Friday 24 April 2015

A Freedom-Loving Fantasy Frontbench

A new website and app designed, according to its creators, to "empower voters by providing political information in an engaging and accessible format" has been launched today. Fantasy Frontbench carries information on general election candidates' stance on 75 policy issues from which you are invited to create your own fantasy cabinet.

So I've used it to select a dream team of 22 ministers who are sound on lifestyle issues we jewel robbers discuss on these pages.

I've gone for the genial David Davis as Prime Minister, which isn't so far-fetched because he would be if the Tories hadn't had a collective meltdown in 2005 in choosing a bedwetter as their party leader. He'd need an able sidekick, so consummate libertarian Doug Carswell fills the Deputy PM role.

Two ministers stay where they are in my reshuffle, Eric Pickles for having the courage to clamp down on sock puppets in local government, and Chris Grayling for being the most prominent MP to vote against plain packs.

Two Labour MPs are included, in the form of Kate Hoey who has always been uncharacteristically liberal for her party, and Simon Danczuk is Justice Secretary for his dogged work on child abuse. In the regions, ex-Labour brawler Eric Joyce is responsible for slapping some sense into Scotland, while Guto Bebb takes on the Welsh job and Ian Paisley can start work on getting back the 900 jobs lost recently in Northern Ireland thanks to stupid government interference.

At health, I have Mark Pawsey to be a firm hand over the NHS and to ensure e-cigs are kept out of overweening regulation, while Nigel Farage takes Culture Media and Sport to oversee a renaissance for pubs with an amendment to the smoking ban, amongst other fun tasks.

Sound as a pound Steve Baker is my Chancellor for his experience in the City, and last but not least, our esteemed mascot is, of course, Leader of the House.

You can see my choices for all 22 positions by clicking here - it's interesting to note that more than three quarters of these liberal types were not educated at Oxbridge institutions. Perhaps that's where the paternalist streak gets injected, who knows?

You can view all the candidates' voting records and make your own choices for top jobs at Do consider sharing your line-ups in the comments, I'm curious to learn if I've overlooked anyone.

Thursday 23 April 2015

NHS Scotland Is Rolling In It

Two weeks on from NHS Scotland being thoroughly frustrated that "seeing smokers is a part of life" and trying to change their policies so that the idea that "all smokers are welcome" on NHS grounds is a thing of the past, the agonising continues.
New rules designed to turn hospitals into completely smoke-free places are being openly flouted across Tayside and Fife, The Courier can reveal.
Good. People can spot a stupid rule when they see one, and banning smoking outdoors in windswept Scotland is certainly that.
NHS Fife recently launched its A Place to Be Smoke-free campaign encouraging smokers to refrain from lighting up on hospital grounds. 
Signs were set up across all hospital sites to remind smokers they are not permitted to light up on hospital premises across the region.
They are permitted, because the Health Act 2006 was installed on indoor premises to protect bystanders - like those poor bar workers who everyone has now forgotten about - from a cleverly-created myth. Not outdoor ones where there is no threat whatsoever to anyone except those that have freely chosen to risk it.
But with some people choosing just to ignore the messages, Edward Coyle, NHS Fife’s director of public health, conceded that bringing about the culture change needed to ensure fully smoke-free hospitals is a challenge.
Hospitals are smoke-free already Ed, only the grounds and car parks - yes, car parks, for crying out loud - aren't. Because it's a ridiculous demand. That's why people are ignoring the messages, d'you see?
“Our smoking policy states that smoking is not permitted at any time for staff, patients, visitors, contractors or the general public within NHS Fife premises or on our grounds."
Erm, whose grounds, Ed? I think you'll find they are owned by the taxpayer, of which smokers are an inordinately generous group when it comes to paying their way. They also employ your sorry arse.
“Our A Place to be Smoke-free campaign, which launched on No Smoking Day, saw eye-catching new signage installed at all hospital sites across Fife, as well as on our vehicles and in bus shelters across the kingdom. The campaign was also promoted widely in the local press and on our social media channels."
Must have cost a pretty penny, matey. Didn't someone say the NHS is teetering on the brink and starved of cash?
"Furthermore, we employ a member of staff at the main entrance of our largest hospital, the Victoria Hospital, Kirkcaldy, specifically to further promote our no-smoking message."
Eh? You actually took on a member of staff on full time pay - from the vanishing cash the NHS keeps complaining about - to nag smokers for no valid reason, on premises they co-own? Good grief.
[Andrew Radley, consultant in public health pharmacy with NHS Tayside, said] “In NHS Tayside there are several measures in place to ensure our existing policy is followed which includes the use of clear signage around all sites informing patients, visitors and staff that NHS Tayside grounds are smoke-free areas and a pre-recorded loud speaker message is played at Ninewells Hospital to reinforce this,” 
“As a health promoting organisation, NHS Tayside takes breach of the policy very seriously and regularly communicates reminders of the smoking policy to patients, staff and visitors through both internal and external communications."
Jeez, they love spending rivers of cash on pointless causes in the NHS, don't they? Perhaps why they keep finding PCTs are in debt, just saying.
“NHS Tayside Smoke Free Services provides smoking cessation services and support to NHS staff, patients and members of the public, including the availability of Nicotine Replacement Therapy, stop smoking classes and drop-in sessions.”
All of it, of course, free to those who take it up but at vast cost to the NHS who have to pay pharma companies for it. No mention whatsoever of e-cigs which people buy voluntarily and cost the NHS the princely sum of bugger all.
All hospital grounds in Scotland were supposed to be smoke-free from April 1
A perfect choice of date for such a daft policy.
Every NHS board was asked to sign up to the edict at the request of the Scottish Government, which is consulting on whether or not to make it a statutory offence to smoke in hospital grounds. 
If the measure is included in the forthcoming Public Health Bill, ministers are said to be largely in favour of voting it through.
It was never about peer-reviewed (pfft) studies on the harms from secondhand smoke, was it? Bar staff? What are they?
Guidance was issued to NHS Scotland and local authorities in 2005 encouraging them to “demonstrate leadership” by implementing smoking policies and promoting smoke-free lifestyles.
Ah, of course. "Demonstrating leadership", this is the public sector term for doing something that no-one asked for, no-one really wants, and precious few even give a stuff about.
The five-year plan said smoke-free status should be achieved by the end of March this year, and would mean the removal of any designated smoking areas in NHS board buildings or grounds.
You mean the designated smoking areas which used to be the best way of making sure the precious flowers who are upset by wisps of smoke in a car park knew where to avoid? Cracking idea.
A number of readers have complained to The Courier that their visits to hospital, either as patients or as relatives of those being treated inside, are regularly being spoiled by having to enter through a plume of smoke.
Perhaps they should ask for the designated smoking areas back then, or is that too complicated? It would certainly go some way to stop their joyous day out at the hospital being 'spoiled', wouldn't it?
[Bob Smart, from Arbroath] said: “At all entrances, particularly the main one, hardened smokers totally ignore the warnings. The sight of patients on drips and oxygen puffing away is disgusting."
I'd say it is revolting and inhumane that they should not be afforded a place inside the hospital somewhere rather than being deliberately paraded by public health fascists, but each to their own Bob.
“If the powers that be were as ruthless as the parking attendants, the grounds really would be a no smoking area.”
Fine the bastards! Then clamp their ankles in chains until they cough up! And if they still don't pay, put them in the crusher! That what you mean, Bob?

Looks like this issue will run and run, which is interesting because it illustrates that:

a) The NHS isn't as strapped for cash as they like to claim
b) The NHS is stuffed full of managers thinking up policies they can 'liaise' with expensive ad agencies and publicists about.
c) Many of the public have lost the faculty of risk evaluation, along with empathy and common sense.
d) It has never been about science, health or secondhand smoke.
e) If you live in Scotland, I pity you.

Wednesday 22 April 2015

The Youth Non-Drinking Epidemic

More news today on this 'binge-drinking epidemic' amongst young people that we keep hearing about.
The study says the proportion of teenagers and young adults drinking on five or more days a week has more than halved since 2005. Binge drinking – which is defined as more than eight units for men and six units for women - has gone down by nearly a third to 18% among this age group over the same period.
Perhaps this might, erm, educate the drones at the National Union of Students into not unfairly painting their peers as a collection of violent, shit-faced, destructive savages by calling for urgent measures to whack up the price of drinks and even ban alcohol in student bars.

Nah, probably not. Because the 'binge-drinking epidemic' is just one of those moral panics that refuses to go away despite a decade of facts showing that it's bunkum. It's interesting too, that this dramatic decline is continuing at the same time as alcohol duty is being cut, booze is still advertised at sports events, in cinemas, at concerts and on the TV, and minimum alcohol pricing is still considered an entirely unwarranted proposal.

In fact, the only factor that this institutional decline can be attributed to is education, seeing as kids are harangued - on the national curriculum - from kindergarten to university about the evils of alcohol these days. Yet 'public health' still routinely insists that education is a poor driver of change and that we need armies of their kind to lobby for legislation with our taxes as well, or else we'll all soon be heading to Armageddon in a drug-infused tumbril.

But then, I suppose if teachers are doing all the work, there's not much scope for lobbyists, anti-business proselytisers, junk science researchers, global summits and the huge salaries and expense accounts that come with them, eh?

Monday 20 April 2015

Mad Stan's Descent Into Parody

Since I first wrote about them back in 2008, I've always considered e-cigs to carry the potential to expose the cant and hypocrisy of the tobacco control industry. And they are delivering in spades of late.

It shows the laughable standards to which the World Health Organisation adheres, for example, that they class mad mechanic Stan Glantz as one of their go-to experts on vaping. His insane wibblings on the subject are - to the casual reader - indistinguishable from parody at times. Yesterday is a case in point.
[The Smoke Free Alternatives Trade Association] is actively trying to undermine the CDC's Tips for Former Smokers campaign by posting this ad, which looks exactly like the Tips ads, except that it endorses e-cigarettes as a cessation device. 
These kind of look-alike campaigns (as they are also running against California with this campaign) may seem funny, but, as explained in the film Merchants of Doubt, are used to confuse the public and public policy makers.
Confuse the public and policy makers? OK, let's have a look at one of these 'CDC Tips' ads which are being 'undermined', shall we?

The inference, of course, is that e-cigs contributed to this problem for Kristy. Except that the real story (which most Americans won't find) is significantly different.
"I tried e-cigarettes, but I just ended up using both the electronic kind and my regular brand," she said. Eventually, Kristy quit e-cigarettes and went back to just smoking cigarettes.
So the inclusion of e-cigs in that ad is entirely irrelevant. It is the very definition of a "campaign to confuse the public and public policy makers" which Stan condemns.

The copy may as well have read "I started using nicotine patches ... until my lung collapsed", or "I started using Champix ... until my lung collapsed", or "I started chewing a carrot ... until my lung collapsed". It is nothing but a cleverly worded smear against e-cigs, designed to put people off trying them.

It's not an accident, either, as CDC director Tom Frieden illustrates in a New York Times article from Friday.
What’s more, he feared that there was a “significant likelihood that a proportion of those who are using e-cigarettes will go on to use combustible cigarettes.” 
“That this is happening,” Frieden added, “is alarming.”
Except that study after study - in every jurisdiction in the world - is proving that this isn't happening at all. Most recently in Wales, but also in the whole of the UK, France and, yes, in Frieden's own USA.

There quite simply is no "likelihood" whatsoever, let alone a "significant" one. Again, this is just another tobacco control industry 'merchant of doubt' trying to pretend that there is a problem. One might even call Frieden's statement one designed to "confuse the public and public policy makers", eh?

Back in the real world, what Glantz is attempting - and what has been the modus operandi of tobacco controllers for the past couple of decades - is to pretend that the truth is whatever Glantz says it is, and that anyone opposing him should be ignored. The debate is over once aircraft engineer Glantz and his sociologist tobacco control chums have formed an opinion, and if you disagree you must be a tobacco industry shill or an 'astroturf' mouthpiece.

Sadly for Stan, no-one is buying his shit on e-cigs, however much the WHO pimp it out. His industry employed the same lies, misdirection and torturing of facts towards smoking, and was largely successful because there are a lot of vehemently anti-smoking people willing to believe any old crap if it condemns tobacco. The same doesn't apply to e-cigs, with only the most anti-social cretins and curtain-twitching prodnoses - you know, the type of utter bore you cross the road to avoid on the way back from the shops - being remotely bothered by vaping.

Up and down the UK (and, I suspect the US too) - most especially in working class areas in my experience - the presence of e-cigs is becoming ever more visibly prevalent if not ubiquitous in places. From burly bin men to latte-sipping credit controllers, e-cigs are becoming a normal part of everyday life and a respected alternative to smoking.

Even amongst the medical profession, little by little attitudes are changing, with individuals being won over every day, as described in this article at Clive Bates's blog today (do go read). Being an anti-vaper when you've been anti-smoking for a long time is fast being seen as an unsupportable position; ridiculous even. Which it is, hence why even members of Bristol's fiercely anti-smoking Tobacco Research Group are now producing articles criticising junk studies designed to produce headlines which "are used to confuse the public and public policy makers".

Glantz and his irrational hatred of e-cigs is fast isolating him in a corner he painted for himself.  The only way out for him now is a conversion of epiphanic proportion which turns him into advocate of e-cigs, or some hitherto undiscovered ailment which starts affecting vapers in huge numbers. But considering the most damning studies thus far, after a decade since e-cigs started becoming mainstream, tend to warn of such catastrophes as an itchy throat, I don't rate his chances much.

Like some crack addict clutching a lottery ticket and confidently predicting that better times are just around the corner, Stan's lunacy towards e-cigs is determining his future. It's a sad one of producing fantasy blog articles of diminishing interest to the serious medical community, whilst desperately craving the advent of a miracle e-cig-borne disease which will rescue his accelerating descent into scientific obscurity and irrelevance.

Hopefully taking the WHO's credibility down with him.

Thursday 16 April 2015

Another Incompetent Chief Medical Officer

It would appear that the Welsh Chief Medical Officer, Ruth Hussey, is as incompetent as England's version when it comes to e-cigs.

From the BBC (complete with video):
E-cigarettes could normalise smoking among a generation which has grown up in a largely smoke-free society, according to the Welsh government's chief medical officer. 
Dr Ruth Hussey was responding to a Cardiff University study which found 6% of pupils aged under 11 said they had used e-cigarettes, compared to 2% who had tried tobacco. 
"This research demonstrates that e-cigarettes are being used by young people who have never smoked," she said.  
"We should be doing everything we can to prevent a new generation becoming addicted to nicotine," Dr Hussey added.
Really, Ruth? This is the information you are happy to spew out to our national broadcaster? Because I've read the study - it's here for anyone else interested - and it 'demonstrates' that Hussey is being economic with the truth.

It sampled 1,601 primary school kids and 9,055 secondary school students in Wales and found that a tiny 2.1% of the former had used an e-cig more than once ever, while only 1.5% of the latter used e-cigs more than once a month (125 of them). Of those, only a vanishing third of one per cent had never previously smoked. So, wouldn't her sentence have been more accurate if she had said.
"This research demonstrates that e-cigarettes are being used by 0.3% of young people who have never smoked"
At which point, we would all breathe a big sigh of relief and think, you know what, if they weren't using e-cigs they'd probably be experimenting with tobacco or cannabis anyway, so nothing to see here. It's hardly of epidemic proportion, is it?

Alternatively, perhaps Hussey could have called the study authors for guidance, because they make it quite clear that Hussey's message is definitely not the one they want to convey.
However, it is important to note the low prevalence of regular e-cigarette use, which suggests that e-cigarettes are unlikely to make a major direct contribution to adolescent nicotine addiction at present.
So wind your neck in, Hussey, you disingenuous troll. You're creating a scare story for purposes we can only guess at. Been talking to your pharma chums recently, have you?

We'll leave the last word to lead researcher Graham Moore, shall we, seeing as Wales's CMO doesn't seem capable of reading an academic paper with any degree of competence.
"There are some concerns at the moment that the growth of e-cigarettes may be helping to get a new generation of young people addicted to nicotine. At the moment, that doesn't seem to be the case. There doesn't seem to be too much reason to worry that that's actually happening."
Tell it to the Welsh CMO who thinks there is reason to be filmed by the BBC promoting exactly that non-existent worry.

I'm surprised that, during these times of austerity, we have such a duplication of highly-paid people spreading demonstrable nonsense. I mean, how many barking Chief Medical Officers does this country really need?

Tuesday 14 April 2015

4,442 Reasons Why Plain Packaging Won't Work

As Snowdon has reported today - do go read his analysis here - a new study has shown that smokers don't take up the habit because of the packaging. Yes, any fule kno that except the tobacco control industry who get paid handsomely to say otherwise, but the study in question is very interesting nonetheless.

It was authored by researchers from Imperial College London, Harvard School of Public Health and the University of Crete, with one of them also affiliated to Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention’s Office on Smoking and Health, and was published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the European Public Health Association (EPHA). A who's who of global authorities, right there, which is perhaps why we've seen not a whisper from the tobacco control industry about it - their one trick of throwing smears and ad hominems about the authors or assumed funding sources simply doesn't work in this instance, so they instead stay silent and pretend it doesn't exist.

Snowdon has highlighted the main fact-finding question in the study which was asked in personal interviews with a total of 4,442 current and former smokers aged 15-39 from all 27 EU member states as at 2012.
Respondents were allowed to select up to three among the following response options: ‘your friends smoked’; ‘your parents smoked’; ‘you liked the packaging of the cigarettes (or other tobacco products)’; ‘you liked the taste or smell of tobacco’; ‘you liked menthol cigarettes’; ‘you liked cigarettes with a specific sweet, fruity or spicy flavour’; and ‘cigarettes were affordable’. Respondents who indicated that they started smoking because their friends smoked were classified as having initiated smoking under the domain of ‘peer influence’ and those who mentioned that they started smoking because their parents smoked were classified as under the domain of ‘parental influence’. All other responses were grouped together as ‘tobacco product features’, as the numbers of respondents who indicated each one as an influence were small.
You'll note that of the seven options from which to choose, the five which referred to "design and marketing features" of tobacco had to be lumped together because so very few smokers said they were a factor in why they began smoking. The option "you saw someone smoking in a park and instantly wanted to go out and buy 20 Marlboro" didn't even make their drawing board during study design, it seems.

The conclusion proves that tobacco control has purposely been barking up the wrong tree for the best part of the past decade!
No significant association between design and marketing features of tobacco products and an early initiation of regular smoking was observed (OR = 1.04; 95%CI 0.83–1.31).
By "early initiation", they mean starting smoking before the age of 18. Yet in recent years we have seen tobacco display bans, for the children; a proposed ban on menthol in the EU TPD for the children; bans on flavourings in the US for the children; and plain packaging in the UK, erm, for the children. Despite children not being seduced by any of these features.

Hmm, perhaps packaging is indeed designed to protect and grow market share - just as in any other industry - amongst adult smokers who choose to smoke, as the tobacco industry has always insisted. Fancy that!

It's almost like the vast and lucrative anti-smoking industry is not really about the children - or health - but instead about the salaries of tobacco controllers who are running out of valid campaigns to keep the grant money rolling in, isn't it?

Now, just cast your minds back to the arguments being made in the World Trade Organisation (WTO) challenge to plain packaging.
Unnecessary obstacles to trade can result when (i) a regulation is more restrictive than necessary to achieve a given policy objective, or (ii) when it does not fulfil a legitimate objective. A regulation is more restrictive than necessary when the objective pursued can be achieved through alternative measures which have less trade-restricting effects, taking account of the risks non-fulfilment of the objective would create.
Well, considering the entire point of plain packaging is to stop "early initiation" of smoking amongst children, I'd say a study - conducted by Imperial College, Harvard, the CDC and EPHA - concluding that packaging, even bundled up with other options, had no measurable effect in initiating smoking amongst 4,000+ young people from 27 EU member states, will be welcomed by countries who claim, quite rightly, that it is an unnecessary obstacle to trade and that there are "alternative measures which have less trade-restricting effects".

Let's just hope their lawyers have picked up on it.

Monday 13 April 2015

Gabriel Scally's Big Fat Fail

In the run up to the election, the far left public health community is working hard to get their favoured Labour puppets elected.

One of these is proud socialist Gabriel Scally, a very rich guy who revels in being described as an NHS 'whistleblower' but who protests loudly when others use valid channels to expose lies surrounding tobacco control. He is also a monumental hypocrite on Twitter too.

However, over the weekend his one-eyed election zealotry showed him to be an even bigger twit than we previously realised. On Saturday he threw out this partisan tweet which was shared by such lefty luminaries as Dr Éoin "sorry I was wrong" Clarke, and Luciana "I haven't a clue" Berger.

Spitting on the coalition for its public health record on smoking is quite astonishing when you consider it banned vending machines, introduced the tobacco display ban - despite being in opposition in 2010 - and passed utterly pointless plain packaging in its final act before dissolution, but it should prove to politicians that appeasing nanny statists is a counterproductive exercise. Something it's long overdue them learning.

Anyway, I digress. Because Scally's point is just plain stupid. So he's trying to portray a reduction in people visiting Stop Smoking Services as a failure? Shouldn't he be looking at official prevalence figures instead? You know, like a proper, well-paid, objective health advocate should?

Here they are, and - not that Scally will ever admit it - the figures on decreased smoking prevalence since the "Tory/LibDem Gov" came to power make interesting viewing.

By the end of the last Labour government, it had almost stalled to zero, yet has picked up under the coalition, with a massive uptick at the start of 2014/15.

What's more, if we analyse those percentages we find that the change in prevalence has been increasing year on year under Cameron's government.

2010/11: 3.2%
2011/12: 3.3%
2012/13: 3.5%
2013/14: 4.1%
2014/15: 9.2%

If you're wondering how this is worked out, it is by using Simon Chapman's method of calculating incremental change which was enthusiastically tweeted by Gabriel Scally at the time.

So, to be consistent, Scally should surely be celebrating the ever-increasing decrease in smoking prevalence under the Tories, yes? And maybe even the biggest recorded decrease ever if the 2015 trend continues.

Now, I know what you're thinking, this isn't down to coalition policies and why is there no mention of e-cigs. And you're correct, the effect above is mostly because e-cigs are encouraging smokers to quit more than any hectoring from Scally and his hideous chums. This is borne out by the methods reported as being used by quitters, taken again from the Smoking Toolkit Study.

How 'bout that? More people are using e-cigs they pay for out of their own pocket, and far fewer are using pharmaceutical patches and gum which are provided at the expense of the NHS, at the same time that quit attempts are becoming increasingly successful.

What's not to like? Stop Smoking Services (SSS) are expending fewer resources yet the amount of people quitting smoking is going up. How can that possibly be called a failure unless one believes that more people using the SSS would bring even greater results? One way of doing that would surely be to go hell for leather and get SSS to advocate e-cigs wholesale.

However, that's not the Labour party's policy at all. Indeed, Scally's Labour party shepherded the disastrous EU TPD through Brussels - which will demolish the potential of e-cigs for millions of people - while coalition partners the Tories and LibDems were at least willing to listen to vapers and were overall supportive. It's arguable, in fact, that if the Labour party had been in power over the last five years, the e-cig industry would have all but been destroyed already in the UK.

But, y'see, Scally doesn't like e-cigs and has said that he wants to see them regulated out of existence and their use banned just about everywhere. It is exactly people like Scally who are preventing e-cigs being advocated at smoking cessation clinics up and down the country. If he wants to see an effective public health policy from the next government, and more use of Stop Smoking Services, perhaps the best way would be to make it relevant to the way people are freely choosing to quit smoking, instead of sticking to outdated ideology, political loyalty and irrational dogma.

The only 'public health' failure here is Scally's sixth form political views, his appalling judgement, and the incoherent policies of his fellow mouth-breathers on the left.

Friday 10 April 2015

Baseless Californian E-Cig Propaganda

Via my long-standing NorCal fellow jewel robber, David G, I thought you might like to see an example of the absurd propaganda Tobacco Free California is pumping out about e-cigs.

In his words, these ads are being aired "nightly/hourly on nearly all networks/channels daily, produced by taxpayer funds of $75 million", mostly as a result of some 'public health' lunatic - aptly called Chapman - equating harm reduction to an 'outbreak or epidemic'!

There is, of course, no scientific or epidemiological basis for this scaremongery whatsoever.

Fortunately, this was spotted early by a grass roots vaper who supplied an equal and opposite campaign site which messed up their social media efforts, and was therefore then promptly described as being industry-backed by a vacant journalist. Such is life when dealing with anti-smoking cretins and their useful idiots.

Always remember that we're on the side of the angels here, won't you? It's Chapman and his ilk who will be toasting on a pitchfork someday if there is any justice in this world.

Wednesday 8 April 2015

NHS Scotland's Sick Policy

Jesus H Christ! How can so much odious and intolerant spite be included in a single article?
EXTRA support staff will be deployed to advise smokers against lighting up in hospital grounds after staff and patients were spotted puffing away just days after new rules were introduced.
Alert! Smokers have been spotted in the vicinity, release the hounds!

And, erm, extra staff? Don't people working in the NHS keep telling us they've got no money and the whole institution is falling apart at the seams?
Professor Alison McCallum, director of public health and health policy at NHS Lothian, said: “We are grateful to the Evening News for highlighting this, enabling us to bring in additional support such as increasing the number of smoking cessation advisers and deploying in these areas over the coming days and weeks."
Oh I see. So they were totally skint until the Evening News told them that smokers were in the car park, at which point the magic money tree began pumping out £20 notes. Or, as is more likely, are funds being diverted from healthcare for the purposes of a pointless witch hunt?
Alison Johnstone, Lothian Green MSP, said: “The ban on smoking at NHS hospitals hardly needs explain[ing], it’s there for a reason ...
No, Alison, it does need explaining because it is not illegal (yet) to smoke outdoors, simply for the reason that there is no conceivable health threat. You do remember, don't you, that smoking was banned indoors because of the danger of mythical passive smoking from a series of {cough}thorough peer-reviewed studies? You're a politician, you surely must remember when bar staff were all of a sudden the most precious people in the nation ... for at least a few months until they were completely forgotten again.

So what reason, exactly, is there for banning smoking in the open air?
“Anyone visiting a hospital, be it staff, patient or visitor, shouldn’t have to pass through a haze of cigarette smoke on their way inside.”
Simple. Place smoking shelters away from entrances and smokers will use them. Problem solved. You're a clever girl, you can work that out for yourself, can't you?
The move – which has been introduced as part of plan to create a tobacco-free generation by 2034 – also bans patients and staff from smoking in their cars on hospital ­property.
For the education of any bemused alien life forms who might be scanning our internet, these are cars which are allowed on NHS property.

And this is a cigarette - which is banned for polluting the lungs of hospital visitors - being smoked ... in a car. I've highlighted it in red in case you can't see it.

Turn the spaceships round, fellas, we're not worth conquering, believe me.

But it's fitting to leave the last word to the architect of this bonanza of astonishingly mean-spirited and malicious pecksniffery north of the border.
[Sheila Duffy, chief executive of health charity ASH Scotland] said: “We want people to understand why the policy is there in the first place. At the moment, seeing smokers is a part of life but that is changing."
Got that smokers? The policy is to make sure no-one ever has to see you. So go home, place a bell outside your door, and let's hope society can forget your sorry existence.

Or, as one commenter to the article put it ...
Clearly a polite request approach isn't working and if the health board isn't prepared to enforce it then they may as well say that all smokers are welcome.
Heaven forbid that smokers - who have paid taxes to pay for the NHS just like everyone else, plus £12bn per year in duty over and above that - should ever be welcome at a hospital, eh?

Truly these people disgust me, may God rot every last one of them.

Tuesday 7 April 2015

Mark Their Words, WTO

So, France is the latest country to join in the dunderheaded political mass hysteria of utterly pointless plain packaging. Except that they've added an insurance policy to the legislation in the event - the certain event, that is - that it doesn't work.
French MPs on Friday passed a government-backed proposal to force cigarette-manufacturers to use plain packets without logos, identical in all respects apart from a small mention of their name.
They also voted to impose a ban on smoking in cars, for an obligation for shops to check ID, transparency on lobbying by the industry and restrictions on where Tabacs can be situated. And then there is this.
An extra tax on cigarette manufacturers if their turnover either rises or fails to fall less that three per cent, the government's target for the reduction in sales
It's almost like they have admitted defeat before they have started. Plain packaging is the only measure amongst these which they can vaguely claim to be about driving down smoking prevalence, so they are insuring their stupidity with a tax, just in case.

This is because it is well known by all tobacco controllers that the only device that they can truly claim - without fear of dispute - to be proven to reduce smoking prevalence is duty/taxation, as ASH's APPG Chair Paul Burstow explained to us just a couple of weeks ago.
"If a tobacco levy is introduced, the tobacco industry will have to decide whether to pass on to consumers some, or all, of the cost in higher prices. That would of course have some public health benefits, as price increases are known to be the single most effective policy lever in reducing smoking prevalence"
We have to ask ourselves, then, why it is that governments are faffing around with a policy such as plain packaging - where the efficacy is hotly disputed - when they could just go for something that they know will work. Well, that's if they actually do want there to be less smoking, of course - the fact that state treasuries profit like a motherfucker from smokers tends to cast doubt on their motives somewhat, I find.

All this is very interesting in light of the fact that one of the key arguments being used by the 36 countries objecting to plain packaging via the World Trade Organisation (WTO) is that there are other options that could be employed to achieve a reduction in smoking for all ages.

Or, as the WTO rules put it (emphases mine).
Unnecessary obstacles to trade can result when (i) a regulation is more restrictive than necessary to achieve a given policy objective, or (ii) when it does not fulfil a legitimate objective. A regulation is more restrictive than necessary when the objective pursued can be achieved through alternative measures which have less trade-restricting effects, taking account of the risks non-fulfilment of the objective would create.
What Burstow has told the UK parliament is that there is - indeed - something far more effective than plain packaging, and that it's name is taxation. What France is admitting, too, is that if - as we can expect from the evidence from Australia - plain packaging doesn't work to reduce prevalence by an arbitrary 3%, they will resort to something that they know will work, taxation.

They couldn't make a better case for those objecting to plain packs at the WTO if they tried. I do hope the lawyers acting on behalf of those 36 countries are noting all this down, because it is quite clear that there are, indeed, "alternative measures which have less trade-restricting effects" which don't involve stealing billions of dollars of intellectual property from legal businesses like plain packaging does.

They need only quote the politicians and policy detail of the daft countries who are determined to try something stupid before doing something that works.

Sunday 5 April 2015

If It's Good Enough For Them ...

I'm sure you will have seen round-ups of this year's best April Fool spoof stories earlier this week, but for my money New Zealand's Taxpayers Union outdid them all.

They issued a press release which was absurd yet vaguely plausible; and funny while also emphasising how the public's tax receipts are abused - similarly to over here - to influence and corrupt governments without our consent.
The Taxpayers’ Union has announced its intention to pursue taxpayer-funding to support its advocacy of value for money from every tax dollar. Taxpayers’ Union Executive Director, Jordan Williams, says: 
“Since its inception in October 2013, the Taxpayers’ Union has relied solely on donations and membership subscriptions to allow us to expose government waste and ensure taxpayers receive value for money for every tax dollar spent.” 
“Over the past eighteen months we have come up against sophisticated taxpayer-funded lobby groups such as ASH, Fish & Game, the Health Promotion Agency, anti-sugar group FIZZ, Generation Zero and even the Council of Trade Unions and Business NZ. Combating their calls for a high-tax future for New Zealanders has in itself been taxing on our own finances.” 
“It has become clear that what is needed is another taxpayer-funded lobby group to save taxpayers from the groups they are forced to fund.”
And the glorious denouement ...
“Today we have lodged an application to receive funding from Treasury to become a taxpayer-funded lobby group to oppose the other taxpayer-funded lobby groups, who in turn lobby taxpayer-funded bureaucrats, politicians and themselves.”
Congrats to the NZ TPU for using an annual occasion in April to ridicule a system which takes the piss out of us all 365 days of the year.


H/T Manx Gent via email

Friday 3 April 2015

Chapman: Do As I Say, Not As I Do

Simon Chapman has this week been sharing his knowledge, wisdom, and jaw-dropping hypocrisy.
Careers are often built on lifetime commitment to particular phases of evidence. But if the evidence changes, it is absolutely critical for public trust in the integrity of public health that we acknowledge the facts have changed and, accordingly, that we have changed our minds too. 
Two illustrations of the advance of junk and low-quality science are the resilience and influence of climate change denialism, and the current efforts by e-cigarette interest groups to claim that e-cigarettes have revolutionary potential to make smoking history. 
The interest groups behind these two major issues are succeeding in building momentum that may spread to challenge decades of public health and safety legislation.
So, erm, 'experts' must change if the evidence changes, but e-cigarettes threaten salaries and decades of lazy, policy-driven dogma, so they must be fought. Got it.

Further on, lesson 7 speaks of the importance of people in his profession listening to the public.
Ordinary people can make amazing advocates, and we should work with them far more. They bring a compelling authenticity to an issue.
While Lesson 8 stresses the importance of social media and engaging with people.
The internet has utterly revolutionised our lives. And utterly transformed advocacy. There are simply massive global participation rates in social media. Anyone in public health who is not part of this is the equivalent of a scholar in the Gutenberg era who declined to show interest in the potential of books.
All of which is very strange. You see, he is preaching this sage advice to up and coming public health advocates, but does the very opposite himself, as he boasted in January.
Blocking is a bit like putting a sticker on your mailbox saying “no junk mail accepted”, except that unlike with junk mail, it works! 
The concept of an internet troll is unavoidably subjective: what one person regards as hostile or inflammatory can be genuinely intended by the sender as an attempt to engage in debate. But having a Twitter account is not an obligation to engage with anyone seeking to do this
So what Chappers is saying is that social media is brilliant for engaging with the public, and ordinary people should be listened to. Except if the ordinary people disagree with his beliefs, in which case shut down social media avenues of engagement and avoid contact at all costs.

What a tool.