Saturday, 30 August 2014

Dick's Newsround

I'm just back from the south of France after a few days away so have been catching up with some news headlines.

Poroshenko: Ukraine 'close to point of no return'
Baroness Ashton said there was "deep concern" over "direct aggression by Russian forces". She called on Russia to stop the flow of arms, equipment and personnel into Ukraine. 
As she arrived at the talks in Brussels, Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite said Russia was "practically in a war against Europe". 
UK Prime Minister David Cameron said the EU faced "a completely unacceptable situation of having Russian troops on Ukrainian soil. Consequences must follow if that situation continues".
French President Francois Hollande said the Ukraine crisis was the biggest since the end of the Cold War. 
He said: "What's happening in Ukraine is so serious that the European Council will be obliged to react by increasing the level of sanctions if things remain as they are."
MH17 crash: John Alder's body identified
Mr Alder, who was 63, died alongside fellow Newcastle fan Liam Sweeney and 296 others when the plane was shot down over Ukraine on 17 July. 
Western politicians suspect the jet was hit by a Russian surface-to-air missile fired by pro-Russian separatists.
Ukraine overshadows EU summit
EU leaders have been meeting in Brussels to discuss the crisis in Ukraine, threatening to impose fresh sanctions against Russia.
Unelected World Health Organisation officials still proud to hold summit in Russia
Tobacco control industry professionals from around the world are looking forward to their sightseeing tour of Moscow in October. "Russia is a model tobacco control nation and not a basket case at all", says spokesperson.
OK, I may have made the last one up.

Friday, 29 August 2014

The WHO Goes In To Bat For Big Pharma

Well, the World Health Organisation has finally come out of the closet and admitted that its Framework Convention for Tobacco Control (FCTC) is nothing more than a mouthpiece for the transnational pharmaceutical industry.

We've kinda known this for a while but it has always previously posed as being concerned with health by attacking tobacco. However, once again e-cigs have thrown a huge spanner in the works and the WHO has been forced to reveal its hand in the most shameful of ways.
The World Health Organisation is recommending a ban on using e-cigarettes in public indoor spaces because of fears over second-hand smoke.

It also says e-cigarette solutions with fruit, sweet-like and alcohol-based flavours – which may appeal to children – should be taken off the shelves and vending machines should be removed in almost all locations.

The ban on indoors use should be put in place “until exhaled vapour is proven to be not harmful to bystanders,” the group said.

A variety of flavours which draw users away from the taste of tobacco, and the ability to vape in many locations are the two most attractive qualities of e-cigs which make them viable. Without this there are only two options, either a huge unregulated black market or a mass migration – and I'm talking literally millions of people here – back to smoking tobacco.

This is proof positive – as if we've ever really needed it since the previous evidence-free assault on snus – that the hysterical anti-tobacco movement has never been about health (as many commenters to the linked article seem to be starting to recognise) but is driven in large part by corporatist defence of pharma industry profits from supplying the nicotine market.

Note too the methods being used here. They fabricated fear of the non-existent dangers of secondhand tobacco smoke, but have been unsuccessfully scratching around trying to find something with which to kill e-cigs too. They strove, they searched, they came up blank … so decided just to tell a load of lies again, as Prof Gerry Stimson observed on Tuesday
WHO’s mission is to save lives and prevent disease but once again it is exaggerating the risks of e-cigarettes, while downplaying the huge potential
The WHO position paper appears to have cherry-picked the science, used unnecessary scaremongering and misleading language about the effects of nicotine.

Just the same old same 'ole from tobacco control. Well, it worked last time so what can go wrong, they guess. The difference is that no-one is going to buy it; passive vaping is quite simply a non-starter, even a hypochondriac is going to struggle to find the energy to be mildly perturbed. It's quite simply not a thing, nor ever will be.

And kids, of course, the old staple. Banning fruit flavours because kids like fruit (and adults never do, oh no) but also banning alcohol flavours because even though adults consume alcohol they, err, also attract kids? It's incoherent codswallop and the public will spot it a mile off.

Sadly, the public don't get a look in - fuckwitted politicians do. So we can expect blind, ignorant caution to prevail and bans to appear all over the world. If so, history will judge these people as some of the most hypocritical, avaricious, irresponsible, dangerous and disgusting ever to have walked the Earth.

I've mentioned before that this year's WHO 'COP6' summit in Moscow is endorsing Putin's Russia while the rest of the world is imposing sanctions, but on this evidence the tobacco control industry and the pharma-shilling WHO have chosen the perfect venue location. They're a global disgrace and belong there with the bigoted, the corrupt and the inhumane.

On the plus side, trust in the WHO and their professional tobacco control hordes can only evaporate amongst right-minded people thanks to this incredible development. There's always a silver lining, eh?  

Monday, 25 August 2014

Drafting A Smoking In Cars Consultation Response

Last month I suggested we might have a bash at the consultation on smoking in cars which ends at midnight on Wednesday. Two fellow jewel robbers have already done just that and shared their responses, but if you fancied giving the DoH a piece of your mind as well, full details and the online submission form are at this link.

Much like our contributions to the plain packaging consultation (twice) and the one on minimum alcohol pricing, you may find it helpful to see the questions before you begin. So here they are.
1. The regulations make it an offence to smoke in an enclosed private vehicle when there is more than one person present and a person under the age of 18 is present. This offence would fall on the person smoking regardless of their age. Do you have any comments on this approach?
The obvious comment is that this is just the latest proof that government funded 'charities' and other professional bansturbators are afforded far too much respect. Last I heard there was supposed to be a distaste from this coalition about "government lobbying government" but that is exactly what this is. No-one, but no-one, apart from state-financed organisations and fellow rent-seekers demanded this ban.

What's more, they have done so with some of the most disgraceful junk science the tobacco control industry has ever produced, which is quite an achievement. Only the hilarious nonsense surrounding thirdhand smoke (ha!) comes even close. We've seen smoky cars compared with smokefree bars; deliberate misrepresentation of 24 hour 'hazardous' levels as being applicable for a few minutes exposure; and, of course, blatantly fabricated lies, regurgitated by serial liars which are so appalling they're required the unusual step of quiet retraction. For that alone they should be ignored, but especially when they are trying to implement behaviour controls on privately owned property.

You could also point out that open-topped vehicles would be exempt, but not a car with every window open and a gale blowing through it at 70mph. Apparently, that thin piece of aluminium over the top has magical properties which demand tiny smoke particles disobey the laws of physics. A more silly law it is difficult to imagine.

There are other anomalies which big government will make a balls-up of too. Will a 17 year old smoker be fined for lighting up in their own car with their 18 year old smoking mates? Well, of course they will. Will police be tasked with stopping all cars containing smoking teens to see if one of them is underage so they can fine the driver? Of course they will. Will police be bound to stop cars with tinted windows just to check there are no asphyxiated kids in the back? Who knows? I'll bet the police are going to be over the moon at the confusion which will reign once dozy MPs have engaged their tiny brains and passed this into law.

By Christ, even Nick Clegg can see it's a pitifully pointless idea which hasn't got a chance of working! Why has so much time and taxpayer cash been wasted on it already in straitened times?

Which leads us neatly onto ...
2. Do you have any comments regarding the proposal for the new offences to apply to caravans and motor caravans when they are being used as vehicles but not when they are being used as homes?
Doesn't that just make the entire thing a piece of sublime comedy?

Think about that. It's not dangerous to smoke in a caravan when it is stationary - or the government believe it is none of their business to intervene - but it is extremely dangerous when moving, or the government believe that private property ceases to be so when the wheels are moving. Of course, the same doesn't apply to a car, because the proposals state that even if the car is stationary on a grass verge or in a car park the smoke is still lethal ... err, unlike in a caravan. Got that? The mind boggles (or is it not really about health, whaddya reckon?).

Their wriggling over caravans is, of course, politicians still trying to pretend that they're not imposing on your liberties and that they wouldn't even contemplate banning you from smoking in your own home. Except when they debate in Westminster about doing exactly that.
3. Do you have any comments about the intentions regarding the enforcement of the proposed regulations?
I don't know what the "intentions" are regarding enforcement except to pander to state-funded finger-waggers and advance their illiberal denormalisation campaigns, but if there was any other intention it could well have been to introduce the precedent of the police enforcing public health industry demands for the first time in our history, as I have mentioned here before.

The police, quite simply, should not be burdened by the increased workload of overseeing the career advancement of professional prohibitionist cranks.

It is also scandalous that local council workers are sniffing an opportunity for a new empire to build, presumably attracted by the possibility of more taxpayer funds with which to insert themselves into our lives. So much for public sector austerity and the end of "big bossy state interference", eh?
4. Do you want to draw to our attention to any issues on the practicalities of implementing the regulations as drafted?
What, apart from their being unworkable; unenforceable; laughable; and a slippery slope to banning smoking in all cars, as has been the intention all along? That even the impact assessment admits that it will lead to smokers stopping more often (cars pulling up on the hard shoulder of the M6 on bank holiday weekends, anyone?) and that there is an obvious danger of drivers shifting attention from the road to smoking covertly? I'm wondering if MPs have ever even heard the term "unintended consequences". And for what? A zero improvement in the health of kids but a distinct possibility of handing even more power to anti-social smoke-haters and endorsing righteous road rage. Not to mention the fact that e-cigs will be included fairly soon afterwards - if not in the original drafting - to eradicate 'confusion' and aid enforcement.

The bully state at its most perverse.
5. Do you have any additional evidence that banning smoking in private vehicles when children are present would contribute to reducing health inequalities and/or help us fulfil our duties under the Equality Act 2010?
The usual 'equality' question. Dear God! I remember when laws were assessed for efficacy, value for money, impact on freedom and whether it was really worth it. Now, a Tory-led government is wondering if a pointless law will unfairly affect one protected group over another.

And how banning smoking in private vehicles will reduce health inequalities is anyone's guess, even the impact assessment glosses over it with a sentence that basically says they haven't much of a clue. But then, 'health inequalities' is only a term used by prohibitionists to mask the fact their policy suggestions are almost exclusively regressive and designed to punish working class people. Sounds better than "attacking the choices of the less well off" doesn't it?
6. Do you have any evidence that would inform the consultation-stage impact assessment including any evidence or information which would improve any of the assumptions or estimates we have made in the consultation-stage impact assessment?
The impact assessment is an incredible document which starts with all the aforementioned tobacco control junk science on this issue and simply runs it all through a Casio calculator from Poundland, I recommend you brew a cuppa and read it in its entirety. My personal favourite was the assertion that only 31% of under 18s are able to ask their parents to stop smoking - I wasn't aware that youth incompetence in the UK was so widespread!

I can offer no more advice than to pick out whatever makes you laugh/cry/scream and put that in writing in your response.

If you feel like making a submission, you can do so at the online form or by emailing by midnight Wednesday (which reminds me, I think carriages are covered but not pumpkins).

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.


Wednesday, 13 August 2014

A Question For Vapers From A Proud Smoker

A semi-question, semi-rant was posted on Facebook yesterday which - although I mostly disagree - raised some interesting discussion points.

I've known Peter Thurgood online for longer than I've been writing this blog and have met him and his wife on a number of occasions. The most recent times have usually begun with a greeting followed by good-natured banter about what I'm vaping and how he believes my e-cig looks a bit silly.

I don't mind as he's a very decent guy who is absolutely pro-choice (yes, even for e-cigs) and writes illuminating e-books on historical London which I heartily recommend, so not an idiot. But, as someone who really enjoys a smoke, he does have this bee in his bonnet about e-cigs which (I think) is driven by a fear that they pose a threat to people like him who are happy with tobacco and don't want to be rail-roaded into an alternative.

Perhaps many recent FB updates pointing out e-cig articles prompted this, but I did promise him last night to share with vapers to ask their views. So whaddya reckon, vapers? Or smokers, for that matter?
I don't particularly care if e-cigs are healthier or unhealthier than the real thing. I make no secret of the fact that I personally hate the thought of them. If I go into a bar I want to drink the real thing, not some kiddie flavoured alco-pop, and the same goes for smoking - the feel of a cigarette or a cigar is soft and warm to the touch, and the flavour and aroma is real and fantastic, whereas an e-cig is a piece of cold plastic with steam puffing out the end and no wonderful aromas at all. 
I also find the majority of people (not all) who use e-cigs to be far more anti social than real smokers. A good example is when I was in a restaurant recently and the owner went outside to smoke. I then saw it was an e-cig he was puffing on so when he came back inside I asked him why he went outside to do that when it is perfectly legal to use these things inside. He replied rather shirtily "Why should I change the habit of a lifetime" (what bloody lifetime was that I wondered?) 
He then said how healthy he was since he gave up smoking and used e-cigs instead and how his grandchildren now wanted to be with him and how he no longer stunk. 
So what this supercilious bastard was saying, was that I stank? And that my family wouldn't want to be near me? When you hear people talk like that, does anyone blame me for being against e-cigs?
Although Peter is exclusively active on Facebook, I know he'll be reading here so bear that in mind. Of course, if you're replying there, you can no doubt talk to him directly ... he's far from shy.

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

"A Crucial First Step"

Today is a significant date in the calendar at Puddlecote Towers so Mrs P and I will be enjoying some right posh Thai nosebag this evening.

As a quick observation, though, you might be interested to know that the BMA has pronounced on yesterday's much-publicised manifesto from Alcohol Concern and Lundbeck Ltd's Westminster puppets.

You see, for most of us, the manifesto would seem rather extreme and largely unwarranted, including as it does:
- Appointment of a minister for booze
- Minimum alcohol pricing (aka "the poor shouldn't drink")
- Public health to be involved in pub/retail licensing
- More bans on beer ads
- Tobacco style warnings on wine bottles
- Scaremongering anti-drinking TV adverts
- Near halving the drink driving limit
Not so for the BMA. And especially not so for their hero Ian Gilmore, the head of the Alcohol Health Alliance, a bunch of temperance lobbyists in the mould of 1920s America's Anti-Saloon League.
‘The Westminster government urgently needs to start tackling the public health harms of alcohol. The measures laid out in the APPG manifesto are a crucial first step.’
Well, as Pete Brown points out today, "urgent" is overwrought and only justifiable if you believe the anti-alcohol lobby's incessant lying. But he said first step, you note, and that government should start tackling alcohol - as if sky high taxation, stiff advertising regs and strict licensing/age limits don't exist.

Because, as we have always said here, the bansturbator class can never be satisfied unless and until their funds are cut off and/or politicians stop listening to them for the sake of a free and personally responsible society.

He is at least honest in admitting that there will be many, many more "logical next steps" to come. If government acceded to every proposal in the APPG manifesto, the same people would be back the very next week with more demands - from naughty tills; through bans on alcohol displays; and onto plain packaging for bottles of Chardonnay.

Every journey begins with a single step, so be in no doubt that extremist Gilmore sincerely hopes his 'crucial first' one culminates eventually in the UK's very own Volstead Act. Interfering in the choices and enjoyment of others is what he and his ilk do for a living, after all.

Monday, 11 August 2014

Alcohol Warnings, Dominoes And Puppet Politicians

May I remind you - as if you'd ever forget - of this classic piece of comedy from Deborah Arnott in February 2012?
[T]he “domino theory” i.e. that once a measure has been applied to tobacco it will be applied to other products is patently false.
So today's big story about tobacco-style health warnings being rolled out for alcohol - enthusiastically supported by the BBC as always - is perhaps just a mirage, I dunno.
Health warnings on alcoholic drinks should be introduced to combat problem drinking, a parliamentary group says. The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Alcohol Misuse said labels should warn about the harmful effects of drinking.
What a revolutionary idea! I wonder where they got their inspiration from, huh?

As usual, the public seem to have completely misunderstood the motivation behind the temperance lobby's latest wheeze, a mistake repeated often in the most recommended comments under the line at the Beeb article. This is a perfect example.
47. Old Father Thames
Warnings about something everyone knows is dangerous when consumed in excess will not solve the problem of problem drinking. 
It would be more constructive to look at the reasons people turn to booze? 
Breakdown of families, lack of job security, no sense of community, no support networks to help people when they need most need it eg soldiers leaving the army, prisoners being released etc
Health warnings on tobacco were not intended to target problem smoking - they were designed to stop you smoking altogether. Why, then, would these measures be any different? Liberty and freedom of choice as concepts haven't been prime considerations when formulating policy for a long time now so - as Snowdon notes today - the intention is not to target problem drinkers, but to denormalise all drinking, however benign.
As with cigarette warnings, the intention is not to provide information (information which is, in any case, widely known) but to deter purchase. As with cigarette warnings, the aim is to demonise the product and stigmatise the user.
Indeed. It really is very important to understand this, but I don't think the penny has even dropped with some MPs yet so what chance the public at large?

Are politicians really so stupid that they can't tell the difference? Or, as UKIP has highlighted in a press release earlier, is it just something ordered by their puppeteers in Brussels?
These plans go against the grain of a freedom loving country, so it is worth trying to find out where they come from. It will not surprise any student of recent British legislation that the European Commission has, this year, published a study into alcohol labelling, it says, 
"The possible means to increase the proportion of beverage labels including health related messages should therefore be explored; legal requirements for messages on alcoholic beverages are the ultimate means of doing this" (page 7 here - DP)
The EU report was written in January and the APPG has duly fallen into line by delivering the very same demands this morning. How ironic, then, that the Chair of the APPG and chief spokesperson across the media today has been Conservative MP Tracey Crouch ... apparently a eurosceptic!

That tough new stance on stifling EU bureaucracy is going well, isn't it Dave?

Even more interesting is the authorship of the APPG 'manifesto'. Exactly as is the case with the APPG on smoking which is administered by government sock puppet ASH, the secretariat for the APPG on alcohol misuse is Alcohol Concern.
This report was researched by Alcohol Concern in their APPG secretariat role. The APPG secretariat and the printing costs for this report are financially supported by Lundbeck Ltd.
And who are Lundbeck Ltd, you ask? Why, they're a pharmaceutical company which also paid for Alcohol Concern's alcohol harm map, and Alcohol Concern's report on 'The case for better access to treatment for alcohol dependence'. Oh yeah, and they sell alcohol dependency drugs in the UK and all over Europe, but I'm sure that's just coincidence.

Or maybe not.
[The APPG] also recommend a national public awareness campaign on alcohol-related issues, training for social workers, midwives and healthcare professionals and to make alcohol treatment available to 15% of problem drinkers compared with 6% currently.

We've seen it all before, haven't we? A campaign for denormalisation measures which no-one has asked for; professional sock puppet lobbyists pulling the strings of MPs; politicians then saying something should be done which just happens to coincide with what an unelected supranational organisation demands; and all lobbied for by Big Pharma who profit from the restriction of freely chosen liberties.

Just about the only vested interest which doesn't get a look in - yet again - is us, the poor saps who have our wages looted to pay the salaries of people who simply can't shut their traps and allow us to bloody live as we choose!

Thursday, 7 August 2014

UKIP Reminds The Coalition How A Free Society Works

Today is the last day of the government's second plain packaging consultation exercise, so if you were planning to submit something you have until 11:45pm tonight to do so. You can find the online submission form at this link and some suggestions from me in this article from last month.

Since posting that, some of you have kindly shared your responses and they were - as usual - impassioned and well written. It was also a nice surprise that someone from UKIP shared their party's detailed response with me too. The Grocer has picked out a few interesting snippets, but here are my personal favourites.

Firstly, the intro is a delight as UKIP contemptuously scolds the government for forgetting what their role is meant to be in a supposedly liberal country.
UKIP opposes Her Majesty’s Government’s intention to introduce plain packaging of tobacco products, as it infringes the principle of personal choice. Not that the government should need reminding, that’s how free societies work. Free people make free choices.
Quite. Perhaps this is why UKIP have been hoovering up votes recently, they seem to be the only party who can comprehend the concept of the state being subservient to the public which pays for it.

The response goes on to note how Jane Ellison (amongst other lies) claimed the Chantler review presented a "compelling case" in favour of plain packaging when it didn't, instead describing any possible effect as merely "modest".

UKIP also highlight that the government's Impact Assessment - which itself was rated as unfit by the Regulatory Policy Committee (RPC), remember - clearly stipulated that "a policy to introduce standardised tobacco packaging would need to be justified and be based on expected benefits over and above existing tobacco control measures", something that Australian evidence collected so far has comprehensively failed to provide.

What we have instead seen is a continuation of a long term decline in overall prevalence (masking a rise in teen smoking), and even that was most likely caused by a huge increase in tobacco duties, not plain packaging. There is, quite simply, no honest way that any government can possibly claim plain packs to be "justified" by "expected benefits over and above existing tobacco control measures" as the IA demands.

And finally, the denouement from UKIP reminds the government of one of their key promises in the early days of this coalition, something we can look back on now and confidently conclude has either turned out to be a catastrophic failure; or was a massive lie to begin with.
The proposed introduction of plain packaging for tobacco may be taken as a further example of the relentless interference of the state in the private lives of the British People. As recently as 1 July 2010, the Deputy Prime Minister stated: ‘For too long new laws have taken away your freedom, interfered in everyday life and made it difficult for businesses to get on…’  - How soon those who acquire power change their tune.

Every real indicator - as opposed to those imagined by what UKIP accurately call the "public health community and its quangocracy" -  points to the upheaval and costs of plain packaging not being justified by any rational and objective observer ... which is why the government, being the bloody government, will probably ignore rationality and go for the stupid idea anyway.

I've uploaded UKIP's response here if you'd like to read the whole thing. If you'd like to tell the government what you think, as many fellow jewel robbers have already done, just click here and let rip before a quarter to midnight.

Monday, 4 August 2014

Execrable Esquire

There are column acres of misinformation about e-cigs published by ignorant and/or lazy hacks in any one week, but Esquire magazine - the favoured publication for male clothes horses with a superiority complex worldwide - has eclipsed them all with an article which treads on every man-trap laid by tobacco control dinosaurs.

People pay to read this garbage, apparently.
E: Cigarettes: Cure Or Cash-Cow? 
On the 11 June, Japan Tobacco International – who own numerous iconic brands, including Camel —–bought the UK’s biggest electronic cigarette imprint, E-Lites. Fifteen days later, Philip Morris International – makers of Marlboro – followed suit, when it added the UK’s second largest distributor, Nicocigs, to its growing portfolio of brands. If you combine E-Lites’ reported market share in 2013, with Nicocigs’ current stake (as estimated by Philip Morris) the significance of both deals becomes clear. Two tobacco companies secured approximately 67 per cent of the British e-cigarette market, in the space of fifteen days.
Well, no. Actually they didn't. They may have secured 67 per cent of the market for cig-alikes - the ones which look like real cigs and are sold in petrol stations etc - but that part of the e-cig market is not the whole. They certainly serve a purpose to many people but the majority of e-cig users don't regularly buy £8 disposables. You only need to look around you to know this, as the vast majority of people you see out and about - I guarantee - will now be using 2nd or 3rd generation tank systems. And why not when a starter kit costs about £20 with deals aplenty, strongly suggesting intense competition in a crowded market?

I could be wrong but, as far as I know, no UK tobacco company currently markets a tank system.
Philip Morris and Japanese Tobacco’s competitors will be Imperial Tobacco (whose subsidiary, Fontem, supplies its brand Puritane, exclusively, to Lloyd’s Pharmacies). Meanwhile, British American Tobacco – who own Lucky Strike – sell their vaporizer brand Vype, via Boots. With the exception of the China National Tobacco Cooperation (a state-owned cigarette manufacturing monopoly) each of Big Tobacco’s “big four” now owns a substantial stake in the British market for electronic nicotine.
Their 'substantial stake' is in a niche part of the e-cig market and declining rapidly according to industry analysts Wells Fargo, but this piece intends to set its stall out early. The premise is that e-cigs are bad because, err, Big Tobacco. I think we are dealing with the 'lazy' of the journalistic genre here.
But while the devices have been lauded in some quarters, they've also caused a rift between public health professionals. One group views electronic cigarettes as an innovation with significantly fewer risks than tobacco. They argue that if smokers can replace their current addiction with electronic nicotine, the product could save millions of lives.
As we shall see, this is not the side of the argument favoured by our fearless impartial investigative journo.
An opposing camp takes a very different line. They agree that e-cigarettes are likely to benefit “established” smokers; but they also believe that the tobacco industry’s primary purpose is to recruit new consumers at the same time. 
Just like some people believe man never landed on the moon.

Anyone with a proper knowledge of business and economics - unlike tobacco control - can see that e-cigs present a perfectly natural progression for the tobacco industry in the current environment. It would be more of a surprise if they didn't grasp the opportunity to get into the harm reduction business. The only people who don't see that as common sense are the irresponsible lunatics in tobacco control, who we must presume furnished our Esquire author with much of his manipulative guff.
Additionally, they argue that the health risks of electronic cigarettes remain unknown, while the possibility that they help us to give up smoking is unproven.
Ah, the old 'unproven' as a cessation aid chestnut. This is as disingenuous as any anti-ecig argument gets but, sadly, rife in tobacco control industry circles.

There are millions of real life success stories all over the world but - because anti-smoking control freaks have been happily ignoring them - there are very few figures on a peer-reviewed Excel spreadsheet to confirm this. It is a pathetic excuse recently described brilliantly by Dr Michael Siegel as:
"although many ex-smokers have used e-cigarettes successfully as a cessation aid, there is no evidence that any ex-smokers have used e-cigarettes successfully as a cessation aid"
Only in tobacco control, eh?

Esquire continues ...
Tensions are running particularly high, because electronic cigarette manufacturers are coming to terms with one of their biggest challenges, arguably, since the first e-cigarette was invented in 2003. The EU’s Tobacco Products Directive – which is the cornerstone of smoking legislation in Europe – didn't mention the vaping phenomenon;
Perhaps because it is a Tobacco Products Directive and e-cigs don't contain tobacco?
so the revised directive, which was published in April 2014, gave e-tobacco tobacco manufacturers across Europe significant cause for alarm.
Yes, they were alarmed that Big Pharma lobbyists had managed to crowbar a non-tobacco product into the EU's corporate advert for the pharmaceutical industry's alternative nicotine delivery systems.
Under the new directive (which member states must enforce by 2016) weaker electronic cigarettes can still be sold as normal, provided they disclose their ingredients, and carry warnings (such as ‘This product contains nicotine which is a highly addictive substance’) that cover at least 30 per cent of the packet.  
Meanwhile, “stronger” products (or those which contain more than 20mg/ml nicotine, and make up the bulk of the electronic cigarettes currently on sale in Britain) must obtain medical licenses, like those which pharmacies need, in order to continue selling their wares.
By weaker products, they mean ones made by tobacco companies such as Imperial's Puritane at 16mg/ml and BAT's Vype at about the same. Meanwhile, the "bulk" of products (i.e. mostly the ones not made by Big Tobacco and its fabled 67% market share) would be effectively banned. Way to go, tobacco industry haters.
As electronic cigarettes are currently unregulated and growth is propelled by high-revenue advertising campaigns, news of regulation was met with industry animosity. However, it was the revelation, through leaked minutes of a meeting held on 6 December 2013 by the World Health Organisation’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, which suggested that the WHO was considering regulating electronic cigarettes in the same manner as tobacco, that prompted industry outcry. 
Again, because e-cigs are not a tobacco product unless you apply a quite ridiculous definition of nicotine.
The World Health Organisation advises governments on how to respond to health trends. Therefore, an anti-e-cigarette recommendation could literally destroy the e-cigarette industry’s credibility overnight;
No, it would destroy the WHO's credibility overnight, vapers would just move to the black market.
but the biggest visible challenge to this suggestion came from a UK based group of 53 “specialists in nicotine science and public health policy,” who wrote directly to the WHO.
I reckon the quote marks are designed to ridicule the credentials of the 53 concerned, don't you?
Staunch opponents of electronic cigarettes immediately chased the WHO with a powerful letter (which received substantially more signatures but substantially less publicity). Using 43 citations, 123 international experts comprehensively explained how the tobacco industry has cynically manipulated an industry that showed no interest in helping smokers but prioritised share-price, instead.
Considering Mad Stan Glantz was one of these co-signatories of the 'powerful' letter, and the 43 citations were mostly from his fellow quacks, charlatans, cranks and shills, it's hardly surprising that it was widely ignored. But then, our Esquire journo has a fairy story to sell.
Since 1974, the prevailing attitude amongst British smokers has been the belief that nicotine itself does not kill — and that ballooning mortality rates are caused by carbon monoxide and tar.
No, that has been the prevailing attitude amongst the tobacco control industry, not smokers. It's been a central tenet of tobacco control since the work of Michael Russell in the 1970s. It's only now that they've decided to move the goal posts as they see their future income being threatened by e-cigs.
So when presented with a popular solution to the world’s tobacco problem, why are some doctors dismissing electronic cigarettes as a heist? Have groups so accustomed to battling cynical conglomerates begun to oppose anything that resembles a cigarette?
Simon Capewell, a Professor of Clinical Epidemiology at the University of Liverpool, explains that his position on electronic cigarettes, one that is shared by the Faculty for Public Health, is anything but a knee-jerk response from what he jokingly refers to as “a bunch of public health conservatives, who simply want to regulate everything and stop everyone from having a good time.”
No, it's exactly that. Well, that and the fear of a drying up of government and research grants and pharma cash, obviously.
Their fear is that the e-tobacco industry is an “accelerating juggernaut”; one that is motivated exclusively by profit.
Because tobacco control's pharma friends are only motivated by hearts, flowers, unicorns and cuddly puppies, of course.
Electronic tobacco was worth $1 billion globally in 2013. In 2014, a worldwide turnover of $3 billion is projected. Sales for several conventional cigarette brands in the UK fell by as much as 20 per cent in 2012, while old tobacco continued its languorous 6.4 per cent year-on-year decline. By contrast, the new industry grew by 950 per cent.
How this can possibly be cast as a bad thing is anyone's guess, but Esquire readers will probably see jumbo jet numbers, be convinced, then buy a £135 sweater after reading the next piece containing pics of good-looking guys staring into the distance.
“What tobacco companies are really prioritising is the recruitment of new smokers,” Capewell adds. “They are looking to get new people hooked and addicted…the whole point of the tobacco companies buying up the e-cigarette companies is that they can then control the price of both products. Having reached that point, they can then titrate their prices, to maximise profit from place to place, and year to year.”
Then he went our for a cup of tea and an apple danish with David Icke.

It's bunkum, of course. Capewell seems to be confusing (deliberately?) the tobacco industry with a monopoly instead of a collection of companies who fight like cats with each other for market share. Only in a natural monopoly is this kind of price control (or one where the state has established one as in Soviet times ... minimum alcohol pricing, anyone?) possible, never in a contestable one. Once one actor tries to maximise profit in this way, one of its competitors will happily try to kick the stool out from under them. And if they do all act as a cabal? Well, that just prices them out and invites new entrants to the market.

This isn't me saying this, but every economic study for the past few centuries. Only in the minds of the economically-illiterate does this imaginary galloping monopoly exist; never actually in real life.

Ironically, if Capewell wants to minimise the chances of this "titration" conspiracy theory occurring, he should, you know, oppose every attempt at installing crippling regulation which will inevitably restrict these new entrants and hand a contested monopoly to the tobacco industry and its economies of scale and established profitability. Just sayin'.
Professor Capewell is a leading figure in the public health community and not a conspiracy theorist.
No, he's a weapons grade screamer of a conspiracy theorist with the economic skills of a Sunday Sport reader.
His argument is not only corroborated by the Faculty for Public Health’s new Policy Statement on Electronic Cigarettes, but reiterated in the letter to the World Health Organisation signed by experts from around the world. They have recently been joined by the British Medical Association and several others, all of which state clear examples of e-tobacco’s agenda.
Oh dear.

And "e-tobacco's agenda"? Do you think the real agenda here is to just gemmy the word tobacco as many times as possible into an article about something which isn't about tobacco?
If its priority is really to provide smokers with a less harmful alternative to tobacco, why are 200 brands selling 200 different flavours, with images and strap-lines which are startling similar to tobacco adverts?
Last time I looked, the e-cigs sold by Big Tobacco in the UK consist of just two flavours; tobacco flavour and menthol flavour. I thought they had captured 67% of consumers! Who is selling these other 198 flavours then? Maybe the bulk of the market?
One, a senior British lecturer who has been drawn into interactions with the industry and does not wish to be named, neatly sums up the debate: “When journalists were put onto me, I would talk to them about the measures which were needed in order to study, let’s say, the effects of electronic cigarettes… That’s not a quick discussion. If they phone a publicist, he will say, ‘Regulation? Yes, we've got a couple of early studies. I’ll send them… Now, these studies may be of no value to anybody, but to that journalist they look fine. He’s going to quote them, and I don’t blame him.” 
Brilliant! You will struggle to find a more accurate representation of the tobacco control modus operandi than that. Irony central.
But the decline of tobacco is being matched by the rise of electronic cigarettes. The same conglomerates that own these products are enjoying unprecedented freedom in the way they promote them. 
Yes. Just as they'd enjoy freedom if they bought out Waterstones and sold books or anything else which hasn't been proven to be dangerous, and probably never will be. Good grief.
By October 2014, when the World Health Organisation decides whether to control e-cigarettes in the same way as tobacco, they won’t just be fighting smokers, but the new forces of nicotine.
So the WHO fights against smokers, does it? Nice to see someone acknowledging that.
Trusting them, at this very early stage, is not only premature but crushingly naïve.
Coming from someone so staggeringly stupid as to not understand the difference between a tobacco company and the huge majority of e-cig suppliers who are independent and not tobacco companies, the accusation of naïveté is quite hilarious.
“There were 30 flavours; now there are 50. Strawberry, honey? Bubble-gum? Just for adults? Who are we kidding here?” Professor Capewell wonders.
Presumably because when he sees an adult eating honey for breakfast, chewing gum at a bus stop, or enjoying strawberries at Wimbledon, he instantly calls his mate Icke and reports having seen a shape-shifting alien.

Adults appreciating nice flavours? How ridiculous!
“This is when we get into the real safety issue. Imagine if even 10 per cent of those children become addicted to nicotine, of which half then become lifelong smokers. That equates to tens of millions across the globe. Isn't that a public health disaster in itself?”
He obviously means the 10 per cent of children who are not becoming addicted to nicotine in every jurisdiction so far studied, and the half of these non-existent addicts who are not becoming lifelong smokers because the gateway theory has been comprehensively discredited. Surely an 'expert' should know this by now?

The only public health disaster is this dangerous and irresponsible Capewell clown. But Esquire bought his crap. Shame on the incompetent bloody lot of them.