Monday, 30 April 2012

Plain Packaging For Alcohol Confirmed As Future Policy Objective?

As reported here last month, the government gently floated the idea of plain packaging for alcohol during their investigations in advance of the trumpeted alcohol strategy.

The drinks industry have since removed their fingers from their ears long enough to pooh pooh it. They've listened to those nice, kind, honest upstanding MPs, you see.
Darran Britton, marketing and strategy director, Carlsberg UK, says that he will not be distracted by the discussion about plain packaging. 'The government has stated its direction within the recently published alcohol strategy,' he explains. 
'This does not refer to plain packaging for alcohol. We are focusing on the areas raised in the alcohol strategy.' 
This view is shared by Tim Lefroy, the Advertising Association's chief executive. 'Plain packaging didn't appear in the alcohol strategy, because there is no evidence that it will reduce harm,' he says. 'The government has since reiterated that it is not in their plans, and rightly so. The idea lacks precedent, and confuses problem drinking with branding,' he adds.
Aww bless. They're still under the impression the government requires evidence, is true to its word, and cares if a pet idea is loopy or not.

I believe, however, that the most telling quote in the article contains a very significant three letter word.
Alcohol Concern, often a thorn in the side of the industry, was surprised by the proposal. Emily Robinson, its director of campaigns and fundraising, says: 'We'd like to see more action on labelling, but we haven't called for plain packaging, yet.'
Give them their due, at least their anti-smoking counterparts used to fiercely deny policies which they knew full well would be vigorously pursued in due course. Alcohol Concern don't feel the need to be so coy.

Sunday, 29 April 2012

54% Of Doctors Want To See The End Of The NHS

A little bit of my thunder was stolen today. Y'see, the first thing I read this morning was Michael Gove's reading of the riot act to Catholic educators.
Education Secretary Michael Gove is to examine claims the Catholic Education Service (CES) broke impartiality rules on the topic of gay marriage. 
It emerged this week that the CES wrote to nearly 400 state-funded Roman Catholic schools inviting them to back a petition against gay civil marriage.
Schools and teachers are forbidden to promote one-sided political arguments.
How, I was going to say, is the department for education any different from the department of health? Not only does the latter allow its satellite bodies - strategic health authorities and PCTs - to campaign on political issues in an extremely one-sided manner (see just two examples of hundreds below), it even provides funding specifically for the purpose.

The reason quoted for educationalists being barred from political advocacy is that children are easily-led by teachers who are seen as being persons of authority and knowledge. As such, they are able to convey their own personal preferences as fact.

Doctors and health professionals are seen in the same light by the majority of the population, yet no similar restriction is placed on them. In fact, the ASA considers it perfectly normal that they should be engaging in political advocacy, despite government in recent years making it clear that they reckon the adult public are all helpless, infantile saps at the mercy of clever advertisers against our will and rational judgement. Isn't that the whole point of their Change4Life and minimum pricing programmes? All initiated, of course, by pressure from 'well-respected' doctors.

However, it would appear that I'm completely wrong. 

As a few others have pointed out, it's been reported by the Observer today that - in reality - a majority of doctors surveyed are short-sighted, irresponsible, dribbling idiots.
Doctors back denial of treatment for smokers and the obese 
Survey finds 54% of doctors think the NHS should have the right to withhold non-emergency treatment
I'll add a caveat that if any of that 54% have previously been of the opinion that the NHS should be broken up and operated on more actuarial lines with differing premiums -  you know, like the private model - they are excluded from the idiot tag. But I'll bet a hefty sum that they are mostly from the same contingent who have been banging on about the NHS Reform Bill and how it could lead to a privatised NHS in the future.

If that proves correct, here we have a majority of doctors arguing like stink in favour of a health service rooted in care for all free at the point of delivery, but simultaneously proposing a selective service based on differing risk profiles to save money ... you know, like the private model.

In which case, I can almost understand why they are exempted from rules of impartiality due to their authority. How can doctors be viewed as having any gravitas whatsoever when they are so consummately dense?

The country has made a contract with the people, beginning 60 odd years ago, that if we are good and pay our taxes - or even if we can't afford it - we will be treated by the state. It's what everyone loves about the NHS. Once you start tinkering with that and running it on different lines, trust will break down very quickly and a lot of people are going to be asking for their money back. Roll the principle out in other areas too and we'll quickly see the end of the NHS as we know it, not that I would personally be weeping as it is long past being fit for the modern age.

Of course, most of the 54% didn't intend that, they're just foolish and downright stupid, but I fully defend their right to use their prejudices to gnaw away at the NHS from within.

Just as an aside, this will come as a superlatively incredible quote for long-standing readers here. Make sure you're sitting down when you read it.
Tam Fry, spokesman for the National Obesity Forum, said doctors who back bans "are totally out of order. There's no way that someone who is obese can be denied initial treatment by the NHS – that would be totally unjustified. There are many reasons why people are fat and gluttony is only one of them. The NHS should not be discriminating against fat people purely on the grounds of their fatness. That would be a denial of their basic human rights."
Tam Fry shares a seat on the board of the National Obesity Forum with a certain Jane Deville-Almond who holds an entirely different view, as she made plain on Radio 5 in 2009.

So not all National Obesity Forum personnel believe people should "just have to die" if they don't follow orders from the health lobby, then? I suppose that's another positive to be taken from today's ignorant and unnecessary public health agonising.

One day these overpaid dickheads will work out that the best way to save money in the NHS is to stop wasting our taxes and leave us the fuck alone.

Friday, 27 April 2012

Lansley Out-Nannies The EU

An article in Talking Retail yesterday, detailing how the former head of the UK Patent Office’s designs and trade marks division condemns plain packaging (definitely worth a read), contained a rather interesting quote from EU Health Commissioner, John Dalli.
Dalli said: “We want to reduce the attractiveness of smoking. Packaging can help in this regard but the European Commission doesn’t want to go as far as Australia, where cigarette packets must be completely plain.”
Now, readers here will remember that Dalli is certainly no friend of tobacco, however even he is marginally on the right side of the sane/insane divide with regard plain packs.

It seems our government - who promised to get the state out of our lives and whose Conservative members are described by Dan Hannan as 'eurosceptic' - are now more insistent on micromanagement and regulation of our lives than overbearing micromanagement and regulation experts, the EU.

Who needs a supra-national collection of authoritarian tax leeches when our own coalition is determined to pass legislation more draconian than even Brussels can stomach?

Now there's a nice thought for the weekend, eh?

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Kids Barely Notice Tobacco Packs Says New Study ... By Cancer Research UK!

Cancer Research UK have today thrown their highly-paid hat into the plain packaging ring with a report which has seemingly only been picked up by the Mirror and the Independent. From the latter we learn.
Eight focus groups of 15-years-olds assembled by the charity showed clear differences between boys and girls when asked to pick their favourite pack. Girls chose Silk Cut and Vogue Superslims which they related to perfume, make-up and chocolate. Boys preferred Marlbro Bright Leaf, Lambert and Butler and B&H slide packs which suggested maturity, popularity and confidence.
From this, The Indy has concluded - probably encouraged by alarmist wording in the press release they would have been sent - that ...
Tobacco companies are designing cigarette packs to resemble bottles of perfume or with lids that flip open like a lighter to lure young people into smoking.

Research published yesterday reveals the lengths to which the industry has gone to make its packs attractive to new generations of smokers as opportunities for promoting its products have been progressively reduced.
In which case, they must have done an apallingly inept job as Cancer Research UK's study shows quite convincingly.

On page 30, a description began of how the 15 year olds in the focus groups viewed tobacco packaging. Or didn't, to be more accurate.

Generally, there was little awareness of different styles of tobacco packaging apart from the key brand, which for the participants in this study, was Mayfair. Most participants could describe Mayfair’s blue pack design and this was viewed as a standard tobacco pack. It was seen as a popular, every-day pack, commonly smoked by family members and peers. It was also a pack to be seen with for ‘fitting-in’ purposes. Participants did not view this pack as particularly attractive or as a good design, but it was sometimes described as cool and good quality because of its popularity.
Quite different from the hyperbole being pumped out to newspapers by CRUK, isn't it? The narrative continued.
Aside from Mayfair, there was little prior awareness of the packs used in the focus groups. A small number of participants had seen the innovative B&H slide and Marlboro Bright Leaf packs before. On occasion, some participants could recall seeing the Lambert & Butler, Pall Mall and Silk Cut packs and the Golden Virginia pouch. However, it appeared that participants were seeing most of the packs used in the focus groups for the first time. This was despite a general perception that tobacco packs were everywhere and seen countless times a day in shops, vending machines, public smoking areas and on the ground.
So much for the theory that 'glitzy' and innovative cigarette packs are fairly jumping off the shelves and into kids' faces. Most young people seem completely unaware of their existence.

Again and again, the same view is expressed about the meaningless nature of tobacco packs to kids.
To some extent the pack appeared peripheral compared with the cigarette in youth smoking, particularly at the initiation/experimentation stage. The general perception was that young people would either ‘jump in’, i.e. pool their money among a group of friends to buy a pack, or buy single cigarettes from someone in school known to have a pack. [...] Some said they never really saw the pack being used it was just the cigarette that was passed around.
It was the same with packs containing fewer cigarettes, which the righteous continually point to as designed for the youth market. If so, they're not designed very well.
The two 14 packs sparked much curiosity and discussion among participants. There was little prior awareness of this pack size. That the packs contained 14 cigarettes was neither viewed positively or negatively suggesting that different size offerings have little meaning for young people.
And when the researchers unveiled the point of the exercise, the holy grail plain brown pack (which they branded as Kerrods).
Placing the ‘Kerrods’ plain pack alongside branded packs for the tobacco packaging activities gave insights into plain pack perceptions and the messages a plain pack communicates relative to branded packs. The groups gave no indication they suspected the plain pack was anything but a genuine pack, although this may be explained by the low brand and pack awareness of all but the most popular brands.
Yes. So very unaware were the groups of any tobacco packaging at all, they even believed a normal pack spray-painted brown was a genuine brand.

Which is kinda what sane people have been saying all along, that kids are not hypnotised, or coerced, into starting to smoke by tobacco packaging in any way shape or form. This new research simply proves that conclusively. Thank you, CRUK.

Now can we just stop this pointless charade, Lansley? It's just wasting everyone's time and making your department look like a bunch of cretinous clowns.

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Minimum Pricing: Sheemed Like A {Hic} Good Idea At The Time

You have to wonder if UK politicians who have been promoting minimum alcohol pricing might have been a bit pissed when they made the decision to go for it.

Consider this response to a parliamentary question tabled by a UKIP member of the House of Lords.
Lord Willoughby de Broke (UKIP) To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of whether their proposal for minimum pricing on alcohol is compliant with European Union law. 
Lord Henley (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Environment, Food and Rural Affairs; Conservative) The legal advice which the Government have received on this issue is subject to legal privilege. We do not, therefore, believe it appropriate to disclose this advice (or any summary of it). The Government are currently in discussion with the EU Commission on this issue.
You'd think, wouldn't you, that if a government was bold enough to announce such a courageous policy as minimum pricing, someone would have made absolutely sure that it was legal under EU rules.

Lord Henley's inability to disclose even the merest detail of the legal advice they have received suggests they might be having a few problems.

It's the same in Scotland where Nicola Sturgeon is similarly struggling.
[Labour’s Scottish health spokeswoman, Jackie Baillie, said:] “If [Nicola Sturgeon] is so confident, why does she not come clean and finally publish the legal advice, her proposed minimum price, and formally notify the EU?”
One thing is quite clear. The only answer to this apparent dithering lies in Brussels, as Cameron's advisers seem to understand quite clearly.
At a private meeting on March 26, three days after the Prime Minister set out his controversial alcohol strategy, industry sources said that Whitehall officials told representatives it was their understanding minimum unit pricing did raise legal concerns. 
The meeting had been planned prior to Mr Cameron's announcement to discuss more routine tax issues. But minimum unit pricing was raised among the opening remarks, with Treasury officials relaying their view that the policy could have difficulties under European law. 
The Treasury disputes that it said anything more than laying out some of the legal issues, although industry sources said it went further than that.
Oh, it goes a lot further than that. In an answer to Lib Dem MEP George in February, the situation was explained conclusively.

It seems that the EU are quite happy for member states to implement minimum pricing on alcohol, as long as it doesn't unfairly hinder trade from other EU countries. However, the competition law aspect insists on comprehensive impartiality. And that comes with some rather awkward conditions.
From a competition law perspective, the critical factor when it comes to a national measure setting minimum alcohol prices is that the alcohol industry should not be involved in the process in any way whatsoever, since this would render the measure contrary to Article 4, paragraph 3, TEU, in conjunction with Article 101 TFEU. The Court of Justice has held that national measures where a Member State requires, favours or reinforces an anti-competitive agreement or where it delegates to private operators the responsibility for taking decisions affecting the economic sphere will infringe said provisions.
Translated, this means that any legislation would have to be implemented without any company or individual in the alcohol manufacturing or retail industries even being allowed to take part in the consultation exercise. So much as a letter or a phone call would render the whole thing illegal and they'd have to start again from scratch.

North of the border, this puts the SNP in right sticky situation. How do they get their little baby through by wilfully ignoring whisky manufacturers who they regularly talk about in very proud terms, and whose products provide a massive boost to the Scottish economy?

Cameron has even worse problems. He would appear to have driven into a cul de sac from which he is going to find it extremely difficult to reverse. Y'see, he has doggedly defended his decision to include industry in proceedings. In fact, his 'responsibility deal' is a commitment inextricably written through his government public health agenda. It is, quite simply, a major plank of his government's modus operandum.

For minimum alcohol pricing to reach the statute book, every tie with anyone from the drinks industry will have to be cut. They would have to be blackballed at a stroke.

I can imagine some policy formers in the Tory party holding their sore heads and groaning "never again, Lord, I swear!", as the reality of their binge-meddling hits home. Either an embarrassing climb-down beckons or else they'll be picking a fight with major businesses which will never go away in our lifetime.

As if that wasn't funny enough, the fallout - should Cameron be stupid enough to dig his heels in - promises to be even more hilarious.

A minimum price for the off-trade is just the start, as the Sheffield University study which underwrites every single piece of anti-alcohol rhetoric states quite clearly.
Differential minimum pricing for on-trade and off-trade leads to more substantial reductions in consumption (30p off-trade together with an 80p on-trade minimum price -2.1% versus -0.6% for 30p only; 40p together with 100p -5.4% compared to -2.6% for 40p only). This is firstly because much of the consumption by younger and hazardous drinking groups (including those at increased risk of criminal offending due to high intake on a particular day) occurs in the on-trade. It is also because increasing prices of cheaper alcohol in the on-trade dampens down the behaviour switching effects when off-trade prices are increased.
Yes, you read that correctly. A minimum alcohol price for pubs.

And if the precedent has been set for the off-trade, and the medical community states - as it will - that such a move is essential to save lives according to the University of Sheffield, politicians will be faced with the prospect of being forced into implementing that too. What's more, they'd have to do so without engaging in discussion with pub-loving interests in any way whatsoever.

Can you imagine the horror on minimum price advocate CAMRA's faces if that were to materialise? Not to mention all those MPs who currently fall over themselves to defend pubs despite their policies having crushed them.

Stock up on popcorn boys and girls, this could turn out to be the best political laugh-fest since David Mellor shagging in a Chelsea shirt.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Debunking Plain Packs Junk: The 'Myth' Of Longer Serving Times

Belinda today linked to ASH Scotland's version of the 'myths' surrounding plain packaging.

This would seem to be the big strategy from tobacco control. In the absence of any kind of half-decent evidence, they are instead attempting to play down the obvious deficiencies of the policy by answering concerns with a few sentences based on shoddy studies (I say that as if there is anything else in the tobacco control armoury).

There are a variety of these about, dependent on which anti-smoking site you happen to come across. Some 'myths' are staples, but others are whatever the author of the page has chosen from a menu presented to them by the smokefree coalition, one suspects.

ASH Scotland have picked one of the more unusual ones as part of their selection, so let's start my promised series by showing it up for the junk that it is.
"Plain packs will cause confusion and extra costs for small businesses"

Tobacco industry estimates that plain packaging would slow down transaction times by 45 seconds longer per sale were based on a survey of the opinions of just 6 tobacco retailers. Proper research, measuring over 5,000 transactions in a carefully controlled setting found that, if anything, plain packs reduced transaction times and selection errors and certainly didn’t increase them.
Their 'proper' research is, you will not be surprised to learn, anything but.

As usual with tobacco control, you're not actually allowed to see it unless you pay a fee. They find it far easier to hoodwink you that way. Why should the public be allowed to check for themselves, eh?

Fortunately, our little group of jewel robbers includes those who are able to fling the odd pdf my way. As such, I am amongst a very small minority of people able to see if their claims stand up.

The study ASH Scotland are talking about (they aren't even considerate enough to cite it!) is entitled "Measuring the effect of cigarette plain packaging on transaction times and selection errors in a simulation experiment".
Conclusion: Rather than plain packaging requiring an additional 45 s per transaction, our results suggest that it will, if anything, modestly decrease transaction times and selection errors.
The study involved asking people to serve cigarettes to 'customers' reading out orders from a randomised list. First with branded packs, and then with plain ones. They found that it was slightly quicker with the latter.

Very good.

Or, it would be if they hadn't ensured the result in designing the study in the first place.

For example, they didn't include minor brands. The justification being that not many people actually want to buy them, so those were excluded based on market share. This led to a nicely manageable array of just 19 pack types to choose from.
A list of 50 transactions was compiled, with frequencies assigned to various cigarette brands on the list, based upon market share. In this way, the most popular brand in Australia with a 32% market share was assigned 16 transactions, the second most popular with a 24% share was assigned 12 transactions and so on, with transactions being rounded to the nearest whole number (brands with market shares <1% were rounded to zero). This resulted in a transaction list of the 19 most popular cigarette brands
Of course, in the real world - rather than the cloud cuckoo one where tobacco control resides - there are over a hundred brands in many retailer outlets, and people buy them.

Scanning for the minor brands without visible clues like, you know, branding and trademarks, is much more difficult - and likely to significantly slow down selection times - if the brand name is only printed in 14 point font as Australian legislation dictates.

Best just design a study that doesn't put such an obstacle in the way of getting the right result then, eh?

Actually, talking of the font size ...
The plain packs were constructed in a dull brown coloured cardboard with the brand name and quantity of cigarettes printed in a standard, black Arial Rounded font size 22 on the bottom half of the face.
The legislation stipulates 14 point Lucida Sans, which is a bit of a difference. How much of a difference? Well, what do you think? In the image below, the first example is what the study used, the second is what is prescribed by the Aussie government.


As for the servers, it would be problematic for this study if the customer were to mess up the results.
In order to reduce confounding from prior familiarity with brand logos and colours, smokers and those with previous experience in selling tobacco were excluded from participation. Those not fluent in English were also excluded.
Because only in the wibbly-wobbly world of tobacco control does multi-culturalism cease to exist. Everyone, but everyone, speaks English fluently and without hindrance.

There are obviously no examples of transactions - ever - where the purchaser can easily see his brand due to its highly visible packaging, and point to where it is to someone who struggles to understand verbal communication. Pointing becomes more difficult when faced with 100+ brands imprinted with almost invisible 14 point type from the opposite side of the counter. But I think they knew that when they sat round the table and chose their team.

As if that wasn't shoddy enough, there is more.

We are constantly told, by proud anti-smoking idiots, that this measure is designed to increase the visibility of graphic warnings. In fact, ASH Scotland's myth-busting uses this to ridicule the notion of increased counterfeiting (number 2).

By extension, we are supposed to realise that all the gore will take our attention away from the name of the brand. That is, after all, the entire point.

Not for our 'proper' study designers, it's not.
In order to reduce confounding from health warnings, none were featured on either style of packaging.
Is your belief beggared yet?

There is one last error which makes the whole study a bit of a joke. There were no customers.

The list of brands was read by researchers who were absolutely certain what they required. There was no dithering because of the difficulties placed before them as they might as well be someone with a pre-written shopping list for a flu-ridden aunt.

So ASH Scotland's 'proper' research, in summation, is a world in which every customer comes equipped with a shopping list and is not bothered by choice; where the major brands are the only ones in existence; where the font size is far easier to see than that they intend to implement; where there are no language issues; and where health warnings haven't been invented yet.

Apart from that, it's kosher.

Monday, 23 April 2012

Drafting A Plain Packs Consultation Response

Having had a first proper look at the questions being asked in the public sector consultation on plain packaging, it seems that the debunking of tobacco control's supposed 'myths' will be something to add in the 'any other business' questions at the end.

A couple of fellow jewel thieves have already shared their responses by e-mail - for which I'm most grateful - but here is a brief plan of how I'm intending to address the government's attempt at transparency.
1. Which option do you favour?

● Do nothing about tobacco packaging (i.e., maintain the status quo for tobacco packaging);
● Require standardised packaging of tobacco products; or
● A different option for tobacco packaging to improve public health.
Well obviously, do nothing.

There's no evidence; it clearly won't work; it is aesthetically miserable; merely a form of bullying; and proof that the government has gone power crazy in its desire to control how a so-called 'free' populace choose to live their lives. It is also proof positive - if plain packaging goes ahead - that our politicians are spineless cowards in the face of unelected state-funded quangoes and fake charities.

Who is government supposed to be acting for? The public, or unelected civil servants and their similarly tax-sponging lobby groups?
2. If standardised tobacco packaging were to be introduced, would you agree with the approach set out in paragraphs 4.6 and 4.7 of the consultation?
A nonsense question, and designed to be a leading one.

The answer is one which is not on the list, requiring a negative response. It's a common tactic of salesmen worldwide who long since realised that human beings are not comfortable with saying 'no'.

I don't agree or disagree with the plans for plain packaging, they are irrelevant. I don't think they should even be under consideration.
3. Do you believe that standardised tobacco packaging would contribute to improving public health over and above existing tobacco control measures, by one or more of the following:

● Discouraging young people from taking up smoking;
● Encouraging people to give up smoking;
● Discouraging people who have quit or are trying to quit smoking from relapsing; and/or
● Reducing people’s exposure to smoke from tobacco products?
Another cleverly-worded question designed to make even those with reservations to pick an option from the list.

The answer is, of course, none of the above. There is no evidence of any quality or repute that it will do anything of the sort.
4. Do you believe that standardised packaging of tobacco products has the potential to:

● Reduce the appeal of tobacco products to consumers?
● Increase the effectiveness of health warnings on the packaging of tobacco products?
● Reduce the ability of tobacco packaging to mislead consumers about the harmful effects of smoking?
● Affect the tobacco-related attitudes, beliefs, intentions and behaviours of children and young people?
Still attempting to elicit responses to agree with their own pre-conceived views, this is yet another leading question designed to be a booby trap.

Again, no, no, no and, err, no.
5. Do you believe that requiring standardised tobacco packaging would have trade or competition implications?
Good grief! That a government should need to ask for an answer to such a question is quite frightening. Trade marks and branding are tools used in every industry to distinguish one company's products from another. They are called 'trade' marks because they are vital for trade, and competition relies on differentiation.

Of course taking these away would have 'complications'. Is it any wonder the economy is weakly staggering like a drunken hooker at a rugby festival if it is run by politicians so stupid that they're asking our help on something so economically basic?
6. Do you believe that requiring standardised tobacco packaging would have legal implications?
There's a court case going on in Australia at the moment - the first of a series, I understand. What do you think, you Westminster muppets?

Of course, the last two questions - whilst seemingly transparent and seeking public opinion - are only included to lead anti-tobacco groups to peddle their daft fantasies which fly in the face of plain facts and common sense.
7. Do you believe that requiring standardised tobacco packaging would have costs or benefits for manufacturers, including tobacco and packaging manufacturers?
Who wrote these questions? Were they taken from a list supplied by the smokefree mafia?

"Ask any of these, please, we've got all our shonky 'studies' and soundbites ready and in pdf format!"

If there were benefits, tobacco firms and their manufacturers would have acted without your interference. There can, therefore, only be costs. It's a basic tenet of the free market, so the coalition would - obviously - not understand.
8. Do you believe that requiring standardised tobacco packaging would have costs or benefits for retailers?
Ask the retailers you lied to over the tobacco display ban. That consultation resulted in ASH saying that it would be a piffling amount. It has since imposed a significant cost on industry in the middle of a fucking recession.

Now, having utterly pointlessly forced them to cover the packets up, you make that expense a wasted one with this latest lunacy. Pull your trousers up, tell tobacco control to put their dicks away, and stop being a vested interest rent boy.

It will have costs. Costs!
9. Do you believe that requiring standardised tobacco packaging would increase the supply of, or demand for, illicit tobacco or non-duty-paid tobacco in the United Kingdom?
Listen, chumps. You are lowering the costs for counterfeiters by putting cigarettes in one standard sized, coloured, and shaped pack, instead of over 200. And you're asking if it will increase or decrease the illicit trade?

One of the central planks of tobacco control policy is that price drives consumption. If counterfeiter costs reduce, so will the street price, leading to increased consumption. If you can't see that it can only incentivise an increase, you need your head read.
10. People travelling from abroad may bring tobacco bought in another country back into the United Kingdom for their own consumption, subject to United Kingdom customs regulations. This is known as ‘cross-border shopping’. Do you believe that requiring standardised tobacco packaging would have an impact on cross-border shopping?
You plan on making the packs - according to your own 'evidence' - less appealing to consumers.

If the public - by your own admission - don't like plain packs, they will source more from the continent. You are adding significantly to the allure of an already cheaper product by making it even more attractive, quite literally, to make the effort to buy.

Shop owners in Belgium and elsewhere are rubbing their hands with glee.
11. Do you believe that requiring standardised tobacco packaging would have any other unintended consequences?
Apart from further illustrating to the public that you're stark, staring bonkers, you mean?

Perhaps the increased illicit trade, costs to business, and infantilisation of the public just aren't enough for you, eh?
12. Do you believe that requiring standardised tobacco packaging should apply to cigarettes only, or to cigarettes and hand-rolling tobacco?
The salesmanship keeps exhibiting itself, doesn't it? Again the answer isn't listed. There shouldn't be plain packaging on any of the above.
13. Do you believe that requiring standardised packaging would contribute to reducing health inequalities and/or help us fulfil our duties under the Equality Act 2010?
Well, considering it has less chance of working than a kettle made of cheese, I wouldn't have thought so.

Added business costs, difficulties for consumers, and industry job losses might have an effect. Not in a beneficial way, though.
14. Please provide any comments you have on the consultation-stage impact assessment. Also, please see the specific impact assessment questions at Appendix B of this consultation document and provide further information and evidence to answer these questions if you can.

15. Please include any further comments on tobacco packaging that you wish to bring to our attention. We also welcome any further evidence about tobacco packaging that you believe to be helpful.
Do they want a couple of essays? I'll get started then.

Might need some tidying up before sending, but I think it covers the main points. Not sure yet whether I'll be using the online submission form. I'm currently favouring printing it off so they have to open and scan it instead of reading the first response and clicking into an electronic file to ignore.

If you have any suggestions/alterations, let me know. And do consider sending your own personal response, but if you'd prefer the simpler option, click here and add your name to the list of objectors.

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Government Lobbying Government In The North East?

At the start of this month, NHS North East replied to my request as to their financial support for the plain packaging campaign. Their response was as oleaginous as we have come to expect from those who waste spend our taxes.
"We are unaware of any direct PCT expenditure on the plain packaging campaign."
'Direct' obviously being the operative word, since Smokefree North East - funded by NHS North East PCTs - have undeniably been spending money on the project as the video embedded in this article proves.

I wonder how their wasting of your money compares with other areas.

Place your bets. Higher or lower than the £468,000 (government-funded) Smokefree South West lobbied government with?

Saturday, 21 April 2012

When Wine Isn't Wine And Doing The Right Thing Is 'Irrelevant'

Further to this Mail story earlier in the month, you might enjoy (or, rather, apply face to palm during) this news report from Meridian TV.

It's interesting to see UKIP's Nigel Farage objecting to such laughable EU interference, as I haven't seen much by way of condemnation from any of the recognised main three parties. In fact, prominent politicians are dubbing UKIP "irrelevant", apparently.

If railing against utter lunacy and protecting British interests in the face of appalling EU legislation is irrelevance, mark me down as a big fan of it.

Link Tank 21/04

Sometimes, they just pick themselves.

How the health lobby significantly over-estimate the affordability of alcohol

Volunteers invited for a constituency-based smoker letter-writing group

Let's be blunt: It's time to end the drug war

A call for warning labels on soft drinks in New Zealand

Mayor Michael Bloomberg wants building owners to say where people can smoke on their properties

Watching porn can shut down part of your, erm, oh what's it called again?

Study says Michelle Obama is talking rot about food in poorer areas

The disco-blasting robot fast food waiters of 1980s Pasadena

Correlation, causation, and alcohol

Rubber chicken flies into solar radiation storm

Shiny yoghurt-eating mice with big balls

Friday, 20 April 2012

Saying No To Tax And Silliness

It's been a busy week at Puddlecote Inc. but it ended on a high with a most satisfying Friday.

Some may remember previous articles where I touch upon taxation, and how I'm buggered if I'm letting those Westminster chimps get any more than is absolutely necessary. Hey, I didn't start this. Blame Nick. Well, we signed off our accounts today and our accountant saved us, legally, double his original estimate in the first year.

A result like this must, of course, be followed with a celebratory smokey-drinky, which is where I'm off to very soon. It was a Ruby and Sancerre on Wednesday, so perhaps Chinese and Elegant Frog tonight.

Talking of alcohol, you will notice I have a new widget in the sidebar.

It is rather self-explanatory, but the Pub Curmudgeon points out that the corresponding e-petition isn't gaining much traction. I'm sure we could add a few signatures to it, especially if the link is spread around a bit. The logo and HTML can be found here if you'd like to join in on a blog or other medium.

The interesting thing about this is that it perfectly confirms the futility of the e-petitions site. There is much grumbling about how the petition to amend the smoking ban had attracted far less support than expected considering the widespread dissatisfaction we all know exists, and anti-smokers took this as proof there wasn't dissent at all.

The minimum alcohol petition shows this to be misguided. It was crystal clear when Cameron announced the daft idea, that minimum pricing was derided by a huge majority of the country, from all political backgrounds. If the e-petitions initiative was working, we'd see the numbers sky-rocketing.

The lack of signatures on these petitions doesn't prove they are not valid campaigns, merely that no-one trusts the process itself; that no-one trusts the government to act on public opinion; and that merely harvesting public opinion from online sources is deeply flawed.

The campaigns aren't failing - politicians are. Probably purposely.

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Hypocrisy Doesn't Get Any More Blatant Than This

Quick quiz. Who said this in 2009?
The Government has been accused of fixing the outcome of public consultations on health policy after it emerged that reviews were flooded with block votes from groups funded entirely by the taxpayer.


[Mr X] said the disclosures summed up Labour's "cavalier" approach to consulting the public.

[He] said: "It will come as no surprise to us if the Department of Health has funded organisations that provide the responses to consultations that the Government is looking for.

"The public are understandably cynical about the way Labour consults the public - it's time we had a Government that treats the public and their views with the respect they deserve."
Who was that courageous, people-oriented champion of decency and correct use of taxpayer receipts, just itching to come to the rescue and end such wasteful and corrupt practices?

Why, it was Andrew Lansley, who is currently engaged in forcing plain packaging legislation through with the help of - you're getting ahead of me here, I can sense - "government-funded organisations that provide the responses to consultations that the Government is looking for".

I'm sure he'll be popping up on TV soon to furiously condemn £468,000 of public money being spent by his government to lobby him.

Yep, won't be long now.

Not So Clever, After All

Earlier this month we discovered that Stony Stratford's resident blight had resigned from office. However, it turned out to be his slimy way of avoiding censure by the Standards Board for behaviour which only a loon would consider right-minded.

Looks like it hasn't quite worked out like that, as AboutMyArea/MK11 reveal today.
The Milton Keynes Council Standards Board has taken the unusual step of handing down a five month suspension to Mr Paul Bartlett.

Mr Bartlett resigned from his position with the Stony Stratford Town Council last week. He told AboutMyArea/MK11 that he resigned as a Councillor because "The Standards Board [was] not able to issue any sanction against a member of the public".
Nope. But, obviously, his shortcomings are so very clear to the Board that they have kept his suspension on ice until he gets back in office in May.

You may ask why he doesn't just do the decent thing and stop bothering the Council and residents of Stony Stratford who have plainly had their fill of him. Sadly, hysteric obsessives never do.

At least they'll not have to put up with his unbalanced wibblings until October 2012, though, which is a welcome respite, I should expect.

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Down Under Dissent

Real life is interfering somewhat in the past couple of days with various work and other commitments, and a Ruby Murray with our now retired ex-accountant beckons this evening, hence the sparse content this week.

In the meantime, you may be interested to see this first TV appearance by Tim Andrews of the Australian Taxpayers' Alliance on the plain packaging issue down under. Tim - who I have met on one brief occasion in London last year - is a reader of this 'ere blog and therefore, I am honoured to be able to claim, is an antipodean fellow jewel robber.

For a newcomer, I think he did very well. Nice one, Tim.

Monday, 16 April 2012

"Not The Reputable Ones, But There Aren't Many Of Those"

So, the public sector consultation has begun on plain packaging. If you have already signed up to the Hands Off Our Packs campaign, your objection will be registered - if you haven't signed up yet, please do so here.

As usual, the government have buttoned everything up in their favour beforehand. They will go through the usual motions of listening to the public but they don't really want to do anything of the sort.

For example, on the 8th of March, CRUK were invited to Westminster.
Yesterday the Policy department headed to Westminster to host an expert briefing on the plain packaging of tobacco products. The event was attended by Peers and MPs from across the three parties to learn more about the evidence behind our campaign.

Attendees heard from Professor Robert West, Director of Tobacco Studies at the CR-UK Health Behaviour Research Centre at UCL (University College London), and Peter Astley MBE, Head of Public Protection at Warrington Borough Council. They discussed the evidence base for plain packs and dispelled some myths around smuggling.
Needless to say, no similar invite was extended to anyone who opposes Lansley's policy. Nor would any request be entertained - the government doesn't want to hear anything negative, you see.

Accompanying the announcement of the public sector consultation was a document - a weighty and generally impenetrable 116 pages, as is customary - detailing all the 'research' so far collated on plain packaging. Well, I say all of it, but in actual fact it is just those studies deemed relevant by the authors.
A total of 4,518 citations were identified following initial searching, and after screening and quality appraisal 37 studies were included.
You would presume that those authors would be entirely impartial, wouldn't you? If so, you still haven't properly understood the modern machinations of government.

It was produced [PDF doc here] by some of the biggest anti-smoking professionals in the country including Gerard Hastings and Linda Bauld, and proudly endorsed by the University of Stirling who - you may remember - are so biased and compromised in their hatred of tobacco that they refuse to obey Freedom of Information requests.

As such, the words 'civil', 'liberty' and 'freedom' don't appear even once between them on any of those pages.

It's how government rolls these days - or the Department of Health at least - with exactly the same cherry-picking of 'experts' going on with the current alcohol strategy consultation sham.

And as if Lansley hasn't already recruited enough lackeys to kiss his reddened backside after the Health Bill, ASH and YouGov - a partnership which has never produced a poll which is remotely objective, nor ever intended one to be - will no doubt further point the dozy clown to their recent offering claiming 62% support from the public. Despite the fact that generally anti-tobacco Guardian readers prove it to be nonsense by their 80% deep cynicism and derision in the comments.

ASH's Deborah "Confidence Trickster" Arnott has gone on record explaining exactly how such results are achieved. In Hansard, no less.
Dr Stoate: You will have heard the question from Charlotte Atkins that one of the Government's contentions is that smoking in public places is popular and therefore should be allowed to continue. We understand ASH has done a number of surveys gauging public opinion. Can you tell us more about the results of your surveys?

Ms Arnott: It does depend a bit how you word it.
Indeed. As explained very astutely by Sir Humphrey.

So, a done deal then, and a corrupt and anti-democratic one at that.

Well, perhaps, but if that ends up being the case we jewel robbers will have plenty to say about it come the time. Till then though, it's still worth throwing a few rocks at the consultation to make things uncomfortable for these state-funded fraudsters.

There is a precedent, you see. Last year, a consultation on e-cigs was embarrassed by the public derision at a recommendation by the MHRA to ban them prior to regulation. Each reply was published in full by pdf and the pre-determined outcome stalled by government falsehoods being visibly countered. There's nothing a politician hates more than a record of his mendacity being in the public domain.

So I'd urge you, as well as signing up to Hands Off Our Packs, to submit a full response to the consultation itself.

There is plenty of time to do so as it doesn't close until July 10th, and I can help you along. Remember those 'myths' that CRUK were invited to London to dispel, along with others spouted by the massed ranks of people paid to make us that bit more oppressed and denormalised? Well, one has already been proven conclusively to be true, and the others are just as dodgy.

I will put up a few posts detailing why all of them are flawed very soon. One by one. You can use any or all of them to submit a personal response and get your name right under Lansley's arrogant nose. By doing so, you'll also be pissing on tobacco control's chips for their hideous temerity in using your taxes to shaft you with lies and deceit, while attempting to exclude you from the whole process.

If you're up for countering venal fake charity self-enrichment, tax-sponging liberty takers and corrupt government, keep 'em peeled here.

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Not Too Much To Ask, Is It?

A London university is considering establishing alcohol-free zones on its campuses because so many of its students consider drinking to be immoral.

Professor Malcolm Gillies, vice-chancellor of London Metropolitan University, said the selling of alcohol was an issue of "cultural sensitivity" at his institution where a fifth of students are Muslim.

Speaking to a conference of university administrators in Manchester, he said that for many students, drinking alcohol was "an immoral experience".
Hey, it's only a modest compromise. Who could worry about that, eh?
He said he saw little reason for the university to subsidise a student bar on campus when there were "at least half a dozen pubs within 200m".
They can always just 'step outside'.
Alaa Alsamarrai, the vice-president of student affairs for the Federation of Student Islamic Societies, said Muslim students wanted universities to be inclusive so that students "from all walks of life can come and share experiences".

"Alcohol is a barrier to many Muslim students participating in freshers' events and often in society activities, so we are in support of moves to have alcohol-free zones and events," she said. "However, if a student wants to drink, we don't want to ban them from doing that."
Of course not. It's not too much to ask for alcohol free public transport, a few outdoor areas, with the odd employer policy too.

No-one is asking for a ban at the behest of a vocal minority, are they? It would be scaremongery to say otherwise.

It's not like there's a template being followed, or anything.

The Aussie Comedian Who Keeps On Giving

Here the old coot goes again, putting his foot in it.

He's referring to this article on Conservative Home objecting to the damage plain packaging will undoubtedly cause, compared to the extremely marginal benefits that tobacco control have a hunch - if their bent studies and rigged focus groups can be believed - might come about.

Being the shallow type, he again moves directly to hyperbole and invokes the slave trade, a tactic he dismisses on the other side of the equation.

But since the grandfather of tobacco control has now confirmed substitution as an acceptable argument, let's re-visit the words of one his supporters just the other day with amendments made by fellow jewel thief Henry.
"We could always just change the law to allow people to legally shoot dead any black people outside the four walls of their home, as long as it's not a rented home or presently under mortgage, since it's not technically their home. If black people find a bullet through their head whenever they step outside, they'll not step outside. Simples. Probably won't happen. I can dream though. God, I'd have a field day if that ever came to pass..."
What's changed eh, Simon? The hate God is all.

In fact, if we are now allowed to follow Chapman's lead as a valid debating tool, how about this from Deborah Arnott on Friday's BBC news (14:10 in)?
"Gays choose the rainbow colours because it says something about them, and they're proud to have their flags. With plan standardised flags, they'll no longer be proud to take that flag out of their backpack."
Watch the anti-smokers in full flight. And that's without even mentioning the odious, bile-spewing Jane Deville-Almond.

How nice of him to legitimise so many easy hits with such a generous precedent. With enemies like this bumbling outdated Aussie, who needs friends?

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Falling Into The Grand National Pity Trap

You could see this evening's Grand National Twitter storm coming a mile off. Or a week to be precise, as that's how long the BBC has been ramping up the alarm. This week's phone-in entitled "Grand National: A national treasure or national disgrace?" (duplicating exactly the same 'debate' last year) was particularly inflammatory and to be expected from our right-on state broadcaster.

Two horses died but - I imagine to the horror of Aintree's organising committee - one being Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Synchronised had headlines written all over it.

The fact that Synchronised had thrown jockey A P McCoy prior to the race, and gone on a trot a mile around the track beforehand, led inevitably to vile tweets towards McCoy for having carried on with the race. The joy of hindsight from many who know sod all about racing, and wouldn't even have known the horse existed before the event, is more than depressing.

It means more headaches for Aintree and more fixes will be made but, as we know very well here, none of them will appease those who just want to see the event abolished.

It's telling that of the list of fatalities in the race's 170 year history, half have occurred since the 1970s. This coincides with the period where we stopped worrying about how to feed ourselves, make sure the kids were educated properly, and that we had clothes on our backs. The time when full-time worriers began to occupy the extra leisure time we were afforded, using the improved media we could all now see on TV instead of in laborious print.

Since then, tweaks and 'safety improvements' have continuously been made, but the fatalities have increased rather than been eradicated. The two deaths today both happened at Becher's Brook - a fence previously known as fearsome due to its big unseen drop - which had been levelled off prior to this year's race.

Risk compensation has been up to its usual mischievous tricks, it would seem.

Race horses were looked after far worse in the past than they are now, and the fences were incredibly more hazardous than they are now. Yet fatalities are increasing, simply because the risks are reduced so more chances are taken. It's counter-intuitive, but those who claim to care about the welfare of the horses will never seemingly look at the statistics and try a different approach.

There are two reasons in my opinion. Firstly, there's probably the usual class motivation behind much of the heart-bleeding. The sport has always been regarded by many as a preserve of the rich, and served by those evil bookies who want to steal money from people, despite their not being forced to give it to them. It wasn't long before a 'hilarious' tweet was circulated widely advocating similar hazards - floating mines actually - to be placed in front of the University Boat Race crews, presumably in an attempt to conflate two sporting events linked to those who are envied as better off.

Secondly, it's our entire modern attitude to risk itself, and the same ignorance of benefits which we see in other subjects discussed here.

Nothing except total prohibition will ever be risk free. Even if the fences were taken away from the Grand National entirely, there would still be the risk of fatalities due to the exhausting distance of the race, and it would destroy the spectacle and therefore the event itself. So if one truly wants to eradicate these deaths, your only option is a ban, which is the stated position of some.

If you're happy with that, fine. But the loss of enjoyment and financial benefit that the Grand National gives to the nation would be lost forever. Another bit of colour erased from the calendar of already over-populated grey and depressing days.

Yet again, we're pandering to a vocal minority, many of whom have no care about those who enjoy the race simply because they don't particularly care about it themselves. They're not affected, but want it banned anyway.

It says everything about the BBC led debate that they did so by way of repeatedly quoting their darling Ricky Gervais. It was the best way to get it aired as an unbiased piece. They omitted to point out that he objected personally, but was not of the opinion that it should be banned because of that.

Sadly, we have a nation now which is not as intelligent. Instead, it wants everything banned of which it disapproves, and in the pursuit is willing to block out all advantages and benefits without seeing that such crass stupidity is advancing the blandness of everyone's life as a result.

Link Tank 14/04

Stirring stuff from the first link on.

Porn stars attack, two days later Santorum surrenders

Golden Miller: A true Aintree Grand National tale

Why the UK must close the tax gap on tobacco, fuel and alcohol

Re-watching Titanic so you don't have to

The French 'burkha ban', a year on

Smoker or non-smoker, your freedom is at stake

There are some things a kid really shouldn't bring to 'show and tell'

A guy who walks around with a bunch of bodyguards criticizes self-defense laws

Questions to which the answer is no - Can government do anything well?

Retiring man admits he 'did nothing for 14 years'

In the US, they're still debating nannying we have long since succumbed to

Bookworm baboons

Friday, 13 April 2012

Questions We Can Answer Conclusively

Reacting to the announcement that a consultation will be launched on Monday (16 April) the British Retail Consortium (BRC) is asking why its members have just been forced to spend nearly £16 million refitting stores in England to keep tobacco products out of sight when plain packaging is about to make that utterly pointless.
Because they're idiots who struggle to understand what they're doing, of course. It's not just Lansley, either.

Pickles, Lansley, Cameron, Clegg, Huhne, Milton, Osborne. All of them ... totally fucking clueless.

Call your lawyers, BRC, sue for every penny back and then some.

Hey, You, Get Off Of My Trough

The Twitter feed of Aussie smoke-obsessive, Simon Chapman, is fast becoming a daily comedy read right up there with the wibblings of Europe's most pointless politician. No, really!

It's been, ooh, about a week or two since his unintentionally hilarious pronouncements have been highlighted, but this one Wednesday is a 'beaut'.

Yes, I know he was engaging keyboard before the angry spittle had finished dribbling down his chin at such a slur but, hey, if he wants to illustrate his ignorance who am I to deny him?

Now, if one were to enter politics with a view to 'getting one's snout in', I expect UKIP would be a pretty poor choice. Joining the Conservative Party and landing the nomination for a safe seat, I could understand, but only a loon could claim a UKIP politico to be in it for the money. Similarly, much as I dislike the closet communists in the Green Party, any accusation of their being motivated by money is one that only a brainless idiot would level, and the Greens have one more seat in parliament than UKIP. That is, they have, err, one. Not a lot of chances there for getting snouts in, is there?

Since in Chapman's world, any insult must be tired and clichéd - or just plain idiotic - he has linked politician with snout and, well, blurted it out to the world before dragging his knuckles off to the kitchen for a cup of tea.

Strangely, he doesn't have the same view of politicians being automatically corrupt when singing cringeworthy arse-licking songs to those with whom he agrees. It's a skill finely honed from decades dismissing any contrary view as being paid for by someone, somewhere, as only what he believes in can possibly be altruistic.

What makes his lack of even a remote understanding of British politics even funnier is that the only person in the above exchange with their 'snout in' is Chapman himself.

He is a sociologist who is currently gorging on over three million Australian Dollars from his residency at Sydney University. This, without counting a lifetime helping himself to the tax receipts of others on the back of his own personal hobby of hating tobacco. Nice troughing if you can get it, UKIP politicians can only dream of such luxury.

Previously, nutter accuses others of being basket cases, and is more extreme than fundamental Islam.

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Sod The Truth, Greed Must Be Satisfied

It was only a couple of weeks ago when I urged you - on behalf of Big Tobacco Control - to forget everything you thought you knew about economics.

It has all been changed, you see. Lies are truth now; and what is actually happening in the world is a fantasy, apparently.
"Well, it's very interesting because [...] the tobacco companies always say that. If the tax goes up, this is going to increase smuggling. And they say it, it's one of their many deceits as it's not true."
Yeah, course not, love.

But they really seem to believe this barking nonsense. The Framework Convention Alliance - a grand name for an illiberal collection of tax-leeching tosspots - recently held a big beano in Geneva on the issue of illicit tobacco trade and came to this startling conclusion [pdf].
"it is important to point out that the blame for the present contraband problem lies with the tobacco industry"
Yep, that's right. It is bugger all to do with eye-watering duties imposed by governments as a result of nagging from career prohibitionists like the FCA, instead it is entirely down to those who would - in an ideal world - prefer to pitch their prices to match affordability for those who consume their products. You know, like traders have done for millions of years.

This is self-delusion on a superlative scale. There are primary school children in this country with a better grasp of market forces than these morons, yet governments listen to them.

They get worse too.
The tobacco industry, which in the past has been complicit in the illicit tobacco trade, has been working relentlessly to insert itself into the fight against the trade, by signing deals with governments to train their Customs officials, for example. Such agreements open the door to industry interference with public health policy, a violation of FCTC Article 5.3 and its Guidelines.
"How mad is that?", they say, that a manufacturer of a consumer product would want to actually get involved with stopping their goods being ripped off.

If anyone suggested that Nike should butt out of ensuring their trainers aren't counterfeited, and leave the job instead to people ideologically opposed to trainers, we'd call them a crank. Yet here anti-smoking lunatics are insisting that the businesses most harmed by such shenanigans have a damned cheek attempting to protect themselves from counterfeiters.

Where do they recruit tobacco controllers? From the funny farm?

No they're not mad, of course - well, not all of them - just lying ... again. As in the example above, deliberately conflating legally tax-paid genuine tobacco with what most people would term 'illicit'. And, just to drive the whole tax-funded exercise further into farce, they quote a supra-national edict written by the WHO on which no-one on the face of the planet has ever been afforded a democratic vote.

Absurd? Yes, of course, but you have to understand that these people don't want to curb illicit supply at all. Their only goal is feathering their own nest, as this telling segment proves conclusively.
"Quite a number of Parties pushed hard to amend language to ensure that obligations to protect tobacco companies’ intellectual property do not make their way into this public health protocol. In the end, Parties agreed on references to “illicit manufacturing”, with a proposed preambular paragraph clarifying that the protocol “does not seek to address issues concerning intellectual property rights”."
A perfect opportunity to lock in the incorrect use of brands and trademarks as a brilliant tool for prosecuting counterfeiters, but they argued against it.

Tobacco companies are currently engaged in fighting through the courts to protect their intellectual property from government thieves advocating plain packaging. Why, then, would the tobacco control industry be bothered to protect the public comprehensively when it might interfere with their future grants to usher in plain packaging?

It seems that these people really care about 'saving lives' only to the point at which it might threaten their own finances. Once that benchmark has been reached, public health can go screw itself as far as they are concerned. They claim to be thinking of the children, but not if it might stop them from trousering more cash. The children or that new conservatory the missus has her heart set on? Hmmm. Call the glazier and book him in Darling, sod the kids.

Greed is good for the tobacco control community. The proof is how they do and say the most ridiculous things to protect it.

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Monumentally Stupid Government Idea Spotted In Singapore

Here, you want to read something really funny? Feast your eyes on this.
The proposal to ban the sale of cigarettes to Singaporean residents born from the year 2000 was first suggested in October 2010.

Minister for Health Mr Gan Kim Yong said during Parliament on Monday that there are difficulties and risks in implementing and enforcing such a measure.

Mr Gan cited the following examples: "A person affected by the ban can circumvent it by getting a friend or relative unaffected by the ban to purchase tobacco products for them or buying the tobacco products while overseas, thereby rendering the intended control measure ineffective."
Ya don't say!
Mr Gan said the Ministry of Health will continue to review its tobacco control programme to ensure that it remains targeted, dynamic and responsive to trends.
It would also help if they were to keep it somewhere remotely sane, doncha think?

Tobacco controllers, eh? Probably the most issue-blinkered brainless twonks on the planet.

Bye Bye Bartlett?

The ever excellent AboutMyArea/MK11 has just broken a story which will be of great interest to many here.
AboutMyArea/MK11 has learned that Paul Bartlett has resigned from the Stony Stratford Town Council.

Mr Bartlett tendered his resignation as a member of the Town Council to the chairman yesterday. This was with immediate effect

Only yesterday, Paul Bartlett was confirmed as a candidate for the Stony Stratford South West Ward in the Town Council elections to be hold on 3rd May, 2012.

Currently it is not clear whether this resignation affects his nomination for the upcoming elections.

We have contacted both Mr Bartlett and the Stony Stratford Town Council for comment.
At present, it's not clear how Stony Stratford residents will cope without the hysterics, unhinged outbursts and occasional flashes of rage, but I'm sure they'll survive.

(check the Stony Stratford tag if you've not heard of Bartlett before)

UPDATE: Horses held. AboutMyArea/MK11 has more info which suggests Bartlett has 'resigned' merely to avoid censure by the Standards Board!

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Government Values Plain Packaging TEN TIMES MORE Than It Values Pubs

This afternoon's article at VGIF attracted this comment from fellow jewel thief, Xopher.
Still waiting for the promised review of the smoking ban. Promises, broken and politicians - 3 words, the basis of so many sentences.
As pointed out further down the thread, we have indeed already been treated to their pretence of an in-depth analysis of a law - based on a manifesto lie, remember - which arguably closed down vast numbers of community pubs.

You'd be forgiven for not having seen it, though. Simply because it was never designed to be seen and, therefore, to have attracted attention.

It was commissioned by the Department of Health in 2009 and entitled "Smokefree - feasibility study - secondary analysis of data relating to the hospitality sector". You'd be hard-pressed to track it down as it wasn't published as a stand alone piece. Google Scholar, for example, has never heard of it.

We know that it cost £47,479 to produce, though, thanks to this Word document which lingers around the web like a naughty child. And that it was given to a safe pair of hands in the form of career prohibitionist Anne Ludbrook, but that's about it.

Instead of being presented for analysis, warts and all, it was quietly included in the Department of Health's whitewash of March 2011.

The part relating to the hospitality industry - that is, pubs and clubs - amounted to just 868 words. Expensive stuff at around £54 per word, but a disgraceful dismissal of the concerns experienced by thousands of pub and club owners up and down the country since 2007.

Contrast that with the £468,000 the government has spent lobbying itself - just in the South West - on plain packaging of tobacco and you'll recognise the utter contempt afforded to pubs by Westminster.

Just promoting a vanity project by state-funded tax drains - which will have no effect whatsoever on smoking prevalence in England, or anywhere else in the Union - is valued ten times more by our government than our unique and world famous pub heritage.

Is it any wonder that this Snowdon quote is so often cited?
"If I see one more politician who voted for the smoking ban crying crocodile tears about the state of the pub industry, I may throw up."
Half a mill on talking to itself to appease tax spongers on an issue the public mostly couldn't give a shit about; a paltry £47k towards pubs.

Next time you hear a politician pretending to tear his hair out about the plight of pubs, remember that.

Who Didn't See That Coming?

Put the super-sized Whole Nut bar down, fat boys and girls. You're next.
A Texas newspaper recently reported about a fat-averse Texas hospital - Citizens Medical Center in Victoria, Texas - and its unheard-of policy of refusing to hire anyone with a body mass index of more than 35.

The policy, according to The Texas Tribune, states:

... an employee's physique "should fit with a representational image or specific mental projection of the job of a healthcare professional," including an appearance "free from distraction" for hospital patients.

"The majority of our patients are over 65, and they have expectations that cannot be ignored in terms of personal appearance," hospital chief executive David Brown said in an interview. "We have the ability as an employer to characterize our process and to have a policy that says what's best for our business and for our patients."

Body mass index is calculated based on height and weight, with a measure over 30 qualifying as obese. A 5-foot-10 man who weighs 245 pounds would have a BMI of over 35, the hospital's cutoff. A 5-foot-2 woman would be over the cutoff at 195 pounds.
So many figures, eh? So confusing!

For reference, then, here is a person with a BMI of over 30.

Now, I wonder where they got that stupid idea from?

Well, we did warn any lard arse stupid enough to think they were immune from the tobacco control template. Again, and again, and again. Oh yeah, and again.

Anti-smoking wobble-bottoms should think about waking up, and keeping their snouts out of their Krispy Kremes long enough to smell the coffee.

Monday, 9 April 2012

Number One With A Bullet

When first suggesting a crowd-sourcing of vile online comments from mentally deranged anti-smokers, the idea was to someday compile a top ten. But any twisted pretenders to the title of "Sick Anti-Smoking Fuck Of The Decade" must surely bow in deference to this superlative psychopath in comments at the Mail.
"We could always just change the law to allow people to legally shoot dead anyone caught with a cig between their lips outside the four walls of their home, as long as it's not a rented home or presently under mortgage, since it's not technically their home. If people find a bullet through their head whenever they light up, they'll not light up. Simples. Probably won't happen. I can dream though. God, I'd have a field day if that ever came to pass..."

- Ken, Kent, 6/4/2012 16:28
Many thanks to reader Marthaj for the spot. I think we have a winner!

Of course, if you do come across anything more mentally unbalanced during your regular surfing - and, let's face it, you're going to have to go some - do remember to pop it in the comments here, won't you?

How proud our MPs must be of fine, tolerant, upstanding members of society, like Ken, that they have created.

Sunday, 8 April 2012

The Crappy Crusade

Just idly surfing articles on the tobacco display ban, I came across this remarkable piece of fiction from 2010 in the Express.

BRITAIN'S small shopkeepers and the Sunday Express join forces today to save our newsagents.


The [tobacco display ban] is sure to increase the pressure on Gordon Brown as both the main opposition parties are supporting the shopkeepers’ cause.


Shadow Health Minister Mike Penning said the Conservatives would seek to repeal Labour’s move if they win the election. The Sunday Express vows to hold the Tories to this pledge and to fight any other attempts to bring in this unfair legislation.
Oddly, there wasn't much 'crusading' going on once Lansley announced the coalition's monumental U-turn, nor any 'holding to account' since.

Not only that, but in just the one article above, we are presented with a perfect snapshot of unprincipled, venal, duplicitous and corrupt modern Britain.

We can forget any lingering idea of our government being by the people, for the people. It's them versus us now, no question.