Thursday 26 January 2017

Snus Ban Stench To Be Aired In The High Court

This morning sees the start of an extremely interesting case brought in the UK High Court to attempt to lift the EU ban on snus. It is led by snus manufacturer Swedish Match and supported by the New Nicotine Alliance (NNA) to give a consumer aspect to proceedings.

You can read about the basis behind it at the NNA website here.

To give you a very brief rundown of how snus was banned all across the continent (except in Sweden who negotiated an opt-out when they joined the EU), in 1989 Health Secretary Kenneth Clarke ruled against it when a product called Skoal Bandits popped up in East Kilbride to predictable moral outrage. It was promptly banned in the UK after ASH and their fellow prohibitionist plankton did their usual bit of screaming about Big Tobacco and metaphorically smeared shit on the walls of parliament by pulling out every piece of junk science available at the time. Not content with this, Edwina Currie as Junior Health Minister then ignorantly and shamefully petitioned the EU to extend the ban across the whole of the EU, which it duly did in 1992.

Real life evidence has since shown this to be a criminally stupid thing to do. Snus has now been proven to be almost entirely harmless and in Sweden, where it is legal, smoking rates and levels of smoking-related cancer are lower than every other EU member state by an impressive margin.

The ban was maintained in the recent EU Tobacco Products Directive (TPD) despite further overwhelming evidence of its harm reduction potential having come to light in intervening years and despite the public consultation being overwhelmingly in favour of lifting the ban. Over 83% of the public who responded in 2010 argued that the ban should be rescinded, and of those the majority against the ban was over 63% from even governmental representatives.

The EU however then went to great lengths to bastardise this crushing condemnation of their piss poor legislation. They did so partly by throwing public responses in the bin.
The EU Commission, however, dismisses a significant portion of the responses from the 82,000 citizens on the grounds that two-thirds are from Italy and Poland, where tobacco merchants organised petitions. 
But even if we exclude these two countries, the majority is still for lifting the export ban on snus, 10-6, when respondents are broken down by country.
In fact, even if they stripped out the public altogether it was still no good, a majority still told them the ban was wrong. So they had to think of a new plan.
The European Commission's health directorate claims to have received responses from governments who in other ways support the ban on snus, but refuses to show them.
Well that's all nice and transparent then, isn't it? Take a public consultation, rip it up, then miraculously find a whole load of huge support for a ban, and refuse to allow scrutiny of the justification behind those opinions. I really can't understand why the British public get the idea that the EU isn't democratic, can you?

And, to top it all off, it's important to remember that the EU Health Commissioner at the time was John Dalli, a guy so utterly incompetent in health affairs that he believed e-cigs to be more harmful than tobacco and who was eventually fired by the EU after being implicated in soliciting bribes of €60 million to lift the snus ban. Despite his closest political ally having been recorded requesting a €10 million {cough} lobbying fee, and Dalli having been discovered jetting off to the Bahamas to investigate how to hide "sums of up to $100 million", the Commissioner insisted it was all just a plot by just about everyone ... against poor 'ickle him, as Maltese investigative blogger Daphne Caruana Galizia ridiculed at the time.
No doubt, two of the world’s most reputable newspapers are in a conspiracy with Saviour Balzan’s Queen of Bile, evil bloggers, gOnziPN, Giovanni Kessler, Jose Manuel Barroso, the nasty European Commission, and the mysterious agents who hacked Dalli’s email account and called him J Dalli BA. 
I am sure his psychiatrist – a man I mention because his medical certificates were so much in the news when he certified Dalli unable to get on a plane because of ‘psycho-social’ problems – has a name for this disorder, which unites persecution mania with the ability to convince oneself that one is absolutely innocent at all times, even when one is not. 
Enough of this nonsense. Really, enough.
In the ensuing panic, the EU and Malta closed ranks to show solidarity, and the TPD was passed - complete with the unamended snus ban - by replacement Maltese Health Commissioner a fellow clueless incompetent plank by the name of Tonio Borg.
Borg started out by saying that there was a need to take action because new tobacco products "looked like lipstick"!  
Borg went on to (wrongly) say that the EU had a ban on Snus 20 years before Sweden joined (it was 3 years) - the false statements continued as Borg (wrongly) told the meeting that there was "no evidence" that Snus reduces smoking. He was keen to stress that he did not want to "interfere with peoples choice" and proceeded to announce plans to remove the choice to use Menthol, Snus or electronic cigarettes.  
It came, as Borg used the seatbelt argument (these laws are for your own good) as he started talking more windy nonsense - he showed that he was appallingly ignorant of the basic facts, and also a liar, as he proclaimed that electronic cigarettes "give people a false sense of security" and "do harm just the same". These evidence free statements were followed (yet again) by him saying "we are not a nanny state".
All of this came as an embarrassment to Daphne Galizia, who hinted that Malta should be a little bit ashamed at the actions of Dalli especially.
This is enough for the European Commission to open a fresh investigation/case against him. 
And quite frankly, they should sue us for inflicting somebody so substandard on the Commission in the first place.
Although it's probably harsh to sue Malta for the stunning ignorance of its EU Commissioners, it's clear that something should definitely be done about the catalogue of callous disregard for the truth that the snus ban represents.

It is the result of pre-conceived demonisation of a benign product, willful scientific philistinism on an epic scale, crassly inadequate political skill, undisguised bigotry, corruption, stupidity and cant. It has led - in the parlance of those who seek to control our choices by way of computer models - to arguably hundreds of thousands of premature deaths.

As policies go, the snus ban is one of the most deadly and ill-conceived in the western world and deserves nothing but our utmost contempt. Today the High Court has an opportunity to clear the EU's Augean Stables of the stench of their malignant, deceitful and cretinous ban by guiding public health policy towards something just a little bit more sane and grounded in reality. Let's hope it does so.

God speed Swedish Match and the NNA. 

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