Thursday 31 July 2014

Jobs For The Boys

Much like we've seen with the plain packaging campaign in the past couple of years, it would appear that wherever we see corruption, the Department of Health is often close at hand.

I've been reading with astonishment the obfuscation, dubious process and utter disregard for truth which has accompanied Forest's complaint to the ASA about the government's mendacious "mutations" anti-smoking adverts. The full story is at Simon Clark's blog (here and here) and Liberal Vision so do go have a read of the background. Be prepared to pick your jaw up off the floor, mind.

As Brian Monteith astutely notes, "Why do governments lie? Because they can!". And they wonder why we all despise politicians and the civil service which does their dirty work, eh?

We're well beyond the looking glass here and into fantasy democracy and pretend accountability. Debate about whether it is even the government's business to produce scaremongery to bully the public into quitting smoking has been sidelined while we all battle to challenge the state's right to lie, for Chrissakes! Unsuccessfully in this case, it would appear. You see, the ASA Council has sent a brazen message that lying with the taxpayer's cash is, indeed, perfectly acceptable in the 21st century.

As an illustration of how state institutions hold the public in utter contempt, there couldn't be a more stark example. Consider this from the timeline produced by Forest:
3 February 2014 – Letter from ASA to Forest
To update you on the progress of our investigation, we met with the Department of Health on 24 January. The minutes from that meeting will not be made available ...
Err, why not? And why was the Department of Health afforded a meeting in camera when I'm pretty sure anyone not paid by the state would have been kept at arms length for the purposes of impartiality? It couldn't be that they wanted to get their public sector stories straight, could it?

And it all took over 18 months, by which time how many people will have seen this junk science - based on a cherry-picked uncontrolled study of one, yes one, person - and believed it?

Consider too, the members of the ASA Council unearthed by Angela Harbutt:
Ray Gallagher: Government adviser.
Martin Narey: Government adviser.
John Mayhead: Government adviser.
Hamish Pringle: Advertising rep with government clients.
Anthony Earle Wilkes: Training provider for government advisers!
Each and every one seemingly happy to over-rule the ASA executive's three categorical condemnations of the Department of Health's mendacious advertising - based on expert advice - and therefore happy for the public to be blatantly misled in order to protect their personal interests.

Likewise Lord Smith, the Chairman of the ASA, who is fresh from being a total cock-up at the Environment Agency and so perhaps thinks it politically advantageous for his future career not to queer his pitch with the Department of Health Mafiosi.

Jobs for the boys, I think it's called.

In an ideal world they would all be fired immediately for abuse of their positions and charged with crony self-interest. But then, why would the establishment charge some of their own, eh?

Another day; another state abuse of our trust; and another reason why politicians and the system they operate in are overwhelmingly despised. May God rot them, every one.

Wednesday 30 July 2014

The Very Definition Of Cutting One's Nose Off

Tobacco controllers have been having orgasms on Twitter about this. Boy, has it made me laugh though.
Doctor delivers $1.2 billion blow to tobacco – and counting
You mean this Doc has taken over a billion dollars from the tobacco industry? Wow, that's incredible!
In mounting its noisy counter-attack against cigarette plain packaging, the tobacco industry has appeared largely oblivious to the emergence of another potent threat to its long-term viability. 
Since 2010 Melbourne-based radiation oncologist Dr Bronwyn King, from the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, has been steadily chipping away at the tobacco industry’s investor base, so far convincing Australian superannuation funds to unload $1.2 billion of tobacco company shares.

No, the tobacco industry has not been "oblivious", just not remotely bothered. And she hasn't been presenting any threat to the long-term viability of the tobacco industry, unless costing them not a single cent is seen by economically illiterate anti-smokers as a threat. We knew the tobacco control industry has always been incredibly stupid when it comes to economics, but they've really excelled themselves here.

The only loser in this sad story are the poor pensioners and future pensioners who are cursed to have lost high performing stocks as a result of Dr King's stupidity. The tobacco industry couldn't give a toss.

You see, the price of a company's shares is entirely separate to the profitability or true worth of the business. Unless the company concerned is thinking of announcing a rights issue to raise funds - something tobacco companies don't have to do because they are highly profitable - the share price is irrelevant to them as far as income is concerned.

Profitability and worth are real things, share price is just a measure for those who wish to make money on the back of that profitability and worth by way of yield and dividends.

Righteous types can sell billions of shares on principle but it doesn't matter one iota to 'Big Tobacco'. The share price may wane but nobody will stop smoking because of it, but whoever buys the shares after that makes a lot more money.

Tobacco company shares have always been under-valued relative to dividend yield or profits - when compared to other industries - simply because of perceived dangers of the global war against tobacco, so whoever has been clever enough to ignore all that guff has earned very well for a long time now. This is why tobacco shares are almost a constant in being flagged up by proper investment analysts as some of the best that any investor or pension fund can own.

The only possible result of Dr King's campaign will be that the stocks might be even more under-priced, even more attractive to investors, and therefore offer even more super profits than they already do for people who aren't financially stupid on the back of ignorant teen-like ideology.

Of course, the superannuation funds which now don't count tobacco stocks amongst their portfolio will be deprived of these super profits, meaning that eventual payouts will be inevitably lower than they could have been if Dr King hadn't embarked on her funny campaign. The only 'blow' here is to the people who will now have to suffer a smaller pension when they retire.

The cost to the tobacco industry, on the other hand, is not actually $1.2bn but more like {gets calculator out} $nil.

Bravo, Dr King. Bravo!

H/T Mark Wadsworth

Tuesday 29 July 2014

Drafting A Plain Packs Consultation Response (Again)

If you've a vague suspicion you've seen this blog title before, you'd be correct.

Yes, we went through all this back in April 2012 when the daft exercise in appeasing tax-sponging tobacco controllers was first floated. Back then, many of you shared your responses with me which were overall quite excellent, and I do believe that our input was one of the reasons the margin of "detailed responses" was only 53/43 in favour.

You see, these affairs are usually a slam dunk for state-funded tobacco control industry organisations and their other funders, simply because they are paid to respond to them. Not for nothing have public consultations long since been considered a bit of a joke and better termed "public sector consultations". By way of comparison, those responding in favour of the equally stupid tobacco display ban were apparently over 90% (because almost no-one who wasn't paid to respond was aware of it).

Perhaps the government was hoping the plain packs process would be equally as simple; perhaps not. But the fact that so many took the time to object along with two-thirds of the public - in the largest public consultation the country has ever seen - registering their objections elsewhere seems to have sent a message to MPs which led to a long delay.

So do consider doing so again. Full details are here, with the online survey form (the simplest if you are reading online, I suppose) being here.

This second consultation is far less extensive, only involving four questions.
1. Do you have any observations about the report of the Chantler Review that you wish to bring to our attention?
Well, this is easy enough. Firstly, it didn't take into account anything except public health. It was like businesses, the economy, counterfeit tobacco made by criminal gangs, and intellectual property rights didn't exist, let alone concerns about liberty and freedom of choice.

What's more, as I've mentioned before, its summary declares that "research cannot prove conclusively" that plain packaging will work, but that Sir Cyril reckons - after having his ear bent by his tobacco control industry pals for four months - that it may have a "modest" effect. Just think about that for a moment. Despite blatantly rigging the evidence which Chantler was presented with; despite breaking impartiality rules by allowing the reviewers to cite their own biased studies; and despite excluding any governmental dissenting voices, Chantler still couldn't find conclusive evidence that it will work. Most probably because he brought nothing new to the debate so was working with the fanciful witterings of the aforementioned vested interests.

Which leads us onto the next question.
2. Do you have any information, in particular any new or additional information since the 2012 consultation, relating to the wider aspects of standardised packaging, that you wish to bring to our attention? 
Finally, and after months of obfuscating since Jane Ellison announced the Chantler Review in November with a lie, the government makes a last minute pretence at listening to the very real problems that plain packaging will cause.

Take your pick of what to mention. Perhaps the fact that police officers up and down the country are adamant that it will boost illicit and counterfeit trade; or - if it's new information the consultation is asking for - that this is already happening in Australia with illicit tobacco being cultivated on an industrial scale by criminals and, just this week, Channel 7 blaming an explosion in fake cigarettes on plain packaging might interest them.

You could refer our benevolent government to the fact that newly-released Australian statistics show around 150,000 extra 12 to 17 year olds now smoke in Australia a year after plain packaging, a huge rise of 36% which bucks a long term decline in youth smoking. That is what plain packs was supposed to be about, wasn't it? The kids?

You could also perhaps point out that plain packaging is seen as a threat to intellectual property rights by the pharmaceutical and confectionery industries, amongst others. And for good reason, despite the ridiculous claims of tobacco controllers desperate to pretend there is no slippery slope.

Or why not just mention all of the above if you're feeling saucy.
3. Do you have any comments on the draft regulations, including anything you want to draw to our attention on the practicalities of implementing the regulations, as drafted?
There isn't much to say about the draft regs since they are similar to those in Australia except that 'specialist' tobacco such as cigars and pipes appear to have been excluded (see page 12).

It would mean, though - and the consultation document explicitly states it - that articles 13 & 14 of the EU Tobacco Products Directive would also be rubber-stamped in the process. So packs of ten would be outlawed and tar and nicotine content be withheld without much parliamentary discussion. There's Cameron's new tough stance on the EU since the May elections for ya, eh?
4. Are you aware of any further evidence or information which would improve the assumptions or estimates we have made in the consultation-stage impact assessment?
I suppose it would be crass to say that they're utter rot, wouldn't it? They are though.

Maybe here you could highlight that the impact assessment on businesses has still not been passed fit for purpose a full two years after it was first found wanting by the Regulatory Policy Committee. In short, this means that the damage to businesses that plain packaging presents has been woefully under-estimated from the beginning and has still to be addressed. Perhaps they hoped no-one would notice, I dunno.

This would appear to be a problem connected to having a Department of Health packed full of tobacco prohibitionists, including one who can count Australian plain packaging advocates amongst their Facebook friends. They don't want anyone to know how much damage plain packs will cause to manufacturers, retailers, packagers and the general public - and how much of a boost it would be to criminals - simply because they know it is real and would torpedo the idea if it became public.

And that's about the sum of it. Sadly, there's no scope for informing the government of the preceding campaign corruption including such gems as the UK Centre for Tobacco Control Studies actively encouraging multiple signatures during the original consultation, the All Party Parliamentary Group on Smoking and Health deliberately misleading MPs, and also attempting to airbrush out all objections while the Department of Health tried to erase the meeting where this occurred from public record. But hey, that's how the Sir Humphreys of this world roll.

This has been a scummy campaign, led by grubby self-serving trouser-fillers, reporting to a government which would prefer you didn't interfere in their plans for making your life more miserable. Please do go and give them a piece of your mind.

You never know, they may even listen this time around.

UPDATE: I forgot to mention one other question which you will encounter, which I think is answered brilliantly by PJH in the comments (click to enlarge).


Monday 28 July 2014

Stop! By Order Of The Council

I thought you might be interested in some classic slippery slope opportunism from the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH).

Now, I've mentioned before that the government's plan to ban smoking in cars  - you know, that's the Conservative-led government which came to power in 2010 promising to roll back our liberties and challenge the nanny state - carries very sinister precedents that anyone interested in freedom should abhor.

Well, here is something else which proves that - whatever your view of the policy is - it's quite clearly a gateway to further power grabs by state-paid empire builders.
Local authorities may assist police in dealing with offences under a proposed ban on smoking in cars with children present, it has been proposed.
The Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH) said it “anticipates that local authorities will also want to authorise some of their own officers so that they can take part in campaigns to promote compliance and deal with offences when information and advice fail to have effect”. 
In its response to the consultation announcement, the CIEH noted that “dealing with offences under this legislation will not be without problems”. 
It “supports the government’s intention that enforcement will mainly be the responsibility of local police who will be able to use their existing powers to stop vehicles and require drivers and passengers to identify themselves”.
"Mainly", eh? Of course, it is only the police who are currently allowed to stop vehicles and require drivers to identify themselves. The CIEH looks very much like they are angling here to be afforded the same powers.

We are always told that the police are given that level of power due to the unique lengthy training that they are obliged to undertake. The same can never be true about local councils and their employees. Just think of the people you know who work for your local council - yes, we all know at least one - and think about how very unqualified for this level of power they are. Scary, huh?

How times change, eh?
And the CIEH goes further too.
[Principal policy officer, Ian Gray, said:] “The CIEH has previously stated that smoking should be considered to be a ‘driver distraction’ as is eating or drinking at the wheel or using a mobile phone, and that an additional measure for government to consider would be a total prohibition on drivers smoking in any motor vehicle on the grounds that smoking constitutes a hazard to safe driving.”
See, that didn't take long, did it? By crikey, the ink has barely dried on the consultation wording and they're already lobbying for an extension to it. Because, as I've also pointed out before, this is just another case where children are being used as a smokescreen. It has always been the plan to ban smoking in all vehicles, this charade is just the initial vital step to con the public into giving up domain over our own private property.

Next stop, your home. And good luck with the local environmental health officer demanding entry to your property to have a look around what you keep in your fridge, eh?

The smoking ban for cars consultation is here and open till August 27th. Perhaps we should have a bash at it.

Saturday 26 July 2014

Ban Mars Bars!

There's an interesting comment underneath a Times article about how Mars confectioners are wary of the precedent that plain packaging will represent in terms of stripping companies of their intellectual property (because it will do, no matter how much the tobacco control industry pretend otherwise).
EnglishRoseWhat we should be doing is preventing sale of all Mars and similar products. They are not needed for good health. People should eat only healthy natural unprocessed foods to ensure their own good mental and physical health. 
We can start by ensuring there are no vending machines of any kind on any state property and increase the number of free water fountains.
Are there really people around who believe this? Or is this just a subtle parody of the modern self-installed health 'prefect' we are increasingly suffering?

I'm stumped.

Thursday 24 July 2014

Explosion In Fake Cigarettes Since Plain Packaging

Via Breitbart London, there's not much further comment required.
Plain Cigarette Packaging Boosts Counterfeit and Smuggling: According to a Channel Seven News report about a raid on illegal cigarette sales in a Sydney market, this idea has boosted smuggling and other nefarious activities by about 40 per cent and driven up seizures of sticks from 82 million in 2012 to 200 million last year. 
"Authorities blame the surge in counterfeit cigarettes on the introduction of plain packaging two years ago."

Just as the police have been repeatedly warning our government since the hare-brained idea was first mooted.

Wednesday 23 July 2014

Whatever You Do, Don't Think Of The Children!

It seems that Simon Chapman is a trifle irritated by my pointing out that, despite plain packaging, a long term decline in smoking amongst 12 to 17 year olds in Australia has been replaced by a massive increase of 36%.

As I mentioned the other day, this would equate to the addition of around (corr) 15,000 teen smokers since the previous survey in 2010. Not a great result for a policy designed to stop kids from smoking, I think you'll agree.

So irritated is he that he has taken the unusual step of linking to my little site and trying to pretend this kind of information is irrelevant.
However, a tiny ray of hope remained. A tobacco-loving English blogger noticed that in the 12-17 year age group (the principal target of plain packaging legislation) the percentage of daily smokers actually rose from 2.5 per cent to 3.4 per cent. 
The jubilant blogger took the trouble to construct a bold graph that emphasised this massive uplift. But he failed to tell his readers that for five of 10 data cells that made up the figures, the standard error was more than 50 per cent ("too unreliable for general use") and another two cells with lower standard errors "should be used with caution").
Well, it wasn't me who produced the 'bold graph', but we'll set that aside and put it down to his usual senile frailties in not understanding the concept of blogging very well, shall we? But let's look at his main point, that the increase should be ignored.

It is true that the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) express reservations about many of the figures they have presented, as they explain in the preamble.
Estimates that have relative standard errors (RSE) greater than 50% are marked with ** and those with RSEs of between 25% and 50% are marked with *. Results subject to RSEs of between 25% and 50% should be considered with caution and those with RSE greater than 50% should be considered as unreliable for most practical purposes. Only estimates with RSEs of less than 25% are considered sufficiently reliable for most purposes.
There are a couple of examples of this in the screen grab I took last week.

You'll notice that the 2013 entries for occasional and ex-smokers are qualified with an asterisk, which refers to a note about the dubious RSEs. It is also true that many of the data sets in the background were considered to be less than perfect, but the AIHW’s data tables showed no asterisk next to its data point on daily smoking prevalence for youths between 12 and 17. The institute’s table saying it was at 3.4% with no qualifiers - along with everywhere else in the excel tables where it was similarly cited absent of any asterisk - indicates they were comfortable that the percentage was reliable and, as such, statistically valid.

Or, in the AIHW's own words, "considered sufficiently reliable for most purposes".

It is understandable that the tobacco control industry is finding this so unsettling, because every campaign in every country has focussed solely on glitzy packs and how they apparently attract children. Yet last week's dramatic claims of heroic achievement were conspicuously absent of any discussion of this pretty vital piece of information. Do you think they may have been hoping that no-one would notice?

In reality, this is the only statistic which is relevant in the plain packs debate when it comes to prevalence. Has plain packaging been successful in stopping kids from smoking, or not? It's that simple.

Sadly for Chapman and his fellow tax-spongers, the AIHW survey shows that there has most certainly not been a reduction, and that it's more than arguable that plain packaging has actually made things worse.

For once, it seems that tobacco controllers everywhere are desperately hoping you'll not think of the children. Fancy that!

Nothing to see here, look away ... look anywhere but at the statistics on youth smoking prevalence. Got that? Good.

Tuesday 22 July 2014

Know A Decent Pub Garden? Shhh, Don't Tell

Via ASH Scotland, this written question exchange between a Green MSP and Scotland's anti-smoker in chief is highly amusing (I think even he was probably struggling not to laugh when he read it).

So, apparently, telling smokers where they can smoke comfortably is now considered to be tobacco advertising by the Green Party. In fact, I think I might have transgressed this imaginary law myself by promoting a pub in Bognor last year.

Fancy being an outlaw? Well all you apparently have to do now is post something online saying that some pub or other has a decent garden and you're advertising tobacco. Voila!

We're still discovering how very intellectually bankrupt and absurd anti-smoking lunatics can be, I wonder when we'll reach rock bottom.

Good grief.

Monday 21 July 2014

Stupidity Pays

I originally thought this news article was so absurd that it will be overturned and become a non-story pretty soon, but it's still staggering to think that it actually happened.
MIAMI — A jury in northwestern Florida awarded a staggering $23 billion judgment late Friday against the country’s second-largest tobacco company for causing the death of a chain smoker who died of lung cancer at the age of 36. 
The company, the R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, promised a prompt appeal. 
Michael Johnson Sr. died in 1996 after smoking for more than 20 years. In 2006, his widow, Cynthia Robinson, of Pensacola, sued R. J. Reynolds the maker of the Kool brand cigarettes her husband had smoked, arguing that the company had deliberately concealed the health hazards its product caused. 
The four-week trial ended Wednesday. The jury deliberated for 18 hours over two days, first awarding $17 million in compensatory damages and then emerging at 10 p.m. Friday with a $23.6 billion punitive judgment.
Yes, that's billion with a 'b'. Or, to put it more clearly, $23,617,000,000.

So here's this guy who was born in around 1960 - six years after the first publication of the Doctors Study - who started smoking in the US in 1973, nearly a decade after the first health warnings from the US Surgeon General ... and he didn't understand that smoking was dangerous?

What's more, while millions of people all over the world were quitting as they found out, this guy was apparently incapable of that. While his wife was presumably pleading with him to ditch the fags (she was doing that, wasn't she?), he simply couldn't respect her loving wishes. We're surely talking about one of the most monumentally useless and stupid people on the planet.  

But the loss of this nose-led, fibre-challenged, astoundingly incompetent ignoramus is apparently worth the GDP of a small country? Good grief, the mind boggles.

If you have a daughter, tell her to marry someone incredibly stupid and continue to let him be so for 20 or 30 years because that's where the money is. In Florida, anyway.

The reaction to this has been interesting though. Firstly, ASH again found themselves in somewhat of an uncomfortable place, as Simon Clark reported earlier today. They know very well that this man would have been well informed about the dangers of smoking when he took it up a year after they themselves were formed on the back of growing global concern - to deny that would be to admit that US health warnings were utterly useless.

Plus, in every news article which allowed comments we saw the same disbelief from readers. From the BBC through Daily Mail to the Independent, the overwhelming sentiment was the same. How can someone be so pathetic, and why is it the tobacco company's fault? It couldn't be any other way because - on this one issue - the liberal-minded and those who hate tobacco and smoking are in the same corner.

For those who value personal responsibility, this guy made his bed and should be expected to lie in it. For anti-smokers, tobacco companies are evil but there is no-one they'd less want to benefit from a stratospheric payout than tobacco users who they class as automatically stupid simply for the act of using tobacco.

So, now we all seem to agree that the message sent here is that stupidity pays, what of the repercussions which could emanate from this? Well, no matter how large a tobacco company is, there is no way they would survive more than one of this type of precedent being upheld after appeal (think PPI tallies for comparison of the eventual liability). The business would be dead and it would have to fold. Anti-smokers may have a party or two because - as we know - prohibition has always been massively successful; smokers would obviously instantly quit and we'd live forever in a world full of unicorns and flowery rain as the global population went tobacco free.

No. Of course not. Smoking would continue but would be duty free - depriving governments of the decades-long thievery they have become accustomed to - and henceforth provided by criminal gangs. A new global "war on tobacco" tail-chasing exercise would ensue and massively cost the entirety of society in every country. Lives would be lost; innocents would be jailed; families would be destroyed; the law would be in disrepute; and rational society would again have been obliterated by well-meaning extremists.

There's a reason why uses the tag 'Florida' as a byword for idiocy, and the jurors in this case have just emphatically illustrated why.

Friday 18 July 2014

An Image Of 'Success'

Tonight is Puddlecote Inc's annual summer party (we can't hold it at Christmas because it's one of the busiest times of the year for us) where we put our corporate card over the bar and encourage our staff to eat and drink as much or as little as they choose at our expense till the place closes. I'm always a trifle perplexed that (tonight is the eighth year we've done this) only around 50% of our 100 odd employees take us up on the offer of free catering, free bar, disco and - of course for a transport company - free transport, but it's still the best few grand we spend as a business all year. And aren't we brilliantly blessed with the weather this time around!

However, before I wander off to get the welcome jugs of Pimms and ice buckets full of of free wine organised at this year's venue, thanks are in order to fellow jewel robber Mike F who has kindly sent me a graphic illustration of yesterday's blogpost stat.

Bearing in mind that campaigners for plain packaging both here in the UK and in Oz emphasised that the policy was purely to "protect children" from the temptation to smoke, here's how brilliantly that plan worked down under.

"Like a vaccine against smoking"
Stunning, isn't it?

Incidentally, although it's difficult to pin down exactly how many 12 to 17 year olds there are in Australia right now, we know that in 1995 there were 1.524 million of them. So taking population growth into account, that 0.9% increase represents around 150,000 extra teen smokers.

Well played, cobbers!

Thursday 17 July 2014

More Australian Kids Smoke After Plain Packaging

Snowdon has today pointed out some stunning dishonesty from ASH.
New figures released by the Australian government have shown adult smoking rates have fallen by a massive 15%. Before the measure was introduced in December 2012, daily smoking prevalence stood at 15.1% and has now fallen to 12.8%. 
Standardised packaging is the only new policy intervention over this time period and is therefore the most likely reason for the significant fall in smoking prevalence. The survey was conducted before the Government’s major hike in tobacco tax of 12.5% in December 2013.
As Snowdon explains, this is total bollocks.
There's only one problem. [Deborah Arnott] is lying. Almost incredibly, the date ASH describes as being "before the measure was introduced" was not November 2012 (the month before plain packaging came in). It is not 2012 at all. It is not even 2011. The date they are referring to is 2010, more than two years before plain packaging was introduced. 
ASH even gives the reference to the Australian report in its press release so that anyone can check it. I urge you to do so. It very clearly shows a steady and gradual downward trend in smoking rates going back to 1993. There is no increase in the rate of decline in 2013 and no effect from plain packaging. The rate has not "fallen by a massive 15%" since plain packaging came in, as ASH claims, and there has not been "a massive decline in smoking prevalence in Australia following introduction of standardised packaging". 
Do go read the rest to get a proper idea of how utterly disgraceful ASH's press release really is, because there are no ifs or buts about this, they are lying.

It would seem incredible in any other area that an organisation could claim a policy to have begun working two years before it was implemented, but that is what ASH expect us to believe in the case of plain packaging in Australia. Apparently, Aussie smokers heard rumours about plain packs and just threw the towel in. It's the kind of bilge you'd expect from a two-bit fairground Gypsy Rose Lee, but here are ASH stating it with a straight face.

You see, here's the spectacular decline that ASH are talking about since plain packaging has arrived.

Can you see the dramatic effect the policy had? No, neither can I. In fact, even the producers of the statistics refute ASH's nonsense claim that plain packaging had anything whatsoever to do with the expected long term decline.
[The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare’s Geoff Neideck] said it was too early to tell whether specific government policies like plain packaging were behind the downward trend. 
“It is quite evident that there are a range of government policies to minimise the harms to do with smoking and alcohol,” he said. 
“Plain packaging came in between 2010 and 2013, in what was a fairly strong drop in the daily smoking rate, but it would be a stretch to say this data shows that was a key factor.”
What it does show, of course, is the sheer panic and desperation within the tobacco control industry as they furiously scratch around for some tiny scrap of evidence that plain packs has been a success ... and fail miserably. After a campaign packed to the gills with rigged evidence, gerrymandering, fraud and corruption, ASH are now topping it all off by lying through their teeth.

More than that, though, because if you check the data behind the report, there is one statistic which leaps out of the excel file and smacks you squarely in the kisser. Because, do you remember that they said plain packs was essential - urgent, in fact - solely to discourage children from smoking? You do remember it was all about the poor 'ickle kiddies, don't you?

Well, these new stats show that the number of children smoking has increased from 2.5% to 3.4% in the same time frame.

That's correct, there has been a huge 36% increase in daily smoking amongst Australian kids since 2010 which - if we use ASH's twisted methodology - can only be attributed to plain packaging, no?

Of course it can't, but what is certainly very clear is that plain packs are not turning kids away from smoking, and could arguably be said to have had the opposite effect. If the UK government do decide to follow suit, on this evidence they will have proven themselves to be stark staring mad.

Sunday 13 July 2014

So Long And Thanks For All The Furballs

As mentioned this time last week, content has been sparse here of late which - after checking my calendar for the week ahead - is a trend which looks like continuing for a few more days at least. My evening schedule for the next seven days consists of an end of term presentation at the girl's school; a cricket match with the boy; a celebration meal with extended family; Forest's excellent Freedom Dinner; and our company's eighth annual summer party.

Regular readers may have noticed the lack of a link tank yesterday too. This was due to our being preoccupied with a pretty nasty Saturday.

As you can imagine, this had a lot to do with why tumbleweed was billowing around this place in the days that preceded it.

We only had our first idea that something was amiss on Monday - the second day that the old fella had left his food untouched but was sucking up water like a sponge. It's not like him at all so I prepared myself for the usual fierce battle to get him into the cat carrier and down the vet's Tuesday morning, only to watch him walk in without a fuss the moment I opened the front grille!

On hearing that he wasn't eating, the vet's brow furrowed and she suggested he be kept in overnight for blood tests. The next day I received a series of phone calls checking agreement for further tests, an ultrasound, and x-rays - complete with an ever-mounting bill - which eventually led on Wednesday evening to a crushing diagnosis.

Fears that it might be something wrong with kidneys, liver or perhaps pancreas were well-founded as it turned out his insides were all screwed. His 16+ years had caught up with him in an all-too-sudden way.

We were given steroids and antibiotics to try to alleviate the symptoms but he was having none of it, refusing to eat even his version of crack cocaine - chicken sticks and marmite - in which we could hide the tablets. At a further visit on Thursday, we were told that it "wouldn't be a wrong decision" to put him down there and then, but that a vet-administered appetite booster could help to get him eating and taking the medication. We were advised to book another appointment for Saturday morning and left in the hope that something miraculous might happen in the meantime, but knowing that it was more likely to be his last day.

So it was to be, and he fell asleep for the last time in Mrs P's arms at about midday yesterday.

It was an extremely tough day, especially due to the incredibly short lead time and since he was older than the teen kids so they'd never known what life was like without him. We'd first got him in 1998 and he was nearly two when the girl was born; and three by the time the boy arrived. In the early years he had meekly suffered the girl tying ribbons to his tail and trying to ride him like a pony; and kept his claws sheathed while the boy found it highly amusing to yank his tail or chase him around attacking him with plastic swords. Despite all that, he grew up with them and was like a third sibling.

When it all ended, the kids were crushed and tearful, and Mrs P and I were thankful for our two great friends Nick O'Teen and Al K Hall as we sat in the July sunshine and felt totally flattened.

What surprised us though, was the reaction of our neighbours. We've had a steady procession visiting here to tell us how sad they were to hear of the news, along with stories such as how they'd leave a door open to empty their bins only to return and find him happily preening himself on their sofa, or how he would position himself outside their front garden to solicit strokes from visitors and passers-by alike. All of which came as a complete surprise. The general consensus was that he had installed himself as the 'owner' of the street, and that he wasn't just ours, but also partly the pet of those living near us. When we Puddlecotes were all - with very heavy hearts - getting in the car to have him put to sleep, two families came out at the allotted time to say their own goodbyes!

It's been deeply sad, but we've also experienced a great amount of pride. We've lived in rented flats and houses while the business was built up, and now in a distinctly urban mortgaged semi, and he's always lived on fast-moving main roads with cars, buses and trucks flying by, yet he was streetwise enough to live a long life of unfettered freedom before an end surrounded by those who really loved him. If I'd been offered that when he was small enough to sit on my hand in 1998, I'd have taken it in an instant.

I suppose this is a roundabout way of explaining why it's been quiet around here recently, and why it will likely be similar for the next week at least. It's only a short hiatus though, sooner or later I'll be able to actually write something on the many notes I leave myself in Blogger's drafts.

I'm beginning to think that, as the obvious tobacco/alcohol/e-cig/junk food/fizzy drink/salt/sugar/gambling industry shill that I am regularly being accused of, I'm not really worth the non-existent cheques I'm being sent, am I? For shame.

Friday 11 July 2014

Who's Been Misleading The EU?

Now this is interesting.
European officials have been wrongly labelling e-liquid as extremely toxic. 
The civil servants had been misclassifying e-liquid as either a CLP category 2 product, alongside strychnine, or a category 3 product, alongside formaldehyde. The new report demonstrates that the acute oral and dermal toxic hazards of the strongest consumer e-liquids only merit being classed as category 4 - along with washing-up liquid - while the vast majority of e-liquid (which has nicotine concentrations below 25mg/ml or 2.5%) does not require any type of formal hazard warning.
So if mandatory toxic hazard warnings are to be required on e-liquid, the same should go for Fairy Liquid too, surely? Ha! Like we're ever going to see anything as hysterical as that from the EU.

It does beg the question as to whom the EU have been listening to if they've been proven to be so embarrassingly wrong though, doesn't it? I mean, being a huge organisation with a galactic budget they have toxicology advisers and all that jazz, so who's been feeding them duff info?

I'm sure the fact that a multi-national industry was caught lobbying the EU over the e-cigarette terms in the Tobacco Products Directive - the same industry whose products are tanking in member states due to the advent of e-cigs - has absolutely nothing to do with it.

Wednesday 9 July 2014

Politicians: Please Lie Responsibly

I know it's not an earth-shattering revelation, but a Cabinet minister has been caught lying.

Desperately trying to justify poking her nose in where it has no business, Theresa May came out with this whopper yesterday.
But the Home Secretary Theresa May said: 'Alcohol-fuelled harm costs taxpayers £21 billion a year. It is therefore right that the alcohol industry is taking action to help reduce this burden, without penalising those that drink responsibly.'
Except it doesn't cost the taxpayer that amount at all, nor anything even close to it as Snowdon pointed out when Sarah Wollaston told this particular lie to the House in 2012.
This would be a reference to the British Cabinet Office report of 2003 which found a total social cost of around £18-20 billion. 
Of these costs, £4.7 billion were intangible costs (ie. they are hypothetical - they do not need to be paid by anyone, let alone the taxpayer). 
A further £5.5 billion were lost productivity costs which, again, do not represent a bill that needs to be paid. 
A further £5.1 billion were private costs related to crime which, once again, do not need to be recouped through the tax system, and the author of the report stressed repeatedly that these costs were at the absolute top end of any realistic estimate. 
The only costs which can be considered as "to the taxpayer" are £1.7 billion in healthcare and £2.2 billion in crime and punishment, but since the exchequer receives £9 billion a year in alcohol duty, that hardly makes a compelling case for a compensatory sin tax, does it?
Indeed. And it also doesn't make much of a case for a Tory-led government to applaud choice being restricted for the entire population, on the back of selective lies and a booze epidemic that quite simply isn't happening.

As he has admirably done before, our esteemed blog knight Philip Davies stuck up for common sense over puritanical finger-wagging from his own party, but what good will this petty tinkering do anyway? As was discovered when nicotine was reduced in tobacco, smokers simply smoked more to achieve the same level in their blood. So why would drinkers not react in the same way? Drinkers will self-administer just as smokers do and will simply drink more wine to reach their preferred level of intoxication - whether that be mild, merry, wobbly, shit-faced or comatose.

What I find far more worrying from a societal perspective, is why politicians are so lethally addicted to binge-lying in order to interfere in our personal choices. Perhaps we need a pressure group to wean them off this damaging behaviour by urging them to lie responsibly with a view to quitting the filthy habit altogether.

H/T RooBeeDoo via Frank Davis

Monday 7 July 2014

Don't Mention The Costs Of Plain Packaging

If you've ventured over to Snowdon's pad today, you'll have seen that he's published a fine rant by Irish TD Finian McGrath, who included this in his list of many valid concerns about proposed plain packaging legislation (emphases mine throughout below).
Turning to the legislation, these provisions will have far-reaching implications for retailers and in their impact on jobs, cigarette smuggling and the infringement of intellectual property rights. We are being asked to support the Bill in the absence of information regarding the regulatory impact assessment that was conducted last February. 
In effect, Deputies do not know what the cost benefit and the impact of this Bill will be or if the tobacco companies sought compensation in their submissions. This information should be made available to Deputies so they know for what they are voting. Regardless of one's personal attitude to cigarettes and tobacco products, the Minister will agree that they are serious issues for all Members of the Oireachtas.
Of course they are, so it is fishy - to say the least - that the Irish government is hiding this evidence, as originally highlighted at the end of June.
Tobacco company John Player has called on the government to reveal how much plain packaging for cigarettes will cost the state. 
John Player has criticised that a Regulatory Impact Analysis carried out this year has not yet been published
“The Minister is expecting TDs to debate the Bill on the blind without any idea of what it might ultimately cost the State,” the company noted.
You would have thought, wouldn't you, that this is absolutely vital information, but it is being squirrelled away somewhere out of sight. In a modern age where transparency is apparently valued by, ahem, scrupulous states all across the globe, this kind of hidden information is surely unprecedented, right?

Well, no actually. Because, you see, as the Times reported in January last year, exactly the same thing happened in the UK, and - would you Adam and Eve it - in relation to exactly the same policy!
The impact assessment was given an “amber” rating by an independent committee last year, meaning that it needed more work. The Regulatory Policy Committee, a non-departmental public body sponsored by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, found that the assessment was fit for purpose but requested that it “provide more analysis to support the claim that the proposal will have an overall neutral effect on business”. 
In a separate report last March, the committee also raised specific concerns about the flaws in the department’s assessments on proposed tobacco regulations. It said that they “tended to provide a full analysis of benefits but failed to estimate the full economic costs to producers and retailers”.
What a stunning coincidence, huh? On both sides of the Irish Sea, it's evident that governments (or their civil service) simply don't want to mention the bad stuff in relation to plain packaging.

Why? Wasn't the evidence in favour rigged enough to see off the piffling effect on businesses that the tobacco control industry has consistently claimed?

Obviously not. For the simple reason that the so-called evidence for plain packaging is so incredibly weak that an honest admission of the effect on business would likely torpedo the whole thing ... so it's probably best to just hide the costs altogether until everyone forgets about them, eh?

This is why the UK government has desperately shied away from properly analysing the true impact of such a silly idea - remember that the Chantler review was specifically instructed to avoid such concerns - and why the Dáil seem to be following the same steps as Westminster to talk up benefits which no-one has been able to yet identify in Australia, while simultaneously ignoring the real, guaranteed problems plain packaging will cause.

Looks like I was correct to say in February that Ireland's plain packaging campaign appears to be following the same corrupt path as ours. Step by identically dishonest step.

Sunday 6 July 2014

Irrational Revulsion

Regular readers can't fail to have noticed that content here has been sparse of late. Well, almost non-existent is a more accurate description.

This is a result of real life in Puddlecoteville thrusting itself rudely front and centre like John Terry at an award ceremony. The fallout from four days away in Poland (see event report here) was an inevitable catching-up exercise at Puddlecote Inc, since - due to being booked way back in February - the trip just happened to coincide with necessary purchasing of four new vehicles and a renegotiation of the financing of our company premises. Most of the past week has therefore been spent by my either answering a backlog of 80 odd emails, or tip-toeing between two different bank lenders who are fighting like cats over debentures and worst-case-scenario priority over our assets (the plus side being that we traded them off against each other for mad keen interest rates). There was the odd cricket match and the usual family stuff to distract too, natch.

In the meantime, I've missed a lot but will hopefully be back on the keyboard for a few days before an even more hectic week looming from the 14th.

For a Sunday night listen though, try this half hour report on e-cigs before it is archived by the BBC website. Apart from the sensationalistic intro - where the presenter describes his "irrational revulsion" at seeing someone vaping while also displaying a herd-minded and typically hysterical nanny Beeb attitude to real tobacco smoke in the distance - it is a decent piece.

I'd urge you to don the earphones and listen to it in full, for one or more of the following points I found amusing or curious may interest you too.

Firstly, it came as a big surprise that - as mentioned around 11 minutes in - the government's Behavioural Insight Team (BIT) became aware of e-cigs as a way of "finding alternative solutions to regulation or just throwing money at problems" in 2010!

Funny that, because it was in June 2010 that the MHRA - a government body itself - threw money at a public consultation for a product they had decided was a problem, and attempted to regulate e-cigs out of existence before they knew anything at all about them.

No, really. The consultation text made it quite clear what they had planned.
In order to ensure there is no risk to public health from unlicensed products on the market that have not been assessed for safety, quality and efficacy and in the light of the developing extent of their use and familiarity we are consulting to elicit views on whether and how to bring all products containing nicotine into regulation. 
Option 1 – Whether products containing nicotine should be considered by the Agency to be medicinal products by function and, if so, whether all unlicensed NCPs should be removed from the market within 21 days
The MHRA’s preferred option is option 1, which is in line with current practice.
This move was only headed off by a monumental response from vapers which made it impossible for the MHRA to proceed. I don't remember the Behavioural Insight Team having anything to do with it, do you?

In fact, as described by Clive Bates in the comments here, the MHRA were still trying to nobble the consultation results even while the BIT was - apparently - identifying them as a great tool for harm reduction. Sounds like bollocks to me, but hey.

However, political douche-baggery aside, it is very encouraging that their spokesman is using hindsight so wisely here, and I reckon that this is something they could use to the government's advantage in light of May's election results. Because if the BIT think that e-cigs are such a force for good, why not advise HMG to reject entirely the EU TPD's ridiculous restrictions on them in 2016, eh? It would fit very well with the stance against interference from the EU we all voted for in May and would show the world that Cameron does actually possess a pair of balls, as well as kinda fitting in with his party's promise to abolish pointless red tape. What's not to like?

Look out also for the BBC's recognition of the dramatic effect of e-cigs around 22:00 or just before; for the accurate ridicule of provincial pillockry with the statement "policy in Wales is being driven by caution and fear"; and - for some comedy - marvel at Mad Stan Glantz say "I don't trust the tobacco companies" while being regularly caught telling huge whoppers (a character trait not missed by the BBC), and using the same fraudulent methods as other proven liars.

If your curiosity has been piqued, do pour your favourite beverage and go listen to the programme here.

Wednesday 2 July 2014

Win With Dick!

How about this? I've got you a prize to win.

The makers of the new Puritane disposable e-cig recently sent me a couple of samples to try. Not being a user of disposables myself, I asked my London black cabbie family member - who buys one every day - to road test them and give me a review. Being free-spirited as those in his trade tend to be, though ... I didn't hear a peep out of him!

In the end I finally tracked him down for his in-depth analysis; "yeah, they're all right, got any more?", which I suppose could be construed as a recommendation of sorts, I dunno. Still, hopefully some of you could offer more enlightening opinions because the company has kindly supplied some for readers of this blog.

So to win one of these ...

... have a think about this question:
"Which national High Street chemist chain began stocking Puritane products in February?"
Enter your answer in the box below (if I've done it right) to claim one of 50 Puritane 16mg disposable e-cigarettes for yourself.

Closing date for entries is 31st July or when they're all snapped up.