Sunday, 4 October 2015

ASH Can't Bite The Hand That Feeds Over E-Cigs

Last week, Lord (Matt) Ridley wrote an article in The Times which was unanimously welcomed by e-cig users on Twitter and elsewhere. Here are extended highlights of his salient points.
Egged on two years ago, I am sorry to say, by British ministers (incompetent ones, Matt - DP) and some MEPs (including compromised ones, Matt - DP), the EU has agreed a tobacco products directive, which has to be implemented into law by next spring. Its Article 20 concerns the regulation of devices for vaping nicotine. And it hits them much harder than it hits cigarettes. 
For a start, it is bizarre to include vaping devices in a “tobacco products” directive at all. It’s like regulating coffee in a hard-drugs law. Remember the evidence is now overwhelmingly strong — and the British government has recently, but belatedly accepted this — that vaping is a really effective way to quit smoking and that, far from being a gateway into smoking, it is a highway out. By some estimates, approaching three million people now vape in this country, nearly all of whom are smoking less or no tobacco as a result. 
Gobsmackingly, the directive specifically outlaws the very vaping devices that are most useful to heavy smokers trying to quit: the ones with more than 20 milligrams of nicotine per millilitre. Heavy smokers need high-strength nicotine vapour to quit smoking, so the people with the worst health are going to be denied help. And by insisting that refillable devices are leak free, the directive will effectively kill 90 per cent of the devices sold by independent firms and hand the market back to the struggling non-refillable “cig-alike” ones made mostly by the tobacco firms. 
It gets worse. The directive outlaws most vaping advertisements, which will certainly slow vaping’s advance at the expense of smoking — ie, cost lives. It creates a six-month “standstill” period for new vaping products, following notification by the manufacture of an intention to sell a product. This will slow innovation and is asking for a black market to thrive: Chinese websites will be selling new devices into Europe while regulated manufacturers here twiddle their thumbs for 26 weeks. 
But all of this pales into insignificance beside the truly shocking idiocy in the directive, which is this. From next spring a manufacturer of a vaping device will have to submit far more information about its emissions than a tobacco company will have to submit about emissions from smoking devices. 
Under the new directive, e-cig makers are going to have to measure and list “all ingredients contained in, and emissions resulting from the use of, the product, by brand name and type” — including toxicological data — even though these emissions are far lower and far less toxic than tobacco smoke. Remember, the best evidence suggests that vaping is 20-100 times safer than smoking. But here we have regulation falling far more heavily on the safer product 
The result will be a slowdown in the take-up of vaping and therefore more premature deaths from smoking
Now, the Tobacco Products Directive (TPD) is a dire piece of legislation in its entirety, but Article 20 is quite simply a staggering disgrace.

The TPD was drawn up by an alleged crook who was fired by the EU and its Article 20 was written in some Brussels back room to purposely avoid democratic process and without consultation, evidence base or an impact assessment [PDF]. The disastrous problems Article 20 will inflict on e-cigs and vaping are fundamental and will utterly destroy their effectiveness at luring smokers away from tobacco (Clive Bates explains why in full here).

So you'd think, wouldn't you, that ASH - you know, the vaper's new friend - would be a trifle worried about such an undemocratic, corrupt and damaging set of regulations which can only harm 'public health'. Well, no, they absolutely love it!

Here is ASH's Hazel Cheeseman writing a haughty letter to The Times in response to Ridley's wisdom.
Sir, Matt Ridley misses the point on proposed European regulation of electronic cigarettes. Under the new tobacco products directive, electronic cigarettes and their contents will be regulated to ensure they are safer and more effective.
By safer, I can only assume because fewer people will use them and by effective, I presume she simply doesn't understand how they work.
The evidence is now overwhelming that vaping is safer than smoking and offers a good chance for many smokers to quit. 
Well yes, Cheeseyperson, they certainly used to, but that was when levels of nicotine over 20mg were allowed to wean smokers off of tobacco. It won't be the case after the TPD has been implemented because 20mg is simply not enough to hook smokers unless they are incredibly committed to quit. It's almost like ASH still want there to be a rump of hardcore tobacco users to justify their jobs, isn't it?
The EU has therefore rightly rejected the approach of other parts of the world where electronic cigarettes have been banned altogether. Instead, EU regulations will provide a safe framework through which electronic cigarettes can be sold, giving their users confidence in these products. This is likely to save many thousands of lives.
Sorry, Hazel, but that's bollocks. Your support for Article 20 will - let's slip into your vernacular for a minute here - cost many thousands of lives. Because, y'see, every smoker who can't get the buzz of e-cigs containing under 20mg of nicotine will continue to smoke and the cost differential will be dramatically degraded by the onerous regulations being placed on e-cig manufacturers and vendors. I know ASH are fucking shit at economics but even they should be able to work out this simple piece of maths. 

For every penny added to the cost of an e-cig starter kit, a smoker will be dissuaded from switching away from tobacco. 
Smokers will benefit from having electronic cigarettes on sale that meet reasonable consumer standards.
Article 20 is not reasonable and does not set consumer standards which are in any way fit for purpose. The only effect of Article 20 will be to put smokers off of e-cigs, the only debatable stat is about exactly how many will be deterred. Will it be hundreds of thousands or only tens of thousands? 

So how does this square with ASH and their exalted new position as the vaper's friend? Well it doesn't, obviously. Just the fact that Cheeseman felt motivated to attack one of Westminster's most vociferous supporters of vaping is very telling.

You see, ASH are a central element of the Framework Convention Alliance (FCA) - a lobby group allied to the World Health Organisation - which hates e-cigs. They are also beneficiaries of a hefty grant each year from the UK government whose official position is that e-cigs are a bit icky

You simply don't rock the boat if your occupation relies on pallying up to pharma-enthralled WHO and a government which hands you free taxpayer cash. 'Public health' be damned.

ASH is the vaper's friend, but only when it doesn't involve biting the hand that feeds them. Yet another reason why they should be cut off without a penny, it would help focus their minds on what works for harm reduction instead of acting on what benefits their salary bill. 

Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Vacation Vaper-Spotting With Simple Simon

Still fighting a war in the jungle while most of his tobacco colleagues have made peace or have come round to compromise, die-hard member of the dwindling e-cig denialist club, Simon Chapman, has been regaling us with tales from his recent holiday.
My wife and I spent many hours every day walking around Paris (six days), Lyon (two), the Corsican towns of Bonifacio, Ajaccio and Calvi (eight days), Nice (one), Barcelona (two) and Madrid (four). We agreed to compete in spotting the highest number of people vaping, with the incentive for the daily winner being to pick where we’d eat that night. We also looked out for shops selling e-cigarettes. All sightings had to be called as they occurred, not just a winning number announced at the end of the day.
Sounds thrilling! Like an obsessed angler devising a 'fun' game for his partner on holiday to see who can catch the most carp so he can keep his hand in.
Over the 23 days, we saw just 20 people vaping: 15 in Paris, one in Lyon, one in Calvi, one in Barcelona and two in Madrid. By contrast, we saw many people smoking almost everywhere we looked at any time of day. Far too many to count. At a guess, the ratio would have been at very least many hundreds of smokers to one vaper.
Which was extrapolated to produce the headline "‘You’ll see vapers everywhere in Europe’. Well, … no". Quite a surprise from someone who has often ridiculed the use of "anecdotes".

Selection bias? You mean like a self-selected sample of two, one of whom is ideologically opposed to e-cigs on spurious grounds? Interesting.

 He goes on ...
This exercise was of course not in any way scientific.
Of course not, so by Chapman's definition of anecdote it should be widely ignored. If testimonies of thousands of vapers are worthless, the unscientific meanderings of a dedicated vaper-hater are about as useful to the debate as those of the local drunk at 11:30pm in the kebab shop.

Strange, then, that Chappers doesn't aply the same rigour to his own anecdotes.
But there was simply no avoiding the broad conclusion. Public vaping appeared to be very, very marginal compared to smoking in France and Spain.
The many thousands of accounts from vapers who have quit smoking apparently don't lead to any broad conclusion that they work, but one old guy and his wife tottering around tourist areas on a jolly for a couple of weeks does. Tobacco controllers do love to shift goalposts don't they?

Besides, there may be a reason for there being less enthusiasm for vaping recently in France ...
E-cigarettes will be banned in locations where young people gather -- schools, for example -- as well as on public transport and in enclosed workspaces. 
In addition, advertising of the popular e-cigarettes will be restricted, then banned completely from May 2016 except at the point of sale and in trade publications.
And also in Spain.
Australian e-cigarette opponent Simon Chapman has been crowing about the collapse of vaping in Spain. This collapse has certainly been dramatic; following a series of scare stories in the media, including some blatantly dishonest claims about lipoid pneumonia – more about that later – around 80% of Spanish vapers have gone back to smoking and half the country’s e-cigarette vendors have closed down as demand evaporates. Chapman seems to see this as some sort of victory for public health, or perhaps just as a victory for people who like bossing other people around, but in fact it’s a major health disaster. 
What started the scare in Spain was the case of a 50-year-old man who started experiencing coughing, fatigue and shortness of breath. A hospital diagnosed exogenous lipoid pneumonia, a lung disease caused by inhalation of vaporised lipids – basically, fats and oils. Some investigation turned up the fact that the patient was a regular vaper and the hospital decided that the disease had been caused by vegetable glycerine in his e-liquid. The story was given to the media, newspapers and TV news ran with it and the result was a huge panic about this deadly new vaping-related epidemic. There was only one small problem with the story. 
Vegetable glycerine isn’t a lipid. 
In fact the hospital have blamed this unfortunate man’s illness on something that simply can’t be responsible. Vegetable glycerine is an alcohol, not a fat or oil. It can’t cause lipoid pneumonia because – this is worth repeating – it’s not a lipid. The same applies to the other main component in e-liquid, propylene glycol; that’s also an alcohol, and not a lipid. Nicotine? It’s an alkaloid, not a lipid. Unless electronic cigarettes are powerful enough to violate the laws of nature they didn’t cause this man’s illness; they are simply not capable of doing so. 
It’s hard to work out why the hospital decided to make this extraordinary diagnosis, but sadly the damage has been done now. Around 600,000 vapers in Spain have been frightened into going back to smoking lit tobacco.
Our Saga holiday tourist Chapman ignores this entirely, natch.

He then compares the state of play in two poor examples of European e-cig policy with his beloved Australia.
We have no good data on the population prevalence of serious, daily vapers in Australia. If there are many out there, they seem to be quite a private lot, if our observations are indicative.
And this would be because (emphases mine)?
Vaping has many DIY, hobby-like features like modifying the apparatus, mixing e-juice blends and in Australia, where sale of nicotine-containing juice is illegal, importing such supplies.
"Where sale of nicotine-containing juice is illegal". And the truth will set you free, dear boy.

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to work out that if you communicate e-cigs as a danger by threatening bans and advertising restrictions; wrongly announce to a nation that they will die of a nasty lung disease; and prohibit the vital ingredient which tempts smokers away from tobacco, you're not going to witness a wildly enthusiastic take-up of vaping and will undoubtedly inhibit public use of them. Sadly, this is still too complicated a concept for crimple-faced Aussie sociologists.

Still, I'm sure Chapman derived great pleasure from this.
"[W]e saw many people smoking almost everywhere we looked at any time of day. Far too many to count."
Because wherever there are smokers, highly-paid tobacco controllers are always going to be in demand, eh? So sleep well tobacco control industry, Mr Chapman has your back, as do his equally insane, rent-seeking, scare-spreading fellow lunatics in France and Spain.

Next week, Simon's Conversation article will feature holiday slides of him pointing at vapers and sneering. Can't wait.

Sunday, 27 September 2015

Silly Sally And The Lancet

Regular readers will remember previous articles here about Chief Medical Officer Sally Davies and why she is not fit for purpose. Well, I'm starting to think she merits her own dedicated sidebar tag here after reading an astonishing quote on Friday.

Via the Telegraph:
“As chief medical officer, it is my duty to raise concerns about possible misreporting of health issues that might cause public alarm.”
Funny she should say that because, if you've kept up with Sally's burblings about e-cigs, you may remember her making claims like this earlier in the year.
“We don't yet know about vaping. I mean clearly they put in flavourings, we don’t know the impact of those. Butterscotch has had to be withdrawn because people got chronic lung disease.”
It was an entirely false claim which was reported on the BBC, and arguably might have caused "public alarm". Implying that e-cigs are all dangerous because of one insignificant and incorrect piece of information about one of thousands of flavours is the epitome of "misreporting of health issues that might cause public alarm". So by Sally's own description of her job, she should have been reporting herself for misconduct, surely? 

As if that wasn't astounding enough in itself - along with the over 3,000 references to e-cigs in recent correspondence between vaper-hating dangle-belly Martin McKee and silly Sally - this is even curiouser (emphases mine)
A senior government adviser attempted to undermine a controversial study suggesting that Alzheimer’s is a transmissible disease before it was published in the journal Nature. 
Dame Sally Davies, the chief medical officer at the Department of Health, approached the editor of a rival scientific journal, The Lancet, to discredit the study in the eyes of the public, The Independent understands. 
Dame Sally told Richard Horton, the editor of The Lancet, that the study on Alzheimer’s was likely to result in a public scare and asked him for advice on how to handle the media reaction before it came out in Nature. 
In an unsigned editorial in The Lancet this week, Dr Horton writes that an unnamed government source informed him on the study’s impending publication and urged him to consider what he might do to reduce further the risk of a scare. 
Although The Lancet’s source is not identified, The Independent understands that it was Dame Sally, who knows Dr Horton personally and has shared several conference platforms with The Lancet’s outspoken editor.
Apropos of nothing, obviously, but we know of another recent piece of research which was subject to an "unsigned editorial in The Lancet" and which "attempted to undermine" and "discredit the study in the eyes of the public", now don't we? 

And I'm only guessing here, but I think Sally would have been consulted by Public Health England every step of the way to their publishing their favourable report about e-cigs which - as she has stated publicly - she has a pathological dislike for. 

I'm sure this is a complete concidence and that the same behind-the-scenes collaboration between Sally and unsigned Lancet editorial writer Horton - co-chair of an event with McKee last year where it was stated bluntly that e-cigs don't work - hasn't occurred in this case.

So I'm heartened that a fellow jewel robber has notified me by email this weekend that they have submitted an FOI to make absolutely sure. I sometimes well up in admiration for readers here wanting to contribute to the sum of human knowledge and clear up innuendo like this. Bravo! 

Thursday, 24 September 2015

150,000 Vile Curtain-Twitching Prodnoses

I hear great news about the latest campaign by odious, preening, self-publicising lardarse Jamie Oliver.
Food and drink manufacturers have praised the government for ruling out Jamie Oliver's proposed sugar tax, claiming the idea was “misplaced”.
Good, it's a daft idea.

By "misplaced" manufacturers mean it will have no effect whatsoever, which should be obvious to all but the most moronic in society, and it seems there are quite a lot of them.
Nearly 150,000 people have signed the celebrity chef's petition which calls for a tax on sugary drinks in a bid to fight childhood obesity.
I'd explain why signatories to that petition should be held in contempt but I don't have to, because Grandad already did a good job of it earlier this month.
So here we have a bunch of mindless morons actually calling on their government to tax them more, just because an idiot with an agenda told them to?  Did someone mention turkeys and Christmas? 
It's not often we get a chance to see into the mind of the brain dead, but here they were in force, with their outpourings of shock and horror.  An odious little arse-dribble tells 'em they must do something and they do it in their droves, without question. 
The Cockney Cunt has a petition on-line to implore the government to apply more tax.  It is a very efficient sheeple counter. 
At the time of writing, there are 98,672 bleating away happily and the number is rising. 
And they wonder why the world is up shit creek?
Quite. Sleb worship meets the great unthinking, with predictable fuckwittery.

I'd disagree only on one minor point, you see these hideous people are not calling on the government to tax them more ... but to tax others more. So perfect do they consider themselves to be that they suffer an irresistible urge to impose their narcissistic worldview on other people by way of force. Vile little bullies, each and every one.

Long time readers may remember the same revolting character flaw being exhibited by Sonia Poulton on Radio 5 Live in 2012, on which I wrote at the time.
[W]hile Poulton was waxing hysterical about how we needed controls for "our children", Gabb challenged her. Exactly as he should. "Our children?", he said, "you look after your children, I'll look after mine". The result was as predictable as it was shrill. 
From then on, Poulton issued insults; demanded people who held that view "be quiet"; refused to debate; and became madder the more it was insisted that others might not share her opinion. She embarrassed herself by asserting that she knew - knew no less - that Gabb wasn't a parent simply because he believed other people's kids were not hers to control, and when the host revealed that Gabb was indeed a parent, simply called him names and became even more insulting. 
This, sadly - in fact, soul-destroyingly - is modern Britain. A place packed full of arrogant people who feel it perfectly acceptable to interfere in every aspect of the lives of others. If you disagree, or resist, they will shout and scream; make a call to their own delusional authority; and denounce you as a heretic or anti-social abuser. 
We used to have a few of these prodnoses dotted around, but they're everywhere now. Self-aggrandising, aloof, condescending of others, and entirely dismissive of choices different from their own.
It takes a special kind of rancid finger-wagging cocknostril to insist that government punish other families for making different choices than the ones Jamie's gullible simpletons think they should.

I'd say their type are as beneficial to society as thrush and I despise them with the power of a thousand suns. So congratulations to the UK government for effectively inviting them to stick their head even further up Jamie's ample arse so we don't have to listen to their snobby, ignorant, spiteful shit anymore.

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

The UK Government Will Not Stand Up To Brussels

Back in February, this blog urged you to sign up in support of Totally Wicked's legal challenge to the EU Tobacco Products Directive concerning e-cigs. You might be interested to learn that since then over 60,000 have done exactly that.

The court hearing is scheduled for October 1st so if you haven't already done so, please go here and register your objection to what Clive Bates quite rightly calls "this dire piece of legislation". Personally, I'd call it the predictable pile of toxic and destructive horseshit which always results when you get politicians and regulators gathered together in a room, but that's just semantics.

We should wish Totally Wicked the best of luck for October because it's clear that the UK government - despite David Cameron's empty claims of being willing to stand up to Brussels when regulations are wrong for Britain - will just sit idly back and let the directive pass through unopposed.

Further proof came yesterday in the Lords, where it was made perfectly clear that Westminster couldn't give a fig about the wide availability of a variety of e-cigs being compromised by stupid, inappropriate and damaging EU regulations (emphases mine).
Lord Blencathra, Conservative 
To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they plan to promote the use of e-cigarettes as a replacement for smoking tobacco. 
Lord Prior of Brampton, Conservative 
Electronic cigarettes have the potential to help smokers quit smoking, and the evidence indicates that, for smokers, they are less harmful to health than cigarettes. However, they are not risk free, and therefore they should only be used as a means to help smokers quit. The best thing a smoker can do is to quit completely. 
For those that cannot stop using nicotine completely, or need help not to relapse, National Institute for Health and Care Excellence guidance already promotes the use of harm reduction strategies using a range of nicotine replacement therapies.
You see, it's not enough for Westminster that vapers have quit tobacco, they must quit nicotine too or else they are still 'unclean'. Recreational use of a product, which has so far not cost the taxpayer a penny and presents wholly insignificant health risks, simply cannot be tolerated. Antique and reactionary though it is, "quit or die" is still the prevailing mantra amongst those who govern the country.

It matters not that there have been encouraging noises from government advisers about e-cigs, the fact remains that the UK government is totally unmoved and will happily rubber-stamp the terms of the Tobacco Products Directive in a heartbeat. Anyone hoping that common sense might win the day and Article 20 will be rejected is living in cloud cuckoo land.

Personally, I don't believe the state (or its state-funded minions) should have anything to do with e-cigs whatsoever until politicians recognise recreational use as central to the success of vaping and instructs its departments and agencies accordingly. Lord Prior's response above shows that we are a very long way away from that, and that it will probably never happen. His astounding arrogance in poking his unwanted snobby nose into an industry which is providing hugely popular products with massive potential public benefit - and forcing the government's outdated and uneducated agenda onto it - is quite sickening, to be frank.

So please do go and support the TW challenge by signing up here. Do also go read Clive Bates's article about what else you can do to put pressure on a UK government which - I guarantee you - will not lift a finger while preposterous Brussels-based regulations are installed all over Europe.

If such ridiculous directive terms are allowed to reach our statute book unhindered, it doesn't bode well for any of the other 'renegotiations' David Cameron says he has planned with the EU, does it?

Can we leave yet?