Sunday, 15 January 2017

That's Your Problem, Not Ours

There has always been a suspicion that the real reason that the tobacco control industry tends to dislike vaping is simply because it looks, to the uneducated, like smoking.

They can never say that, of course, because it's akin to claiming that water should be treated as a controlled substance because it looks like vodka. As a result, we have seen some quite desperate contrived arguments as to why e-cigs should be distrusted, mostly centred around the sector of society that tobacco controllers most like to exploit; children.

However, this week saw an article published by the University of Chicago which is the closest yet to admitting that, yes, the fact that vaping looks like smoking really is the reason many want the devices banned.
Seeing vape pen use boosts desire to smoke among young adults
Although they look less like cigarettes than first-generation e-cigarettes, a new study found that the newer generation e-cigarette vape pens (also known as vaporizers) stimulate the urge to smoke as powerfully as watching someone smoke a “combustible” tobacco cigarette.
We'll leave aside the fact that they seem pretty ignorant of the subject matter if they describe an e-cig as a 'vape pen', although I suppose it's marginally better than their usual preferred clinical renaming of e-cigs as "ENDS" (Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems).
“The new e-cigarettes, known as vape pens, are now larger and more powerful devices,” said study director Andrea King, PhD, professor of psychiatry and behavioral neuroscience and director of the clinical addictions research laboratory at the University of Chicago. “They have low resemblance to cigarettes, so some people were hoping they might not produce the same urge to smoke.” 
“But we found that they do stimulate the urge,” she said. “Vape pens look different but they share too many salient features of the act of smoking – including inhalation, exhalation and hand-to-mouth behaviors. This makes them a potent trigger, encouraging people to smoke. Their impact is roughly equal to watching someone light up a cigarette. They made the young adults in our study want to smoke.”
And? Who cares, quite frankly.
“We’ve made real progress on reducing smoking in our country,” King said. “We’ve done a good job banning indoor smoking. We rarely see two-pack-a-day smokers like we used to. Yet seeing people smoke in public remains common. Our study focused on a classical Pavlovian trigger, as seeing someone smoke is a known potent cue that can induce others to smoke. We did not expect that the vape pen would be as potent a cue as the regular cigarette, but it was as potent.”
Well, it was "potent" because the researchers placed cigarettes in front of their subjects - all smokers - while they were watching others vape; what other result did they expect? But, that aside, it seems clear that the point of this research was merely to sling a little more mud around about e-cigs, and to hint at how it might be viewed by legislators.
“The regulations in the U.S. on when and where somebody can use an e-cigarette are not yet standard,” she added.
Not standard, no. Vaping is banned by lazy and ignorant businesses and authorities worldwide but - to the horror of many tobacco controllers - it is still perfectly permissible in many public places!
“But we do know that, so far, the use of e-cigarettes has not had a major direct impact on smoking cessation efforts above and beyond public health messages and taxes.
Yes. Millions of smokers have quit using an e-cig but tobacco control still pretends it didn't happen. Instead, only tobacco control initiatives work ... because their colleagues - who would also lose funding if they were shown to be irrelevant - have done, erm, 'impartial' studies to 'prove' it.
The sight of someone using a vape pen bumps up the urge to smoke, so this may play a role in dual use of cigarettes and e-cigarettes, but future studies are needed.”
Nudge, nudge, wink wink eh politicians (and funders)?

Andrea King stopped short of demanding vaping be banned in public places alongside smoking, but it's safe to say that's what the dried-up witch was hinting at, it wasn't well hidden.

Of course, this is just a standard tobacco control industry exercise in junk science. We don't actually need to test King's theory in focus groups because we have compelling evidence already. In something called "real life".

So if King's bullshit was true, we'd have seen a marked decrease in quit attempts since e-cigs emerged, now wouldn't we? In England, at least, that certainly hasn't been the case (pdf).

I'd say it's not the case in the US either considering the country is experiencing record low levels of smoking prevalence across the board. So it's safe to dismiss this 'study' as a pitiful fairy tale spun by warped prohibitionists; about as useful to 'public health' as picking fly shit out of pepper.

Not surprising, then, that the only news outlet willing to publish on King's bullshit propaganda was the Mail and - seeing as the 'public health' community as a movement routinely condemns the Mail as bog roll - that fact should, ironically, tell them what an embarrassment King and her colleagues are to their University, and to science in general.

Still, it's all moot anyway. Let's assume for the purposes of debate that King's conclusions are 100% correct, and that smokers reach for their tabs the moment someone vapes. So what? There is still no reason to ban vaping in public places. In countries like the US and UK, we have conventions that say we don't ban our people from doing things as long as they don't harm others. E-cigs are legal products and there is no evidence whatsoever (nor will there ever be) that they have the potential to cause illness in others; while cigarettes are legal products too, and it is up to the smoker whether they smoke or not.

Anyone who proposes a ban which goes against these rules of liberty - a concept which is 150 years old - is simply a fascist, as I've said many times before. If smokers are tempted to light up when they see someone vaping, (the same could be said about no smoking signs and graphic health warnings that tobacco control favours) so what? That's your problem sunshine, not ours. Go for a stroll on the freeway and leave us alone. 

Monday, 9 January 2017

Officious: The Rise Of The Busybody State - A Review

It's a while since I've done a review here, but there's a recently-released book I think you might enjoy as much as I did.

During my trip to The Battle of Ideas in October I was particularly drawn to a panel discussing The Busybody State featuring Josie Appleton of the Manifesto Club. I was hoping to buy her book, Officious: Rise of the Busybody State while I was there but had to mark time till the December launch, but it was worth the wait.

The blurb gives you a good indication of the content:
In Anglo-Saxon countries there is a new and distinctive form of state: the busybody state. This state is defined by an attachment to bureaucratic procedures for their own sake: the rule for the sake of a rule; the form for the sake of a form. Its insignias are the badge, the policy, the code and the procedure. The logic of the regulation is neither to represent an elite class interest, nor to serve the public, nor even to organise social relations with the greatest efficiency as with classic bureaucracy, but rather to represent regulation itself. 
This book analyses the logic of the busybody state, explains its origins, and calls for a popular alliance defending the free realm of civil society.
And it really does exactly what it say on the tin.

Back when meddling in other people's affairs was frowned upon, we used to call these type of people 'jobsworths'. The idea that a rule is so important that it could never be ignored because "it's more than my job's worth Guv" was anathema to us in an age where society was more important than petty rules, and the Jobsworths were so derided that even Esther Rantzen kept a special section of her That's Life show free to ridicule them.

As Appleton describes in her book, though, this has all changed and now rules have become so important that they are elevated above what is actually desired by the public and society at large. The rule itself is now so important that it has taken precedence over what is actually beneficial to the public, often being positively harmful as a result. If that seems an alien concept, the example - although extreme - of PCSOs standing by and watching a child drown because they weren't trained and the rule book says they have to ignore human instincts might help explain it.

Josie begins by describing how no-one is immune to the new state-sanctioned busybodies, however petty the regulation may be.
War veterans must queue up with political activists to gain their charity-collection licence; foxhunters are targeted as equally as football supporters. Officious authority rises up only in counter-position to the shady, dubious citizenry.
And it is this deep mistrust of the public as a whole which is so shocking; modern affairs are being scrutinised and restricted by officialdom with the assumption being that whatever people wish to engage in should be immediately regarded with suspicion. The object is not to make life easier for what the public chooses to do, but rather to deliberately make it more difficult.
Rather than starting from the position of a public need, these officials start from the position of problematic public behaviours, such as people leaving lights on, failing to recycle correctly, organising events without the latest safety guidance, drinking too much, smoking or eating unhealthy foods. The job is not related to a need or a public demand but to an identified problem with the things people are doing. Officious action does not serve but instead acts upon the public.
Indeed, the rise of the busybodies has become an independent force of itself, with the head of Cambridgeshire Police complaining in 2014 that there were more officers in her force carrying out criminal-records checks than there were investigating or prosecuting child-abuse cases. The checking of people had become more important than the tackling of real abuse.

The author has been investigating these abuses of power for a long time so it is a keenly-referenced work. You find yourself often flicking to the references section, astonished at some of the excesses such as school staff stubbornly determined to enforce a ban on photography despite overwhelming objection by the parents; clubs and societies either closing down or being starved of volunteers due to hysterical adherence to CRB check rules; and parents being so distrusted in Scotland that the state has decided a stranger to the family should be appointed to oversee their children. It is an atmosphere the author quite rightly interprets as "the contamination of the human relationship".

The book also highlights how the very idea of a space free of restrictions is one most specifically targeted by this new officious class of busybody.
The English pub was traditionally a semi-autonomous sphere, with frosted glass and backrooms where the landlord held sway and police could enter only in the direst of emergencies. This has now become one of the most regulated spheres, with requirements for bag searches, ID scans and restrictions on certain cocktail names and happy hours. The very site of freedom becomes a particular target of officiousness.  
Similarly, the beach was traditionally a space of semi-wilderness, independent from the conventions of the town. It was acceptable to do things on beaches that would not be allowed in a park: petting, nudity, sleeping in public. The threshold of the beach was a line of freedom, a release from social control. Now the beach has become the particular target for rules and regulations, with bans in various places on: ball games, beach tents, kites, barbecues, smoking and drinking, dog-walking, building sandcastles, surfing. It is the very freedom of the beach which marks it out for special attention, special bans (smoking is banned on the beach but not in the street) and special patrols by officials to confiscate alcohol or issue reprimands.
Appleton takes us through the history of bureaucracy and the officious tendency, discussing the causes of this modern state disease and how it has transformed our liberal nation into one where we are all under constant suspicion, often from friends and co-workers co-opted by the state to be a 'designated person' or 'compliance officer'. The emphasis is always that rules must be adhered to, no matter how disadvantageous and insulting they are to our way of life.
The compliance officer is loyal not to their group or to the sport, but to the state. The designated person is required to view the group with the eye of suspicion, to monitor their actions and to report any infractions, treating their neighbours or colleagues as foreign and unknown. They must ask a neighbour to complete a police check, even though they go around to their house for dinner and their children are friends.
A system of licences, fees, databases, intrusive checks and restrictions on benign behaviour has grown which is in itself ironically anti-social. It is also, as Appleton highlights, self-replicating, where "rules beget rules, procedures beget procedures", which often attracts the most unpleasant contaminants in society.
This structure also creates an opportunity for the genuinely officious people – the tut-tutters and curtain-twitchers, who in a previous age were ignored – to step forward into leadership roles.
As a measure for how oppressive this system has become, Josie points out that 15 years ago there were 11,000 on-the-spot fines levied on the public, whereas the figure now is over 200,000 thanks to coercive powers to enforce fines being handed out to hospitals, schools, councils and a whole array of other bodies for pretty inconsequential misdemeanours.

Not that the busybody state calls them coercive powers, of course. No, they are described in cuddly terms like "support", and each illiberal condition, restriction or ban is considered as a handy "tool" for state-appointed officials to clamp down on 'unregulated' public actions. Many of these will be familiar to readers here.
For the officious state, there is rarely a good reason not to ban things, and lifestyle bans are posed as the answer to every social problem or ethical failing. 
Never has so much attention been paid to the appearance of tobacco or alcohol: the images on the packaging, the position and location of the display, the product name, the exact positions in which they may be consumed. Never did authorities tell smokers exactly where they should stand.
As the book describes, the overall contribution of officious regulation on society is a net negative, and often quite damaging. Conmen have been known to exploit the cult of the hi-viz by fraudulently issuing fines and profiteering ... though the effect is not any different from the one inflicted by official wardens.

I could quote loads more from this book because it is so succinct and condensed; but instead I'd just recommend you get yourself a copy and enjoy over a few cuppas. You will find yourself nodding throughout while also becoming quite angry in places, right up to the optimistic denouement where Josie helpfully suggests how we can best "[send] the busybodies back behind the curtains". A laudable goal and one I reckon we should all aspire to.

Officious: The Rise of the Busybody State is available as a paperback or e-book at Zero Books or via Amazon. 

Sunday, 8 January 2017


The tobacco control industry, in its relentless pursuit of factual impurity, has just released a junk study which accuses vape shops of using the Pokemon Go game to attract kids to using e-cigs. Yes, as with everything they do it's quite obviously bullshit and designed to panic the gullible by way of screaming "children" as much as possible. 

Now, I don't know a lot about the game myself but a fellow jewel robber does. Here is a guest post from Pokemon Go-playing Neil Robinson to explain how their alarmism is not only utter nonsense, but also shows that they understand even less about the app than I do ... and that's really saying something! 

Over to Neil.

July of 2016 saw a social revolution unlike anything that has been seen previously. Large swathes of the population were spontaneously getting off their sofa’s and engaging in exercise, many walking several miles each day. Disparate groups were forming in public places exchanging happy and excited conversation; a real sense of burgeoning community was to be felt in the air.

Were these Remain protesters? Was this the start of the inevitable overthrow of the patriarchy? Were the masses seizing the means of production?

No, we were all playing Pokémon Go.

And I do mean all. In its first month after launch, it was getting 45 million daily players whilst still being rolled out worldwide. By August 1st, it had reached 100 million downloads, and was earning $10 million a day through in-app purchases.

So why the hell is this on Dick Puddlecote's blog you ask? Because even tobacco controllers can't miss that sort of hype. Cue the inevitable “study”.

“Electronic cigarette retailers use Pokémon Go to market products” extol the authors with breathless excitement. Unfortunately, the rest of the pitch is garbled nonsense, Joe Camel and unfounded accusations.

The gist of the paper is that those evil peddlers of death, vape companies, are latching on to this childrens' game to market their 'deadly' wares to kids in an attempt to hook the next generation, despite the fact that their own source of demographics (a Forbes article!) shows that a full 78% of players are over the age of 18.

An important element of gameplay in Pokémon Go are things called Pokéstops, where gamers can visit the physical location chosen by the games creators, Niantec, collect free in-game goodies such as extra pokéballs for catching more Pokémon, health potions etc. You also stand a much better chance of catching a Pokémon near each pokéstop, so its common to find players hanging around near them waiting for yet another Pidgey, Rattata or Weedle (gotta catch ‘em all!).

Each pokéstop is chosen because the location has an element of significance about it, be it a church, a monument or statue, or even if its a pub, they’re all commonly chosen by Niantec to act as pokéstops. To activate these pokéstops and get your free goodies, you must be within range of it, which is a circle of approximately 100m. This means that should a pokéstop happen to be on a pub, a vape shop, or as in my local area on the Masonic Temple, you don't have to go inside to catch the wee beastie.

If you own a vape shop, you can't just decide that it’s going become a pokéstop – it’s not going to happen (there was a period of 10 days back in July when Niantec did accept suggestions, but they were quickly swamped and withdrew it). So its not like evil vape shop owners are deliberately placing “child friendly” pokéstops in their shops, Niantec has always and will always be the final arbiter of where they appear. If there's one near a vape shop, its entirely down to luck.

The average player is a white, female 25 year old earning over $90,000 a year, yet these happy clowns try every trick in the book to make it sound apocalyptic:
This game-based promotional strategy could increase tobacco marketing exposure among adolescents and young adult non-users, increasing their risk for future initiation.  Further research is warranted to determine whether non-tobacco users visit vape shops and/or initiate e-cigarette use after being exposed to these advertisements via game playing, and whether current e-cigarette users increase use as a result of game play. 
If I were a vape shop owner and hordes of rich 25 year old women started hanging around my shop, I think I’d try and get some inside, wouldn't you?
several vape shops and online retailers have incorporated Pokémon Go as part of promotions on Twitter, linking game performance with discounts on their products (eg, “…show us a rare Pokemon that we don’t have and get 10% off entire purchase!”; “Check out our Pokémon Go sale! Level 10=5%, Level 20=10% OFF STORE WIDE!!!!”; “Come to our store, we just dropped a lure out…”).  
Vape shops have also staged in-person events combining Pokémon Go play and interactive e-cigarette promotional contests. Figure 3 (left panel) shows an advertisement for an event at a vape shop in the Los Angeles area featuring “Lures, Pizza, DJ, Giveaways, and Prizes all night long at the Cloudscape Mural PokeStop”.  
Additionally, Planet Vape sponsored an event (“Pokemon Go Planet Vape Meetup!”) announcing that their store was a PokéStop (“We are lucky to have a Pokéstop just outside the front door!”) and offering prizes for best Pokémon caught in their shop. 
The clear assumption here is that the vape shops in question will happily sell to anybody who walks through their door - which is of course nonsense - and is backed up by precisely zero evidence. What it really shows is that vape vendors are connected to their community in ways that Tobacco Controllers can only dream of (or possibly have nightmares about), and are using the popularity of a game that a large proportion of their customer base are already using to try and increase their market share and make a few bucks. To anyone not intent on overthrowing capitalism, this would seem like a good business move, and indeed it was widely publicised as such at the time.

They also throw in a snapshot taken from Joyetech’s Instagram as proof of e-cigs being marketed to kids, once again failing to realise that the image would only have ever been seen by those who already subscribe to Joyetech’s content. The internet is not a broadcast medium, but they just can't seem to get that through their pointy little heads!

Realising the weakness of their argument, our stalwart heroes of the common good decided to throw in some scary looking pictures to help make their point.

Anyone who has ever seen the game played will recognise this as a Pokémon being captured, which can occur randomly at any location. The background image comes from the camera of the phone being used, in a sort of augmented reality way; meaning that the authors have deliberately pointed their camera directly at the store front of a vape shop in order to make it look as scary as possible. They could equally well have used either of the following two pics to illustrate their point, but chose to manufacture that one.

But then I guess they’re not too well known for their sense of humour.

In a final desperate attempt to justify the waste of electrons, the “researchers” turned to Yelp (not welp). They found 19 vape shops in their area which could potentially be in reach of a pokéstop. For some reason, they decided to only visit 8 of these 19. Perhaps the others were in areas they promised their Mom they wouldnt go to. Of the 8 locations they could bring themselves to visit, 6 actually were lucky enough to be within range of where Niantec decided to put the pokéstop, and of those 6 only 1 was using it to their advantage.

One shop. With one A3 poster outside it.  Oh wait, there's more…
while another promoted their products using other cartoon images. 
which I can only imagine was a roaring political lambast from Gerald Scarfe. Given that they neither provide a photo nor description, I have as much chance of being right as anyone.

You can imagine my horror at these blatant underhanded industry tactics. *yawn*

This however did not deter our insipid intrepid investigators, who went on with the usual demands for more research (money), and the usual policy “recommendations”.
Policies specifically prohibiting the use of Pokémon Go and other cartoons/video games to promote e-cigarettes and related products should be considered, as this would be consistent with both current US legal agreements by major tobacco companies to avoid the use of cartoons in their advertisements (ie, the Master Settlement Agreement) 
Despite the fact that vaping is not smoking, contains no tobacco and is not covered under the MSA agreement. And all for a game where 78% of the players are over the age of 18.

Spot the kid at a Pokemon convention

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

No Evidence 'Public Health' Aids Public Health

Following swiftly on from the tobacco controllers who believe lying about the benefits of reduced risk products is a fine and ethical idea, comes this remarkable article in the Guardian.

Brace yourselves, because this one is through the looking glass with Alice and the fucking Mad Hatter!
No evidence sugar-free soft drinks aid weight loss – study 
Soft drinks made with artificial sweeteners, such as diet colas, do not help people lose weight and may be as big a part of the obesity problem as the full-sugar versions, academics have said.
That's right, drinks which contain no sugar and no calories are just as bad as ones which do, apparently. So, I presume we can now forget all that ridiculous panicking about sugar, can't we? I mean, they've been telling us the stuff is death personified for the past year or two, but if a drink with no sugar in it at all is on a par then surely there's absolutely bugger all to worry about, no?

You could pitch the conclusion in a slightly different way and say "full sugar drinks are about as harmless as those with no sugar and no calories". Great, why didn't they just say so before. Hey Public Health England, you can shut the fuck up about fizzy drinks now and instead go and do something useful with the monumental amount of our cash you waste.

Of course that's not going to happen, is it? There's still a lot to be milked out of this particular fake health lobbying cash cow.
A paper by researchers at Imperial College London and two universities in Brazil contends that artificially sweetened beverages, often called diet drinks, are just as big a problem as those containing sugar. There is no evidence they help people lose weight, they say, possibly because people assume they can eat more because their drinks are low in sugar.
Oh right, so you mean that it is nothing to do with the drink, it's that people eat more and, erm, eating a lot makes you fat ... as we have kind of known since Neanderthal man overindulged on Sabre-toothed Tiger steaks.

Of course, if there is no difference between sugary and non-sugary drinks in respect to obesity, we can all ignore these chumps about sugar and they can toddle off and talk about over-eating, huh?
Many manufacturers are looking to boost sales of drinks containing artificial sweeteners in order to escape the levy. Such products already account for 25% of the global soft drinks market. 
Prof Christopher Millett, senior investigator at Imperial’s School of Public Health, said: “A common perception, which may be influenced by industry marketing, is that because ‘diet’ drinks have no sugar they must be healthier and aid weight loss when used as a substitute for full-sugar versions. However, we found no solid evidence to support this.”
In which case, there is absolutely no point in the government trying to get manufacturers to reduce the sugar content in their drinks because - as we have been saying on these pages for quite a while - it will have no effect on the nation's weight whatsoever. The best argument yet for scrapping the utterly laughable and pointless sugar tax, eh? Thanks for your help guys, much appreciated.
The paper, published in the journal PLoS Medicine, is a commentary on the research done so far into artificially sweetened beverages promoted as healthier alternatives and the impact on weight.
Erm, "commentary", did you say? So this is opinion and not a "study" or, in fact, any kind of science at all? Well no, because they skip pretty early into the ad homs.
Maria Carolina Borges, the first author of the study, from the Federal University of Pelotas, in Brazil, said: “The lack of solid evidence on the health effects of ASBs [artificially sweetened beverages] and the potential influence of bias from industry-funded studies should be taken seriously when discussing whether ASBs are adequate alternatives to SSBs [sugar-sweetened beverages].”
"Potential bias"? They don't actually bother to try to do science themselves - God forbid! - to disprove the conclusions of these studies, but merely drag their knuckles along the ground, point an accusatory finger and grunt "Ugg! Industry-funded!", which is an instant fail in my opinion.

It gets worse ...
Prof Carlos Monteiro, a co-author, from the University of São Paulo, said: “Taxes and regulation on SSBs and not ASBs will ultimately promote the consumption of diet drinks rather than plain water, the desirable source of hydration for everyone.”
Desirable to whom, sunshine? Who made you the arbiter of what I, and everyone else on the planet, wishes to fucking drink? Why don't you just Samba off into the River Amazon you odious dictatorial motherfucker you.

As one commenter under the line pointed out, this is 'public health' not just aping satire, no it's even more hilarious than that.
"Possibly because people assume they can eat more because their drinks are low in sugar" is potentially one of the stupidest things I have ever heard and reminds me of Little Britain's half the calories diet, where you cut your food in half and it's half the calories. And because it's half the calories, you can have twice as much. 
We're not talking side-achingly funny farce here, this is an actual policy position from people who claim to work in the 'scientific' 'public health' arena. It truly beggars belief!

Of course, we jewel robbers know exactly what is going on here because we've seen it all before. 'Public health' science is never interested in truth, instead it merely endeavours to support whatever policy position the lying bastards are pursuing at any particular time. In the case of sugar taxes, those opposed have pointed out - quite rightly - that the 'problem' is solving itself as the public move onto lower sugar products or ones with no sugar at all, and industry reacts by providing products to satisfy the demand. As a result, low and no sugar alternatives have to be demonised no matter how ridiculous it makes 'public health' fucktards look.

This is not a serious study, piece of research, or even a wise opinion based on sound science. It is merely an attempt to counter a very compelling reason why we should not be subjected to daft taxation policies that the 'public health' bandwagon requires to survive just as much as a great white shark needs to keep moving to breathe.

These people are so incredibly cretinous that I don't think they even considered that the message they could be sending is the opposite of what they hoped for; their one-eyed insanity is so deeply-entrenched that they delivered a message saying full sugar drinks are as 'safe' as Coke Zero almost on auto-pilot.

The real target - as is always the case - is industry and free choice. These snobby fucks don't like that people are enjoying drinks that they personally don't - "plain water, the desirable source of hydration" is a pretty blatant clue - made by companies that they ideologically despise.

It's all drawn from the same dishonest and corrupt playbook that tobacco control created when they declared snus, chewing tobacco and now e-cigs to be as dangerous as chain-smoking, and is designed only to demonise industry and deny our free choice of these products as a concept.

However, there's always an upside. We need a tipping point to make politicians ignore the massed ranks of lying 'public health' parasites, and the more they rip into hugely popular products like Coke and tell us that eating cakes in an office is a 'public health' disaster, the quicker the public will wake up and realise they're a bunch of pompous, fraudulent, right-on, money-grubbing, industry-envious arseholes who will happily destroy civil society if it earns them a buck.

Oh yes, and stratospherically-incompetent with it. 

Monday, 2 January 2017

Bullshit Bingo With The Cult Of Tobacco Control

I've often accused the tobacco control industry of being packed full of self-enriching plankton who variously lie, produce junk science, pretend rules of physics and economics don't exist, and who do so because they are not even remotely interested in improving public health. We see examples of the aforementioned character flaws almost on a daily basis, but it's very rare we find an item which includes every single one of them.

Behold, then, exactly such a thing with this study just released courtesy of four unrepentant moonhowlers from the University of North Carolina. It's a true classic of the genre.

The experiment contacted smokers in a phone survey, and measured how many of them were interested in using e-cigs under a variety of different scenarios. Unsurprisingly, the more the researchers stated that e-cigs contained fewer harmful chemicals, the more interest their subjects showed in using them. In other words, the less risky something is, the more people will be willing to try it, this is hardly rocket science.

But here's where the junk science part comes in, as the NNA explains here.
What isn't immediately obvious from the publicly available abstract, but is noted in the limitations section of the full paper hidden behind a paywall, is the fact that the study concentrated on those smokers who said they would start or increase their use of e-cigarettes without stopping smoking. So smokers who indicated that they would completely switch to the safer product were excluded.
This small adjustment enables the North Carolina maggots in human form to then fraudulently portray all users of e-cigs as 'dual users' who smoke as well as vape. Vital if you have pre-committed to coming up with something negative about reduced risk products (which was probably a condition of the grant they received, to be fair).

We then see the blithe dismissal of long-accepted scientific consensus on dose and toxicity (from here).
"[E-cigarettes] may not be able to be approved as a modified risk tobacco product on the basis of reduced chemical exposure alone because the public views information about lower chemical amounts as inherently related to reduced health harms"
Yes, the public views it that way because it has been known since the 16th century that the dose makes the poison, and if you are ingesting fewer harmful chemicals that is quite obviously a good thing if you are interested in reducing harm.

Not if you're in the cult of 'public health' and especially its subset of tobacco control though. Because, you see, tobacco controllers will always insist that just smoking one cigarette exposes you to the same harm as smoking 40; they have spent so much time concocting utter bullshit to 'prove' this that now researchers such as those in North Carolina actually believe it. Their swivel-eyed obsession is so important to them that they are willing to produce junk that actually pretends the rules of physics and biology don't exist.

The result of all this is a conclusion which advocates lying to the public as a policy suggestion, based on their own corrupt and mendacious reality-bending lunacy!
FDA is required to publicly display information about the quantities of chemicals in cigarettes and cigarette smoke in a way that is not misleading. This information, if paired with information from advertising or FDA disclosures indicating that e-cigarette aerosol contains lower amounts of those same chemicals, could have the unfortunate effect of encouraging smokers to become dual users or increase their existing dual use under the mistaken impression that they are significantly reducing their health risks
There is no "mistaken impression", because it is scientific fact.

They know that misleading information is likely to deter people from switching to e-cigs, and I'm sure they know that their junk science and perversion of the truth is likely to have that effect too. But they really don't care, because they're not remotely interested in improving public health, instead more having an eye on the lucre they can gain in the future by continuing to torment and loot smokers. Fewer packets sold mean less tax dollar for 'public health' and therefore fewer grants, and that just won't do, will it?

So there you have the tobacco control full house. Every piece of truth-torturing bullshit all wrapped up in one neat but astounding package. They're not trying to improve public health, they're just playing 3D chess.

What a great start to 2017, playing bullshit bingo with the 'experts' of the anti-smoking scam. Yet again e-cigs have exposed the tobacco control industry as a collection of crooked, manipulative, rust-hearted shitsacks who are prepared to lie at all costs to keep their harmful but lucrative bandwagon going. 

Saturday, 31 December 2016

Jewel Robbing in 2016

It's been a successful albeit traumatic year for your humble host business-wise, and overall I've quite liked 2016 for having injected some much-required cynicism into public discourse and - just perhaps - made a few politicians realise that they can't just carry on the way they currently do.

Keeping all that mostly separate though, here's a rundown of what we've been talking about here in the past 12 months.


We started 2016 with Dr Stephen Stewart of the Royal College of Physicians making 10 deceptive claims about Minimum Alcohol Pricing, it was also the month that Silly Sally came out with new alcohol guidelines which were anti-scientific and clearly aimed at edging us towards prohibition .. despite what useful idiots might say. Shirley Kramer of the Royal Society of Public Health then advocated plain packaging for fizzy drinks. None of these were the big story of the a month which saw the obscene parasites in 'public health' explode into 2016 though, oh no. That was reserved for Martin McKee, who was caught by FOI with his pants down, privately conspiring with Silly Sally to undermine Public Health England's report on e-cigs and was then revealed to have lied to colleagues in the BMJ. In other areas of research this would be a career-ending revelation, but 'public health' loves liars, so it wasn't.


This month saw a prominent tobacco controller admitting that plain packaging is a failure. We all know that, of course, but it was interesting to see one of their liars breaking ranks for a change. It didn't come as a surprise to we jewel robbers, especially since the Australian government refused to put this 'success' on record during an inquiry on the subject. Fancy that! February was also a month where I detailed how the liars at Health Stadia had encouraged rugby teams to expel vapers from the grounds of Aviva Premiership grounds just a couple of weeks before the National Centre for Smoking Cessation and Training released guidance endorsing their use as a stop smoking aid.


March had a Welsh tinge about it with Mark Drakeford blaming everyone but himself after his Health Bill failed when he refused to drop a ban on vaping from the provisions; meanwhile ASH Wales showed that they were far from being the vaper's friend by saying that they "fully welcome" a beach smoking ban which included e-cigs. It was also the month when the government proposed banning state-funded sock puppet charities lobbying, at which world class sock puppet Anna Gilmore was then outraged at the threat this presented to her future earnings potential. It was additionally when the sugar tax was announced by George Osborne - a triumph for anti-social snobs everywhere - and a smug moron posted the year's most idiotic article by writing about how vapers are all stupid and should let tobacco control walk all over them.


April saw yet another smoking ban which includes e-cigs, and this time it was fully supported by ASH Scotland. It was also the month when Australia decided to evaluate the success of plain packaging and, predictably, appointed Simple Simon Chapman - the guy who advocated for it - to lead the evidence-gathering charade. That's tobacco control 'science', folks. You may also remember that April was memorable for the incessant shrill whining that followed the release of a report by the RCP saying that e-cigs should be promoted widely ... it still hasn't subsided.


The Lords finally woke up to how ridiculous the TPD was in this month, delivering a load of common sense onto the pages of Hansard, albeit belatedly. It was also the month that Brexit: The Movie was released, arguably shifting the debate after being viewed by over 3 million online. Research found that plain packaging could have harmful consequences (not that 'public health' cares) and we dug into emails between ASH and the Department of Health, discovering the extraordinary extent of their (government lobbying) lobbying in favour of the TPD.


In June I delved more into the ASH/DoH emails and found how they tried to destroy vaping and, further, their attempts to grind vaping into the dirt. Meanwhile, 'public health' transnational organisation The Union proposed plain packaging for e-cigs and I reviewed A Billion Lives after a showing in Warsaw, finding that I didn't actually hate it like I thought I might. I also described my Westminster all-nighter on the evening of the Brexit referendum .. a week later once I'd sobered up.


Following the Brexit vote, some political commentators and MPs started to realise that "it's time that we treated the British people more like grown ups", if there's anything that needs cultivating in 2017, it's that! I spent a day with doctors at the Royal Society of Medicine and found that many of them are as sick of over-regulation of our pleasures as we are, and Public Health England's Martin Dickrell made a dogs' breakfast of defending vaping in the workplace on BBC Radio 5 Live.


In August, we saw a hideous bunch of extreme tobacco prohibition fascists actually propose banning smoking in the streets outside their hospital. It didn't seem to occur to them that they have no jurisdiction and that such things must come from primary legislation, but when you're part of a cult, you wouldn't even consider that, now would you? We also saw CAMRA finally realising that the health nutters are after them too, and heard more about how ASH Scotland are doing fuck all about vaping bans.


In September, we discovered that Simon Chapman - who condemned his detractors for not attending his weekday drone-fest at the RSM - had specifically demanded that anyone who dared to do just that be refused entry, pathetic coward that he is. It was also revealed that 'heart attack miracles' were pure fraudulent junk science (as we have always maintained) and a symbol which represents the anti-truth nature of the tobacco control industry scam. Despite being mendacious shysters themselves, tobacco controllers couldn't help themselves in launching a personal smear attack on Chris Russell for daring to attend a conference in Brussels to actually talk about health (which tobacco control is not remotely interested in). And to round off the month, we saw a bunch of vile fascists from the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health and The Faculty of Public Health actually advocate laws to hide smokers from children.


In October, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt directed his obviously huge intellect towards proposing legislation to restrict the size of restaurant puddings. Yes, I bet you didn't expect to read that this time last year, now did you? Soon after, the WHO's FCTC congratulated mass-murderer President Duterte of The Philippines for his contribution to public health, and ASH - who have never had to sell anything in their lives and live on handouts - told corner shops that they didn't know how to run their businesses. It was a surreal time, it has to be said.


I travelled to India for COP7 in early November and posted a few articles on the subject which you can read at this tag, including a truly bizarre day the conference itself. Landing in the middle of a smog which presented a real life public health crisis, it was odd to watch a load of career tax-spongers agonise about outdoor smoking bans and restrictions on e-cigs while they walked around not seeming to care about the huge levels of carcinogens in the atmosphere around them which led to the closure of 1,800 Delhi schools. We also saw the first of what will be turn out to be hundreds of future attacks on Heat not Burn technology from ASH, with threats of bans already being mooted. Tobacco controllers increasingly claim they are in favour of harm reduction options like this, but regularly revert to type and scream for bans when push comes to shove, this is something worth watching in 2017.


The year ended with tobacco controllers squealing that the public had dared to respond to a public consultation; I had a grand day out in Westminster involving plenty of beer, nicotine, caffeine and unapproved food; and I proposed Dick's Law (see below).

With what we thought would be a final 2016 insult, the newly-installed ditzy and cretinous head of the Royal College of General Practitioners binned her organisation's stated stance on e-cigs by calling for vaping to be banned everywhere, but this woeful year end was thankfully tempered by a very interesting report entitled The Pleasure of Smoking which was released just after Christmas.

And that was the year that was. Pick the bones out of it as you will, but I'd go with Snowdon's assessment.
2016 was the most entertaining year I can remember. I doubt we shall see another one like it. 
If 'post-truth' is the word of the year - and apparently it is - the nanny statists have been ahead of the curve for a long time and they excelled themselves again this year.
Indeed they did; at times astounding, at others clearly insane, but always motivated by self-interest rather than health and long due a slap from above.

Happy New Year to all you liberty-loving fellow jewel robbers who have passed through here in 2016, remember in 2017 - as I beseeched at this time last year too - that it is we who are on the side of the angels, not them. 

Tuesday, 27 December 2016

The Much-Ignored Pleasure Of Smoking

There is a report out today from the Centre for Substance Use Research (CSUR) in Glasgow which should be compulsory reading for anyone and everyone in the tobacco control industry. Sadly, it will be largely ignored.

Entitled "The Pleasure of Smoking", the report canvasses the views of 583 'confirmed' smokers; that is, smokers who enjoy smoking and are mostly resistant to demands to quit. Lead author Neil McKegany explains why this research should be heeded in the Executive Summary.
This research has provided considerable detailed information on the way in which smoking is viewed by a group of confirmed smokers. This is a group whose opinions are rarely articulated. The implications of these findings from a smoking cessation perspective are significant because there is a clear gulf between the way smoking is typically viewed as a negative, somewhat reprehensible behaviour, and how the smokers themselves saw their smoking as a source of pleasure, a choice rather than an addiction. Whilst it might be objected that "Smokers would say that, wouldn't they?", if stop smoking services are going to succeed in engaging with those smokers who continue to smoke in the face of the extensive efforts aimed at encouraging smoking cessation they are going to have to be prepared to engage with smokers on the terms upon which those individuals view their own behaviour. This includes being willing to recognise the pleasurable elements of smoking. 

There are two things to observe about that introduction. Firstly, tobacco control has never been remotely interested in articulating the views of smokers, instead they have sought every avenue by which they can ensure the views of smokers are silenced or ignored.

Secondly, if any tobacco controller were to admit that smokers derive pleasure from smoking rather than merely being addicted, they would experience an avalanche of abuse and threats from their colleagues who are driven solely by the need to actively denormalise smoking and cast smokers as third class citizens incapable of rational independent thought. The report points out how such vile behaviour from tobacco control would never be tolerated in any other policy area.
In other contexts we recoil at the suggestion of excluding individuals from social gatherings on the basis of their gender, race, religion or sexual identity and yet we positively embrace the notion of excluding smokers from gatherings in enclosed public places. The increasing marginalisation of smokers means that we are less and less inclined to ask them about their views on smoking or their views on the evidence of smoking harm, of addiction, and their interest in changing their behaviour. As a result we understand less and less about the experience of smoking as seen through the eyes of smokers themselves. 
Yep. Those who wish smokers to quit have never been prepared to "engage with smokers" at all, a tactic that vapers might recognise too. It is why tobacco controllers have never, and will never, understand smokers or other users of nicotine. Simply because they don't want to.

Denormalisation has been a stated tactic of tobacco control for many years now, they are quite open about it. Ignoring smokers is just one facet of that approach. Considering this is an attitude endemic within the anti-smoking industry, it is no surprise that the smokers surveyed by CSUR find nothing of any interest when they come into contact with the "well-meaning people but bloody useless" (from the report) staff at stop smoking services.
 “I had worried that quitting smoking would be bleak dull soulless and righteous. Everyone I dealt with through stop smoking services confirmed that view. Not wanting to be like them is one of the reasons I started smoking again”, “It was rubbish and I was rather stunned when it was pointed out to me that ‘By now you are supposed to be using weaker patches and close to quitting’. I was not aware I was on some kind of timetable and they witter on so much at you. They turn it into something much bigger than it needs to be and pepper their speech and information packs with so much negativity and wittering on that it just isn’t worth continuing.” 
Smokers commented that they had found a judgemental attitude on the part of staff within the smoking cessation clinics that had a negative impact on their contact with the service: "I felt the advisor was condescending and holier than thou", "Weak, of little consequence, and coming from a position of sanctimony and patronisation, anti-smoking products are a placebo, they don't work", "Pseudo sales person for the pharmaceutical industry products. Promoted by quit smoking advisors who lacked any knowledge of smoking other than the anti-smoking dogma", "Negative vibe because I am a smoker".
I'm sure staff who profess to be committed to stopping people smoking might not like the idea that their attitude isn't helping, but just like any other industry it is the messages from above which are responsible for it. In an atmosphere, created by the extremists in tobacco control, where smokers are denormalised and society treats them with contempt - merely 'nicotine addicts' who imagine pleasure instead of experience it - it's hardly surprising.

Of course, there is another way.
Successful models of engagement of smokers need to recognise and work with the enjoyment and pleasure that can be found in smoking. If smoking cessation services solely or principally stress the health harms associated with smoking and lay strongest emphasis on an addiction model to explain continued smoking in the face of those acknowledged harms, they will simply continue to find themselves very distant to the sorts of smokers we were surveying. 
The report also details how these committed smokers are very well aware of the health risks involved but - contrary to every policy justification the tobacco control industry has ever suggested - make value judgements based on the (exaggerated) guidance they are given and choose to smoke anyway. In the section on willingness to try harm reduction products like e-cigs, for example, a concern for health was way down in fifth place behind the ability to use them in public places, the fact they are cheaper, and preferences about flavour and smell.

In fact, the CSUR report covers this counterproductive tobacco control idiocy too.
A small number of smokers drew attention to sanctions on public vaping and some people's negative reactions to vaping as having undermined their experience of using the devices. "Same social stigma as as smoking so what's the point, may as well keep smoking the real cigarettes as much more pleasurable", "Still had to stand outside to vape, often right next to rubbish bins, this made it pointless to switch hence not using now", "Restrictions on use" and "Vaping bans"
In light of this, I shall digress briefly and remind you that there are individuals around who believe smokers should quit smoking and use e-cigs instead; are head of organisations which have policies supportive of e-cigs; yet still go to national newspapers like, oh I dunno, The Times, and say that vaping should be banned in all public places. I mean, how cretinous do you have to be to come out with ignorant garbage like that, eh?

It's especially counterproductive when the CSUR research also found that smokers who had tried e-cigs "reported enjoying cigarettes significantly more than those who had not". By attacking vaping simply based on their stupid prejudices, anti-smokers could therefore well be actively harming the chances of committed smokers switching to e-cigs.

Of course, they have no way of knowing that because they won't talk to smokers - instead being determined to ignore them - and will also dismiss today's published report. How do we know this? Well, because they have done so already.

In October, ASH Scotland prepared the way in a blog entitled "The “smokers survey” that can’t tell us anything about “smokers”".
The stated aim “To find out what smokers really think” seems to have missed this crucial point. Surely FOREST is not intending to use the results of this survey to make claims about smokers as a whole? To allay our concerns, will they state clearly that their survey cannot be taken as representative of the views of all smokers and will not be presented as such?
As is customary, attempts were made to make it clear that this wasn't the intention of the report, something that CSUR are open and transparent about in the Executive Summary. However, ASH Scotland were the very opposite of open and transparent, and two months later have still refused to publish comments on their article.

This is because the tobacco control industry, as I have said, don't want to hear about the views of smokers and will wriggle and squirm to make sure they never have to. The CSUR report is very revealing and could be useful to an industry wishing to help smokers to quit. Sadly, the tobacco control industry isn't interested in that at all. It doesn't care about why smokers smoke and definitely doesn't want to hear about what smokers think, far less to engage with them.

So this report will be widely ignored; lessons will go unlearned; and it will all be dismissed as being a tobacco industry plot. This, my valued fellow jewel robbers, is why it has never been about health.