Thursday 31 January 2013

Those Nutty Germans, Eh?

Remember we were told that it was only "basket case" nations who object to plain packaging of tobacco?
Well, joining with the 34 countries to have already complained to the World Trade Organisation about Australia's law - the largest contingent in the history of the WTO, by the way -  it seems there are more. New Zealand are also daft enough to consider the idea and have met resistance of their own (paywall).
Hostility to plain packaging laws mounts
More countries in a major trading block have put their hostility to New Zealand's plain cigarette packaging proposals on the record. 
Italy, Poland, Germany and Spain are the latest to express opposition to laws requiring tobacco to be sold in plain, unbranded packaging.- raising their concerns at the latest meeting of an influential committee of the EU. 
Their concern was lodged with the EU Market Access Advisory as the government continues to weigh up whether or not to follow Australia and introduce the laws here (in NZ).
Tsk. Typical, isn't it? Just when you want to get something done around the place and those world-renowned insane crooks in Berlin and Madrid go and stick their oar in.
"One body of thought says that if New Zealand were to introduce plain packaging then manufacturers would have to cease using their trademarks and that would represent a failure to provide adequate protection for those assets, [Food and Grocery Council chief executive Katherine Rich] says. 
"That could make us in breach of the trade agreements and expose us to dispute proceedings at the World Trade Organisation. The resulting damage to our reputation as a good, reliable trading partner would be huge and the impact on our export income incalculable. 
"I sometimes wonder if this occurs to public health activists who blindly call for plain packaging as if it's some sort of magic wand that will solve all our ills."
Of course it doesn't, Katherine. They have bigger fish to fry with far more calm, balanced - and in no way 'basket case' - proposals of their own.

H/T Two, count 'em, two NZ jewel thieves via e-mail

Wednesday 30 January 2013

The Minimum Alcohol Pricing Folly: Meal Deals

Look, we all know minimum alcohol pricing is a pretty stupid idea which will have little or no effect on binge-drinking while punishing responsible drinkers along with 'irresponsible' ones. It is also incredibly regressive considering one of the features designed specifically into the policy is for it to aggressively attack the less well off.

These are all givens unless you're paid to come up with absurd 'science' - peer reviewed by your chums - which is about as grounded in real life experience as a lion, a witch and a wardrobe.

However, if you shop at Marks and Spencer, the Scottish government wants to assure you that you won't be affected by minimum pricing or a ban on drinks promotions. You see, their 'meal for a tenner' deal offers wines usually in the region of six or seven quid accompanied with a main meal, side dish and dessert for just ten roundel nuggets. That could be seen as a discounted drinks promotion and/or selling alcohol beneath the minimum price, no?

Well, no. Because, fearing the headlines, the SNP's Nicola Sturgeon boldly stepped in to protect M&S customers (who, a cynic might say, tend to be more likely to vote than those who shop at Aldi).
I also have concerns about the part of the amendment that relates to meal deals, which we know are available from some prominent supermarket chains. We have all taken the view that we should encourage people to eat when they drink. Indeed, when the cabinet secretary was questioned in the chamber, she said that she did not expect meal deals to be captured by the bill. 
I am on record—and I will go on record again today—as saying that it is not our intention to ban the Marks and Spencer’s meal deal, for example.
So that's all right then. If you offer food with the alcohol, Bob's your uncle, you're exempt!

Since there is no law on minimum food pricing (yet), you can imagine the consternation if other supermarkets began to sell one of their store-made deli pizzas along with a slab of Carlsberg for 1p over the minimum unitary alcohol price, can't you? It will handily bypass the regulations, as would substituting the pizza for a microwave spag bol ready meal or two.

Likewise, if Cameron is to head off the inevitable 'Mr Angry of Tunbridge Wells' criticism which would result from a ban of the M&S meal deal, his wrong-headed crusade to install minimum pricing will have to involve intricate and absurd policy exemptions and loopholes (and junk science, natch) of heroic proportions. I dunno, perhaps the food may be required to reach a fixed level of nutrition. Tuscan mixed bean risotto is encouraged, but a not pack of Birds Eye burgers . Or maybe only certain alcohol will be 'acceptable' to be offered with it? Chablis OK, Strongbow not? The mind boggles.

It's almost like they're storing up future legislation to busy themselves with - paid for by our taxes - in the unlikely event that the EU allow them to proceed in the first place.

Well, they're going to have to blame something when it makes bugger all difference, aren't they?

Tuesday 29 January 2013

It's 'Evil Alcohol Companies' Now, Is It?

Today sees the official launch of the campaign against minimum alcohol pricing, as leaked a few days ago (see top widget on the sidebar to the right).

So how has the modern prohibitionist tendency responded?
‘The drinks industry is now using the tactics of Big Tobacco in trying to undermine evidence-based alcohol policy measures which would save lives and specifically target young and heavy drinkers. A minimum unit price is a targeted policy that will impact heavy drinkers whilst leaving the majority of moderate drinkers unaffected, and the international evidence (from Canada) shows that it works’:
Ah, the old tried-and-trusted model of tackling the man and not the ball, eh? Tobacco template front and centre. No slippery slope here, oh no.

And the evidence?
It will save lives – according to research by the University of Sheffield, a 50 pence minimum unit price will prevent more than 3,000 alcohol-related deaths in England each year.
This is from a university with a proven record of incompetence. In September they apologised to the BBC for not having risk assessed their staff on handling a calculator.
Correction: 28 September, 2012:  
The School of Health and Related Research at the University of Sheffield has confirmed to Panorama that unfortunately, due to human error, figures they produced specifically for the programme Old, Drunk and Disorderly?  broadcast on 10th September 2012 were incorrect.  The figures are in fact 4-5 times lower than those originally given to Panorama.
Their response to detractors wasn't even able to correctly quote the name of one of the authors.

There should be another source for this 'evidence', but the state plumped for a single useless one to waste our cash on. Their report is awful and intellectually degenerate, but the BMA and RCP are clinging to it like a baby to a comfort blanket.

So we have a sole bunch of muppets who have been paid to produce a pre-determined policy conclusion, but been exposed as being pants at it, and we are supposed to consider them as authoritative as the Oracle at Delphi?

And when the daft presumptions are challenged - as is any industry's right during a consultation period in what we loosely term a 'democracy' - they are condemned as being evil by association rather than there being any thought of raising some kind of intelligent rebuttal. Plus, a rent-a-quote from Evelyn Gillan is trotted out, despite her evidently not understanding the concept of fair and democratic political debate, preferring instead to go by the North Korean model of "the state knows best, so pipe down".

This is truly desperate stuff, as is the claim that a population level, universally-implemented price rise can in any way be described as "targeted".

If this is indicative of the standard of bullshit we can expect in the fight over minimum pricing, I welcome it. It could well have the effect of opening many eyes to the abuses of trust that have been visited on the public previously.

Monday 28 January 2013

E-Cigs Continue To Embarrass And Create Ridicule

There has been a lot of writing about e-cigs in The Times the past few days, this article being the best to illustrate my long-held view that they are a magnificent tool for pricking the huge bubbles of of hysteria around nicotine, so cleverly-constructed over decades by legions of anti-smoking scaremongers.
A teenage girl looks up from her pizza, frowns and pulls a face at her grandmother.The “smoke” from our electronic cigarette has wafted over towards their table. 
In Pizza Hut in Kensington, the supper of Sophie Weeks, 13, and her young brother, grandmother and mother has been interrupted. They take furtive glances at the plastic, liquid-nicotine device that emits vapour and is designed to look like the real thing. And, having politely muttered to themselves that it is an e-cigarette. 
and not a carcinogenic, they return to their food. We continue puffing on the ecigarette.
More than five years after the smoking in public places ban was introduced, the first real test to its authority has come with the rise of the e-cigarette as an increasingly popular alternative to smoking tobacco.
This, of course, is the smoking ban which came about via a campaign which consisted solely of mostly state-funded career prohibitionists fulfilling a 40 year plan to convince vacant MPs that passive smoke was on the same toxic level as Sarin gas.

So successful have they been that the more gullible in society have developed an irrational phobia of anything which is remotely smoke-like (apart from deadly car fumes, of course, which are considered entirely normal and largely safe).
With two e-cigarette companies having advertised on television this month — testing, in the process, the 48-year ban on promoting smoking on television — The Times visited a range of indoor public places to gage the public’s reception.
The article promises to be so much fun ... and it is.
“Sir, you can’t smoke in here,” says a well-dressed sales assistant at Ralph Lauren in Covent Garden, Central London. 
“It’s an e-cigarette,” we say, blowing smoke all over the menswear. 
“Phew, you scared me then,” he says, permitting us to continue.
Scared? By what? Did he/she think they would die from a wisp of smoke? Well, it's possible, but more likely the scare was that they could be quite innocently liable to a fine of up to £2,500 for not adequately enforcing the state's 'benevolent' law. If so. the enemy here is not the vaper (or smoker), but the dictatorial sadists who devised such a disgusting regime for private business owners to abide by.

The piece goes on to highlight why anti-smokers are desperately scrambling for junk science to encourage legislators to ban e-cigs. You see, they are beginning to be recognised widely.
At the neighbouring Burberry, an “undercover” female security guard in a beige trench coat explains she’s more concerned about tobacco smoke wafting in from the doorway than e-cigarettes instore. “We have no reason to ban them,” she says.“You do a double take. But as soon as you see it’s an e-cigarette, you don’t bat an eyelid.”
Nor should they, whether e-cig or no. But again, it is state scaremongery which has got them darting their eyes around as if a uniformed jobsworth is licking his pencil and preparing to be a smoking Pataweyo. This, despite the much reported figure of 98% compliance by the tobacco control industry as a triumph (as if any fine of that level for any behaviour would result in anything less).

E-cigs also seem to be proving that the general public are generally regarded by authority as pretty stupid.
In the Apple Store, the well-staffed ranks look on, unable to state what the company’s policy is on e-cigarettes. Nor can an assistant at Leicester Square Tube station. “It may be better you go outside in case people misunderstand,” she suggests.
OK, that was a cheap shot. They're not stupid for believing that e-cig vapour might be real smoke, because it can look quite realistic. Having said that, since many believe that something which was all prevalent in the lives of baby boomers who have delivered the longest living generation in history - along with the corresponding pensions crisis due to their longevity -  is now as dangerous as spending a few minutes in a nuclear reactor, perhaps the cap may fit for quite a few.
At King’s Cross station, where 31 people died 26 years ago after a smoker dropped a lit cigarette on an escalator, commuters watch unmoved. 
So, too, at a petrol station in the East End.On the No 13 bus to Aldwych, the driver is more certain. “No smoking anything.” Transport for London’s official position is that e-smokers are permitted.
Yes, the humble e-cig also exposes officious little shits who make rules up as they go along.
The driver of a Black Cab said that the official line was not to allow smoking of any sort in the back of the taxi, but most cabbies used their discretion.
Hmm, interesting. That explains habits of quite a few queueing drivers at the rank outside Waterloo station (nudge, nudge, wink, wink, say no more).

E-cigs also snigger and point a an accusatory finger at woeful laziness.
Meanwhile, at City airport, the policy was official. “We don’t allow smoking or them to be smoked anywhere in the building,” a flight assistant said. “People might think they’re the real thing.”
Err, they could always invest some time to ascertain what is being 'smoked', couldn't they? You know, spend some time - for the comfort of their paying customers - to clear vapers but tackle anyone who actually does break the terms of the Health Act 2006. Too much like hard work, obviously.

And lastly, won't somebody please think of the chiiildren?
In McDonald’s on High Holborn, Hayden Evans, 12, from Colchester, asks his father whether my smoke will “go into” his Happy Meal.
What an incredibly ironic end to the piece, eh? Happy Meals being the next logical step for the same joyless health obsessives who spent years 'denormalising' tobacco, and the same professional bansturbators who are now putting barriers in front of e-cigs to protect their funding from the pharmaceutical industry.

Go e-cigs! You are Andersen's little child made real.

Sunday 27 January 2013

Like Night Follows Day

Myth #7: It may be tobacco today but other consumer products will follow. 
FACT: Tobacco is not like any other product.
Sadly, PETA hasn't read the script.

Nothing else to say, really, except that it isn't the first time animal-slaughtering PETA have piggy-backed off the tobacco template.

Saturday 26 January 2013

Why Should Responsible Drinkers Pay More?

Earlier this week, I suggested a few options for responding to the consultation on the coalition's David Cameron's plan for minimum alcohol pricing. I'd still urge you to consider submitting your thoughts via the online form at this page but, if you don't have the time or the inclination, there is now a simpler medium by which to object.

Under the tag line "Why should responsible drinkers pay more?", a new website is being launched on Tuesday with user-friendly 'click and send' methods of notifying your MP that you ain't happy.
The drinks industry is to launch the first consumer-facing campaign to mobilise mass opposition to the government's minimum unit pricing plans.

The Wine & Spirit Trade Association has galvanised the support of major supermarkets and drinks brands to launch a consumer campaign under the "Why Should Responsible Drinkers Pay More" banner. A dedicated website is due to go live next Tuesday. Retail backers include Sainsbury's, Asda and Morrisons with drinks suppliers on board including SAB Miller and Diageo.

The site will include information about how minimum unit pricing will affect beer wines and spirits products and tell consumers how to send a letter calling for their MP's support on the issue. It will be backed by a radio and PR campaign.
While functionality is reportedly not 100% before Tuesday's launch (e.g. Mudgie found the Facebook link not to be working yet),  there is plenty to admire about the site, so do go and have a good look around it.

In the meantime, considering these things are generally embargoed until one minute past midnight on a certain date, I look forward to waking up to read news reports from a more liberal perspective on Tuesday morning for a change.

And seeing as we now know it is on its way, I'll have my own small contribution lined for then too, I expect. Watch this space.

Link Tank 26/01

Time to fetch your reading glasses.

Pints for £1 in the homebrew revolution

A doctor writes on the rise of pseudo-science and the worship of weak correlation

Politics and e-cigs

Censoring Fawlty's gags makes the Beeb look more bonkers than Basil

Porn fans aren't what they used to be

Bloomberg's soda ban "discriminates against citizens and small-business owners in African-American and Hispanic communities"

Free speech wall torn down because "not every opinion is valid"

Australian McDonald's releases an app to track where your burger came from

The coldest town on Earth

Monogamous monkeys

Friday 25 January 2013

There Is No Safe Level Of Coca-Cola

As if to confirm the hysteria I mentioned on Wednesday, Mark Bittman of the New York Times has produced a remarkable piece which would be hilarious if it wasn't the parody which it could most definitely pass for.

I recently described him thus when he equated fizzy drinks with firing a Kalashnikov at innocent children.
The New York Times' resident food scaremonger, Mark Bittman, has pushed the boundaries of even his own world-class level of absurd hyperbole while discussing celebrities advertising fizzy drinks.
Well, perhaps I was a bit hasty.
It took me back to when Coke was the real thing, it was “it,” we were teaching the world to sing together, and even Mean Joe Greene was just a cutie. There’s always been Coca-Cola. 
Well, there were always Marlboros, too, and as diseases related to metabolic syndrome surpass those from smoking, Coke is becoming a dinosaur, one that should not be replaced by aspartame-laced drinks (which have problems of their own, including, possibly, depression) but by water.
Judging from the absurd vernacular this weapons grade hector is employing, events in the Bittman household would prove to be a cast-iron reality TV winner, I'd say.

Having long since rejected the non-communicable disease threatening coffee or tea, Mark sips nothing but water - not bottled, obviously, cos of the threat of cancer and the devastating effect it will have on polar bears - while pacing agitatedly as his bins are an hour late to be collected.

"There is an ever-growing landfill ecological disaster happening right in front of my house!", he screams while tearing clumps out of his hair, "they'll be gassing penguins next!".
There is virtual consensus that drinking too much soda is bad for you ...
'Too much' being the operative descriptor, of course, not that it would ever interrupt Bittman's extremist rant.
Soda is a fructose delivery system as tobacco is a nicotine delivery system.
Well, that's the 'unique product' sound bite well and truly arseholed, isn't it ASH? Not to mention all assertions that a "domino theory" is fantasy from we who know a bunch of state-funded wolf-criers when we see them.
The beverage companies see the writing on the wall and will lobby, cajole, beg, plead, propagandize, lie, spend and do anything else they have to do to prevent that regulation, just as the tobacco companies did.
This guy would seem to be suggesting that everything visited on the tobacco industry should equally apply to ... a Coca-Cola? Yes, indeed, this is how ridiculous the public health lobby has now become.

All of a sudden, this image doesn't look so far-fetched, does it?

Incredibly, the alarmist has many supporters in the comments. The term "criminals" is used and one squeals "We need you, Mark!" as if he is a Messiah to the church of conspiracy health theorists everywhere. After all, if you're the type who wishes to spitefully poke your hooter into other people's business and dictate their food and drink consumption without being beaten black and blue, Bittman is truly sent from prodnose heaven.

There are others, though, with a more sane grasp on reality.
"Ok, fine, but what exactly do you want Coke (and Pepsi and every other bottler, and beer and wine distributor, and Starbucks and Dunkin' Donuts) to do? Put themselves out of business voluntarily?"
Sadly, this is exactly what every self-righteous curtain-twitcher in the world wants. And Bittman knows that he will never be out of pocket while businesses still stubbornly please the majority of the population by producing products the majority of the population want to buy.

It's a job for life, not about health, and a simple follow-the-money exercise. As usual.

Still, I hope he carries on ranting. If he didn't exist, we'd have to invent him in order to prove what we already know ... that there is no end to the anti-social lunacy of the modern public health cabal.

Thursday 24 January 2013

Piers Morgan And BBC Wise Monkeys

Piers has been describing investigative journalism in the Standard.
“To get to the truth when a lot of people in public bodies and political figures and so on are lying and obfuscating, deliberately hiding and misleading, sometimes journalists have to play dirty too; and to pretend otherwise I think is ridiculous,” he told PBS interviewer Charlie Rose.
But then, Piers didn't work in the BBC health team where it's perfectly acceptable to believe every misleading, lying or obfuscating 'story' and present it unquestioningly. Seeing and hearing no evil in the most biased of press releases is the name of the game for our state-funded broadcaster.

And even when they pretend to 'investigate', they fuck it up.

Internationally respected news service? Yeah, right.

Wednesday 23 January 2013

If You Read Just One Article This Year ...

Christian Kerr - a guy I've not heard of before but who boasts an impressive CV - has written an article for The Australian which perfectly articulates what is so badly wrong with today's trouser-stuffing global public health movement. I highly recommend it in its entirety, but here are a few snippets.
THE cigarette companies, public health activists believe, will slowly bleed to death thanks to tobacco plain packaging. Now they are going in search of other beasts to slay. [...] Alcohol -- and food -- are in their sights. And they are moving.
Ain't they just?
In May 2011 the Cancer Council released a position statement that warned "any level of alcohol consumption increases the risk of developing an alcohol-related cancer." Last March chief executive Ian Olver baldly stated "the risks from alcohol start from zero consumption upwards". Just days ago the council, Diabetes Australia and the Heart Foundation launched an advertising campaign pushing for a tax on soft drinks and advertising restrictions. 
"They're deliberately replicating the tobacco campaign," one source says.
Indeed. ASH and their worldwide counterparts can bleat their "tobacco is unique" sound bite as much as they like, but - like the majority of their pronouncements - they know very well that their weasel words are merely a tool to blind legislators to future dangerous unintended consequences.

ASH Scotland are particularly aware of how others are following their template ... because they are hiring themselves out to train other tax-funded harridans in the methods of doing just that.
"Their latest target is alcohol, with their secondary target obesity. They're trying to do so in a way to keep the alcohol industry out of the debate by trying to say anything that the alcohol industry touches is corrupt."
Exactly as the tobacco control industry has already done with article 5.3 of the FCTC.
The source is not a lobbyist for the liquor companies. Instead, this individual is a former senior Labor Party figure who helped develop some of the most influential anti-smoking and other public health campaigns Australia has seen.
It is rather encouraging to see that alarm bells may be starting to ring about these self-enriching, social vandals.
Why do the activists play this game? There is considerable public funding and academic prestige at stake. Small and often overlapping teams of researchers at the University of Sydney received well over $2 million for projects beginning between 2009 and last year looking at smoking, "What is influential public health research" and "Corporate influences on media reporting of health".
Which buys quite a few Koi cap, I should imagine.
"The Australian preventative health industry regards itself as the medical wing of the progressive left movement," one long-serving industry figure says.
This is certainly not news to anyone following public health advocates on Twitter, where their 140 characters regularly resemble the rantings of a student twerp, constrained by finance to eat lentil casserole for months on end while jealously coveting the comfort of those who have made good by hard work, enterprise and - most disgustingly to their inner snob - a product which is incredibly popular.

George Monbiot is regarded almost as a demi-God; Obama's every word brings on an unstimulated orgasm; Thatcher is a swear word; and a public health employee admitting to believing in a free market would be akin to declaring an interest in dogging with necrophiliacs of a weekend.
"The more radical loathe what they regard as unchecked markets and neo-liberalism. They take a hard line on trade agreements. And they white-ant the careers of anyone in health research who does not take the same hardcore line."
See Siegel, Enstrom, Kabat, Goerlitz etc etc etc.
The industry figure says the activists' ideological starting position is a belief that individuals are helpless in the face of corporations and so individuals' decision-making must be disregarded.
You are but weak and unthinking piss-ants to be controlled and farmed for your taxes. Freedom of choice? Pah!
The source also says the activists have far too much influence on governments. "They occasionally try to persuade government and the World Health Organisation to exclude all industry involvement from government discussions. DOHA has to talk to the preventative health advocates and the industries separately on different days because of the hostility. 
"Preventative health industry thinking is that because some people make very poor decisions, all of us must be restricted because we just can't be trusted to make the 'correct' decisions."
Precisely the thinking behind the ultra-regressive and utterly pointless - unless you have an anti-big business agenda - minimum alcohol pricing.
The public health lobby reject the charge. Sydney University's Simon Chapman, a semiotician and one of the country's most prominent tobacco control advocates, has jokingly dismissed the idea of "some kind of intricately connected Masonic plot" orchestrated by the public health lobby.
Of course he has. Because such a preposterous idea would require global conferences designed to compare notes where any observer not of the hive public health mind is booted out, and where police and journalists are also excluded lest they expose the cult's dirty secrets. As if that could ever happen.

Kerr has so accurately described the public health industry that it's not difficult to understand why he is in such demand from media outlets worldwide. He further goes on to explain something that politicians the world over are either too cowardly, or too stupid, to understand.

That the policies advanced by bansturbators, prohibitionists, smoke-haters, temperance nuts and out-of-the-closet fatty-bashing bullies are - despite the incessant state-funded propaganda - not popular and firmly in the minority interest.
Monitoring of calls to talkback radio, letters to the editor and comments on news websites shows ordinary people reacted overwhelmingly against the taskforce's recommendations. Seventy-seven per cent of recorded comments were negative. Further quantitative research found 60 per cent of Australians regarded the report's recommendations as attacks on their lifestyles, civil liberties and the way they operated businesses, while 57 per cent were concerned about its implications for social engineering. 
Fifty-four per cent of respondents said there were problems with obesity, smoking and alcohol, but added "this report is not about targeting them". Instead, more than half were concerned that the report was a political document "intent on overturning much of the way we choose to live".
Which, funnily enough, is precisely the agenda being driven. Populations throughout the western world are starting to work out that, blow me down, it's never been about health after all.

Do go read the entire article, and please share it widely if you're feeling saucy.

H/T Offsetting Behaviour

Tuesday 22 January 2013

Drafting An Alcohol Strategy Consultation Response

Last year, I posted a guide to questions contained in the plain packaging consultation along with some suggested responses.

This was partly because some fellow jewel thieves had mentioned that they found such procedures daunting or unfamiliar, but also due to others sharing their submitted responses with me prior to my writing it. The article encouraged more to send their personal efforts my way, all of which were very welcome and now reside in a folder set up specifically for the purpose on the Puddlecote Towers IT system.

So let's repeat the process, shall we, with the Home Office's alcohol strategy consultation which contains the daft proposal to install a minimum unit price for alcohol. I do hope you can set aside some time to respond - if you don't try, they will just do it anyway as you will note from the way the questions are posed. You have until Wednesday 6th of February to do so if you choose.

You can access it at this page, where you should scroll to the link for the online form unless you'd prefer to fire off a stiffly-worded e-mail to or make them open a letter addressed thus:

Home Office
Direct Communications Unit
2 Marsham Street

Now, it's important to point out some stark differences between this consultation and the plain packs one. Firstly, this is far more wide-ranging than the single issue plain packaging effort. You may wish to respond to the whole thing, or just select the issues of minimum pricing and the equally silly proposed ban on multi-buy discounts. You are able to pick and choose the elements you wish to comment on - small mercies, and all that - but for this guide we'll just run through the questions for minimum pricing and multi-buy promotions (there are actually some decent suggestions for reducing licensing red tape in later sections)

Secondly, it's not being handled by the Department of Health, which you'd assume would be the case. Instead, the Home Office has bagged the gig for reasons which become obvious when the slippery nature of government is taken into account.

You see, the Scottish parliament has already been rapped on the knuckles by the EU for pursuing the absurd idea of minimum alcohol pricing as a health issue, and is currently being challenged in court by the Scotch Whisky Association. It's pretty clear that if minimum pricing for tobacco can be rejected as illegal, then the same for alcohol has no chance whatso-pigging-ever on health grounds.

Hence the decision that the Home Office are to lead on it based on the dodgy premise that it will deter or prevent public order offences. Yes, that's right, the government is trying to say that increasing the price of supermarket brand cheap fizz will stop late-night brawls outside town centre pubs serving a bottle of Bud for £4 and shots for £3 a pop.

The shift from the DoH to the Home Office also proves that minimum alcohol pricing is a policy which the coalition is deadly determined to drive through on the say-so of, err, Cameron and Cameron alone (actually, he will no doubt enjoy some backing from Sarah "one trick pony" Wollaston and her made-up stats).

The questions, and available answers, in the consultation only emphasise that further. All of which makes it even more important that you stick your oar into their puritan outboard motor if you can possibly do so.

So here is a plan on how I intend to respond before the closing date of 6th February, two short weeks away.
The impact of minimum unit pricing will depend on the price per unit of alcohol. The government wants to ensure that the chosen price level is targeted and proportionate, whilst achieving a significant reduction of harm. The government is therefore consulting on the introduction of a recommended minimum unit price of 45p. 
The government estimates a reduction in consumption across all product types of 3.3 per cent, a reduction in crime of 5,240 per year, a reduction in 24,600 alcohol-related hospital admissions and 714 fewer deaths per year after ten years. 
Do you agree that this minimum unit price level would achieve these aims? 
Don't know
Well, that's a slam dunk no, isn't it?

The question contains the answer in quoting figures advanced by the appalling 'evidence' from Sheffield University. Their 'research' is deliberately flawed and is advanced by a team who are so lax that they didn't bother checking their figures before the BBC's Panorama was forced to apologise for their shortcomings.

There is a text box beneath that question ... you might want to remind the Home Office that their source is quite pathetic and funded to come to a pre-determined conclusion.
Should other factors or evidence be considered when setting a minimum unit price for alcohol? 
Please select one option. 
Don't know
Note the absence of an option saying that minimum pricing should be rejected entirely? I suggest answering no and using the explanation box to say that it shouldn't be considered at all. As evidence, just reiterate that Sheffield's analysis is bollocks (but in finer vernacular, perhaps).

Hey, it gets worse, believe me! Question 3.
The government wishes to maintain the effectiveness of minimum unit pricing and is therefore proposing to adjust the minimum unit price level over time. 
How do you think the level of minimum unit price set by the government should be adjusted over time? 
Please select one option. 
 Do nothing - the minimum unit price should not be adjusted 
The minimum unit price should automatically be updated in line with inflation each year 
The minimum unit price should be reviewed after a set period Don't know
"Select one option"? None apply, since they all accept that minimum pricing is a given. There is no box allowing the option to object to the policy.

It is now becoming clear that this is designed exclusively to invite miserable scaremongery from state-funded finger-waggers.

I suggest selecting "don't know" and using the text box to explain that the proposal shouldn't even be on the table, let alone ramped up every time the Chancellor stands up to deliver his bloody budget (alcohol free these days, you may have noticed). 

The aim of minimum unit pricing is to reduce the consumption of harmful and hazardous drinkers, while minimising the impact on responsible drinkers. 
Do you think that there are any other people, organisations or groups that could be particularly affected by a minimum unit price for alcohol? 
Please select one option. 
Don't know
Well, of course yes.

It is a policy deliberately designed to punish the poor, from a Prime Minister who is pretty confident that none of his millionaire mates will ever have to fork out an extra penny. It is deeply regressive - the Institute of Fiscal Studies has estimated that it will remove £700million from the pockets of the less well off and deliver it straight into bank accounts of already wealthy corporations - and the policy should have no place in a society claiming to be fair, which is supposed to be a buzzword with modern political rank and file.

Now for multi-buy promotions.
Do you think there should be a ban on multi-buy promotions involving alcohol in the off-trade? 
Please select one option. 
Don't know
Err, emphatically no. Why? Because it has been widely reported to have failed dramatically in Scotland, in fact it may may have even increased sales, and its unintended consequences have led to prohibitionists to call for even more intrusions on the law-abiding, non-problem drinker.
Should other factors or evidence be taken into account when considering a ban on multi-buy promotions? 
Please select one option. 
Don't know
Apart from it not working, d'you mean? Well, how about 650 in parliament having a fucking cheek placing themselves between businesses who want to sell legal products at market rates and around 44 million potential customers who are quite happy to buy (or not) at those rates?
The aim of a ban on multi-buy promotions is to stop promotions that encourage people to buy more than they otherwise would, helping people to be aware of how much they drink, and to tackle irresponsible alcohol sales. 
Do you think that there are any other groups that could be particularly affected by a ban on multi-buy promotions? 
Please select one option. 
Don't know
Difficult one, this. It is tempting to say no, but yes is the answer.

We are constantly told that 'pocket money prices' are a problem with alcohol sales, yet banning multi-buy promotions - as proven in Scotland - will merely bring the cost of single units down. And how is this supposed to help people "be aware of how much they drink"? If they buy slabs of Carling, they will continue to do so. If they buy single units, they'll carry on doing that too, but for less money. Politicians are so wrapped up in their own procedures and self-importance that it seems they never really think anything through before wasting our taxes on twaddle.

That is about it for minimum pricing and multi-buys, though the rest is quite funny too, in places, if you intend to respond further than the above.

I found it particularly amusing, for example, that Westminster is wasting its time suggesting mandatory licence conditions such as providing "free water on request to customers" and banning "dispensing alcohol by one person directly into the mouth of another". It's hard to decide if they belong in the script of an inept minister in The Thick Of It or a Monty Python satire.

And as for putting public health in charge of deciding new licence applications (yes, that's there too), they may as well ask vegans how many butchers are allowed on the High Street.

Do go have a look around and have your say. You don't have to give your name and you may qualify for a community action reward ... or a slim chance of not being treated forever like a child by dull-minded, shitstick politicians, anyway. 

Monday 21 January 2013

When Is A Straight Line Not A Straight Line?

I don't know where the usual half-wits who put their name to BBC website smoking articles have disappeared to, they seem to have been rather quiet of late. As such, today's breathless paraphrasing of a classic case of tobacco control industry 'science by press release' was left to Adam Brimelow to present.
There was a sharp fall in the number of children admitted to hospital with severe asthma after smoke-free legislation was introduced in England, say researchers. 
A study showed a 12% drop in the first year after the law to stop smoking in enclosed public places came into force.
Well, actually, it didn't but I'll come to that later.

In the meantime, let's revisit tobacco control's idea of what is significant and what is not; along with what is solely due to the smoking ban, and what has absolutely nothing to do with it.

You see, Anna 'pay me and I'll say what you want' Gilmore produced a study in 2010 which proved {cough} beyond any doubt that there had been a statistically significant reduction in heart attacks which was entirely due to the triumph of the smoking ban. Here's what it looked like.

Dramatic, isn't it?

Whereas, this is what fellow career anti-smoker, Linda Bauld, described as statistically insignificant after being paid £47,000 by the government to do so.

UK Pub Closures 2004-2009

Pub closures, you see, had nothing to do with the ban whatsoever. In fact, they haven't even been closing at all according to ASH.
However, the pro-tobacco lobby’s claims that the smoking ban has led to pub closures are unfounded. In 2007, the year England went smokefree, the number of licensed premises for “on sales” of alcohol actually increased by 5% and there has been a net increase in the number of people reporting going to pubs since the smokefree law came into effect.
That's correct. The media; the government who are holding crisis debates on the demise of pubs; the public who see them boarded up on a daily basis; and the BBPA who track the numbers, are all deluded. It's just a dream.

So back to today's big news.

Here is what that dramatic reduction in "children admitted with severe asthma" looks like (from the report, not the press release Brimelow churned out). For your safety, please hold onto a fixture or fitting in case this knocks you sideways.

A bit disappointed? Hey, don't blame me, I just pass on this stuff.

You see, contrary to Brimelow's artless reportage, there wasn't a drop at all. There was merely a slight deviation from what some highly-partial professional tobacco controller had predicted (and even that doesn't show a significant reduction). And who was this tobacco controller?
Dr Glantz supervised the statistical analysis, interpreted the findings, reviewed and revised the manuscript, and approved the final manuscript as submitted.
Yes, it's the smoke-obsessed aircraft mechanic Stanton Glantz, arguably the foremost anti-smoking crank on the planet and a man for whom no data is too challenging to torture; no lie too big to tell; and who has never been known to produce anything in the last four decades which could remotely be described as objective science.

His latest wheeze, for example, is to ignore entirely all real life claims as to the effectiveness of e-cigs. Not because they weren't valid, but simply on the basis that they don't fit in with his pre-determined agenda on behalf of the pharma industry.

And Brimelow bought it, probably without even a cursory glance at the report or a Google search on its authors. That's Adam Brimelow of the internationally respected news service known as the BBC.


Sunday 20 January 2013

Reasons Not To Trust Wikipedia #254

It's one of the first world's rules of life that Wikipedia should be avoided for anything but the most general of information. Those who advise as such - including, admirably, the little Ps' teachers - are certainly not wrong, it seems.

Courtesy of a fellow jewel robber via e-mail, the talk section of Wikipedia's plain cigarette packaging page shows signs of it being distinctly one-sided.
I have added new information to this page, on the evidence and arguments for and against plain packaging, and a link to a Cancer Research UK campaign site that contains more information. A disclosure - I work for Cancer Research UK, who are actively lobbying for plain packaging. However, I hope the information I have added to this page will be seen as an attempt to enhance its usefulness, and I welcome constructive criticism about how this can be improved. I don't want to get into a fight over this! :) HenryScow (talk) 12:51, 2 May 2012 (UTC)
Hmm, that would surely be kicked out on Wikipedia's principle of neutrality, wouldn't it? Apparently not, no.
Thanks for improving the article, Henry: it's definitely relevant to have info about anti- and pro- plain packaging campaigns in the UK, including that of a major national charity such as CRUK.
So Henry had another go in July, just after the consultation - which his employer was deeply involved in, and beginning to realise was foundering somewhat - was extended.
I have replaced the text that stated:
Because it hasn't been implemented anywhere yet, all the evidence available to date is anecdotal and based on statements of intentions or surveys.
With a paragraph stating:
Direct, concrete evidence of plain packaging’s effectiveness is unavailable as it has not yet been rolled out in any country. However evidence from quantitative studies, qualitative research and the internal documents of the tobacco industry consistently identify packaging as an important part of tobacco promotion.
Well, if it really is that easy to publish political campaigning literature on a site which prides itself on impartiality, perhaps those evil tobacco companies and their all-pervasive buckets of cash might have done so earlier, eh? After all, the moderator has specifically stated that info on anti-plain packaging arguments would be equally welcomed.

It's not like there isn't a huge amount of evidence showing that the pro-plain packs campaign - including Cancer Research UK - is corrupt, fuelled by state funds, and peddling biased untruths, is it?

Anyone good with Wikipedia?

Saturday 19 January 2013

The Bells! The Bells!

A gentle breeze; the smell of mown grass; the sound of kids playing at a neighbouring barbecue; the low hum of a distant aeroplane drawing lines in a clear blue sky; and the merry chimes of the ice cream van. Sensory summer delights we can all treasure, eh?

Well, maybe not if you're a whinging Aussie (oh, the irony).
THEY are a summer staple but the humble soft-serve ice cream van has become a noisy nuisance for some. 
The Courier has received several letters from annoyed residents in both cities complaining about the “irritating” music played by the traditional mobile vendors as they trawl through suburban streets. 
According to one reader from Safety Bay, the offending tune was Greensleeves
You're starting to scare me now, Australia.

But then, perhaps we should cut them a bit of slack here, considering the environment your average topsy-turvy convict spawn is condemned to live with. The BBC revealed yet more this week (as discussed by Taking Liberties since my originally drafting this).
Sports grounds also offer a vantage point from which to view the country's surprisingly officious and authoritarian streak. At cricket matches, beach balls that transgress onto the playing area are confiscated and punctured. Fans who start Mexican waves face eviction. Those queuing up for beer have to remove their sunglasses to prove they are not half-cut. 
In the face of this authoritarianism, the supposedly anti-authoritarian Australians are a bunch of effete pussies unexpectedly meek and acquiescent. Consider compulsory voting. Recently, when the Queensland government mooted the idea of ending this almost century old tradition, there was something of an outcry. Mandatory voting has widespread support.
I think the psychological term is "institutionalised".

H/T Aussie jewel thief, CT, via e-mail

Link Tank 19/01

Seeing as you're snowed in ...

"Undoubtedly, the case for OfSmoke has already gone up in smoke"

Andy Burnham, the Brazilian cock-fish

"Of course, today, simply "taking offence" isn't enough"

Officials and charities using children as a 'moral shield'

In America, unenforced gross images get you four years

Glow in the dark highways and motion sensor street lights - genius from Holland

Chicago forgets the 1930s, aims to prohibit energy drinks

Cheers! Proper scientists work on making beer stronger

Dead parrot sketch, the sequel - secondhand teflon fumes in the dock

Solar-powered salamanders

And for something different, a highly recommended 28 minute Radio 4 documentary entitled "Where did all the comrades go?". Listen out especially for the ex-communist who describes how 1979 saw a new generation of working class people who despised interference by the state (at around 13:20). What happened since then is a mystery.

Friday 18 January 2013

This Might Help, So Let's Block It

Snowdon reported on Wednesday that e-cig retailer Nicolites have had their TV ad pulled for naïvely claiming them to be 100% safe. It will no doubt be temporary, and they'll be on your screens once the offending copy is amended.

They'd best get a wiggle on, though, because The Times yesterday revealed that one of their competitors has been given the green light.
E-Lites, which makes e-cigarettes containing nicotine, will launch an advertising campaign on Saturday on ITV, Sky and Channel 5, featuring the BBC’s Waterloo Road actor Mark Benton.
I've commented before that e-cigs have gone from cottage industry to big business in a remarkably short space of time, and it's delicious to see two suppliers fighting to be the first to achieve widespread TV recognition.

Standing in their way, though - apart from the clowns who produced the EU TPD - are archaic rules on advertising which don't take such ground-breaking products into account, along with the mindless state intransigence which is behind them.
Adrian Everett, the chief executive of the Bromsgrove-based company, said it had taken 14 months to clear the 30-second advert with Clearcast, the body that vets TV advertising before broadcast. E-Lites was forced to drop any footage of the product itself or promote the “intrinsic benefit of switching” from tobacco to ecigarettes. 
The Advertising Standards Authority has the power to ban adverts, but believes that the rules are sufficiently tight to “severely restrict” e-cigarette advertising on television.
It begs a simple one word question. Why?

Why, when government is spending £2.7m trying to force smokers to quit, is Clearcast delaying these ads for 14 months? Why, when anecdotal evidence strongly suggests that e-cigs are encouraging smokers to quit in far larger numbers than the 'mutations' campaign could ever dream of swaying? Why, when the E-Lites campaign costs the taxpayer nothing?

Why are they not allowed to advertise the incontrovertible fact that e-cigs are infinitely safer than tobacco? Why is footage of the product not allowed when it isn't tobacco and therefore not covered by the ban on tobacco advertising? Why would the state - which is aggressively determined to stamp out smoking, apparently - be happy that the ASA is acting to "severely restrict" something which has huge potential to do exactly that?


Why is the state making e-cigs jump through such preposterous hoops to help people quit, eh? A cynic might think there was some conspiracy to close the nicotine market to anything but pharmaceutical products.

It's either that, or politicians - and the creaking bureaucratic institutions their inadequacy creates - are dangerously inept and woefully incapable of embracing common sense.

The one certainty is that, yet again, the very last consideration in any of their minds is health.

H/T RooBeeDoo via e-mail

Thursday 17 January 2013

Dick Out And About: Pots And Kettles At The IBT

Dick has gone 'international' after being invited to key the odd column for the IBT, the first of which has been featured on their front page today.

To read about Alchol Focus Scotland's Evelyn Gillan and her twisted understanding of democracy, click here or on the screen-capped image below.

Wednesday 16 January 2013

If Cuts Look Like Biting, Break Out The Swag Bag

I see that the UK tobacco control industry is proposing yet another method of stealing other people's money to fund their non-jobs.
The UK government could raise at least £500m a year by capping the amount of profit tobacco companies can make from cigarettes, academics have said. 
They are calling for state regulation similar to that used to limit the price of water.
The difference being, of course, that the water industry was built up using taxpayer funds and then transferred to private industry on the proviso that excessive profits weren't applied. After all, water is - unlike tobacco, as anti-smokers continually parrot - an essential resource. Tobacco companies have evolved using private money and their products are a choice not a necessity.

The two products could not possibly be more different. It's like comparing apples not even with oranges, but  with monster trucks.
Dr Robert Branston, from the University of Bath, said the tobacco industry was "incredibly profitable", with some companies making 67p in profit out of every £1 received after tobacco duties. He described that as an "incredible sum".
It is a sum decided by willingness to pay, one of the basic principles of economic theory which has been understood for, ooh, about 500 years give or take. It's also a principle which those on the left - with which the public health profession is overwhelmingly populated - have always despised. Mostly because the benefits their particular professions often offer tend to attract a willingness to pay level of fuck all.

This is why communist theorists, and governments which have followed their ideology, have often sought to control prices. However, they have usually done so more out of crassly misguided care for the poor, for example, rather than self-interest. Combined with incomes policy which enforces a state-sanctioned wage, they believed this would make the lot of the proud worker more affordable.

This certainly isn't the case with the BBC reported proposal.
"The results suggest that price caps could give the UK government scope to raise tobacco taxes by approximately £500m annually without affecting the price the consumer pays," they wrote. 
The report said this was the equivalent of funding anti-tobacco smuggling measures across the UK and smoking cessation services in England twice over.
And boom! There it is. It is nothing more than a veiled plea for more cash. Not for the poor or the oppressed, or the starving in Africa - but for the tobacco control industry.

They've looked through a window into the big tobacco's analogous home, seen the iPad and family silver, and think it would all look good in their new state-funded loft conversion. So they have put a call in to their mate big Dave, and his henchmen with their Everest window-busting crowbar, to come help them burgle it.

Just for added laughs, do note the way they are so considerate in thinking about the consumer. They don't want us to pay any more than we already do with this policy, apparently. Oh no, 'cause they're caring guys and girls, so they are. Perhaps they have forgotten their perennial calls for crippling increases in duty over and above inflation, which are specifically designed to bankrupt poor smokers into quitting whatever the real life consequences.

To end on a lighter note or two, it's interesting that one of the lead authors of this pre-crime casing of the tobacco industry's joint wasn't mentioned. You see, it's also the work of one of the biggest troughers in the tobacco control firmament, Anna Gilmore, whose name has cropped up here many many times before. She who is always on the look out for another way of boosting her income by producing studies to order, and someone about whom I was proud to have been quoted by tobacco tactics as being willing to "say anything for a grant".

She doesn't change her spots, does she?

The woman is so transparently compromised as a serious and objective commentator on tobacco matters that it was probably wise that BBC-published quotes were attributed to this Branston guy instead, eh?

What's more, this isn't even new. It's just a rehash of the same cash grab claptrap from 2010, which I have written about before after the daft political Welshies bought it as a credible policy rather than daylight robbery for self-enrichment.

Perhaps this austerity thing has them worried. This always seems to happen with tax-spongers, doesn't it? Faced with possible benefit cuts the most unscrupulous see no shame whatsoever in resorting to theft.

Tuesday 15 January 2013

The EU And Its Imaginary Tobacco Friend

As if to illustrate the incredibly blinkered 'thinking' from those pathologically opposed to tobacco, this amusing article turned up at the New Europe website over the weekend.
Europe caves in to Big Tobacco
It may surprise you to find out that he is talking about the recent EU Tobacco Products Directive, which has been roundly accepted to have ignored all sane voices throughout the continent. Most especially, those of tobacco companies.
Based on the information I‘ve been able to gather, it appears that the Commission has capitulated to cigarette firms.
Yep, it has 'capitulated' by banning menthol cigarettes entirely, standardising the size and shape of packets and enforcing 75% of their surface area to be devoted to gruesome packaging. That's one helluva victory for the tobacco industry, eh?

Do you get the feeling that he - former writer for big business hating Guardian - might be less than detached and impartial here?
The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) - a corporate-funded group that once boasted Donald Rumsfeld as chairman of its policy board - made a bizarre plea to Karel de Gucht, the EU‘s trade commissioner, in late 2010. [...] ALEC dismissed all suggestions that putting cigarettes in unattractive wrappers dominated by images of disease could be beneficial for public health.
Hmm, sounds reminiscent of former Labour Minister of Health Gillian Merron's thoughts on the matter in Hansard the year before.
No studies have been undertaken to show that plain packaging of tobacco would cut smoking uptake among young people or enable those who want to quit to do so. Given the impact that plain packaging would have on intellectual property rights, we would undoubtedly need strong and convincing evidence of the benefits to health, as well as its workability, before this could be promoted and accepted at an international level.
Perhaps she was paid off by industry as well, despite government policy - especially that of Labour, let alone one of their loudest tobacco haters - being not to, err, talk to them at all.
Not surprisingly, ALEC didn‘t cite any actual data to support its inference that robust public health laws encourage perverse fetishes.
Rather like the plain packs campaign has managed to come up with no data either, except the corrupt type they pulled out of their self-interested, state-funded arses.
The Commission’s trade department has been broadly helpful to tobacco lobbyists. Rather than rowing behind Australia’s efforts, de Gucht and his team made enquiries in 2011 about whether or not plain packaging would constitute a “technical barrier to trade”.
That would probably have something to do with it being his job to do so. The clue is in the description of the department as trade - of which tobacco is a legal part, and a significant employer within the EU - and not health. It would also be something of a fascist dictatorship if such questions weren't asked between departments in an organisation which still claims to be loosely democratic. Would it not?
We should not delude ourselves into thinking that the EU is at war with the tobacco industry. Sadly, it isn‘t.
Of course it isn't. It completely ignored the vast majority of public consultation responses; in fact going so far as to airbrush out 82,000 which didn't agree with their anti-tobacco bullying; before pushing through the directive despite its author being sacked and still being under investigation for corruption.

Yes. Sure. It couldn't be more clear that the EU is tobacco's biggest pal.


Getting Busy With The Fizzy

I don't remember a cacophony of outrage over flavoured pop in the 1990s, do you?
Industry tracker Beverage Digest has reported that consumption of fizzy drinks in the US has been declining steadily since 1998.
Yet, it's only now - after 14 unbroken years of reducing consumption - that Coca-Cola feel the need to air defensive adverts about their products and obesity.

Sounds very much like the consequence of a thoroughly modern, professionally-constructed moral panic, does it not?

As Popular As Measles

You may remember the story about minimum alcohol pricing being extended as a policy to two pubs in Newcastle, as reported here last month.

Well, there's a major fan of punishing the on-trade up there in the north east.
Mr Shevills said: “We welcome the council’s initiative to grant licenses on the condition alcohol is sold at a minimum price to control disorder and improve health. 
“We also look to the Government to set realistic, effective changes."
This is Colin Shevills, who really hates alcohol ... but used to really hate tobacco. Probably still does.
Colin Shevills

A former communications consultant, he has extensive experience working in the field of public health. He previously helped to develop the brand for Fresh, Smoke Free North East and was instrumental in the successful launch of the office.
 Nevertheless, he is a bit of a local hero ... in his own mind.
“We continue to have a great response from the public and our partners since launching our campaign around Government’s consultation on alcohol – in particular our call for a minimum unit on alcohol set no lower than 50p."
There's a response from the north eastern public, all right, though the comments suggest it might be differently described than "great".
Havyasay: Hear we go again.... Mr. so called do gooder, justifying his none job with his face in the paper once more. who pays his wages? probably the tax payer again yeh! 
absent geordie: Lawyers are rubbing their hands and salivating. This whinger will not be paying the lawyers fees of course. 
Banished: Is that whingeing waste of space still getting publicity?
Right up there with pop stars in the adoration stakes, so he is.

Monday 14 January 2013

Guilty Before Proven Innocent In Ireland

Simon Clark reports on the 'next logical step' (© every professional prohibitionist organisation, everywhere) on the never-ending path of smoker bullying. This month, it is banning smoking in cars.

But this part should be worrying to anyone who is interested in personal liberties and the proper application of judicial process.
A stumbling block for the planned legislation was the issue of how gardaí would enforce it, matters around proof of age for children as well as the rights of a driver. 
Existing legislation will allow gardaí to judge if a child is underage without the need for identification. Enforcers will also be able to rely solely on their recall of visually seeing a cigarette lit in the car if called on to give evidence in court.
This, of course, relates to the fact that Irish police will have one hell of a job deciding whether an individual is below the age set by the legislation, which would make the law tricky - and therefore costly - to enforce.

Ireland's answer is to say that police don't need to bother finding out before levying a €3,000 penalty. Just fine the bastards anyway. 'Visually' appears to means that it's not even required to leave the comfy armchair in front of a CCTV monitor.

If it gets to court, just say that it was believed they were underage and it's sorted. The accused will be guilty and have to prove their innocence. No recourse for damages or costs if the copper is an eejit - because he was only doing his job, so he was.

They've obviously learned a lesson from the equally stupid EU-led legislation on £500 car seat fines which was a laughable disaster back in 2006.
Three police forces in England are choosing not to issue fines to drivers who break new laws on child car seats. 
The rules, which came in last September, state children aged under 13 and less than 4ft 5in (1.35m) tall must use booster seats. 
But forces in North and South Yorkshire and Greater Manchester said they would not be fining offenders.
A spokesman for North Yorkshire Police said no fixed penalty tickets had been issued since the legislation's introduction, partly because it was impractical to gauge youngsters' height at the roadside.
He said: "We don't have the powers to measure children and request dates of birth. It was particularly aimed at minors, and that was the sticking point." 
And that was about the last we heard of that. This will, of course, not do when it comes to smokers. They must be punished however preposterous the rule may be.

There is also no reason to even prove the person has actually been, you know, smoking. Which means Ireland is going to see quite a lot of cases such as this one now e-cigs are increasingly popular.
He claims a council enforcement officer mistook the fake cigarette for a real one when she spotted Mr Minihan during his rest-break at a picnic area. 
Mr Minihan, 52, was initially issued with fixed penalty notices for £125 but elected to go to court and try to persuade magistrates he was 'smoking' his £38 Gamucci microelectronic cigarette.
And the court said?
Brian Howells, chairman of the bench, said his story was "consistent" but described the enforcement officer as a credible witness and found in favour of the council.
Of course he did.

No proof; no 'beyond reasonable doubt'; nothing. Just the say-so of the state-appointed official. Now Ireland has officially proposed a €3,000 fine under the same terms but without even the need to ensure that a law has been broken. So, in Ireland soon, gardaí will not only not have to prove that a passenger is under the age stated within the law but also won't have to prove that any tobacco was involved.

There is so much about Ireland's proposed law which is terrifying, or should be to a rational mind. Firstly, the entire premise is based on a flawed and hysterical theory which relies on religious adherence to one of the biggest lies ever told. But now this has fostered a bastard child in the form of an abandonment of any kind of rigorous legal process. Finally, egregious abuse of policing and judicial principles we have held dear for hundreds of years - hard evidence and innocence before guilt - is being actively encouraged in order for the state to ban legal products in private property!

After this, future possibilities are endless since we know how politicians like to employ a precedent, don't we?.

I don't care whether you are a libertarian, are indifferent to tobacco policies, or are rabidly anti-smoking - Ireland's law, as it stands, should scare the bejaybus out of you.

So, if you're Irish, refuse a lift to any midgets or short teens you know, and don't breathe out before your car heater has taken the chill out of the air - just to be absolutely safe (well, unless there's a copper who simply has it in for you).

Oh yeah, and don't believe the state will leave you to quiet possession of your home either. That's now merely a work in progress.

Sunday 13 January 2013

The Global War On ALL 'Unhealthy' Packaging

In October, I wrote about a move by the Icelandic government to ban certain types of alcohol packaging, and how a UK civil service mouthpiece was despatched in an effort to persuade a European court to back them.
The upshot is that, not only was the Cabinet Office agent (I like that terminology, seeing as no-one but a select few would have known he was going there) objecting to the slapping down of laws against pretty packaging, he was also making damn sure that the option of no packaging at all was still allowable to a government very near to you.
It did kinda explain a little more about why plain packaging of alcohol was being considered by Westminster last spring.

A new in-depth paper has now been published discussing the court proceedings between Iceland's state monopoly alcohol retailer and the manufacturers concerned. The conclusion makes for interesting, if sinister, reading (emphases mine).
In the aftermath of the 2011 UN Political Declaration on Non-Communicable Diseases, governments across the world are increasingly focusing their regulatory efforts on lifestyle risk factors, such as tobacco consumption, harmful use of alcohol, unhealthy diet and lack of physical activity. Being that these socially-accepted behaviours have traditionally been left to individual autonomy, policymakers face the difficulty of formulating socially-acceptable, legally-viable and economically-effective policies aimed at reducing the consumption of some of the relevant products. Given the prominent role played by the appearance, imagery and general packaging of products, policymakers seem determined to reduce the ability of manufacturers to market their products as they wish. In particular, as regulators have become suddenly aware of the power of marketing to induce consumer choices, they seem ready to offset those marketing techniques (that have been in use since the 1960s) that are increasingly used to market products that are perceived as unhealthy. As a result, besides the most extreme form (generally called plain packaging), other less intrusive forms of standardized packaging are emerging. Besides the wellknown example of the visual display bans at point of sale (whose EEA-legal compliance has already been judged by the EFTA Court in the pioneering Philip Morris judgment), there are – as illustrated by the present case – other attempts aimed at depriving certain products of their most glamorous and appealing packaging components
While regulations aimed at prohibiting misleading packaging practices existed for decades in order to limit (economic) fraud, the focus of the regulatory interventions on packaging practices is now shifting to another policy goal: that of limiting the consumption of those products that – due to their constituents and effects – are increasingly perceived as unhealthy. 
By banning or limiting the visual imagery of the packaging of alcoholic beverages and making their contents more salient through mandatory labelling, the Icelandic regulations discussed in the present case seem in line with this logic. Interestingly enough, this phenomenon – as demonstrated by this judgment – is not limited to the area of tobacco, but extends to alcohol and unhealthy products as well.
In other words, governments worldwide have now decided that 'personal autonomy' - otherwise known as freedom to choose for oneself - is no longer acceptable for consumption of legal products such as tobacco, alcohol, or unhealthy food. There is little distinction going on here, they are all gateways to ill-health according to these people. Nanny knows best and will legislate them out of existence, by destroying their packaging with enforced warnings - graphic or otherwise - and the outlawing of branding if necessary.

So, when big tobacco control says, as it has done consistently, that ...
Myth #7: It may be tobacco today but other consumer products will follow
FACT: Tobacco is not like any other product, it is the only legal consumer product on the market which is lethal when used as intended. That is why the UK and over 170 other governments have signed up to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control which places legal obligations on governments to strictly regulate tobacco products. Plain packs for tobacco will not therefore set a precedent for other consumer products.
... they are well aware that they are lying.

A co-ordinated and concerted effort is already underway to interfere with the packaging of every product which it has been decided is unhealthy, and it is backed by every country which has signed up to the supranational UN Political Declaration on Non-Communicable Diseases. And tobacco controllers, being one of the key proponents, were there at the time and jubilant when it was signed. 

Those who have been cheer-leading for plain packaging of tobacco should be aware that they have no right to kick up a fuss when garish state warnings and/or plain packaging are inevitably extended to their bottle of Pinot Grigio, their occasional fast food treat, or even their kids' Freddo the frog.

There is no myth here. It's no longer if it will happen to other products, but when.