Tuesday, 14 August 2018

The #COP8 Stitch-Up Is Afoot

Here we go. Strap yourselves in for the latest biennial anti-truth tobacco conference otherwise known as the FCTC's 'Conference of the Parties' (COP).

You can read about the previous two such as Moscow 2014 where the FCTC's Margaret Chan had tea with Putin instead of tackling Ebola, while thugs manhandled journalists out of the event at the COP6 tag here. You can also read articles on the 2016 shebang in New Delhi where - coincidentally - journalists were also manhandled out of the event, while Indian farmers were hounded away from the venue for the sin of holding a peaceful protest which may have upset the sensibilities of COP delegates intent on the serious of business of banning e-cigs, during a lethal smog cloud hanging over the city at the COP7 tag here.

Regular readers will know that I attended the event in India and I have flights booked for Geneva where COP8 will take place in October, so I was interested to see that the FCTC finally released their guidance - late - to the parties (member nations) on how to handle e-cigs.

You can read it here and, at first, it seems pretty unremarkable. However, it features a major dog whistle by describing the results of a survey conducted on the regulatory policies of countries that have ratified the FCTC and agreed to abide by its recommendations. Instead of listing the policies of all parties, it merely points out the ones which have banned e-cigs, subtlely signalling what the FCTC's particular preference is. On the plus side, it does highlight how low Australia has sunk to be classified in the same category as some of the worst abusers of human rights in the world.

The Aussie government must be so proud.

Further down the document, though, we come to the truly sinister part, as I also tweeted this week.

It's not just the sickening nepotism of a UN body asking for "independent" advice from another UN body, but also that the IARC's reputation as a serious purveyor of balanced research is widely questioned, as described by risk expert Geoffrey Kabat in June (do go read the whole article here).
[W]hen IARC’s assessments have been criticized by researchers on substantive grounds, rather than addressing the issues in question, the Agency has typically responded by dismissing the criticisms by 1) pointing to alleged conflicts-of-interest of its critics and 2) making sweeping assertions regarding the transparency and scientific rigor of its evaluation process and the monographs themselves. In other words, the Agency has shown no willingness to examine, and possibly learn from, the identification of serious errors and improprieties in IARC’s evaluations pointed out by respected scientists.
So it appears that the UN's IARC is equally as resistant to external scrutiny from those who disagree with its pre-conceived plans as its sister organisation, the FCTC. A good fit, don't you think?

The FCTC seems to want to find out if e-cigs cause cancer, so they have chosen a fellow unelected organisation which they can fully trust to come out with the result they seek. This is because the IARC is set up so it, quite literally, can find cancer in just about everything.
According to IARC “a cancer ‘hazard’ is an agent that is capable of causing cancer under some circumstances [emphasis added], while a cancer ‘risk’ is an estimate of the carcinogenic effects expected from exposure to a cancer hazard.” Here, “exposure” refers to actual human exposure levels. The Agency justifies the focus on hazard by arguing that, “even when risks are very low at current exposure levels, […] new uses or unforeseen exposures could engender risks that are significantly higher.” IARC’s focus on “hazard” opens a gaping loophole, which has given IARC carte blanche to highlight results that bear little relation to exposure or risk operative in the real world. To add to the confusion, even though IARC focuses on “hazard,” the title of the Monographs refers “Carcinogenic Risk to Humans.” 
IARC’s adoption of the very elastic concept of hazard is in line with the weight given to the precautionary principle in the EU Charter. The precautionary principle states that, when the effects of a policy or an exposure are unknown, steps should be taken to mitigate any potential adverse effects. While this sounds reasonable, in practice, the precautionary principle is often invoked by people who have no interest or ability to assess the relevant scientific evidence. 
There are many instances in recent IARC assessments of giving weight to positive results, even when these are questionable. At the same time, often higher-quality evidence that does not support an association is ignored. You can see how this penchant aligns with IARC’s invocation of “hazard” and the precautionary principle. 
IARC has long been concerned to guard against conflicts-of-interest, but as in the points discussed above, there is an asymmetry in its policy. IARC’s concern with potential conflicts-of-interest appears limited to those involving industry. The Agency shows little awareness of, or concern about, biases and conflicts-of-interest among academic or government researchers.
Again, it is a perfect fit, isn't it? An organisation which selects evidence to fit with its biased world view and ignores huge conflicts of interest in those who agree with it is cut from the same cloth as the blinkered and science-phobic FCTC.

The FCTC is riddled with a cancer known as Corporate Accountability, a subset of its membership which is not remotely concerned with health, only destroying businesses. All businesses. The IARC is also more interested in attacking industry rather than doing what's right.

As for the IARC's calm, objective view on what is carcinogenic, it doesn't have one.
Of the over 500 substances IARC has assessed over the years (i.e. those not in Group 3), only one has been deemed “probably not carcinogenic” and placed in Group 4. Thus, it appears that in practice IARC’s scheme disposes against declaring that an agent is unlikely to be a carcinogenic hazard.
This is an organisation solely set up to find cancer in literally everything. And the FCTC thinks this is a perfectly independent (which it's not) and dispassionate (which it's not) body to impartially assess the harms of e-cigarettes (which it won't). In fact, it has been gagging to re-categorise nicotine as cancer-causing since 2014.

An "adequate data set" along with funding that the WHO's pharma-friendly FCTC mentions as being desirable. I'm sure that - stung by the smoking cessation market running away from them - there will be pharmaceutical companies queueing up to provide as much as IARC demands, don't you? 

Do you think, maybe, that the FCTC is handing this task to an equally morally bankrupt and unelected UN organisation simply to get an answer to all those mischievous nations which see benefits in reduced risk nicotine rather than negatives? You know, the developed, educated ones that don't include basket case nations, banana republics, oppressive theocracies, murderous dictatorships, elitist inegalitarian kingdoms and Australia?

Because I do.

COP8 in Geneva will be an exercise in anti-vaping sophistry from people who are so self-absorbed and addicted to hoovering up your taxes to fund their lavish lifestyles - the UK funds the FCTC to the tune of millions - that they should not be trusted to run a whelk stall.

COP8 runs from 1st to 6th October this year. Watch this space in coming weeks for more updates about the most anti-human supranational meeting on the planet. Needless to say, this year's offering will have as little to do with health as the seven that preceded it. 

Monday, 6 August 2018

The FDA Blatantly Hands E-Cig Market To Big Pharma

Around about this time last year, the FDA's Scott Gottlieb made a public statement about e-cigs that many vapers thought was a new dawn in how reduced risk products would be treated in the US.

You may remember that I thought it was just a cleverly-worded hill of beans.
The FDA's announcement relents on some e-cig rules but only on the proviso that it might make vaping more attractive to smokers who will be deprived, by force, of nicotine from their combustible cigarettes. That is nothing more than vile coercion and should have no place in a land that claims to be free.  
I cannot possibly cheer the FDA's overall plan and I don't think there is anything particularly concrete to be happy about yet anyway. Smokers are being thrown under a bus but apart from that everything else is up in the air and subject to change.
Despite many vapers rejoicing at this "huge" announcement, and describing it as "momentous",  a "reprieve", with some even saying they had "every confidence" in Gottlieb, it stunk to high heaven in my book. The emphasis seemed to be more on pointlessly reducing nicotine in regular cigarettes rather than promoting e-cigs.

Nothing I've seen since has made me think that the FDA has any intention of taking harm reduction seriously as a policy to encourage smokers to quit. In fact, the evidence is all pointing in the opposite direction.

However, the whole thing has since taken an even more sinister tone with the release of another Gottlieb FDA press announcement on Friday.
Statement from FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D., on new steps the agency is taking to support the development of novel nicotine replacement drug therapies to help smokers quit cigarettes
"Novel nicotine replacement drug therapies"? Is he talking about e-cigs here? Well, yes he is.
We’re working on multiple fronts to recognize the role that more novel forms of nicotine delivery could play in achieving our public health goals, as part of an appropriately regulated marketplace. This not only includes encouraging innovation of potentially less harmful tobacco products for those adults who still seek to use nicotine (such as e-cigarettes), but also taking a closer look at our overall approach to the development and regulation of NRT products that are regulated as drugs, and designed to safely reduce withdrawal symptoms, including nicotine craving, associated with quitting smoking. 
The development of novel NRT products, regulated as new drugs, is a critical part of our overall strategy on nicotine.
I added the emphasis because it's quite clear he is not talking about a free market in e-cigs sold from vape shops.

Instead, he has issued some guidance on how to get e-cigs approved by the FDA (emphasis again mine).
This draft guidance, when finalized, is aimed at providing sponsors with recommendations on the nonclinical information appropriate to support development and approval of orally inhaled nicotine-containing drug products. It recognizes that a great deal of toxicity information is available for nicotine. But such information may not be available for other compounds contained in e-liquids and delivered by these products. These include the flavorings and heat-generated chemicals. These products can be used for six months or more over the course of a lifetime. So, it’s important to understand the risks to humans from these exposures, including developmental and reproductive toxicity and carcinogenicity.
Drug products? Six months over a lifetime? I've been using my non-drug e-cigs for about 8 years.

But then when you look at the guidance, it is quite clearly intended for a different subset of businesses than those which currently provide e-cigs for the US market.

It is guidance for a therapeutic product and nothing more. Such a product doesn't currently exist and any company which decided to have a go at it would have to have millions of dollars to spare. It is designed in a way that pharmaceutical companies would understand because it is a route to a pharmaceutical, or 'medicinal', e-cig. This would likely take the form of some ridiculously safe and bland cigalike which is so far removed from the products which are finding favour with smokers and driving the lowest smoking prevalence figures in US history, that it will be practically useless.

OK, it's fair to say that tobacco companies have the resources to throw huge amounts of money at getting a product of this type approved, but it will still be a therapeutic, medicalised e-cig designed for complete nicotine cessation, so it barely matters who manufactures it.

Gottlieb’s approach is cigarettes stripped of nicotine coupled with medicalisation of e-cigs. Because almost all of the products currently being sold in America by independents will disappear in 2022 thanks to the imposition of a predicate date.

It's important to note that Gottlieb has not issued guidance to current e-cig manufacturers on how to produce an independent product which could be sold on the open market as a consumer product. He has hinted that there may be some on the horizon but, for now, he has bypassed that and gone straight to issuing guidance - which heavily leans towards the pharma industry - on what is acceptable for a therapeutic product. At the same time as still insisting on rules which will effectively remove competition from anything recreational that is currently on sale.

It is, to all intents and purposes, a co-ordinated effort to make e-cigs a medical product and one which should only be used as a means to quit nicotine entirely. It is basically handing the entire market to the pharmaceutical industry. In other words - and especially considering the parallel regulations to take the good nicotine out of cigarettes and leave the harmful elements in - 'quit or die' on steroids.

Many were of the opinion when Gottlieb took over the job that he'd just end up being a pharma shill. He seems to be living up to those predictions quite spectacularly so far.

It is so blatant that it's astonishing. One can only assume that this is a result of the American disease of corporate lobbying, with pharma front and centre. I don't know about you but I don't think it's wrong to call this organised crime.

So, no, Gottlieb's announcement in July last year wasn't a new dawn for e-cig use. It was the start of a process which will see a brilliant innovation crushed and handed to corporate interests to destroy. It also proves, once again, that none of this crusade against smoking has ever been anything to do with health. They really couldn't care less.

We're on the side of the angels, always remember that. 

Wednesday, 1 August 2018

The Twisted Language Of 'Public Health'

There are somewhat encouraging signs that the 'public health' racket community see their house of cards as being a bit shaky recently. Hardly surprising considering the huge porkies that are the foundations for their policy demands, but interesting nonetheless.

Take, for example, this from Snowdon in City AM on Friday.
Whatever you think of “sin taxes” on things like alcohol, sugary drinks and tobacco, they are indisputably regressive. 
But not according to an editorial in the Lancet earlier this year. 
In an effort to promote more sin taxes, particularly on food and soft drinks, the medical journal suggested that such taxes benefit the poor and are progressive. 
Whichever way you look at them, these taxes clobber the poor. 
Public health campaigners don’t want to admit this, even to themselves, because they see themselves as champions of social justice.
He's correct. There is no case whatsoever economically, or health-wise, for stating that sin taxes are progressive. So why are 'public health' campaigners making up daft fantasies over this - which no-one believes for a minute - when they have never felt the need before?

Well, perhaps they can sense that the public just doesn't buy their shit anymore.

It is pretty well established in the minds of the public that the poor suffer from these taxes. In the past 'public health' got away with it because people would say "well poor people shouldn't smoke/drink/eat fast food" etc if they are short on cash. But taxes are so incredibly high now - especially on tobacco - that the public are increasingly seeing them as an injustice. A form of bullying of those least able to afford a comfortable life.

No-one likes to see that kind of behaviour, and 'public health' know this, hence their pumping laughable tortured logic (aka lies) out in The Lancet to try to pretend they are friends of poor people rather than a movement which seriously damages their choices and well-being.

This isn't the first time either. I've written about the twisted language of 'public health' before. Y'see, they are getting more and more tetchy about the 'nanny state' tag. They've never liked it but the term is beginning to stick - perhaps as a consequence of the perception of their bullying with taxes - so they have tried to pervert the concept of a Nanny State to meaning businesses which provide products that people want to buy. No, don't laugh, they really did.

In 2016, Sam Bowman - then of the Adam Smith Institute - was faced with this bizarre definition of 'nanny state' on Irish TV on the subject of minimum alcohol pricing.
"Currently we have a nanny industry in alcohol who are deciding the pricing, deciding the availability, and deciding exactly how they want to promote alcohol"
His rebuttal was succinct and entirely accurate.
"Really what Stephen [Stewart] is saying is that he's annoyed that he's not in charge. 
"He's annoyed that the alcohol industry has too much say and he wants doctors to have a say instead. I think that's not right, I think that we should let individuals make the decision for themselves how much they drink and what they drink."
Well, of course we should. Anyone who says anything different is a little bit of a fascist, really.

But isn't it very heartening to see 'public health' spending time and effort trying to think up bizarre excuses for their behaviour? If they didn't think that the public are beginning to see them as the nasty societal parasites that they are, they wouldn't be bothering.

This is all very encouraging. It shows that the concept of sin taxes being regressive and a nanny state dictating our choices are hitting the target if 'public health' groups are twisting language and torturing logic to try to deflect the criticism. If it were all just water off a duck's back, the nannies wouldn't be investing their time trying to counter them in increasingly absurd ways, now would they?

Remember that when chatting over the water cooler or to friends and family in the pub or on social media. The perception that 'public health' is little more than a bunch of bullies and is representative of a sinister Nanny State could well be passing into common public acceptance.

I've always maintained we are on the side of the angels, of course we are. But considering the desperate "not us, Guv" agitprop from 'public health' recently, perhaps people are slowly starting to wake up to who the real anti-social demons are. 

Monday, 30 July 2018

Jamie Oliver And Other People's Children

Over the weekend, the Telegraph published an retch-inducing obsequious puff piece on Jamie Oliver which - inadvertently, I reckon - gave an astonishing insight into the dictatorial mind of the sanctimonious snob. It's behind a paywall but here are some hideous lowlights.
The night before I’m due to meet Jamie Oliver there are whispers from his headquarters of a big announcement. ‘All will become clear!’ they say. The next morning, news duly breaks that the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, will ban junk-food advertising on the capital’s Tube and bus network, as well as the opening of hot-food takeaway shops within 400 metres of schools – the culmination of 28 months of close collaboration between Oliver and Khan. 
‘It’s a mega day,’ Oliver tells me at Jamie HQ
He is happy, apparently, because a clueless attention-seeking Mayor has proposed a pointless ban on advertising - which will have no effect whatsoever except to kill advertising revenue and reinforce the idea of censorship while reducing public choice - and stated that he is intending to all but eradicate new takeaways in the capital unless they are to open in a park or the river Thames, as you can see by clicking to enlarge the graphic below.

It won't surprise you to learn that evidence to date - you know, that evidence thing that politicians like to pretend they look into - shows that all this will do diddley-squat for obesity rates in London.

Mega, huh?

No care for the businesses which will be affected and no care for the choices that he - in his misplaced ignorance - is depriving the rest of the public. Still, it makes his multi-millionaireship happy, so screw everyone else, eh?

But, incredibly, that isn't the astonishing bit. How about this?
‘I’ve been through five prime ministers. Mr Blair was the first person to admit that the state was responsible for children’s health between the ages of four and 16.
The state is responsible for children's health? Not parents? Can you think of anything more repugnant than that? Well, fear not because Jamie can.
The state was doing nothing about how this group are fed, while being right on the case of dog food.’
Did he just compare other people's children with dogs? Or was he comparing a Big Mac with a can of Pedigree Chum? Sometimes you just can't tell with obsessed hysterical extremists, can you?

Anyway, let's crack on.
He’s been accused of being the ‘fun police’, running a ‘nanny state initiative that penalises poor people’, of endangering the revenue of advertising agencies, being hypocritical, upsetting American mothers, and failing to understand what it is to be poor and unable to afford healthier food.
All of which is true, I'd say, apart from the affording healthier food. Healthy food is far cheaper than less healthy alternatives, but hard-working people (who are not paid to be in the kitchen throwing together recipes with ingredients they just have lying around the house like Jamie) make a trade-off with the time they have available. It's the time they can't afford, not a 45p cucumber.
‘Yes,’ says Oliver. ‘I don’t like [the criticism]. I got my arse kicked left, right and centre for 10 years. It makes me feel sick, but defending my position is more important. On the whole,’ he adds with some irony, ‘all of the people I care about most – obese children and their parents – are the ones who don’t like me.’
Well maybe that's a hint, Jamie old boy, that they'd prefer you to leave them alone to make their own choices. Reason being I think they know more about what's best for their families than you fucking do. 
Why don’t you just sell the lot and become an MP and continue your fight in Parliament? The suggestion seems genuinely to shock him; indeed, he stops talking for at least three seconds. ‘But you wouldn’t want me in Parliament,’ he says eventually. ‘I’ve done nothing clever in 15 years,’ he says. ‘It’s all common sense. All I’ve done is create conversations that newspapers report on. Having my own children changed me. It made me realise that those annoying kids down the street were someone’s children, and so they mattered.
I think the operative words there, Jamie, are "someone's children" as in not yours.
Childhood obesity is the first thing and the last thing I think about every day, which isn’t normal.’
No it's not, it is obsessive and you should seek help for your addiction to snobbery and bossing people around.

However, the most stunning part in the entire article has to be this.
Oliver’s obesity campaign faltered when Theresa May’s 2016 legislation (Chapter One) included a tax on sugar content in drinks but nothing about restrictions on junk-food advertising. ‘It’s absolute bollocks that parents are totally to blame for childhood obesity; incompetent legislation is to blame.’
Let's turn that round a tad. If parents are not to blame, he must be saying - in his knuckle-dragging way - that they are not to be judged responsible for what their kids eat. That, instead, the state should usurp parental choices and - as Oliver's daft policies show - dictate the food supply without even a nod to evidence, practicality, efficacy or financial reality. Nope, just feels.

For Oliver to say - with a straight, albeit slack-jawed fat-tongued, face - that the state is responsible for what kids eat, and not parents, is incredibly sinister. Once it is accepted that the state can involve itself in something as fundamentally private to families as what parents feed their children - in fact that it has more of a role than parents themselves - we are almost through looking glass.

I mean, Christ, give them that kind of power over parental choice and politicians will want to name kids next
"their children, Poppy Honey, Daisy Boo, Petal Blossom Rainbow, Buddy Bear and River Rocket". 
OK, not a great example.   

Tuesday, 24 July 2018

A Perfect Population Level Experiment

The NNA spotted a superb statistic on Friday at the government's Tobacco Control Debate. I don't know about you but I think this deserves more attention.
Yesterday in a debate on the government’s Tobacco Control Plan in the House of Commons, Sir Kevin Barron highlighted the gulf between the UK and Ireland, two countries with identical traditional tobacco control policies but with differing approaches to e-cigarettes. Between 2012 and 2016 smoking dropped by nearly a quarter in the UK . In Ireland, where e-cigarettes are viewed with suspicion, the smoking rate actually went up in this period. 
Here is the Hansard entry for it.
I want to give a comparator and to refer back to my intervention on the Minister. I chaired the Health Committee in 2005, after we had fought an election on a manifesto commitment by the Labour party to introduce a ban on smoking in public places. I stood on that manifesto, but the ban proposed was not a comprehensive one. The Health Committee, of which I became the Chair, investigated smoking in public places. We went to Ireland to take evidence, because it had had such a ban for about two years. 
I will now demonstrate the effectiveness of e-cigarettes by comparing smoking rates in the UK versus those in Ireland, where every other approach to tobacco control is identical to those in the UK, such as plain packaging, retail display bans and marketing promotions all stopped. In recent years in the UK, smoking rates have dropped by almost a quarter—according to the Office for National Statistics, 24.4% of UK adults smoked in 2012 and 15.8% in 2016—and the UK now has the second lowest smoking rate in Europe. In Ireland, which has exactly the same tobacco control as we put through this place over many years, smoking rates have stagnated: 23% of adults smoked in 2015 and 2016, dropping to 22% in 2017, according to Healthy Ireland stats. That shows how the use of e-cigarettes has been good in reducing smoking in this country.
As the NNA has shown with their links, Hansard and Barron are actually wrong here. In Ireland the rate was reported as 22% in 2012 (chapter 3) and 23% in 2016. Maybe Barron was confused himself, perhaps it didn't compute. But both figures are derived from the same source, Tobacco Free Ireland.

But whether it is down by 1% or up by 1% matters not, this is a real life experiment which is just about perfect. In the UK smoking rates have nosedived, while in Ireland they have barely shifted. In the UK we have a supportive environment to e-cigs, in Ireland high profile politicians are doing everything in their power to turn smokers away from them.

We are not comparing the UK with a country with vastly differing levels of disposable income here, far from it. Ireland is a country on a par with the UK as far as the economy goes.

What's more, we're not comparing with Africans, south east Asians, Indians, Scandinavians, Americans north or south or antipodeans. We are comparing with our nearest cultural neighbours, so closely aligned are we that we don't even enforce passport requirements between the two countries.

The British and the Irish are about as good a comparison for ecological purposes as there can possibly be.

And, as Barron said, the only difference between UK policy and Irish policy is that over here our government cautiously welcomes new nicotine products whereas in Ireland they don't.

As I mentioned only yesterday, if politicians really want to get smokers to quit smoking - because that is really what they want, isn't it - this should be compelling stuff.

For a political class who consistently say they always wish to act on evidence, this is about the best quality evidence they can get. A population-level, real life study of two almost identical countries - with just the one difference in nicotine policy - but with vastly differing outcomes.

So why are other countries not scrambling to emulate the indisputable success of promoting safer alternatives to smoking that this inadvertent experiment proves? Well, I guess it also shows that the other tobacco control policies legislated for in that timescale - of which there have been many - are completely and utterly pointless. And I suppose there is always the fear that if smokers actually did what politicians pretend they want to see, tobacco tax receipts would also plummet, and they are fully aware that the economically fraudulent propaganda tobacco controllers spout about smoking harming the economy is utter bollocks.

So bravo to Barron for highlighting such a stark comparator in the House of Commons chamber. You just have to wonder why the tobacco control industry and other politicians, both sides of the Irish Sea, have been so silent about it, whereas if the results were the other way round they would be screaming it from the rooftops.

It's never been about health, you know. 

Monday, 23 July 2018

Big Trouble In Little New Zealand

Via Eric Crampton, we are seeing yet more evidence of how vaping has utterly confused policymakers all over the world.

E-cigs and other risk reduced nicotine products are - quite rightly - described as a 'disruptive' technology. Of course, the traditional use of that term generally means that it is disruptive to the current market, but considering the current market is dried tobacco leaves in paper tubes that governments tend to dislike, you'd think they'd be happy about that.

Well, in many jurisdictions it appears not, and if you look closely you can see why. As Crampton points out, the NZ Ministry of Health's latest Health and Independence Report is optimistic about e-cigs but it is worth noting that this is only because they were made de facto legal by a court case brought by the makers of iQos. All of a sudden, vaping was legal too. And with that judgement has come some very irritating problems if you are a government set in its ways and who only had dried leaves in a paper tube to regulate before.
1 There remain interesting conflict of laws problems around plain packaging rules and the Fair Trading Act. Plain packaging rules for tobacco products would include heated tobacco, including Iqos. And, in theory, would also cover any nicotine derived from tobacco for vaping too. But putting the big smoking warnings on packages of products that are not smoked could be considered illegal under the Fair Trading Act's prohibitions around false representations and misleading conduct.  
I emailed MBIE asking about this, and they punted to ComCom. When I asked ComCom, they said that they cannot vet specific advertising or business practices for any company - and that companies would have to seek independent legal advice. So it is legal to sell vaping products - but if MoH believes the nicotine to be tobacco derived, it might consider it to be subject to the plain packaging rules. And it might be illegal to put those plain packaging warnings on the packages. But the government will not tell you. Seems pretty dumb. And it's an odd kind of dumb - companies that are cagey about how their nicotine is derived are probably ok, but ones that publicly state that their nicotine is derived from tobacco may not be.  
2 MoH is of the view that the Iqos decision does not apply to snus. Snus has seemed rather important in getting people away from smoked tobacco in Sweden. Why they want this to still be illegal - I don't get it. I expect that if they ever sued NZ Snus for selling the stuff, that the prohibition could easily be deemed inconsistent with the purposes of the Act. 
3 Excise rates on non-combusted tobacco for reduced harm devices remain unjustifiably high. This doesn't affect vaping, which is not subject to excise (phew!), but would be a problem for other products. And what about the display bans and bans on advertising less harmful alternatives?
All very complicated, isn't it? Where did that golden age go where the NZ government could just nod through ineffective policies from extremist tobacco controllers without too much fuss? Wasn't life so much simpler back then? Now, in the blink of an eye, some bastard judge has just made their lives incredibly complicated.

What's more, interests used to be aligned. Prohibitionist tobacco controllers would scream for ever higher tax on tobacco and all parties in government - much like the tobacco control plan debate here last week - shout "hell yeah!" in support. Yes, tobacco duty is well past the Laffer Curve in most western countries, but raising it doesn't cost a great deal and it helps politicians to virtue signal whilst keeping their state-paid vermin off their backs for a little while.

But now this new thing has come along and they're in a cleft stick. They've demanded smokers quit smoking for decades, and now they are. In droves. And it's happening alarmingly quickly. So much so that government receipts from tobacco duty are starting to tank.

It also shows their coercive and bullying tobacco control policies to be utterly useless, and they spent so much time, money and effort on the legislation to get them through. Just think of all those civil service man hours completely wasted.

So now they are trying to fit current policies to new technology and finding it's like putting a square peg in a round hole. It's the same all over the world, the EU Tobacco Products Directive in 2013 regulated e-cigs despite they not containing tobacco, the FDA classes e-cigs as tobacco products because it's far less effort than actually producing a bespoke regulatory regime for them.

Is it any wonder why the laziest of countries - mostly basket case nations, banana republics and dictatorships (and NHS trust fiefdoms) - simply ban the products rather than have the hassle of changing everything they have been doing for decades?

We are living in historic times. Products have come along in an inordinately short space of time for political policies - it's almost a global revolution - and governments are at a loss what to do about it. This is as disruptive as things get.

It's easy to laugh at NZ politicians because they have kind of brought it on themselves in being lazy and complicit in adhering to the sophistry and mendacity of the tobacco control cult in the past, but you have to kinda feel sorry for them having this hot potato thrown into their lap before they can get their spin-masters to react to it and burble their way through committees to water it down.

Of course, if NZ politicians really wanted to provide a huge incentive to their smokers to quit, this graphic provided by Crampton should show them the way.

NZ is a massive draw for criminals to sell black market tobacco in their area of the world. So if they really wanted to get smokers to stop smoking - because that is what they really want to do, right? - they merely have to enthusiastically welcome e-cigs and other safer nicotine products with open arms, not tax them, and see their smoking rates plummet while simultaneously easing pressure on the cost and workload of their border agencies.

What's not to like?

Let's see which way they jump, eh? God I love watching this stuff, it's like a global zoo dedicated to observing the behaviour of disingenuous and venal politicians. 

Sunday, 22 July 2018

WTO Agrees That Plain Packaging Is A Failure, Allows It Anyway

Late on parade with this due to business pressure, but Sinclair Davidson posted a very interesting article about the WTO's ruling on plain packaging a couple of weeks ago.

Davidson has consistently argued that plain packaging has had no impact on smoking in Australia and is an utter failure, despite the desperate spin being fabricated by the government over there.

Well, lo and behold, in the WTO's 800 page reasoning behind its judgement that plain packs are not contrary to global trade rules, they seem to agree.

The WTO strangely argues that there is evidence that the decline in prevalence in Australia appears to have accelerated post plain packaging, but none of the analysis includes any discussion of the huge tax increases which coincided with and then followed its introduction. Instead the WTO focuses on the far more trivial by saying it is unclear whether bigger graphic health warnings or plain packaging were more important.

This is like saying that someone died when a bus drove over his finger without mentioning that he was picking his nose at the time. It's quite obvious that the effect of successive 12.5% rises in tobacco duty have a far more dramatic effect than fiddling with colours on the packet.

When the WTO get to the “quitting-related outcomes and other distal outcomes” though, a little bit of truth comes out (emphases mine).
a. The impact of the TPP measures and enlarged GHWs on adult cigarette smokers' quitting intention and quitting-related cognition reactions is limited and mixed
b. The TPP measures and enlarged GHWs have had a statistically significant positive impact on avoidant behaviours, such as pack concealment, among adult cigarette smokers, while their impact on stubbing out and stopping smoking is much more limited and mixed
c. Although the TPP measures and enlarged GHWs have statistically significantly increased calls to the Quitline, the observed impact of the TPP measures and enlarged GHWs on quit attempts is very limited and mixed
d. The empirical evidence of the impact of the TPP measures and enlarged GHWs on adolescents' quitting-related outcomes is limited. This evidence suggests that the impact of the TPP measures and enlarged GHWs on adolescents' refraining from smoking cigarettes and thoughts about quitting is statistically not significant. No empirical evidence has been submitted to us on pack concealment among adolescent smokers.
Couple this with the Australia Bureau of Statistics data on chain volume measures of spending on Cigarettes and Tobacco showing a long-term decline in tobacco sales having been arrested since plain packaging, and you have to wonder what on earth is going on here.

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And that is without even factoring in that the Australian government itself has been forced to form a new “Tobacco Taskforce”  to address the issue of a whopping rise in illicit trade post-plain packs. The anti-smoking lobby rubbished the warning of an increase in illicit trade as a result of plain packs but it is reported that seizures of illicit products in the year to date have already reached 98 tonnes compared with 117 tonnes in the whole of the prior year. Either enforcement agencies are on steroids or, perhaps, there is simply far more now to catch.

As Davidson says of the WTO's admission of lack of evidence of efficacy, "that is a damning assessment because what did convince the WTO was even worse – junk science". 

Quite. It seems that the World Trade Organisation, no less, was motivated to effectively endorse the confiscation of billions of pounds worth of intellectual property and branding - not just on tobacco as this now forms a precedent - despite finding that there is no valid science behind the concept of plain packaging and that it has had no beneficial effect on smoking prevalence. 

They have basically sided with vague predictions - from people paid to have extraordinarily strong conflicts of interest - about what may happen in the future. On this showing, we can expect the WTO to soon issue rules on the international trading of fairies from the bottom of the garden. 

It seems that everywhere you look these days there is an establishment carve-up going on. It's little wonder that people are increasingly sick and tired of the state and its self-protecting mechanisms. When even a global regulator of trade rules in favour of fraudulent bureaucracy over and above protecting legal businesses from over-reach of state institutions, armed only with ideological bullshit and fake science, we are in a parlous place. 

Hitch Orwell's grave up to a dynamo, his spinning could solve our future energy problems for a century at least.