Tuesday, 14 August 2018

The #COP8 Stitch-Up Is Afoot

Here we go. Strap yourselves in for the latest biennial anti-truth tobacco conference otherwise known as the FCTC's 'Conference of the Parties' (COP).

You can read about the previous two such as Moscow 2014 where the FCTC's Margaret Chan had tea with Putin instead of tackling Ebola, while thugs manhandled journalists out of the event at the COP6 tag here. You can also read articles on the 2016 shebang in New Delhi where - coincidentally - journalists were also manhandled out of the event, while Indian farmers were hounded away from the venue for the sin of holding a peaceful protest which may have upset the sensibilities of COP delegates intent on the serious of business of banning e-cigs, during a lethal smog cloud hanging over the city at the COP7 tag here.

Regular readers will know that I attended the event in India and I have flights booked for Geneva where COP8 will take place in October, so I was interested to see that the FCTC finally released their guidance - late - to the parties (member nations) on how to handle e-cigs.

You can read it here and, at first, it seems pretty unremarkable. However, it features a major dog whistle by describing the results of a survey conducted on the regulatory policies of countries that have ratified the FCTC and agreed to abide by its recommendations. Instead of listing the policies of all parties, it merely points out the ones which have banned e-cigs, subtlely signalling what the FCTC's particular preference is. On the plus side, it does highlight how low Australia has sunk to be classified in the same category as some of the worst abusers of human rights in the world.


The Aussie government must be so proud.

Further down the document, though, we come to the truly sinister part, as I also tweeted this week.


It's not just the sickening nepotism of a UN body asking for "independent" advice from another UN body, but also that the IARC's reputation as a serious purveyor of balanced research is widely questioned, as described by risk expert Geoffrey Kabat in June (do go read the whole article here).
[W]hen IARC’s assessments have been criticized by researchers on substantive grounds, rather than addressing the issues in question, the Agency has typically responded by dismissing the criticisms by 1) pointing to alleged conflicts-of-interest of its critics and 2) making sweeping assertions regarding the transparency and scientific rigor of its evaluation process and the monographs themselves. In other words, the Agency has shown no willingness to examine, and possibly learn from, the identification of serious errors and improprieties in IARC’s evaluations pointed out by respected scientists.
So it appears that the UN's IARC is equally as resistant to external scrutiny from those who disagree with its pre-conceived plans as its sister organisation, the FCTC. A good fit, don't you think?

The FCTC seems to want to find out if e-cigs cause cancer, so they have chosen a fellow unelected organisation which they can fully trust to come out with the result they seek. This is because the IARC is set up so it, quite literally, can find cancer in just about everything.
According to IARC “a cancer ‘hazard’ is an agent that is capable of causing cancer under some circumstances [emphasis added], while a cancer ‘risk’ is an estimate of the carcinogenic effects expected from exposure to a cancer hazard.” Here, “exposure” refers to actual human exposure levels. The Agency justifies the focus on hazard by arguing that, “even when risks are very low at current exposure levels, […] new uses or unforeseen exposures could engender risks that are significantly higher.” IARC’s focus on “hazard” opens a gaping loophole, which has given IARC carte blanche to highlight results that bear little relation to exposure or risk operative in the real world. To add to the confusion, even though IARC focuses on “hazard,” the title of the Monographs refers “Carcinogenic Risk to Humans.” 
IARC’s adoption of the very elastic concept of hazard is in line with the weight given to the precautionary principle in the EU Charter. The precautionary principle states that, when the effects of a policy or an exposure are unknown, steps should be taken to mitigate any potential adverse effects. While this sounds reasonable, in practice, the precautionary principle is often invoked by people who have no interest or ability to assess the relevant scientific evidence. 
There are many instances in recent IARC assessments of giving weight to positive results, even when these are questionable. At the same time, often higher-quality evidence that does not support an association is ignored. You can see how this penchant aligns with IARC’s invocation of “hazard” and the precautionary principle. 
IARC has long been concerned to guard against conflicts-of-interest, but as in the points discussed above, there is an asymmetry in its policy. IARC’s concern with potential conflicts-of-interest appears limited to those involving industry. The Agency shows little awareness of, or concern about, biases and conflicts-of-interest among academic or government researchers.
Again, it is a perfect fit, isn't it? An organisation which selects evidence to fit with its biased world view and ignores huge conflicts of interest in those who agree with it is cut from the same cloth as the blinkered and science-phobic FCTC.

The FCTC is riddled with a cancer known as Corporate Accountability, a subset of its membership which is not remotely concerned with health, only destroying businesses. All businesses. The IARC is also more interested in attacking industry rather than doing what's right.

As for the IARC's calm, objective view on what is carcinogenic, it doesn't have one.
Of the over 500 substances IARC has assessed over the years (i.e. those not in Group 3), only one has been deemed “probably not carcinogenic” and placed in Group 4. Thus, it appears that in practice IARC’s scheme disposes against declaring that an agent is unlikely to be a carcinogenic hazard.
This is an organisation solely set up to find cancer in literally everything. And the FCTC thinks this is a perfectly independent (which it's not) and dispassionate (which it's not) body to impartially assess the harms of e-cigarettes (which it won't). In fact, it has been gagging to re-categorise nicotine as cancer-causing since 2014.


An "adequate data set" along with funding that the WHO's pharma-friendly FCTC mentions as being desirable. I'm sure that - stung by the smoking cessation market running away from them - there will be pharmaceutical companies queueing up to provide as much as IARC demands, don't you? 

Do you think, maybe, that the FCTC is handing this task to an equally morally bankrupt and unelected UN organisation simply to get an answer to all those mischievous nations which see benefits in reduced risk nicotine rather than negatives? You know, the developed, educated ones that don't include basket case nations, banana republics, oppressive theocracies, murderous dictatorships, elitist inegalitarian kingdoms and Australia?

Because I do.

COP8 in Geneva will be an exercise in anti-vaping sophistry from people who are so self-absorbed and addicted to hoovering up your taxes to fund their lavish lifestyles - the UK funds the FCTC to the tune of millions - that they should not be trusted to run a whelk stall.

COP8 runs from 1st to 6th October this year. Watch this space in coming weeks for more updates about the most anti-human supranational meeting on the planet. Needless to say, this year's offering will have as little to do with health as the seven that preceded it. 



Monday, 6 August 2018

The FDA Blatantly Hands E-Cig Market To Big Pharma

Around about this time last year, the FDA's Scott Gottlieb made a public statement about e-cigs that many vapers thought was a new dawn in how reduced risk products would be treated in the US.

You may remember that I thought it was just a cleverly-worded hill of beans.
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.
Despite many vapers rejoicing at this "huge" announcement, and describing it as "momentous",  a "reprieve", with some even saying they had "every confidence" in Gottlieb, it stunk to high heaven in my book. The emphasis seemed to be more on pointlessly reducing nicotine in regular cigarettes rather than promoting e-cigs.

Nothing I've seen since has made me think that the FDA has any intention of taking harm reduction seriously as a policy to encourage smokers to quit. In fact, the evidence is all pointing in the opposite direction.


However, the whole thing has since taken an even more sinister tone with the release of another Gottlieb FDA press announcement on Friday.
Statement from FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D., on new steps the agency is taking to support the development of novel nicotine replacement drug therapies to help smokers quit cigarettes
"Novel nicotine replacement drug therapies"? Is he talking about e-cigs here? Well, yes he is.
We’re working on multiple fronts to recognize the role that more novel forms of nicotine delivery could play in achieving our public health goals, as part of an appropriately regulated marketplace. This not only includes encouraging innovation of potentially less harmful tobacco products for those adults who still seek to use nicotine (such as e-cigarettes), but also taking a closer look at our overall approach to the development and regulation of NRT products that are regulated as drugs, and designed to safely reduce withdrawal symptoms, including nicotine craving, associated with quitting smoking. 
The development of novel NRT products, regulated as new drugs, is a critical part of our overall strategy on nicotine.
I added the emphasis because it's quite clear he is not talking about a free market in e-cigs sold from vape shops.

Instead, he has issued some guidance on how to get e-cigs approved by the FDA (emphasis again mine).
This draft guidance, when finalized, is aimed at providing sponsors with recommendations on the nonclinical information appropriate to support development and approval of orally inhaled nicotine-containing drug products. It recognizes that a great deal of toxicity information is available for nicotine. But such information may not be available for other compounds contained in e-liquids and delivered by these products. These include the flavorings and heat-generated chemicals. These products can be used for six months or more over the course of a lifetime. So, it’s important to understand the risks to humans from these exposures, including developmental and reproductive toxicity and carcinogenicity.
Drug products? Six months over a lifetime? I've been using my non-drug e-cigs for about 8 years.

But then when you look at the guidance, it is quite clearly intended for a different subset of businesses than those which currently provide e-cigs for the US market.

It is guidance for a therapeutic product and nothing more. Such a product doesn't currently exist and any company which decided to have a go at it would have to have millions of dollars to spare. It is designed in a way that pharmaceutical companies would understand because it is a route to a pharmaceutical, or 'medicinal', e-cig. This would likely take the form of some ridiculously safe and bland cigalike which is so far removed from the products which are finding favour with smokers and driving the lowest smoking prevalence figures in US history, that it will be practically useless.

OK, it's fair to say that tobacco companies have the resources to throw huge amounts of money at getting a product of this type approved, but it will still be a therapeutic, medicalised e-cig designed for complete nicotine cessation, so it barely matters who manufactures it.

Gottlieb’s approach is cigarettes stripped of nicotine coupled with medicalisation of e-cigs. Because almost all of the products currently being sold in America by independents will disappear in 2022 thanks to the imposition of a predicate date.

It's important to note that Gottlieb has not issued guidance to current e-cig manufacturers on how to produce an independent product which could be sold on the open market as a consumer product. He has hinted that there may be some on the horizon but, for now, he has bypassed that and gone straight to issuing guidance - which heavily leans towards the pharma industry - on what is acceptable for a therapeutic product. At the same time as still insisting on rules which will effectively remove competition from anything recreational that is currently on sale.

It is, to all intents and purposes, a co-ordinated effort to make e-cigs a medical product and one which should only be used as a means to quit nicotine entirely. It is basically handing the entire market to the pharmaceutical industry. In other words - and especially considering the parallel regulations to take the good nicotine out of cigarettes and leave the harmful elements in - 'quit or die' on steroids.

Many were of the opinion when Gottlieb took over the job that he'd just end up being a pharma shill. He seems to be living up to those predictions quite spectacularly so far.

It is so blatant that it's astonishing. One can only assume that this is a result of the American disease of corporate lobbying, with pharma front and centre. I don't know about you but I don't think it's wrong to call this organised crime.

So, no, Gottlieb's announcement in July last year wasn't a new dawn for e-cig use. It was the start of a process which will see a brilliant innovation crushed and handed to corporate interests to destroy. It also proves, once again, that none of this crusade against smoking has ever been anything to do with health. They really couldn't care less.

We're on the side of the angels, always remember that. 



Wednesday, 1 August 2018

The Twisted Language Of 'Public Health'

There are somewhat encouraging signs that the 'public health' racket community see their house of cards as being a bit shaky recently. Hardly surprising considering the huge porkies that are the foundations for their policy demands, but interesting nonetheless.

Take, for example, this from Snowdon in City AM on Friday.
Whatever you think of “sin taxes” on things like alcohol, sugary drinks and tobacco, they are indisputably regressive. 
But not according to an editorial in the Lancet earlier this year. 
In an effort to promote more sin taxes, particularly on food and soft drinks, the medical journal suggested that such taxes benefit the poor and are progressive. 
Whichever way you look at them, these taxes clobber the poor. 
Public health campaigners don’t want to admit this, even to themselves, because they see themselves as champions of social justice.
He's correct. There is no case whatsoever economically, or health-wise, for stating that sin taxes are progressive. So why are 'public health' campaigners making up daft fantasies over this - which no-one believes for a minute - when they have never felt the need before?

Well, perhaps they can sense that the public just doesn't buy their shit anymore.

It is pretty well established in the minds of the public that the poor suffer from these taxes. In the past 'public health' got away with it because people would say "well poor people shouldn't smoke/drink/eat fast food" etc if they are short on cash. But taxes are so incredibly high now - especially on tobacco - that the public are increasingly seeing them as an injustice. A form of bullying of those least able to afford a comfortable life.

No-one likes to see that kind of behaviour, and 'public health' know this, hence their pumping laughable tortured logic (aka lies) out in The Lancet to try to pretend they are friends of poor people rather than a movement which seriously damages their choices and well-being.

This isn't the first time either. I've written about the twisted language of 'public health' before. Y'see, they are getting more and more tetchy about the 'nanny state' tag. They've never liked it but the term is beginning to stick - perhaps as a consequence of the perception of their bullying with taxes - so they have tried to pervert the concept of a Nanny State to meaning businesses which provide products that people want to buy. No, don't laugh, they really did.



In 2016, Sam Bowman - then of the Adam Smith Institute - was faced with this bizarre definition of 'nanny state' on Irish TV on the subject of minimum alcohol pricing.
"Currently we have a nanny industry in alcohol who are deciding the pricing, deciding the availability, and deciding exactly how they want to promote alcohol"
His rebuttal was succinct and entirely accurate.
"Really what Stephen [Stewart] is saying is that he's annoyed that he's not in charge. 
"He's annoyed that the alcohol industry has too much say and he wants doctors to have a say instead. I think that's not right, I think that we should let individuals make the decision for themselves how much they drink and what they drink."
Well, of course we should. Anyone who says anything different is a little bit of a fascist, really.

But isn't it very heartening to see 'public health' spending time and effort trying to think up bizarre excuses for their behaviour? If they didn't think that the public are beginning to see them as the nasty societal parasites that they are, they wouldn't be bothering.

This is all very encouraging. It shows that the concept of sin taxes being regressive and a nanny state dictating our choices are hitting the target if 'public health' groups are twisting language and torturing logic to try to deflect the criticism. If it were all just water off a duck's back, the nannies wouldn't be investing their time trying to counter them in increasingly absurd ways, now would they?

Remember that when chatting over the water cooler or to friends and family in the pub or on social media. The perception that 'public health' is little more than a bunch of bullies and is representative of a sinister Nanny State could well be passing into common public acceptance.

I've always maintained we are on the side of the angels, of course we are. But considering the desperate "not us, Guv" agitprop from 'public health' recently, perhaps people are slowly starting to wake up to who the real anti-social demons are.