Saturday, 31 January 2015

Enjoy The Silence

Yesterday I tweeted something Simon Clark said here because I think it is a good point, well made.

Sadly, I was taken to task for what I hadn't tweeted agreement with, rather than what I had. Still, that's by the by.

What I did find interesting about this undeniable statement is the possible future reactions to yesterday's news that Ireland is planning plain packaging for e-cigs too. You see, it is very true that "advocates of e-cigs within the tobacco control community" are fully behind plain packaging of tobacco - last week gave us a prime example (for which I was unfollowed by the way).

So what are they to make of e-cigs being slapped with plain packaging? Well, my guess is that they'll sit back and say nothing. I mean, how could they do any different? We are constantly told that tobacco controllers are not anti-smoker, they are anti-smoking, and are not trying to interfere in your free choice should you choose to smoke. Perish the thought!

The plain packaging campaign has been at pains to point out throughout the past few years that it is merely trying to stop kids from taking up tobacco, not bullying smokers into submission or intervening if adults choose to purchase a legal product. You have nothing to fear. They are absolutely in favour of your liberties and plain packs won't change that one iota. Or, as the instigator of the Irish proposal put it.

Therefore, considering tobacco controllers are in agreement* that under 18s should be forbidden to buy e-cigs - despite simultaneously arguing that there is no evidence of the 'gateway theory', and despite the current situation slashing youth smoking worldwide - they'll be quite content with plain packaging for e-cigs, won't they? And since they're convinced that plain packaging doesn't stop adults making free choices either, where's the problem?

Of course, if they oppose plain packs for e-cigs ...

* The e-cig advocate who once asked why harm reduction should only be for over 18s excepted.

Link Tank 31/01

Dive in.

Political correctness: How censorship defeats itself

A lifestyle so good, it's mandatory

How the European dream is dying, state by state

Science 'wrong' in EU's proposed e-cigarette law

Women in porn: More progressive than Hollywood?

Irish government urged to lift ban on Good Friday alcohol sales

The bizarre maths of supermarket price wars

6,000 queue at Burger King as it returns to France after 18 years

A ball pit for adults opens in London (pic)

Bud Light's Super Bowl advert features life sized Pac-Man game

French animals have feelings

Friday, 30 January 2015

Irish Jokes

Two politicians in Ireland seem to be doing their level best to reinforce the stereotype about their countrymen.
Senators Averil Power and John Crown want to see a ban on the sale of the products to under-18s, an end to advertising and the consumption of e-cigarettes in public places and places of work. 
It will also include the prohibition of sponsorship by manufacturers and importers of electronic-cigarettes and the use of them in vehicles where persons under 18 years of age are present. 
The bill also provides for standardised packaging of e-cigarettes and the fitting of child safety caps on liquid nicotine bottles. 
Yes, they really are proposing a 'smoking ban' and plain packaging for e-cigs, without any evidence whatsoever that they harm even the user, let alone anyone else.

Erm, wasn't the smoking ban about protecting bar workers from 'proven' secondhand smoke? Well no, of course it wasn't, but it's nice of these two clowns to finally confirm what we've always known. That it was never about health.

Interesting, too, that they have leapt straight into proposing plain packs for e-cigs, something they wouldn't even have considered a few years ago, and something Chapman the coprolite said would never happen. Nope, no slippery slope there. Not at all.

But worry not, my Irish friends, this won't change anything according to Averil.
Somewhere there is a pile of bricks thinking that they're not that thick after all by comparison.

Because bans on usage just about everywhere and e-cigs packs designed to scare people away from using them won't 'discourage' anyone, now will they? Despite the legions of tobacco control industry professionals all over the world having claimed for the past decade that smoking bans are an incredibly effective tool for discouraging smoking, and that plain packaging is a brilliant way of stopping uptake in its tracks.

I suppose we should wish for a bit of consistency, but then liars don't go in for that sort of thing, do they?

Thursday, 29 January 2015

Nutt As A Fruitcake

Professor David Nutt - the ex government adviser who admirably favours drug legalisation and is a fan of e-cigs - would be a much easier person to like if he wasn't such a raving arse when it comes to alcohol.

Today he has written a mess of a piece for the Spectator arguing for fewer restrictions on cannabis and MDMA (ecstasy) while disingenuously pushing drinkers off a cliff. The utter crap he spouts about minimum alcohol pricing in particular is jaw-dropping.
... alcohol is cheaper and more easily available than it has been since the gin-epidemic of the 1700s ...
It was true five years ago that alcohol was more expensive in real terms by 19.3% than in the 1980s, and the duty escalator on alcohol has added even more to that statistic since. I don't remember having much problem buying booze back then either.
... and half of all 15-16 year olds are becoming dangerously intoxicated at least once a month.
I doubt that statistic very much, but I suppose it depends on what one describes as "dangerously intoxicated" I suppose. My guess is that Nutt is applying a particularly low bar here. But however you cut it, all measures of child and youth alcohol consumption are dramatically in decline, and have been for over a decade, so his hyperbole is badly applied.

He continues ...
Alcohol misuse costs the UK about £30 billion per year ...
No it doesn't, but still.
[P]revention is preferred to treatment and here we have a number of proven strategies that focus on reducing dangerous levels of consumption. The easiest and least intrusive of these is minimum unit pricing of alcohol.
Minimum pricing is "proven" is it? And there was I thinking it was just a flawed computer model produced by incompetent university temperance enthusiasts.
However whenever this is discussed publicly it provokes a barrage of attacks from the right-wing press, probably driven by lobbying from the drinks industry ...
Citation needed, you lazy Professor, you.
... with claims of ‘punishing the responsible drinker’ and politicians of both colours meekly accede. The truth is exactly the opposite, minimum unit pricing of 50p per unit would in practice save the ‘responsible’ drinker significant amounts of money.
No it wouldn't, because the premium of a brand would necessitate rising prices right up the scale. If cheap booze is raised to a similar price as branded stuff, the branded stuff will increase in price to protect the differential. Minimum pricing would cost every responsible drinker more, and the poorest would naturally feel it in their pocket most because of the margins being more acute to those with less disposable income. This is economics and business 101.

But still, let's hear him out.
To understand how this works we need to realise that almost every drinker – and certainly every subscriber to the Spectator – will already be drinking alcohol that is priced at more than 50p/unit as this translates into £3.50 per bottle of wine or £15 per bottle of spirits. In fact the only people drinking alcohol that costs less than 50p per unit are those that contribute the most costs of alcohol harm to our society. These are the young binge drinker and the older alcoholic. Increasing the minimum price of alcohol to these two groups would reduce consumption and harm.
That's right. Apparently, the "only" people who buy cheap alcohol are young binge-drinkers and codgers with a drink problem. No-one else. At all. The poor in society who drink responsibly but can only afford the very cheapest alcohol don't actually exist - funny that, considering Labour keep telling us there is a 'cost of living crisis'. If every responsible drinker is able to afford brand names instead of supermarket own brand vodka, it kinda suggests someone is lying to us, don't it?

As an aside, I find it curious that tobacco vending machines - by far the most expensive way of buying cigarettes - had to be banned because children were flocking to them, yet low-priced alcohol being raised by a few pence is brilliant policy because kids haven't got much money.

Anyhow, I digress.
Today the cost of alcohol misuse in the UK is around £30 billion per year —about £1000 per tax-payer.
No, David, it really isn't.
This sum might be thought acceptable to those who drink heavily but surely not to responsible drinkers. The 10 per cent of the population who are non-drinkers are particularly penalised since they get no benefit from using alcohol at all.
I believe they do. You see, if they don't drink, they don't pay any of the £9bn in alcohol duty the government derives from those who do, not to mention the £2bn VAT on top.
Real life experience in a province in Canada showed that introduced minimum pricing recently found a 10% increase in minimum unit price led to a 30% reduction in alcohol deaths.
No, Nutty, that didn't happen either, as Snowdon explained recently.
This is a reference to a statistical analysis of data from British Columbia conducted by Tim Stockwell (yes, him again). Stockwell claimed that there was a large drop in wholly alcohol-attributable deaths in 2006-07 which roughly coincided with some (fairly minor) increases in the minimum price of some drinks. 
Alas, this is entirely inconsistent with the established facts. Official statistics show that the alcohol mortality rate in British Columbia rose from 26 per 100,000 persons to 28 per 100,000 persons between 2002 and 2008. As the graph below shows, neither mortality (solid line) nor per capita alcohol consumption (dotted line) fell during this period. 
Between 2002 and 2011, the number of deaths directly attributed to alcohol in British Columbia rose from 315 to 443 with the largest annual death rates occurring after the minimum price rises of 2006. Between 2006 and 2008, when further minimum price rises occurred, the number of deaths rose from 383 to a peak of 448. Moreover, the rate of hospitalisations for both alcohol-related ailments and acute intoxication both rose during this decade.
So considering just about everything Nutt has said so far is demonstrably wrong, his further calculations are simply laughable.
Our two groups of consumers of cheap alcohol (the young and the alcohol dependent) contribute about 30 per cent the total burden of costs of alcohol (about £10bill/year) so reducing this by a quarter would save around £2.50 billion a year — the price of 8 new hospitals – or a tax-rebate of £100 or so per taxpayer.
The true, actual cost to the taxpayer is orders of magnitude lower than that at around £6.6bn, which is of course adequately covered by duty income. But even if we discount that and agree with Nutt's debatable share of costs, the quarter cost of £1.65bn is offset by the half billion cost of implementing the policy in the first place, as admitted in the Sheffield model itself.

There's more from Nutt.
Properly pricing alcohol can lead to a virtuous circle of health and wealth. France is a remarkable example of this.
You mean that France where booze is so considerably cheaper than here that we all pick some up on the way back from the place?
What is even more remarkable is the fact that the French alcohol industry has become more profitable; more expensive wine has greater profit margins. 
The UK alcohol industry is well aware of these data, and must accept that they would be more profitable under a more-expensive minimum-priced alcohol policy. So why do they resist any attempt to develop a more rational policy even one as minor as minimum pricing? One view is that they rely on the cheap super-strength ciders and lagers that have come on to the market in recent years to get young drinkers addicted.
And 9/11 was a government plot, yes David. {wibble}
My view is that they have taken a collective position to oppose any change in drink regulations on principle even if it would in the long run benefit them. Their profits are so enormous; they just can’t be bothered to innovate. 
Because anyone visiting the booze area of the supermarket can't fail to notice the complete lack of about 9 different types of Bacardi which weren't available 15 years ago. You know, when innovation and competition died as a concept for the drinks industry. Considering the anti-alcohol lobby has been fighting against the marketing of hundreds of new and innovative products for the past couple of decades, this has to be the daftest claim of the lot.

Now, it's clear that Nutt is a big fan of more realistic policies on drug use, and for that he is to be congratulated. But he is a piss poor advocate of common sense towards drugs when he is spouting such utter bollocks on alcohol.

Fortunately, no-one buys his transparent nonsense and he's getting caned in the comments. Good.

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

David Cameron Creates 'Jobs' In Northern Ireland

Earlier this month, I wrote about an Irish Independent article which reported how their police and border forces estimate the provisional IRA could profit massively from plain packaging.
The Government plans to introduce 'plain packaging' carrying only graphic health warnings rather than the current brand designs will provide the smugglers with a massive boost in profits, customs and garda sources say. 
They estimate that Border-based Provo smugglers are importing around €90m worth of tobacco products a year, mainly from the Far East. Based on the experience of Australia, the first and only country to bring in the plain packaging, they estimate the IRA-controlled trade here could boom to around €120m in value.
Nice work if you can get it.

The daft plan is only a proposal in Ireland thus far. Of course, in the UK, Westminster's village idiot Jane Ellison has announced a vote on the matter - without telling half the cabinet - but the idea requires much more work yet in the Northern Irish Assembly.

Fortunately, though, a Sinn Féin MLA badgered on that very subject yesterday.
Mr McAleer asked the Minister of Health, Social Services and Public Safety whether he is minded to introduce plain packaging as part of the tobacco directive.
Well what a coincidence. Kerching!

How nice of Mr Cameron - who this week gave plain packs his backing - to compensate for the loss of 900 jobs in Antrim with a potential €30m per annum regeneration package on the borders.

No experience necessary, salary negotiable, full weapons training will be provided. What's not to like?

Monday, 26 January 2015

39% Of Parents Should Not Be Parents

The British Heart Foundation - a multi-million pound cash generation and lobbying business posing as a charity - has decided it doesn't like useful and popular businesses advertising. So it is demanding that politicians please, please, think of the children! (natch).
Seven in ten (70%) parents have been pestered by their children to buy junk food they have seen advertised on TV, according to a new survey by the British Heart Foundation ahead of Heart Month this February.
Err, isn't pestering just what kids do, whether it be food, toys, sweets, playing in the park or keeping a snail as a pet? What is wrong with the other 30%? Doped up on Ritalin or something?
The BHF polled over 2,100 UK parents with children aged 16 and under, and found more than two fifths (43%) of those polled say they are badgered by their children at least once a week.
Once a week, eh? By crikey {yawn} it must be hell on earth.

But hold on. That 70% figure wasn't a regular pestering then, just at some point in their lives. Now I'm seriously worried about the other 30% - they may quite possibly be dead.
Almost two fifths (39%) of parents surveyed also said they think junk food adverts on TV make it difficult to help their children eat a healthy diet.
I suggest then, that it's quite clear that those 39% surveyed should not be parents in the first place. I find 'no' to be one of the easiest words to pronounce, and I have a vocabulary of - ooh - at least 500 of them.
The BHF believes that this survey highlights the urgent need to close legal loopholes in the UK’s regulatory system which mean companies are free to promote unhealthy food and drink products to children both online and on TV during popular family TV shows. 
It does nothing of the sort. It just says that approximately 12 million parents seem to be incapable of controlling their kids.
The BHF is calling for the Government to introduce tighter restrictions online and ban junk food adverts being shown before the 9pm watershed to protect children from making unhealthy choices.
Because that's why people ran round a field for 2 hours in their spare time ... so that their donations could be spent on political lobbying.
[Mike Hobday, our Director of Policy, said:] “We cannot allow companies to continue exploiting holes in the system at the expense of our children’s health."
"Our children", Mike? If I'd had any with you I think I might have remembered. You, Mike, can look after your kids, and the rest of us can look after ours, OK?

Well, it seems that 61% of us can, anyway. Good grief.

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Redefining "Misinformation"

The BBC outraged a couple of tobacco control industry execs on Thursday. The Beeb's crime was to invite Imperial Tobacco's Axel Gietz onto Radio 4's Today programme to give an opposing view of plain packaging.

You can get an idea of what Gietz said from this Sky News coverage - it was perfectly reasonable and well argued, but CRUK's Robert West didn't like it one little bit.

I found this quite astounding. After a campaign where the BBC may as well have been a business partner of tobacco control in pumping out plain packs propaganda without question (by contrast, Simon Clark often had to beg to have Forest rebuttals included), here they were admirably - albeit belatedly - offering an alternative view (as they damn well should) but it was seen as heresy by West!

I was driving that morning but saw his tweet after a drop and had to point out that it shouldn't be a surprise that the BBC was acting impartially.

The irony in that response is so thick you'd struggle to cut it with a chainsaw, wouldn't you?

It is the tobacco control industry which holds the levers of power. They have dim-witted politicians eating out of their hands and a supranational unelected WHO dictating what national governments can and cannot do. By contrast, the tobacco industry isn't even allowed to raise an objection without state-funded prohibitionists screaming foul.

The obese bubblegum-phobic was equally pissed off.

For "factually wrong", read "not keeping to the script we wrote for this piece of legislative fantasy". They both know very well that the evidence for plain packaging is less than wafer thin, in fact it's a crock. And as for no-one being invited to challenge, this has been the modus operandi of tobacco control since the 1970s! They actively run away from debate, strain every sinew to stifle opposition, and pretend that everyone who opposes them must have been paid to do so.

What's more, they have some outrageous neck for accusing others of being shifty on the issue of plain packaging. I've attempted to condense all their disgraceful abuses into a shortish list before.
The often fraudulent abuses of process, democracy and common decency are too numerous to list in full, but just to remind you of a few highlights: 
Attempting to rig the consultation; producing literature containing bald-faced lies to MPs; enthusiastically encouraging corrupt multiple signatures; and attempting to influence government to exclude any consultation responses they disagreed with and then trying to hide the evidence. Along with inviting two zealous supporters of plain packaging to review the evidence, including a far-left lunatic who simply despises marketing of any product, before producing an impact assessment document which the Regulatory Policy Committee rightly considered shoddy. This without mentioning shovelling taxpayer cash to vested interests to lobby government with, making demonstrably false claims, and blatantly misrepresenting the results of their own research
Like I say, this is by no means an exhaustive list, far from it.
To accuse anyone else of 'misinformation' or being 'factually wrong' is quite stunning when the entire tobacco control plain packs campaign relied on lying, gerrymandering, evidence-rigging, junk science, suppression of dissent, economic terrorism, political chicanery and institutionalised corruption.

Now, the tobacco control industry have this thing they call the 'scream test'. Deborah Arnott described it here.
"Why would the tobacco industry and its allies be so vehemently opposed to plain packaging if they weren't so frightened that plain packaging would work?"
This is 'misinformation' in and of itself, as Snowdon and others have explained very well in the past. It's a con trick employed simply to convince anti-smoking obsessives and the generally stupid.

But, on Thursday, it could have been re-written thus:
"Why would the tobacco control industry and its allies be so vehemently opposed to Axel Gietz on Radio 4 if they weren't so frightened that the truth may get out?"
Roll on the court cases. I hope the tobacco industry sting the government for billions.


For an example of usual BBC fare, see this News24 interview with Forest's Simon Clark and watch out for the snort of derision when the term "denormalisation" is mentioned.

West and McKee doth protest too much, the BBC don't need any help whatsoever from their slew of anti-smoking mouth-breathers. Denormalisation has been a proud stated policy of the tobacco control industry for around a decade now yet the BBC presenter derided it as if Clark was a conspiracy theorist.

World-renowned news source? Ha!