Thursday, 21 May 2015

Down Under Desperation

It's now common knowledge that tobacco controllers lie as a matter of course, but they're getting extraordinarily desperate in Australia.

At the weekend, a public health group in New South Wales joined industry, economists and politicians in recognising that Australia is suffering a recent growing problem with illicit tobacco (emphases mine).
NSW Health has told a review of tobacco laws that its inspectors have detected increased sales of illicit tobacco, which is packaged without health warnings and is sometimes blatantly labelled "illegal tobacco". 
Despite the emerging problem, the health department's powers extend only to photographing and taking samples of illegal tobacco, and inspectors are unable to seize the products. It called for laws to be strengthened.
And yesterday, Australian customs chiefs said that they "recognise this problem".
Figures reveal a huge increase in the importation of ­illegal cigarettes and “chop chop” tobacco via sea and air over the past year. 
The chief executive of the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service, Roman Quaed­vlieg, said authorities were now contending with “more players” in the black market, with increasing numbers of criminals attracted to the ­lucrative business. 
“We recognise this problem,” Mr Quaedvlieg said. “It is a priority and we are dealing with it."
This is all hardly surprising given the pressures that anti-smoking lunatics have heaped on the legal market. A country the size of Australia has porous borders simply because it is so darn big and impossible to enforce, and when your pack of Marlboro is 10 times more expensive than the same product in a neighbouring state while also being riddled with gory anti-smoker wet dreams, the entirely predictable result is a legal industry jockeying for market share with organised crime.

Yet Australian tobacco controllers are still laughably trying to pretend it's not happening. And doing so very badly.

In March, a KPMG report entitled Illicit Tobacco in Australia was released which revealed that the black market had ballooned to 14.5% of all tobacco smoked in the country. But in an article in the Tobacco Control Journal which couldn't have been more badly timed if they tried - published as it was on the same weekend that the left of centre Sydney Morning Herald admitted that illicit tobacco in Australia is a major problem in not one, but two articles - resident tobacco control junk scientists from Cancer Council Victoria attempted to contest this, specifically with reference to plain packaging.

The first thing to make you laugh about their study - which, incidentally, they have presented to the world as "independent" despite the authors being world-renowned anti-smoking professionals - is that they are claiming it is more rigorous than the one conducted by KPMG.

The KPMG study involved the collection of 12,000 discarded cigarette packs across 16 different towns and cities covering 75% of the population. Additionally, the company is recognised as a world expert at this kind of survey with the OECD describing their methodology as “the most authoritative assessment of the level of counterfeit and contraband cigarettes across EU member states” . By contrast, the Tobacco Control study authors are career tobacco control chancers whose only goal is to 'prove' that policies they have badgered the Australian government for are not having the negative consequences that everyone else but them is seeing.

As for their methods, in any other public health sphere self-reported evidence by consumers is ridiculed and lambasted as unreliable. This is particularly problematic when dealing with the issue of illegal tobacco, I mean if someone called you at home and asked if you were participating in an illegal activity, what would you say?

Yet the Tobacco Control study relied solely on this dodgy data. It was merely a telephone survey of 8,679 smokers which covers a far inferior proportion of the population to the KPMG one. It is therefore remarkable that the study authors actually call into question the validity of the methodology used by KPMG in their analysis of the same issue. Specifically the authors’ state “packs discarded in public places are likely to provide a poor representation of the universe of all packs used by smokers”, yet they seem to believe that a telephone survey - complete with all the baggage that self-reported data carries - provides a more accurate representation! These people are well beyond delusional.

And there's more.

If you were a tobacco control shyster and wanted to put together a smokescreen to pretend that plain packaging hadn't increased the illicit market, how would you go about it? Well, one way would be to make sure you studied something which was irrelevant to the country you were studying. For example, it has been established that in Australia a fake illegal brand called Manchester cigarettes has managed to grab 1.4% market share amongst tobacco consumers. These types of products are classified as "cheap whites" which the Guardian describes as "cigarettes that are created by organised crime gangs and have no legitimate market anywhere". So an Australian tobacco controller would obviously prefer to study "cheap whites" which are not common in Australia, thus diluting the size of the problem and making it easier to ignore the volume of the increased illicit trade. Did they do this? Of course they did!

The way they chose to label a brand as a "cheap white" was to use the brands mentioned by the World Customs Organisation (WCO) in their 2012 report. These included Jin Ling, made in Russia, Ukraine and Moldova; and Racquel which is made in Cyprus. Now, call this a hunch, but I don't reckon that many packs of those illegal brands make it from Europe to the sandpit on the other side of the globe, do you? Manchester brand however - the "cheap white" most prevalent in Australia - was conveniently not mentioned in the WCO report. Fancy that!

Hang around, because there's more.

Even with all those shenanigans going on, there was still some statistical mendacity to perform before they could pretend that illicit tobacco wasn't on the rise. They did this by misrepresenting the data in the results section of the study. They considered that a measure of what would be classed as smuggled factory made (FM) cigarettes would be "where the reported price paid was 20% or more below the recommended retail price" and came to this conclusion (emphases again mine).
'The prevalence of international brands of FM cigarettes purchased in Australia for 20% or more below the RRP was low in all phases (under 0.5%, unadjusted) and did not increase between pre-PP and PP, nor linearly during PP'.
Very good, except the actual data showed something quite different.

The number on the left is the prevalence of those reporting suspiciously priced brands and the number next to it is the odds ratio (the likelihood of using a suspiciously priced brand). So, what the data states is that the likelihood of someone declaring that they were smoking a suspiciously-priced cigarette doubled after the implementation of plain packaging. I wonder why they chose not to mention such a thing? It's almost as if their livelihoods depended on it.

Other tables came to the same conclusion, oddly enough.

As whitewashes go, you've got to admit it's a piss poor one. But this is the best the Australian tobacco control lie machine can muster. As the scale of illegal tobacco in Australia becomes ever more clear to politicians, the media, industry, border agencies, the public and even public health groups, the anti-smoking community are now isolated as the only people who refuse to admit the truth. It's truly desperate stuff.

Next stop Britain when plain packaging is installed in 2016 with our free borders and massed ranks of criminal enterprises just across the Channel. I simply cannot wait to see what balderdash our own tobacco control fantasists will come up with to explain away the predictable carnage. On past performance, it promises to be hilarious.

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Tobacco Control Torturers

Following on from yesterday's piece about how we are expected to now abandon liberties in favour of absolute safety, comes this.
Since July 2008, mental health facilities in England have had indoor smoking bans. However, NICE guidelines recommend that all NHS sites, including psychiatric hospitals become completely smoke-free
It is written by Olivia Maynard, who has carved a lucrative career as a professional anti-smoker. She reviews the 'evidence' surrounding enforcing bans on people with mental health who are locked up for their own good, and finds it hunky-dory.
The evidence presented in this systematic review suggests that complete bans are the most effective at encouraging smoking cessation and that the provision of nicotine dependence treatment, such as NRT or brief advice, is also crucial.
Personally, I disagree.

Because, you see - by Olivia's own admission - the only thing anti-smokers think is important is quitting smoking. Nothing else.
Importantly, none of the studies in this review explored the impact of smoke-free legislation on mental health outcomes.
Overall wellbeing isn't at all important to the tobacco control industry, they don't get paid for that. Torturing mental health patients by targeting them at their most vulnerable and when they have had their rights to self-determination taken away from them - over an issue hyped beyond rationality by career prohibitionists in Maynard's industry - is morally nauseating.

I may be a hopeless believer in personal freedoms, but anyone who would even consider forcing someone to quit smoking when they are at a low ebb and incarcerated is on a par with vile moral Victorians who used to lock up unmarried teen mothers in asylums for making the wrong choices in life.

Those who agree that it's a good idea should be hunted for sport, in my opinion.

Monday, 18 May 2015

Safety Is Everything - A Vile Mentality

Sally Satel has written a marvellous article in National Review about the absurd negative stance taken by some public health professionals towards e-cigs, and I would urge everyone to read it. Entitled 'What’s Driving the War on E-Cigarettes?', she mainly focuses on the malign efforts of the American CDC.
The standoff between the precautionists and the pragmatists essentially boils down to their orientation toward risk — should we aim for none, or much less than there is now — and the moral connotations they attach to it. The contest will not be resolved readily because any vacuum of information leads those with a precautionary temperament to imagine worst-case outcomes, mass-produce reams of nervous commentary, and sanctimoniously call for tight restriction on the freedom to engage in novel practices.  
The CDC falls squarely in the precautionist camp. It gives disproportionate weight to skeptics’ unsubstantiated claims about e-cigarettes as it minimizes their estimable benefit and foments panic. This is bad for smokers who have tried to quit and can’t, bad for the integrity of public health as a field, and bad for the credibility of the CDC, whose tarring of electronic cigarettes is a shameful violation of public trust.
The reason I specifically highlight those couple of paragraphs is because they encapsulate a nauseous aspect of modern life; namely the accelerating restriction - and often eradication - of our liberties in the name of absolute safety.

Another example from today - again on the subject of e-cigs - came courtesy of Robin Ireland commenting on Radio Leicester about the emergence of vaping bars (from 14:50 here). He is "uncomfortable" with bars that allow vaping because ...
"If it is suddenly seen as normal to be using a device inside, surely that's going to encourage copycat behaviour, it's going to encourage people to say 'oh yeah, that looks pretty cool, let's go and try that' and electronic cigarettes have some risk attached to them"
Now, while I'm grateful to him for further illustrating that smoking (and vaping) bans have absolutely nothing to do with protecting bar workers - the only reason MPs voted for the Health Act 2006 which facilitated all this subsequent mass hysteria about smoking and e-cigs - he is effectively saying forget property rights, forget supply and demand, forget the concept of personal responsibility, individual choice and tolerance, everyone's liberties must be curtailed in case someone, somewhere, is exposed to an almost immeasurable amount of risk.

E-cigs have leaped onto the scene so quickly that they have placed a magnifying glass over people who believe in regressive and anti-social policies like Ireland obviously does. But it's not restricted to vaping, the attitude is everywhere and is severely damaging society's quiet enjoyment of everyday life.

As a recent example, the last sporting event I attended (with the boy) was ruined for most of those around me by a horde of stewards armed with petty rules and a hi-viz jacket which entitled them to enliven their sad lives at the weekend by bossing people around. The event was populated by mostly families, dressing up was encouraged and the crowd was cringingly middle class and obedient. Not that this calmed the massed ranks of dayglo-bedecked grumps one iota, mind, they were still eager to throw their weight around. A lesbian mum in front of us (from Brighton, natch) was told (rudely) she couldn't rock her baby to sleep where she was because she was standing briefly on the metre wide steps, oh and while she was at it, her bag was not stowed safely under her seat - he had travelled up 24 steps to do this. Out in the concourse, a squad was summoned by radio when four 11/12 year old boys were throwing a foam ball (sold at extortionate prices in the stadium shops) back and forth from ground level to a first floor staircase. Kids were monitored like vermin while seeking autographs and the whole crowd watched like naughty schoolchildren throughout the match. E-cigs, of course, were banned too and a vaper was moved 6 inches backwards because he was standing under a sign saying "smoking not allowed past this point". Despite the atmosphere being no more threatening than you'd find at a 10 year old's birthday party, you could have been forgiven for thinking the stewards were expecting another Heysel or a napalm attack.

This isn't an isolated incident, it is a daily and endemic facet of 21st century life. And it is vile.

Driven by an army of state-paid regulators, irrational detached politicians, health and safety professionals, public health alarmists, security 'experts' and their useful idiots, the "safety is everything, freedom inconsequential" mantra is applied everywhere to the detriment of society as a whole.

The new UK government is pushing ahead with the vile snoopers charter, civil liberties are regarded as inconvenient to lawmaking, and in the US, a would-be Presidential candidate has even gone so far as to have this 'doctrine' posted front and centre on his campaign page.

We often talk about how many brave lives were lost to protect our liberties; it's incredibly sad that it is costing none of those who are determined to take them away from us one by one in the vain pursuit of unattainable absolute safety. In fact, they are being rewarded for it, often with the taxes we have paid for the dubious privilege.

It's almost like Benjamin Franklin's words have been eradicated from historical record, for shame.

Thursday, 14 May 2015

Public Health: The Anglosphere's Global Disease

You gotta laugh at the obsessive puritan mentality sometimes.

The morbidly obese bubblegumphobe is referring to this meme going around 'public health' circles that binge-drinking is uniquely British; that it is a behavioural disease which has now spread to our neighbours across la Manche. So frighteningly swiftly has this happened (despite British drinking culture being thousands of years old) that poor Ministry of Health politicians in Paris have not had time to coin a French word for it, apparently, so have pinched 'le binge-drinking' instead.

He may have a point, you know. The French are renowned throughout history for being crap at wars because they couldn't pitch a tent until they discovered that the English were doing something called 'le camping' - if only Napoleon had known that, eh? Likewise, their poor workers were toiling for seven days a week without respite for centuries until some Gallic traveller visited our shores and dscovered that we enjoyed two days off which we called 'le weekend', and when cars were invented those tortured Frenchies were driving around throughout the day and night before someone told them about the peculiar - but brilliant - British invention of 'le parking'.

Similarly, we Brits had never experienced déjà vu until the French taught us about it; we had no businessmen in this country until a wandering French entrepreneur enlightened us as to how trade was done; women went commando as a matter of course because underwear was only sold on these shores once the French imported lingerie; Britain was devoid of art until our continental neighbours taught us to paint; we couldn't beat eggs without the French teaching us about omelettes; and British people cast no shadows until we'd discovered people in France had seen mysterious things called silhouettes.

It all makes sense now, doesn't it?

Of course, there might be another explanation. You see, the French have always been pretty relaxed about their booze, it's why we like to go there and buy the stuff at dirt cheap prices. Wine is a family thing and is available in supermarché wire baskets at knock-down prices compared to here.

In Britain (and other English-speaking countries), however, we've always had finger-wagging temperance lunatics who like to sneer at the choices of others, and embark on moral panics about the hellfire and eternal damnation that will ensue if you dare to consort with the demon drink. Our history is sadly riddled with the rotten anti-social nerks. And the terminology these puritans create to support their irrational moral crusades necessarily involve terms like 'binge-drinking' to describe something as inconsequential as a couple of pints of Stella on a Sunday afternoon.

The only thing being imported into France is that twisted and illiberal mindset by way of the globalisation of miserabilism, whereby charmless and disloyal grunts like McKee attend international summits and run down his own country in order to spread the dictatorial 'public health' disease to other - previously relaxed - nations so that their people can suffer too.

That's why the French don't have a word for binge-drinking; it's because their own snobby social engineers aren't as imaginative with their self-aggrandising and illiberal vocabulary as the minging, long-practiced, career neo-temperance shitsticks we are cursed with in Britain.

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

As If Prohibition Never Happened

While Australian anti-smoking lunatics continue to pat themselves on the back for installing the utterly pointless policy of plain packaging, BAT Australia has announced some astonishing news.
British American Tobacco Australia (BATA) is considering launching a Make Your Own (MYO) cigarette brand to try and capture the growing number of illegal chop chop smokers.
'Chop chop' is the colloquial name for bags of loose unbranded tobacco sold on the black market in Australia by criminal gangs.
BATA spokesperson Scott McIntyre said chop chop or illegal loose leaf tobacco now makes up the majority of the illegal black market and we are being forced to compete with organised crime for market share due to the government’s failed excise system. 
“Currently the illegal trade in Australia makes up 14.5 per cent of all tobacco consumed in Australia which is nearly 2.6 million tonnes and a big opportunity for us to steal back consumers,” Mr McIntyre said.
By 'failed excise system', McIntyre is referring to two obscene and irresponsible 12.5% increases in tobacco duty which have hugely distorted the Australian tobacco market.

Governments tend to dislike tobacco, we all know that, but such has the hysteria over smoking been whipped up in Australia that they seem to have abandoned all knowledge of the Laffer curve, the principles of Pigovian taxation, and the wise words of J S Mill on sin taxes.
“Every increase of cost is a prohibition, to those whose means to not come up to the augmented price"
Two crippling 12.5% excise duty rises would make legal tobacco unaffordable for large sections of any population, so it is hardly surprising that the gangs producing chop chop are doing brisk business. It's like the Aussie government is completely oblivious to the effects of Prohibition in 1920s USA.

Of course, their dozy politicians will probably point out that tobacco is still legal, just a little bit more expensive. But, as Mill accurately describes, if you price the less well off out of the legal market where else have they to go but the black one?

Mill also had this to say about the legitimacy of massive tax hikes on such products.
"To tax stimulants for the sole purpose of making them more difficult to be obtained is a measure differing only in degree from their entire prohibition, and would be justifiable only if that were justifiable.”
Now, Australia obviously doesn't believe it justifiable that tobacco be banned outright or they would have the balls to have done so by now. So instead they are witnessing the bizarre situation whereby a legal industry has been railroaded into competing with the criminals that the government have empowered by their hysterical fascist policies. Incredible stuff!

There's more though, because - despite this being an entirely predictable turn of events - anti-smoking lunatics are still trying to pretend that their unsustainable policy wet dreams are not insane in practice.

I've reported before on the stunning stupidity of these people in the UK, and how they consider the laws of economics not to apply to tobacco, but Australia has its own mad denialists too.
Australian Council on Smoking and Health president Mike Daube said it was a desperate and bizarre suggestion. 
"It's also a cynical ploy to get around curbs on cigarette promotion and to appeal to the most vulnerable sectors in the community," he said.
This Mike Daube, of course, is the same geriatric extremist anti-smoker who forced a production of Carmen to close because the 1875 opera is set in a cigarette factory ... and then lied about it; who believes passive smoke is more dangerous than exhaust fumes; who denies the benefits of e-cigs due to his anti-industry obsession; and who is so cowardly as to attack a part-time Cornwall waitress for daring to engage in debate.

He's now apparently worried about "the most vulnerable sectors in the community" - exactly the sectors in Australian community who his policies have forced into buying chop chop from organised criminals who don't care about age restrictions, and are not regulated by government. Blithely ignoring the effects of prohibition by taxation he encourages, and the perils of smokers buying their supplies from an unregulated market, instead he is attacking the legal one for daring to try to reel these people back in. There is a special place in hell reserved for rancid psychopaths like that.

In the meantime, we are actually at that point now where legal businesses are jockeying for position with organised crime for market share. Everyone in Australia who has allowed such a situation to develop should feel deeply ashamed, but then shame takes a back seat while they still have their snouts in the tobacco control trough, eh?