Tuesday 31 March 2015

More Truth-Free Junk From The BMA

There must be an organisational problem at the British Medical Association because they seem to have trouble finding spokespersons who can tell the truth on the radio.

We've seen the embarrassment that is Vivienne Nathanson before, a BMA mouthpiece who insisted that one cigarette smoked in a car emitted 23 times more toxins than in a pub prior to the smoking ban - despite it being complete and utter nonsense - and now we have Dr George Rae.

Speaking on BBC Radio Newcastle this morning on behalf of the BMA, he had this to say about e-cigs.

Yes. He is actually claiming that e-cigs are more capable of causing cancer than cigarettes themselves. A statement that is so comprehensively stupid that it consequently calls into question the veracity of the original 1950s research linking smoking to lung cancer, surely.

I mean, e-cigs have been around now for about a decade yet there has not been a single case of cancer attributable to them worldwide. So if they are more dangerous than cigarettes but there have been nil cancer diagnoses in that time, something else apart from smoking is causing lung cancer, isn't it?

Well, that's the only logical conclusion we can come to from his daft argument.

He is a doctor. A spokesman for the BMA, the doctors' union. He is a representative for other doctors and, presumably, an adviser to them. Doctors that you may know and who may treat you someday. Just think on that for a moment or two.

Scary, huh?


Monday 30 March 2015

BBC: 'Success' Is 25% Of An Industry Collapsing

Life at Puddlecote Inc is extremely busy at the moment and likely to be for some time, so content may be sparse here for a while.

In the meantime, you may be interested in a 10 minute piece on the Irish smoking ban from the BBC World Service which you can listen to here. You see, the BBC has told the world that Ireland's ban was a great success because they found a former opponent whose pub is still in business. So that's all right then.

He's one of the lucky ones, though, because there were 9,964 licensed pubs in Ireland 2004 when the ban arrived, but only 7,509 - and falling - eight years later in 2012 according to the FT. Or, as one publican described it ...
Landlord Liam Fitzpatrick, who began working in the pub from the age of 14, says there has been a cultural shift in Ireland over the past decade with people drinking at home rather than in the pub.
Well, with supermarket booze still being as cheap as it has always been, the cultural shift has been out of pubs and into a place where rules based on junk science don't place an obstacle in front of enjoyment and relaxation. What else would one expect?

The BBC reporter, however, didn't think it was worth mentioning that over a quarter of Ireland's pub stock has been extinguished since the oh-so-wonderful smoke-free experiment in 2004. And there we were thinking that the BBC is a world-renowned source of agenda-free news, eh?

Thursday 26 March 2015

You WILL Drink In The Pub, Godammit!

The Irish licensed trade has come up with an ingenious business plan ... it's cosying up to government drink-haters to welcome consumers back to the pub by force.
In a move clearly targeted at the big supermarket chains, where cans of lager are routinely offered for below €1 each in bulk deals, the group called for a floor price of €1 “or more” to be introduced on every 10 grams of alcohol in a product. 
That would put the minimum retail price of a 500ml can of beer with a 5% alcohol concentration at €2.
So, Ireland already boasts (if that's the word) the most expensive alcohol in the EU apart from Finland, but these guys want to see the Irish public screwed even harder to nobble their competition?
LVA chief executive Donal O’Keeffe said the price had to be set high enough to have a “significant impact on consumption patterns”.
In other words, to stop people buying their booze from the supermarket where his members can't get their mitts on it.

You've got to feel sorry for yer average Irishman. Having only recently been rid of a law which put control of what they paid for their groceries firmly in the hands of those who supply it - resulting in no meaningful competition and higher prices for consumers - now their pub trade blames the repeal for why they are seeing fewer and fewer customers and so advocates a return to resale price maintenance. Or, as it should rightfully be described, a rip off cartel which is so damaging for household budgets that it is illegal in many jurisdictions.

Still, why should O'Keeffe and his members care, eh?

I've got news for you, guys. The reason people aren't using pubs so much any more is that you have an unnecessarily draconian smoking ban and much stiffened drink driving laws in the past decade. Barriers to enjoyment presented by those government initiatives do not exist when the beer is bought in a supermarket and consumed at home with a nice takeaway. The price differential is just an added bonus. Even if prices were raised to €2 per pint it's far cheaper than the €5 a boozer charges and still - this is the significant bit, lads - without the pettifogging rules.

You see, it is big government which has got you into this mess, so the answer really isn't more big government. Meanwhile, the Irish LVA's vapid support of the unsatisfiable temperance lobby proposal places them firmly into the category of useful idiots, which won't make a jot of difference when prohibitionists move onto demanding breathalysers for pub customers, the banning of buying of rounds and of happy hours, and - yes - minimum pricing for pub drinks too.

I shall, once again, quote the inestimable Crampton.
It's like a bunch of folks on the scaffolds complaining that the other guy's noose isn't quite tight enough. Y'all might instead direct your attention to the hangman sometime and try helping each other cut those ropes.

Wednesday 25 March 2015

Who Is Misinforming Jane Ellison About E-Cigs?

Today, anti-smoking group Fresh North East issued a press release which expressed worries about how e-cigs are being portrayed.
In 1976 Prof Michael Russell wrote that 'smokers smoke for the nicotine but die from the tar. When we urge people to stop smoking, we explicitly mean to quit smoking tobacco. 
It is a worry that concern among smokers over the perceived dangers of electronic cigarettes and vapourisers appears to be rising compared to the much more harmful product which is tobacco.  A significant number of people hold incorrect beliefs about the harm from electronic cigarettes and nicotine - believing that part or most of the health risks from smoking are from nicotine.
Unusually for a tobacco control industry press release, this is actually true. Nicotine has been described by the RCP as a "very safe drug", by NICE as "relatively harmless", and Waldum et al concluded that "our study does not indicate any harmful effect of nicotine when given in its pure form by inhalation". So who is spreading all this alarm about nicotine?

Well, for one, step forward Jane Ellison MP (someone so in thrall to the WHO that she believes their COP6 where press and public were banned was 'transparent') speaking in Westminster Committee Room 11 on Monday.

This was in response to a question from Cheltenham MP Martin Horwood about why there was no mention of direct harm from e-cigs when passing laws against their sale. Interestingly, Horwood's wife works for Public Health England which might have prompted the curiosity.

In case the embed doesn't work, Ellison stated in reply - along with a contemptuous chuckle - that "addiction to nicotine, we would consider harmful", thereby ignoring the RCP, NICE and principled researchers, whilst also illustrating the damaging ignorance Fresh North East felt necessary to address in their press release.

Now, considering nicotine is on a par with caffeine when it comes to dependence and harm, I hope Ellison didn't drink any coffee on the day she uttered that nonsense. But more importantly, who on earth is advising her if she is so badly informed?

Tuesday 24 March 2015

Mascot Watch #31: ASH In The Trough Edition

There have been many stories in the press about MPs getting their noses in the trough, but this is one about a Lib Dem MP using his influence to get someone else's nose into a very lucrative trough indeed.

Paul Burstow is a particularly oleaginous, one-track minded anti-smoker who is Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Smoking and Health. This group is secretaried by ASH and acts as the political arm of their lobbying operation.

With this in mind, here is what Burstow presented to Westminster yesterday on the subject of George Osborne's proposed annual levy on tobacco companies (which he stole from Labour).
The potential benefits to public health can be fully realised only if the levy is used to fund tobacco control action, which is designed to increase the rate of quitting tobacco use over and above what might otherwise be expected as a result of price rises. 
If the programme of research proposed in this Bill were carried out, it would show that the recurring cost of tobacco control activity at every level - local, regional and national - could be met from the proceeds of the levy.
Or, to put it another way, the government should steal money from legal businesses and hand it to Burstow's pals at ASH and other already state-funded fake charities and lobbying quangos. You know, just in case anyone were to make a case that we shouldn't be paying for their huge salaries when the country is struggling with a deficit.

Now, we know all about government lobbying government - whereby tax receipts are transferred to the likes of ASH etc who then use it to influence MPs - but have you ever heard of an MP using his position to lobby government himself for state receipts to be handed over wholesale to single issue trouser stuffers?

Of course, lobbying by organisations which receive public money is not permitted, so it's staggering that Burstow should be using his influence - also paid for by us - to beg for more cash on ASH's behalf. Because that's exactly what is going on here, as our esteemed mascot pointed out in reply.
I see that the right hon. Gentleman is putting himself up as the spokesman for ASH, as it is its campaign that he is advocating
Yes. ASH are lobbying advocating for this policy which could benefit their bottom line, and Burstow is simply their pimp parliamentary mouthpiece. In fact, when the levy was first announced in Osborne's Autumn Statement, Deborah Arnott described it as “like Christmas come early” - Burstow is just trying to make sure that the proposed ill-gotten gifts go to his tobacco control industry friends instead of the treasury and country as a whole.

However, our Phil was in great form, and came out with one of his most contemptuous responses to ideological anti-smoking nonsense yet. Read and enjoy.
I particularly wanted to oppose the Bill because the right hon. Gentleman has done us all a great service. He has let the cat out of the bag. Of course, the Government have already accepted ASH’s campaigning on banning smoking in cars where there are children, which is completely unenforceable. They have also accepted the plain packaging of tobacco, which is completely idiotic. Of course, the Government accepted those policies because ASH told them that if they did so the amount of smoking in the country would plummet. We were told that if we introduced plain packaging it would be absolutely fantastic because all of a sudden cigarettes would not appeal to young people and children and that would close the gateway into tobacco use. The whole policy was based on that premise. 
That policy has not even been implemented and already the right hon. Gentleman is saying, “Actually, that was all a load of tripe. It won’t make any difference whatsoever. What we need now is a levy on the tobacco industry so that we can do some research to find out why young people smoke and then try to stop them smoking.” Well, what on earth was the plain packaging campaign about, if not that? I am grateful to him for letting the cat out of the bag by telling us that the whole premise behind plain packaging was a complete load of old codswallop. Unfortunately, the Government idiotically accepted that codswallop in a mindless fashion without even thinking it through, because they, too, are in the pocket of ASH and, rather than making up their own policies based on evidence, just want gleefully to accept anything ASH tells them. 
The point is that this is just the latest campaign from ASH. Every time it advocates the introduction of another measure, it tells us that that is what the Government need to do to tackle tobacco, but as soon as it is implemented we are told that actually it was a load of old cobblers and now we need something else. It is like those companies that tell us their washing powder is absolutely magnificent, only to bring out a new one a couple of years later and tell us that the previous one was actually terrible and that really we need to buy the new one. ASH cannot now hand over the keys to the company car; it has to keep going and justifying its role. It will keep coming up with new, innovative solutions to try to keep its jobs, which no doubt the Government will accept, because they do not have a mind of their own and just have to do what ASH tells them to do.
Yep, that just about sums it up. Respect.

Monday 23 March 2015

News From The Slope

No, the title isn't a Clarkson reference. I just thought you'd be interested in some of the crackpots that tobacco control industry policies have unleashed recently. Please remember, though, that there is no such thing as a slippery slope.

A wibbling loon writes:
We are now faced with concerning population lifestyle trends where countries such as the U.S. see half the population consuming sugar beverages on any given day ... 
I don't know about you, but I struggle to see how 50% of people drinking one nice-tasting drink - ranging from Coca-Cola through to orange juice - on any given day is a problem. People like nice tasting things, and one drink a day is hardly Armageddon, now is it? I presume the point is to infer that half of the population are guzzling the things from dawn till dusk ... and it's all the fault of those evil capitalists!
... and where sugary drinks become the greatest calorie source in a teenager’s diet.
You may have taken that to mean a majority of their intake, but the sound bite is - as you might expect - just the usual prodnose mangling of statistics and playing with words. A clue to its origin appears in this hysterical panic piece from Harvard (that's the Harvard who want to wage a "cola war" by way of taxation and to have fast food classified as a pollutant), but even they can only inflate the figure to 11% of a child's diet.
Children and youth in the US averaged 224 calories per day from sugary beverages in 1999 to 2004—nearly 11% of their daily calorie intake. 
On any given day, half the people in the U.S. consume sugary drinks; 1 in 4 get at least 200 calories from such drinks; and 5% get at least 567 calories - equivalent to four cans of soda. (17) Sugary drinks (soda, energy, sports drinks) are the top calorie source in teens’ diets (226 calories per day), beating out pizza (213 calories per day).
Do you see the trick? If you throw all sweet-tasting drinks into one pot and divide up all other sources into cakes, potatoes, other vegetables, burgers, chicken, nachos, popcorn, hot dogs, and, oh yes, pizza, you can claim all those lumped together drinks to be the biggest. Clever, huh?

Of course, another way to put it is to say kids get 89% of their calories from food and 11% from drinks (in reality, it's nearer 6%), a perfectly reasonable ratio for any human - who consumes just two staples, food and drink - I'd venture to suggest.

Our frenzied drinks-hater continues ...
However how can we blame our children and young adults for these trends when they live in a world where soft drinks are widely visible from the supermarkets to school places to social media?
Perhaps he'd like a ban on advertising and to have the products hidden behind shutters ... like tobacco. Just a guess.
Furthermore if we consider the growing evidence suggesting that sugar consumption mimics the addictive properties of drugs such as cocaine ...
By "growing evidence" I think he means one pathetic piece of junk science by a bunch of bullshitters.
... it only further highlights the similarity and severity of the public and global health challenge we have faced with tobacco in the last century.
Yep, nice tasting drinks are just as dangerous as tobacco so the same measures must be put in place ASAP. For the children, natch.

Meanwhile, in Australia ...
Should fast food outlets be forced to put tobacco-style health warnings on their packaging?
That's one controversial and extreme measure being proposed by an Australian healthy food advocate, as he ramps up his campaign to change the way fast food outlets advertise to children. 
Mr Schultz posted an image of a Big Mac box labelled with the words 'BIG MACS MAKE BIG CHILDREN' and a picture of two overweight kids to his Game Changer Facebook page in an attempt to fire up debate.
'Just like a cigarette packet demonstrates the causes of cigarette smoking and its damages, this image demonstrates what the fast food product can do to the human body,' he said. 
Mr Schultz said plain packaging was an eventual goal, but as a first step he wants to see detailed ingredients lists included on fast food packaging and information about where the food has come from and if it has been treated with chemicals or growth hormones. 
'Later on [plain packing] can come. Ingredients have to be explained as a first step,' he said.
Which, presumably, will be followed by lots of next logical steps until everything is sold in shops resembling Argos but without the display cabinets.

Except that Deborah Arnott has already told us that ...
"the “domino theory” i.e. that once a measure has been applied to tobacco it will be applied to other products is patently false" 
And plain packaging cheerleader Simon Chapman contemptuously dismissed the idea that tobacco control policies can transfer to other products when he said ...
"Look, if the slope is slippery, it's the most unslippery slippery dip I've ever seen in my life."
So perhaps we won't be seeing packaging like this in the future, after all, eh?

Image courtesy of Simon Chapman from a slideshow he presented about the potential for plain packaging which used to be here but now isn't

Friday 20 March 2015

Surely Some Mistake

Yes, we've had a good laugh about this many times before, but once more won't hurt.

Who said this in response to criticism of plain packaging proposals by the ASI?
[T]he “domino theory” i.e. that once a measure has been applied to tobacco it will be applied to other products is patently false.
Why it was ASH's Deborah Arnott, of course, who is also board member of the Framework Convention Alliance which guides implementation of the WHO's FCTC.

Well, via Snowdon, here is what a patent falsehood looks like, in a document prefaced by Margaret Chan of the WHO.

It goes on to say ...
Existence of a global health treaty (WHO FCTC) as well as effective national and sub-national legislation make tobacco control a model for addressing other pressing NCD-related issues that require better regulations, including harmful use of alcohol and unhealthy diet.
Fancy that!

I'm sure a retraction and apology for deliberately misleading the public will be forthcoming from Debs very soon. After all, it's only the tobacco industry who talk bollocks and make stuff up, isn't it?

Thursday 19 March 2015

Training Journalists To Condemn E-Cigs

Apart from a laughable story on Friday about their plan to eradicate legal and illegal tobacco sales by 2040, the latest tobacco control expenses-funded beano in Abu Dhabi (WCTOH) isn't producing much of any significance.

Except, of course, yet more examples of the almost frenzied neuroticism of the anti-smoking movement in general. Transparency was again a secondary concern as vapers who attempted to follow the junket's Twitter feed found when they were promptly blocked.

However, unlike COP6 last year where the press were banned in case they reported negatively, a group of lucky scribes were enthusiastically welcomed to WCTOH ... for training in what they should be writing about!
Eighteen distinguished journalists from 13 countries received fellowships to attend the National Press Foundation’s first training focused on global tobacco control. Held this week at the 16th World Conference on Tobacco or Health in Abu Dhabi, the programme offers 2-1/2 days of intensive sessions prepping the journalists to attend the 5-day conference -- and cover the issue in their home countries.
So was this training impartial and evidence-based? I'll give you one guess.
Topics to be covered range from the impact of the first 10 years of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control; emerging threats, such as the growing popularity of e-cigarettes and sheesha; the ongoing challenge of tobacco industry interference in public health policy; and the conference theme – tobacco and non-communicable diseases (NCDs). 
I was interested in how these lunatics (well, those that managed to get there, anyway) could possibly present e-cigs as a 'threat' when talking to journalists who - I presume - are fairly intelligent. The answer is that they tasked people like Dr. Dean Schraufnagel, professor of medicine and pathology at the University of Illinois, to make the presentations.

He is quoted as believing “there’s a lot of evidence [e-cigs] could be harmful", and is adamant that they should be banned, so exactly the kind of fruitcake the WCTOH organisers feel is qualified to brief journalists. Here is a clip from his Q&A where he tells assembled hacks that e-cigs are bad because, well, tobacco industry. Oh yeah, and that if you use e-cigs, you'll be hooked on cocaine before you can say "junk science".

I also enjoyed how the long-practiced mantra of "people smoke for nicotine but they die from the tar” advocated in the 1970s by Michael Russell - and the basis for pharma products being fanatically promoted by tobacco controllers worldwide ever since - has been replaced with the message that "nicotine itself is responsible for many of these diseases" now e-cigs have turned up.

It's pretty clear that there is more chance of a leopard opting for stripes over spots than there is the tobacco control movement embracing openness, objective impartiality and evidence-based integrity. Now that's a story that should be reported, perhaps one day there'll be a journalist brave enough to run it.

H/T @DikDeklan

Tuesday 17 March 2015

Farewell @CaptainRanty

I was just heading out last night when the very sad news appeared on Twitter that fellow blogger and friend Captain Ranty has passed away. 

I'd known him for a couple of years when he started his blog in April 2009 and was in no doubt it would be a success due to the quality of his writing, as I described during his early days.
He writes superb stuff, and (shhh, secret) I knew this before he started blogging. In fact, I knew it before I started this blog, which is why the moment he began writing in earnest, he was instantly added to my blogroll. I didn't need to know what he would be writing about as I didn't care. His pedigree was unquestionable, his prose a dream, and boy has he delivered in spades.
As a result of this, the Cap'n's comments sections were always lively and he rattled up large visitor numbers and some 2,800 Twitter followers in very short order.

His overall content was starkly different from here but always opinionated (as a blog should be), blunt, brutally honest, and often very personal, especially recently. However, being a staunch libertarian and a smoker, there were regular posts which would chime with those of you who read my tabloid stuff. So, in memory of the Captain, below I've reproduced one of his from 2010 which I think you'll enjoy revisiting.
File this tale under "Random". It doesn't fit anywhere else. 
Those with excellent visualisation skills should go no further than this. Really. 
About six years ago I was returning to the UK from somewhere in the US. I forget exactly which airport I was at but I have narrowed it down to two: Charlotte in North Carolina, or Dulles in Washington D.C. It isn't important. 
Anyway, I had a few hours to kill as the flight had been delayed. I wandered around until I found a bar that allowed smoking. The one I found was situated like a high street pub, with pavement seats & tables, only indoors. You could sit at a table but watch the passengers go by on the main concourse. 
I was chugging away, and chuffing away, when I saw the three largest humans in the history of humans thundering slowly towards me. Daddy Bear was a good 35 stone, Baby Bear in the middle was perhaps 20 stone, and Mummy Bear was the biggest of all. God alone knows how much she weighed but she was massive. All that fat in motion was vaguely hypnotic. And I don't mind admitting that as I smoked and drank, I watched them lumbering my way. 
Daddy was wearing some sort of mou-mou, Baby was wearing a track suit, and Mummy had on some beige crimpolene pants with those sewn in creases, and a ginormous tee-shirt. For some reason that escapes me, all were advertising the manufacturer of the clothing they wore. I couldn't see Dads, but Baby's apparel was made by Adidas, and Mums was made by Omar the Tentmaker. 
On they came. In step. Flat-footed. In no hurry. 
As they draw near, they all swivel giant heads above many, many chins, to glower at me. I take a drag of my smoke, exhale, and chase it with a swig of my beer. 
As they draw level, Mummy Bear sneers at me, pure hatred in her piggy eyes, waves a hand in front of her piggy nose, and says, "Disssgusssting!". 
I was a little surprised. Shocked even. 
They passed me and it was my turn to swivel and stare. I wish I hadn't. I am now the permanent owner of a sight that I cannot cleanse my mind, or my memory banks of. 
As I turned, my eyes were drawn, immediately, to the seat of Mummy Bears beige pants. 
She had shit herself. At some point during the day she had shit herself. And was unaware. The stain was the size of a dinner plate, but it had also tracked down her left leg and stained the pants there as well. 
I have seen some sights in my time. Deaths, disfigurement and deformities that defy reason or any godly compassion. 
But I have rarely seen anything as foul as a ridiculously fat woman who had shit herself and didn't know it, or didn't care. But was narrow-minded enough to call a complete stranger disgusting. For smoking a cigarette. 
Some nights, what worries me even more is that Daddy or Baby knew but didn't tell her. But still opted to wobble alongside her. In a public place. 
I haven't told anyone else on the face of the earth that story. I was half-hoping it would just go away. It didn't. I hope that by sharing we can now all collectively delete the image from our minds. 
A problem shared is a problem halved, right? 
Thank you, friends. This unburdening has helped me. 
It helped me a lot.
RIP Colin, you're already missed.

Monday 16 March 2015

An Honest Tobacco Controller?

Steady yourself. Because you're about to read something very rare ... a tobacco controller being vaguely honest.

It comes from Olivia Maynard - one of the 'scientists' behind 'evidence' for plain packaging (criticised by a real scientist here) - who has written in the Guardian this afternoon.
Just hours after MPs in the UK voted in favour of standardised (or plain) packaging for tobacco products, with a clear majority of 367 to 113, an Independent Online article appeared with the headline “Plain cigarette packaging: One in four MPs who opposed measures have declared links to tobacco industry.”
The clear implication is that these “links” may have influenced the way in which MPs voted on this important piece of tobacco control legislation. However, without a comparator group (that is, knowing how many of the MPs who voted in favour of standardised packaging had these same links), this ‘one in four’ statistic is problematic. 
Well yes, because 22% is not one in four for a start, but the honesty I'm referring to comes from Maynard's unusual (for a tobacco controller) scepticism towards a tired and fraudulent anti-smoking tactic.
[I]t’s clear that a higher percentage of those MPs who voted against standardised packaging had received hospitality from the tobacco industry as compared with those who either voted in favour of it or abstained from the vote. 
What can we conclude from this difference? Perhaps not as much as it might first appear, as these data cannot tell us anything about the direction of causality. We don’t know whether MPs’ voting behaviour was influenced by the hospitality they received from the tobacco industry, or whether those MPs who were already inclined to vote against tobacco control policies were also more likely to accept tobacco industry hospitality. Establishing whether observed associations such as these are causal is notoriously difficult. In addition, we can’t tell from these data whether those MPs who accept hospitality from the tobacco industry are just more likely to accept hospitality from any source.
Quite. You'd think, wouldn't you, that the massed ranks of acclaimed 'scientific' 'experts' in the tobacco control industry, with their superhuman grasp of epidemiology and statistics, would be clever enough to work this out too. Instead, to a man and woman, they leapt to spread this article last week in order to deliberately insinuate that MPs who voted against plain packaging had obviously been bought.

Of course, in reality, the idea that a £1,600 trip to the Chelsea Flower Show is enough to buy politicians' votes in perpetuity can only really be believed by those blessed with the intellect of a chimp, as Kristian Niemitz observed back in 2012.
Sure, there are advantages in convincing yourself that your opponents are effectively bribed liars. It absolves you of the need to engage in substantive debates.
There's a perfect recent example of this on Twitter.
Why try to rebut what your opponent is saying, when you know for sure that he does not even believe it himself? It is not just convenient, but also irrefutable. Of course Monbiot cannot provide the slightest evidence to back up his accusations, but then, why should he? Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. You can sometimes prove that somebody has fudged their arguments (through hacked e-mails, for example), but there is no way you could prove that somebody has not fudged their arguments. That’s what makes good conspiracy theories. Try to prove that the world is not controlled by super-intelligent space lizards
The space lizard hypothesis and George Monbiot’s corporate mouthpiece hypothesis have two things in common. Firstly, neither is falsifiable. But secondly, while many real-world observations are fully compatible with them, they are equally compatible with much more mundane explanations. For example, rather than the donors determining the contents of think tank publications, the contents of think tank publications could determine the donors. But that would be boring, wouldn't it?
Yes it would. But that's the difference between a scientist and a campaigner. The former wants to look into the intricacies of the human condition and the latter will just spout any old crap if it sways public opinion.

Even worse than being boring, though, is that - as anyone who has ever challenged 'public health' orthodoxy will have experience of - in the absence of slinging mud, issuing baseless smears, and ignoring inconvenient research, those proposing policies such as plain packaging, banning e-cigs, minimum alcohol pricing, fat taxes, sugar taxes etc etc ad infinitum, would have to actually debate the facts in front of them. And that just wouldn't do.

So well done to Maynard for criticising the Indy's lazy journalism. Her calm analysis of fairly irrelevant statistic is a small spark of integrity in an ocean of swill from other morons in her industry.

Thursday 12 March 2015

Blueprint For The Biggest Black Market In World History

Yet another global tobacco control industry junket will be taking place in the Middle East next week. The 16th World Conference on Tobacco or Health (WCTOH) starts on Monday and promises to be, erm, gripping stuff.

I'm sure the media will be scrambling for places in the gallery and newspaper editors are preparing to hold their front pages for breaking news from Abu Dhabi but - in the unlikely event that no-one really gives a stuff - a couple of tobacco control harebrains from New Zealand have a cunning plan to grab attention (and, by extension, grants).

Writing in The Lancet, they will tomorrow predict an end to smoking by 2040. No, not just in New Zealand ... but the entire world! Apparently, "the time has come for the world to acknowledge the unacceptability of the damage being done by the tobacco industry and work towards a world essentially free from the sale (legal and illegal) of tobacco products".

Now, if global prevalence was falling I suppose their puerile enthusiasm could be excused, but it requires Comical Ali levels of laugh out loud stupidity to make these daft pronouncements when tobacco use has never been higher in the history of mankind ...

From the CDC
... and is still rising.

Apparently, they will be calling on "the United Nations (UN) to lead a “turbo-charged” effort against the sale and consumption of tobacco", forgetting that this will set the (unelected) UN the impossible task of persuading (elected) governments worldwide that they don't really need the huge levels of tobacco duty receipts - voluntarily surrendered by their electorate - after all.

Before you say that the cuckoo Kiwi prohibitionists haven't really thought this through, though, you must consider their brilliant change in emphasis. You see, they believe that "regulatory efforts have been too focused on reducing demand for tobacco" instead of trying to cut off supply. I take it, then, that their plan involves closing down all legal tobacco factories throughout the world in the next 25 years, as well as asking criminal gangs like the newly plain packs-enriched IRA to play ball ... well, good luck with that.

Click here for the interactive map, they'll all be gone by 2040
Anna "Rent-a-study" Gilmore is quoted, saying that the only thing stopping a smokefree world is - of course - Big Tobacco.
“The tobacco industry continues to interfere with governments’ efforts to implement effective tobacco control policies. If the world is to become tobacco free, it’s vital that the industry’s appalling conduct receives far closer scrutiny"
Presumably, in this context, 'interfering' would mean tobacco manufacturers saying excuse me, but can you not shut our factories down, because people still want to smoke and you're going to create the biggest criminal black market the planet has ever seen. The interfering bastards, eh?

It is quite staggering that this huge, stratospherically-funded (The Gates Foundation is one of the WCTOH sponsors) tobacco control industry seems blissfully unaware that erasing supply when there is huge demand can only lead down one path. Have they honestly never come across the comprehensive disasters of Prohibition and the War on Drugs during their sociology studies?

I don't know what is more darkly comic, that this idea is being unveiled to the world on March 13th rather than April 1st; or the fact that there are politicians who would actually think this to be an achievable plan!

Good grief.

Who knows how much coverage this insanity will create, any sensible news editor worth his salt should laugh it out of his office. The quango-enthralled BBC, on the other hand, are doubtless lining up a splash for breakfast news as I type.

Wednesday 11 March 2015

"Call Me Janus"

David Cameron 2008:
"The era of big, bossy, state interference, top-down lever pulling is coming to an end."
MPs vote to enforce standardised cigarette packaging
David Cameron's official spokesman said: "The Prime Minister voted in favour of this change. He is pleased that it has gone through."
As leader of the Conservative Party, he's a great advert for UKIP, isn't he?

Tuesday 10 March 2015

A Triumph Of Cowardice

"What is the face of a coward? The back of his head as he runs from a battle" - Frank Underwood
Online convenience store trade site Better Retailing today published some observations from the Westminster Committee Room where MPs hid themselves away to avoid a debate in the House of Commons over plain packaging. It conveys the exasperation of independent retailers who have been comprehensively butt-fucked by politicians since the last election in 2010.

After strongly opposing the tobacco display ban in opposition, both Conservative and Lib Dem coalition partners about-turned within months and passed it anyway, costing every small shop in the country thousands they can ill afford. Now they are screwing the trade again but are too ashamed to do so in parliament in case Conservative divisions might be widely noticed in the run up to an election.

It has to be noted that plain packaging is only being passed due to Conservative cowardice in the face of Labour flinging insults about Lynton Crosby, so their further cowardice in not affording a debate in the commons is to be expected I suppose.

But the Better Retailing article succinctly details the rank cowering gutlessness of enthusiastic promoters of the policy too.
4. The sanctimonious hypocrisy of some anti-smoking MPs is breathtaking. 
One Labour MP, Kevin Barron, dismissed the small business arguments against plain packaging because of funding for a campaign that the NFRN had received from British American Tobacco. 
“I exposed in 2011 exactly what the tobacco company was up to. I have no doubt that many of the missives that we have had screaming about what was going to happen to small retail were close to tobacco, even if they were not funded by it, as that campaign was,” Mr Barron said.
This is the Kevin Barron who is so confident that the public is behind his personal hatred of tobacco products that he fully endorses the WHO's cowardly Article 5.3, the sole purpose of which is to silence debate about policies proposed by anti-smoking lunatics. Cowardly because if they had their ducks lined up and the evidence is solid, they should be able to take on all-comers, no?

Better Retailing continues ...
Quite what is wrong for a company like BAT supporting retailers with less time and resources to protect a key category in their store was not explained in the committee. Ghoulish references to so-called “Big Tobacco” seem enough of an argument in themselves.
Well, I don't wish to criticise the author for coming to the party late, but what's wrong with any large business supporting small businesses is that the tobacco control industry is scared of a proper fight. So they have sought for decades to avoid one by silencing opposition (hence article 5.3). They don't want anyone with less time and resources having their say at all, so have engineered a position where "ghoulish references to 'Big Tobacco'" is, indeed, all that is required. Why be brave and challenge your critics head on when you can just spinelessly cheat, and nobble the other side?
Indeed, support that independents receive from manufacturers is about the only counteracting force against the might of supermarkets which, as Nick de Bois explained, will be at an advantage due to their deeper pockets and less tobacco-dependent business models.
The tobacco control industry couldn't care less. They don't receive income from retailers, so sod 'em.
Plus, as MP Philip Davies asked, isn't ASH government funded? Is it right that one side gets major financial backing to put forward its views while the other is castigated for it?
Welcome to the disingenuous and cowardly world that self-interested tobacco controllers have created for themselves. State-funded Goliath against the small shop Davids who are deprived of any support.
While Jane Ellison MP later argued no government funding ASH received was for the purpose of lobbying, Mr Barron said that it would be okay if that was happening, anyway. 
Mr Barron MP, like many of his opinion, seem worried about one form of corporate advantage or influence, but naive or blinkered when it comes to all others.
That'll be because the anti-smoking industry is two-faced, shifty, and corrupt. As are its cowardly pet politicians. The sole purpose of ASH is to lobby - it is the only thing they do and what they were set up for in 1972 - so any cash they are handed can only be used in one respect. But Ellison is too spineless even to admit that simple fact.

The plain packaging campaign has been quite brilliant for putting tobacco control and its simpering scaredy cats in the spotlight. We've seen gross examples of every kind of sharp and corrupt political practice known to man, so it's apt that it should all be rounded off with an object lesson in chicken shit.

Conservative cowardice for bowing to a tiny few state-funded blowhards; tobacco control cowardice in not allowing robust opposition; cowardice in Ellison timidly letting Labour drive the agenda; cowardice in Ellison also not admitting ASH is using taxes to lobby; cowardice of Labour politicians in dismissing genuine small business concerns with lies; cowardice in favouring quango propaganda over public responses to consultations; and finally cowardice in confining MP opposition to a committee room to cowardly try to hide party objections from the electorate.

I hope every UK retailer watches the vote tomorrow and notes the choice of their local incumbent. May a hundred thousand counter-top campaigns roll against craven MPs who allow valid concerns from local businesses they are shafting to be portrayed as "screaming" by Big Tobacco.

Let the retail lions see the political sheep.

Monday 9 March 2015

The Search Continues For Dame Sally's 'People'

A clown, pictured yesterday
Back in February, Chief Medical Officer Sally "Backbone" Davies made an astonishing claim on the BBC.
“We don't yet know about vaping. I mean clearly they put in flavourings, we don’t know the impact of those. Butterscotch has had to be withdrawn because people got chronic lung disease.”
I've been extremely busy of late so must admit to having missed the extensive media coverage of this health threat. However, it seems Mark Pawsey MP did too, so on Friday he asked for more details from the Secretary of State for Health.
Mark Pawsey, Conservative, Rugby 
To ask the Secretary of State for Health, how many cases of chronic lung disease are recorded as being linked to (a) butterscotch flavoured e-liquid and (b) electronic cigarettes in general. 
Jane Ellison, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health 
The Department does not hold the requested information.
Yes. There have been so many people going down with chronic lung disease as a direct result of using e-cigs that ... the Department of Health has no record of them! This strikes me as woeful incompetence on the part of the DoH, what are we paying our taxes for if it isn't to have these things monitored?

I mean, Backbone was very certain of her facts, and she is our calm, knowledgeable and evidence-based Chief Medical Officer, after all. She must have received solid proof of this assertion from somewhere, and if it's not the DoH, she must have some peer-reviewed studies stuffed down the back of her sofa that no-one in Westminster or Whitehall knows about. Perhaps an FOI request is in order, anyone up for it?

But then I remembered what I wrote about her in May.
Now, isn't the CMO meant to be rational and form opinions rooted in - you know, as the job title implies - dispassionate evaluation of data and science, as opposed to a media which is supposed to enjoy whipping up a frenzy based on scaremongery and junk science? The roles seem to have been reversed in this case. 
Sally's silliness has been mentioned here before, but it's now becoming increasingly clear that she is either too easily manipulated by vested interests or just plain incompetent. Either way, it strongly indicates that she is unfit for purpose, vastly over-promoted to the position of CMO, and should be fired before she does any real damage.
So I suppose it's more than possible that she was deliberately lying on the BBC.

It's a crushing indictment of the public sector in general - and the Department of Health in particular - that such a dangerously ignorant clown is paid around a quarter of a million pounds of our taxes per year.

UPDATE: It seems there is already an FOI in progress to try to find out about all those chronic lung disease cases. Dame Sally must be rooting behind the cushions as we speak.

Wednesday 4 March 2015

Wise Speeches And Silly Games

You may remember that this time last week I wrote about Forest's Stop The Nonsense event and mentioned a particularly good speech by Mark Littlewood. It's now available on YouTube so here it is embedded for your enjoyment.

On the same subject, there was an interesting bait and switch style move inflicted on another of the speakers that evening, Emily Barley of Conservatives for Liberty.

Y'see, she managed to get a perfectly sensible piece on the silliness of plain packaging into left wing site Shout Out UK at the weekend. However, nestled amongst the links added by the site's sub-editor was this pile of utter tripe about e-cigs designed, it would seem, to appear as if it was something Emily would agree with.
First of all, how can we say that something which contains as much as 48mg/ml of nicotine is harmless? I’ve observed that there is a tendency to believe that nicotine is addictive, but ‘that’s it.’ Well, sorry to disappoint, but it’s a psychoactive substance that binds to the adrenal medulla in our brains, increases our adrenaline flow, which in turn raises blood pressure, plus the heart and respiration rate. For somebody with heart issues, this could be fatal. For a healthy individual, this could cause heart problems in the long term. 
It seems rather strange to me that people find it normal to not be able to control themselves; when they don't find it unusual to get withdrawal symptoms or experience irritability without the nicotine. Which is what you get from e-cigarettes. It can even be said that they cause a more intense addiction because one can smoke them practically anywhere – there are no bans or restrains, so it’s not hard to spot someone ‘vaping’ intensely every 5 minutes on a bus. 
The World Health Organization has already called for stricter regulation of the product’s sales, more research and a ban on the use of e-cigarettes in public areas (due to recent research on potential risks of second-hand smoke to foetuses and children) – these issues will be discussed at the next UN meeting in October. Perhaps we will soon realise that no form of smoking is as glamorous as it seems and that there are better ways to quit than to substitute one type of cigarette for another.
Now, I queried this link with Emily by e-mail and she replied that "I think e-cigs are an excellent example of the market responding to people's desire for less harmful products. No need for government to get its big boots on!". So what that link was doing there in a piece extolling the virtues of liberty and condemning kneejerk anti-smoking fuckwittery is anyone's guess. Mine would be that Shout Out UK's anger at having to appear impartial was so great that they had to try to sabotage the piece somehow.

Still, while the snotty-nosed Shout Out children played their puerile games, Emily got her point across very well indeed. So well done her.
[W]hen it comes to ‘public health’ and freedom of choice, the slippery slope is real. All the things that well-meaning public health campaigners judge to be unhealthy are in the firing line. Unfortunately for us, the principle of control has been established. 
As you can see from our infographic (click to enlarge), it’s only a very small step from tobacco to alcohol and sugar. Bans on advertising, high taxation and plain packaging first for tobacco, and then for alcohol and high sugar foods.
Don’t like the idea of fatty livers plastered all over your favourite bottle of wine? Or chocolate bars doubling in price through tax? Reckon Coco Pops are perfectly formed as they are, and shouldn’t have their composition changed by government decree? Think that actually, California might have the right idea on cannabis? 
Then it’s time to stand firm on freedom of choice. Plain packaging will open the floodgates to these other controls, and I don't think that’s good for any of us.
Like the tobacco control industry, those on the left do try their best to nobble reasoned debate, don't they? It may explain why so many in public health are overwhelmingly of a leftish persuasion, I dunno.

If you're thirsty for more about the Stop The Nonsense event, Emily features in this condensed 12 minute résumé of the evening so do go have a watch.

Tuesday 3 March 2015

Poo Sticks Resurrection

You may remember an article here last year about the the tobacco control industry's brilliant new existence-extending exercise, poo sticks. If not, do go have a read to catch up.

Well, with the pressure being loaded on the New Zealand government to fall into line and implement the stupidity of plain packaging, Janet Hoek - one of the world's foremost public health extremists - has seized an opportunity to resurrect the idea.
Australia’s decision to introduce plain packaging has aroused international attention and stimulated interest in complementary initiatives. To date, research attention has focused on external packaging and few studies have examined the physical objects of consumption – cigarette sticks. 
Practical implications – As policymakers internationally consider introducing plain packaging, they should examine whether dissuasive sticks could enhance measures regulating the external appearance of tobacco packages.
This is a euphemism for suggesting government mandate that - at the same time as turning the outside of packets into a B list gore film - the cigarettes inside should look like bile, sick and shit.
Hoek's angle is very interesting though, because - as we already know - tobacco controllers are involved in a global game of keeping up with the Joneses; of always looking for some way of kidding themselves that they are doing something important instead of just being miserable tax spongers.

Ireland preen themselves at being the first to inflict a national smoking ban, Australia is proud to have been the first to infantilise their citizens with plain packaging, but Janet has a plan to keep New Zealand right up there in the international illiberal bastards stakes.

Just think of the glory! The white fern nation could be the very first to not only demand plain packaging, but also to make the cigarettes look crap too! What a giant leap for mankind, eh? She explains her potentially huge contribution to humanity in this video.

Now, I'm sure you thought that with all advertising banned, along with sports sponsorship, cigarettes hidden behind screens and colour schemes taken off packs in favour of gory pictures, that no tobacco controller could ever claim with a straight face that the tobacco industry is 'marketing' their products.

But you'd be wrong because apparently, now, the white of a cigarette paper is evil and a means of conveying social acceptability. It's getting to the point where someone should seriously start to question the sanity of these people, doncha think?

By the way, Hoek also wants plain packaging for fast food and fizzy drinks. Not that there's a slippery slope or anything, after all we know that's just a fallacy cos Debs told us so.

And tobacco controllers would never lie, now would they?

Monday 2 March 2015

Don't Fine Parents, Ban Stuff Instead!

For those in 'public health', the idea of leaving people to make their own decisions in life is simply unthinkable - because, you see, that way unemployment lies. Consider, for example, this article in The Conversation, 'public health's favourite source of 'debate'.
The Puerto Rican government has just tabled a bill that would see parents with obese children fined up to US$800 if they don't ensure their offspring lose weight. This government is clearly at a loss in the fight against childhood obesity and its latest attempt is a panicked, or at the very least desperate, public health response.
Fining parents eye-watering sums because their kids are not of proportions approved by the state? Surely as fascistic an idea as we've seen to date!
Obesity on the whole, however, is a lower socio-economic problem – the argument could be made that obesity is the least of their worries. Any solution that fines those already struggling to live day-to-day is a recipe for disaster.
Of course it is, not to mention deeply immoral. The bill should be scrapped, the public be given information on healthy eating and left to their own devices, which the author is going to suggest, right?

Nope, course not.
If the government is sincere about helping parents to better manage their children’s weight, then they should take a close look at the eating environments in the most disadvantaged communities. The sizable investment that would be needed to set up this proposed scheme could do wonders in these areas – reduce the cost of healthy foods, establish local markets and vegetable gardens, cooking classes, and so on.
Hold on, does he mean make healthy food - which is already very much cheaper than fast food - even cheaper? How will that work? Subsidies or price controls (which are going down a storm in Venezuela)?

Whichever, the "sincere" way of "helping" parents according to this blinkered fool is to spend lots and lots of money setting up a system that nobody wants. As in, lead a horse to water and miraculously make it drink. In public health, it seems to be forgotten that the reason individuals eat stuff professional food bores despise is that they choose to. Set up as many veggie gardens as you like, but if demand isn't there, the supply will just go to rot.

Yes, to tackle a 'problem' which costs the country an imaginary amount of money dictated by computer models created specifically for the purpose by public health, the answer is to spend bucketloads of real cash on initiatives which have bugger all chance of working.

There is a cheaper alternative, though, apparently.
If they're interested in a less costly public measure to help out the parents, they could place a ban on the fast-food marketing that manipulates their children’s dietary choices.
Of course. A ban. Public health's favourite 'moderate' response to any minor perceived flaw in their pursuit of a homogenous, perfected, ideal citizenry. Attack businesses, facilitate job losses and harm real people in order to reduce imaginary costs. Great plan!
There is no single answer to combating population-wide obesity, which is the result of so many factors, from a family’s genetics, to location, to income, to education.
Correct. And those who know which particular factors apply in any particular situation are the people themselves, so why is public health so devoted to "population-level" solutions which they clearly understand will not work? Is it a salary thing?
The answer to tackling the obesity epidemic arguably requires a cultural shift, a change in approach across all levels of society, akin to what we saw with tobacco in the 1990s.
The tobacco template delivers yet again, is there no amount of public health quackery it can't be used to justify? Onward ad bans, sin taxes, display bans and plain packaging for popular foods. Huzzah! Sound the trumpet, get the fat crusade started proper!

Please, for the love of Christ, someone hang these miserable, self-interested, trouser-stuffing puritans. Hang them all.