Thursday, 21 August 2014

Who's Paying WHO?

As we count down the days until the tobacco kontrol klan's next excuse to waste our money - the Sixth session of the Conference of the Parties to the WHO FCTC (aka COP6) to be held in Moscow later this year - it's been very interesting to look through some of the material which has been placed online in advance.

For the uninitiated, this is a regular event where state-funded anti-smokers from all over the world congregate to think up even more pointless batshit ideas like plain packaging. The last one was in South Korea in 2012, at which topics such as a global tobacco tax and classifying e-cigs as tobacco products were seriously considered.

These two subjects are almost certain to crop up again. In fact, the proposal on e-cigs is a gimme seeing as the WHO has been desperately trying to hide its own documents by sending cease and desist letters to websites which dare to report their plans.

So who pays for this stuff, I hear you ask? Well, you do, mostly. The Framework Convention Alliance (of which ASH is a member, by the way) has produced a budget and workplan in advance of their endorsement of the gay and passenger airline-bashing Russian state.

The document itself charts how the amount spent has more than doubled while funding from VACs - that's supporting governments to you and me - has not. In fact, the sums demanded by the WHO have often been ignored, with 20 countries not having paid a penny. It's good to see from the breakdown that the UK is in arrears by over £300k from a total of around £8m, but if you're from the USA you should thump your chest and sing the star-spangled banner as your government has refused to recognise the FCTC and has therefore paid the princely sum of bugger all. Ever.

This all causes a bit of a problem for the professional anti-smoking community, because dictating to the world - to pay for their cars, holidays and mortgages - comes at a big cost and cannot be restrained by silly concepts like living within their means.

Therefore, they have been forced to raise cash elsewhere, as they describe here.
The FCTC budget has more than doubled over the last seven years, increasing from $8,010,000 for the 2006-2007 biennium to $17,290,000 for 2014-2015
The total amount of Voluntary Assessed Contributions(VACs), however, did not follow this trend. VACs rose by only 12 percent in this period, while the number of Parties increased by over 50 percent. In practical terms, the larger number of Parties led to an expansion of the workplan, for which resources had to be fundraised.
Or, put in a table ...

It does kinda beg the question ... who is paying for that other 47.4% which the WHO euphemistically calls "extrabudgetary funds"? By my reckoning, it amounts to in the region of $8.5 million.

Hmm, I wonder who these phantom donors could be, huh? Sadly, even the FCA don't appear to know.
Detailed information on the fundraising strategy of the Secretariat and its progress is not available.
I'd have thought that such information is pretty darn important when we're talking about a conference which is trying to enforce rules on 176 different jurisdictions without a single vote having been cast in their direction. Because, if you're chipping in that amount of cash, I'd expect you'd demand a certain amount of control over the agenda, wouldn't you? But then, transparency has never been the FCTC's strong point.
Activities related to assistance with FCTC implementation have so far been funded exclusively by extra-budgetary income.
Activities such as proposing global tobacco taxation and classifying e-cigs as tobacco products which would advantage sellers of alternative nicotine delivery systems to tobacco and vaping, do you think they mean?

I suppose we shall have to wait and see, shan't we.

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Punch Drunk

Those business geniuses at Punch Taverns are in confident mood according to the FT.
Punch Taverns says it now has the necessary “momentum behind” its debt restructuring proposal that aims to slash a quarter off the pub group’s £2.3bn debt burden. 
Stephen Billingham, executive chairman of Punch, said: “We have more people on side than we did on June 26. I think the company is optimistic that it is now on the road to completing the restructuring".
If I were an investor in Punch, I'd be running scared right now. You see, they've been "optimistic" before.
Francis Patton, [Punch Taverns] customer services director said: “Too many people are looking at the smoking ban as a threat, but we know this is a huge opportunity. The smoking ban is a great opportunity to get new customers (who want to eat) into pubs and also keep people there who go regularly.”
And didn't that turn out hunky dory, eh? The "great opportunity" led to their business collapsing, and their share price hurtling downwards from £11.50 in July 2007 to such a low that Paddy Power were offering odds-on that they would trade at 1p in 2009.

The FT are well aware of where the blame lies, even if it hasn't registered with Punch yet.
Punch Taverns’ troubles have their roots in structural changes within the pub industry such as the smoking ban and Britons drinking less. Its net debt stood at nearly £5bn at one point.
This is what happens when you get in bed with prohibitionist health advocates, Punch. You're not running health clubs; they're not your friends. D'you see?

Still, at least they have recovered from the paltry 10.81p per share value the last time I wrote about them in 2011. Oops, my mistake, no they haven't, it's 9.5p now.

Hmm, perhaps something to do with 31 pubs per week still closing despite all those hordes of extra customers Punch were expecting in 2007?


Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Save Our Careers! Ban E-Cigs!

Boy, are there some shocking people in Canada's chapter of the tobacco control sect.
Public health officials and regulators who have battled for years against smoking may be inadvertently bolstering the tobacco market with their strong stand against e-cigarettes, some financial analysts say.
It seems that, because of insane self-enriching public health wingnuts, a German bank has advised its investors to sell their granny and pile into buying tobacco stocks. The reason? Because public health's assault on e-cigs can only have one possible outcome.
The three London-based analysts who wrote the review say they are “more bullish on global tobacco than ever,” citing a variety of factors. One is that the threat to conventional cigarettes from e-cigarettes seems to be shrinking, partly because public-health officials are casting doubt on their safety and restricting their use. 
“Our medium-term view is that the regulators have reinforced the position of [conventional] cigarettes for many consumers,” they say.
That's banking speak for "public health has successfully scared people away from e-cigs so smokers will carry on smoking. Buy, buy, BUY tobacco shares!".

Way to go, tobacco control!

Indeed, the German bankers are very wise, because this scenario has already been played out in Spain. After a baseless but much publicised scare story, e-cig sales fell off a cliff and the number of recorded Spanish vapers fell from 800,000 to 200,000 almost overnight.

From #GFN14

Now, what do you think the other 600,000 did with their cash? Stick in the piggy bank or go back to buying tobacco?

Catastrophic news for public health and a lesson to be learned, you'd think, wouldn't you? But the Canadians who want to replicate this effect are unrepentant.
One of those public-health advocates said she makes no apologies for criticizing e-cigarettes, arguing there is zero evidence they are any safer, and that they could ultimately allow tobacco companies to create even more harm. 
“We would like e-cigarettes to be treated as tobacco — we see them as an extension of the same product,” said Dr Meena Dawar, medical health officer with Vancouver Coastal. “[They have] a huge potential to undermine the gains we have made in tobacco control.”
Translation: We didn't invent them and they threaten my salary, so screw health, I have a career to think about.

We will see a lot more of this attitude in coming months. You see, the WHO's latest anti-tobacco shindig is taking place in October and - while the rest of the world is condemning gay-hating, jet-destroying Russia - there was never even the slightest consideration that the global tobacco industry would cancel or relocate. Instead, the attendees will be excitedly lapping up the delights of Moscow and bolstering the Russian economy with our taxes. And when finished with their state-funded jollies, these unelected cronies will demand a policy of elected governments worldwide classifying e-cigs as tobacco products after trying their best to hide it.

Truly, there is little more hideous in this world than the entrenched, blinkered, reactionary, hypocritical, petty, joyless, spiteful, self-centred and borderline criminal tobacco control industry.

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Jail For Smoking Outdoors? ++ Updated ++ And Vaping Too?

There has never been - nor will there ever be - a scientific study which says passive smoking outdoors is dangerous to passers-by. It doesn't stop one town from proposing a criminal record for smoking outdoors though, complete with a possible jail sentence.

Where is this place, you ask? Why, in California, of course.
NEVADA CITY (CBS13) — Nevada City is considering strengthening its smoking ordinance in its historic district to possibly make the offense a misdemeanor in addition to the hefty fine.

Just watching out for those bar workers, didn't they say? It was never about health.

UPDATE: Maybe that's a bit harsh on California. Check out what's happening in Arlington, Washington.
The proposed ordinance is modeled after a regulation in Marysville, though Arlington’s has been expanded to include trails as well as parks, and electronic cigarettes as well as tobacco products. 
People caught smoking or chewing tobacco in a park or on a trail could be fined up to $1,000 or get a maximum of 90 days in jail, according to the proposed ordinance.
Yes. Jail for using an e-cig in a park! These people are insane.

Friday, 15 August 2014

Word Up

Hey journalists, listen up.
'Vape', 'Binge-Watch' Added to Oxford Dictionaries
Editors for the site track and analyze some 150 million English words used online, in newspapers and other sources, and once every few months they decide which new words are so widely used that they merit a dictionary entry. 
"These are words that are common enough that you are likely to encounter them, and may have to look up their meanings," said Oxford Dictionaries editor Katherine Martin. 
One of these is "vape" or "vaping," which describes inhaling smokeless nicotine vapor using e-cigarettes. Oxford Dictionaries researchers say the usage of both "vape" and "e-cig" has increased about 10 times in the past two years. 
"The trend of e-cigarettes has created a sort of vocabulary around it," Martin said.
So, boys and girls in the media, let's have no more of you displaying your utter ignorance with talk of "smoking e-cigarettes" (example from gullible hack here), eh?

There's a word for it and it's now in the OED. Look it up and use it. OK?

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Irish Government Admits Plain Packs Slippery Slope

As if Deborah Arnott's embarrassing denial of a slippery slope should plain packaging be adopted wasn't funny enough already, she's been undone yet again. This time by Irish government advisers, no less!

From the Irish Examiner:
Ireland will likely face a constitutional challenge and complaints to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) over the anti-smoking move, [junior jobs minister] Ged Nash was told by his officials. 
Countries and firms are watching events as it may dictate how governments legislate for other harmful goods such as alcohol and fats, officials say. 
The notes were drawn up by two department assistant secretaries general. 
The private briefing papers, given to Mr Nash last month, say Ireland has “come under scrutiny” at a WTO committee on technical barriers to trade. This is “because our new legislation on tobacco is seen by some WTO members as inhibiting fair trade under the rules” of the organisation. 
The dispute may also have implications on how alcohol, sugar and fats are legislated for, officials say.
So, while tobacco control industry trouser-stuffers insist that there is no slippery slope, nor that there ever will be, government departments in Dublin are being advised that it's a distinct probability.

Meanwhile, after a campaign globally which concentrated on how "urgent" plain packaging legislation is to stop kids taking up smoking, the very same tobacco controllers are still steadfastly ignoring the only statistic that truly matters. That being the huge 36% increase in youth smoking in the latest figures from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.

Now, why would they do that? It's almost like they couldn't give a toss about the effects of their self-enriching vanity project on other industries and that it's not really about the health of youngsters, or something.