Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Same Righteous, Shifting Alarmism

If my understanding of economics is to be trusted, the concept of diminishing marginal utility is a bit of a problem for the Righteous. Or, to put it differently, the more 'Wolf!' is cried, the fewer listen. Not only because we've heard it all before, but also owing to the target becoming ever less convincing. In 2005, I was attempting to convince anyone who would listen, that a partial smoking ban wouldn't be acceptable to the Righteous. Following July 1st 2007, quite a few people stated that ASH may as well pack up as they had 'won'.

This is to completely misunderstand the Righteous. They never stop, as Leg Iron would be quite happy to explain to you in his excellent and extensive series of articles about their methods.

For example, flushed by recent success, ASH New Zealand came out with this corker of over-enthusiastic dribble in 2007.

Aotearoa/New Zealand campaign groups are declaring the end game for cigarettes with plans to phase out their sale within ten years. This is the first step in creating a tobacco free Aotearoa/New Zealand.

At the Oceania Tobacco Control Conference being held in Auckland, campaign groups led by ASH NZ, the Smokefree Coalition and Te Reo Marama are announcing the ten year countdown to end smoking in New Zealand.

Public health policies that are proposed include:

• The complete removal of tobacco retail displays
• Plain packaging of cigarettes
The staged removal of cigarettes from sale
• Tobacco tax increases which will double the cost of smoking over the next ten years, with the revenue being used to support smokers who want to quit
• Increased support for smokers who want to quit, particularly improved cessation services
• More alternative and safer forms of nicotine to cigarettes
• Culturally appropriate action toward tupeka kore (tobacco free).

The problem for these swivel-eyed loons is that there really isn't any collective will to push these measures through. This week, they fell at the first hurdle.

No evidence tobacco ad ban works

A call to ban tobacco displays from shops has not got the support of the National Government at this stage, New Zealand Prime Minister John Key says.

Mr Key said evidence suggested such moves were not an effective way to tackle smoking as a health issue and he wouldn't support it.

"The reason is there is no international evidence that it actually works, and it's hugely expensive to do it," he told TV3's Sunrise show on Tuesday.

Mr Key is an astute man. He has obviously studied the evidence which comprehensively proves that tobacco display bans do nothing but destroy businesses. The lack of effect in Iceland is backed up by their government's own statistics.

The Icelandic ban, introduced in 2001, has failed to achieve its aim of reducing smoking rates in the country’s under 18s.
In fact smoking prevalence among 15-19-year-olds actually increased from 14.4% to 17.5% in the year that the ban was introduced, official figures from Statistics Iceland reveal. 

In 2002, smoking prevalence among this age group was the highest it had been for five years at 17.%. Today at 15.2% it still remains higher than it had been before the ban.

The evidence from Canada is also particularly uninspiring.

Since only four of Canada's thirteen territories had enacted any sort of a tobacco display ban prior to 2007, it makes it extremely unlikely that the decline in teen smoking between 2002 and 2007 could have been due to such legislation. It should be noted that the rate did not drop at all between 2006 and 2007, thereby ruling out a possible effect from the two territories who brought in a ban during 2007.

If tobacco display bans were effective in reducing the smoking rate, only Saskatchewan (which was the first to pass such a law) has had enough time to see the benefit. As it happens, Saskatchewan has the highest smoking rate of any Canadian territory. One cannot blame the anti-smoking advocates for looking for evidence to support their latest ban, but it seems - once again - that the myth does not fit the reality.

Not that Labour bothered checking any of these facts, of course. They have welded themselves so much to their own government department of ASH, that when the likes of Martin 'Chicken Little' Dockrell squeak that the sky is falling, Labour run around searching for a concrete umbrella.

This quite stunning ignorance of the facts yesterday accompanied the customary arrogant dismissal of a recent Number 10 e-petition on the matter.

In Canada, smoking prevalence among 15-19 year olds fell from 22 per cent in 2002 to 15 per cent in 2007 (Canadian Tobacco Use Monitoring Survey) which coincided with a growing number of provinces prohibiting display of tobacco.

In Iceland, prevalence of smoking among 15-16 year olds fell from 18.6 per cent in 1999 to 11.1 per cent in 2007 (European Survey Project on Alcohol and other Drugs, ESPAD), and the most rapid fall in youth smoking prevalence was seen immediately following this legislation.

swiftly followed by this gem.

Cancer Research UK (CRUK) is one of the most respected institutions for conducting important public health research.

Yep. Like Fyffes bananas are one of the most respected institutions for advising on the banning of apple sales.

If our government can't even research statistics properly, it's no wonder at all that we are faced with an increasing burden of outlandish, totalitarian and ineffectual laws, every one of which pisses our tax money down the drain, severely damaging business into the bargain.

There are times when the truth breaks its shackles and tries to leg it into the bright glare of the media, but it doesn't happen often. In fact, only when required to provide reasoning for bashing the unapproved.

A PENDLE man has been spared jail despite his part in an £11million cigarette smuggling scam.

Imran Khan, 30, was one of eight men who helped bring 72million cigarettes and nearly 70kilos of hand-rolling tobacco into the UK.

After the case, HMRC criminal investigator Nick Burriss said: “This was a huge smuggling conspiracy on an industrial scale.

“This type of smuggling robs the community of funds for schools and hospitals as well as having a devastating effect on honest retailers forced to compete with the shadow economy."

Wow! You don't read that often, do you? A government-funded official talking up the benefit to the NHS of tobacco revenues. It is routinely airbrushed out of press releases in favour of the 'smoking costs the NHS £1.7bn per annum' claim, with no mention of the £11bn taken in duty.

Labour were wise enough to understand that the tobacco display ban was a terrible idea, but they had a problem in that Patricia Hewitt is one of them. So is the clinically-obese Liam Donaldson, and Alan 'Dancing Queen' Johnson. To admit that this was a ridiculous move would have been tantamount to a u-turn, and that just wouldn't do. So they delayed the implementation till 2011 (2013 for smaller shops), safe in the knowledge that they won't be in government then anyway, despite John Prescott's wibblings about a fourth term.

It was a face-saving exercise, but why the need to e-mail downright statistical lies to all the signatories on the Number 10 petition? Could it be that Labour are so used to lying now that they truly believe that is the way a UK government should behave? It appears so.

The wolves aren't as scary anymore for the anti-smoking banshees, in fact, their shrieking is only serving to lift scales from eyes all over the world as to how very extreme these people are (checkout the comments on this bollocks from America, for example, where extreme healthist bullshit is presented as fact and promptly ridiculed by all and sundry).

If the Department of Health had any sense they would remove the £191,000 grant they provide to ASH and quietly close them down. Naturally, they won't, and I wouldn't like to see it. The best argument against ASH and their nutjob friends is ASH itself. Their claims are becoming ever more extreme and unbelievable the less they have to attack. If anything, their recent rantings are encouraging those who previously supported them to question their motives and restrospectively reassess the wisdom of what has gone before.

In the meantime, just as a miner will spend less time on a meagre yielding mineral face, so will the Righteous turn to thus far relatively untapped targets.

A glass of wine each evening is enough to increase your risk of developing cancer, women are being warned.

Consuming just one drink a day causes an extra 7,000 cancer cases - mostly breast cancer - in UK women each year, Cancer Research UK scientists say.

There's Cancer Research UK again. Never backward in coming forward to kick your personal choice in the proverbials.

And this really sets alarm bells ringing ...

A Department of Health spokesman said: "There is no completely safe level of drinking ..."

Indeed, they're using exactly the same template as ASH, just in a different context. Without evidence, natch.

There is no safe level of exposure to tobacco smoke

The template is further confirmed with the emergence of a new fake charity, as reported by the BBC today.

Dr Ian Campbell, of the charity Weight Concern, said the findings were "very interesting".

"When patients who are overweight and smoke ask what they should work on first, we've always said smoking as the wisdom has always been that this poses more health risks - yet this study suggests otherwise."

Betty McBride, of the British Heart Foundation, said: "The government need to bring the same level of sustained focus to tackling the obesity crisis it has previously brought to smoking."

The emphasis is shifting. The anti-smoking ranters have hit the buffers as basic economic models of diminishing returns have caught up with them. It's now time for others to suffer the moral whirlwind of the Righteous.

If you backed the likes of the ASH jihadists, but indulge in even just the odd alcoholic drink and/or enjoy unapproved foods to the point of being a trifle lardy, I'm going to enjoy seeing you squirm. The difference is, I will still back you to the hilt in resisting these fuckers with everything I can possibly offer.

It's the correct course of action, or else we are all screwed.

The sky isn't falling, it never was. There are no wolves, just highly-paid alarmists raising scares for a living. They all need silencing, and picking and choosing which freedom of lifestyle you personally wish to defend isn't going to cut it. Stand up to them all or selectively sleepwalk into a nightmare. Your choice.

UPDATE: The England Expects blog has pointed out a very insulting quote in the BBC report on the 'excessive' practice of one drink per day.

One of the researchers did at least say this,

"It is up to individual people to make their own decision. All of us to some extent have to weigh up the risks and take some responsibility for our health," said Dr Allen."

To some extent! No Doctor Allen, it is not a case of to some extent at all. It is just it period. I am responsible for my health, you are responsible for your health, and Uncle Tom Cobbley is responsible for his bloody health.

Where do you think it becomes the responsibility of somebody else? One drink a night, two, three or maybe the whole Hague of 18 pints. At no point do you, you hectoring white coated bureaucratic controllo freak get to decide when you can step in and decide, for me, what is or is not good for me.

Come on then Dr Allen. At what point are you going to lobotomise me for my own good. Just sod off and drown in a pool of your own self righteousness, will you?

I concur. BBPA, BII, CAMRA, are you listening?


Mark Wadsworth said...

DP, but how? Cannabis smokers are by definition accustomed to breaking the rules and mildly unorthodox, but smokers are the straightest and most normal people really, who basically only smoke because it keeps you sane (plus it's enjoyable, of course) and to help them cope with a boring job etc.

They are the last people who will rebel, every now and then I summon the courage to walk into a shop and buy something with a smouldering rollie clutched in my palm, but I'd never have the nerve to just f***ing well light up in the corner of a pub and be thrown out for my troubles.

Hmmm. We need a plan.

vincent1 said...

As always, thank you for your brilliant article, the LIARS need to be seen for what they are, you have pointed that out very well Dick.
Ditto Mark.
Now they make their heart attack reductions look even more stupid with a superb stinger from Christopher Snowdon, enjoy.
Official: Smoking ban had no effect on England's heart attack rate


banned said...

"smoking prevalence among 15-19-year-olds actually increased from 14.4% to 17.5%" Same was announced on Radio 4 the other day referring to Scotland.
" Despite all the anti-smoking measures from the Government " Shock, horror from the BBC news announcer.

No thinks I, more like because of such measures, especially after hearing the interview with teen-jock Darren McSpunk " ye hear stuff on the telly, y'know, but ah'm yung and it kinda disnae apply ta me ya knoo, et pessis me right off, ye; all that gumment bollox, got a light pal ? "

Looking at cigarettes gives you eye cancer find by eminent Cambridge researcher.
My Nan was telling me about smoking and my ears got filled with bile and fell off claims student.

Dick the Prick said...

I seem to remember that cancer research had been using discredited cultures for over 35 years - tossers.

I loved the boozy birds story yesterday and kinda thought that surely if you use, live, work or walk anywhere near a busy road or motorway it slightly negates all argument as you suck on exhaust pipes. I dunno - if someone gives me £180k I'll get shed loads of booze and pot and churn out a floored report.

Anonymous said...

Fucking A!

Like Fyffes bananas are one of the most respected institutions for advising on the banning of apple sales.


Old Holborn said...

Excellent Rant

Anonymous said...

Seriously good rant - just off to test the 'no safe level'theory of tobacco smoke and alcohol.....again

DaveA said...

Dick The Prick:

Thanks for your message over at Iain Dale's. Infact I'm catching up with DP this Saturday in the West End in London at 5.00 pm. You are welcome to join us.

Gawain Towler said...

I see the Scots are at it

Here we go again

Cate Munro said...

Excellent excellent post Dick! God forbid we should actually have the right to choose how we live our lives!