Thursday, 26 March 2015

You WILL Drink In The Pub, Godammit!

The Irish licensed trade has come up with an ingenious business plan ... it's cosying up to government drink-haters to welcome consumers back to the pub by force.
In a move clearly targeted at the big supermarket chains, where cans of lager are routinely offered for below €1 each in bulk deals, the group called for a floor price of €1 “or more” to be introduced on every 10 grams of alcohol in a product. 
That would put the minimum retail price of a 500ml can of beer with a 5% alcohol concentration at €2.
So, Ireland already boasts (if that's the word) the most expensive alcohol in the EU apart from Finland, but these guys want to see the Irish public screwed even harder to nobble their competition?
LVA chief executive Donal O’Keeffe said the price had to be set high enough to have a “significant impact on consumption patterns”.
In other words, to stop people buying their booze from the supermarket where his members can't get their mitts on it.

You've got to feel sorry for yer average Irishman. Having only recently been rid of a law which put control of what they paid for their groceries firmly in the hands of those who supply it - resulting in no meaningful competition and higher prices for consumers - now their pub trade blames the repeal for why they are seeing fewer and fewer customers and so advocates a return to resale price maintenance. Or, as it should rightfully be described, a rip off cartel which is so damaging for household budgets that it is illegal in many jurisdictions.

Still, why should O'Keeffe and his members care, eh?

I've got news for you, guys. The reason people aren't using pubs so much any more is that you have an unnecessarily draconian smoking ban and much stiffened drink driving laws in the past decade. Barriers to enjoyment presented by those government initiatives do not exist when the beer is bought in a supermarket and consumed at home with a nice takeaway. The price differential is just an added bonus. Even if prices were raised to €2 per pint it's far cheaper than the €5 a boozer charges and still - this is the significant bit, lads - without the pettifogging rules.

You see, it is big government which has got you into this mess, so the answer really isn't more big government. Meanwhile, the Irish LVA's vapid support of the unsatisfiable temperance lobby proposal places them firmly into the category of useful idiots, which won't make a jot of difference when prohibitionists move onto demanding breathalysers for pub customers, the banning of buying of rounds and of happy hours, and - yes - minimum pricing for pub drinks too.

I shall, once again, quote the inestimable Crampton.
It's like a bunch of folks on the scaffolds complaining that the other guy's noose isn't quite tight enough. Y'all might instead direct your attention to the hangman sometime and try helping each other cut those ropes.

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Who Is Misinforming Jane Ellison About E-Cigs?

Today, anti-smoking group Fresh North East issued a press release which expressed worries about how e-cigs are being portrayed.
In 1976 Prof Michael Russell wrote that 'smokers smoke for the nicotine but die from the tar. When we urge people to stop smoking, we explicitly mean to quit smoking tobacco. 
It is a worry that concern among smokers over the perceived dangers of electronic cigarettes and vapourisers appears to be rising compared to the much more harmful product which is tobacco.  A significant number of people hold incorrect beliefs about the harm from electronic cigarettes and nicotine - believing that part or most of the health risks from smoking are from nicotine.
Unusually for a tobacco control industry press release, this is actually true. Nicotine has been described by the RCP as a "very safe drug", by NICE as "relatively harmless", and Waldum et al concluded that "our study does not indicate any harmful effect of nicotine when given in its pure form by inhalation". So who is spreading all this alarm about nicotine?

Well, for one, step forward Jane Ellison MP (someone so in thrall to the WHO that she believes their COP6 where press and public were banned was 'transparent') speaking in Westminster Committee Room 11 on Monday.

This was in response to a question from Cheltenham MP Martin Horwood about why there was no mention of direct harm from e-cigs when passing laws against their sale. Interestingly, Horwood's wife works for Public Health England which might have prompted the curiosity.

In case the embed doesn't work, Ellison stated in reply - along with a contemptuous chuckle - that "addiction to nicotine, we would consider harmful", thereby ignoring the RCP, NICE and principled researchers, whilst also illustrating the damaging ignorance Fresh North East felt necessary to address in their press release.

Now, considering nicotine is on a par with caffeine when it comes to dependence and harm, I hope Ellison didn't drink any coffee on the day she uttered that nonsense. But more importantly, who on earth is advising her if she is so badly informed?

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Mascot Watch #31: ASH In The Trough Edition

There have been many stories in the press about MPs getting their noses in the trough, but this is one about a Lib Dem MP using his influence to get someone else's nose into a very lucrative trough indeed.

Paul Burstow is a particularly oleaginous, one-track minded anti-smoker who is Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Smoking and Health. This group is secretaried by ASH and acts as the political arm of their lobbying operation.

With this in mind, here is what Burstow presented to Westminster yesterday on the subject of George Osborne's proposed annual levy on tobacco companies (which he stole from Labour).
The potential benefits to public health can be fully realised only if the levy is used to fund tobacco control action, which is designed to increase the rate of quitting tobacco use over and above what might otherwise be expected as a result of price rises. 
If the programme of research proposed in this Bill were carried out, it would show that the recurring cost of tobacco control activity at every level - local, regional and national - could be met from the proceeds of the levy.
Or, to put it another way, the government should steal money from legal businesses and hand it to Burstow's pals at ASH and other already state-funded fake charities and lobbying quangos. You know, just in case anyone were to make a case that we shouldn't be paying for their huge salaries when the country is struggling with a deficit.

Now, we know all about government lobbying government - whereby tax receipts are transferred to the likes of ASH etc who then use it to influence MPs - but have you ever heard of an MP using his position to lobby government himself for state receipts to be handed over wholesale to single issue trouser stuffers?

Of course, lobbying by organisations which receive public money is not permitted, so it's staggering that Burstow should be using his influence - also paid for by us - to beg for more cash on ASH's behalf. Because that's exactly what is going on here, as our esteemed mascot pointed out in reply.
I see that the right hon. Gentleman is putting himself up as the spokesman for ASH, as it is its campaign that he is advocating
Yes. ASH are lobbying advocating for this policy which could benefit their bottom line, and Burstow is simply their pimp parliamentary mouthpiece. In fact, when the levy was first announced in Osborne's Autumn Statement, Deborah Arnott described it as “like Christmas come early” - Burstow is just trying to make sure that the proposed ill-gotten gifts go to his tobacco control industry friends instead of the treasury and country as a whole.

However, our Phil was in great form, and came out with one of his most contemptuous responses to ideological anti-smoking nonsense yet. Read and enjoy.
I particularly wanted to oppose the Bill because the right hon. Gentleman has done us all a great service. He has let the cat out of the bag. Of course, the Government have already accepted ASH’s campaigning on banning smoking in cars where there are children, which is completely unenforceable. They have also accepted the plain packaging of tobacco, which is completely idiotic. Of course, the Government accepted those policies because ASH told them that if they did so the amount of smoking in the country would plummet. We were told that if we introduced plain packaging it would be absolutely fantastic because all of a sudden cigarettes would not appeal to young people and children and that would close the gateway into tobacco use. The whole policy was based on that premise. 
That policy has not even been implemented and already the right hon. Gentleman is saying, “Actually, that was all a load of tripe. It won’t make any difference whatsoever. What we need now is a levy on the tobacco industry so that we can do some research to find out why young people smoke and then try to stop them smoking.” Well, what on earth was the plain packaging campaign about, if not that? I am grateful to him for letting the cat out of the bag by telling us that the whole premise behind plain packaging was a complete load of old codswallop. Unfortunately, the Government idiotically accepted that codswallop in a mindless fashion without even thinking it through, because they, too, are in the pocket of ASH and, rather than making up their own policies based on evidence, just want gleefully to accept anything ASH tells them. 
The point is that this is just the latest campaign from ASH. Every time it advocates the introduction of another measure, it tells us that that is what the Government need to do to tackle tobacco, but as soon as it is implemented we are told that actually it was a load of old cobblers and now we need something else. It is like those companies that tell us their washing powder is absolutely magnificent, only to bring out a new one a couple of years later and tell us that the previous one was actually terrible and that really we need to buy the new one. ASH cannot now hand over the keys to the company car; it has to keep going and justifying its role. It will keep coming up with new, innovative solutions to try to keep its jobs, which no doubt the Government will accept, because they do not have a mind of their own and just have to do what ASH tells them to do.
Yep, that just about sums it up. Respect.

Monday, 23 March 2015

News From The Slope

No, the title isn't a Clarkson reference. I just thought you'd be interested in some of the crackpots that tobacco control industry policies have unleashed recently. Please remember, though, that there is no such thing as a slippery slope.

A wibbling loon writes:
We are now faced with concerning population lifestyle trends where countries such as the U.S. see half the population consuming sugar beverages on any given day ... 
I don't know about you, but I struggle to see how 50% of people drinking one nice-tasting drink - ranging from Coca-Cola through to orange juice - on any given day is a problem. People like nice tasting things, and one drink a day is hardly Armageddon, now is it? I presume the point is to infer that half of the population are guzzling the things from dawn till dusk ... and it's all the fault of those evil capitalists!
... and where sugary drinks become the greatest calorie source in a teenager’s diet.
You may have taken that to mean a majority of their intake, but the sound bite is - as you might expect - just the usual prodnose mangling of statistics and playing with words. A clue to its origin appears in this hysterical panic piece from Harvard (that's the Harvard who want to wage a "cola war" by way of taxation and to have fast food classified as a pollutant), but even they can only inflate the figure to 11% of a child's diet.
Children and youth in the US averaged 224 calories per day from sugary beverages in 1999 to 2004—nearly 11% of their daily calorie intake. 
On any given day, half the people in the U.S. consume sugary drinks; 1 in 4 get at least 200 calories from such drinks; and 5% get at least 567 calories - equivalent to four cans of soda. (17) Sugary drinks (soda, energy, sports drinks) are the top calorie source in teens’ diets (226 calories per day), beating out pizza (213 calories per day).
Do you see the trick? If you throw all sweet-tasting drinks into one pot and divide up all other sources into cakes, potatoes, other vegetables, burgers, chicken, nachos, popcorn, hot dogs, and, oh yes, pizza, you can claim all those lumped together drinks to be the biggest. Clever, huh?

Of course, another way to put it is to say kids get 89% of their calories from food and 11% from drinks (in reality, it's nearer 6%), a perfectly reasonable ratio for any human - who consumes just two staples, food and drink - I'd venture to suggest.

Our frenzied drinks-hater continues ...
However how can we blame our children and young adults for these trends when they live in a world where soft drinks are widely visible from the supermarkets to school places to social media?
Perhaps he'd like a ban on advertising and to have the products hidden behind shutters ... like tobacco. Just a guess.
Furthermore if we consider the growing evidence suggesting that sugar consumption mimics the addictive properties of drugs such as cocaine ...
By "growing evidence" I think he means one pathetic piece of junk science by a bunch of bullshitters.
... it only further highlights the similarity and severity of the public and global health challenge we have faced with tobacco in the last century.
Yep, nice tasting drinks are just as dangerous as tobacco so the same measures must be put in place ASAP. For the children, natch.

Meanwhile, in Australia ...
Should fast food outlets be forced to put tobacco-style health warnings on their packaging?
That's one controversial and extreme measure being proposed by an Australian healthy food advocate, as he ramps up his campaign to change the way fast food outlets advertise to children. 
Mr Schultz posted an image of a Big Mac box labelled with the words 'BIG MACS MAKE BIG CHILDREN' and a picture of two overweight kids to his Game Changer Facebook page in an attempt to fire up debate.
'Just like a cigarette packet demonstrates the causes of cigarette smoking and its damages, this image demonstrates what the fast food product can do to the human body,' he said. 
Mr Schultz said plain packaging was an eventual goal, but as a first step he wants to see detailed ingredients lists included on fast food packaging and information about where the food has come from and if it has been treated with chemicals or growth hormones. 
'Later on [plain packing] can come. Ingredients have to be explained as a first step,' he said.
Which, presumably, will be followed by lots of next logical steps until everything is sold in shops resembling Argos but without the display cabinets.

Except that Deborah Arnott has already told us that ...
"the “domino theory” i.e. that once a measure has been applied to tobacco it will be applied to other products is patently false" 
And plain packaging cheerleader Simon Chapman contemptuously dismissed the idea that tobacco control policies can transfer to other products when he said ...
"Look, if the slope is slippery, it's the most unslippery slippery dip I've ever seen in my life."
So perhaps we won't be seeing packaging like this in the future, after all, eh?

Image courtesy of Simon Chapman from a slideshow he presented about the potential for plain packaging which used to be here but now isn't

Friday, 20 March 2015

Surely Some Mistake

Yes, we've had a good laugh about this many times before, but once more won't hurt.

Who said this in response to criticism of plain packaging proposals by the ASI?
[T]he “domino theory” i.e. that once a measure has been applied to tobacco it will be applied to other products is patently false.
Why it was ASH's Deborah Arnott, of course, who is also board member of the Framework Convention Alliance which guides implementation of the WHO's FCTC.

Well, via Snowdon, here is what a patent falsehood looks like, in a document prefaced by Margaret Chan of the WHO.

It goes on to say ...
Existence of a global health treaty (WHO FCTC) as well as effective national and sub-national legislation make tobacco control a model for addressing other pressing NCD-related issues that require better regulations, including harmful use of alcohol and unhealthy diet.
Fancy that!

I'm sure a retraction and apology for deliberately misleading the public will be forthcoming from Debs very soon. After all, it's only the tobacco industry who talk bollocks and make stuff up, isn't it?

Thursday, 19 March 2015

Training Journalists To Condemn E-Cigs

Apart from a laughable story on Friday about their plan to eradicate legal and illegal tobacco sales by 2040, the latest tobacco control expenses-funded beano in Abu Dhabi (WCTOH) isn't producing much of any significance.

Except, of course, yet more examples of the almost frenzied neuroticism of the anti-smoking movement in general. Transparency was again a secondary concern as vapers who attempted to follow the junket's Twitter feed found when they were promptly blocked.

However, unlike COP6 last year where the press were banned in case they reported negatively, a group of lucky scribes were enthusiastically welcomed to WCTOH ... for training in what they should be writing about!
Eighteen distinguished journalists from 13 countries received fellowships to attend the National Press Foundation’s first training focused on global tobacco control. Held this week at the 16th World Conference on Tobacco or Health in Abu Dhabi, the programme offers 2-1/2 days of intensive sessions prepping the journalists to attend the 5-day conference -- and cover the issue in their home countries.
So was this training impartial and evidence-based? I'll give you one guess.
Topics to be covered range from the impact of the first 10 years of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control; emerging threats, such as the growing popularity of e-cigarettes and sheesha; the ongoing challenge of tobacco industry interference in public health policy; and the conference theme – tobacco and non-communicable diseases (NCDs). 
I was interested in how these lunatics (well, those that managed to get there, anyway) could possibly present e-cigs as a 'threat' when talking to journalists who - I presume - are fairly intelligent. The answer is that they tasked people like Dr. Dean Schraufnagel, professor of medicine and pathology at the University of Illinois, to make the presentations.

He is quoted as believing “there’s a lot of evidence [e-cigs] could be harmful", and is adamant that they should be banned, so exactly the kind of fruitcake the WCTOH organisers feel is qualified to brief journalists. Here is a clip from his Q&A where he tells assembled hacks that e-cigs are bad because, well, tobacco industry. Oh yeah, and that if you use e-cigs, you'll be hooked on cocaine before you can say "junk science".

I also enjoyed how the long-practiced mantra of "people smoke for nicotine but they die from the tar” advocated in the 1970s by Michael Russell - and the basis for pharma products being fanatically promoted by tobacco controllers worldwide ever since - has been replaced with the message that "nicotine itself is responsible for many of these diseases" now e-cigs have turned up.

It's pretty clear that there is more chance of a leopard opting for stripes over spots than there is the tobacco control movement embracing openness, objective impartiality and evidence-based integrity. Now that's a story that should be reported, perhaps one day there'll be a journalist brave enough to run it.

H/T @DikDeklan