Monday, 15 July 2013

EU Says "Smoke The Strongest You Can Find"

Along with the incredibly stupid EU decision to effectively ban e-cigs on Wednesday, other restrictions were also passed which impact on tobacco.

Of course, they'll all be pointless or else Ireland - which is always first to implement these imaginative wastes of time and money - would boast one of the lowest smoking rates in the EU, instead of the highest.

You can read them all here, but I found these proposals particularly amusing.
No misleading labelling
The labelling or packaging of any tobacco product must not suggest that a particular product is less harmful than others or has positive health or lifestyle effects.
No more tar and nicotine info on packs
The tar, nicotine and carbon monoxide yields of cigarettes must henceforth be measured on the basis of referenced ISO standards, as existing indications displayed on cigarette packets have proven to be misleading, MEPs say. They therefore propose that no such information should be included on packs.
Now, ignore for now the bizarre situation of the EU demanding less information for consumers - the exact opposite of the costly regulatory burdens they place on every other marketable product in existence - but instead let's concentrate on the word "misleading".

The implication, naturally, is that those nasty tobacco companies have been lying again. But who exactly demanded this information to be placed on packs in the first place? Well, the EU of course.
The lack of information together with the lack of toxicological data prevents the relevant authorities in the Member States from assessing in any meaningful manner the toxicity of, and hazards posed to the health of the consumer by tobacco products. This is inconsistent with the obligation placed on the Community to ensure a high level of protection for human health. 
The greatest possible transparency of product information should be ensured, while ensuring that appropriate account is taken of the commercial and intellectual property rights of the tobacco manufacturers.
They were very specific about how these tar and nicotine yields were to be displayed too.
6. The text of warnings and yield indications required under this Article shall be: 
(a) printed in black Helvetica bold type on a white background. In order to accommodate language requirements, Member States shall have the right to determine the point size of the font, provided that the font size specified in their legislation is such as to occupy the greatest possible proportion of the area set aside for the text required; 
(b) in lower-case type, except for the first letter of the message and where required by grammar usage; 
(c) centred in the area in which the text is required to be printed, parallel to the top edge of the packet; 
(d) for products other than those referred to in paragraph 4, surrounded by a black border not less than 3 mm and not more than 4 mm in width which in no way interferes with the text of the warning or information given; 
(e) in the official language or languages of the Member State where the product is placed on the market. 
7. The printing of the texts required by this Article on the tax stamps of unit packets shall be prohibited. The texts shall be irremovably printed, indelible and shall in no way be hidden, obscured or interrupted by other written or pictorial matter or by the opening of the packet. In the case of tobacco products other than cigarettes, the texts may be affixed by means of stickers, provided that such stickers are irremovable.
Because, you see, they were fully aware of the scientific principle of dose making the poison. Hence why, in the same document, they placed limits on tar, nicotine and carbon monoxide yields.
Article 3 
Cigarettes: maximum tar, nicotine and carbon monoxide yields 
1. From 1 January 2004, the yield of cigarettes released for free circulation, marketed or manufactured in the Member States shall not be greater than: 
- 10 mg per cigarette for tar,
- 1 mg per cigarette for nicotine,
- 10 mg per cigarette for carbon monoxide.
So what changed? Why are the EU's own regulations now termed "misleading"?

Well, since 2001 the tobacco control industry has changed its mind. Apparently, tobacco is now such a unique material that it manages to circumvent the globally accepted rules of chemistry and biology (and economics in some instances).

ASH, for example, have pronounced that - all of a sudden - high and low tar cigarettes are all the same.
Smoking Kills also supported European efforts to set limits on the tar and nicotine delivered by tobacco products but unfortunately it became clear that such limits could mislead smokers about the harmfulness of the products they smoke. Descriptors such as ‘low tar’ can no longer be used and the government is advocating the removal of emission yields from packs.
And dutifully did the EU follow this distortion of scientific reality.

They didn't scrap the limits on tar, nicotine and carbon monoxide yields though. Why not? Surely if they are irrelevant, there is now no need for them, doncha think?

The answer, of course, is that the EU secretly know that these yield figures really are significant, as the Scientific Committee on Smoking and Health (SCOTH) has reported on before.
Health effects of smoking lower tar cigarettes 
Only prolonged smoking of low tar cigarettes can determine the extent to which health risks are reduced. UK figures show that male lung cancer diagnoses have been falling since the early 1980’s which reflects the trend in smoking which has decreased for the last twenty years. This may in part also be due to the lower tar cigarette.

Another possible explanation for the observed reduction in male lung cancer deaths may be the altered ratio between tar and nicotine in the lower tar cigarettes: the ratio between tar and nicotine has reduced as tar levels have come down and this means reduced exposure to tar and other harmful constituents of smoke measured on a per unit nicotine basis.
Every producer reacts to customer preferences, with brands in all areas introducing lines which are lower in fat, sugar, salt, alcohol content, or whatever else they have been hectored into being scared of. Tobacco is no different. Seeing that smokers were concerned about levels of tar and nicotine, tobacco manufacturers developed a range of products with differing strengths to cater for each individual's choice and risk tolerance.

Tobacco control tax spongers don't like that much, though, so once the new directive is installed, smokers will not be allowed to know how much tar, nicotine and carbon monoxide is in their cigarettes even though they vary considerably.

May as well just smoke the brand which gives you the biggest kick then, eh?

And this is supposed to be about health how?


Curmudgeon said...

It's not such a leap of the imagination to conceive of a situation where publishing the strength of alcoholic drinks was similarly prohibited.

nisakiman said...

And thus we follow Alice down the rabbit hole...

The Mad Hatter awaits.

timbone said...

Once upon a time (1970's) chemists and other places had charts on the wall telling you the tar yield of most brands of cigarettes. I smoked Embassy Regal then, which were classed as 'medium' tar level, they were 14mg.
In the 1990's, Tobacco Manufacturers were being urged to cut the tar yield (without the holes in the filters). Eventually, as you pointed out, there was an EU directive, no more than 10mg.
Now, the only way to do this is to replace the tobacco, cut the filling with other combustible materials. I have heard that one of these is ground tree bark.
If you cut the tar yield, you also cut the nicotine. This is probably why the old 20 a day smoker is now a 40 a day smoker. This is not all however. It is the factory made cigarettes which have this treatment, which is why hand rolling tobacco is purer, and does not give you the thick chest that you now get from factory made.
It amazes me more every day how much more I know than those who urge legislation.
Like you say, it is not about health.

Dick_Puddlecote said...

I fully expect to see it in my lifetime.

What the.... said...

Well put, DP. It’s an extraordinary situation. It’s profoundly stupid, dangerous people in charge. And, having put antismokers – rabid fanatics/zealots/extremists - in charge of tobacco, who could have seen
that coming?

The consumer now has no information concerning cigarettes, other than that they’re “cigarettes”. In the contorted minds of antismokers, cigarettes are all the same. This is why they have no problem with counterfeit cigarettes. Mention counterfeit cigarettes, that there is no guarantee of what’s in them, and there will be at least one moron that will respond – well, it’s not as if regular cigarettes don’t kill. We could lace cigarettes with anything at all – rat poison, large doses of cyanide – and it wouldn’t make any difference to antismokers at all: Cigarettes are all the same. If they appear in white cigarette paper, the contents and effects are all the same. Light cigarettes are the same as full-strength cigarettes; contaminated cigarettes are the same as regular cigarettes. How does one reason with such insanity.

I suspect that there is another "benefit" for dispensing with indicating the tar, nicotine, and carbon monoxide yields. It conceals that fire safe/safer
cigarettes have increased the chemical load, particularly carbon monoxide.

In the current derangement, there’s much to be said for RYO.

What the.... said...

The antismoker industry is screeching “conspiracy” regarding the shelved plain packaging proposal.

“It's a victory for the hidden persuaders, the astroturfers, sock puppets, purchased scholars and corporate moles.”

When I first read that sentence, I thought, finally someone can see through the antismoker network of sock-puppets, Pharma interests, and corrupt,
agenda-driven academia. But, no, this nitwit, George Monbiot, sees only one
conspiracy – the tobacco industry, never referring to anyone/anything else. And the comments section isn’t any better.

Dick_Puddlecote said...

Is gawky George still touting that evidence-avoiding line? I'd have thought he'd have got bored by now considering it is dog whistle nonsense.

I reckon he should take on the Pope and all those people who give him money just so he will say things about Catholicism he doesn't actually believe in.

SteveW said...

Bearing all of that in mind, what chance success if one were to try to sue the European Parliament for a decade's worth of mandating that Imperial Tobacco mislead me with the information they were forced to provide on their packaging?

Clive Bates said...

Actually, ASH has been onto this for a long time, and lobbied against the ISO yield testing regime and printing yield numbers on packs before the 2001 directive was agreed. This from 1999: Why Low Tar Cigarettes Don’t Work and How the Tobacco Industry Has Fooled the Smoking Public

The maximum tar and nicotine yields of cigarettes are governed by an EU Directive, which sets maximum tar levels, as measured by the ISO smoking machine, at 12 mg of tar per cigarette. An EU Directive also governs the labelling of cigarettes which includes display of tar and nicotine yields. It was agreed on 4th December 1997 in the Council of Health Ministers that both Directives would be examined by the European Commission, which would bring forward new legislative proposals to update the Directives - this gives an opportunity to rethink the whole area. It is clear that the machine measured yield is an inappropriate metric with which to characterise the harmful emissions of cigarettes, and that as consumer information it is actually dangerous and misleading. Yet it is still in universal use as consumer information. The key political questions are therefore:

+ Why has this misleading consumer information been allowed to continue for so long and what should be put in its place?

+ What would be an appropriate characterisation of cigarette smoke to reflect the harm caused to smokers and to give realistic, meaningful consumer information?

+ What regulations could be put in place to control these characteristics and reduce the harmfulness of cigarettes?

+ What role has the tobacco industry played in misleading consumers? This point is addressed more fully in Part 2.

JonathanBagley said...

More evidence for the prosecution come judgement day.