Saturday, 23 September 2017

Regulate In Haste, Repent At Leisure

The last couple of days have been a story of regulators regulating for the hell of it instead of using their powers responsibly with the public in mind. Yesterday we saw Transport for London take a Thor-sized hammer to crack the peanut of procedural problems with Uber. I am very knowledgeable about this issue and - to be frank - it stinks of caving into vested interest lobbying pressure rather than their claim of improved safety. Their justification simply doesn't stack up, and even if it did, TfL's response is hysterical, I may be tempted to write about that another time.

But today saw an article in The Sun about e-cigs regulation which is staggering if true. 
ADVERTS by Cancer Research urging Brits to quit smoking are at the centre of a row over barmy Brussels rules that would ban them, The Sun can reveal. 
The leading cancer charity want to launch an advertising blitz next month as part of the annual “Stoptober” to urge smokers to “quit or switch” to using e-cigarettes. 
But charity sources say they were warned by the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) that they will be breaking EU rules by promoting vaping e-cigs — despite research showing it is 95 per cent safer than traditional smoking.
The author of the article is Harry Cole, formerly of Guido Fawkes's team. His sources are impeccable, so I'd expect his reporting to be accurate. It's interesting because there is currently an advertising campaign by the ASA itself on the tube network where the authority holds itself up as an arbiter of truth.


Yes, you should. Yet the ASA has a history of having a blind spot about truth when it comes to e-cigs.
An advert for an e-cigarette brand has been banned after the advertising watchdog ruled that claims including that it was "the healthier smoking alternative" could not be substantiated. 
In its ruling, the ASA noted the two claims in the ad were understood to mean the Ten Motive's products were less harmful than conventional cigarettes.
But it ruled that the ad should be banned
That was from 2014. It was true then and it's true now, but regulators gotta regulate. Reason being that - despite what they say on their tube ads - it doesn't matter what the truth actually is, the ASA will regulate according to rules laid down to them. The ASA's own advert saying they are "here to put it right" when an ad is wrong could be deemed as misleading too considering they are banning adverts which are absolutely correct.

Today's article is bizarre because only the other day, one of the Department of Health's highest-ranked staff made a claim that no vaping business is allowed to do, and she was happy to be filmed saying it on the BBC.
The government's deputy chief medical officer Prof Gina Radford said e-cigarettes were playing an important role and, as they had "95% less harmful products" in them than normal cigarettes, it was only right that they were promoted during Stoptober.
Promoted? Oh dear. That's not allowed, I'm afraid, the EU's TPD put paid to that, and health claims - such as the 95% figure - are banned too. Barmy, yes, but that's how fucking ridiculous regulations are in this area of government policy.

To make matters worse, though, the Department of Health - which lobbied in favour of these daft regulations at EU level - now thinks they and their friends should be given a free pass!
[T]oday it emerged the Department of Health had stepped in to say public health campaigns should be exempt from the Brussels ruling. 
[T]he Department for Health believe “the prohibition would not cover public health campaigns about the relative risks of e-cigarettes verses tobacco products by Public Health England or local stop smoking services.
No, DH, it doesn't work like that. It's long been a fundamental plank of UK justice that no-one - not even the monarch - is above the law. If you want to be exempt, why don't you go delete the execrable crap that was stuck on our statute book after your pharma friends swarmed the EU to lobby for it, and which you supported wholeheartedly.

In fact, may I remind you that your representative at those discussions not only favoured these stupid rules, but also claimed to have provided the casting vote!


It is quite astonishing to see the Department of Health - the government department which caused the mess in the first place - saying that their friends should be exempted from regulations that the ASA has been told to enforce even though they are enforcing falsehood.

The simple thing to do, for the good of the public and for businesses which are currently banned from telling the truth, would be to repeal the regulations so that everyone can say what is actually correct. That way, the DH would not need any exemption; Cancer Research UK could promote vaping without the ASA poking their noses in; and the ASA could hold their heads up high when stating that they are promoting truth in advertising instead of claiming - falsely - that they are, while doing the very opposite due to regulations imagined by morons and passed by dickheads.

The Sun article has come at a very opportune time, though, because the ASA is currently consulting the public about these very regulations, and asking if advertising claims about relative risk of e-cigs should be allowed. I think this omnishambles shows that the answer is an emphatic and resounding yes.

You can go and have your say on the ASA's consultation by clicking here.

Of course, even better would be if the UK repealed these incompetent, laughable and pointless regulations in their entirety the moment we exit the EU. Wouldn't that make life for all concerned so much easier? 



Thursday, 21 September 2017

Scream Test Update

It's been just over a week since it was announced that PMI were unconditionally throwing $1bn at a former WHO cabinet director to conduct research into reduced risk nicotine products, and the squealing from 'public health' has been a joy to behold.

Let's just revisit what that world-renowned tobacco control expert, Simon Chapman, says about this phenomenon.
When it comes to tobacco control, you can determine the most effective policies by using the litmus test of how the tobacco industry reacts. This has long been called the “scream test”. 
So when they cry blue murder about the civilisation-ending potential of a policy, it’s not rocket science that they appreciate its threat to their bottom-line.
One can only assume, then, that by Simon's own logic, tobacco control must be absolutely shitting themselves about the project and - by extension - the threat to the cosy cartel they have built up from decades of junk science and lying.

At time of writing, there are 116 'health groups' who have signed a letter to PMI demanding that their initiative can only be taken seriously by the company "immediately ceasing the production, marketing and sale of cigarettes". It's the kind of maturity and considered understanding of the world you'd expect out of an eight year old, but then you have to take into account that they are all very scared, bless 'em.

These people are supposedly 'experts' in the field of public health, and so will have studied the industry intensely over the years. They know very well that instantly cutting off supply of cigarettes would cause carnage. Organised crime would burgeon overnight, pension funds would be decimated, supply chains of wholesalers, packagers, retailers, and even entire national economies would be destroyed. Enforcement costs would skyrocket, perfectly law-abiding people would be criminalised and imprisoned, and people would - undoubtedly - die, in their thousands.

They know this, but suggest something absolutely inconceivable and irresponsibly damaging anyway. Complete prohibition of tobacco is an extreme position that not one of those 116 groups would ever advocate openly, but they are pretending to suggest that PMI do it. Yes, that's how very scared they are.

They are scared because - despite their lame protestations that the tobacco industry is only interested in alternative products because they want to drag people back to smoking - they know that industry is only doing what any other sector would do when faced with a "Kodak moment": following the consumer. What's more, they know very well that innovative products are more profitable and that any business would be foolish not to pursue the opportunities, as these graphics from Bloomberg show.

Cigarette profit margins v E-cig profit margins
Cigarette profit margins v Heat not burn profit margins
I don't remember 'public health' complaining too much when food companies took salt out of their products, in fact the salt loonies actually took credit for forcing them into it. But when the tobacco industry invests heavily and produces new products which take harm out of consuming nicotine, the tobacco control lot scream. You have to ask why. It's because they are scared.

They are scared because they know that they have fucked up. 'Public health' science ceased to be real science a very long time ago. They have simply spewed out all manner of partial bullshit for decades. They discovered that persuading politicians to do their bidding didn't rely on actually producing academically admirable work, it just relied on sounding plausible and getting politicos to believe the lies.

So we entered the era of research that generally went like this, if they were honest:
"Taking funding from a source which was seeking a biased conclusion, we took a pre-conceived policy idea and decided to carefully design a study which promoted it. We threw out any data that didn't fit, and scoured what was left to find something - anything - that remotely hinted at an association with what we wanted to do. We did send it for peer review on this occasion - though sometimes can't be arsed - but only after we released it to the press to grab a cheap headline. We don't even care if what we told the press is true, because if the study says something completely different - which it very often does - no-one will read it anyway, especially since we keep most of it behind a prohibitively expensive paywall so the public can't see the shit we send MPs for free. And even if they do, by the time our scam is debunked the headlines would have already flown around the world and millions will believe it.
We then concluded from our bollocks study that this is incontestible proof that the public need to be battered by more illiberal laws; that we want more cash more research is needed; and that if politicians don't listen to us we will tell everyone they want to kill little children."
It is into this stultifying and perverse environment of professional liars that e-cigs just happened to stumble.

Here was an alternative that was attractive to smokers and was threatening to make the tobacco control industry look a bit foolish. Their tired 'quit or die' gravy train was stalling, public sector cash was being squeezed, and along comes a product which, for many, was just as much enjoyment but without the harm. It even prompted forums, vape meets, festivals, and competitions, something never seen with patches and gums for some weird reason.

Faced with this clear threat to the livelihoods of many a comfortable, ruddy-faced 'public health' careerist, there was only one option. Attack it.

So they did. They believed that the same approach they used with smoking would work with vaping. Why not, it did before, didn't it? So they lied, and lied, and released junk science, and press released scary stories, and, and, and ... showed themselves up to be liars to a far bigger cohort of the public. Because, for the most part, the public don't care about e-cigs like they did about smoking, so they saw that they were being lied to.

The lies were so gobsmackingly ridiculous that some of their own even splintered off, perhaps wisely noting that history would judge who was being at least superficially sincere and who was just protecting their income to the detriment of the public's well-being.

In the case of reduced risk products, though, tobacco companies were employing proper scientists and doing proper science. The kind of stuff that may as well be written in Sanskrit as far as the assorted sociologists, psychologists, public policy advisors, aircraft engineers and self-declared 'experts' in tobacco control are concerned. Big Tobacco employed true global experts in their field, tobacco control just relied on their tried-and-tested ploy of pretending tobacco controllers were experts despite being woefully underqualified {waves at Martin McKee}.

But despite producing real science, the tobacco industry was ignored and sidelined because Big Tobacco, innit. The charlatans were gaining headlines for their biased crap, while the real deal was being ignored. If the tobacco control industry hadn't been so arrogant as to think that they could lie their way to banning e-cigs and other less harmful products, the PMI deal would probably not have happened.

It's said that Aristotle was the first to note that "nature abhors a vacuum", so considering that tobacco control were so cavalier about how they imagined, conceived, tabled and presented reseacrh in this area - while imploring everyone to ignore far better quality stuff from industry - is it any wonder that PMI said "Fuck it! Let's shovel a load of cash at people who will do it impartially".

'Public health' had their chances to do impartial science; proper science. But instead decided to just lie and cheat their way through it. Well, now there are a billion reasons why they should have acted more honestly in the past instead of deciding that with risk-reduced nicotine their policy should be "doubt is our product".

We know that they will scream - as the 116 stuck pigs mentioned earlier are doing - but this just shows that the research is something they are terribly afraid of. Why else try to obfuscate with something as facile and pathetic as a demand for a new worldwide Prohibition which would cause chaos? It's a last flailing of a cabal which is fearing its sepulchral end.

If those 116 'public health' organisations want to blame anyone for why it has come to this; that a tobacco company is firing a billion crispy oncers towards real unbiased research with no conditions, they only have to look at the garbage they have been foisting on the public for the past 30 years, then look in the mirror. 



Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Fake News: Transport Edition

On these pages, we see a lot of old guff spouted by 'public health' about how big business is disingenuous and trying to con the public. The 'public health' industry which is, of course, funded by taxpayers' cash, so basically part of the public sector.

It regularly strikes me as a bit rich that public sector organisations bleat about private businesses lying when - in my experience - I've never encountered any branch of public sector which doesn't lie massively on a daily basis.

As a keen observer of transport stuff (if you're not into transport geekery, look away now), here is a perfect example of public sector fake news, just to show it's not just the 'public health' lot who like to lie.
Uber licensing costs in London to rise from £3,000 to £3m in next five years
Helen Chapman, TfL general manager of Taxi & Private Hire, said the cost of regulation is rising due to a “huge” growth in the industry. 
She said: “There has been a huge growth in the industry in recent years and it is only fair that the licence fee reflects the costs of regulation and enforcement.” 
TfL said that the costs of enforcement over the next five years will reach £30m, up from a previous estimate of £4m. 
According to the regulator, the number of licensed private hire drivers has grown from 65,000 in 2013-14 to more than 116,000 this year.
The first thing to ask is why an increase of 78% in licences leads to an increase in enforcement costs of 650%. Looks like a cash grab already, doesn't it?

Still, let's take that extra £26m they need to raise as gospel and see what the new fee structure is, shall we? This is from their website.


Now, I've just run this through Excel and used the numbers TfL provide above. Taking as read that the variable cost for Uber and Addison Lee (the two operators at the top of the scale) will be in the region of £3m, it's fairly easy to see that the new income over and above what was gathered before this change is around £41.5m (to cover claimed increased costs of £26m).

That is an increase in fees income to TfL of 460%.

So how did they spin it? Well, apparently, this extra £41.5m will pay for an additional 250 compliance officers, which works out at an average of £33k per annum each. Quite a hefty salary for ticking boxes, don't you think?

But it was reported a bit differently in the Standard print edition.


"Will see larger firms pay higher fees to cover increased costs" isn't strictly true. Operators with only two vehicles will pay more for their licence than before, as will every other operator unless they are in the sweet spot of only owning between three and ten cars. Yet how many would have read that article and nodded about how the big guys are being bashed, eh?

If you are lucky enough to use a cab company in London which is in the three to ten vehicles bracket, they will be saving a princely sum of £838 over five years; if they are altruistic they might knock 10p off your journey. But the other £41.5m has to be paid for by someone and you know it will be the customer who will have to foot the bill, especially since the increased fees are so huge that they will drive many suppliers out of the market (which seems to be the point). And when fares increase across the board, they increase, well, across the board.

It's a simple transfer of funds from the public's wallets into the salaries of box-tickers and rubber band-flickers in the public sector, and it's done by using exaggerated costs, false information, and barefaced lies posing as PR.

Still, at least some highly-paid public sector desk jockeys will have some new - similarly well-remunerated - colleagues. You, however, will be paying more to get home on a night out.

How are those cuts coming along Chancellor? I think a new avenue would be to cull some managers at TfL to save us all a good sum*.

*Who have also banned e-cigs from all taxis, by the way, for no reason whatsoever. 



Friday, 15 September 2017

It's Not About Health: A Potted History

It's almost become a motto of this blog to state that the bans and restrictions imposed by 'public health' and, in particular, tobacco control have nothing whatsoever to do with health.

There have been regular weekly examples of this over the eight plus years that I've been writing here, but New York Times science columnist, John Tierney, has put together the milestone themes in an excellent essay for The Manhattan Institute. Entitled "The Corruption of Public Health", it is a must-read.

Here are a few teasers, firstly on e-cigs.
In a bizarre historical twist, the public-health establishment is protecting the cigarette industry with the same infamous techniques that Big Tobacco formerly used. Just as tobacco apologists once argued that no conclusive scientific evidence showed that smoking was harmful, American public-health officials now insist that there’s no solid evidence that smoking is worse than vaping. No tobacco executive today would dare make such a ludicrous claim about cigarettes—he’d fear the resulting lawsuits—but government officials enjoy legal immunity that lets them engage in deadly deception, without paying the consequences.
It's true that vaping has brought the tobacco control industry's disgusting, inhuman and venal rent-seeking out into the open, but - as we know well here - it isn't a new phenomenon; they have always been disgusting, inhuman and venal rent-seekers. Tierney recognises this and accurately runs through some of the lies and egregious abuses of liberty that went before it.
But the vaping story is part of a much bigger and longer-running scandal. It is the most flagrant example of how a once-noble enterprise became corrupted by ideology and self-dealing. 
It redefined its mission to include just about any social problem or individual behavior that might pose health risks and provide a rationale for the government to intervene in people’s lives, as James T. Bennett and Thomas J. DiLorenzo chronicle in their history of the public-health movement, From Pathology to Politics
Now that the World Health Organization has redefined its mission to be the achievement of “physical, mental and social well-being,” the field has boomed with new jobs—not just for medical researchers but also for psychologists, sociologists, anthropologists, environmentalists, and assorted activists.
Jobs and salaries. Because selling your services as an 'expert' is a lucrative enterprise.
Many smokers were persuaded to quit, but not enough to satisfy the progressives who came to dominate public health. They shared the passion for social engineering of the original Progressives, who had helped lead the movement to ban alcohol in the 1920s, and they adopted the same prohibitionist approach to tobacco. In Jacob Sullum’s history of the antismoking movement, For Your Own Good, he describes the profession’s new philosophy: “The public health perspective, which seeks collective prescriptions to reduce morbidity and mortality, does not take individual tastes and preferences into account. Having noted that smoking can lead to illness, public health specialists now identify smoking itself as a disease, something inherently undesirable that happens to unwilling victims.” 
To rescue these victims, public-health officials sought a “smoke-free society.” They lobbied for bans on smoking in indoor public spaces, reasonably enough—why should taxpayers using public property be involuntarily subject to a nuisance that’s smelly and can irritate respiratory ailments? But the activists also successfully fought for state and local bans on smoking outdoors and in private restaurants, bars, and workplaces, an expansion of government power ostensibly justified by the deadly menace of secondhand smoke. 
That claim, unlike the surgeon general’s landmark warning in 1964, wasn’t based on rigorous empirical analysis. Led by the Environmental Protection Agency and the CDC, the new generation of public-health activists cherry-picked studies and massaged data to support claims that secondhand smoke was causing thousands of cases of lung cancer annually and that banning it in some towns brought dramatic declines in the rate of heart attacks. Prominent researchers contested those claims at the time, leading a judge in 1998 to rule that the EPA had grossly manipulated “scientific procedure and scientific norms.” 
Long-term studies have subsequently debunked the alarms, but antismoking activists remain unapologetically convinced that the ends justified the means. In 2013, when the Journal of the National Cancer Institute published an exceptionally rigorous study that tracked 76,000 women (including wives of smokers) and found no connection between secondhand smoke and lung cancer, the results were dismissed as irrelevant to public policy. The journal quoted one expert explaining that ending the health risk of secondhand smoke was never really the point of the bans: “The strongest reason to avoid passive cigarette smoke is to change societal behavior: to not live in a society where smoking is a norm.” Science should never get in the way of social engineering.
Tierney's piece goes on to detail how these charlatans subsequently perverted science to demonise smokeless tobacco and snus, along with their routine defence tactic of smear, innuendo, ad hominem and professional sabotage, and he also touches on the role of Prohibitionist pharma organisations in the colossal deceit.

It is a great piece of work which illustrates how the pursuit of funding and profit - not the good of the public's health - is why nicotine in e-cigs is now categorised as harmful by people who self-describe as 'experts', but should rightly be in prison. It should be required reading in Ministries of Health the world over to show how a corrupt movement is playing politicians like gullible chimps on a daily basis.

I urge you to go read the whole thing here. It's highly possible it might make you angry, but go read it anyway.

UPDATE: Tierney also published a shorter piece in the Wall Street Journal on the same subject. The response from Mary Bassett, Commissioner at the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene confirms his article is correct more than a thousand further words would.
John Tierney is incorrect in his criticism of New York City’s new e-cigarette regulation (“New York’s Mayor Gives Smokers Another Reason Not to Quit,” Cross Country, Sept. 9). E-cigarettes are a serious public health concern, especially for young people.
These people are barking mad lunatics. 



Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Sinner, Keep Sinning - We Need The Cash

"I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance." - Luke 15:7
My oh my, how revealing is this?

It was announced today that Philip Morris International - makers of Marlboro cigarettes - were funding a new initiative.
NEW YORK – Ushering in a bold, billion-dollar, far-reaching new effort to end smoking across the globe, the Foundation for a Smoke-Free World will be formally launched in New York City on September 13 at 9:30am EDT. 
The Foundation’s founder and president-designate, Dr. Derek Yach, will outline the Foundation’s mission, objectives, and an initial funding commitment of approximately US$80 million annually for 12 years during a speech to the Global Tobacco and Nicotine Forum at the InterContinental New York Barclay. Additional funding from other sources will be announced at a later date. 
Dr. Yach will be preceded by Mitch Zeller, director of the US FDA's Center for Tobacco Products, who will speak at 8:45am EDT about the need for a new approach to smoking cessation and harm reduction. Members of the media are invited to attend. 
Dr. Yach is a former World Health Organization cabinet director and executive director who led the development of the world’s foremost treaty on tobacco control, the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. In anticipation of the launch of his new Foundation, he said, “With more than 7 million smoking-related deaths every year, smoking kills more people annually than HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined. Smoking is a global public health crisis that needs an urgent response with significant, sustained resources, fresh ideas and collaborative action. The Foundation will provide all that and more as we work to help the world’s one billion smokers quit smoking.”
As I understand it, this is simply PMI shovelling money towards people who would like to research tobacco harm reduction (THR). No strings attached, not even a prerequisite to report what they are doing with it.

And what is tobacco control's reaction to this?


Physically sick. Yep, Chappers' right hand muppet (Chuppet?) is sick that research might be taking place towards methods to help people find ways of quitting smoking without her salary being paid help.

Ok, that's just another of those Aussie nutjobs, but what about our own?
While the new foundation appears to be a rare example of a consumer-goods company supporting efforts to undermine sales of its own products, its creation was greeted with skepticism by one anti-smoking organization. 
“The tobacco industry has a terrible track record of funding research designed to support its efforts to block policies to cut smoking,” Deborah Arnott, chief executive of London-based Action on Smoking and Health, said in a statement. “Tobacco industry claims can never be accepted at face value.”
Ha!

There are many who claim to be in favour of THR yet strangely get an attack of the willies once big industry gets involved. I think we can safely say that ASH is full of just such people.

What ASH should have done (if they were interested in health at all) - considering they have spent the last few decades condemning 'Big Tobacco' for not helping smokers to quit - was to welcome this huge amount of money and to congratulate PMI for changing course.

Instead, ASH decided to pump out what is basically a conspiracy theory. Apparently PMI are spending $1bn simply as a diversion. Does Arnott recognise how ridiculous that is?

As for the statement that “Tobacco industry claims can never be accepted at face value". Erm, her own industry has lied so much about e-cigs (and everything else) that she herself has openly opposed them at times. The tobacco control juggernaut is lying on a daily basis about vaping. It's not even being hidden, Arnott has the most amazing cheek to accuse others of being disingenuous when her global colleagues last said something truthful about 1975, the time the UK last held a referendum on Europe.

Rather than welcome a positive initiative from a tobacco industry which ASH and others have painted as irretrievably evil, they have chosen to slam it. This is the same bunch of people who have demanded that 'Big Tobacco' must pay a "polluter pays" levy, it has been a central plank of their demands to government for the past few years. But when just one company does so voluntarily, they jump to condemn it {whisper: could it be that this particular billion is not going to them like the plan they had in mind?}.

We've speculated before that the tobacco control industry has lost sight of its stated goal to reduce the number of people smoking, and instead has morphed into a movement which just despises tobacco companies, but I don't think we can call it speculation any longer after today. It's stark and blatant truth.

It goes to prove, yet again, that tobacco control has no care about health at all. To them, it's just a game and a means of feathering their cosy nest with cash. A tobacco company could devote its entire profit to THR and the likes of Arnott would still criticise. In fact they would criticise more because not only would it destroy their dated ad hom - that they never cease to lazily apply - about industry being untrustworthy, but it would also show that ASH would arguably have no further need to exist. Likewise the execrable Freeman who lied through her teeth at the Australian e-cig inquiry last week.

Oh hold on, do you think that could be why the scream test has been failed by tobacco controllers after this announcement? If you're not familiar with the scream test, here is Simon Chapman to explain:
Experienced tobacco control advocates have long spoken of the “scream test” of policy impact — if a new policy gets no reaction from the tobacco industry it rarely has an impact, but if the industry screams blue murder the impact will be large.
Barely a few hours in and they're already howling like stuck pigs. Must mean that the Foundation for a Smoke-Free World will be making a lot of people quit tobacco, and a lot of formerly comfy state-funded tobacco controllers redundant, eh? For tobacco control to profit, they need a sinner, and their chosen one just threw one billion problems their way.

Still, I must thank ASH and their international colleagues - yet again - for proving me 100% correct when I say the tobacco control bandwagon is absolutely nothing to do with health. On days like this it just gets too easy. 



Tuesday, 12 September 2017

A New Voice Of Freedom From Nags

As Snowdon noted recently, there is a concerted effort underway by 'public health' charlatans to make alcohol into the same kind of pariah substance as tobacco. They employ the same frenzied lie-fest that tobacco control has employed for decades, but these hideous bansturbating bloodsuckers won't rest until they have siphoned the joy out of every facet of our lives.

For the latest on this new hysterical phenomenon, let's take a trip to Australia.


I had to ask about this because I couldn't believe such an endearing photo was being used by joyless 'public health' plankton, but yes it was. They are chasing the dream of the "no safe level" status - unsupported by common sense and against the rules of physics and biology - that tobacco control has disingenuously bestowed on smoking.

What's more, they have hypnotised ordinary folk into coming out with the most incredible load of bollocks.
The PM has been branded "irresponsible" for the photo, which showed him holding his granddaughter Alice, with a beer in his other hand at the AFL final between the Swans and Bombers at the SCG yesterday. 
He captioned the image "multi-tasking". 
Another wrote: "Does anyone see anything irresponsible with an adult hold(ing) a baby and juggling a beer? And when was drinking while holding a child OK?" 
The backlash continued: "I find it disgusting to see people breathing grog all over baby’s but sadly I’m not surprised by Malcolm doing it."
"And when was drinking while holding a child OK?"? Erm, well it's always been OK. Has the person saying that never been to a wedding?

Sadly, there are some catastrophically gullible people in this world, as well as a massive amount of intolerant bigots. They are the type of person 'public health' targets and actively cultivates. Tobacco control employs the useful hand flapping idiots, the temperance crusaders tend to rely on crusty old Aunt Mauds whose idea of a life is peering through their curtains and criticising their neighbours while cats spray up their sofas and their relatives make excuses to be unavailable at all times.

Some uncharitable types might say that's quite a good description of most 'public health' advocates, but I digress.

Look. Australia is this mad place where their chief anti-smoking, anti-drinking, anti-vaping, anti-industry bellend comes out with crap like "if you're thirsty, drink from the tap, why do you need Coke?". Where they ban Carmen the opera for crying out loud! It is a country rushing headlong into eradicating all joy out of all lives, led by people who belong in an asylum.

That the reaction to a beautiful picture of a grandparent kissng a child while enjoying a beer at a sporting event should prompt such ridiculous comments shows that the place has thrown its soul to the wolves.

Is there any hint that Turnbull may be drunk? No. Is there a hint that the child could be in danger? No. Is there a health threat from "breathing grog all over baby’s (sic)"? No.

It's school playground thinking promoted by people who are salaried to spread irrational fear about alcohol. We have the same type of anti-alcohol careerists here who would love to cultivate the same bovine mentality in the UK. My entirely personal view is that they should be given long prison terms and then kicked out of the country, but I know I may be an outlier with that.

Instead, then, how about a fight back? Just after hearing about this latest piece of Australian bedwetting nonsense, I was alerted to a new online campaign from an organisation calling itself Drinkers' Voice. In their FAQs they have this very astute raison d'être.
For too long, the anti-alcohol lobby has dominated the conversation on alcohol and your health, resulting in misleading statistics and scaremongering news headlines. This has left those of us who want to enjoy a drink without the fear of judgement out of the conversation.
Fucking too right they have! 'Public health' likes to leave the public out of their conversations because they know that we don't like them or the fact-free crap they spout. If they were confident that they would win an argument they would enagage in debate, the fact they always avoid doing so and purposely exclude the public from everything they do tells you all you need to know about them.

Drinkers' Voice is only a few days old but has already attracted the attention of BBC radio, Sky News, The Sun, The Telegraph, The Daily Mail and the Sunday Times. It looks like a goer. One of its spokespeople is Richard Harding, who I have written about before.
Next up - and my personal favourite on the night - was Dr Richard Harding, a member of the 1995 committee which came up with the previous alcohol consumption guidelines. He was so calm and laid back that you could almost have missed the subtle contempt he has for Sally Davies and her ridiculous "no safe level of alcohol consumption" nonsense.
Here he is on Sky News yesterday talking about this subject.

Having looked into Drinkers' Voice, it appears they have been set up by CAMRA (meh), have refused industry backing, and will therefore be impossible to ignore via 'public health's' usual avenues of misdirection and ad hominem, although I fully expect the anti-alcohol lobby to be scrambling around trying to find a few lies to fling at them anyway. Anything, in fact, to avoid accepting the indisputable fact that moderate alcohol consumption is beneficial to health.

You can learn more about Drinkers' Voice by going to their website here. I'd like to think that whatever premises they have chosen as a base was christened with a nice smashed bottle of Bolly. Let's hope that they will be an inconvenient thorn in the side of 'public health' lunatics everywhere, and that no UK politician has to put up with shite about how they drank a light beer in the presence of a baby as if it's anything more than irrelevant orgasm fodder for rust-hearted, interfering busybodies. 



Monday, 11 September 2017

The Curious Case Of The Criminal Offence That Isn't

In early August, an article appeared in the Birmingham Mail which appeared to jump the shark regarding vaping on trains. As we will come to, it has since been significantly edited, but the Wayback Machine has the original.
Train users caught putting their feet on seats or vaping could face prosecution
Train company London Midland has launched a new campaign to stamp out anti-social behaviour and it could see passengers facing prosecution for breaking new railway by-laws. 
Commuters caught putting their feet on seats or vaping could end up in court. 
The new regulations were introduced this week (from August 7) in response to complaints from train passengers. 
"Prosecution"? "New railway by-laws "? "End up in court"? For using an e-cig? What fresh hell is this?

It seemed a bit rum seeing as new by-laws must be approved by the Secretary of State for Transport, and if that had been the case, it passed just about everyone by. So a few questions were asked about this hyper over-reaction on Twitter.

As usual, click to enlarge

Right OK. So within a few tweets we are already miles away from "new railway by-laws" and into some dumbass policy dreamed up by wooden tops in suits in a Brummie office. How, exactly, can anyone be prosecuted for breaking a private company's policy? I could install a policy of banning the eating of sardines in my office premises (thought has occurred), but I don't think the Police would race down with their blue lights flashing to enforce it and fine people for me.

Because the article also showed a BBC video of a passenger being given an 'interview under caution'. Now, I have experience of these so know that an interview under caution is a procedure, under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE) 1984, in situations where someone is suspected of committing a criminal offence. Not adhering to a private company's charter is not a criminal offence unless private companies are allowed to just make up criminal law on the hoof or something.

The Freedom Association's Andrew Allison asked this question about the interviews, and London Midland seemed to think that, yes, they were being conducted against vapers.

And again

They suggested, though, that it was not they who were conducting them, but the British Transport Police. So I asked them. They couldn't say how many interviews under caution they had conducted, for two reasons. Firstly, because London Midland hadn't even been in touch with them about it.
I have contacted the Officer in Charge for British Transport Police at Birmingham New Street and the Superintendent who has overall responsibility for British Transport Police’s Midlands region and neither are aware of any written guidance correspondence or guidance received from or given to London Midland on this issue or any guidance issued to officers specifically relating to vaping on London Midland services.
But secondly, and probably more importantly, because it wouldn't be their responsibility anyway (emphasis is all theirs, not mine).
A number of Train Operating Companies issue guidance that the use of e-cigarettes is prohibited on the railway. It may be that the TOCs’ Conditions of Carriage prohibit the use of electronic cigarettes however BTP are not responsible for enforcing conditions of carriage. Under normal circumstances, the use of an e-cigarette on a train or in any enclosed railway building is not a criminal offence. 
British Transport Police would not have issued any fines or threats of prosecution in relation to Terms of Carriage alone.
If anyone is conducting interviews under caution, then, it isn't British Transport Police, so it must be London Midland. I do hope they have a rock solid case for doing so, don't you?

On that note, as I mentioned earlier, the Birmingham Mail's article has since been re-written after Sarah J pointed out to them that it was very misleading. It now includes this clarification, presumably after consulting London Midland.
Although vaping is not specifically included within the railway by-laws, in light of customer complaints London Midland considers it to be a discomfort to other passengers and may therefore be a breach of the regulations.
The specific 'regulation' they refer to is Railway By-Law 6(8) [pdf] which states:
No person shall molest or wilfully interfere with the comfort or convenience of any person on the railway. 
That's one hell of a stretch. Which is why I was glad that the British Transport Police included their own guidance on the matter in their reply.
Is the use of an e-cigarette a Byelaw offence? 
The use of an e-cigarette would not normally be covered by Byelaw 6(8) unless we can evidence that the interference is wilful. For example, where after a complaint from another passenger, the individual continues to use the e-cigarette. We would need to ensure we are able to obtain sufficient evidence to support the prosecution.
London Midland can "consider" vaping to be a contravention of that by-law as much as they like - they are entitled to their opinion after all - but the Police beg to differ. Or, as they put it, "There is no law or byelaw against vaping on a train".

Nope, and some train company exec is not suitably qualified to decree that a criminal offence has been committed when the Police disagree, I'd say. So this would appear to be a case of some pompous, puffed-up, lazy pratts at London Midland making a great big deal out of a very minor 'problem'.

So what was the state of play before this grand new display of clunking fist power by London Midland? Well, whether vaping was prohibited by their charter or not, if a passenger felt discomforted or inconvenienced by someone vaping, they could complain. If the vaper then continued, wilfully, it would become a contravention of a railway by-law.

And what is the situation now? Well, exactly the same. It doesn't matter whether London Midland have an opinion one way or another, their charter doesn't create a criminal offence, and the by-law is only contravened if a vaper persists when asked to stop. A complete waste of time then, and a further hysterical restriction on e-cigs which the Royal College of Physicians have said should be widely encouraged.

Instead of a neanderthal show of widespread corporate ignorance, if London Midland had any bright sparks working for them, they could have instead adopted an inclusive policy like this advanced by ECITA a couple of years ago.
In order to ensure that customers are fully informed, we recommend the installation of signage, such as this:

so that those who wish to use electronic cigarettes are reminded to do so discreetly, and to treat their fellow passengers with courtesy and respect, while also informing those customers who do not wish to use such products that they can expect the products to be used in a minimally invasive or offensive way – and can report any misbehaviour in this regard. We believe that this is the appropriate balance to strike for this type of public environment. If such a policy were adopted by UK train operators, then they could be – at least in some small way – contributing to improvements in UK public health, rather than risking being a potential cause of harm.
Sadly, London Midland is staffed - from Twitter monkey right up to board level - by people with about as much acumen, common sense and imagination as a garden gnome.

Still, that's probably why they've just lost the franchise. Oh dear what a pity never mind. 



Tuesday, 5 September 2017

Spot The Difference

You will often hear tobacco controllers talk about how the tobacco industry is evil and has a history of deceiving the public. It's a central ingredient of everything they do and they have used this to persuade governments to ignore the industry entirely, portraying big tobacco companies as untrustworthy.

The theme was explained in this BBC article last year.
In 1979, a secret memo from the tobacco industry was revealed to the public. Called the Smoking and Health Proposal, and written a decade earlier by the Brown & Williamson tobacco company, it revealed many of the tactics employed by big tobacco to counter “anti-cigarette forces”. 
In one of the paper’s most revealing sections, it looks at how to market cigarettes to the mass public: “Doubt is our product since it is the best means of competing with the ‘body of fact’ that exists in the mind of the general public. It is also the means of establishing a controversy.” 
Proctor found that ignorance spreads when firstly, many people do not understand a concept or fact and secondly, when special interest groups – like a commercial firm or a political group – then work hard to create confusion about an issue. In the case of ignorance about tobacco and climate change, a scientifically illiterate society will probably be more susceptible to the tactics used by those wishing to confuse and cloud the truth.
If this kind of behaviour is reprehensible, how should we review research such as this by the tobacco control industry from last week? From the conclusions (emphases mine):
Although much is known about smoking‐induced cardiovascular toxicity, little is known about that of e‐cigarettes. This is an issue that continues to be a subject of debate. Nevertheless, based on the current body of evidence, e‐cigarettes are not emission free (as some believe) and, in fact, they emit various potentially harmful and toxic chemicals. Whether or not the levels of these toxicants are lower than traditional smoking remains controversial. In this connection, recent studies showed that e‐cigarettes‐emitted chemicals reach levels comparable to tobacco smoke, and those levels vary depending on multiple factors, including types of devices, e‐liquid, vaping topography, and vaping experience.
Isn't this, also, "establishing a controversy" by "those wishing to confuse and cloud the truth"?

Because, you see, there is overwhelming evidence to suggest that e-cigs are safer than smoking, and the authors know this. They are just choosing to try to perpetuate the mythical harms of vaping in the minds of "a scientifically illiterate society".
Although it was originally argued that e‐cigarettes are “harm free,” the present prevailing belief is that they are “reduced harm” alternatives to conventional cigarettes. This latter notion is still debatable and not supported by conclusive evidence, especially considering the wide variation between e‐cigarette products. Even if that were the case, their harm can still extend to innocent/bystander nonsmokers through secondhand and thirdhand vaping, including children, pregnant women, casino/housekeeping workers, and people with preexisting cardiovascular and other diseases.
Debatable? There is absolutely no debate whatsoever that e-cigs are "reduced harm" alternatives (note the scare quotes), they just are. And as for "secondhand and thirdhand vaping", that only exists in the fevered imagination of corrupt researchers such as the authors of this junk crap.

So, can you spot the difference between the behaviour of the tobacco industry in the 1960s and the behaviour of tobacco controllers such as these now? Because I can't. Creating false doubts about much safer products to put people off using them, and deceiving the public into thinking that they are dangerous, is exactly the same as creating false doubts about the high risks of smoking in order to encourage use, n'est-ce pas?

Just yet another example of how e-cigs are exposing the tobacco control industry as big a bunch of liars as the caricature they have painted of Big Tobacco for decades. Perhaps governments should cut off all tobacco control funding and stop listening to them too until they buy a dictionary and look up the word 'honesty'. 



Wednesday, 30 August 2017

The VLNC Junk Science Fest Gathers Pace

As I have written a couple of times recently, the FDA's announcement that they are viewing very low nicotine cigarettes (VLNCs) as a possible policy tool is extremely sinister.

Tobacco controllers have been banging on about this over the pond for quite some time now and, I repeat, it's daft and nothing but a rent-seeking scam.
It's not just questionable, it's insane. One can only assume that the people endorsing it are either corrupt or mentally compromised. 
The US FDA seems to think this is a great idea though. They will mildly relax regulations (perhaps) around vaping while at the same time taking an innocuous ingredient - nicotine - out of cigarettes but leaving all the other crap in. They couldn't be more crazy if they announced that they were to embark on an expedition to find out where unicorns live. 
So, why are they doing this with cigarettes? Well, apart from being subject to an almost Calvinist religious cult of a tobacco control industry in the good old US of A, there are also many financial pressures which mean they are reluctant to rock the boat. 
What I find absolutely astonishing above all else though, is that US-based tobacco control are even considering this. For years, they have been painting the tobacco industry as animals for producing low tar cigarettes. The fact that this was partly due to legislators forcing them to doesn't seem to matter. 
But now the tobacco control industry has had this fantastic idea that reducing nicotine in cigarettes is a brilliant new initiative, what went before seems to have been conveniently forgotten, at least in the USA. Fortunately, we are not subject to as much ignorance in this country.
But now it is being looked at by the FDA, the big wheels of the global tobacco control junk science machine are starting to turn. Grant dollars will be shovelled at the subject with the express purpose of hoodwinking the FDA into believing it is a good idea.

The latest - and by no means will it be the last - is this study released last week on the effect of VLNCs on smokers with psychiatric disorders.
RESULTS: Among the 169 daily smokers included in the analysis (120 women [71.0%] and 49 men [29.0%]; mean [SD] age, 35.6 [11.4] years), reducing the nicotine content of cigarettes decreased the relative reinforcing effects of smoking in all 3 populations. Across populations, the 0.4-mg/g dose was chosen significantly less than the 15.8-mg/g dose in concurrent choice testing (mean [SEM] 30% [0.04%] vs 70% [0.04%]; Cohen d = 0.40; P < .001) and generated lower demand in the Cigarette Purchase Task (α = .027 [95% CI, 0.023-0.031] vs α = .019 [95% CI, 0.016-0.022]; Cohen d = 1.17; P < .001).
In other words, the subjects didn't like them, so wouldn't buy them.

To the rest of us, this means that smokers will, in reality, do anything other than spend their money on VLNC because a large part of the pleasure has been removed. The response to this will obviously be a huge black market in proper cigarettes. We know this because we live in the real world.

But to a tobacco controller, it means the smokers will just quit.
CONCLUSIONS AND RELEVANCE: Reducing the nicotine content of cigarettes may decrease their addiction potential in populations that are highly vulnerable to tobacco addiction. Smokers with psychiatric conditions and socioeconomic disadvantage are more addicted and less likely to quit and experience greater adverse health impacts. Policies to reduce these disparities are needed; reducing the nicotine content in cigarettes should be a policy focus.
This is nothing but blatant sleight of hand by people with a vested interest in seeing their pay packets continue for a few more years. Nowhere in the study does it even consider what will happen in the real world, because they don't want to blur the clear message they want to send to regulators; that VLNCs are a brilliant idea with no downsides.

This is how tobacco control 'science' works. Salaries are dependant on policies; this is a policy, so let's do it. It doesn't matter to them if it works or not because they are not a results-driven industry; are entirely unregulated, and accountable to no-one except their funders who generally want the same thing as they do. Screw the public's health, they all just want to get paid.

The BMJ's Tobacco Control comic emphasises this world of flowers and rainbows in an article for their September round of propaganda.
Cigarette makers today keep the nicotine at 1%–2% by weight, having found this to be the sweet spot for creating smoker ‘satisfaction’ (one of several industry code words for nicotine addiction). Reducing this percentage by a factor of ten—to 0.1% or 0.2%—would make it very difficult for cigarettes to create or sustain addiction. Reducing it even further would make addiction virtually impossible. 
This would essentially eliminate the cigarette as an engine of addiction, while preserving many of the other reasons people smoke—to ponder the wafting of the fumes, for example, or to obtain some form of oral gratification. Or to emulate Johnny Depp or Keira Knightley. Smokers would be able to start or quit at will, without suffering the robbery of choice that defines addiction.
And as if to prove my point further, The Lancet also published an opinion piece on the subject just under a fortnight ago.
Last week, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced a multiyear roadmap to begin regulating the amount of nicotine allowed in tobacco products. Researchers, including tobacco control advocates, have proposed nicotine reduction as a way of decreasing levels of tobacco use, and the USA may be the first country to seriously discuss using this form of regulation to produce a potentially less addictive form of tobacco. 
Many questions remain, but nicotine regulation may offer a promising tool in global tobacco control efforts.
So, it is apparently a "promising tool" even before they have answered these "many questions"? Isn't it odd how the precautionary principle is strictly applied to e-cigs (The Lancet amd Tobacco Control articles both mention concern that FDA controls which will obliterate the e-cig market are being delayed) and smokeless tobacco such as snus, but when it is tobacco control chasing a policy which could have vastly destructive unintended consequences, it's full steam ahead and nothing to see here?

Of course, if - as the study on smokers with psychiatric disorders did - you don't even address the possibility of the unintended consequences, and instead just pretend that they don't exist, it's easy not to have to answer those "many questions", now isn't it?

This is how it is going to be from now on in US tobacco control (and, I'm sure, consequently in other countries). Talk up the insane policy of VLNCs while stressing and amplifying the far less worrisome fantasy harm of e-cigs.

Now, which way do you think governments will jump under this kind of bombardment from the multi-billion dollar global tobacco control industry? 



Sunday, 27 August 2017

Must. Defend. The. Policy!

Those of you who use Twitter will have seen that the reason for lack of content this past week was because I was holidaying in the Dordogne. After a week of clear blue skies and temperatures of 30 plus degrees every day, I brought some weather back for you for the bank holiday weekend, you can thank me later.

In the meantime, some fellow jewel robbers have been expressing their disgust at the cruel no vaping policy at Priscilla Bacon Lodge in Norfolk where Anna Raccoon was receiving 'care' before she sadly passed away last week. The hospice has come up with a quite bizarre reason for their heartless e-cig ban.
I would like to assure you that the situation around the use of e-cigarettes was discussed at a Health and Safety meeting at the beginning of August, where consideration was taken into account about the use of e-cigarettes around compressed oxygen supplies.  The British Compressed Gas Association have produced a leaflet on the safe use of e-cigarettes which gives a clear explanation of why they are unsafe around compressed oxygen supplies, and the Trust has to ensure that patients and staff are not put at risk.  That is the reason that patients are asked not to use the devices in a ward situation where there are oxygen supplies. 
So, it was apparently all about the use of oxygen. OK, let's look at that then. Remember we are talking about a tiny, enclosed, low-powered Ego CE4 type device here.

Watch this experiment carried out in 2014 when the scare story about e-cigs and oxygen first surfaced in the media.


As you can see, oxygen on its own cannot burn, it requires a source of ignition, and even exposed terminals from a dripper can't do that on their own. Something else has to be involved to cause a problem, as the video poster says:
"It is possible, if she's got a 40 watt dripper (which sets light to bedding - DP), and her oxygen feed has oxygenated a blanket, for an e-cig to cause a fire. I don't think so myself, I suspect it might be some other source of ignition"
Anna wouldn't have even known what a dripper is, let alone owned one, and I would challenge absolutely anyone to try to light any material with an Ego. It would be like trying to start a barbecue with a TV remote control.

But still, they have their policy and they are obviously determined to stick to it. So what else does the British Compressed Gas Association guidance say? Well, there is this:
There are many electronic devices available which can help enhance patients lives, but their use in close proximity to oxygen should be carefully controlled and the risks of an ignition understood. There have been many media reports about the potential fire hazard of charging and using products, such as phones, tablets, laptops, games consoles etc. These dangers can be exacerbated when using oxygen. Patients are advised not to charge electronic devices in rooms where oxygen is being used or stored.
Hmm, that's odd. Because, you see, the hospice had no problem whatsoever with Anna charging her phone by her bedside; no problem with the rechargable radio that she had on the bed covers; and no problem with the Apple PC that was plugged in under her bed. Nor either the remote keyboard on a tray in front of her from where she wrote emails to me, amongst others.

Nope, everything else that the BCGA said should be prohibited was allowed; it was only the e-cig (not even charged in situ) which was banned. Do you sense an agenda here?

The Lodge's email continued:
Staff always look to accommodate patient’s wishes but, understandably, in a way that meets health and safety, and reasonable compromises are made where possible. 
I would like to assure you that the situation was discussed, and the reasoning explained, with the patient concerned, and the unit already has a solution in place to support patients for whom Vaping, use of e-cigarettes or smoking cigarettes needs to continue.
Wouldn't it be interesting to find out what their idea is to "accommodate patient's wishes" in this situation? You see, in palliative care, centres like Priscilla Bacon Lodge are allowed to offer a smoking room for terminally ill patients, let alone somewhere they can vape. The reasoning behind that was given in this evidence to a parliamentary select committee at the time the law was drafted.
[T]hose receiving palliative care, are unlikely to suffer any disadvantages to their health by smoking and behaviour modification will have no affect on the prognosis of their disease.
So was Anna offered the "solution in place to support patients for whom Vaping, use of e-cigarettes or smoking cigarettes needs to continue"? No, of course not, they just confiscated it. There was apparently talk of her being wheeled outside to vape at one point when a film crew - which was probably there to cover the story of her general election candidature - had come to call, but it never happened, of course.

The answer to why they didn't could be contained in the guidance from that font of all knowledge about palliative care, the British Compressed Gas Association, that Priscilla Bacon employees seem to value so much.
If it is not possible to remove the patient from a high oxygen environment, it may be best to consider non-heated nicotine sources such as nicotine replacement therapy (NRT).
Well, it was perfectly possible to remove her from that environment if that was truly the problem, but they didn't. Their only 'solution' is NRT, isn't it?

The Trust's dignity policy talks about their commitment to "support people with the same respect you would want for yourself or a member of your family" and to enabling "people to maintain the maximum possible level of independence, choice and control", but at the end of the day they couldn't be arsed to take her to a space - indoor or outdoor - where she could vape. Easier just to confiscate the thing, eh?

Because, you see, they have a policy.

H/T SC & The Blocked Dwarf via email



Saturday, 19 August 2017

Farewell Anna Raccoon

Last week I wrote about Anna Raccoon and how she had been badly treated recently while receiving palliative care in a Norwich hospice.

She had been fighting a nasty form of cancer for six years despite doctors saying she would succumb in less than one, but sadly that last fight that she would undertake in her illustrious life ended yesterday morning in the early hours. She passed away peacefully in the beautiful riverside cottage on the Norfolk Broads that she and hubby Mr G had returned to from their previous home in France once the cancer was diagnosed.

Ironically, I heard the sad news just as I was about to set off to the same area in France for a family holiday, but after the long drive the first thing we did on arrival was to raise a toast to her and the marvellous Mr G.

The Blocked Dwarf (aka Jack Ketch) has spoken with Mr G and he is heartbroken but cheered to hear that his wife had so many online friends and admirers. Jack has agreed to pass on any kind messages so do feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments here. 

Anna was most recently in the news bedbound, but I prefer this fantastic picture which is one of two on the wall of the annex G built with great views of the Norfolk wildlife and river boats especially for her. Taken in 1973, it is of a 25 year old Anna smoking Camels with a cup of tea and a slice of Battenberg cake. Beautiful, carefree, and with a world to take on in her future. I think she did exactly that, with integrity and skill.


RIP Anna, it was wonderful knowing you. 



Monday, 14 August 2017

Cruel But Sadly Not Unusual

Last week I mentioned having been gadding about Britain for a few days, including a day trip to Norwich. I had driven up there on August 2nd to see fellow blogger Anna Raccoon, about whom I wrote this last year.
Her content has been quite simply awesome. Astute and incredibly rigorous, she has attracted the respect and admiration of journalistic commentators, and regularly put many in the news profession to shame with her attention to detail and almost bloodhound-like determination to verify sources and evidence. 
Although long time readers here will mostly remember her partnering up with Old Holborn to spring Nick Hogan from prison, her articles have often been electric and searing on extremely spiky subjects. Tackling stories such as Savile from a position of accuracy rather than hysteria is not an easy thing to do, and her weaving of personal accounts into her writing - as she has done brutally in recent days - is as brave as it is hypnotically compelling.
Well, as many of you will know from reading her blog, she has been suffering from a rare but virulent form of cancer which has attacked her spine and left her paralysed and bed-bound (though still passionate and determined enough to fight the general election in June).

The Blocked Dwarf at Grandad's place explains this in detail.
Anna’s spine is what doctors refer to as ‘oh dear, not good’. Even without the BIG RED ARROW I put on [the scan picture]; even without being able to identify what is bone, what is muscle and what is nerves you can see that there is something amiss. If not, go to Specsavers. 
The Raccoon explained it thus: her doctors and carers have been puzzled why hoisting her onto the commode had been causing her ‘some discomfort’ (doctor speak for ‘PAIN’). The MRI shows that something has dissolved the ‘knobbly bits’ (doctor speak for, I assume, ‘transverse process’ and ‘arches’) of her verterbrae (T1/T2 I think but I still count on my fingers). Those boney knobbly bits protect the spinal chord which now lies open. Do I need to tell anyone that exposed spinal chord is not a good thing? Long and short the doctors are now puzzled how she has managed to live so long with being turned, manhandled and hoisted daily. 
The slightest movement of her body below the shoulders could kill her.
So at the moment they are giving her doses of an anaesthetic to paralyse her in her sleep at night so she doesn’t toss and turn and wake up dead. She can’t be hoisted on to the commode, nor even have a bed pan shoved under her and so: 
“I literally have to crap in the bed” [sic] 
Don’t forget she is still perfectly lucid, her head is clear and so she can fully enjoy the utter loss of every last scrap of dignity every single time the team of nurses have to come and roll her onto her side, keeping her in position, then clean her down. Of course the fact that the meds and the drugs haven’t destroyed her mind is a good thing but….
Worse still the exposed spinal chord also means she probably won’t be going home anytime too soon, which she desperately wants to do. 
And today G had to bring in the right tools to cut her wedding ring off her finger. The steroids have caused her fingers to swell. Yes it is only a piece of metal,’rose gold’ actually, but that bit of metal means something to her and G, they’re a bit old fashioned.
As you can see, she has already been suffering immensely with her dignity being stripped away by disease, and - since she is, to be blunt, very close to dying - had been confined to a bed in Norwich's Priscilla Bacon Lodge which is where I went to meet her. We had a good chinwag for a few hours, during which she described truly astonishing behaviour by the staff which not only compounded the indignity, but was also unbelievably cruel!

You see, she switched from smoking to vaping three years ago, and had a small Ego CE4 type device. For those who don't know what that is, it looks something like this.


It is not very powerful and gives out a tiny amount of vapour. But - and I think you can guess what is coming next - the hospice told her she couldn't use it. More than that, though, they did it in a way that was condescending and offensive. Here is how she described it by email.
What happened I found out in stages - apparently someone saw me at the week-end refilling the vape from the 'sipped case' - and told them. This evening a nurse walked over to me me and said, 'what a sweet little teddy' and proceeded to play with him - 'Oh do you keep your pen in there, good heavens no its a vape'. It was so odd that I didn't twig at first. Well, I got the rules and regulations read to me in such a patronising tone of voice.  
But it was just the way it was done, pretending to 'find' the vapeur like that, it just added to all the electricians checking plugs, and signing disclaimers for sandwiches, and everything else, I'm not a bloody child, I'm a grown woman whose been more independent than most of them can begin to imagine, and now suddenly I've lost the use of my legs and I'm treated like I'm 3 years old. 
This is apparently how staff at a hospice (run by MacMillan, according to Anna) treat someone in her dying days. Someone who worked at a high level at the Court of Protection for years as a Lord Chancellor's Visitor; has a double first class honours degree in law; is respected by top journalists for her striking writing and attention to detail; and is a Medical Claims Lawyer who has spent the last couple of months appearing regularly in the media using her impending death to campaign for more funding for the NHS.

They even said that they would (taking advantage of her paralysis) put it just out of her reach. How caring, huh? The senior doctor was called, Dr Wilkins, who explained that as there wasn't evidence to prove that e-cigs were safe or unsafe, they were banned on health grounds. On health grounds! For a woman who is days from dying in excruciating pain from cancer.

She is on a regime of intravenous Ketamine - the drug designed to stun a rampaging elephant - and Oxycodeine, but apparently nicotine is not to be tolerated.

Because, you see, they have a policy.


Now, I made enquiries and found out that they also have a dignity policy which should be adhered to in situations like this. Here is part of what it says on the one for Norfolk Community Health and Care NHS Trust.
- Support people with the same respect you would want for yourself or a member of your family
- Enable people to maintain the maximum possible level of independence, choice and control
I'll leave you to make your minds up as to whether they have followed the dignity policy in this case, but considering the government's Tobacco Control Plan - released last month - stated that "e-cigarette use is not covered by smokefree legislation and should not routinely be included in the requirements of an organisation’s smokefree policy", you'd have thought that in these circumstances their ideological and ignorant smokefree rules could, and should, have been relaxed in favour of preserving Anna's dignity.

It seems a Director of Public Health agreed, and offered to speak to Dr Wilkins to "advise" him seeing as he is woefully ignorant on the subject. So I left that Wednesday having given Anna the DPH's number to pass on - along with a load of Nicoccino and some of my stash of Zyn - safe in the knowledge that some sense would prevail.

Not so though. I visited her again this weekend and she told me that the next day they had dismantled another vape pen that her husband - the awesome Mr G - had brought in for her. They unscrewed the top so she couldn't possibly use it and took it to the property office in this envelope.


Now, either Dr Wilkins didn't bother to ring the DPH - someone who vastly outranks him - or he did ring but decided to completely disregard the advice. You have to both marvel, and be disgusted, at the astonishing arrogance behind that.

Either way, it illustrates the disgraceful nature of the fanatical zealotry that tobacco control has fostered in the war against smoking nicotine. The 'smokefree' mantra has become a shibboleth that drives a coach and horses through tolerance, compassion and common decency.

I often remind you that we are on the side of the angels here and the nanny statists deserve a demonic eternity or even prison time, but when 'caring' professionals think this is the decent way to treat someone with possibly days left to live, they make my argument for me.

I left Anna on Saturday - after sharing glasses of pink champagne sent by one of the many admirers of her work - as the sun sank over the river Yarm and boats sailed past the riverside window of the annex her true hero of a husband had built for her last days. She is as comfortable as it is possible to be in her situation, and at least is now able to vape while she waits for the inevitable. I find it quite incredible that anyone would think it compassionate to deny her that tiny pleasure for the sake of an ignorant and arguably indefensible policy. 



Friday, 11 August 2017

The 11 Day Reprieve

Well, I knew I'd be revisiting this at some point, I just didn't expect it so very soon! Let's pop over the Atlantic again, shall we?

On July 28th, the newly-installed chief of the Federal Drug Administration (FDA), Scott Gottlieb, "announced a new comprehensive plan for tobacco and nicotine regulation that will serve as a multi-year roadmap to better protect kids and significantly reduce tobacco-related disease and death". He mentioned freezing regulations on e-cigs and the vaping world went into meltdown.

This was a "huge" announcement apparently, it was described as "momentous" and a "reprieve", some even went as far as to say they had "every confidence" in Gottlieb. I was sceptical to say the least.
The FDA's announcement relents on some e-cig rules but only on the proviso that it might make vaping more attractive to smokers who will be deprived, by force, of nicotine from their combustible cigarettes. That is nothing more than vile coercion and should have no place in a land that claims to be free. 
I cannot possibly cheer the FDA's overall plan and I don't think there is anything particularly concrete to be happy about yet anyway. Smokers are being thrown under a bus but apart from that everything else is up in the air and subject to change.
The critical point for me was that Gottlieb also announced they would be pursuing the criminally insane policy of reducing nicotine in cigarettes to "non-addictive levels" (VLNCs), thereby - simply as a numbers game - creating far more harm than they would foster by embracing e-cigs as a harm reduction tool.

I was kinda dismissed about this point. In all the excitement, this sinister and vile idea was wished away as something which wouldn't actually happen; it was just inserted as a sop to tobacco controllers, apparently. I was told VLNCs was a sideshow, an irrelevance. In the period of the delay to vaping regulations, some advanced the idea that the predicate date would surely be moved and smoking might become a niche habit! Some even said I was so heretical in my view that I surely hadn't even read the statement at all (I did. Every word. Twice)!

Then this happened on Tuesday.
Today, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced it would pursue a strategic, new public health education campaign aimed at discouraging the use of e-cigarettes and other electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS) by kids. The agency plans to expand its “The Real Cost” public education campaign to include messaging to teens about the dangers of using these products this fall while developing a full-scale campaign to launch in 2018.
Think of the children, as per usual, but there was more.
The FDA’s recently announced plan puts nicotine and the issue of addiction at the center of the agency’s efforts.
Yes, "nicotine" addiction, not smoking.
The FDA also intends to seek public comment on the role that flavors in tobacco products play in attracting youth. 
Considering that kids and adults tend to like the same kinds of flavours, that applies to just about all of them.
Additionally, the agency plans to explore additional restrictions on the sale and promotion of ENDS, including restrictions on how products may be sold and advertised, to further reduce youth exposure and access to these products.
Advertising bans, in other words. Most significantly, however, was this ...
But, importantly, the approach also continues to focus on the need to reduce the access and appeal of all tobacco products to youth, including e-cigarettes and other ENDS, and maintains all of the existing regulations that currently apply to these products.
So nothing will change, apart from one minor detail. Instead of just destroying e-cigs as before, the FDA is now planning to use children to destroy e-cigs. As someone said on Twitter, that is one hell of a short honeymoon!

I'm not writing this to say 'I told you so', but instead to highlight it was fully expected, and for two reasons.

Firstly, the US tobacco control industry would have been ringing FDA phones off the hook squealing about the very idea of e-cigs being embraced. An inglorious backtrack like this was always on the cards and instead of thinking victory was just on the horizon, vapers should have realised a highly-funded lobby was only going to redouble or retreble its efforts to kill the future threat in its infancy. Tobacco controllers don't get any income from a vaping-based approach to tobacco and nicotine, it doesn't pay salaries you see; mortgages get in arrears; and redundancies due to funding cuts tend to ensue.

Secondly, the dismissal of VLNCs as a policy ignores how very seriously the US tobacco control movement takes the idea. For them, this is not only a game-changer but a chance to lead the world. The US hasn't even got graphic health warnings on tobacco yet due to their constitution, and American anti-smokers are constantly embarrassed by that, plain packs are a distant pipe dream for them just now. They look on with suppressed gloom as other countries (which have ratified the FCTC, unlike the US) forge ahead with prohibitionist rent-seeking, while they are left as the poor relations, the tutting of their fellow joyless brethren ringing in their ears.

But this is their real chance to be the first off the rank; to shine in front of their similarly hideous international colleagues and prove that they, too, can come up with something to bully (and kill) smokers which will spread internationally. Articles like this will only boost their resolve to work every waking hour to drive it through.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s proposal to strip cigarettes of their addictive properties has opened a new front in the international campaign to reduce smoking, with health authorities in at least four other countries studying the idea. 
After FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb suggested mandating drastic cuts in nicotine levels, public-health experts in New Zealand last week published an action plan recommending such reductions within five years. Canada and Finland say they’re looking into regulating amounts of the drug in tobacco products, while officials in the U.K.’s Department of Health have discussed the U.S. proposal with FDA representatives, according to a person familiar with the matter.
The sideshow in Gottlieb's announcement wasn't VLNCs, it was his weak 'rind and a promise' blathering about vaping and harm reduction. It was never going to last. I did think it would last longer than 11 days though, I have to admit.

Sorry, America, but you look like you're screwed as far as e-cigs are concerned. As in many other areas, US regulators seem to be shooting off at a tangent to the rest of the world and it would appear that the unique way that tobacco control is funded over there could be leading policy-making.

Make no mistake. If you want to see a relaxation of rules on vaping, the dragon that needs to be slayed is VLNCs and the vile ideology that promotes it. The proposal is far from being a benign threat, and most certainly not something that anyone in the US is driving in order to make e-cigs seem more attractive.