Thursday, 27 April 2017

The Plain Packs Farce Is Confirmed

Before heading out this morning, I read this stunning statement in a BBC article about a new review of evidence (pfft) about plain packaging.
There was no evidence that changing packaging affected the number of young people taking up smoking, [Jamie Hartmann-Boyce, co-author of the report] said.
This is hardly surprising, because it is true. In fact I have written often about how the tobacco control lie-machine has tried very hard to avoid this unfortunate (for them) outcome of possibly the daftest 'public health' policy ever to have crept past lumpen-brained wooden-tops in parliament.

Remember that campaigners for plain packaging insisted till they were blue in the face that it was exclusively designed to stop kids taking up the habit ("protect our children") and nothing at all, oh no, with making smokers quit.

There are a few quotes I collected at the time here but they all went a bit like this from Andy Lloyd of Fresh NE.
"Plain packaging is not about stopping existing smokers but everything to do with protecting children"
But according to this new review, that hasn't happened at all. So it's a 100% cast-iron failure then, as we saw in Australia.

Undeterred, the authors of this review came out with a load of fanciful nonsense to get their headline anyway.
Plain cigarette packaging could lead to 300,000 fewer smokers in the UK over the next year, a major review suggests. 
The Cochrane Review team, led by researchers from London and Oxford, estimated that the number of people who smoked in the UK could go down by 0.5% by May 2018, although they said the current evidence was limited. 
The findings were backed up by a report from the Australian government, which showed a similar drop in smoking prevalence - 0.55% - following the introduction of plain packaging there in 2012.
It's rather disappointing to see that Professor Ann McNeil was involved in this worthless garbage. McNeil was also the lead author of PHE's evidence review of e-cigs which concluded that they are 95% less risky than smoking. The lazy extrapolation of 300,000 fewer smokers ... in a year ... doesn't reflect well on the methods being employed, does it?

The Australian decline in smoking was nothing unusual, and was more likely to have been brought about by savage increases in the price of smokes than what colour the pack came in. It's quite absurd to suggest anywhere close to those kind of numbers will quit in the UK solely because of plain packs.

I expect any decline will be claimed as such though, and I reckon that is entirely the point of the rubbish produced today. If 300,000 smokers do quit in the year following plain packaging, tobacco controllers are going to boast that it was all down to their inconsequential policy. It won't be because of large increases in tobacco duty; it won't be a natural decline fitting with current trends; and it sure as shit won't be because of the enthusiasm about vaping (which ASH and their chums tend to keep very quiet about in their smoking cessation estimates). Nope, the tobacco control scam will make a grab for the lot and say it was the glitzy packs being binned wot done it.

Yet consider how stringent the criteria is that they apply to vaping. There are approximately 3 million vapers, 1.5 million of which are former smokers who now vape instead; if tobacco control had advocated e-cigs from the beginning, they would be claiming the full 1.5 million as a result of their state-funded efforts. In fact, they'd probably take credit for a percentage of the dual users too!

But they don't.

Instead, they rely on a convoluted and extremely complicated analysis of exactly how many vapers quit exclusively because of vaping who would not have otherwise quit by another method (well explained by the NNA here). That figure is around 16,000 per year.

It is called "added value" and the tobacco control industry is very assiduous about calculating that when it comes to e-cigs. This is exactly the correct thing to do and Professor Robert West, whose analysis led to the 16,000 per year figure for vaping, should be congratulated for looking at the figures in detail.

Yet here are McNeil et al sullying the reputation of Cochrane by hinting that 300,000 smokers will quit smoking in the coming year solely because of plain packaging. Why do they not attempt the same sophisticated analysis of added value to assess the value of plain packaging?

I think we know the answer. It's because if they did they would have to reluctantly come to the conclusion that the real projected added value of quitting due to plain packs is somewhere in the region of zero. So double standards it is then.

What a farce.

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

ASH And The Goldilocks Fairy Tale

One of the most bizarre measures in the EU's Tobacco Products Directive - a hideous and disgraceful piece of legislation which has nothing to do with 'harmonising EU markets' but everything to do with social engineering - is the ridiculous banning of 10 packs of cigarettes and smaller pouches of tobacco.

As Ian Dunt, editor of, rightly asks, what kind of idiot suggested this?

Well, the supportive delegation to the EU legislation in the UK was ASH of course, as they boasted about just a couple of weeks ago.
Speaking to the Liverpool Echo, Action on Smoking and Health spokesperson Amanda Sandford said: “Cigarettes are already expensive and the price increase of cigarettes is a key factor in making people quit smoking. 
“So by removing the packet of ten cigarettes this means people will have to find that extra money for a packet. 
“It will hit poorer and younger smokers harder who are more likely to buy smaller packs.”
Nice of her, eh? I'm sure many on lower incomes will be extremely pleased that a person very well-remunerated from the taxes ripped from hard-working people is so keen on impoverishing them further for a meagre pleasure.

Anyhow. So we get that ASH believe small packs are bad, and big packs are good. We think they are insane for believing that but then it's a policy, isn't it. And ASH require policies - any policies - to ensure they carry on sucking from the public teat.

Which is probably why ASH yesterday tweeted a parliamentary question hinting at an entirely different policy !
Virendra Sharma Labour, Ealing, Southall 
To ask the Secretary of State for Health, what plans he has to introduce maximum pack size legislation for the sale of tobacco products.  
To ask the Secretary of State for Health, if he will make an assessment of the potential effect of introducing maximum pack size legislation on the bulk-buying of cigarettes.
This MP is calling for a maximum pack size now? ASH must be pretty disgusted, surely. According to their logic the bigger the pack size the better! The price will be more prohibitive the larger the packs sizes get, and if a huge pack size is even less affordable for the dumb, knuckle-dragging poor that ASH so enjoy punishing, that's surely got to be a good thing, no?

Well, apparently not. Because, y'see, Virendra Sharma is yet another member of ASH's APPG so was arguably told to table that question on behalf of his tax-sponging puppet-masters. They didn't tweet his question disdainfully, but because a mandated maximum pack size is exactly what they want to see legislated for.

So ASH now have a policy whereby they want to see small packs banned, and they are also potentially proposing that large packs be banned as well. In their never-ending quest for taxpayer funding, there is apparently some kind of mythical Goldilocks sweet spot somewhere in the middle that is "just right" for Debs and her fellow arseholes to tolerate.

Of course, in the real world - as opposed to the one where ASH pretend they are interested in health - this small pack bad, big pack bad idea is only about punishing absolutely everyone who has the temerity to continue choosing to smoke.

Can we stop calling them a tobacco control 'charity' now? Instead of pretending they are interested in health, we should be describing them properly. Extreme fundamentalist smoker-hating prohibitionists who have been ripping the public off and harassing law-abiding members of society for over four decades.

We don't tolerate bullies in schools; we shouldn't be giving the repulsive parasites at ASH a penny of our taxes either. 

Monday, 24 April 2017

A Question Of Lobbying

I see that ASH have been banging on about the Tobacco Control Plan again ... or Lib Dem Norman Lamb has anyway.

Maybe it's because he's the illiberal undemocratic party's spokesman for health matters which has got them so excited, I dunno, because a parliamentary question about this is hardly unusual. ASH should know, because they have ordered a lot of them like most of us would order a stuffed crust pepperoni with extra cheese.

There have been literally been dozens of PQs on the subject, and we cannot be absolutely certain how many have resulted from Debs Arnott whispering in MPs' ears with her 'access all areas' Westminster pass, but we can be pretty sure that those in the APPG she secretaries will have had a nudge.

For example, Lord Young (a member of ASH's APPG) asked a question in the Lords in July last year.

Another of Arnott's poodles, Bob Blackman, also asked a question on the same subject in July, along with another in November and another in December. He seems especially keen so I'm sure earned a nice pat on the head and gold star from Debs, especially since he also managed to crowbar the subject into Health Questions to Nicola Blackwood in November too.

Fellow ASH APPG member Andrew Murrison took up the cudgels in the new year, enthusiastically asking a PQ on the 11th January and then another just 6 days later.

Scroll onto October and Alex Cunningham, a Labour MP so consumed with anti-smoker rhetoric (therefore an ASH APPG member, natch) that constituents on the Channel 4 show Benefits Street said they'd never even seen him in their road before, was tabling a Westminster Hall debate about the tobacco control plan. He has since asked another PQ last month about, you guessed it, the tobacco control plan.

There is only one reason for all this activity, of course, and it's to put pressure on ministers at the Department of Health to re-invigorate the war on smokers to give ASH something to do with the money they have been sponging off the taxpayer since 1972. And also to give them a sign of what they don't need to campaign on with that cash because the Department will be doing it anyway.

It is classic government lobbying government.

The circular flow of income is simple to track. The DoH gives ASH money; they use it for salaries to secretary their APPG and to spend their days suggesting MPs lobby the government; ministers cave in, announce more anti-smoking measures; ASH dance a merry jig and put out their begging bowl to ask for more cash to deliver the measures it has demanded of the state.

A written question about the tobacco control plan? ASH have written loads of them already!

In these times of huge deficit spending, there is no point whatsoever wasting cash on such a self-serving charade. Precious few care much about smokers or smoking anymore, and the ones who do are the type who should be locked in the attic with a mad uncle and ignored for the good of society.

If the post-election government is looking for an easy win to help the country's finances and get a rancid monkey off their back, it's a no-brainer that they should de-fund ASH and associated parasites satellites, close down its APPG and consign the whole stinking shitpit to history like Smokefree South West and Smokefree North West before it.

If ASH want to continue getting dullard MPs to ask questions they have suggested, that's fine, just get the cash to do so from somewhere which doesn't involve rifling our pockets. 

Sunday, 23 April 2017

A Nanny State Shop In London

The awesome guys from Students for Liberty paid London a visit on Thursday. If you are not aware of SfL, they are a global movement of students campaigning, as it says on the tin, for the protection of our freedoms ... and they are delightfully passionate about it.

Regular readers will remember that a contingent from SfL travelled to India to present the World Health Organisation with an award for being "The Least Transparent Organisation in the Galaxy" in November, and they have also campaigned against nanny statism in a number of major global cities.

On Thursday, they opened a pop-up nanny state shop in Cheshire Street, Shoreditch, so I sauntered up there to get a glimpse of our future.

Sitting at the top of Brick Lane with its many convenience stores and fast food outlets, it was a good choice of location by SfL. With plain packaging already in place for tobacco, and the 'public health' racket already discussing the same treatment for alcohol, sugar and fast food, it is not outlandish to suggest many of the shops in the vicinity could see shelves like this someday, and not in too distant a timescale either.

In fact, as someone observed on Thursday, if anything SfL's packaging and point of sale displays are far too attractive ... to be realistic, and true to the perverted imagination of vile 'public health' gravy train riders, they should carry pictures of rotting teeth, obscenely obese people and diseased livers.

After being given a tour by the guys at the shop, and a glass of water (natch) to soothe my thirst on a warm day, I said goodbye clutching a memento of the place that they kindly gave to me (a practice that I fully expect some charmless 'public health' trougher is already thinking should be banned just as giving away free tobacco is now).

Sadly, the shop was only open for the one day, but it was pleasing to see SfL replicating their nanny state store in the UK after a couple of previous incarnations across the Atlantic. If you couldn't make it on Thursday, there is a panorama of it at this link that should work OK.

Alternatively, here is a short film of one they made earlier.

If you want to learn more about Students for Liberty, or are a student yourself and would like to join them, click here and have a browse. 

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Authoritarians Left And Right

The Foundation for Economic Education published an interesting essay last week on the nature and politics of authoritarianism and how it is not the sole preserve of the politically left or right. The tract is primarily focussed on the US but it works just as well for this side of the pond.

Here are some extracts which will be easily recognisable by fellow jewel robbers. 
What exactly is authoritarianism, though? It’s rather hard to defeat an enemy that one cannot define, let alone understand. 
Broadly, authoritarianism is the desire to impose one’s own worldview on others in one’s society by institutionalized coercion. Authoritarians, therefore, see punishment as an appropriate response when members of the group with which they identify (the United States, in this case) diverge too far from values that the authoritarian believes are best for society – even if the punished person has neither caused direct harm to another nor infringed another’s rights.
Yep, "leave us alone" is no longer a defence against the people we despise here, they insist on doing things to you for your own good. 
Authoritarianism becomes a significant force in the politics of a society when a psychological disposition to authoritarianism is activated among enough of the people who possess it. Any large country has a significant minority that score highly for the authoritarian psychological disposition. Usually, however, that disposition is latent, driving neither behavior nor political preferences.
There used to be an insignificant minority who peered through their curtains and didn't like what other people were consuming, but they were insane, anti-social, and thankfully powerless.

'Public health' massaged their bigotry, encouraged their misanthropy, and turned them into a vile throbbing mass of seething anger about the inconsequential choices of others. In an era where racial, sexist, homophobic and religious hatred has been largely reined in, the legions of self-enriching 'public health' professionals nurtured the bile and redirected it towards the harmless choices of friends, family, acquaintances and strangers so much so that online comments such as "the only good smoker is a dead one" are not only not unusual, but almost endorsed by the state. 
Authoritarians – whether they lean left or right – justify their politics, like everyone else, by arguing for particular positions on issues they care about. But if your goal is a free and kind society, then arguing an issue on its merits with an authoritarian may often be to shoot yourself in the foot. Doing so can mean buying into the unstated assumption that underpins all authoritarian politics – that an argument that X is right is automatically an argument for using force to make people do X. 
It isn’t.
Specifically, the fact that “X is morally right” is a long, long way from, “It is morally right to compel people to do X,” because the latter actually means, “It is morally right to harm someone for not doing X”… and whether that is true can only be determined by an unprejudiced comparison of the harm caused by not doing X vs. the harm done by the enforcement.
And, as we know, on lifestyle issues, the 'public health' racket never, ever, even considers harm done by enforcement, just as it also ignores the benefits of the behaviour it is paid to hate. 
In any political argument with an authoritarian of any stripe, the real issue – the meta-issue, if you will – is whether, even if he is right about the best way for people to behave in a certain situation or for society to organize itself, what makes it right to cause physical harm to compel it?
It isn't right, obviously. And this is a truth which was universally held to be true from the teachings of J S Mill for over 150 years before the current crop of repulsive state-funded prohibitionists resurrected a new age of obnoxious hate-filled puritanism against respectful and law-abiding citizens. 

You can read the whole thing, "Authoritarians to the Right of Me, Authoritarians to the Left", here

Sunday, 16 April 2017

An Outbreak Of Truth On The ASH Twitter Feed

Unless the cleaners got hold of ASH's Twitter feed on Good Friday or something, was this a fleeting glimpse of real life intruding on the fantasy economics they usually try to present to the world?

Indeed it has, as the article they link to describes.
THE numbers have reached a staggering level. For every two cigarettes smoked in Malaysia, one is an illicit cigarette. 
In other words, the share of the cigarette black market has reached 57.1 per cent as at December 2016, based on Nielsen Cigarette Study 2016.
By Christ! How could this sorry state of affairs have happened?
Right now, illicit cigarettes are priced between 17 and 25 sen per stick at the retail level. 
This compares with 85 sen per stick for legitimate cigarettes. This includes the excise rate of 40 sen per stick. 
No wonder the industry volume for legitimate cigarettes has been on a sharp decline. Last year, the volume fell 25 per cent to just eight billion sticks from 2015, much less than the number of illicit cigarettes.
Perhaps that is the part - about tobacco companies not selling as many legal cigarettes - which attracted ASH's attention, I dunno. It's true to say that the richly-funded tobacco control Goliath's emphasis has long since become a crusade against industry rather than having anything to do with health, so that would fit very nicely.

Except it's not the whole story (emphases mine).
One worrying effect is that the number of smokers is on the rise, not on the decline
Seven out of 10 youths are buying illegal products, according to the Health Ministry. 
According to the Health Ministry’s Global Adult Tobacco Survey 2011, the number of smokers in Malaysia was 4.75 million. 
Subsequently, the ministry’s National Health and Morbidity Survey (NHMS) 2015 – Reports on Smoking Status among Malaysian Adults reported that the number of smokers increased to five million. 
However, cigarette prices during the same period increased by an average of more than 30 per cent. If cigarette price increases really do have a correlation with smoking cessation, the percentage of smokers would have dropped.
Blimey! Do they mean that applying excise to cigarettes to an extortionate degree inevitably leads to a burgeoning black market? But ASH have always said this is nonsense, a figment of the tobacco industry's imagination in fact!

Still, I suppose in Malaysia there could be a partial solution to this 'problem' with the advent of risk reduction products like e-cigs, couldn't there? Yeah, well kinda.
Looking at the treatment of vaping in Malaysia is like entering a frightening 1984 world of doublespeak. The Deputy Education Minister is quoted as saying: “We must go to schools. And parents must be aware that e-cigs and vape are no different from tobacco products… We must ‘de-normalise’ smoking.” 
And as if vape replacing smoking wasn’t denormalising smoking to begin with, the paper repeats the hysterical calls from the Association of Adolescent Health: “[We] urged the Health Ministry to take aggressive steps to protect our youth from the harmful effects of using e-cigs or vape, by implementing a complete ban on the manufacturing, distribution and marketing, of the devices.”
So, faced with too many Malaysians smoking, both young and old, the response from the country's government - which apparently doesn't like the prevalence of smoking though you could be forgiven for thinking otherwise from their daft policies - is to ramp up tobacco taxes to ridiculous levels and stamp hard with a steel toe-capped Doc Marten boot on any potential alternative.

Now, considering ASH are the most vocal organisation in the UK for punishing the poor by demanding eye-watering tobacco tax rises; were frenzied in their support for the EU's TPD which puts huge concrete blocks in front of vaping as an alternative; admitted they don't give a shit about collateral damage; and have been utterly silent as vape ban after vape ban is introduced in the UK, I suppose we should find it refreshing that they are tweeting about articles proving their approach is irresponsible and not even remotely to do with health.

And if they are going to choose a weekend on which to repent on Twitter, admit their sins, and illustrate why their policies are counter-productive, self-serving, mendacious and retarded, the Easter one is as good as any.

Meanwhile, it looks like we here are still firmly on the side of the angels because, for years, we have been warning that price prohibition and over-regulation will have this effect. Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose, huh?

H/T @d4nno_

Monday, 10 April 2017

When The Music Stops, RSPH Look The Fool

On Friday, for some unfathomable reason, the Royal Society of Public Health (RSPH) decided it was a doozy of an idea to do the dirty on vapers who had put much store in their support of e-cigs. I wrote about it here.

As a brief reminder, here was the 'scandal'.
Vaping shops selling to non-smokers
Almost nine in 10 e-cigarette shops in the UK are selling vaping products to non-smokers against the industry's code of conduct, an investigation reveals.
As you may remember, it wasn't "the industry's code of conduct" but that of the Independent British Vape Trade Association (IBVTA) which makes up just a small proportion of the industry as a whole.

However, the RSPH made great play of this code of conduct and wanted to see it adhered to by every e-cigarette company and vendor nationwide. Specifically, they wanted e-cig businesses to never sell to non-smokers under any circumstances.
Chief executive of the RSPH, Shirley Cramer, said e-cigarettes should be treated as "evidence-based quitting aids, rather than lifestyle products", and therefore should be aimed at smokers. 
She said: "We applaud the Independent British Vape Trade Association code of conduct, which is in line with this principle. 
"However, as our investigation shows, the majority of vape shops in the UK are not adhering to these important standards.
By not selling to non-smokers, they meant, which is the only 'revelation' their undercover operation really discovered.

Of course, there are very many reasons why it would be perfectly reasonable to sell a customer an e-cig if they are an adult and request to - as the RSPH's dogged investigator did - which were well-articulated by Clive Bates here. Not just for the benefits to public health it could represent but also that it is a matter of choice for adult consumers in a free society to be able to purchase legal products if they so desire. None of which seemed to be considered by the RSPH before they embarked on such a hare-brained agitprop exercise.

Their CEO Shirley Cramer left us with a parting wish.
"We are keen to support the sector to strengthen their codes of best practice, and for individual retailers to sign up and ultimately adhere to them."
Unfortunately, that is now nothing but a pipe dream as the IBVTA have today wisely amended their code of conduct in the opposite direction.
With hindsight, the use of the word “sell” was not appropriate when “market” would have been.  The Board has therefore unanimously agreed to amend point three of the IBVTA code of conduct so that it now reads: 
“Never knowingly market to anyone who is not a current or former smoker, or a current vaper.”
Their guidance is now significantly changed so that the RSPH's 'scoop' simply doesn't hold water. Vape shops do not 'market' to non-smokers and never have done, quite rightly, but there are plenty of reasons why they might 'sell' to a non-smoker if they insist they wish to buy ... as the RSPH researcher did quite clearly.

So when the music has stopped after this pathetic non-story, all RSPH are left with as a policy demand is that bit about urging vendors to advise potential buyers that e-cigs are cessation devices, which they are not allowed to do by law.

Great to see common sense prevail from IBVTA, but it leaves RSPH with egg on their face - which is nice - except that the headlines will stay on Google for quite some time and convince a large proportion of the public that vape shops are nefarious businesses only out to hook customers into a lifetime of addiction, which is utter rot. The real news wasn't that shops are breaking a code (they didn't sign up to), but that the code was wrong anyway, but I wouldn't hold my breath until the RSPH go to the media and correct the misconception.

RSPH have shown stunning lack of awareness about vaping with their naive and ill-thought through exposé and should go back to vapers and ask some further questions to educate themselves, because it's quite clear they are woefully ill-educated on the subject matter and should zip it until they are.