Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Snus, E-Cigs, Now iQos - ASH Hate Them All

So, after months of hearing about the things, Philip Morris have today launched their iQos 'heat not burn' system in the UK (albeit only in London).

The press have avidly taken up the story, most probably due to PMI CEO Andre Calantzopoulos dangling the media-friendly suggestion that the global company "could stop making conventional cigarettes". This is not a new claim, there have been a lot of articles recently where he has been interviewed about this new stance, it's just something the British press has only now picked up on, presumably from the PR.

They are also opening a shop in the West End, which seems to me more like marketing than retail if it sells only one product but - as a Puddlecote Inc office colleague pointed out today - Apple shops do much the same thing.


It is interesting that Philip Morris claim 70% of those who tried iQos in Japan continued to use them, though it has to be recognised that it is an entirely different market; as far as I am aware e-cigs really haven't taken off over there. But having said that, if the claimed 90% safer product is that attractive to smokers then this is surely a good thing in the eyes of tobacco controllers, huh?

I think you know what's coming next even if you hadn't read the articles this morning.

No, of course not. Because tobacco control is not in the health game anymore, they just like bashing the tobacco industry and those who continue to like tobacco or nicotine. Dave Dorn put it very well earlier.
Yes, you read that correctly. PMI could, in the future, subject to the right market conditions, stop making fags. They've even said they're looking to working with Government to make that a reality.  
Now, if I was heading up an anti-smoking charity (which I'm not), I'd be happy as a pig in shit at that news. I'd be grabbing all my minions and despatching them to the Dept. of Health and various other top level bodies and doing my level best to, as Jean-Luc Picard would say, "make it so". 
Cos that's what anti-smoking bodies and charities ought to be about, isn't it? 
But no. No. "We don't trust the tobacco companies." "We're not in the business of promoting tobacco products" (which is, actually, very much missing the point - that the IQOS has tobacco in it is entirely specious to the argument - it can be demonstrated to be of much lower risk than smoking, so they SHOULD be promoting such things. You know, like they do with ecigs. Oh... wait...) 
They're screaming for independent research into the risk profile. Here's an idea. They leech public money - yes, WE fund them - so let THEM, in the public interest (which it undeniably is) fund the research. Let THEM actually use the money they trough from the public coffers for a good purpose - get it given to an independent and unbiased lab to replicate the studies and confirm or deny the claims.
Carl Phillips described this pathetic stance by tobacco control in a blog last summer entitled "Public health (heart) lung cancer", where he offered up a handy test whereby we can assess the motives of tobacco controllers everywhere.
The test for anti-tobacco extremism is the answer to the following question: If you could magically change the world so that either (a) there was no use of tobacco products or (b) people could continue to enjoy using tobacco but there was a cheap magic pill that they could take to eliminate any excess disease risk it caused, which would you choose? Anyone who would choose (a) over (b) takes anti-tobacco to its logical extreme, making clear that they object to the behavior, not its effects.
Quite.

So what has been the reaction of ASH today to this massively safer alternative to smoking? Well, I think it woefully fails Carl's test, don't you?
But anti-smoking campaigners said products such as Iqos, like tobacco, need tough regulation. Deborah Arnott, chief executive of Action on Smoking and Health (Ash), told Today: "We still need to be very cautious about what the industry's up to." 
"Philip Morris is a tobacco company. They are still making most of their profits from selling cigarettes," she said: "On current trends, smoking will kill one billion people in the 21st century, most in poor countries. 
"If Philip Morris really want to see the end of smoking they have to stop promoting smoking to new young smokers around the world."
Absolutely nothing in there about the promise of heat not burn technology, just a load of irrelevant bleating cockwaffle and veiled smears of how industry is deceitful.

In fact, ASH's press release went even further than that.
ASH therefore believes that unless and until independent evidence shows that IQOS and similar products are substantially less harmful than smoking then these products should be regulated in the same way as other tobacco products.
This is the same ASH, remember, who went ga-ga about the non-existent proof of efficacy of plain packaging and still pumps out regular misinformation about passive smoking being dangerous outdoors which has never been proved and never will be. Yet they comically speak about deceit ...
Particularly because of the tobacco industry’s long record of deceit over the health risks of smoking, there is an urgent need for independent research into the level of harm these products may cause. 
... before declaring that even if it is provided they will ignore it.
We understand that the UK Government has asked the independent Committee on Toxicity to look at the data; this is welcome but not sufficient.
In other words, ASH will not accept any level of verification that iQos is 90% or more safer than tobacco, because ... well, tobacco industry.

Something which I had a good chuckle about this morning.


ASH are part of an industry which is now widely known to be the biggest liars the planet has ever seen, yet they are now set to place insurmountable burdens in front a technology which has definite potential to massively reduce harm from tobacco (their supposed policy goal) and citing deceit.

We've always known that ASH are morally-incontinent and only exist to satisfy themselves with tormenting smokers and looting their cash, but today showed that they are even lower than we previously thought.

I'll make some (not so) bold predictions here and now. ASH and their regional warped fucksticks will campaign vigorously for iQos and other HnB variants to be banned in public places. They won't have any evidence that it is harmful to others, they'll just do it anyway (because it was never about protecting bar staff). They will say, disingenuously, that no tobacco product is safe and follow the same shit path they did by getting snus banned in the 1980s, arguably killing people. And they will do all this because they are not remotely interested in health or harm reduction, and never have been.

They are just a dysfunctional, self-interested organisation - allied to blatant liars worldwide - who hate industry and get paid handsomely for doing so.

And how do I know this? Well, because ASH tried exactly the same with e-cigs. They attempted to strangle vaping in its infancy just like they did with snus; persistently tried to hamper its development at every turn, and still do; and only failed because of the huge enthusiasm and strength of vaper opposition.

ASH are not a friend, they are a vile prohibitionist organisation which has no care for health and which - as today proves - is in favour of tobacco harm reduction like Vichy France was in favour of freedom for the French people. It's shameful that the government funds them; for the good of public health they should be financially starved into extinction.

I look forward to the predictions above coming true, we should hold ASH and their provincial colleagues to account when they do. 



Tuesday, 29 November 2016

"Only Just Getting Started"

If you are one of the honking seals who happily claps along with anti-smoker sentiment - safe in the knowledge that the insatiable grant-ravenous 'public health' industry will never come after something you enjoy - you're either a monk, or you should never play Chess because you're so dim you'd probably fail to predict that your opponent might move a pawn first.

Y'see, as Snowdon wrote yesterday, it's pretty clear now that vile tobacco controllers have kicked open the gates of the citadel which used to safeguard liberty and free choice and, in doing so, have shown other repellent, self-centred, anti-social vandals how to smash everything else up as well. Of course, parasitical tax-gobbling charlatans wise tobacco control sages such as Debs Arnott and Simple Simon have denied this was ever going to happen but, in global Nanny State HQ Australia, they're all of a frenzy at the possibility of dictating everything you eat and drink from cradle to grave by way of the clunking fist of ignorant government.

Via the Daily Telegraph Oz:
Does junk food need the tobacco treatment?
Just let that sink in for a moment. Food. That you choose to eat.

OK? Right, let's continue.
OBESITY is the leading cause of poor health in this country yet little is being done to make junk food less appealing, affordable or accessible. 
Should we take a leaf from the anti-tobacco lobby?
So what do they mean by a leaf? Well, actually it is more like the whole rotten fucking tree!
[I]nstead of brightly coloured wrappers with mouth-wateringly tantalising descriptions, you faced shelf after shelf of sugary sweets wrapped in plain packaging with images of obese bodies emblazoned on the front. And imagine if adding a bottle of soft drink to your grocery haul meant asking an employee to get your chosen fizz from a locked cabinet behind a counter. Then, you find the bottle comes stamped with a picture of rotting teeth. Still thirsty?
In case you can't imagine that, the article kindly offers you a graphic that the joyless bastards in 'public health' will orgasm over.


Alarmist nonsense, I hear you say? Well not really, no.
“Overweight and obesity is the leading cause of disease and poor health in Australia,” Dr Gary Sacks, senior research fellow at the World Health Organisation Collaborating Centre for Obesity Prevention, says. “It’s fair to compare junk food and tobacco and we can learn a lot from what’s been done with cigarettes.”
So much for "the domino theory is patently false", eh Debs? Isn't it about time you publicly declared you were orders of magnitude wrong on that?
But should that include treating junk food in the way we now treat tobacco products? That is: hike prices, make plain packaging mandatory and slap packets with gory images of what obesity looks like and does. It depends on who you ask.
It does indeed. You see, you'll have some 'public health' extremists who won't yet admit that is the eventual goal, and others who feel adequately emboldened already to go 'all in'.
One of the most effective measures for reducing smoking rates in Australia was the introduction of plain packaging and graphic health warnings to cigarette packets. 
Following a similar tack with junk food packaging would cause a significant drop in obesity rates, say some experts. 
“Plain packaging would definitely have an effect,” Ferrie says. “We don’t give much thought to just how much money, research and thinking goes into making those packs as appealing as possible. Chips are my favourite example. You’ll find limes, chillies and perfectly roasted chickens on the label but inside is just salt, flavouring and potato starch. As for warning images, I’m sure companies would do everything they could not to end up in the category that required an amputated leg on their packet, which could be a good thing.”
Yep, these people are actually considering policies which would adorn a packet of crisps with pictures of an amputated leg. Or maybe a takeaway bag with a graphic health warning to punish you for your cheek in buying a Big Mac.


We used to throw people with insane views like this in the loony bin, but now they're apparently called 'experts'.
“From a public health perspective, I would love all these measures to be introduced overnight but we need to stagger our approach,” [Professor Stephen Colagiuri, director of The Boden Institute in Sydney] says. 
“It’s important to remember that it’s taken 50 years to get where we are with tobacco and we’re really only just getting started with obesity.”
"Only just getting started".

Some of us have been warning of this for quite a while, but how silly we all were saying that plain packaging would lead to such barking craziness, eh? Oh yeah, and in case you think this can only happen in Australia, think again.

I've always said that the smoking ban - the true root of this societal cancer - was the most disgusting piece of legislation this country has ever seen; it has directly facilitated this kind of lunacy. Once you pander to the most intolerant and snobbish in a community and make them important, the destruction of calm enjoyment of life on a scale never before witnessed is assured. Never has it been more encouraged to be a revolting no-mark obsessed with poking one's nose into the lives of others; pandered to by an elite, highly-paid bunch of professional extremists who, in an ideal world, should be slapped in a straitjacket and carted off to the funny farm. Or jailed, either is good.

A pox on all of them. Having said that, chalk one up for we jewel robbers on the side of the angels here, because we have been proved right. Yet again. 



Monday, 28 November 2016

Drafting A Sheffield Council 'Smokefree' Consultation Response

It seems that another daft council is proposing to waste taxpayer cash on illiberal, incoherent, unenforceable and pointless outdoor smoking bans, this time it's Sheffield.
Council chiefs are considering whether to ban lighting up outside hospitals and other NHS buildings, universities, council offices and leisure centres – and they are seeking the public’s views on the proposal.
Seeking the public's views, did they say? That sounds right up our street, I reckon.

The consultation can be found here and only consists of six questions, so let's have a bash at it, eh?
1. Tobacco is an addiction that takes hold in childhood. It is estimated that 5 children start smoking every day in Sheffield. We want to work with all secondary schools in the city to equip children with the skills to resist starting to smoke. Are you in favour of us doing more work in schools to prevent children from starting to smoke, and funding this work by moving some money out of stop smoking services?
Do you know, I can actually agree with this. I'd disagree that it's an addiction rather than a habit, and that it always "takes hold in childhood", but who could disagree that children should be educated as to the risks of any substance, not just tobacco. They are, of course, likely to be taught all kinds of alarmist bullshit, but the basic premise is sound.

Especially since the proposal is to take money away from stop smoking services, with which I can heartily agree. As I've mentioned before, they shouldn't exist at all, and not only because they are an abject failure.

Consider also that demand for stop smoking services has plummeted by around half since 2010 and there is simply no need for them now. So yes, remove that funding and spend it elsewhere. If you needed any further justification, ASH's Debs Arnott says education doesn't work (which is bollocks) and that only handing her and her pals more cash does, which speaks volumes about her seeing as she has strenuously tried to obstruct e-cigarettes at every step of their evolution so far.

It would be preferable if Sheffield didn't spend any money on such things, but taking it away from stop smoking services - which are used in certain situations as a tool to shame or bully smokers into quitting - and funding non-coercive education of children instead is a step forward.
2. We know that children learn the smoking habit from observing their parents and others, so we want to reduce the number of public places where people are visibly smoking so that children don’t think it is normal and copy this harmful behaviour. Are you in favour of us doing more work to increase the number of Smokefree outdoor sites in the city (e.g. outside NHS buildings, hospitals, universities, Councils, leisure centres, at events such as Skyride/Sheffield half marathon/Christmas light switch on) and funding this work by moving some money from Stop Smoking Services?
Erm, didn't we just get told that kids start smoking because of the glitzy packets? I wish they'd make their minds up.

This is an absurd suggestion. Yes, peer pressure is a factor in starting smoking, but the council has no business playing parent and getting involved, it is simply none of their business. Smoking is a legal activity and doing so outdoors has no harmful effect on bystanders whatsoever, nothing should be spent on preventing people from consuming lawful products where they can harm no-one else. It's a silly idea, is entirely unenforceable and would be a waste of taxpayer funds if so much as a quid is spent on signage, even if it's just a scribble on a post-it note.
3. Evidence suggests a very effective way of motivating smokers to quit is by developing mass media campaigns that smokers can relate to, using targeted messages about the reasons to quit. Certain groups smoke more than others, are more heavily addicted, and find it harder to quit. These groups are more at risk of poor health outcomes. We need to ensure that we successfully motivate these groups to quit smoking. Are you in favour of us funding more work on mass media campaigns; targeting those who find it the most difficult to quit smoking and who are the most addicted and funding this by moving some money from stop smoking services?
Why does Sheffield Council believe it is their job to "motivate smokers to quit"? Personal choices should be of no concern to them. While it's encouraging that this is the third question in a row which suggests taking money away from stop smoking services, wouldn't it be better to spend it instead on things that people actually expect their council to do properly? You know, fixing potholes, looking after the elderly, keeping the streets clean and picking up bins? Maybe even funding libraries better considering people are quite fond of them and yet Sheffield seem to have no cash for stuff like that.

Mass media campaigns? Do behave! If they can't fund books, why the blithering fuck are they even considering such a waste of taxes as this?
4. Since 2003 we have had a stop smoking service that anyone can access and we have supported around 3000 smokers a year to quit. From 2010 local demand for stop smoking support has reduced. This has happened alongside increasing popularity and use of e-cigarettes. More people are also choosing to quit on their own. Since 2015 councils across the country have faced significant budget cuts to public health grant funding. This means there is less money to fully fund a stop smoking service that meets the needs of everyone. We are therefore proposing to spend the most on those who find it hardest to quit. For those smokers who are able to quit alone we will direct them to online advice and support. Are you in favour of us supporting only the most addicted groups who find it very difficult to quit smoking, rather than having a universal service that anyone can access?
The reason those budgets are being cut is, hopefully, because politicians are starting to realise that the country can't afford such frivolities anymore, especially since it is none of their business if people smoke or not.

It's encouraging, too, that Sheffield have recognised that e-cigarettes are a good thing and are attracting quitters without need of state intervention. Funny, then, that the recent Freedom to Vape report on council policies revealed that Sheffield City Council treats vaping in exactly the same way as smoking; that is, you can't use an e-cig on any council property whatsoever, indoors or out. This is because, and I quote from their policy:
ii) Whilst they do not produce smoke, electronic cigarettes produce a vapour that could provide an annoyance to other employees.
iii) There is currently no reliable information about what substances and quantities are given off in the vapour from e-cigarettes and therefore no reliable indication of whether or not the vapour poses any risk to health to those in the vicinity of the user.
Now, just a thought, but if Sheffield want to be taken seriously about this new 'smokefree' drive, and recognise the promise of e-cigs, wouldn't it be worth their while changing that ignorant lunacy pretty damn sharpish - as in, now - before they start implementing something new? Motes and beams and all that. 
5. Due to the significant budget cuts to public health grant funding made by Central Government we are consulting the public on their opinion on funding stop smoking medication (such as patches) for the groups of smokers who smoke the most , who find it hardest to quit, and who are the most addicted. Are you in favour of us funding stop smoking medication (e.g patches, gum etc) for the groups of smokers who smoke the most, are the most addicted and find it hardest to quit?
Well this is simple, of course we agree disagree. Pharmaceutical products are utterly useless and ridiculously expensive. Save cash and just hand out a map to the local vape shop, it'll cost pennies. Just have a few handouts in reception and save Sheffield residents the grief of paying fat salaries for the council to employ people to hand taxpayer cash to huge pharmaceutical interests.
6. E-cigarettes have become popular amongst smokers. Public Health England recommends that all smokers should stop in the first instance, however those who cannot or will not stop smoking should swop to using an e-cigarette. There is evidence to suggest they are less harmful to a smoker as they contain significantly less toxic chemicals than mainstream cigarettes, and so encouraging smokers to switch to e-cigarettes will reduce the overall harms from tobacco. Are you in favour of promoting vaping to current smokers as a harm reduction method?
Erm, it's "significantly fewer toxic chemicals", for God's sake. But pedantry aside, see previous response, it's a no-brainer that the council should be promoting e-cigs which smokers buy for themselves rather than hugely expensive and massively useless pharmaceutical products. Spend the savings on a new lawnmower to cut some grass verges.

The consultation is open for a month but don't leave it too late. As usual, how you respond to the questions is up you (above are just a few thoughts) but I do always enjoy seeing what you've written and this consultation is another where they will send you a PDF if you include an email, so if you take part please do feel free to ping me yours.

You can take part in the consultation by clicking here. Enjoy.



Sunday, 27 November 2016

Freedom To Vape Campaign Scores A Hit

Earlier this month, Freedom to Vape produced an excellent report after FOIing every local authority in the country to ask their policy on e-cigs at work. It was riddled with explanations oozing laziness, ignorance and often quite shocking disregard for its staff, as I wrote about here.

The report doesn't appear to be a wasted exercise either. Quite a few local newspapers picked up the information about their particular council to run a story - a benefit of localising the issue for regional journos starved of things to write - with glimmers of common sense breaking through as a result. Like this from Bristol, for example.
The Mayor of Bristol has conceded that council employees could be allowed to vape at their desks – or at least in a special indoor vaping room – rather than outside with smokers of traditional cigarettes. 
Marvin Rees could meet representatives from the vaping industry to discuss possible changes to the rules for council workers who have given up smoking and taking up vaping instead.
And this is because?
The Bristol Post reported earlier this week that the pro-choice lobby the Freedom Association claimed all but three local councils in the country – including Bristol and its neighbouring authorities – were going against Public Health England guidelines in treating vaping in the same way as smoking.
Bravo The Freedom Association!

This is a quirk of how local authorities operate. Much of the business will be performed by people in offices who really can't be bothered to make a fuss, and they've had anti-smoking harpies on their case for decades. A lack of understanding of vaping along with indolence from the likes of PHE, ASH, CRUK etc. in making councils aware of their advice means that they produce stupid policies founded on nothing but rumour and hearsay.

However, the buck stops with elected members of the council, and if they are outed by the media or receive a lot of correspondence on a subject, they tend to get quite irate at the officers in their authority for allowing it to happen. I can imagine that the Mayor of Bristol would have been deeply embarrassed that his staff were so ill-informed as to come up with a policy which made his council look foolish and not keeping up with current 'public health' guidance which is in their purview now. Council taxpayers certainly don't tend to take kindly to their council being run by idiots and often boot out councillors as a result while the office staff get away scot free.

With this in mind, you could have a bearing on your own council's policy by reading the Freedom to Vape report here; seeing if your local authority is one of those which currently has a stupid stance on vaping; and writing to an elected councillor or two to object.

Vapers in Power have done some great work on the subject and make it very easy to make your views known in a very short space of time. Go have a look here, they have done half the work for you.



Friday, 25 November 2016

Reason Does Delhi

If you read my letters from India during COP7, you might see a lot you recognise here from Reason TV.

Especially worth watching out for is the camera trained exclusively on the public area (around 2:10 mins in) as mentioned in my report from the Monday, as well as the peaceful protest by tobacco farmers being aggressively broken up at behest of the FCTC, and the media being physically ejected.


It seems bizarre after watching this, but the WHO at the time actually tried to say that their obnoxious behaviour was not their fault at all; that instead it was those evil tobacco companies just making it all up.

You have the proof above, what are your thoughts?

I might like, at this point, to remind you that Geneva, the venue for COP8, isn't far away and 2018 isn't either. Keep an eye on flights cos they're cheaper if you book early.



Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Farewell To The Raccoon Arms

Today brought some pretty flattening news with the publication of a short article by Anna Raccoon announcing that she is closing her blog.

If you are not aware of Anna, she has been one of the finest - if not the finest - libertarian bloggers in the UK for nearly ten years. Always written in a warm and chatty manner - with a large number of dedicated followers in the comments - her site was likened more to a cosy saloon bar chat in front of the fireside rather than a writer issuing forth from a soap box.


She has been suffering health problems for a few years and has disappeared for varying lengths of time previously (sometimes this has also been to thwart angry mobs when she touches on a taboo subject, which she has never been afraid to do), but this would appear to be the final last orders at "The Raccoon Arms".
There is nothing more to be said. This really is goodbye. I may tweet occasionally, I shall certainly watch the world go mad from a distance – and I shall spend a lot of time curled up next to Mr G for as long as I can.
As someone who began blogging in 2008 when Anna was producing content that had national dailies pricking up their ears and scouring her pages on a regular basis, the news that her site will not be there anymore is quite upsetting.

Her content has been quite simply awesome. Astute and incredibly rigorous, she has attracted the respect and admiration of journalistic commentators, and regularly put many in the news profession to shame with her attention to detail and almost bloodhound-like determination to verify sources and evidence.

Although long time readers here will mostly remember her partnering up with Old Holborn to spring Nick Hogan from prison, her articles have often been electric and searing on extremely spiky subjects. Tackling stories such as Savile from a position of accuracy rather than hysteria is not an easy thing to do, and her weaving of personal accounts into her writing - as she has done brutally in recent days - is as brave as it is hypnotically compelling.

And now it looks like that is all stopping. It is a sad day.

I first met Anna in person in 2008, and have spoken to her by phone and email occasionally since. She has always been a source of wisdom and guidance, both with offering her legal and administrative experience of running a site like this and also on the odd personal matter.

She will be sorely missed, and there will now be a big empty space in the libertarian blogosphere and my blogroll which I can't see anyone else filling adequately. So tonight I'll be raising one last glass of cheer for The Raccoon Arms, sadly closed but never to be forgotten. 



Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Holidays Are Coming

It's been quiet on these pages since COP7, mainly through my having to catch up at Puddlecote Inc after a week away in India, only then to jet off again to a small picturesque town near Hannover for a somewhat hedonistic weekend with a couple of friends. I'm not going to write a lot about the trip; I could justify it by declaring that what happens in Germany stays in Germany but it's more accurate to say that I've forgotten large chunks of it.

I do, however, recall a very pleasant early lunchtime on the Saturday in a small pub containing the welcome sight of ashtrays on the bar. Yes there is a smoking ban but - like a lot of places in Europe - this particular historic pub is one of many in the country to quite rightly ignore it. We didn't have any tobacco on us at the time but the barman was in possession of a large packet of red Pall Mall, so we asked if we could buy a cigarette off of him. He brusquely refused, replying that, no, he won't sell one to us ... he will give it to us to complement our incredibly frothy German liquid lunch.


Whiling away a few hours in good company whilst discussing the hideous personalities in 'public health' was fun, but back in the UK those self same miseries were just beginning their annual Christmas dronefest.

For example, this charmless nerk has been banging on about the Coca-Cola Christmas truck tour for three days straight now.


Now, this festive roadshow has become something of a staple this time of year and is enjoyed massively by adults and children up and down the country, yet joyless extremists like Ireland would happily see the tour banned and revel in childrens' tears. Yes, they really are that incredibly miserable, the child catcher and Grinch rolled up into one revolting fun-be-damned package.

Meanwhile, capslock-clunking business-hating fanatic Simon Capewell has also been spitting his usual bile at this seasonal treat in The Times.
Councils are being accused of “utter hypocrisy” for promoting a Coca-Cola Christmas lorry tour of the country while calling for curbs on junk food advertising. 
The tour, based on the drinks company’s Christmas advertisement, is visiting 44 sites around Britain and handing out free cans of Coca-Cola, Diet Coke and Coca-Cola Zero Sugar. 
Stops include Harlow, Essex, where the council says on its website that seeing the lorry is an “incredible” experience and urges families to “soak up the festive spirit with seasonal music [and] a free Coca-Cola”. 
Southend-on-Sea, also in Essex, says on its website: “For many, Christmas doesn’t start until the Coca-Cola Christmas truck appears on our television screens and in our towns.”
Yep, a welcome bit of happiness as the nights draw in, what's not to like? Well, for obsessive lunatics like Capewell, quite a lot.
Simon Capewell, vice-president of the Faculty of Public Health charity, said: “It is utter hypocrisy that councils [are] complicit in the marketing of sugary drinks to children while complaining about the burden of obesity.”
Good point. The solution, of course, is for councils to stop complaining about obesity since it's none of their business. Job done, and Capewell could then fuck off; keep fucking off; and when finished all the fucking off he can muster, could put some extra seasonal effort in and fuck off some more.
Coca-Cola said the tour “provides a moment of fun for friends and families in the build-up to Christmas”.
They're correct. It is always worth remembering that Ireland and Capewell are in a vanishingly tiny minority, hurling overwrought hyperbole at Coca-Cola like baboons fling their shit. This pathetic annual screech from their ilk also betrays their insistence that they don't pursue prohibition of sugary drinks, merely moderation. Because if you can't relax and enjoy a Coke and a smile once a year at Christmas when the Coca-Cola truck rolls into town, when the hell can you? There is quite simply no role for 'public health' here, instead it's a perfect example of why they should be cut off without a penny and sent cap-in-hand to JobCentre Plus ... preferably to be forced into litter-picking for McDonald's.

Or, as Simon Cooke put it yesterday on the subject of the Food Active campaign - which attacks the Coca-Cola tour - being funded out of local authority budgets.
What is truly offensive here is that your and my taxes are being used to mount an ill-informed and misleading attack on a private business. Hardly a day passes without one or other story about local councils being forced by budget cuts into closing and reducing services. All of the money for 'Food Active' comes from local council budgets in the North West and they are using it for the express purpose of lobbying for national government to change the law (as well as wanting to ban Coca-Cola's "Happy Holidays" promotion). 
So next time Manchester or Liverpool council leaders wring their hands about shutting down a library or cutting funding for a community centre ask them how they can justify spending money on astroturf political campaigns like 'Food Active'.
Quite. The very last thing councils should be spending their money on is lunatics like Capewell and Ireland to spout their niche hatred of a benign but tasty product and a wildly-successful family day out. If they want to recreate a scene from Scrooge's gloom emporium, they should be doing it with their own cash, not ours.

Fortunately, they're howling at the moon because no-one is taking their shit seriously.
Southend-on-Sea said it did not think promotion of the tour would overshadow its public health work while Harlow said it was up to parents to decide whether to accept a free drink for their children.
Never a truer word said.

You can see the tour schedule of the Coca-Cola truck here ... and since it upsets such bleak, dreary, anti-social cretins, here's a bit of Christmas glitter which will pass them by in their sad, cheerless, miserable lives. Enjoy, and don't waste too much pity on them.




Monday, 21 November 2016

Eight Years On


Having been busy, the 8th anniversary of this place slipped past unmarked on Thursday.

Still proudly "tabloid guff" (© bien pensants 2009), we seem to be careering inelegantly towards the full decade albeit with far less content due to the increasing success of Puddlecote Inc. For interest, almost 3,350 articles have been published here in those eight years which have attracted a flattering 4.25 million page views.

Many thanks to all fellow jewel robbers who have happened by in that time (over 300,000 of you), I will raise a glass of something tasty and unapproved in your honour tonight.



Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Mascot Watch #33: The Tripping Over Edition

If you ever needed proof that politics has been turned upside down in the past couple of decades, this clip from the Victoria Derbyshire Show provides it.

Watch as Labour's Tristram Hunt - product of an elite private school and Cambridge - debates Donald Trump with our esteemed mascot, Conservative Philip Davies, who went to a state school and worked at Asda.

With the Emily Thornberry fiasco still in recent memory, our Phil makes this excellent observation.
There’s an awful lot of people in this country - and clearly in America - who feel under-represented. They’re called white working class people and actually the Labour party that was once set up to represent working class people are now a million miles away from that, they wouldn’t recognise a working class person if they tripped over one.
He's not wrong. sadly the modern Labour party sees working class people as just a mob who are there to look down on and boss about. It's notable that in the areas that we discuss on these pages, it is invariably Labour politicians who are most likely to ignore the voices of the public and just carry on with their overbearing bans and restrictions anyway, while obsessing on subjects which are entirely irrelevant to the working man and woman in the UK.

And Davies is right that it is not exclusive to Britain, a Democrat on Radio 5 the other day was bemoaning the fact that his party lost in working class areas of his state because "people here want jobs, a good wage so that they can afford a holiday and, eventually, to be able to retire with dignity; Democrats were more worried about which bathroom people should use.".

We are living in curious times. Do watch brusque northerner Phil in action against silver spoon-accented Hunt, and enjoy.




Monday, 14 November 2016

COP7 Delegates Smoked Nearly Half A Million Fags

You may remember that last weekend I wrote about the WHO's finest elite anti-smokers turning up in New Delhi, just in time to see what a real public health crisis looks like.

A researcher was quoted by the New York Times as equating the pollution in terms we can understand.
Sustained exposure to that concentration of PM 2.5 is equivalent to smoking 40 cigarettes a day, said Sarath Guttikunda, the director of Urban Emissions, an independent research group.
On this basis, I did some calculations.

There were 180 countries in attendance, each comprising three delegates, and with other accredited attendees it is reported that around 1,500 were there. Over 8 days that means that the COP7 contingent 'smoked' between them the equivalent of around 480,000 fags!

Yet while waiting for three and a half hours for my pass to enter the venue, I could count on the fingers of one hand the number of delegates - you know, the ones who panic about a few wisps of smoke or vapour - worried enough about the danger to take precautions in the form of a mask or other prevention measure. Just saying.

I took some video and pictures while I was there and the boy P has edited it into a concise one minute film. It's a taste of the city under the smog; enjoy.




Sunday, 13 November 2016

UK COP7 Delegation Justifies Cuts In Quit Smoking Services

By far the funniest story of this COP7 week for me was the curious case of the voluntary spunking of UK taxes by our delegation, most probably aided and abetted as usual by ASH.

This was the obsequious praise heaped upon our lot in Monday's news round-up.


If you weren't aware of it, this is because when asked for more cash by the FCTC, the UK delegation - while the rest of the world's tobacco tax scroungers at COP7 looked at the floor and wisely sat on their hands - voluntarily coughed up another £15m of your money, with which to bully smokers in other countries. As The Sun explains ...
WHITEHALL busybodies were slammed last night after signing off £15 million of UK taxpayers money to stop people smoking in poor countries like North Korea and Syria. The Department of Health will use Britain’s aid budget to support global quitting measures — prompting calls for the money to be spent on doctors and nurses back in Britain.
The crazy hand out was confirmed yesterday at the UN World Health Organisation’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control conference in Greater Noida, India. Britain committed to contributing £3 million per year until 2021 to the ‘Agenda for Sustainable Development’.
Now, if I'm a politician in the UK government, this makes perfect sense to me. Because, you see, they're constantly getting it in the neck for handing out development cash willy-nilly only for governments in developing countries to spend it how they choose (remember India's space programme?).

But this has a tag on it called "bash the smokers" so will be seen as targeted action. Especially since we are talking about those icky foreign smokers, it's just a no-brainer for your common or garden career politician, isn't it? It buys off some of the UKIP-style criticism of overseas aid and is easily explained.
But last night the Department of Health defended the cash boost, saying: “Smoking rates in many countries are much higher than in the UK and all UN members have a role to play in bringing them down to reduce deaths where the need is greatest.”
They're not wrong. UK tobacco controllers have been jubilant about how successful they have been (even though most of the big shift has been down to e-cigs), so why would we need to spend so much cash on UK stop smoking initiatives when attendance at stop smoking services is drastically down?
A sharp decline in the number of smokers using an NHS support programme to help them quit has been linked to the rise in popularity of e-cigarettes. 
Nationwide figures have shown a similar trend to those in the south west of Scotland. 
In 2013, the Information Services Division reported that the number of attempts to stop smoking had fallen by 13% compared with 2012.
This is just part of a fairly long-running trend, numbers using such services have fallen dramatically since 2010 when widespread uptake of e-cigs started to take hold.

Of course, if user numbers are down, it follows naturally that government would be reluctant to spend the same funding on it, hence why stop smoking services are reportedly strapped for cash. In fact, ASH produced a report recently detailing this very phenomena.
Overall, smoking cessation budgets were down: in 39 per cent of local authorities, smoking cessation budgets had been cut compared to only 5 per cent where they had increased. They stayed the same in 54 per cent of local authorities. More than a quarter of local authorities (29 per cent) had seen cuts of more than 5 per cent. 
And rightly so. If fewer people are using the services it's obvious that the funds should be spent elsewhere. As yer man from the Department of Health said above, "smoking rates in many countries are much higher than in the UK", so obviously all committed, upstanding, philanthropic anti-smokers would applaud the cash being diverted from the UK to other places where prevalence is higher. Yes?

Again, as a politician, this is two birds with one stone. I get to give a tangible reason for part of the much-criticised aid budget and also to justify cuts to UK services since it is admitted that tobacco control has been so wildly successful that there is little demand for old-fashioned stop smoking clinics.

My own personal view is that stop smoking services are not required at all, for two reasons. One, it is no role of the state to pay for people to quit something they have chosen to do simply because government doesn't like it; and two, in recent times there are many options other than government interventions which can do the same job. When there are rumours that such services might close, it's a reason for celebration because they are a vast nationwide waste of money. I have to say it is especially sweet to hear about their (quite rightly) being cut in the constituency of one of ASH's lapdogs such as Bob Blackman, something which he complained about recently in the House of Commons. Delicious.

So congratulations to the UK delegation for re-allocating £15m of our taxes from where the tobacco control industry considers it is not needed, to where it is. And it was the UK anti-smoking delegates who went to India and voluntarily signed off the re-distribution.

As a result, from now on the bleating about how stop smoking services are struggling for cash really should cease, because after Monday any sane politician wouldn't even consider changing their mind. After all, ASH and the DH have just admitted that the funding is needed far more elsewhere than in the UK.

I hope they enjoyed that Orchid Award. 



Saturday, 12 November 2016

Dateline 2018: A Storm Is Coming

I've been home for just a couple of hours after a particularly revealing week in India for the COP7 conference, and I have to say I'm feeling quite smug.

Long-term readers here will remember that I've been writing for nearly six years now about how e-cigs have the capacity to show up the tobacco control industry for the corrupt, self-perpetuating, anti-social, health-be-damned gravy train that it has been since the early 1970s. This week has proved that hypothesis 100% correct. 

Trading only on prejudice and the pursuit of power and tax-funding, this gargantuan enterprise has been perverted to such an extent that it is now incapable - due to a tangled web of prior deceit and funding arrangements - to cope adequately with a nimble breakthrough technology such as vaping. The FCTC has spent so much time setting itself up to be untouchable on tobacco, parroting junk science at every opportunity and routinely exploiting children, that it is now so heavily bureaucratic and conflicted that it finds itself totally stuffed and flailing now they have decided (wrongly) that they should deal with e-cigs. 

So what we have seen this week is their usual disingenuous tactics fail miserably, so much so that when the light of publicity is shone in their direction, they scuttle like cockroaches muttering the same old canards they have managed to get away with before, but which simply won't wash anymore. 

Let's list the main ones, eh?

1) Everyone who objects is a shill. 

Perfectly exhibited by this clown, although he is only one of many to have tried this utterly pathetic defence in the past few days.


I don't know why such idiots seem to think that accusing perfectly normal, everyday people of being shills is going to help them? It won't make vapers go away, instead it just reinforces the injustice that he and his colleagues are inflicting on them and makes it more likely that they will be active in the future. He is in a political arena but seems incapable of understanding this.

This dismissal of opposing opinions has been a central tactic of anti-tobacco frauds for decades, but it used to be just one of their tools for misleading the public; with e-cigs is has become almost the only one, simply because they don't know how to handle the public they claim to understand because they've never had to before. Therefore it doesn't work, because the storm of social media outrage was overwhelmingly from members of the public who are appalled at the disgusting behaviour of the FCTC in New Delhi.

The FCTC has installed article 5.3 to purposely silence debate; it is its only purpose. But this goes out the window when private citizens get involved. Clinging to such a stupid policy when real people are trying to send messages their way just shows what charlatans tobacco control execs are.

2) Junk science

Debate at the venue in Noida this week has been based entirely on a fabricated fantasy in the form of the laughable COP7 report on e-cigs. It includes every pile of shit that its pharma-conflicted buddies have concocted to try to quell this inconvenient fly in their ointment, and refuses to consider any science - however rigorous and weighty - that might derail their pre-conceived judgement.

I read the documents that were put to the COP7 meeting this week on the subject, and nowhere was it mentioned that the COP7 report had been ripped to shreds by more honest colleagues in their profession. The science on e-cigs only points one way, but the delegates at COP7 think that - just as they did with tobacco - if they just keep lying for long enough, it will all go away and they don't have to change course. They will have to in the end or continue to be mortally embarrassed as they have been this week. But here we are, over a decade since e-cigs arrived on the scene, with their still being incapable of recognising how their reputation is being trashed by their own incompetence.

And talking of incompetence ...

3) Manipulation of the media

The tobacco control industry has relied for many years on the "science by press release" approach whereby a pliant media just parrots what they're told without asking any questions. This just doesn't work when the world can see what tobacco controllers refuse to; that e-cigs are quite obviously a remarkable invention.

The huge uptake of vaping around the world is something the press are now very interested in, and they are asking questions themselves. Apart from a few very lazy hacks, the ears of journalists have been pricked by the visibly accelerating prevalence of vaping and they are curious, especially since vapers tend to be engaged and hunger for news stories about the subject. The upsurge in vaping is a rich seam of visitor clicks for the new online media

In the past the FCTC hasn't needed to be bothered about such things so just trundle out bland - and almost invariably inaccurate - messages to the media before retiring to their state-funded hotels to get pissed and plan their next jamboree.

It doesn't work with vaping and leads to crashingly embarrassing occasions such as this where their spokesperson not only has no clue about the subject matter, but also seems not to understand how their own processes work.

Do watch this, because it highlights how extremely incompetent the organisers of COP7 really are.


5) David fighting Goliath

This deliberately constructed fallacy is one which has served the tobacco control industry well for many years. They tap into the public's mistrust of big businesses - the ones who make cigarettes in particular - and portray themselves as poor, marginalised, under-funded philanthropists fighting against an incomparably-funded enemy.

But the vast majority of e-cig manufacturers are small independent businesses, which the Goliath of tobacco control is putting to the sword at every opportunity worldwide. There were around a thousand activists at COP7, almost exclusively funded by global governments and with the added bonus of patronage from multi-national pharmaceutical companies.

When you have government representatives on all your delegations; are funded generously by one of the most lucrative transnational sectors of big business; spend a week calling unpaid citizen vapers shills and encouraging governments to put small independent start-ups out of business with impossible regulations and state-sanctioned bans; and have the power to ban the press from reporting on what you are doing, you are no longer the fucking David you like to pretend to be!

The tobacco control industry has never been the poor underfunded underdog, and the FCTC's approach to e-cigs proves this fact categorically.

So what now?

Now, I might be wrong but I believe I was the only vaping consumer to be afforded one of the restricted 30 public places to attend COP7 in India (see report of the day here). I was, of course, then banned from observing further detailed proceedings about vaping along with the press and any other interested parties.

However, I'm already hearing that vapers are so consumed with anger at the way COP7 has treated the subject that the next conference in Geneva in 2018 will be attended by many hundreds more. The FCTC now has a two year period of warning to stop being so lazy and to develop some understanding of the products and the people who make and consume them. Personally I hope they don't, because just following the same idle and mendacious lines as they've done for decades with tobacco is working very well for someone like me who just wants to see their total destruction.

I don't believe I'll be disappointed, either, simply for the fact that the FCTC is not fit for purpose. I will write up the quite ridiculous procedure tomorrow on how COP7 debated vaping for 5 days but ended up with exactly the same ill-researched crap that they had produced in Moscow in 2014. The only teaser I'll give is that it's hardly surprising when you allow third world nations the ability to display their ignorant opinons with the full backing of a UN-backed and unelected global quango Goliath.

Those organising COP8 now have two years to start learning about vaping while the science has another two years to further show up their stupidity. If the FCTC thought this year was a trifle uncomfortable, that will be nothing compared with when hundreds of the vapers  they have insulted this past week - and hopefully unnecessarily-impoverished manfacturers and vendors too - turn up on their doorstep in 2018.

New Delhi will look like a maiden aunt's garden party by comparison. 



Thursday, 10 November 2016

A Billion Lives Reaches India

I travelled down to the Ojas Art Gallery last night for the much talked about Indian screening of A Billion Lives, scheduled to coincide with the FCTC's COP7.


For Delhi, it was a rather plush venue, but the journey there was quite incredible. On Tuesday evening, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi had announced a shock policy which declared that 500 and 1000 rupee notes (about £6 and £12 respectively) cease to be legal tender in 72 hours; the result here has been chaos. India's economy is overwhelmingly a cash one and - although banks will accept the notes for another 50 days - most people don't have a bank account or even ID and the banks were shut yesterday anyway because they had no new notes to give out. So shops and traders have been refusing to take the notes for fear of being left with obsolete cash, and ATMs have been limited to giving out the equivalent of £24 per day. Tourists have also suffered, I was speaking to an Australian last night whose travel cash is now unwanted by restaurants and bars, most of which don't take cards.

One of the only ways of locals being able to get the notes accepted, then, has been through ticket machines and petrol pumps which are programmed to take them, and there just happened to be three large petrol stations on the route I had to take, all of which had massive queues out onto the road as people scrambled to get something for their soon-to-be redundant money.

Fortunately, one of the Indian vapers I met in the afternoon had warned me that although the journey should take 30 minutes, I should leave an hour, so I got there in time after a 50 minute taxi ride from hell. If you've ever been to India you'll know that the roads are anything but ordered, in fact it is every man for himself; it's not so much traffic as a stampede. Well just add in travelling in rush hour with panicking citizens, in the dark, and you can imagine the experience.

After almost an hour in a chaotic, unordered melee of bumper to bumper, wing to wing travel accompanied by a cacophony of vehicle horns, what a welcoming sight the calm red carpet approach was for the screening.


It was beautifully laid out, with flower petal arrangements on the fringes of the carpet, flickering candles lighting the way, and a big sign saying "INDIA" in case you had forgotten where you were.

This led us up to the venue for the evening, the outdoor cinema specially-built for the screening. It was to be A Billion Lives al fresco which was a trifle irritating since I'd not brought a jacket. Ordinarily that wouldn't be much of a problem in India at this time of year, but what with the sun being blocked out by the smog, there was no warm air around and it was quite chilly at times.


The art centre does have a cinema as I understand it but, according to Director Aaron Biebert, Indian rules mean that a film has to be approved a full 12 weeks beforehand, so a privately-built cinema was the only way to get it shown. Still, it meant that vaping was permitted throughout which made the many vapers in attendance very happy.

After a bit of mingling and a drinks reception with spicy hors d'eouvres (which they all are over here, I'm gagging for a bland burger!), the film screening began in front of an attendance of around 70 by my estimation. Most of whom were local vapers or otherwise interested Indians.

Much to the irritation of many vapers who have only seen trailers, I expect, this is the second time I've seen A Billion Lives and I'm by far it's biggest fan. So I don't need to say much about the film itself because I've already done so; you can read my review from the Warsaw showing here. I had heard that a few edits had been made but I didn't notice them, and I felt I enjoyed the film more on this occasion, but that could have been due to the far more salubrious surroundings this time rather than being hemmed in at a Polish cinema with only one entrance/exit.

It was followed by a Q&A with Director Aaron Biebert and Julian Morris of The Reason Foundation while most attendees listened from the bar at the back of the seating area.


Oh, and that isn't a vape cloud you can see in the picture, by the way, the fog was from a smoke machine you may be able to spot to the left of the screen.

Then, finally, to top off a rather top notch presentation, the post-screening entertainment by Indian song and dance band Rajasthan Josh struck up (see teaser taster below) as guests chatted and networked.


However - much as in life generally - just as everyone was enjoying themselves, the dark cloud of 'public health' interference came in and wrecked it. Because this was the day that the regulations on e-cigs were being debated at COP7 and word had reached us that an unholy alliance of India, Kenya, Thailand and Nigeria were demanding that the WHO recommend a global ban on the manufacture and sale of all vaping devices and liquids.

In fact, at time of writing, the horse trading and negotiations are still going on at the COP7 venue, and a lot of it is quite shocking stuff. Maybe that'll be my next article from India, who knows? Stay tuned. 



Wednesday, 9 November 2016

A Well-Deserved Award And Meeting Biebert

Last night I travelled down to Le Meridien Hotel here in New Delhi for an auspicious awards ceremony. Well, I say awards in the plural but there was only one; and unlike other awards ceremonies there were no other nominations simply because no other organisation even comes close to the winner in this category.

The award was for "The Least Transparent Organisation in the Galaxy" and was won by ... drum roll please ....The World Health Organisation!


This exquisite trophy - made out of $8 worth of reclaimed Lego from a loose Lego shop in Germany - is described by Students for Liberty, who made the award, as follows.
The Least Transparent Organization of the Galaxy Award is a Bricked-Up Door held up by four pillars – one pillar representing the common good, one for superiority, one causes harm as it prevents harm reduction, and one holds the door firmly shut.
In his pre-award speech, Frederik Cyrus Roede announced that, "sadly, the WHO can't be with us tonight" because "they wouldn't reply to our calls or emails". Standard stuff.


It is well-deserved, especially when you see what the FCTC organisers are doing to journalists at COP7. Watch the film below and be amazed and disgusted at the same time.


Last night's award ceremony isn't the only event staged by Students for Liberty during COP7, they also protested in the plenary on Monday morning and their Indian members staged a protest in support of tobacco farmers (whose living the FCTC wants to destroy purely based on ignorant ideology) outside the COP7 venue.

This short 2 minute film explains why and gives you more background of what has been going on at COP7.


As mentioned in my last article, I also met A Billion Lives Director Aaron Biebert last night. We had a good hour long chat about David Goerlitz's Indian visa refusal, how the film is being received and on his future plans amongst other things. Oh yeah, and he called me "a legend", which was nice except aren't legends supposed to be dead?

Biebert is, of course, in India for a special screening of his film tonight at the Ojas Art Gallery up the road. He couldn't have timed it better seeing as the FCTC are today debating what they intend to recommend to member states about e-cigs. So why not tweet the latest trailer on the #COP7FCTC hash tag and let the least transparent organisation in the galaxy know about it. 



Meeting Asian Vapers

Following on from yesterday's article about the bizarre chaos at COP7, I mentioned that I had later attended an extremely useful event designed for vapers from a number of countries in Asia.

The first thing to note is that I finally saw an Indian vaper! His name was Nikhil, and a very personable young lad he was too. 


When I say finally, I mean that prior to that event I had not seen a single vaper in Delhi - and apart from Monday night's gathering, still haven't. In short, they just don't seem to exist. I quizzed Nikhil as to why this was the case and he told me that the police often arrest vapers if they vape in public, primarily on the grounds that they believe that the devices are being used to inhale cannabis juice. 

This is most likely because general awareness of vaping is scant. To give you an example, when I arrived at the airport at the weekend, the hotel had forgotten to send the car I requested to pick me up. Two representatives of the hotel - suited and booted - were apologetic and called another which could be with me in 15 minutes (it was a bit longer than that in the end). They took me to the road outside with my luggage and I got my e-cig out for the first time since Heathrow; that's when the questions started. 

I tried as best I could to answer them but it was clear they were unfamiliar with the products and they both admitted they had never even heard of an e-cig let alone seen one. In fact, as I vaped and let out a small cloud on a low-powered device, one of my helpful shepherds actually stepped back in astonishment. That gives you a clue as to how much work Indian vapers have to do get established in the country. So it was immense that quite a few determined vaping afficionados turned up to discuss what can be done about it, especially in the shadow of COP7. 

It was a very successful networking session which also included vapers from The Philippines, Hong Kong and Malaysia that I know of.


It was a whole new world for me and emphasised that - although vapers in the UK have their problems - the difficulties we face pale into insgnificance compared with these guys.

Having said that, many of the problems are identical to the ones UK vapers have come up against and, in many areas, still do. The most prominent being, of course, an inability to properly get the message out that vaping is all but harmless because there exist repellent tobacco control dinosaurs failing to live with the times and instead producing junk science and pinheaded ideological reasons to object to vaping.

And the interests of the Asian vapers will be instantly recognisable by those who vape in the UK. Very sociable, these vapers were talking devices, juice and regulations before we had even received our first cup of tea. The e-liquid testing scene below, for example, doesn't look dissimilar to one you might see in a vape-friendly UK venue too. 


Anyone who watches VTTV will know that I recorded some interviews on the night as a pre-arranged exclusive for Dave Dorn and the gang (you can watch the whole show here). They went remarkably well, especially the one with Tom Pinloc of The Philippines who gave his thoughts on how he saw the future of vaping under the rule of murderous dictator - and COP7's best friend - Ricardo Duterte. What also surprised me about his tale is that there are apparently around 100,000 vapers in the Philippines, served by a number of different consumer groups. That is quite a force to be reckoned with, but it will have to be while extreme prohibitionist Duterte is in charge down there.

Indian vapers boasted of the same kind of high numbers as the Philippines, so I also interviewed two Indian vapers and a representative of the newly-formed Association of Vapers India. These short video stories (on average about 5 mins each) were received very warmly in the chat area of VTTV and I've had requests to make them available widely. I always meant to do so anyway, so embedded below (in the order I filmed them) are the thoughts of vapers living far away in hostile environments but still fighting their corner admirably. They are well worth viewing to get an idea of the challenges being met in that area of the world. 

It's been a very busy week so far out here, but check back for the next blog which will be discussing a very special award for the WHO and the night I met A Bilion Lives Director Aaron Biebert. Oh yes I did, and have pics to prove it!




Tuesday, 8 November 2016

My Day At #COP7FCTC

Phew! What a long day that was!

So Monday was the day that the WHO's biennial back-slapping jamboree comprising the world's most accomplished miserable tax troughers began. COP7 was to take place at the Expo Mart complex in Noida, about an hour's drive from New Delhi centre.

I travelled with two Indian vapers and a representative of the newly-formed Association of Vapers India to the venue in the worst smog I've seen so far. This is just one of the pictures I took on the way; to be clear, it is not supposed to be in black and white.


The sun was up and is in that shot, not that you'd notice at first glance. After a trip up the expressway with the odour of sulphur blowing out of the car's ventilation system, we arrived at a heavily-guarded convention centre in the middle of absolutely nowhere, equally shrouded in dank mist.


On arrival, there were a dozen or so people hanging around who we'd later find out were Indian tobacco farmers, justifiably concerned about what those inside were threatening to do to their livelihoods. More about them later.

We entered the venue at just before 7:30am and joined the queue to apply for the limited number of public passes for the event at a registration plaza which catered for all different types of attendee ...


... and there we waited - in a stationary queue - for another three and a half hours!

It was quite clear what was happening. Delegates were turning up in regular coachloads, and it didn't matter how late they were, they were seen before anyone in the public queue. We watched as the inept registration system processed people lazily wandering in as late as 10:45, kept them in a queue of their own for a while before issuing them with a photo ID with which they then entered the venue for the joyless day ahead.

Finally, when the hall was emptied of about a thousand people it had seen that morning, the organisers contemptuously decided the public had waited enough and reluctantly accepted our registration forms and gave us a badge ... a full hour after the conference had started.

Now, no matter how paranoid they are about tobacco industry personnel applying for passes - and there were some there, all of whom declared their affiliations on the form as far as I could ascertain - to treat interested observers so shabbily illustrates the utter contempt they have for the public. If the FCTC really doesn't like the idea of allowing observers in to watch their dreary deliberations, they should be more honest about it and not offer the passes in the first place. They didn't seem to care that ordinary members of the public could be kept standing for such a long period of time, instead more interested in inconveniencing a few tobacco company employees who their skewed priorities have declared as the enemy rather than smoking, which they claim to be acting against.

Amongst those being treated so badly were a group of elected Mayors from Brazil, who jabbered entertainingly away in Portuguese before noticing one of the Brazilian delegation wandering through the hall. On seeing this, they surrounded him to make the case for the thousands of tobacco farmers in their constituencies, while he smiled weakly and tried to placate them.


Who knows what he said to them to ease their concerns, but it wouldn't matter one iota because the COP7 conference doesn't give a shit if farmers lose their businesses and die in poverty; the crusade against the tobacco industry is far more important to their neurotic bigotry than the small matter of people earning a living.

Talking of which, by this time word had reached us that the farmers we saw outside had held a brief protest before heading for a building down the road to have a meeting.


They weren't quite far enough away for the elites of the tobacco control industry though, so the police used a new rule that had been implemented the night before - banning more than four people walking together - to tell the farmers they had broken the law and that their meeting was cancelled. They were then told to get back on their buses and leave the area or be arrested. Most did but some were, indeed, arrested.


They were then escorted 40km away and told to go home and not venture back. It was a little after this that it was announced that delegates would come out to address the farmers' concerns ...


... but they were long evacuated and, d'you know, I think the delegates were well aware of the fact.

Which reminds me, while recording a sweeping shot of the hall, I inadvertently captured the Indian Health Minister thanking the police for not letting anything go wrong at the conference.


Like ensuring objecting farmers are kept miles away, does he mean? Now that's service!

Anyhow, back to your humble host's experience. Eventually, at just vefore 11am, I and others in the public queue managed to receive our passes and entered the venue. Quite impressive it was too.


I sat, with the others in the pen sectioned off for the public, and watched for the best part of two hours; I would like to say I was equally impressed with the speakers, but that would be a lie, I wasn't. What surprised me most was how amateurish and disorganised the whole thing was. It was clear that none of those I saw were good at public speaking, and amongst the mumbling and incoherent newspeak were long pauses while the room waited embarrassingly for something to happen. At one point, the whole thing was stopped while the head of the secretariat had a chat backstage with the Sri Lankan Prime Minister. It was quite surreal.

And as for the subject matter, well it was the same old tired paranoia, sadly.


This is very true. A large part of the COP events now seem to be taken up with justifying the FCTC's pathetic obsession with excluding anyone who doesn't agree 100% with their policies. Bizarrely, following this chain of deranged thought, Vera da Costa condemned "those amongst us" who worked for tobacco companies but sullied the public pass system by, erm, applying for one. I must admit to finding her concern for the public rather hollow considering the 300 minute wait her administrators had inflicted on us. But then, I don't think her focus was on the public at all, she - along with everyone else there - are just miffed they have to pretend to be transparent at all! A fact borne out at last knockings on the day as the customary evacuation of the heretics was announced. No public or press allowed for the rest of the week's proceedings, and that included even being in the grounds of the venue!


Not that those present had any intention of making the public feel welcome anyway, there was a camera trained constantly on our area ...


... and every now and then a delegate would come up and take pictures of the public gallery before scuttling off again, presumably to tell all their friends how nasty we were for coming along to watch. The most prominent of these - and the most hilariously surreal moment of the day - was Debs Arnott who darted, weasel-like, around us to take about five swift pictures from a number of different angles. 


She then trotted off to complain - like some pinch-lipped puritan seeing vape in a Polish assembly room - to an anonymous someone by furiously tapping at her phone's keyboard. All very amusing, I have to say.

All in all, a day packed full of the usual COP wince-inducing hilarity, but almost hypnotic despite the incredibly dull and colourless content being presented on stage; I find that observing events at the FCTC's flagship biennial events is one of those things you know you shouldn't do because you won't like what you see, but you can't help yourself ... rather like rubber-necking at a three car pile up.

Sadly - or not as the case may be - I was forced to exit at just before 1pm as my lift was leaving and I didn't fancy getting stranded miles from my hotel or to face getting a pricey cab without sufficient rupees on me. So we set off to sample some Indian street food before heading over to the Royal Connaught Hotel to meet some inspiring Asian vapers.

I'll tell you about that event in the next article because I wouldn't do them the disservice of sticking them on the same page as the lifeless, state-funded, soul-sucking, freedom-hating bog trolls at COP7 an hour up the road. Watch this space.