Monday, 6 July 2015

Tobacco Products Directive Goes To Consultation

This may well be the only article posted here this week as Puddlecote Inc is going through a major reorganisation. I've been with Reed this afternoon discussing recruitment of two new specialist transport roles to handle a large uptick in fortunes which led to the best results in the company's 20 year history last year. We're also commissioning architects to expand our office space until we can source suitable new premises. All very exciting but it tends take chunks out of my fun time.

However, I have had a brief look at the government's newly-released consultation on the measures to be implemented following the EU's Tobacco Products Directive and it's like watching someone you are supposed to trust deliberately crashing your new car.

You can read the consultation document here if you wish to immerse yourself in a morass of pointless - and in places, counterproductive - tobacco control industry bullshit.

At first glance, I think it deserves a full walkthrough at some point in the future as your humble host has done in the past (see here, here, here, here, here, and here). Yes, I know these things are not "public consultations" but instead public sector consultations - designed as makework for parasite civil service and fake charity tax troughers - but the results have to be published and can sometimes serve to show how corrupt the whole process is, so definitely worth submitting to.

If you find anything interesting in there yourself, do let me know, but I only got as far as question 2 before the increasing tobacco control barrel-scraping idiocy became evident.
The Government intends to implement this provision of the Directive to mean images, targeted at consumers, that are used to promote the sale of products, such as retailer websites offering products for sale. Do you agree with this approach?
This, relates to the {cough} overwhelming promotion of tobacco products all over the country. All advertising may be banned, plain packaging passed, vending machines unlawful, tobacco hidden behind screens at Mr Patel's corner shop, and smokers exiled to a bunker under the central reservation near Leicester Forest East service station, but Sainsbury's still have this page on their website, y'see.

This is, of course, unacceptable. Because thousands of kids - while doing the family shop online with the credit card they are not allowed to own - will stumble across the images and instantly be forced to buy dozens of packs. Banning these images is a no-brainer, then, isn't it?

Or, perhaps, it's not really about the kids, and tobacco control has never actually cared about the choices of adults. What do you think?

There is also an incredibly funny piece of lunacy contained in the document regarding menthol cigarettes. You see, the TPD aims to ban flavoured tobacco (cos the kids, natch) but - to a storm of criticism from anti-smoking obsessives - gave a stay of execution to menthol till 2020. Not that you'll know if you're buying menthol or not anyway.
5.19. The TPD2 will prohibit products benefiting from the transitional arrangements (menthol cigarettes) or exemption from characterising flavours (pipe tobacco etc.), from being labelled with any reference to taste, smell or flavouring. For example, a brand of menthol flavoured cigarettes may continue to be sold until May 2020, but will not be able to be labelled as ‘Brand X Menthol’.
That's right. You can ask for menthol, or flavoured tobacco, but there will be nothing allowed on the packaging to say if you are getting what you asked for or not. Considering plain packaging is supposed to be implemented here next year, that means for four years the UK will be in the utterly bizarre situation of deliberately stopping consumers of a legal product the right to know what they are buying. You won't be even be able to see from the pack design because the colour green will be banned and the word 'menthol' will be too.

When I say tobacco controllers are insane, this is exactly why I can never be proved wrong.

Do go read the whole consultation, it's well woth it for an insight into exactly how the taxes you pay are being abused and handed to thoroughly disgusting trouser-fillers in Shoreditch, Geneva and Brussels. To the benefit of precisely no-one.

The civil servants who drafted it even round it all off with a very funny joke.
The draft regulations will be finalised in due course, taking into account all relevant considerations.
Yes, of course they will. Just like every other consultation British government agencies have embarked upon.

If you wish to respond to the consultation, you have till September 3rd so no rush, plenty of time. The online submission form can be found here.

Friday, 3 July 2015

The Self-Denormalisation Of A Reactionary Antique

You'll have noticed that content has been sparse recently, real life has had me hectic morning noon and night for the past week. This may continue for the coming week too; just thought I'd post that parish notice here. I do have time to briefly highlight this rather amusing piece of Chapman fail though, I think you might enjoy it.

It seems that the Global Forum on Nicotine event in Warsaw last month (see my report here) has got under the gobby coffin-dodger's skin somewhat. Here's how he described it in relation to an Aussie Senator's upcoming committee to examine negative effects of nanny state policies.
On August 24, submissions will close on another Senate enquiry that Leyonhjelm will head as what he’s promoting as an anti-nanny state regulation clean out. Much of this is likely to be air cover for him to grease the political rails for his tobacco industry benefactors to break down barriers to market e-cigarettes in Australia, with a senior advisor Helen Dale (formerly Demidenko) having recently attended a small meeting of vaping activists in Poland.
When I read this in the offices of Puddlecote Inc, it brought on a laugh so unexpected that the midget gem I was chewing flew out and stuck to my monitor!

I just had to find out exactly how 'small' this 'meeting of vaping activists' was, so I emailed the GFN organisers to ask.
"Attendance comprised in excess of 250 delegates representing 43 countries in Europe, North and South America, Asia, Africa and Australasia. Our records show that 42 vaping consumers registered to attend."
Just 42 vapers. Amongst the other 208 or so were tobacco control professionals such as Linda Bauld of the UK Centre for Tobacco and Alcohol Studies, Dreadful Arnott of ASH, Martin Dockrell of Public Health England, Marewa Glover of Auckland’s Centre for Tobacco Control Research, Jennifer Ware of Bristol University's Tobacco and Alcohol Research Group, Stop Smoking service manager for Leicester City Louise Ross, University of Ottawa Adjunct Professor David Sweanor, Director of the Duke Center for Smoking Cessation (and inventor of nicotine patches) Jed Rose, and former head of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control at the World Health Organization, Derek Yach, to name a few.

But they're all just 'vaping activists' now, according to simple Simon. Do you think he's finding himself isolated amongst the dwindling residue of denialist tobacco control dinosaurs? Pretty much, I'd say.

We did have a bit of a laugh about it on Twitter, which must have boiled the old twerp's piss even more because - despite blocking me and anyone else who has ever tweeted him in support of e-cigs and harm reduction - he must have had a sneak peek at see what we were saying before then posting a laughable tweet to try to save his blushes.

Desperate stuff, and this time my hilarity forced Lucozade out of one nostril to spatter a new contract document I was signing. I had to reprint the bloody thing.

So driven was our Aussie clown to pretend the Warsaw event was small and inconsequential and that he is not an increasingly marginalised outlier in his own profession - a reactionary Luddite barking incoherently from his retirement home as the world he no longer understands advances without him - that his choices of picture merely emphasised his geriatric incompetence. He is brilliantly denormalising himself as a credible authority on tobacco control matters, it's a joy to watch.

One of the images was from a session entitled "The Moral Maze" where attendance was split between two discussions with half of the conference at a satellite in another congress hall, the other was from a plenary session which overran significantly due to the enthusiasm of those present, meaning a lot of UK delegates had to reluctantly leave before the end to catch their flights to Heathrow. Or, as VTTV host David Dorn put it ...

Chapman is more and more becoming a cartoon character when it comes to e-cigs and harm reduction. The old dog who can't learn new tricks and howls at the moon about things he seems incapable of understanding. I would say that he should give it up because he's embarrassing himself, but I hope he carries on for a good few years yet, he's tobacco control industry comedy gold.

Thursday, 2 July 2015

ASH Wales Matches ASH London's Vaping Ban Apathy

Far too forceful for ASH Wales
Despite an overwhelming 79% rejection of his policy by the public - and with even 'public health' types queueing up to tell him his proposal to ban e-cigs in enclosed spaces is a crashingly stupid idea - Welsh health minister Mark Drakeford is stubbornly and irresponsibly sticking to his guns. In fact, not only that, his response is to give the sane majority the finger, scream "screw you all!", and double down by banning vaping in outdoor areas as well!

The guy is quite clearly insane.
Wales’ health minister says he intends to ban smoking and e-cigarettes from hospital grounds and school grounds. 
Mark Drakeford told an Assembly committee on Wednesday that the bans would come as regulations off the back of the Public Health Bill, which also intends to ban e-cigarettes from enclosed public and work spaces.
There is - to put it simply - not even a whiff of evidence, or even addled junk science, that says such a policy is remotely justifiable. Indeed, his incompetent wibble is in direct contravention of all credible research and science currently available on vaping.

He knows this, which is why he has dreamed up possibly the most lame excuse I think you will see from any politician, in any government, for the foreseeable future.
He said the bill’s ban on e-cigarettes in enclosed public and work places simply brings “the position in Wales into line with the way that the trend is going. 
“Everything (sic) single day you will find more and more places that is (sic) already doing what this bill proposes,” he said, citing examples of the Wales Millennium Centre, the Millennium Stadium and the New Theatre that ban e-cigarettes already.
This is to fundamentally misunderstand the entire point of government legislation! In a free market economy where property owners enjoy rights over their property, legislation should only be required where markets have failed and/or property rights are seen to be negatively impacting on sections of the population. Drakeford is saying that the market is operating well - even implicitly admiring how it is working - so he is going to enact legislation to, erm, correct a market that isn't failing and restrict property rights which he believes are being handled responsibly. He's a politician who hasn't the faintest idea about what politicians are supposed to be there for!

The lardy loon is literally proposing anti-democratic and provably unnecessary laws to the Assembly committee which are based on nothing but fantasy, superstition and astonishingly ignorant intolerance. I don't wish to be rude, but there is orders of magnitude more evidence-based justification for Drakeford being sectioned under the Mental Health Act than there is for banning vaping in hospital grounds.

The Ashtray blog has reported on this and urges you to join with Labour's opponents in the Welsh Assembly in signing and sharing a Lib Dem petition to drop his silly and damaging idea. I couldn't agree more, so please do so.

However, I'm more struck by the almost supine response from ASH Wales to Drakeford's lunacy.
The proposed extended smoking ban has been welcomed by smoking campaign group Ash Wales.
They are perfectly aware that e-cigs are included in Drakeford's ban, but they're happy to 'welcome' it. They do qualify this meekly further on, but it's about as forceful as a bitch slap from a malnourished goldfish.
“From our point of view, as with the e-cigarette proposals in the Public Health Bill, we want to see more evidence before any firm decision is made on that issue. From our point of view its the minister’s call, but we want to see more evidence.”
Naturally, they're not at all bothered about seeing evidence that smoke outdoors is a health threat to bystanders (hint: it isn't), so it's nice to see that they're now making it perfectly clear that the smoking ban had bugger all to do with protecting staff.

However, their response to a totally unnecessary and potentially damaging ban on e-cig use is utterly pathetic. They'd like to see some evidence but - at the end of the day - if Drakeford goes ahead with it, they couldn't give a shit. It's "the minister's call" after all. Meh.

Two weeks ago, I had this to say about the weak and borderline apathetic "support" ASH London is giving to vapers.
They could have said something like "there is no justification whatsoever for banning e-cigs unless you're an authoritarian cockmuppet" but instead ASH - as usual - merely issue a few limp, fence-sitting platitudes when talking about e-cigs, which effectively tell Guy's and St Thomas' to carry on Doctor, ban 'em if you like, we really couldn't give a toss. 
For the avoidance of doubt, it's worth remembering that every vaping ban - and I do mean every one - is directly as a result of 'passive smoking' hysteria and junk science promoted by ASH for the pure purpose of increasing their own bank balances.
It's abundantly clear that the same applies to ASH Wales too.

Consider the vitriolic, almost violent, rhetoric both ASH and ASH Wales employ when politicians ignore or disagree with whichever ineffective grant-justifying tobacco control piffle they are lobbying for at any particular time. In such cases they threaten, bully, cheat, lie, doctor evidence, mislead politicians, misrepresent data, hurl baseless ad hominems and generally sling as much mud around as they can afford from the cash they have scrounged from the taxpayer. When it comes to vaping though, they can hardly be arsed to wave a sign saying "down with this sort of thing".

So obsessed are ASH Wales - and their equally vile sibling ASH London - with getting an utterly pointless ban on smoking in hospital car parks, that they're quite content to throw vapers under the bus.

It's well beyond time their state funding was switched off, the self-serving bastards shouldn't receive so much as a brass farthing of our tax receipts.

Monday, 29 June 2015

Mad Stan Speaks, The World Laughs

"There there Stan, time for your pills?"
On Thursday we had a chuckle about Mad Stan's latest piece of hilarious garbage. To cut a long story short, he managed to write a study which proved itself wrong, simply because he's a pathetic obese gnome who hates e-cigs.

Others have had fun with it too because it really is a work of simpleton art, but now anti-smoking Dr Michael Siegel - a Professor at the Boston University School of Public Health - has put the boot in too (do read the whole thing - DP).
The authors of this article set up a straw man by arguing that the reason for the promotion of electronic cigarettes is that the smoking population is hardening. Then, if they can show that the smoking population is actually softening, they can argue that e-cigarettes are not needed. However, this is a straw man argument because the reason why advocates like myself are promoting electronic cigarettes has nothing to do with whether the smoking population is hardening or softening.

Mad Stan's hypothesis was that e-cigs should not be promoted because his wealthy fellow tobacco control narcissists have a plan all laid out for making people quit smoking and they don't need any help, thank you very much. Well, not any help they aren't paid out of your taxes to provide, that is.

But as Siegel notes, it doesn't matter how much more difficult or easy it is to 'encourage' smokers to quit, there are still real smokers around, so anything - according to Siegel - that can persuade those smokers to quit is a good thing, right? Well, not according to lifelong tobacco control advocate Mad Stan, no. He's quite content with what's happening right now, so he is - if people continue to smoke because e-cigs are not on the table, he's happy as Larry.

I argued on Thursday that Mad Stan's study proved the opposite of what he claimed - quite a feat for the dickhead - and Siegel tends to agree.
Although the potential value of electronic cigarettes is not conditioned on whether the smoking population is hardening or softening, this article misinterprets its own data to incorrectly conclude that the smoking population is softening. 
This article confirms that the proportion of smokers making quit attempts in the United States has increased over time. However, trends in smoking prevalence during the same time period confirm that the decline in prevalence has declined over the past decade and a half. And since the number of quit attempts has gone way up, this means that the proportion of quit attempts that are successful has dropped. In other words, smokers are finding it more difficult, not easier, to quit. This actually suggests that the smoking population is hardening.
Indeed. As I said on Thursday, it's laugh out loud funny that the bespectacled berk has managed to construct a study which manages to ridicule both itself and the idiot charlatans who wrote it. 

It's a sloppy and laughable dog's breakfast of a study, as Siegel also concludes.
The rest of the story is that in this new article, the study sets up an irrelevant straw man argument, misconstrues the reasons why e-cigarettes are being promoted, misinterprets the data analysis, and draws an invalid conclusion about the "irrelevant" research question which it set out to answer.
I'll let you in on a secret, I took around 30 minutes to write Thursday's article - including finding links, adding images and choosing tags - because it just about wrote itself.  The study is such transparently incoherent junk science cockwaffle that Twitter was collectively laughing almost before it was published. When they next update the online Oxford English Dictionary, the definition of 'ineptitude' will simply have a link to Mad Stan's self-defeating study, with a note to also see the entry for "shooting oneself in the foot".

No-one, but no-one, could believe it to be an important piece of research because they would have to be functionally illiterate or certifiably insane to do so.

Oh well, there's always one idiot in every town I suppose.

Thursday, 25 June 2015

Stanton Glantz Produces A Study Which Proves Himself Wrong

We've always known that Stanton Glantz is a horse's arse, but he's galloped an extra few furlongs this week.

In order to rubbish e-cigs and the concept of harm reduction, the bonkers aircraft engineer has just had a study published in the science-averse rag Tobacco Control Journal where he claims that - between 1992 and 2012 - the fewer smokers there have been, the quicker they have quit. Here's how he explains it on his blog.
Smokeless tobacco and, more recently, e-cigarettes have been promoted as a harm reduction strategy for smokers who are “unable or unwilling to quit.” The strategy, embraced by both industry and some public health advocates, is based on the assumption that as smoking declines overall, only those who cannot quit will remain.  A new study by researchers at UC San Francisco has found just the opposite. 
The concept of harm reduction, first proposed in the 1970s, was based on the theory that as smoking prevalence declines, the remaining “hard core” smokers will be less likely or able to quit smoking, a process called hardening. The study found that the population is actually softening.
By 'hardening', he means the well-established and entirely logical theory that as the smokers most likely to quit do quit - the low-hanging fruit for tobacco control, if you like - then the rate of decline in prevalence will decrease; that making them quit becomes harder. But Glantz says that not only is this not happening, but the opposite is true; that 'softening' is happening instead and the rate of decline in smoking prevalence is speeding up.

OK, let's imagine for a moment that he's correct - yes, I know it's difficult, but stopped clocks and all that - and that as smoking prevalence falls the rate of quitting goes up, not down. In such a scenario, we could plot the data on a graph and the curve would show a steepening decline in smokers. Something like this.

However, this certainly isn't happening because other studies by less desperately delirious tobacco controllers have said so. Here's one studying England ...
The proportion of smokers in England with both low motivation to quit and high dependence appears to have increased between 2000 and 2010, independently of risk factors, suggesting that ‘hardening’ may be occurring in this smoker population.
.. and here's one looking at data from 187 countries from 1980 to 2012.
Global modeled prevalence declined at a faster rate from 1996 to 2006 (mean annualized rate of decline, 1.7%; 95% UI, 1.5%-1.9%) compared with the subsequent period (mean annualized rate of decline, 0.9%; 95% UI, 0.5%-1.3%; P = .003). 
It is the same predictable story everywhere in the world. In fact, considering Glantz is from California, he must be well aware of real life prevalence trends in his own state. It looks like this.

As you can see, what is actually happening bears no similarity whatsoever to the curve we would produce in Glantz's fantasy scenario. The prevalence curve has flattened over time, not steepened, and this is replicated all over the globe.

The reason is that Glantz has based his study on quit attempts, and not people who have actually quit. He doesn't bother to take into account whether or not the attempts are successful, almost as if it's irrelevant. It is, however, relevant because the number of quit attempts doesn’t matter, only the number of smokers does.

I'm sure it will come as no surprise to anyone that Glantz is either lying or showing himself up as a gormless wankwassock, but it gets better.

You see, his theory is based on a sheep effect, that as prevalence drops more people want to move away from the demonised smoking habit, so therefore more people attempt to quit.  Think about that logically, though, and Glantz has only proven that more people are embarking on quit attempts. However, since there is no steepening decline in prevalence from real life data - in fact it is the opposite - this can only mean one thing; that a smaller percentage of smokers are successful with their quit attempts than in the past and making people quit is therefore getting harder. Exactly in keeping with all previous studies and the polar opposite of what the nutter set out to 'prove'.

Add in the fact that with UK and US data over the last few years showing a downturn in smoking prevalence in direct proportion to the increase in vaping, without e-cigs Glantz's insistence that tobacco control is wildly successful without harm reduction would have looked even more absurd. The only reason the prevalence curve hasn't flattened out more is because e-cigs have come along, so it’s self evident that harm reduction does work very well, especially as we know that a large proportion of the rise in quit attempts Glantz mentioned would have been by way of using e-cigs instead.

He must be the first tobacco controller ever to have produced a study which comprehensively proves itself wrong. Remarkable!