Saturday, 23 September 2017

Regulate In Haste, Repent At Leisure

The last couple of days have been a story of regulators regulating for the hell of it instead of using their powers responsibly with the public in mind. Yesterday we saw Transport for London take a Thor-sized hammer to crack the peanut of procedural problems with Uber. I am very knowledgeable about this issue and - to be frank - it stinks of caving into vested interest lobbying pressure rather than their claim of improved safety. Their justification simply doesn't stack up, and even if it did, TfL's response is hysterical, I may be tempted to write about that another time.

But today saw an article in The Sun about e-cigs regulation which is staggering if true. 
ADVERTS by Cancer Research urging Brits to quit smoking are at the centre of a row over barmy Brussels rules that would ban them, The Sun can reveal. 
The leading cancer charity want to launch an advertising blitz next month as part of the annual “Stoptober” to urge smokers to “quit or switch” to using e-cigarettes. 
But charity sources say they were warned by the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) that they will be breaking EU rules by promoting vaping e-cigs — despite research showing it is 95 per cent safer than traditional smoking.
The author of the article is Harry Cole, formerly of Guido Fawkes's team. His sources are impeccable, so I'd expect his reporting to be accurate. It's interesting because there is currently an advertising campaign by the ASA itself on the tube network where the authority holds itself up as an arbiter of truth.

Yes, you should. Yet the ASA has a history of having a blind spot about truth when it comes to e-cigs.
An advert for an e-cigarette brand has been banned after the advertising watchdog ruled that claims including that it was "the healthier smoking alternative" could not be substantiated. 
In its ruling, the ASA noted the two claims in the ad were understood to mean the Ten Motive's products were less harmful than conventional cigarettes.
But it ruled that the ad should be banned
That was from 2014. It was true then and it's true now, but regulators gotta regulate. Reason being that - despite what they say on their tube ads - it doesn't matter what the truth actually is, the ASA will regulate according to rules laid down to them. The ASA's own advert saying they are "here to put it right" when an ad is wrong could be deemed as misleading too considering they are banning adverts which are absolutely correct.

Today's article is bizarre because only the other day, one of the Department of Health's highest-ranked staff made a claim that no vaping business is allowed to do, and she was happy to be filmed saying it on the BBC.
The government's deputy chief medical officer Prof Gina Radford said e-cigarettes were playing an important role and, as they had "95% less harmful products" in them than normal cigarettes, it was only right that they were promoted during Stoptober.
Promoted? Oh dear. That's not allowed, I'm afraid, the EU's TPD put paid to that, and health claims - such as the 95% figure - are banned too. Barmy, yes, but that's how fucking ridiculous regulations are in this area of government policy.

To make matters worse, though, the Department of Health - which lobbied in favour of these daft regulations at EU level - now thinks they and their friends should be given a free pass!
[T]oday it emerged the Department of Health had stepped in to say public health campaigns should be exempt from the Brussels ruling. 
[T]he Department for Health believe “the prohibition would not cover public health campaigns about the relative risks of e-cigarettes verses tobacco products by Public Health England or local stop smoking services.
No, DH, it doesn't work like that. It's long been a fundamental plank of UK justice that no-one - not even the monarch - is above the law. If you want to be exempt, why don't you go delete the execrable crap that was stuck on our statute book after your pharma friends swarmed the EU to lobby for it, and which you supported wholeheartedly.

In fact, may I remind you that your representative at those discussions not only favoured these stupid rules, but also claimed to have provided the casting vote!

It is quite astonishing to see the Department of Health - the government department which caused the mess in the first place - saying that their friends should be exempted from regulations that the ASA has been told to enforce even though they are enforcing falsehood.

The simple thing to do, for the good of the public and for businesses which are currently banned from telling the truth, would be to repeal the regulations so that everyone can say what is actually correct. That way, the DH would not need any exemption; Cancer Research UK could promote vaping without the ASA poking their noses in; and the ASA could hold their heads up high when stating that they are promoting truth in advertising instead of claiming - falsely - that they are, while doing the very opposite due to regulations imagined by morons and passed by dickheads.

The Sun article has come at a very opportune time, though, because the ASA is currently consulting the public about these very regulations, and asking if advertising claims about relative risk of e-cigs should be allowed. I think this omnishambles shows that the answer is an emphatic and resounding yes.

You can go and have your say on the ASA's consultation by clicking here.

Of course, even better would be if the UK repealed these incompetent, laughable and pointless regulations in their entirety the moment we exit the EU. Wouldn't that make life for all concerned so much easier? 


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