Thursday 25 January 2018

A Great Day For Bureaucratic Intransigence

On Tuesday I wrote about how this was a big week for tobacco harm reduction. Also, it would appear, it was a big week for intransigent bureaucracy.

Reports from the European Court of Justice (ECJ) where the EU's ban on snus was being challenged were not just disappointing, but also quite astonishing! A number of tweets from Gerry Stimson, who was attending on behalf of the NNA, described how a succession of of bureaucrats outed themselves as being in denial about the evidence base behind snus and willing to blatantly lie to the court about it. Most surprising was that the UK government took it upon itself to actively oppose lifting the ban despite overwhelming evidence of the benefits snus could provide.

So "harmful" is snus that Sweden boasts by far the lowest lung cancer and smoking prevalence rates in the EU. How any UK bureaucrat can come to the ECJ and say that sort of shit with a straight face is beyond me. If any swamps need draining in this country (hint: they do), I hope that they target the Department of Health first.

Especially since they need to be reminded of their own Tobacco Control Plan released in July last year.
Our National Ambitions
4. Backing evidence based innovations to support quitting 
We are committed to evidence-based policy making, so we aim to: 
- Help people to quit smoking by permitting innovative technologies that minimise the risk of harm. 
- Maximise the availability of safer alternatives to smoking.
How trotting off to Luxembourg to oppose relaxing the ban on snus, which has shown to be wildly successful in a long-term real world experiment, fits in with "maximising the availability of safer alternatives" is anyone's guess.

Meanwhile, Sweden where snus is not banned employed the "I'm all right Jack" approach.

Yes, that's correct. Nothing whatsoever to do with snus, but instead because of the efforts of the same bureaucrats who were giving this 'evidence' to the court. Fancy that!

This is nothing short of blatant lying under oath from these disgusting people, which hopefully the judges will have noted. It stinks of a closing of elitist ranks around a terrible mistake by the EU which they must fear could lead to trouble were the court to rule against their stunning idiocy. The EU Council, Commission and Parliament all also queued up to defend the ban, for a number of spurious reasons, misrepresenting the prevalent science along the way and proving that it is an impenetrable and anti-democratic institution.

Sweden dismissing the incredible results they have enjoyed by insisting on an exemption to the EU's ban before they decided to join in the 90s, and Norway also denying the benefits of snus in the same week that snus users overtook smokers in their country for the first time is laughable. It smacks of a policy of solidarity with an embattled EU and nothing whatsoever to do with health. Or even truth for that matter.

If you voted leave at the referendum, today is a good day to pat yourself on the back because these clowns have proven that you were correct to do so.

Meanwhile across the Atlantic, the Tobacco Products Scientific Advisory Committee (TPSAC) was also coming up with new ways of denying the truth.
The panel concluded that Philip Morris had not proven that iQOS - a sleek, penlike device that heats tobacco rather than burning it - reduces harm compared with cigarettes. 
The panel did conclude that the product exposes users to lower levels of harmful chemicals but said the company had not shown that lowering exposure to those chemicals is reasonably likely to translate into a measurable reduction in disease or death.
So, the very process by which they assess how products could cause harm does not apply when assessing reduction of risk, as one commentator pointed out.

Fortunately, their overly precautious decision is not binding on the FDA, which is handy because it's nonsense. It also calls into question the validity of the TPSAC as an authority considering that snus and iQos have both failed to be able to prove that they are less harmful than smoking. Now, either the US has some pretty damn harmless cigarettes over there or the rules they are working by mean nothing can possibly satisfy the criteria.

And if two large tobacco companies, with all the resources they have at their disposal, can't get this message across, then what's the point? The FDA has said that it is committed to a "risk continuum" approach to nicotine delivery, and Mitch Zeller all but guided the TSPAC in this direction with his pre-inquiry remarks, yet the decision was still no. It kinda undermines everything that the FDA has said about its commitment to harm reduction and isn't in line with agency’s plan for a comprehensive nicotine strategy. If rich companies requesting approval for just one line can be shut out, e-cigs made by mostly independent businesses with hundreds of combinations may as well forget it.

The TSPAC decision on snus was eventually over-ruled by the FDA and today's opinion on iQos should go the same way. Likewise, the ECJ should - if the judges are strong and read the supporting documents properly - have seen through the execrable bullshit that they were fed today by ivory tower European state elitists.

I've always said it's not about health, and today has proved that in spades. If your agenda isn't health, then truth doesn't stand a chance either. 

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