Monday, 25 August 2014

Drafting A Smoking In Cars Consultation Response

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Who's Paying WHO?

As we count down the days until the tobacco kontrol klan's next excuse to waste our money - the Sixth session of the Conference of the Parties to the WHO FCTC (aka COP6) to be held in Moscow later this year - it's been very interesting to look through some of the material which has been placed online in advance.

For the uninitiated, this is a regular event where state-funded anti-smokers from all over the world congregate to think up even more pointless batshit ideas like plain packaging. The last one was in South Korea in 2012, at which topics such as a global tobacco tax and classifying e-cigs as tobacco products were seriously considered.

These two subjects are almost certain to crop up again. In fact, the proposal on e-cigs is a gimme seeing as the WHO has been desperately trying to hide its own documents by sending cease and desist letters to websites which dare to report their plans.

So who pays for this stuff, I hear you ask? Well, you do, mostly. The Framework Convention Alliance (of which ASH is a member, by the way) has produced a budget and workplan in advance of their endorsement of the gay and passenger airline-bashing Russian state.

The document itself charts how the amount spent has more than doubled while funding from VACs - that's supporting governments to you and me - has not. In fact, the sums demanded by the WHO have often been ignored, with 20 countries not having paid a penny. It's good to see from the breakdown that the UK is in arrears by over £300k from a total of around £8m, but if you're from the USA you should thump your chest and sing the star-spangled banner as your government has refused to recognise the FCTC and has therefore paid the princely sum of bugger all. Ever.

This all causes a bit of a problem for the professional anti-smoking community, because dictating to the world - to pay for their cars, holidays and mortgages - comes at a big cost and cannot be restrained by silly concepts like living within their means.

Therefore, they have been forced to raise cash elsewhere, as they describe here.
The FCTC budget has more than doubled over the last seven years, increasing from $8,010,000 for the 2006-2007 biennium to $17,290,000 for 2014-2015
The total amount of Voluntary Assessed Contributions(VACs), however, did not follow this trend. VACs rose by only 12 percent in this period, while the number of Parties increased by over 50 percent. In practical terms, the larger number of Parties led to an expansion of the workplan, for which resources had to be fundraised.
Or, put in a table ...

It does kinda beg the question ... who is paying for that other 47.4% which the WHO euphemistically calls "extrabudgetary funds"? By my reckoning, it amounts to in the region of $8.5 million.

Hmm, I wonder who these phantom donors could be, huh? Sadly, even the FCA don't appear to know.
Detailed information on the fundraising strategy of the Secretariat and its progress is not available.
I'd have thought that such information is pretty darn important when we're talking about a conference which is trying to enforce rules on 176 different jurisdictions without a single vote having been cast in their direction. Because, if you're chipping in that amount of cash, I'd expect you'd demand a certain amount of control over the agenda, wouldn't you? But then, transparency has never been the FCTC's strong point.
Activities related to assistance with FCTC implementation have so far been funded exclusively by extra-budgetary income.
Activities such as proposing global tobacco taxation and classifying e-cigs as tobacco products which would advantage sellers of alternative nicotine delivery systems to tobacco and vaping, do you think they mean?

I suppose we shall have to wait and see, shan't we.

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Punch Drunk

Those business geniuses at Punch Taverns are in confident mood according to the FT.
Punch Taverns says it now has the necessary “momentum behind” its debt restructuring proposal that aims to slash a quarter off the pub group’s £2.3bn debt burden. 
Stephen Billingham, executive chairman of Punch, said: “We have more people on side than we did on June 26. I think the company is optimistic that it is now on the road to completing the restructuring".
If I were an investor in Punch, I'd be running scared right now. You see, they've been "optimistic" before.
Francis Patton, [Punch Taverns] customer services director said: “Too many people are looking at the smoking ban as a threat, but we know this is a huge opportunity. The smoking ban is a great opportunity to get new customers (who want to eat) into pubs and also keep people there who go regularly.”
And didn't that turn out hunky dory, eh? The "great opportunity" led to their business collapsing, and their share price hurtling downwards from £11.50 in July 2007 to such a low that Paddy Power were offering odds-on that they would trade at 1p in 2009.

The FT are well aware of where the blame lies, even if it hasn't registered with Punch yet.
Punch Taverns’ troubles have their roots in structural changes within the pub industry such as the smoking ban and Britons drinking less. Its net debt stood at nearly £5bn at one point.
This is what happens when you get in bed with prohibitionist health advocates, Punch. You're not running health clubs; they're not your friends. D'you see?

Still, at least they have recovered from the paltry 10.81p per share value the last time I wrote about them in 2011. Oops, my mistake, no they haven't, it's 9.5p now.

Hmm, perhaps something to do with 31 pubs per week still closing despite all those hordes of extra customers Punch were expecting in 2007?


Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Save Our Careers! Ban E-Cigs!

Boy, are there some shocking people in Canada's chapter of the tobacco control sect.
Public health officials and regulators who have battled for years against smoking may be inadvertently bolstering the tobacco market with their strong stand against e-cigarettes, some financial analysts say.
It seems that, because of insane self-enriching public health wingnuts, a German bank has advised its investors to sell their granny and pile into buying tobacco stocks. The reason? Because public health's assault on e-cigs can only have one possible outcome.
The three London-based analysts who wrote the review say they are “more bullish on global tobacco than ever,” citing a variety of factors. One is that the threat to conventional cigarettes from e-cigarettes seems to be shrinking, partly because public-health officials are casting doubt on their safety and restricting their use. 
“Our medium-term view is that the regulators have reinforced the position of [conventional] cigarettes for many consumers,” they say.
That's banking speak for "public health has successfully scared people away from e-cigs so smokers will carry on smoking. Buy, buy, BUY tobacco shares!".

Way to go, tobacco control!

Indeed, the German bankers are very wise, because this scenario has already been played out in Spain. After a baseless but much publicised scare story, e-cig sales fell off a cliff and the number of recorded Spanish vapers fell from 800,000 to 200,000 almost overnight.

From #GFN14

Now, what do you think the other 600,000 did with their cash? Stick in the piggy bank or go back to buying tobacco?

Catastrophic news for public health and a lesson to be learned, you'd think, wouldn't you? But the Canadians who want to replicate this effect are unrepentant.
One of those public-health advocates said she makes no apologies for criticizing e-cigarettes, arguing there is zero evidence they are any safer, and that they could ultimately allow tobacco companies to create even more harm. 
“We would like e-cigarettes to be treated as tobacco — we see them as an extension of the same product,” said Dr Meena Dawar, medical health officer with Vancouver Coastal. “[They have] a huge potential to undermine the gains we have made in tobacco control.”
Translation: We didn't invent them and they threaten my salary, so screw health, I have a career to think about.

We will see a lot more of this attitude in coming months. You see, the WHO's latest anti-tobacco shindig is taking place in October and - while the rest of the world is condemning gay-hating, jet-destroying Russia - there was never even the slightest consideration that the global tobacco industry would cancel or relocate. Instead, the attendees will be excitedly lapping up the delights of Moscow and bolstering the Russian economy with our taxes. And when finished with their state-funded jollies, these unelected cronies will demand a policy of elected governments worldwide classifying e-cigs as tobacco products after trying their best to hide it.

Truly, there is little more hideous in this world than the entrenched, blinkered, reactionary, hypocritical, petty, joyless, spiteful, self-centred and borderline criminal tobacco control industry.

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Jail For Smoking Outdoors? ++ Updated ++ And Vaping Too?

There has never been - nor will there ever be - a scientific study which says passive smoking outdoors is dangerous to passers-by. It doesn't stop one town from proposing a criminal record for smoking outdoors though, complete with a possible jail sentence.

Where is this place, you ask? Why, in California, of course.
NEVADA CITY (CBS13) — Nevada City is considering strengthening its smoking ordinance in its historic district to possibly make the offense a misdemeanor in addition to the hefty fine.

Just watching out for those bar workers, didn't they say? It was never about health.

UPDATE: Maybe that's a bit harsh on California. Check out what's happening in Arlington, Washington.
The proposed ordinance is modeled after a regulation in Marysville, though Arlington’s has been expanded to include trails as well as parks, and electronic cigarettes as well as tobacco products. 
People caught smoking or chewing tobacco in a park or on a trail could be fined up to $1,000 or get a maximum of 90 days in jail, according to the proposed ordinance.
Yes. Jail for using an e-cig in a park! These people are insane.