Monday, 30 November 2015

They Walk Among Us

In Wales today, the health committee studying Mark Drakeford's dangerous ignorance-based policy-making published a report giving their findings. Trust me, you will struggle to comprehend what some of these political raving moonhowlers actually believe.

The report is 157 pages long and it has to be said that the committee was split on all items relating to e-cigs. In any sensible legislature this should mean that there really is no compelling case to restrict liberties and property rights to such a massive degree. However, we are talking about Wales where some politicians seem to have had their water poisoned with a heavy dose of mercury.

Conservative AM Darren Millar described the plans to ban e-cigs in public places thus.
“Mark Drakeford’s legislation isn’t based on science – it’s Labour nannying at its worst"
He's correct. Incredibly, the proposals don't rest on any science whatsoever, instead they are rooted in nothing more than innuendo and conjecture. Here are some highlights.
Some Members believe that the approach is appropriate given the concerns expressed by some witnesses about the longer term public health impact of e-cigarette use, including whether their use could re-normalise or act as a gateway to tobacco smoking or cause difficulties in enforcing smoke-free legislation.
"Concerns" for which there is not a shred of evidence backing them up. There have been no reports of difficulties in enforcement of the smoking ban due to vaping, and best evidence on e-cigs acting as a "gateway" shows that it simply isn't happening, while successful quitting has been the highest in recent times since e-cigs have been around, so only a moron (or someone very corrupt) could claim that e-cigs "re-normalise" smoking.

Further on ...
A majority of Committee Members share the concerns raised by some stakeholders that allowing the use of e-cigarettes in places where smoking is restricted could potentially lead to the re-normalisation of an activity that is no longer widely socially accepted, particularly as the action of vaping is similar to that of smoking a tobacco cigarette. 
A majority don't like that e-cig use is similar in form to using a cigarette. Erm, that's it.
Some Members were concerned to learn of diverging practice in relation to the display of e-cigarettes and tobacco cigarettes at the point of sale, with e-cigarettes not being subject to any display restrictions, and often seen prominently displayed at point of sale in many outlets. They would wish to see work undertaken by the Welsh and UK Governments to explore options to restrict the display and marketing of e-cigarettes.
A pointless ban on displaying tobacco products - which has had no effect on smoking whatsoever - should be installed for a product which is actually tempting smokers away from tobacco? Who are these people? Gumbys?

Because, you see, they concede the positive aspects of e-cigs later in the report, so can't fail to have noticed.
The Committee notes and welcomes the contribution made by ecigarettes as an aid to smoking cessation, and recognises the role they could play in reducing the harms from tobacco smoking. It acknowledges the evidence stating that e-cigarettes are substantially less harmful than tobacco cigarettes and welcomes the positive health impact that switching to ecigarettes could potentially have on the lives of smokers.
All that "potential", eh? So let's just kill it by hiding e-cigs away where no-one can see them. That was, after all, the point of the tobacco display ban, wasn't it? You know, to stop anyone being tempted? This truly is weapons grade arsebiscuits from inept provincial prats. 

And get yourself on the floor so your jaw doesn't drop too far, because this is a delight.
A majority of Members are unconvinced that the evidence provided is sufficient to substantiate the suggestion that difficulties in distinguishing between e-cigarettes and tobacco cigarettes makes the enforcement of smoke-free legislation difficult to manage.
No, course it doesn't. Because everyone except deliberately obtuse prodnoses can tell the difference between e-cigs and smoking, which begs the question why they think that quitting using an e-cig can possibly "re-normalise" smoking. It normalises people using e-cigs for crying out loud! There are five year old kids who can grasp this concept, yet some AMs in the Welsh assembly find it too complicated. 

But I have left the best till last. I had to read this two or three times before the stupid properly sunk in. 
A home which is also a workplace
Now I've written about how insane this idea of home workplace bans are before, but I didn't quite appreciate the extent of fuckwittery behind it. Get a load of this!
The Committee notes that Article 8 [of the Human Rights Act] sets out the right to respect for private and family life: 
[T]he Committee notes these rights are not absolute rights. For example, there is no absolute right to respect for private life. Instead, these rights are qualified rights. This means that the state can interfere with these rights, but only when it is in pursuit of one of the legitimate aims set out in the second part of Article 8 and the interference is proportionate to that aim.
Wait for it ...
Five Members conclude that the restriction on using an e-cigarette in the home which is also a workplace is within the Assembly’s margin of appreciation. Similar reasoning applies to that set out for tobacco smoking in paragraph 201 and 202 above, save that the benefit of protecting workers from the harm of e-cigarette vapour does not carry the same weight as the benefit of protecting workers from the harm of tobacco smoke. However, these Members consider that that reduction is compensated by the need to protect against the risk of re-normalisation, the gateway effect and enforcement difficulties. Therefore, these Members conclude that the balance struck in the Bill is within the Assembly’s margin of appreciation.
In other words, based on no evidence whatsoever except bullshit and fabrication, these Members (has there ever been a better description of such tools?) believe that made-up scaremongery, baseless smears and pure fantasy are worthy of binning terms of the Human Rights Act for Welsh citizens!

This is the modern equivalent of pointing at someone you don't like the look of and shouting "Witch! Burn her!". Yet this is actually happening in a legislative committee room. Not in the third world. But in Wales.  

I've seen some daft things in my seven years writing here, but I'm really struggling to think of anything as incredibly silly, blasé and crassly dangerous as that. Congratulations, Welsh AMs, you just took my contempt of politicians to a new level. 

Sadly, the most ignorant, pathetic and anti-social in society will happily go along with these professional political trolls. Screw evidence and health, it's never been about those things anyway.

Commons Sense

I've written a review of Wednesday's event at the House of Commons, you can read it at this link.

Disclaimer: I am distinctly apolitical so this isn't an endorsement of the Conservative party per se (yes, Niamh, I'm talking to you), just an acknowledgement of a job very well done by Con4Lib with the help of some excellent Tory MPs. If Labour (pfft), the Lib Dems or UKIP held similar high profile events in support of individual liberties and personal responsibility with regard to lifestyle choices, I think we jewel robbers would be equally impressed. After today's sugar nonsense and Welsh e-cig insanity, by Christ we need them!

Sunday, 29 November 2015

More EU E-Cig Idiocy: Thou Shalt Not See Adverts

On Friday, I highlighted the stupidity of the e-liquid labelling requirements laid out under the EU's Tobacco Products Directive (TPD), effective in May 2016.
That's a lot of scaremongering nonsense for an e-cig accessory which has accounted for zero deaths amongst the many millions of European vapers over a ten year period, isn't it? 
All that (misleading) info will have to be printed on a label barely 2 cm tall by 6 cm wide, so will be all but illegible anyway. This is what you get when you pay thousands of regulators in Brussels to sit around thinking about what to regulate next to save themselves from the dole.
Well now, via Planet of the Vapes, we can see the equally idiotic legislation surrounding advertising which is being implemented by our elected government who are bound by EU law to do so at the behest of the unelected EU Commission.
The document covers “No advertising of electronic cigarettes in the press etc” – making it an offence not only to publish an advert but also to procure an advert in a publication therefore jointly making the advertiser and the buyer of the advert culpable for any transgression. 
Secondly the article covers “No advertising of electronic cigarettes in information society services” – covering pretty much all electronic media, websites, apps, blogs etc. 
Sponsorship of events etc. - No person may sponsor, with the aim or effect of promoting electronic cigarettes or refill containers”
It is currently unclear as to what the difference is between promotional material and what is informational material.  Could it perhaps be that reviews are also covered by this stringent regulation?
Or, to put it more succinctly, here's a slide from the E-Cig Summit earlier this month.

Click to enlarge
So, the EU - and the British state - want smokers to quit smoking, while prominent UK tobacco controllers and the government's own 'public health' advisory body concede that e-cigs "can help smokers to quit". However, after May 2016, visibility of e-cigs as an alternative to smoking is going to be reduced to near zero thanks to the TPD ensuring that e-cig vendors - and possibly consumers too - will be prohibited from telling smokers about their existence on all widely disseminated media!

It's some of the most unjoined-up political thinking ever witnessed in this country, surely? It truly beggars belief.

Of course, there will still be some who will be allowed to promote e-cigs, albeit boringly, as the PHE statement back in August revealed.
PHE is committed to ensure that smokers have a range of evidence-based, effective tools to help them to quit. We encourage smokers who want to use e-cigarettes as an aid to quit smoking to seek the support of local stop smoking services.
Stop smoking services? You mean organisations which are currently crying out for information about vaping from consumers because they simply do not understand them? It would seem so.

Therefore, after May 2016, you won't be allowed to see any communications from e-cig manufacturers, vendors and possibly consumers - who all have in-depth knowledge of the products and how they work - but will be perfectly able to receive advice and information from state agencies who wouldn't know one end of an e-cig from the other.

In other words, state capture of a thriving and successful market which will be transformed into an impotent, invisible, and ineffective one because of baseless scaremongery, entrenched industry lobbying, tobacco control industry rent-seeking and EU incompetence.

Yep, that's about standard. Because, y'see, the state - domestic and EU-wide - is utterly incompetent, hypocritical, and certainly not your friend. See how it works yet?

Friday, 27 November 2015

EU E-Cig Idiocy Beginning To Emerge

It's been a busy week hence scarcity of content here these past few days, but a tweeted pic from Wednesday deserves a wider sharing.

As an example of how pointless, absurd, staggeringly stupid and tyrannical state vandalism can be, the proposed format for e-liquid bottle labelling after implementation of the EU Tobacco Products Directive (TPD) in May next year can't be beaten.

Here, from a screened presentation (hence the low res) is what it will look like.

That's a lot of scaremongering nonsense for an e-cig accessory which has accounted for zero deaths amongst the many millions of European vapers over a ten year period, isn't it? Nice that - in amongst the self-aggrandising bullshit - EU pen-pushers allowed a little blue box for the manufacturer to tell consumers what they're buying though, I suppose.

What's even more insane is where it has to be displayed. Because, y'see, the TPD demands that the maximum bottle size for e-liquid must be 10ml from May 2016. In case you don't know how small that is, here's a 10ml bottle to scale.

All that (misleading) info will have to be printed on a label barely 2 cm tall by 6 cm wide, so will be all but illegible anyway. This is what you get when you pay thousands of regulators in Brussels to sit around thinking about what to regulate next to save themselves from the dole.

I predicted laughable, perverse, and utterly stupid outcomes like this back in 2013, before the TPD had been passed. I wasn't far wrong.
1) It will illustrate - as if it were needed - the wilful disregard the EU has for democracy and balanced debate. 
2) It will show conclusively that the EU is an organisation more interested in self-perpetuating than looking after its citizens in a responsible manner. 
And 3) it will show you how extremist tobacco control bastards operate, because it ain't ever been about health.
So it's not surprising that such a serious political platform as the Leave.EU referendum campaign group sees the TPD as a perfect example of EU over-reach and counterproductive meddling. Worse still, despite the UK being far more enlightened about vaping than other countries, because this is a directive - set in motion by an unelected EU Commission - there is stuff all the Westminster government can do about it, it's happening whether our elected MPs like it or not.

Can we leave yet?

Monday, 23 November 2015

Liberty In The House

Last month I highlighted an event in the House of Commons scheduled for this week. You can read how it came about here.
I’m delighted to say that, in response to the growing attempts to tell people what they can and cannot smoke, vape, drink and eat, that Conservatives for Liberty will be holding a lobby evening of parliament called Forgive us our Trespasses: The moral case for choice and responsibility. It takes place on Wednesday, November 25, from 6.30pm to 8.30pm, and for those who attend, you will have the chance to hear from seven MPs and peers, outlining their belief in individual choice.  
The lobby will firmly defend the principle of freedom of choice which, as a Conservative who believes very strongly in liberty, I believe leads to the greatest prosperity for all. The lobby will defend freedom of choice by arguing that adults should be free to weigh pleasure and risk and decide for themselves when it comes to products such as cigarettes, e-cigarettes, alcohol, and fatty or sugary foods.
Organised by Con4Lib, this is now nearly upon us and will be held in one of the Committee rooms on Wednesday night. More details have now been released. There will be six speakers, five of them MPs which is very encouraging.

I don't know how many places might remain but if you are in or around London that evening and have left it late, email, get yourself on the guest list and I'll see you there.

If not, there is good advice as to what you can do in support of the cause from Con4Lib's communications to attendees.
We want to highlight to MPs there is a groundswell of opinion in favour of freedom of choice and against unnecessary and unjustified state intrusion into individuals' lives when it comes to decisions about eating, drinking, smoking and vaping. 
We are encouraging people who believe in freedom of choice to write to their MP. This is important because MPs always receive letters and emails in favour of restrictions on lifestyle freedoms (mostly from state-funded pressure groups - DP), and fewer in opposition. We believe it is time for the silent majority to find their voices.
This is a good point very well made. Prohibitionists will always be front and centre in attacking the liberties of others, as George Ade once observed about the disastrous policy of Prohibition in 1920s USA.
"The non-drinkers had been organising for fifty years and the drinkers had no organization whatsoever. They had been too busy drinking"
Consumers - who outnumber prohibitionists quite comfortably in every policy area - are generally too busy in their everyday life to contact representatives about how their lives are run, and it's easier to ask for a ban on something (especially if you're being paid to do so) than to ask for MPs to leave us all alone.

But it's something we all need to do, and it can make MPs sit up and take notice. Politicians will calculate that if they receive a letter, probably another 100 of their constituents will feel the same. One MP once said if he received five personally written letters from constituents in one week on a single issue, it would prompt a policy meeting in his constituency office.

So, if you're not coming on Wednesday,  do consider lending your support by finding your MP here and telling him/her why you think this is an important concept.

If nothing else, use the very apt event hashtag #LeaveUsAlone on social media as and when you feel like it. Often.

Sunday, 22 November 2015

A Billion Lives, My Take

OK, I'm jumping in on this because it's something that needs to be said.

Simon Clark posted an article today criticising the A Billion Lives documentary makers for using a stat on secondhand smoke.
It's ironic however that a trailer for a pro-vaping documentary should begin with the bold statement 'YOU ARE BEING LIED TO' (about the risks of e-cigarettes) before making the utterly bogus claim that "One hundred and sixty-five thousand kids die from secondhand smoke [pause] every year."
I agree with him 100% as I expressed on Twitter.

I've taken some flak for that but there is a distinction which needs clarifying.

Clark uses a very apt word in saying that SHS claims are "bogus". This is because they are exactly that, the product of bigoted imaginations and a deceitful campaign from anti-smoking organisations dating back decades.
The trouble with implementing smoking bans back in the nineteen-seventies was that smokers and nonsmokers got along well and did not want smoking banned. So few bans went into place. The thorny problems of general amity and social cohesion, operating under a widely sane perspective amongst the public, were addressed at the 1975 World Conference on Smoking and Health of the World Health Organization, held in New York city, under Chairman Sir George Godber, a British physician and health official. 
A policy of “fostering the perception that secondhand smoke is unhealthy for nonsmokers” (as described by Doctor Gary L. Huber et al., in Consumers’ Research, July 1991) was initiated by Godber at the conference, with a specific aim “to emphasize that active cigarette smokers injure those around them, including their families and, especially, any infants that might be exposed involuntarily to ETS."
To understand how this desire to make shit up resulted in a process which created such a ridiculous figure (how many of the 165k per annum have been named?), I can recommend you read Frank Davis and VGIF for some enlightenment.

Now, the argument goes that it's OK to use that particular statistic because it is recorded in newspapers (ironically by the same organisation which is lying about e-cigs, go figure) and so is hunky dory; that quoting 'public health' exaggerations on SHS back at them is a good tactic to employ. I disagree for one simple reason.

No-one, but no-one, has died from secondhand smoke - we even have court cases stating that it is fantasy - let alone 165,000 kids! It is wrong and should be called out as wrong whenever it is mentioned. Many of the problems vapers face are rooted in this mythical nonsense - when people see vapour, they get scared they will be poisoned and die because they have been conditioned to think that anything they can inhale must be dangerous ... when it's not. It is a tool that has been used by anti-smokers to circumvent the idea of free choice. The extremists in tobacco control still cling to the hope that this irrational and baseless fear will convince the public to hate e-cigs too. To use it in favour of vaping can only be self-defeating.

So why am I comfortable with the "billion lives" stat being used, I hear you ask. Well, it's because that is an entirely different onion. It is undoubtedly a tobacco control industry exaggeration too, but it is actually rooted in some basis of fact. Personally, I don't think that a billion smokers will die as a result of smoking before the end of the century - which is what is claimed - but many will. This is because (some would disagree, see these debates from 2010), it is true. We can argue about how many exactly - and a billion is almost certainly an exaggeration - but it has an element of truth about it.

In that case, it is perfectly acceptable to throw this stat back at tobacco control liars and ask them why - if they believe a billion people will die from smoking - they are determined to deter as many as possible from switching to something even the most absurd of their profession admit is far less harmful ... and doing so with outrageous lies.

That's what I believe the A Billion Lives documentary should be about and I fully support that premise. I wouldn't be able to if it regurgitated baseless bullshit which could serve to damage vaping in the long run too.

There, I said it. Flame away.

Thursday, 19 November 2015

Beg For Mercy, Duffy

This has been doing the rounds on Twitter, so for those who haven't seen it, settle comfortably and read something glorious and quite extraordinary.

On Tuesday last week, Sheila Duffy of ASH Scotland sat down in front of elected Scottish MPs to pitch the idea of their ignoring any and all communications from the tobacco industry at the behest of the unelected WHO. Now, I don't reckon she was prepared for some of the responses she received. Here are some edited highlights [page 12 of this PDF].
Jackson Carlaw: Like the convener, I am a lifelong non-smoker and have no particular interest in the tobacco lobby at all. Does the WHO define what the tobacco industry is? Are you part of the tobacco industry, given that you depend on its existence for your employment?
Sheila Duffy: I am not and no, I do not depend on its existence ...
Jackson Carlaw: Is that not why ASH exists?
Sheila Duffy: ASH was set up by the royal medical colleges as, for more than a decade, the scientific evidence about the harms of tobacco had not gone out to the general public because of the tobacco companies’ public relations activities ...
Jackson Carlaw: Its existence depends on the tobacco industry and if there was no smoking, there would be no need for ASH.
Sheila Duffy: If there was no smoking, there would be no need for ASH ...
Jackson Carlaw: Should our meetings with you require to be held in public, as you have suggested?
Sheila Duffy: I am entirely happy with transparency as a working principle but ...
Jackson Carlaw: Do you encourage that? Do you list, for example, on ASH’s website, the politicians that you meet, when you meet and the issues that you discuss with them? (Hint: No, they don't - DP)
Sheila Duffy: ASH Scotland is not subject to an international treaty. (But "entirely happy with transparency", so why not just publish? - DP)
Jackson Carlaw: But you are part of the tobacco industry.
The honourable gentleman makes a very good point, don't you think? The World Health Organisation classes e-cigs as a tobacco product because the nicotine in them is derived from the tobacco plant, as does the FDA in America.

If nicotine in e-cigs is a derivative of tobacco, then ASH and ASH Scotland must - by the same token - be a derivative of the tobacco industry, no?
The Convener: Is the treaty a form of censorship? (Yes - DP)
Sheila Duffy: To be honest, I think that it would save you time (Staggered! - DP). You are busy parliamentarians and if you have to sift through the misinformation, the arguments for and against and the misleading submissions that tobacco companies will slip in with their evidence ...
The Convener: My point is that we get misleading information sent to us all the time. It is part of the role of staff and politicians to take on board the information that is sent to us, decide what we agree or do not agree with and to check its veracity. That happens daily and is our job from morning to night, but you are specifically asking the committee to support a petition that says that one sector of society has to be stripped of its ability to contact us in a way that everyone else takes for granted.
Sheila Duffy: To be very clear, I am not suggesting that you should not hear from tobacco companies and their vested interests (Yes she is - DP). I am asking you to consider Scotland’s obligations under an international treaty to which we are signatories and in that respect, the tobacco industry is unique.
The Convener: Okay, so we are being asked to treat tobacco companies specifically as a different type of organisation. Are you saying that we can hear from the arms industry, the sex industry and all sorts of sectors that some people might find controversial - and in some cases are illegal - but we cannot hear from a legal entity such as the tobacco industry?
Yep, it's kinda what she is hoping will happen. Note she says that she is "not suggesting that [politicians] should not hear from tobacco companies and their vested interests" when that is the entire point of article 5.3 of the FCTC and precisely what Duffy intended when submitting this petition. To 'suggest' exactly that. The WHO cannot demand it because it would be a disgrace and an affront to democracy, but it is designed - as in this case - to hoodwink policymakers into ignoring valid stakeholders. 

It is one of the fundamental principles of the tobacco control industry. Article 5.3 is the tool they use to shut down debate and stifle dissent, it is the administrative embodiment of their pathetic tactic of smearing anyone who has ever talked to a tobacco company as an industry shill. It is deliberate, and Duffy knows that very well. It has led to utterly pointless articles such as this on the BBC, which suggest that just listening to what an industry has to say - as a government absolutely should do - is somehow wrong. 

Duffy can claim till she's blue in the face that she doesn't want that to happen, but she and her office would have done a jig when they saw PMI being publicly shamed by the BBC for exercising their democratic rights. 

It is highly encouraging, then, to see Scottish politicians recognising this abuse and giving Duffy a hard time about it. Do go read the rest of the exchanges from page 12 onwards, I think you'll find them enjoyable. 

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Bravo Mr McKee ... Erm

It's very rare that I agree with Martin McKee, as you may have noticed, but I cannot fault him for this excellent tweet from Sunday.

He is absolutely correct. Exploiting tragedies to promote personal or political views is quite wrong.

For example, a latent anti-capitalist sympathiser with left of centre environmental views seemed to suggest at the weekend that the Paris attacks might justify restrictions on oil commodity traders.
The individual response is clear, to apprehend and convict in the courts those who seek to commit these atrocities. The population level response recognises the role that our dependence on oil plays in the crisis in the Middle East, targeting for action those commodity dealers in the west who help groups like Daesh to launder the funds from the oil under their control and those who are profiting by supplying weapons to all the warring parties.
The same commentator - an avowed opponent of smoking and e-cigs - also once employed the Anders Breivik massacre to bizarrely promote a ban on nicotine.
In early 2011, Anders Behring Breivik, a Norwegian right-wing extremist, began to research a means of creating poisoned bullets. In his ‘manifesto’ subsequently published online, he noted that ‘A relatively simple process will convert hollow point and even standard ammunition – lead or other alloy bullets into hollow bullets. These hollow projectiles are then injected with a biological or chemical toxin. … [converting] your projectile weapon into a chemical or biological weapon’. His criteria for selecting the poison were ease of obtaining it and lethality (measured as the LD50, or dose required to kill 50% of 75 kg adults). After careful consideration of alternatives, including heroin, various insecticides and cyanide, he concludes that the ideal is nicotine. He notes that while pure nicotine has a slightly higher LD50 than cyanide, unlike almost all of the other substances he considered, it can be purchased without restriction. Indeed, he helpfully supplies a draft letter than can be used to order it from chemical suppliers, ostensibly for use in electronic cigarettes. He even provides addresses of such suppliers, indicating that he ‘received the 50 ml of 99% pure liquid nicotine shipment from China’, and was ‘relieved to see that there were no complications whatsoever’. At the time of writing it is still not clear whether Breivik did inject his bullets with nicotine and, even if he had, it is likely that the temperature achieved by a bullet being fired would have degraded much of it, but it is inevitable that his words will attract others considering similar actions and who will devise alternative, and more reliable means of delivery. 
It is unimaginable that governments would have failed to restrict access to any other poison that had been used, or was threatened to be used, in such circumstances. Yet nicotine retains its privileged position as an active pharmacological agent that is largely exempt from regulation (except paradoxically, when being sold as a means to assist quitting smoking). There were already strong arguments for regulating the sale of nicotine, most obviously by licensing it as a drug, as has been proposed in Iceland. The tragic events in Oslo make the argument overwhelming. Otherwise, we will be forced to conclude that, once again, the tobacco industry is exempt from the laws to which everyone else is subject.
So I am extremely glad to congratulate Martin McKee for coming out and saying publicly that exploiting terrorism for personal or political hobby horses is despicable. I'm sure he would join with us in condemning the behaviour of the above author. 

Oh, hold on ...

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Seven Years Of Deadly Sins

Today is the seventh anniversary of this blog, yes really! Described once early on as "tabloid guff" by a Ben Goldacre fanboy - a badge I have carried with pride ever since - we've tripped the light fantastic and cartwheeled 'cross the floor here since.

By way of a progress report, visits continue to tick up despite content becoming more sparse through pressure of work. Since 2008, there have been 3,157 articles published attracting 25,658 comments at time of writing and 2,808,143 page views according to miserly Sitemeter (Google Analytics reports a more flattering 3,585,000 plus, don't ask me how). Still an increase over an already good year last time out but with ever-decreasing articles, it's almost like homeopathy or something.

This less is more thing will, however, be sorely tested in the coming months because business is taking up more and more of my time. I enjoy recreational writing of an evening but posts here will dramatically reduce from hereon in, I just can't spare the time despite the vast riches quite clearly being lobbed my way by Big Tobacco.

Many thanks to all of the nearly 300,000 souls who have popped by this corner of the internet in the past seven years. In the spirit of Alcohol Awareness Week which began yesterday, I shall tonight be attending a fesity-looking event marking 10 years since mythical "24 hour drinking" was initiated and downing a Peroni or few myself in your honour. Other drinks are, of course, available if you feel like joining in.

Monday, 16 November 2015

Tobacco Control: Big Industry's Biggest Friend

Boy, the effect of e-cigs in exposing tobacco controllers as vacuous loons just gets better and better.

The 'public health' movement would, I'd say, overwhelmingly self-identify as left of centre and 'progressive'. Tobacco control has leapt on the back of this by using terms such as "tackling health inequalities" to explain some pretty hideous policies which hurt the poor far more than the well off (more on that later in the week). Their biggest political supporters worldwide are invariably lefties. In the UK, Labour almost swoon whenever a tobacco controller speaks.

With their stance on e-cigs though, just look at the actors who are benefitting. For example, here is an article from Malaysia about a new initiative to persuade smoking athletes to quit tobacco.
Johnson and Johnson Malaysia recently launched a new anti-smoking campaign with the theme “Do Something Amazing” and it also introduced the Nicorette patch, which is an improved nicotine replacement therapy to help smokers fight their cravings. 
The campaign is also to encourage smokers to overcome tobacco-dependence through the setting of attainable goals, which allow them to maintain focus and have more control over the quit attempts.
Johnson & Johnson, eh? Big Pharma and their lovely magic nicotine which is entirely harmless. Unlike, of course, the stuff in e-cigs which the same people in this picture consider deadly.

No, really! Pictured alongside J&J execs are two individuals - Dr Helmy Haja Mydin and Dr Amer Siddiq Amer Nordin, both associate professors at University Malaya - who also happen to be on the Ministry of Health e-cigarette committee, and are signatories to a letter advocating bans on e-cigs in Malaysia.
 I. restrictions be immediately put in place for the retail sales and public use of electronic cigarettes and vaping  
 II. a discussion in Parliament in the foreseeable future regarding the need to implement a ban for both electronic cigarettes and tobacco 
Fancy that!

Meanwhile in Italy, the government is planning to be the first to apply sin taxes to e-cigs. I can't for the life of me understand why, but perhaps this might explain it.

That's André Calantzopoulos on the left - CEO of Philip Morris International - sitting next to Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi at an event in September.

We know, too, that pharma companies lobbied the EU to implement strangling regulations on e-cigs which has resulted in the Tobacco Products Directive which effectively makes every product currently on the market illegal in May next year. We also know that PMI are advising the UK government to introduce sin taxes to e-cigs in this country, because they told the world so in their response to a consultation [page 286] on something entirely unrelated

This is the kind of cronyism and big industry involvement that the tobacco control industry is inviting by their appalling approach to e-cigs. On the one hand you have utter lunatics vilifying consumers, spreading falsehoods, half-truths, innuendo and bare-faced lies about the dangers of vaping, on the other you have those in tobacco control - who claim to be in favour of harm reduction - idly sitting by as vape ban after vape ban is installed, creating precedents all over the shop.

In May 2016, just about every e-cig currently on the market will be banned all over the EU thanks to the TPD - something vaper's friend ASH UK, for example, is hugely in favour of - while elsewhere vaping is being obliterated entirely by daft laws prompted by mad tobacco controllers deliberately lying to spread fear amongst politicians simply because of their damaging anti-social prejudices.

So, next time you hear someone in the comfortable, highly-funded tobacco control industry saying that they are just looking after those poor smokers. Remind them of who is actually benefitting by their incompetence, inaction, bigotry and institutional mendacity ... huge multi-national corporations. It's just too easy, isn't it?

The term "useful idiot" has never been more aptly applied than when describing professional anti-smokers.

Saturday, 14 November 2015

A Peek Behind Mental Health Facility Curtains

No Saturday links this week, instead try this.

On Wednesday I went along to the 53rd Maudsley Debate at the Denmark Hill Campus of King's College London, as trailed here last month. The proposal was vile, but simple.
This house believes that smoking should be banned in psychiatric hospitals
For avoidance of doubt, this isn't about an indoor ban, but an outdoor one, enforced on otherwise free and innocent people who are not allowed to leave the premises to escape it.

Now, I'd customarily give a detailed rundown of what happened, but technology is such these days that I don't have to. Instead you can watch it yourself here if you can set aside 75 minutes of your time.

If you can't, I'll just pick out some salient points from the evening from my perch up in the naughty seats at the back of a packed room.

The arguments presented were as you'd expect. Psychiatrist Simon Wessely and ASH's Deborah Arnott defended what I'd call torture of mental health patients on the basis that it's good for their health. There, there, pat on the head, aren't we great?

Wessely pointed out that it was a good policy because there was no proof that adverse outcomes had materialised where it has been tried before, an assertion which is contested by some.
Since the indoor smoking ban came in, cases of self-harm have rocketed by 56% in the UK. Meanwhile in the USA, where state-run units in 35 of the 50 states now have some form of outdoor ban, patient-on-patient violence has risen by an average of 22% and up to a whopping 390% in Austin, Texas. Furthermore average durations of stay have increased by nearly 90%.
Meanwhile, Arnott began her piece with an anecdote - which 'public health' usually discard as irrelevant (more about that later) - and made some hubristic claims in favour. For example, at one point she said that banning smoking is a wonderful policy because, at the moment, patients have to "experience withdrawal many times a day". Her justification for this is that because they can't smoke indoors the mere act of smoking outdoors is causing harm by making them experience prohibition every time they return inside. It beggars belief that someone who was instrumental in making smoking forbidden indoors at such establishments can possibly use that as an argument, but then I often wonder how these people sleep at night on an issue such as this.

It was also jaw-dropping to hear Arnott saying that ...
"Vaping is banned in many hospitals and I don't know why that is. It's not acceptable."
Do you want to tell her that it's directly down to scaremongery and irrational hysteria whipped up about the mythical danger of passive smoke by Arnott's ASH and their equally noxious chums, or shall I?

Arnott also went so far as to say that "cigarettes are the only outlet" for desperate mental health patients, but that this was "not acceptable". She was very passionate though, I could hear shards of her fast beating heart of stone splintering off as she spoke.

In reply, Chris Snowdon pointed out that, with mental health patients, their physical health isn't the be all and end all, and that bans just lead to "anger, resentment and a breakdown in trust" between patients and staff. Furthermore, that quitting smoking when you're completely prepared for it makes you miserable, but that is amplified by being forced to do so when not prepared and is therefore worse and inhumane.

Fellow opposer of the motion, @Sectioned_ - speaking on condition that she wouldn't be filmed - succinctly summed up her contribution after the debate.

The point being made is that the bans being proposed go against the very fabric of doctor/patient relationships in mental health facilities, something that others also noticed. How can one equate care for the desperation being suffered by those in such institutions - and the goal of increasing self-esteem - with coercion and high-handed finger-wagging; and how does a service which claims to treat mental health patients as equals in society square that with treating them differently to everyone else? Why only mental health sufferers when banning smoking outdoors for everyone else, everywhere, would be seen as fascistic?

In short, outdoor bans in psychiatric hospitals are being applied by tobacco control extremists not because they should - because if that were the case Arnott et al would be advocating them on all of us, everywhere - but instead merely because they can.

This leads me onto my main take-home from the evening. You see, it gave a glimpse into an unsalubrious and quite disturbing ongoing battle within NHS mental health services. Those who have experienced the service, as well as troops on the ground, were eager to get their point across.

A mental health nurse stated that she had encountered some patients refusing to go to hospital simply because they can't smoke. The response from Wessely was that this was anecdotal and "not recorded" so therefore, presumably, didn't happen. Considering his co-debater Arnott rooted her contribution with exactly such an anecdote, it kinda blew away part of their case.

Similarly, one audience member who had been admitted before and after the smoking ban spoke about how the 2007 ban had created division, and that this latest move could only "increase deviancy and friction between patients and staff". The other side was conveyed by a truly odious hospital manager (Arnott directed the Chair to take a comment from her) who spoke of how banning smoking everywhere was a "caring" thing to do because it was "supporting" patients to quit. As vomit-inducing weasel words as I have heard for quite a while, delivered in that soft condescending faux-caring tone which I've heard from many an authoritarian con-artist over the years. "For your own good" expressed not as what it is, an order, but as somehow being your friend while not even remotely respecting your choices.

@Sectioned_ brought a large piece of seaside rock as a prop to convey the idea that "coercion runs through psychiatry like a stick of rock, and it poisons it". The manager's condescending stance simply confirmed that this was likely true.

The debate ended in what was near as dammit a draw, just one vote splitting those for the motion from those against. But this was in a health establishment so to be expected, the fact that it was so close simply showing that the proposal is a quite hideous thing to do to people with mental health problems. The online poll delivered a thumping 72% majority to those opposed, which is probably far nearer the way the public would view the idea.

One last point. I still, days later, cannot believe that - on a night where I counted three smokers in the entire 200+ audience - there were nearly 100 people in that room who voted in favour of restrictions on others when they have no experience or understanding of being in the same situation themselves. It speaks volumes about the horrible, judgemental, self-satisfied and interfering world in which we now live.

Thursday, 12 November 2015

Welsh Labour: So Dense They Could Bend Light

I have maintained for nearly six years now that e-cigs have the potential to show the tobacco control crusade up for the lucrative snake oil vending machine that it is, but even I didn't envisage them to cause dull-witted anti-smoking politicians to jump the shark in spectacular fashion.

Via Wales's Daily Post.
Using e-cigarette while working from home could land you in court 
People who work from home could soon be breaking the law if they use an e-cigarette while in their own house.
With the UK government's public health body reporting that passive vaping (ha!) poses "no concerns" and contains "negligible levels" of nicotine - about the only substance which could be classed as even remotely worrying - here we have Welsh Labour actually making it illegal to use them. In your own home. Alone.

Have I ever mentioned that it's never been about health with the ban brigade?
‘Vaping’ while working in your lounge or bedroom outside of nine-to-five hours could result in a fine if a radical bill is passed – and it will also apply to priests and vicars in their official residences.
Remember they said it was about protecting bar staff from 'proven' dangers of secondhand smoke? Yeah, course it was. Here we are with a law banning something that isn't dangerous, to protect no-one because no-one else is present. Of course, the tobacco control industry doesn't like e-cigs because they look like smoking and, you know, kids might see (this is where you put on a shocked face), but a vaper, on their own, in their own home, isn't even seen by anyone. But it will still be against the law and a fine is technically chargeable.

Will that be enforceable? Of course not! It's a complete and utter waste of everyone's time and of taxpayers' money.
Prof Drakeford has set out a series of scenarios where a court could decide you are breaking the law in your own home. 
1) A member of the clergy working from home, working ‘indefinable’ hours given the nature of the work, would not be able to vape in the room they are working. 
2) If you work from home between 9-5pm and take a work call in your lounge at 8pm or check emails every 15 minutes your lounge could be classed as a workplace – so the ban would apply. 
3) If your workplace is a studio flat you won’t be able to ‘vape’ at all in your home during working hours.
Barking lunacy! And these people administer billions of pounds of public services, how secure does that make you feel if you live in Wales?

OK, let's just imagine that this policy isn't being tabled by a jelly-arsed fuckstick with the mental capacity of a flagstone; that it is not weapons grade retarded dribble; and instead take the sanction through an audit.

You're a vaper who works from home somewhere in Swansea, but it's out of office hours and you're watching the TV while using an iStick. Your smartphone buzzes and it's a work-related email so you reply to it. But, sadly for you, there is a gap in your curtains and an environmental health officer from the local council - because it is they who enforce smoking bans - is on a stakeout at 9pm (because council workers always, but always, work outside of office hours on their own initiative) and sees you doing it (after, of course, knowing that it was a work-related email on your phone not something else). You're slapped with a fine but refuse to pay it, right up to the point that they threaten you with jail for non-payment of fines.

So off you jolly well toddle to clink, only to find that it's perfectly acceptable to use an e-cig there ... because the government is selling the bloody things!

Now, politicians sometimes bemoan why the public has such a low opinion of them. I can't fucking think for the life of me why, can you?

Good grief!

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Let Them Eat Kale, Drink Spinach Smoothies!

We all know that policies which financially punish the poor are bad, right? Well think again, because 'public health' holds a completely different view.

Here is a particularly rancid individual writing in his industry's shit sheet The Conversation.
David Cameron has personally vetoed the [sugar] tax on the basis that it would disproportionately impact the poorest families.
Quite rightly, too. The state taking money from poor people is a despicable thing to do, we can surely all agree on that. Well, apparently not.
He seems to have misunderstood that this is a major strength of the policy.
Yep, a comfortably-off  'public health' professional thinks robbing the poor on the back of weak, ideological, lefty anti-industry sentiment is a fantastic idea.
Behavioural economics and scarcity theory help to explain why poor people are less able to act in their own best interests.
No, they already act in their best interests, but these interests just don't happen to align with odious cock-munchers in 'public health' who have decided what their interests should be.
While it is possible to ignore “soft measures”, such as educational campaigns and expanded healthcare services, increasing tax does not rely on the ability to make healthy choices. In fact, because the poor are more sensitive to changes in price, they respond better and experience larger health gains than the more affluent.
Who decided that "health gains" should be a priority amongst the less well off? Can you guess? Yes! It is elite, condescending, highly-paid middle class snobs like this guy.
If he really wants to help low-income families struggling to make healthier choices, surely the sugar tax is a perfect prescription.
So we should "help" low-income households struggling to make ends meet by raising the cost of things they choose to buy? For their own good? And because nice, comfy, health-obsessed Luke has decreed that health should be their primary focus, eclipsing all else? What an almighty twisted, arrogant, patronising throbber he is.

Sadly, he's not alone. It's like Marie Antoinette never existed!

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Meet Mendacious Martina

OK, we all know tobacco controllers lie, it's just what they do. It is module one of the induction course before they learn other essential skills such as hurling ad hominems, publishing junk science, ignoring the public and blaming everything on Big Tobacco.

But I don't think I've ever seen or heard an article where the tobacco controller lies from start to finish before. Not till yesterday anyway.
E-cigarettes will no longer be sold to children and adolescents, according to a new draft law in Germany. And rightly so, says Martina Pötschke-Langer of the German Cancer Research Center.
Well, actually, Yale University recently concluded that bans on youth access to e-cigs increased smoking rates, so she's not off to a good start. But then, the tobacco control industry normally only take note of 'science' if it's the junk kind they produce themselves, so no surprise there.

If you've never heard of Pötschke-Langer, she is a tobacco controller of the most vile kind, whose hatred of e-cigs can only be because they look a bit like smoking. She is a spiteful bereaved East German tobacco control moon-howler of the first water who "fights for laws" so - it won't surprise you to know - has been working as adviser to the pharma-funded but unelected WHO since 1999. She claims not to need 'science' to ban e-cigs because "we do not need a new nicotine product available on the market"so was an obvious choice as "curator of the knowledge" by Linda McAvan when she was rigging the EU's Tobacco Products Directive to drive through policies to kill off vaping for good.

Monumental Liar, Mad Martina, via Flickr
Since then, the absurd woman has been busy trying - unsuccessfully - to attack e-cigs and those who sell them through various German courts. Defeats on demanding they be classed as medicines and on vendors using her quotes have followed, which is perhaps why she is so pissed off. How else can we explain some of her other ludicrously astonishing claims in yesterday's article?
That does not mean that they are steady smokers but the products have actually been sold to children.
Yes, very strong on the children line, Martina, tobacco control industry school taught you very well.

Of course, children may have gotten hold of e-cigs but it's highly debatable that they were all 'sold' them. Only an incredibly unscrupulous vendor would do such a thing and throughout Europe e-cig sellers have been voluntarily implementing bans on sales to under 18s. Insofar as there might be a problem with e-cigs being sold directly to children, it is a vanishingly small one. This, of course, doesn't fit the narrative anti-smoking lunatic Pötschke-Langer wishes to create, though.
They are mostly propylene glycol and glycerin, flavoring, and nicotine.
No dear, that is all of what is in them, nothing else.
Carcinogens have been detected in some of the aerosols in these products, i.e. substances that cause cancer.
You forgot to say "in quantities too small to cause any harm whatsoever", dear.
The product range is great and also very appealing to children. Some of these products are purchased mainly by children. 
The product range is appealing to everyone, and no, there are no categories which are "mainly" bought by children.
Are e-cigarettes mainly produced for children?
Yes, the marketing is definitely geared towards youngsters, especially because children like the flavors, like bubble gum.

I sometimes wonder what rattles around inside the heads of idiotic people like this. I expect they imagine the scene in an e-cig manufacturers office as follows:
Evil E-Cig Exec: We need to sell as many of these as possible, how do we go about it?
Henchman: Well, there are tens of millions of adult smokers in Europe and many more around the world we can reach via the internet. Tobacco control say that 70% of them are desperate to quit smoking so it is a huge and willing market to tap.
EEE: How easy would it be to sell to these adult smokers?
H: A doddle. They already spend massive sums of cash on cigarettes due to taxation, so they would actually be saving money buying our products instead. We would also be seen as the good guys for helping them quit tobacco. It's win/win all round.
EEE: Nah, fuck adults and all their cash, let's sell to kids instead. They have next to no disposable income, have no natural need for the product and are almost impossible to advertise to, that's much more likely to turn a profit. Plus I like scandalising the public, it's all I'm in the game for.
H: Yes, good point, why didn't I think of that before, Master? 
Said no e-cig company board members, ever.

Only someone who wished to bankrupt themselves would run a business along those lines, but for certain cretins in the tobacco control industry - whose own business model is to merely scrounge from taxpayers - this is apparently how businessmen think. It beggars belief that governments give cash to such superlative simpletons, doesn't it?
E-cigarettes were actually designed to replace tobacco cigarettes to help smokers gradually give up smoking. Why have children been targeted as consumers?
Producers have used unscrupulous strategies to build up a market made up of children and adolescents. That was intentional and we have studies on the subject.
The most credulous interviewer in history believes her shit but still mad Martina goes even further. "A market made up of children", and "intentional and we have studies"? No it isn't and no you don't, you big fat fucking liar.
Is second-hand smoke from e-cigarettes just as dangerous as tobacco cigarette smoke?
Emissions clearly worsen indoor air quality, especially if several people in one room are smoking e-cigarettes. There is a high increase of respirable particles that remain in the lungs and are then absorbed by the rest of the body. In indoor air measurements, carcinogenic substances have been found: acetaldehyde, formaldehyde and metals. E-cigarettes must be treated like tobacco cigarettes.
Is there proven harm from e-cigs to bystanders? Well, no, of course there isn't, nor will there ever be. And she knows that, so instead she just spreads innuendo from a bunch of fundamentally fraudulent studies which have been effortlessly debunked - all of which only studied only active use of e-cigs - and pretends that they apply to non-vapers too. Erm, which they don't.

This is such a blatant lie that she should be hauled into a court and banged up for it. But in tobacco control circles you get a pat on the back for being a disingenuous liar, so she'll probably receive another award instead.

But more astounding than her propensity to lie without missing a heartbeat is her jaw-dropping lack of care for the consequences of her actions. She claims to be someone dedicated to eradicating smoking, yet is actively spreading inaccuracies, misleading statements, half-truths and downright lies because she is a bit piqued that smokers are quitting without the help of obscene corpulent health nazis like her.

I'll say it till I'm blue in the face. It's never been about health with these professional bed-wetting, self-indulgent, mentally feeble, fib-lipped pieces of slug shit.

Sunday, 8 November 2015

Of Vapes And Virginia

A couple of videos have been doing the rounds on Twitter in the past couple of days that you may be interested in. Firstly, you may remember that the recent Battle of Ideas featured a debate on e-cigs entitled "Planet of the Vapes: why is there a war on e-cigarettes?", which was included in my review of the day here.

All sessions at the BoI were filmed and that particular one is now online to watch. So settle down after your Sunday bath with your favourite beverage (or several) and have a watch of the whole thing below.

Alternatively, if you don't fancy something of that length, here is an interesting 5 minute investigation by the Adam Smith Institute's Sam Bowman into the bizarre arrangement in Virginia whereby if you fancy a bottle of scotch, you have to buy it from the state government! Watch out for the awesome economics professor, so cool he could chill a bottle of Sauvignon in a few seconds.

Friday, 6 November 2015

Good Work Agent Gornall

Clive Bates has written a magnificent piece excoriating the BMJ for an astonishingly puerile article by gutter journalist extraordinnaire, Jonathan Gornall.

Gornall is such an incredibly inept tool that his hilarious conspiracy theory wibblings even managed to lose funding for the BMJ once, so you'd think they'd steer clear of him wouldn't you? Well, not the modern day integrity-free BMJ, no, because the BMJ is no longer anything more trustworthy and authoritative than the Sunday Sport, as Bates explains.
For making this simple, reasonable and proportionate statement [about e-cigs], PHE’s work has been the subject of  haranguing attacks by The Lancet,  The Guardian and a pair of public health activists writing in the BMJ. Now the BMJ has followed up with an extraordinary frenzied attack on PHE aggravated by a highly misleading “info-graphic”. I have been reflecting on this for some time and would like to draw out ten themes.
Now, I'm all for frenzied attacks on PHE - they being the ones who believe in a sugar tax and disgusting psychiatric hospital outdoor smoking bans, while sponging half a billion of our taxes per annum to do so - but this Gornall thing is just vague, sixth form level, nudge-nudge-wink-wink, evidence-avoiding lefty dribble ... erm, in the BMJ! Or, as Bates puts it.
To provide innuendo, the barrel-scraping in this piece plumbs astonishing depths as the BMJ finds conspiracies everywhere – attending conferences, writing letters, agreeing with like-minded people, and, worst of all, having any sort of business – all marks of conspiracy in eyes of this new all-in-one witch-finder, inquisitor and executioner.
I highly recommend you read Bates's blog in its entirety here, because - happily for us here - Gornall has kindly applied dubious long-standing tobacco control industry methods to such an inappropriate subject that it effectively ridicules them.

It's almost too easy for Bates to take a carving knife to the whole thing. Here are some highlights.
Graphics are potent tools for smearing and innuendo. Why?  Because the meaning of a connecting line on a graphic is highly ambiguous.  Does it mean “A is under the pay and influence of B” or “A and B know each other and have some common views”?  If you are in the smearing business, that ambiguity is useful.
As taught to every tobacco controller who has ever taken taxpayer subsidy to attend one of the never-ending echo chamber conferences they travel to around the world
Given the Lancet and BMJ are the giants of UK medical publishing,  might we have expected them to take a scientific perspective and look into whether the 95% claim is actually realistic? They didn’t bother with this at all. 
In fact, there has been an interesting debate about whether this figure is right or not and if it has been expressed with the proper nuances, but not in the BMJ or Lancet.
No, because on any matter related to smoking they have become lazy. Their anti-science ban on tobacco-funded research, however incontrovertible it may be, and the systematic eradication of any dissenting voice via the routinely mis-applied FCTC Article 5.3 means that they never have to be rigorous. They just say any old crap and there is no-one to oppose it.

In the field of tobacco science, these journals are now merely gutter junk and can't be trusted at all. By publishing Gormall's article, they have simply confirmed this.
But somehow I don’t suppose PHE’s detractors were worrying that they’d overstated the the risks. Did the BMJ or Lancet provide any insight or reflection on these figures or on the proper formulation of a message useful to the public? No and no.
Nope, because click-bait gutter journos don't bother with that kind of difficult stuff. Neither, it seems, does the BMJ anymore. Innuendo, half-truths and lies are their core content now.

Oh believe me there's more!
The indignant reaction to the use of a quantified expert estimate of risk was ridiculous.  It’s hardly unusual in public health to use numbers based on expert judgement to give the public some ‘anchors’ to guide behaviour and inform choice.  This is exactly what quantified guidelines for alcohol, salt, sugar and BMI are supposed to do.  I haven’t seen any complaints from the BMJ and Lancet about these – but there is far less evidence and principle to support these numbers than PHE’s e-cigarette relative risk guideline. Just a theory, but maybe the public health establishment is more at ease with restricting people with limits than empowering them with informed choice.
Ain't that the truth? When was the last time you heard a 'public health' finger-wagger come over as anything less than haughty, snobby, superior and condescending of the public's choices? But then I've always maintained it's never been about health. Perhaps I'm right, you never know.
A tiresome journalistic technique was used to make the case against PHE. The BMJ just went around finding enemies of PHE and allowed them to spout their ill-informed views onto the pages of the journal without the slightest challenge or balancing comment. It is a one-sided ‘hatchet job’ utterly devoid of objectivity, and the BMJ poorly serves its readers to inflict this on them.
It's what 'public health' has done for quite a long time. So much so that it is now de rigeur.

And on vaping bans ...
The worst example of this is the large chunk of the piece that rests on the views of one anonymous director of public health, which I will now examine.
A director of public health in north west England, who spoke to The BMJ on condition of anonymity, said he and his colleagues in the region have found PHE’s stance on e-cigarettes “problematic on a number of levels,” not least of which was the lack of consultation with public health professionals on the ground.
Why anonymous? Who is this public servant and why is he excused personal accountability in a scientific journal? PHE commissioned an evidence review not a talking shop, and in any case why would “public health professionals on the ground” know anything? They’ve been mostly hostile to e-cigarettes, and with notable exceptions, they have failed to engage with smokers and vapers.
The PHE guidance also threatened to undermine the work by public health officials who “have spent the past 18 months persuading public venues, council buildings, and others to agree to ban e-cigarette use in enclosed public spaces,” he said.
Oh, I loved that one… he is peeved that scientific evidence has intruded on his prohibitionist and illiberal plans. No challenging rejoinder was put to him by the BMJ: maybe bans on vaping in public places are not supported by the evidence – the point not put to him by the BMJ.
Vaping bans are not supported by evidence, but then smoking bans have only ever been supported by junk science and repeated lies. It's just that no-one has questioned it before, so we should be extremely grateful to Gornall for bringing this tactic into the open ... albeit it not being his intention to do so.

And finally, gloriously ...
An especially bumptious (here) Australian academic has coined the term scream test (“the louder tobacco companies scream, the more impact we know a measure will have“) to help him decide which tobacco policies must work because screams from the tobacco industry. I guess that’s easier than actually evaluating policies. 
I think a similar scream test works for the anti-harm-reduction activists and it was passed in spectacular fashion by the claim that e-cigarettes are 95% less risky than smoking – they hated it, and moved to red-alert status. Why? I can only speculate, but I think they believe in their own authority: that everyone should do as they are told, and quit smoking completely or face a miserable life and lingering death – quit or die, submit or succumb. E-cigarettes offer a third alternative that empowers the user, and they really don’t like that.  So the response has been to throw up a blizzard of distracting hype and spin to conceal the awkward truth that technology might be starting to deal with smoking without their involvement and without relying on their traditional tool kit of punitive and controlling measures.

I do believe Jonathan Gornall has done us all a huge favour here, so much so that he could almost be a libertarian plant! By publishing something so incompetent, laughable and close to parody, he has exposed longstanding mendacious tactics of 'public health' professionals; shown up the BMJ to be an untrustworthy peddlar of integrity-free conspiracy theories and baseless smears; highlighted huge conflicts of interest in those the BMJ appear to trust; and turned the childish and ignoramus-convincing "scream test" claim against the very people who dreamed it up.

Do go read Bates's article in full, I think you'll enjoy it.

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Tobacco Control Motto: First, Do Harm

On Wednesday next week - as I mentioned last month - Kings College London is hosting a debate entitled "This house believes that smoking should be banned in psychiatric hospitals". This is the preferred policy of Public Health England but is highly controversial so it is no surprise that tickets to attend have sold out.

Prior to that, leading mental health charity SANE has published a blistering blog post attacking the policy and accusing 'public health', quite rightly in my opinion, of abandoning decency and going against everything the health community stands for. It oozes common sense and incorporates knowledgeable analysis of mental health experiences, so I do urge you to read it in full.
The Madness of Banning Smoking in Psychiatric Units  
In my opinion, and as a former patient with schizophrenia, new public health policy may be in breach of the Hippocratic Oath that used to compel medical professionals to "first, do no harm". 
Forcing patients to quit smoking when they're in the middle of a mental breakdown is intolerably cruel.
Of course it is. It seems that only swivel-eyed tobacco control industry extremists can fail to see that it amounts to nothing less than torture.
It also appears as a form of vengeance from public health quangos since the indoor ban that developed from 2008 has done little to change patient's behaviour once they get better: after discharge, the majority resume their smoking habit.
Good that he realises the ban was nothing about protecting staff from secondhand smoke, because it wasn't. Tobacco controllers know that, and so do we. It's encouraging that this author understands it too, he's a clever cookie. The more who do, the better. 
Sadly public health types are now arguing more must be done to intervene post-discharge. Can patients never determine their own lifestyle choices?
Of course not. Everyone must make choices decided for them by the vilest and most interfering people in society these days, apparently. OK, admittedly this particular policy is more disgusting than most, but it differs from everyday 'public health' ideology only by degree. 

As is customary for the profession, SANE's blogger has identified statistical gerrymandering to produce lies being employed by 'public health'.
The average life expectancy in the UK is 79 for men, 83 for women. For those who smoke 20 or more cigarettes a day, this drops by an average of 10 years. For many long-term smokers, this decrease of 10 years is an acceptable trade-off for them continuing to indulge a habit they relish - so smoking can be a rational choice for them, whether PHE like it or not. But for the SMI group to suffer a 20 year decrease suggests that something else happens - not just the effect of their smoking habit that would only account for a 10 year decrease.
Of course. There is no way that tobacco controllers can claim mental health patients are physiologically different in their make-up than the rest of us, because they're not, they're human beings just like everyone else. 
An important point to stress is that the 20 year average decrease is a 'mean average', i.e. it locates an average point between someone who commits suicide in their 20s with someone with an SMI who lives to 90. It therefore produces a figure that is open to misinterpretation that can be used to scaremonger.
Well yes, that's what 'public health' does, it has very little other purpose in modern times. 
To blame the 20 year drop entirely on smoking, as PHE and NICE do, is therefore wrongheaded. It is also physically dangerous to the extent that smoking bans cause a misery that might increase suicide rates among those with SMI.
So the drive for "denormalisation" of smokers - which the tobacco control industry favours very much as a tool of coercion - might have negative consequences and increase feelings of alienation and guilt, leading to more mental health patients topping themselves? Hmm, what a novel idea. I wonder why no-one in 'public health' thought of it? 
It is worth asking why PHE and NICE are singling out the SMI group for an anti-smoking intervention when the evidence suggests it is no more harmful for that group than it is for any other part of the population.
Perhaps, I dunno, because they are like lab rats to any health nazi who just happens along? 
The invasion of public health policy into what was almost becoming a humane system of psychiatric care has created massive problems on the ward. Due to the role played by PAHs, total smoking cessation can be very dangerous when mixed with starting or increasing a course of anti-psychotics. The journal Current Psychiatry notes that symptoms that accompany this unholy alliance include extreme fatigue, myoclonus, orthostatic hypotension, seizure, sialorrhea, somnolence, tachycardia, and worsening psychiatric symptoms. Smoking cessation may therefore be in breach of the Hippocratic Oath for medical professionals that held 'first, do no harm'.  
In addition, since the indoor smoking ban came in, cases of self-harm have rocketed by 56% in the UK. Meanwhile in the USA, where state-run units in 35 of the 50 states now have some form of outdoor ban, patient-on-patient violence has risen by an average of 22% and up to a whopping 390% in Austin, Texas. Furthermore average durations of stay have increased by nearly 90%. 
Hmm, I'd call that tangible harm, wouldn't you? As opposed to the mythical kind smoking bans pretend to tackle, and the completely non-existent ones that outdoor bans - yes including in psychiatric hospitals - are designed for. 
The natural companion to the sense of freedom is friendship with other people. Thus sharing a smoke with other patients and staff used to be part of one's social activity. It had the massive benefit of breaking down barriers by being a shared experience. As such, it genuinely did aid recovery. It is therefore no surprise to those of us familiar with human nature that self-harm and patient-on-patient violence has risen since the bans: take away the cigarettes, and you inevitably turn people against each other. Tell them this is only a consequence of their diseased brain, and they increasingly hate themselves.
What fine upstanding citizens they are in tobacco control industry, eh? Still, they get paid for this stuff so don't hate themselves at all, and that's all that's important at the end of the day, isn't it?
To conclude, the goal of achieving 'health equality' through bans is clearly delusional. It is an 'end' that cannot be achieved, and it is folly to attempt it. Those with SMIs are clearly being discriminated against - their negative health consequences from smoking are no worse than for any other smokers. PHE cannot yet get away with imposing a total ban on the entire population. But what they have found is that by putting the SMI group on the frontline, they can take society down this road because this community is atomised, captive, and powerless to resist. The deluded behaviour of PHE and NICE is causing immense suffering and must be stopped. Mental health patients ought to be protected by society, not become the targets for the latest public health fad that wouldn't wash if deployed in wider society.
True. Mental health residents are being targeted because they are weak and unable to defend themselves, the very definition of bullying. 'Public health' is inflicting harm on them simply because they can, and for no valid health reason. It is bullying; it is discrimination; and it is pure evil. 

As I've said many times before, it is we who are on the side of the angels, not tobacco control. On Wednesday next week, ASH's Deborah Arnott will be defending the hideous policy in a debate at Kings College London. 

Personally I don't know how she and other rancid tobacco controllers like her sleep at night.