran, a football agent, was also arrested and both men were charged for allegedly breaching the city’s licensing laws by serving alcohol without a breakfast. 
Allan said: “If it wasn’t so serious, I’d call it a pantomime.

“I’d never seen the inside of a court until this farce began. I thought the police were meant to chase murderers.”

The outcome is particularly embarrassing for Police Scotland at a time when resources are stretched and when the old Strathclyde police region has at least 33 unsolved murders.
In both cases, the driving force for enforcement by the police has come from laws created entirely on the back of exaggeration and scaremongery created by state-funded 'public heath' lunatics. In both cases a transaction which many people wish to voluntarily conduct has been criminalised and the police sent in to make heavy-handed arrests. One resulted in a death, the other in the utter waste of £25,000 over the failure to provide a 30p roll.

With just about everyone who comments on the measure recognising the fact that a ban on smoking in cars is going to cause the police even more complex problems for enforcement, you have to wonder why those at the top of the police command chain aren't making more noise. How low will their reputations and respect amongst the public sink before they realise they are wasting their time and resources, while simultaneously being held up as patsies by the state, their quangos, fake charities and others who politicians squander our taxes on?

See also "Yes, Stupid Laws Help Kill People" from Saturday's Link Tank.

H/T Norcal David G & Frank Davis