Friday, 29 June 2012

'Highless' Marijuana - What A Bummer, Man

Here's a story about which it's hard to decide whether to laugh or cry.

While it's still full steam ahead to stamp down hard on the more popular type of smoke, the other kind - that is, marijuana consumption - has never enjoyed more of a groundswell of support for its decriminalisation and/or legalisation.

In the vanguard of the movement are those who argue that it is hugely beneficial for its pain relief properties. In hideous tobacco-hating California, for example, medical marijuana has been legal for quite a while, and recent moves have attempted to bring recreational use into the same category.

So a 'highless' marijuana crop developed by a team in Israel may come as a bit of a blow to the ageing lefty hippy generation of San Fran and environs who are campaigning so vociferously to enjoy their favoured magic smoke.

In this brave new health obsessed and medicalised world, drugs are to treat illness only, and only to be made by the pharmaceutical industry. Never must they also be enjoyed. D'you see?

Whilst I agree with their cause, perhaps the health angle isn't the best way for the pro-drugs lobby to approach cannabis legalisation anymore, now science has found a way of taking the fun out of it.

I can hear the sniggers from some of you from here. Keep it down, eh?

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Shut The Truck Up!

Trucks are sexy, get used to it!

Even as a libertarian sort, I can understand why some are predisposed to calling for bans, irritation will do that to certain people. Lord knows I can get quite tetchy when UB40 or Wet Wet Wet are played on the radio, I have a unilateral ban on such nonsense especially on the road where I suspect Red Red Wine, particularly, could have well have sent enough drivers to sleep as to be considered a serious safety risk!

However, it takes the extra ingredient of selfish arrogance to demand personal irritations be inflicted on everyone else by way of a ban. Couple that with a little bit of power, and we end up with mind-mincing dickery like this.
The incoming president of the Institute of Highway Engineers risks the wrath of truckers - but may earn the adulation of weekend motorists - as he calls for the UK to consider banning HGVs from its motorways on Sundays.

“Restricting HGVs’ use of the road network on Sundays is commonplace throughout the rest of Europe and it is something I strongly believe we should consider introducing in the UK,” says [Richard] Hayes.

“Weekends should be a relaxing time on our roads when the network is used mainly by the general public going about their leisure activities. Many drivers are intimidated by heavy lorries thundering up and down our motorways and major A roads. Surely it is not too much to ask that we take some of the tension out of the system for one day a week.”
Sorry, Dick, but yes. Yes it is.

One wonders if this guy sees Sunday driving as something from the set of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang with brightly-dressed families with perfect teeth, gambolling gently along a highway, singing songs and giggling at the butterflies playfully dancing around their heads. It's not, and hasn't been since Sunday trading laws were relaxed in the 90s.

From a transport point of view, there is so much wrong with his bone-headed idea that I almost don't know where to start.

Firstly, restricting freedom and hampering businesses merely on the pretext that a few nervous drivers don't like lorries is absurd. It may well be a pain getting past them sometimes but that's part of modern society ... especially if the public want the seven days a week shopping culture mentioned above, which they overwhelmingly do.

It's a simple fact that the reason supermarkets, and other shops, arrange daily deliveries is to save on costly retail storage space. The reason it is costly is - as you won't be surprised to learn - because they are hammered on business rates for each square metre. If he wants fewer journeys, perhaps he'd like to talk to the government and local authorities about reducing these bills. If not, businesses will be forced to save cash by storing goods in less pricey areas until demand means it's worth the cost of stacking them in store, as they do now.

Dick might come up with the old chestnut about sourcing from local producers instead, but does he really believe that businesses wouldn't have looked at that already? It's a basic economic principle of a business that they will always look to maximise profit - just as any human looks for value unless they're an utter loser - so if it was an option, it would be happening already.

If forced to go the local route by Dick's ban, some lines will disappear altogether which will restrict choice, while others will rise in price if they are indispensable, both of which will be as irritating to the public as having to put their foot down for a few blasted seconds to ease past a lorry with a speed limiter.

He points to the fact that such bans are commonplace in Europe and he's right. Being the owner of a Certificate of Professional Competence in international transport (this is a qualification I was forced to gain by the EU to prove I am capable of running a business I had done perfectly well for a decade at the time) I know chapter and verse the regulations in countries like Germany, France and Spain amongst others, and believe you me they all cause problems for hauliers on both sides of the channel. Just the fact that others have enacted stupid laws is no reason to do likewise if we can avoid it.

And, lastly, those other countries don't hammer their freight transport industry anywhere near as heavily as we do ours. Our petrol and road taxes are the heaviest in Europe, meaning no lorry runs unless it is absolutely necessary that it does so. These rigs aren't on the road for fun, they are there because they are needed.

If Dick wants to take away one of the seven days they are allowed to operate, it should be the very least the government can do to reduce road taxes and other eye-watering costs - in an already intensely-regulated trade - by around a seventh. Well, that's if they don't want truckers clogging up Park Lane in anger again, that is.

Taxes, tolls, licences, environmental levies, emissions zones, VOSA, MOTs, all are paid for by haulage firms on the understanding that - by paying these huge sums - they will be allowed to use the roads. Now this prat wants to keep the money and tell them they can't use what they have paid out disproportionally for because Maud in her Nissan Micra gets a bit peeved on her way to cousin Enid's for Sunday lunch?

I think the best I can say about the story is that it hasn't been picked up more widely. The less we hear from this newly-installed IHE head the better, I suspect.

Filed duly under "good grief with bells on".

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

"I Rebel: Therefore We Exist"

With times as busy as they are in Puddlecoteville at the moment (as mentioned last week) it's refreshing to have a rare night out. And when you're walking to a venue with the O2 arena and a huge pile of bricks called Canary Wharf visible en route, it's likely to be a biggie.

Such was the somewhat alien last few hundred yards to Boisdale in Docklands for last night's Freedom Dinner, a journey which had been tortuous thanks to signal failures and a fire at Waterloo. At one point, I found myself taking three different lines, doing a loop back on myself, just to end up at the station two stops away where I was supposed to be changing for the Jubilee Line. Still, got there in the end and it was worth it for an evening with like-minded souls who share my view of how the state is increasingly taking the piss.

Arriving just in time for the terrace reception, it was clear that there were some heavy political hitters in attendance which was quite encouraging. The conversation was stimulating, and the circulated nibbles (as an unashamed C1/C2 on the social scale I balk at using 'canapés') were right posh.

Being the type who regularly trots up to the shadow of the House of Clowns for political debates and the like, I was very much looking forward to the speeches, but the food preceding them was exquisite. I tend to take pictures of the plates at events like this as the little Ps always show quite an interest, and the one I took of the starter raised audible gasps of admiration from the both of them.

When I explained, however, that it was as delicious as it was colourful and comprised raw salmon, bits of slithery sea creature and salmon spawn (caviar), they were rather less enthusiastic. The girl, particularly, turned an odd shade of green at the thought of eating eel, presumably a nod to Docklands' past from the owner, Ranald MacDonald.

The wine was delicious too, and I was proud of my self-restraint on noticing that the level in my glass had barely diminished in the hour or so since I first sat down to eat. That was until I caught the waitress topping me up when I was deep in conversation with Patsy, and I have a pretty strong hunch that it wasn't the first time the little minx had done so if the comfortably numb state of my legs was a guide.

As light faded from the large windows, the interior lit up to highlight the venue's centrepiece, a vast array of different whiskies which would have Leg Iron salivating but could inflict post traumatic stress disorder on any Alcohol Concern misery who witnessed it.

The speeches? Well, Delingpole was his usual incorrigible self, revelling in being a focal point for those of us who are sick of being dictated to by social engineers and insisting - as I do here - that no matter how much government and their state-funded flakes try to demonise simple pleasures, resisting them puts us firmly on the side of the angels and we should be proud of giving the metaphorical finger.

Claire Fox expanded on the same theme, quoting Albert Camus' "I rebel: therefore we exist" as the correct response when social norms are being forced upon us. She also aimed stinging criticism of Thaler and Sunstein's 'nudge' theory which has so seduced David Cameron that he has totally misunderstood it as meaning denormalise, bully and cajole.

This led to another quote, this time from J S Mill's On Liberty which is most apt for the early years of the 21st century.
"He who lets the world, or his own portion of it, choose his plan of life for him, has no need of any other faculty than the ape-like one of imitation."
Indeed. And I know that I'm certainly amongst those who are not keen to imitate purse-lipped finger-waggers who get their kicks from massaging their own egos and passing laws to coerce every man jack of us into living as pure, and crashingly tedious, a life as theirs.

Last up was General Sir Mike Jackson - a man who knows what really protecting innocents is about instead of the effete, lettuce-wristed version spouted by anaemic crones - with some anecdotes about his time heading the British Army.

Pointing out that he has spent his working life "defending freedom of nations and the individual", he described how what he was brought up to believe about our long-held view of freedom has been transformed and current thinking now more resembles that of some of the oppressive regimes he used to fight against.

Slamming civil servants as "all say they know better but they've done bugger all themselves", he rounded off by rightly observing that "people are much better rising to their own abilities, meeting challenges and responsibilities for their own decisions, and for their own lives and families". By extension, I took this as meaning that some fake charity tax-sucker is possibly the very worst kind of person to be dictating what others should be doing during our time on this planet.

The proceedings finished, I was a very good little boy and wandered off into the night to catch a train in good time unlike some others mentioned elsewhere. In fact, I was safely on the way home with a whole five minutes to spare before the tube shuttered up, safe risk-averse soul that I am.

Would I do it again? Well, of course, it was life-affirming to know that there are more voices in the wilderness than the self-righteous, holier-than-thou massed ranks of sock puppets and empire-building public sector drones would have you believe.

Next time, though, I'll watch that wine waitress like a hawk ... and bring a calculator to keep count as the 'units' pile up.

Monday, 25 June 2012

Passive Vaping And Third Hand E-Cig Vapour, The New Fantasy Fetish 'Science'

Such has been the success of the tobacco control industry in bastardising science by pandering to the fears and prejudices of the most intolerant in society, it's fascinating to watch health-obsessed fruitcakes of all stripes attempt to copy their methods.

Following the Godber Blueprint to the letter, we've seen them all busily "fostering the perception" that their particular bête noir is harming everyone around the user. Hence daft efforts at scaring the public into believing the threat of passive drinking and passive obesity, amongst others.

In a hilarious new twist, though, this study from the University of Braunschweig in Germany attempts to go through anti-tobacco's joke list in fast forward to demonise electronic cigarettes.

Far from beginning from a neutral standpoint, the abstract decides that - as e-cigs contain particles and chemicals - "“passive vaping” must be expected from the consumption of e-cigarettes".

Now, I've regularly charted here the potential of these marvellous little devices to intensely irritate psycho antis, but I think I must have under-estimated the sentiment. It seems the hunt is on - and the grants waiting for liars researchers to suck up - to find a silver bullet with which to get e-cigs banned, especially now the tobacco industry is enthusiastically eyeing them.

The Braunschweig study is behind a paywall, but my delightful medical pdf-getting fellow jewel robber has come up trumps again and furnished Dick with a copy. After waxing lyrical about passive tobacco smoke, they move seamlessly on to vapour in the very next paragraph.
Beyond indoor climate, air flow conditions, room size and number of e-cigarette users many other parameters have the potential to affect “passive vaping”. The concentrations of the exhaled compounds during e-cigarette consumption can be expected to differ with the composition of the applied liquids, the type of e-cigarette in use, the age of the e-cigarette (e.g. due to remains of previous liquids), length of the puff and interval between the puffs. Moreover, the composition of the exhaled air will be affected by age, sex, activity, health status, and diet of the user.
As you can see, it's no longer a question of whether passive vaping is a real thing, more the level of threat it poses dependant on who is vaping.

To be worried about something so very unthreatening as water vapour with an infinitesimally negligible volume of unused (and harmless) nicotine, you have to wonder if the study authors have ever seen a car.

But it gets more neurotic still in the following paragraph.
Another important aspect in the future discussion about e-cigarettes will be the effect of “thirdhand-smoke” (THS) that mainly describes human exposure against residues of smoking on clothes, furniture and other indoor surfaces (Matt et al., 2011)(that's the über-loopy Georg E Matt, folks - DP). In case of e-cigarettes the solvent of the “liquids” may remain on available surfaces and be a source for the contamination of residents.
This is taking a thing that isn't even real when dealing with tobacco cigarettes, applying it wholesale to e-cigs ... and struggling desperately to keep a straight face while doing so.

When reading such hysterical and blatantly policy-based research as this, I wonder if someone must have thrown me through a magic wardrobe sometime when I was asleep.

Friday, 22 June 2012

Now Feminists Can Hate The EU Too

Via Timmy at Forbes, it's good to know that even a right-on bunch like the EU Commission are capable of producing patronising rubbish at times.

I mean, what were they thinking here?

The red dislikes bar at the YouTube link shows that this is one particularly spectacular waste of EU funding.

It's not the first time tax-funded failures have insulted women to get their views across either. There's obviously so much cash around that their common sense has been obliterated by the need to spend on, well, the first thing that pops into their tiny minds, it would seem.

Still, at least the rest of the EU is hunky-dory on their watch, eh?

Thursday, 21 June 2012

No Minister!

Deep in the bowels of the Department of Health, their designated Sir Humphrey calls the shots.

Very subtle, but also acutely observant of the woeful state of current political method I think you'll agree.

It's not too late to register your disapproval and tell them to butt out of your life, by the way.

Mascot Watch 17: If You Don't Ask ...

It's been a while since the last update on our esteemed mascot, but he has been on top form this week.

Yesterday, along with DK's mascot and others, he presented a bill to repeal the European Communities Act 1972. Who needs a referendum when you can just sweep away our membership of the EU with a simple vote in parliament, eh? Bravo!

Its second reading is scheduled for October 26th, at which point I expect it'll be summarily squashed by the might of parliamentarians scared of losing future EU perks and pensions. Still, it was worth a go.

Our Phil has also brought some interesting figures to our attention regarding the NHS.
Philip Davies (Shipley, Conservative)

To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many people employed in the NHS are earning more than £100,000 per annum.
Brace yourself, folks.
Simon Burns (Minister of State (Health), Health; Chelmsford, Conservative)

Information is not held centrally on the salaries of national health service staff.

The Government Actuary's Department estimate that, as at 2008, 36,000 NHS Pension Scheme members had whole time equivalent pensionable pay of over £100,000.
Yes, that's three zeroes following the 36. Many of whom are probably on strike today.

And what proportion of those highly-paid NHS personnel are front line staff? Over to our Phil again.
Philip Davies (Shipley, Conservative)

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what the total cost was of salaries in the NHS for (a) medical staff and (b) non-medical staff in the latest period for which figures are available.

Simon Burns (Minister of State (Health), Health; Chelmsford, Conservative)

Information on aggregate national health service salaries broken down by staff group is not held centrally.

It is estimated that in 2010-11 aggregate earnings for hospital and community health services were around £7.9 billion for medical staff and around £28.3 billion for non-medical staff, of which, the basic earnings element is estimated at around £5.9 billion for medical staff and around £25.1 billion for non-medical staff.
So, around four to five times more money is spent on non-medical staff than those working with patients.

That's one hell of an overhead the NHS is carrying!

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Exporting Caviar

I do tend to drop the odd transport post in here occasionally, and as usual I'm giving an early warning for those who'd prefer to bunk off elsewhere.

For someone who knows the logistical nightmare involved in packing expensive Rolls Royces for freight to Australia and the Middle East, along with other unusual cargoes in the past, the planning and organisation involved in transporting a priceless thoroughbred 10,000 miles to take part at Royal Ascot is pretty awesome.

Black Caviar is competing in front of the Queen on Saturday hoping to achieve a 22nd consecutive race win but, whether she does so or not, her owners have taken on an immense challenge to get her over here.

The tailored compression suit she wore for the journey has been much talked-about but, being the geek that I am, that's just a small part of an awesome feat of logistics for me.

The video below details how nothing has been left to chance to make sure she arrives in as perfect a condition as possible (for a bigger version, the original is here).

As mentioned in the piece, things have moved on somewhat from when Phar Lap made an ill-fated trip from Australia to the US in the 1930s. For the modern day equivalent, there's no comparison.

OK, you can wake up now, normal service will be resumed in time for the next article.

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Who To Believe? The Trader, The Tax Expert, Or The Social Engineer?

Via F2C, it's good to see that the Clubs and Institutes Union haven't given up hope of a bit of sanity creeping into government decision-making.

In a report detailing events at their May conference, there was an account of Vice-President John Tobin's motion to call for separate smoking rooms in working men's clubs.
So-called independent reports had been submitted to the Government to the effect that there was no evidence of overall financial damage being done to industry as a result of the smoking ban. “What a load of rubbish,” he exclaimed. Less than two years into the ban, local authorities had been instructed to consider claims for reductions in business rates directly attributable to the ban. Bissett Kenning & Newiss represented about 700 clubs making a claim. Ninety-five per cent were successful and the average rebate was 10 per cent of rates to continue on a year-by-year basis. There is your firm evidence of real and substantial damage caused by the smoking ban’.
He is very well informed - but then, he would be considering he is 'in the trade' - because here is the relevant tax guidance from the Valuation Office Agency in 2008.
4.3) It was not considered that this change [the smoking ban] could constitute a [material change of circumstance] and earlier versions of this advice reflected this. Advice from counsel now shows this view to be wrong that the ban on smoking can be a matter affecting the physical enjoyment of a hereditament. In other words, how it can physically be used beneficially.

4.9) In considering smoking ban proposals, [valuation officers] need to envisage what rent would be have been paid for the hereditament at the [antecedent valuation date] assuming the ban was then in place affecting both the subject premises and other premises.
In short, it is accepted that businesses suffered a material loss as a result of the ban, and so business rate relief is merited for those who claim.

So we have a government agency admitting losses due to the ban, and physically rebating over 650 CIU clubs as a result. This is without taking into account the many more numerous affected pub operators, as Eric Pickles spoke strongly about while in opposition.
"Whatever people's views on the smoking ban, it has been a significant change that has affected many pubs. The Government's own tax inspectors have now admitted that pubs may be eligible for refunds on their business rates"
Very odd then, that the hastily swept-under-the-carpet government review of the ban - demanded by the original legislation on the third anniversary - found that there was no problem at all.

It was, however, written by Linda "rent-a-report" Bauld.

So who are we to believe? People who work in the industry day in, day out, and who are calling for an amendment to counter falling revenues; the rating agency which has decided that pubs and clubs have certainly suffered as a result of the smoking ban; government ministers who have stated on record that it is a material change to trading ... or some career anti-tobacco prohibitionist, with no grounding in business or commerce, who has never earned a productive penny in her life, and whose grant status relies on producing studies to please the Department of Health?

Hmm, whaddya think?

Monday, 18 June 2012

Short On Inspiration

Content may be sparse for a few days due to my having far too many hats to wear at the moment.

Mrs and Mrs P Snr have just moved house which has been a burden on my time, while I've also just signed a contract which could increase Puddlecote Inc's turnover by 10%-20% with any luck.

There's also the not inconsiderable amount of time being spent getting the little Ps to cricket training and matches, martial arts events, netball training and other such stuff, all out of school time.

The reason for outside clubs being necessary for their activities is illustrated by the girl's school experience with athletics this month. Due to a scarcity of entrants, she was press ganged into taking part in the sports day's high jump competition. Never having done the event before, it was quite a surprise when she not only won it, but also narrowly failed at a height which would have broken the school record for her year.

We asked her what award she received for her achievement and she replied that there wasn't one. Not a cup, medal, certificate or even a sticker. She just took part, won, and then it is all forgotten about. I was surprised they even know what the school record is since they attach so little importance to it.

To make matters worse, as champion she was naturally chosen to represent her school in the high jump event at the district school sports day. Warming to the task, she asked if she could practice after school for a couple of days before the event to ensure a good performance. The reply was that no, she couldn't, and that the teachers thought the best approach was to "rest" (laziness or health & safety, you decide).

In the year when the Olympics come to our country - with much fanfare and the slogan "Inspire a Generation" hanging from lamp posts up and down the torch relay route - here we have a member of the younger generation receiving barely a pat on the back for performing well, and then being stopped from enjoying sport more when she was 'inspired' to do so.

And don't get me started on the boy being told he can't bowl overarm at a very rare inter-school cricket competition because "other children don't go to out-of-school clubs so aren't as good as you".

For all the talk of inspiration, I don't see much seizing of the Olympics opportunity where it actually matters, sadly.

Friday, 15 June 2012

Better Guns And Warfare Than Smoking

Throughout history, bigoted - or just plain money-chasing - prohibitionists have always been happy to hang their particular campaign on whatever is popular at the time. It matters not to them how objectionable the bandwagon they join, they'll use it anyway.

For example, anti-alcohol campaigners of the early 20th century were very quick to talk up the threat of 'liquor-soaked blacks', on the hunt for white women to rape, in the Deep South of America to gain support.

Likewise, Hamilton Wright, an anti-opium zealot and darling of our very own British Medical Association of the time, followed this template to the letter by talking of "cocaine-crazed negroes" to sell his chosen grudge to a largely indifferent public. The fact that his stories were anecdotal at best and almost certainly embellished by hideous racism, seeing as cocaine use was mostly used by whites, was irrelevant.

It did the job and he wasn't bothered what other damage he caused by citing it.

The above came instantly to mind when reading this incredible piece from the Israel National News.
A Palestinian Authority-based NGO, the Burj Luq-Luq Social Center Society organization, recently performed a puppet show for children in east Jerusalem to promote non-smoking.

The educational message delivered by the puppets, however, instructed children to replace cigarettes with machine guns.
There's a video too.

You'll note from the article and footage that this is endorsed fully by the UN in many of its various guises.

Just like around a century ago, it seems that it's still perfectly acceptable to employ any residual hatred - religious or racial, it matters not - to advance the current moral public health scare.

Nothing much has changed. When health nutters get involved, it seems there is no lunacy too extreme or dangerous to be used as an ally.

H/T David G in Calif, and ta to P T Barnum for placing it in the Psycho Catalogue.

For more of the history and dubious tactics of prohibitionists,
read this book.

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Now For Popcorn And Milk

Well, that didn't take long.

For all those who still have fingers stuck firmly in their ears trying to pretend slippery slopes don't exist, the startlingly swift nature of this one might shock even you.
The New York City Board of Health showed support for limiting sizes of sugary drinks at a Tuesday meeting in Queens. They agreed to start the process to formalize the large-drink ban by agreeing to start a six-week public comment period.

At the meeting, some of the members of board said they should be considering other limits on high-calorie foods.

One member, Bruce Vladeck, thinks limiting the sizes for movie theater popcorn should be considered.

"The popcorn isn't a whole lot better than the soda," Vladeck said.

Another board member thinks milk drinks should fall under the size limits.

"There are certainly milkshakes and milk-coffee beverages that have monstrous amounts of calories," said board member Dr. Joel Forman.
Barely has the ink dried on Bloomberg's latest illiberal flight of food snobbery, and they're already discussing how to dick ordinary New Yorkers about further.

Next time you hear some public health goon try to claim that the slippery slope doesn't exist, simply remember the many examples which contradict them and try to think of just one occasion where some bansturbator or other didn't move on to the 'next logical step'.

Considering their track record, only a fool would take anything state-funded public health says seriously.

I'm Hungry - World On A Stick, Please

More than most, I think we here are very well qualified as observers of those who demand their own way above all others. You know, those for whom tolerance and respect for the general outside world is an alien concept.

No, for some, unicorns gambolling in the garden and a magic-laden mermaid in the bath is the very least that life should offer them. They're special, see.

Here's one from Texas, giving a bad review of a guy running a mobile food business because he didn't fall on his knees and worship her gluten-free diet.
Me: Do you have anything gluten free?
Chef: I don't do gluten free. (This is when I should have left....but no...)
Me: I see you have sandwiches but could you make something without bread?
Chef: I wouldn't know how to do gluten free.
Me: Gluten free is basically no wheat although several other flours have gluten. (Thinking I'm giving him some useful information, but seriously, don't all chefs know what gluten is?)
Chef: I can throw a piece of turkey on a plate.
Me: ----
Chef: (laughing)'s your gluten free pointing to something on top of his trailer.
Me: Gluten is a health concern and many people cannot eat it yet you make fun of it....(turning to leave)
Chef: blahblahblah
His response is as delicious as anything he may serve at his establishment. Selected highlights below.
Your Honor, I'd like permission to treat this witness as a "hostile witness".

Defense will concede that you did make two very salient points:

1) Yes, I do like my gluten.

And 2) As you stated, you should have walked away when I told you we do not do "gluten free". But, as you also stated, you did not.

At this time I'd like to submit defense exhibits A & B.

This is a photo of the sign under which the witness stood as she droned on about the dangers of wheat to me, a man selling SANDWICHES.

This is a photo of the lettering directly beneath my service window. This is the same window through which I was made to endure your sermon on the dangers of bread while I was attempting to sell SANDWICHES to an otherwise gluten- adoring public.


I SELL SANDWICHES! Sandwiches... as in proteins nestled comfortably between BREADS.


But if it's quite all right with you, I'd like to sell the sort of food that I like to eat - the kind of food that I am proud of making - to a population of people who know moderation is the key and, for the most part, thinks you've got too much time on your hands to deal with your First World problems and the hottest new fad affliction that you just got wind of on 60 Minutes.
We are not worthy!

Lord knows how many street vendors they have in Austin who don't have a big sign saying they don't 'do' gluten-free - I reckon it might be a lot. But she just had to demand this one fall in with her personal will.

Her verbal spanking was thoroughly deserved and a delight to behold. If you're ever anywhere near Austin, make sure you give the guy some business.

PS: We had someone like that here once.


Wednesday, 13 June 2012

E-Cigs: The New Bad Boy In Town

Courtesy of the unrivalled Kate V, burrowed away in the lesser visited shadows of the internet is this small example of how e-cigs are continuing to evolve and mature.
E-cigarette manufacturer is first to offer a "puff counter"

With data being stored by an electronic chip, the new technology will give users the option of displaying how many “puffs” are left, how many virtual cigarettes are left or a simple color-coded line indicating how much vapor is left in a given product. Logic is the first electronic cigarette company to be issued this kind of “counting” patent.
These canny little devices are fast becoming the jewel in the crown of tobacco harm reduction, while simultaneously right pissing off the tobacco control community in general. Oh yeah, and this guy, of course.

It may be just a small adjustment but, as a vaper myself, one of the obstacles e-cigs have currently is that there isn't the same 'session time-out' users get with an 'analogue'. Psychologically, this detracts just that little bit from the experience.

The throat hit is very similar to that of real tobacco - even if I'd agree with other commentators who believe the taste could be improved upon - but the same natural end point that one gets with a real cigarette is missing.

It's clear that the owners of this patent have recognised this and their solution is something which many vapers will welcome as a definite improvement to their enjoyment.

Of course, the very fact that vaping is enjoyable is precisely the reason those opposed to tobacco are also opposed to less harmful replacements like the e-cig. The game-changing facet of e-cigs to mimic smoking is repeatedly quoted by anti-tobacco loons as a bug rather than a feature. In this, they are identical to the evangelical prohibitionist nutjobs of the past who waved their crosses, sang to Jesus, and wailed that only the hair shirt and uncomfortable abstinence was the way to see the light.

It's quit or die only (though if you buy some of their pharma sponsors' products along the way, that'd be hunky-dory).

Like I said last month, the electronic cigarette looks unstoppable now, and this latest development just makes me more certain of that.

It's also a perfect example of progress being very swiftly driven by intense competition in a free market. With government yet to get its claws in to stifle entrepreneurial spirit and innovation, we are seeing a 'gold rush' as small outfits are clambering over each other to offer new products, new angles, and intelligent design to attract custom.

Everyone wins! Small businesses get rich, consumers get ever-improving goods, and tobacco users get a product which is becoming more similar to smoking by the day, but less dangerous.

It can't last, of course. If there's one thing government has in common with anti-tobacco it's a deep distrust of free trade. They thrive on regulation and the money it inevitably brings them.

We'll see burdens placed on e-cigs very soon; taxation no doubt; regulation which sqeezes the small entrepreneur out of the market; and the wailing and gnashing of teeth from the tobacco control industry if e-cigs end up being controlled by big tobacco instead of big pharma.

It won't be the end of the e-cig though, it's here to stay - it's the big not-so-bad new boy in town. It's just that the people who claim to care about smoking and health will put off, financially or by scaremongery, many many of those who might otherwise choose a safer alternative.

Just like they've done - in a stratospherically irresponsible, and deadly, manner - with snus.

For shame.

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

You Are But A Victim, You Need Saving

There was a time when you used to just 'like' something. Whether it be chocolate, a kebab, a glass of scotch or a cigar, you enjoyed it.

Not anymore. You see, you're merely an 'addict' now.

Now that your right to self-declaration of enjoyment of tobacco has been denied by those who know you better than, err, you, it's interesting to see the same being rolled out for - well - just about anything really. How about food?

Yes, food. All food.
We are, on average, 3st heavier than we were in the 60s. And not because we're eating more or exercising less – we just unwittingly became sugar addicts
And, of course, once you are an addict, you are a victim who requires help. You're not yourself, d'you see? You have no ability to make any kind of choice, therefore choice must be made for you.

This is tobacco template 101. But for the BBC, it is just another snobby condemnation of the working class - posing as health concern - to place in front of the nation.

The well-trodden path of methods employed by other prohibitionists before them doesn't end there, either.

There's the evil industry knowingly adding unhealthy additives.
Leptin raises a big question: did the food industry knowingly create foods that were addictive, that would make you feel as though you were never satisfied and always wanted more? Kessler is cautious in his response: "Did they understand the neuroscience? No. But they learned experientially what worked."
The "they're evil so we must prevent them from having any input into the debate" opening gambit ...
But Yudkin's work was rubbished by what many believe, including Professor Robert Lustig, one of the world's leading endocrinologists, was a concerted campaign to discredit Yudkin. Much of the criticism came from fellow academics, whose research was aligning far more closely with the direction the food industry was intending to take. Yudkin's colleague at the time, Dr Richard Bruckdorfer at UCL says: "There was a huge lobby from [the food] industry, particularly from the sugar industry, and Yudkin complained bitterly that they were subverting some of his ideas." Yudkin was, Lustig says simply, "thrown under the bus", because there was a huge financial gain to be made by fingering fat, not sugar, as the culprit of heart disease.
... coupled with a crank being touted as some kind of evangelical saviour. Yep, seen them before too.

The absurd claims.
Other studies have found that sugar may even coat semen and result in obese men becoming less fertile.
They'll no doubt get to something about toe-nails in time (funding permitting).

And finally, conflating the threat with a previously denormalised substance (serving nicely as a hat tip to those who made it all possible).
David Kessler, the former head of the US government's most powerful food agency, the FDA, and the person responsible for introducing warnings on cigarette packets in the early 90s, believes that sugar, through its metabolisation by the gut and hence the brain, is extremely addictive, just like cigarettes or alcohol.
Now, if they just left it there. You know, education for the lumpen proles so they could make their own minds up, I could hold some grudging respect for them.

But, again, from previous experience we know what comes next. Firstly, from another well-known crank, a gentle encouragement for action to hit evil Big Food business in the pocket.
According to Professor Kelly Brownell at Yale University, one of the world's foremost experts on obesity and its causes, the science will soon be irrefutable and we may then be just a few years away from the first successful lawsuit.
Hints at the need for government health warnings on food.
Why has Kessler, when he has had such success with his warnings on cigarette packets, not done the same thing for processed foods high in sugar?
And, inevitably, some liberty-blind, and self-determination oblivious, MP stung into furrow-browed action by the constant whining.
Anne Milton, the minister for public health, tells me that legislation against the food industry isn't being ruled out, because of the escalating costs to the NHS. [...] "Let's get one thing straight," Milton tells me, however. "I am not scared of the food industry."
Yep, and we've seen that bravado before too.

So the whole lucrative ambulance-chasing bandwagon begins again, just with a different target.

There are plenty other examples of similarities in approach from elsewhere in the referenced piece, see if you can spot them.

Perhaps we should devise a scorecard for when such articles appear and play public health slippery slope bingo, or something.

UPDATE: Spiked reckons the aforementioned Kessler is a hopeless scaremonger, too.

UPDATE: More than that, he's definitely on the cranky side.

And the BBC are promoting these people as calm, reasoned 'scientists'?

Monday, 11 June 2012

We Pledge To Change Our Tune To Suit Our Bank Account

Here, you're gonna love this.

Further to my little rummage in the postbag recently, a somewhat disgruntled fellow jewel robber has kindly passed on an interesting letter from Cancer Research UK. As I mentioned in that article last month ...
[...] the employee who replied is one of a minority within [Cancer Research UK] who are aware that their company is involved in political lobbying. I've had cold callers begging for money who have laughed at me for suggesting that their charity is involved in politics. If their own fundraisers aren't aware of it, how do they expect anyone else to know [...]
Indeed, it would appear that the "Supporter Contact Advisor" who signed this letter - rejecting a plea for start-up support for a local cancer charity - is just one of very many who are blissfully ignorant of how CRUK spend their sizeable cash.
Strictly Research

Remember that quote when the sponsor form is thrust under your nose from someone trying to raise £50 by dressing in pink for a £482m mega-business. "When the public donates to us, we pledge that their donations will strictly go towards researching cancer.".

One wonders, then, how they square that 'pledge' with the £56k they recently gave to the University of Bath for a wiki guffaw-fest, or the substantial funds they have funnelled into the CRUK tobacco advisory group. Not to mention the alcohol equivalent.

It seems that they only proudly boast about their integrity in distributing funds when it is to refuse a leg-up to grass roots charities.

While on the one hand admitting they use donations for political lobbying ...
The link between smoking and cancer is irrefutable, which is one reason why we are currently campaigning for the introduction of plain packaging for cigarettes.
... they blankly deny it when someone comes asking for a tiny portion of their substantial wage bill.

I wish they'd get their story straight.

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Finally Some Evidence For Plain Packaging?

You may have noticed, during their campaigning for plain packaging of tobacco, that the tobacco control industry has desperately avoided referring to any real evidence for their claims. Hardly surprising really, since even Australia's prime proponent admits that it doesn't exist.

Sure, they've cobbled together a list of studies written by their mates to create an illusion of certainty, but the general thrust of their campaign so far has been to repeat "children", "cancer", "protect", and "tobacco industry" and hope that no-one calls their emotional bluff.

Via a FOI request, though, it seems they might finally be forced to come up with some concrete figures.

With apologies to those who know about such processes, each piece of legislation must undergo a cost and benefit analysis before becoming law. One such way of doing so is to conduct an impact assessment (IA) which investigates these things. To make absolutely sure that the government isn't just making stuff up, the Regulatory Policy Committee (RPC) is tasked with scrutinising impact assessments and making recommendations.

The documents placed on public display for plain packaging included the initial impact assessment, which the RPC weren't perfectly happy with.

They gave it a traffic light style rating of 'amber' which is explained on their website thus:
AMBER – If an IA receives an Amber flag, this means we have areas of concern with the quality of analysis and evidence presented. These issues should be addressed prior to the IA being finalised so as to improve its contribution to the final decision made.
As you can imagine, I was rather intrigued as to what "areas of concern" they had, so I asked. The 'opinion' is reproduced below.

Firstly, you'll note that the government have blithely dismissed the negative impact on business as 'neutral'. The RPC rightly ask - considering that one of the main reasons tobacco controllers give as justification for plain packaging is that industry profits will be hit hard - for the evidence for this.

That'll be a work of twisted logic when the final impact assessment is released, methinks.

More significantly, though, the RPC wants to know what evidence there is that banning colours and logos will have an effect on smoking rates which will outweigh the burden they are placing on packaging companies, retailers, the public and other businesses including, yes, the tobacco industry (think GDP in a recession here).

Not just any effect either, they want evidence of a "marginal" effect. That being, one which is over and above that 'achieved' by hiding tobacco behind shutters since April 6th.

Now, even absent of other tobacco control industry measures, proving any benefit of plain packaging would be difficult seeing as there is no reference point anywhere in the world. But to offer any 'marginal' benefit when tobacco displays were only hidden by law on April 6th is something only the most disingenuous economist or epidemiologist could offer up with a straight face (and a newly-enriched bank account).

Especially since the Department of Health itself, in its zeal to convince parliament, came up with some heroic financial claims (coupled with distortions of the truth) to bludgeon through banning displays back in 2008/9.

Having already dubiously claimed a 'conservative' saving of 2,786 youth smokers, and a whopping half billion pounds of benefits to the country, they now have to top that for plain packaging in the face of a complete lack of any tangible evidence whatsoever. But with business costs very much quantifiable.

We could be about to see one of the most egregious state abuses of statistics ever seen - that is, by 'proving' a non-existent financial benefit to the country which exceeds the extraordinary hammer blow to businesses and their employees who will be forced to suffer as a result - just to stop you from seeing a colour or bevelled edge on a cigarette packet.

Can't wait to see how they do it. It will be a work of art which could put Dynamo to shame.

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Shhh ... Alcohol Consumption Is Down Again

Did you know that the latest NHS statistics on alcohol consumption were released just before the Jubilee?

You didn't? Well, I suppose it's an easy mistake to make because the BBC didn't seem to notice it either. Perhaps it's because they were all camped out around the Mall ... or that the health section's skeleton staff would have had to report on this little "key fact".
There has been a long-term downward trend in the proportion of adults who reported drinking in the week prior to interview. In 1998 75 per cent of men and 59 per cent of women drank in the week prior to interview compared to 68 per cent of men and 54 per cent of women in 2010.
In fact, searching the text in Google, it would seem that it was missed by all media outlets apart from those in the drinks trade.

Perhaps I was looking for something too upbeat. The Mail, for example, picked up on the statistics with this lurid headline.
Number of people being admitted to hospital because of alcohol jumps 10 per cent in a year
There is no mention whatsoever of the good news in the NHS report, but a rent-a-quote from Alcohol Concern is given ample publicity.

Sadly (for journalism) even the 'fact' they chose to lead on isn't accurate, as they'd have discovered if bothering to read further down the same paragraph of the press release.
Comparisons over time in the broad measure are complicated by changes in recording practices over the period. In order to estimate the trend once changes in recording practices are accounted for, a method to adjust the national figures has been devised which is presented in Appendix G of the report. Adjusted figures show a 49 per cent increase from an estimated 783,300 in 2002/03 but a 3 per cent decrease from 1,208,100 in 2009/10.
There are more statistical flies in the ointment than that as well - with regard to an increasingly wider net being thrown around up to 20 sub-diagnoses over the past decade - but only, err, DAILY MAIL REPORTER can explain how a real terms decrease is emblazoned on its pages as a "jump" of "10 per cent in a year".

And, as we know, such figures are also skewed since all manner of admissions not necessarily to do with alcohol are included. "For example, 46% of pedestrian traffic accidents involving women aged 25 to 44 are estimated to be attributable to alcohol." [6.18]

"What about the children?", I can hear you cry. Well, it's good news there too.
13% of secondary school pupils aged 11 to 15 reported drinking alcohol in the week prior to interview in 2010 compared with 18 per cent of pupils in 2009 and 26 per cent in 2001.
And I can now update this graph (or I would if I did graphs as good as this) with yet another decrease in overall consumption (table 2.5).

Women drinking over the paltry 14 units per week decreased from 18% to 17% while men remained static at 26%, but the average weekly units fell from 16.4 to 15.9 for men and 8.0 to 7.6 for women.

In public health terms, this is cracking news, isn't it?

Well, not if you're trying to make a case for an urgent minimum price for alcohol it's not, no. Best keep it all hush hush then, eh?

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Don't You Dare Disagree!

Another day, another moral panic.

Having unusually - these days anyway - found myself in a van between 9 and 10 this morning (half term and all that), I managed to catch part of a phone-in on Radio 5 Live. Now, these things are generally quite off-the-wall affairs and, yes, I know you shouldn't take much of it seriously.

The subject was today's brow-furrowing over 'child sexualisation'. Yes, you can imagine.

While it may be true that there are some extremes, I really can't subscribe to this view that societal collapse is imminent because Rihanna prances around in hot pants or that there are a few (and yes, only a very few) dodgy fashion items being marketed for kids.

But that's not the point I'm intending to argue here. What was deeply weep-inducing was the attitude of those calling in. After hearing one after another screeching about "kids wearing short skirts in the High Street" and "buying high heels", I was already sighing while wondering what on Earth it had to do with them what other kids (or, indeed, parents) did.

It was then that a quite extraordinary exchange occurred between the Mail's Sonia Poulton and Sean Gabb of the Libertarian Alliance. I do urge you to listen to it here from 41 minutes in. Or just click below for those reading beyond seven days.

Poulton came to the table already either whacked up on caffeine or just naturally aggressive. Within the first minute she had dismissed as 'deluded' anyone who disagreed with her stance and set out a stall as some kind of unassailable expert. Gabb came over calm by contrast.

However, while Poulton was waxing hysterical about how we needed controls for "our children", Gabb challenged her. Exactly as he should. "Our children?", he said, "you look after your children, I'll look after mine". The result was as predictable as it was shrill.

From then on, Poulton issued insults; demanded people who held that view "be quiet"; refused to debate; and became madder the more it was insisted that others might not share her opinion. She embarrassed herself by asserting that she knew - knew no less - that Gabb wasn't a parent simply because he believed other people's kids were not hers to control, and when the host revealed that Gabb was indeed a parent, simply called him names and became even more insulting.

This, sadly - in fact, soul-destroyingly - is modern Britain. A place packed full of arrogant people who feel it perfectly acceptable to interfere in every aspect of the lives of others. If you disagree, or resist, they will shout and scream; make a call to their own delusional authority; and denounce you as a heretic or anti-social abuser.

I'm a parent too, and am terrified that someone like Poulton claims to have any kind of input into how my kids are brought up. I'm trying my hardest to make sure they are independent, the best they can be, and respectful of those around them. If they ended up as nosy, self-aggrandising, bad-mannered, and intolerant to others as Poulton, I'd be horrified.

Unfortunately, while we have this rather tired debate raging about child sexualisation - which hasn't changed much in tone since Victorians were appalled by ankles, those in the 50s were disgusted by Elvis's hips, and the easily-scandalised were shocked by Frankie Goes To Hollywood - no-one seems to be caring much about hideous mares like Poulton.

We used to have a few of these prodnoses dotted around, but they're everywhere now. Self-aggrandising, aloof, condescending of others, and entirely dismissive of choices different from their own.

Put this latest over-wrought moral panic to one side for a minute. Let's instead try to investigate why we have an army of shrieking curtain-twitchers who insist on getting involved in everyone else's life as well as their own.

Now that's something that government should be doing if it cared for society, instead of encouraging the most objectionable to forcibly dictate their own personal gripes on the rest of us ... as they seem to do at every turn nowadays.

It's none of their piggin' business.

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

"Shut Up And Let The Smart People Decide Everything"

Considering recent circumstances, this is a very apposite film from The Forbidden History. Although focussed mostly on moves against free speech in Australia (what a surprise), the arguments are very broadly drawn and can most certainly apply equally here.

Who gets to decide what is acceptable speech, and why does their particular opinion trump anyone else's?


H/T @AusLibertarians

Monday, 4 June 2012

Why Are We Paying For This Ineptitude?

There's been much said about the newly-revealed tinfoil hattery of the Tobacco Tactics site this weekend, my particular favourite being Longrider's article today.

The Exile has already cherry-picked the very best comedy from my page, and high comedy it is too. The fact that someone in the tobacco control industry was so dense as to even attempt a search at Companies House for Puddlecote is beyond parody, as well as further proof that they have far too much time on their hands at our expense.

However, I'm somewhat disappointed that the rest of the entries are also such a mess. Having engaged a Dutch security research firm - paid for partly by a grant of £56,409 from Cancer Research UK (remember that next time someone waves a sponsorship form under your nose for running round a field) - you'd think they could have produced something more professional.

Bad links, spelling mistakes, elementary grammatical errors, and things I haven't said are all there. And that's just one page of hundreds we're talking about.

A perfect example is this claim:
He also calls, ASH's Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Deborah Arnott a "wanker" who is "paid for out of your taxes”.[22]
I found this curious as I didn't remember it, which is unusual. Hardly surprising since I didn't say it.

It was lifted from a quoted section of an article by Tim Worstall.
And I’ll even make a deal. When Deborah Arnott’s screen and radio appearances, public utterances, are accompanied by a “this wanker is paid for out of your taxes” warning then I’ll make sure that my income, and thus my funding, is similarly disclosed. Until then you’re all cordially invited to fornicate and travel.
As you can see, even Timmy didn't directly call Arnott a wanker. A non-existent message from an unspecified fantasy government department did.

I really couldn't give a monkey's chuff if the University of Bath want to waste their time on wiki adventures which attack free speech with their own cash (or CRUK's), after all it's the kind of thing we have come to expect from these charlatans. However, I'm deeply offended that Smokefree South West - a government-funded organisation who are helping to pay for this nonsense - are spending my substantial taxes on something so pathetically shoddy.

Think we need more cuts? You betcha.

Sunday, 3 June 2012

Never In Doubt

I think he's won it so many times now they may as well let him keep it.
So I said in April, but Nanny Bloomberg seems determined to earn every monthly Reason award on the back of his own blood, sweat and tears of rancid anti-social misery-mongering.

I wonder if he's called the police about being called a "soda jerk" by a channel with so many followers?

More anti-Bloomberg fun here, and previous DP comment here.

H/T Lawson

Friday, 1 June 2012

Jewel Robbing Spotted In The Guardian

I suppose - when faced with a tobacco control industry which relies heavily on cherry-picking their 'evidence' - it's not surprising that their supportive press would act in the same knowingly disingenuous manner.

This article (apparently to appear in Saturday's Guardian) is as woefully skewed as anything the Mail - who Guardian readers revel in holding up as a model of lax, one-sided journalism - has ever produced. Except that whereas the Mail generally employs one author per piece of rubbish, it took two fearless Graun writers to produce their particular abject crayon-scrawled mess.

Beginning with an attack on Freedom2Choose concerning something which had nothing to do with them, they also seem to have forgotten one of the prime principles of responsible news reporting. Context.

The deleted post to which they refer appeared - very briefly, as I recall - on the F2C blog which carries quite a significant disclaimer.
The opinions expressed by the authors on this blog and those providing comments are theirs alone, and do not reflect the opinions of the Freedom2Choose organisation or any member thereof. Freedom2Choose is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the blog Authors.
Didn't stop them implying it was on the Freedom2Choose website by linking there, and saying it was hosted by them which it wasn't. They should be 'blaming' Google for that.

Additionally, while talking about how security has been "stepped up" for tobacco controllers, they fail to point out that the F2C blog is all but redundant seeing as the last article published was over two months ago.

They are also either investigative journalists who have no idea how to, you know, investigate, or were wilfully not doing so. The 'snipers' article was a direct satirical response to something just as - if not more - deeply objectionable which appeared in the Luton Herald & Post.
My only suggestion for effective action is to be a bit literal around it.

Anyone who buys a packet of fags emblazoned in huge letters with that no nonsense warning that smoking kills is tacitly accepting the possibility.

So let's set a squad of licesed snipers on the streets, with permission to pick off smokers whenever there's a clear shot.

I confidently predict that the prospect of having your head blown off while enjoying what you didn't realise would be your last cigarette would give smokers up and down the country an extra incentive to kick the habit.

And if they defiantly carry on puffing, when they are popped between the eyes it will save the health service all the costs of caring for them in their declining years.
Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't remember the Guardian expressing outrage at the threats posed by that article. Nor did Messrs Campbell and Meikle bother to point out to their readers that it even existed. They could have even added in a bit about that fantastic game where the online world gets to shoot smokers in the head, or pointed out that the Luton 'shoot smokers' article came out in the very same week Anders Breivik was doing exactly that to lefties in Norway.

Perhaps they felt such context irrelevant in their zeal to produce a piece so one-sided I'm surprised it didn't slide off the side of my monitor.

I'm sure Frank Davis can fight his own eloquent corner in response to the specific claims made about him, suffice to say that I expect he was reacting to a sob story from Linda Bauld about how she was being insulted for the job she is paid for.

No-one, but no-one, mentioned in the Guardian piece would condone such behaviour. But similarly would any right-minded person not condone the kind of rancid, vitriolic, violent and disgusting behaviour Bauld and her ilk have created and nurtured. There are numerous hideous examples the Graun authors could have seen in our intermittently-updated catalogue while they were researching if they'd bothered to look.

And they did look here, because your jewel-thieving host got a mention.
Another libertarian pro-tobacco blogger, calling himself Dick Puddlecote, wrote that the NHS-funded Smokefree Southwest campaign was made up of "grasping bastards" and called Gabriel Scally, until recently NHS regional director of public health, "part of a bullshit spreading campaign".
Firstly, let's just point out to Harry and Lloyd that the only reason the "Smokefree Southwest campaign" for plain packaging is now acknowledged as being "NHS-funded" is because this blog discovered so despite attempts to hide it.

As such, that's my investigation contributing to your article, Denis and James. Where's the link?

It would have also been helpful to their readers to offer a link to the article where those quotes of mine occurred. That is, this one.

It detailed how Gabriel Scally was whining on the BBC about how the "tobacco industry" was submitting FOI requests to disrupt the plain packaging campaign which no voter asked for, and no manifesto promised. The kind of deceit the Guardian usually gets very hot under the collar about under this coalition.

As I said at the time.
These people really do have no other line of attack than to try making out that everyone who disagrees with them are funded by tobacco companies. It's really quite pathetic.

Ever since I posted a photograph of one of Smokefree South West's advertising hoardings, I've received e-mails letting me know of FOI requests readers have submitted - probably because it was unclear at the time how much they cost.
On top of the design fees, as far as I can ascertain, this space would cost around £200 per week and, of course, we don't know how many of them there are dotted around, or for how long. Add on printing costs and beer money for the bill posters and we're talking a pretty penny being spent from your taxes, I reckon.
I submitted some myself but it was a fellow jewel robber who e-mailed me this response which was the first we knew they were pissing half a mill down the drain.

Others who e-mailed me their FOI responses include a teacher from the Midlands, an IT professional, and a guy from Manchester involved in Intellectual Property, hence his interest. As for myself, regular readers will know I run a transport company which has grown from couple of borrowed vehicles in the 90s, so I'm just a glorified white van man. Remember too, that these are just those who copied me in on their responses and takes no account of any others who may have sent a request for personal curiosity without letting on. After all, it's a very simple process.

See any tobacco industry involvement there? No, it's utter arse-biscuits, of course. But they really don't like any kind of debate or questioning, do they?
So, yes. Scally certainly is "part of a bullshit-spreading campaign" if he claims that those responses emanated from the tobacco industry. There's no two ways about it, especially since the NHS Bristol website logs one such response to prove it.

As for "grasping bastards", how else does one explain people misrepresenting the truth in order to keep the state-funded wonga flooding in to their bank account, regardless of the disgusting behaviour it encourages? Perhaps I could have been more polite, but this is a blog written by someone unpaid and having to listen to Scally's paid-for shit, not Gardeners Weekly.

There is a plus side to the Campbell/Meikle nonsense, though. And that is the subtle shift away from references to "the tobacco industry", exactly the point I was making about Scally's bullshit. This Guardian article specifically states that it is "pro-smoking activists" the tobacco control industry is now worried about.

For years they have tried to pretend that every objector is funded by a tobacco company, but the scales would seem to have finally fallen from their eyes. Instead, they are now trying to stifle ANY kind of objection - just as they did with the tobacco industry - even from enfranchised and tax-paying individuals who have a right to raise them.

Again, you'd expect the Guardian - self-declared civil liberties champion, and all - to be very much for such a concept, but their integrity is obviously as limited as the research which has gone into Campbell and Meikle's article.

I'll wait patiently for a deserved link or an update, but won't hold my breath. If they'd wanted something transparent and amenable to critique, comments would have been enabled. But that would have only ruined the whole point of their inept puff piece, would it not?

All in all, it's still very encouraging though. If such a weapons grade reaction is being commissioned by Scally and his cohorts, we must be making progress. Keep up the good work boys and girls.

Course Not, Deborah

"[...] The “domino theory” i.e. that once a measure has been applied to tobacco it will be applied to other products is patently false. The same argument was used against the ban on tobacco advertising, but 9 years after the tobacco ban in the UK, alcohol advertising is still permitted with no sign of it being prohibited."

Deborah Arnott, Chief Executive of ASH, 20th February 2012
This, presumably, is what "no sign" looks like.
Key areas [Balance North East] says need to be addressed include the prevention of alcohol advertising aimed at young people; the prevention of alcohol advertising on TV and at the cinema; prevention of alcohol marketing on social networking sites and the ending of sponsorship by the alcohol industry of sports and young people's events.
They don't specifically mention them, but the accompanying video shows that Balance have their sights set on billboards and shop displays too.

Taking that as a guide, it means we could be battling against display bans and plain packaging for alcohol products a mere nine years from now.

Nice of Debs to remind us of the timescale, isn't it?