Wednesday 30 September 2015

Vacation Vaper-Spotting With Simple Simon

Still fighting a war in the jungle while most of his tobacco colleagues have made peace or have come round to compromise, die-hard member of the dwindling e-cig denialist club, Simon Chapman, has been regaling us with tales from his recent holiday.
My wife and I spent many hours every day walking around Paris (six days), Lyon (two), the Corsican towns of Bonifacio, Ajaccio and Calvi (eight days), Nice (one), Barcelona (two) and Madrid (four). We agreed to compete in spotting the highest number of people vaping, with the incentive for the daily winner being to pick where we’d eat that night. We also looked out for shops selling e-cigarettes. All sightings had to be called as they occurred, not just a winning number announced at the end of the day.
Sounds thrilling! Like an obsessed angler devising a 'fun' game for his partner on holiday to see who can catch the most carp so he can keep his hand in.
Over the 23 days, we saw just 20 people vaping: 15 in Paris, one in Lyon, one in Calvi, one in Barcelona and two in Madrid. By contrast, we saw many people smoking almost everywhere we looked at any time of day. Far too many to count. At a guess, the ratio would have been at very least many hundreds of smokers to one vaper.
Which was extrapolated to produce the headline "‘You’ll see vapers everywhere in Europe’. Well, … no". Quite a surprise from someone who has often ridiculed the use of "anecdotes".

Selection bias? You mean like a self-selected sample of two, one of whom is ideologically opposed to e-cigs on spurious grounds? Interesting.

 He goes on ...
This exercise was of course not in any way scientific.
Of course not, so by Chapman's definition of anecdote it should be widely ignored. If testimonies of thousands of vapers are worthless, the unscientific meanderings of a dedicated vaper-hater are about as useful to the debate as those of the local drunk at 11:30pm in the kebab shop.

Strange, then, that Chappers doesn't aply the same rigour to his own anecdotes.
But there was simply no avoiding the broad conclusion. Public vaping appeared to be very, very marginal compared to smoking in France and Spain.
The many thousands of accounts from vapers who have quit smoking apparently don't lead to any broad conclusion that they work, but one old guy and his wife tottering around tourist areas on a jolly for a couple of weeks does. Tobacco controllers do love to shift goalposts don't they?

Besides, there may be a reason for there being less enthusiasm for vaping recently in France ...
E-cigarettes will be banned in locations where young people gather -- schools, for example -- as well as on public transport and in enclosed workspaces. 
In addition, advertising of the popular e-cigarettes will be restricted, then banned completely from May 2016 except at the point of sale and in trade publications.
And also in Spain.
Australian e-cigarette opponent Simon Chapman has been crowing about the collapse of vaping in Spain. This collapse has certainly been dramatic; following a series of scare stories in the media, including some blatantly dishonest claims about lipoid pneumonia – more about that later – around 80% of Spanish vapers have gone back to smoking and half the country’s e-cigarette vendors have closed down as demand evaporates. Chapman seems to see this as some sort of victory for public health, or perhaps just as a victory for people who like bossing other people around, but in fact it’s a major health disaster. 
What started the scare in Spain was the case of a 50-year-old man who started experiencing coughing, fatigue and shortness of breath. A hospital diagnosed exogenous lipoid pneumonia, a lung disease caused by inhalation of vaporised lipids – basically, fats and oils. Some investigation turned up the fact that the patient was a regular vaper and the hospital decided that the disease had been caused by vegetable glycerine in his e-liquid. The story was given to the media, newspapers and TV news ran with it and the result was a huge panic about this deadly new vaping-related epidemic. There was only one small problem with the story. 
Vegetable glycerine isn’t a lipid. 
In fact the hospital have blamed this unfortunate man’s illness on something that simply can’t be responsible. Vegetable glycerine is an alcohol, not a fat or oil. It can’t cause lipoid pneumonia because – this is worth repeating – it’s not a lipid. The same applies to the other main component in e-liquid, propylene glycol; that’s also an alcohol, and not a lipid. Nicotine? It’s an alkaloid, not a lipid. Unless electronic cigarettes are powerful enough to violate the laws of nature they didn’t cause this man’s illness; they are simply not capable of doing so. 
It’s hard to work out why the hospital decided to make this extraordinary diagnosis, but sadly the damage has been done now. Around 600,000 vapers in Spain have been frightened into going back to smoking lit tobacco.
Our Saga holiday tourist Chapman ignores this entirely, natch.

He then compares the state of play in two poor examples of European e-cig policy with his beloved Australia.
We have no good data on the population prevalence of serious, daily vapers in Australia. If there are many out there, they seem to be quite a private lot, if our observations are indicative.
And this would be because (emphases mine)?
Vaping has many DIY, hobby-like features like modifying the apparatus, mixing e-juice blends and in Australia, where sale of nicotine-containing juice is illegal, importing such supplies.
"Where sale of nicotine-containing juice is illegal". And the truth will set you free, dear boy.

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to work out that if you communicate e-cigs as a danger by threatening bans and advertising restrictions; wrongly announce to a nation that they will die of a nasty lung disease; and prohibit the vital ingredient which tempts smokers away from tobacco, you're not going to witness a wildly enthusiastic take-up of vaping and will undoubtedly inhibit public use of them. Sadly, this is still too complicated a concept for crimple-faced Aussie sociologists.

Still, I'm sure Chapman derived great pleasure from this.
"[W]e saw many people smoking almost everywhere we looked at any time of day. Far too many to count."
Because wherever there are smokers, highly-paid tobacco controllers are always going to be in demand, eh? So sleep well tobacco control industry, Mr Chapman has your back, as do his equally insane, rent-seeking, scare-spreading fellow lunatics in France and Spain.

Next week, Simon's Conversation article will feature holiday slides of him pointing at vapers and sneering. Can't wait.

Sunday 27 September 2015

Silly Sally And The Lancet

Regular readers will remember previous articles here about Chief Medical Officer Sally Davies and why she is not fit for purpose. Well, I'm starting to think she merits her own dedicated sidebar tag here after reading an astonishing quote on Friday.

Via the Telegraph:
“As chief medical officer, it is my duty to raise concerns about possible misreporting of health issues that might cause public alarm.”
Funny she should say that because, if you've kept up with Sally's burblings about e-cigs, you may remember her making claims like this earlier in the year.
“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.”
It was an entirely false claim which was reported on the BBC, and arguably might have caused "public alarm". Implying that e-cigs are all dangerous because of one insignificant and incorrect piece of information about one of thousands of flavours is the epitome of "misreporting of health issues that might cause public alarm". So by Sally's own description of her job, she should have been reporting herself for misconduct, surely? 

As if that wasn't astounding enough in itself - along with the over 3,000 references to e-cigs in recent correspondence between vaper-hating dangle-belly Martin McKee and silly Sally - this is even curiouser (emphases mine)
A senior government adviser attempted to undermine a controversial study suggesting that Alzheimer’s is a transmissible disease before it was published in the journal Nature. 
Dame Sally Davies, the chief medical officer at the Department of Health, approached the editor of a rival scientific journal, The Lancet, to discredit the study in the eyes of the public, The Independent understands. 
Dame Sally told Richard Horton, the editor of The Lancet, that the study on Alzheimer’s was likely to result in a public scare and asked him for advice on how to handle the media reaction before it came out in Nature. 
In an unsigned editorial in The Lancet this week, Dr Horton writes that an unnamed government source informed him on the study’s impending publication and urged him to consider what he might do to reduce further the risk of a scare. 
Although The Lancet’s source is not identified, The Independent understands that it was Dame Sally, who knows Dr Horton personally and has shared several conference platforms with The Lancet’s outspoken editor.
Apropos of nothing, obviously, but we know of another recent piece of research which was subject to an "unsigned editorial in The Lancet" and which "attempted to undermine" and "discredit the study in the eyes of the public", now don't we? 

And I'm only guessing here, but I think Sally would have been consulted by Public Health England every step of the way to their publishing their favourable report about e-cigs which - as she has stated publicly - she has a pathological dislike for. 

I'm sure this is a complete concidence and that the same behind-the-scenes collaboration between Sally and unsigned Lancet editorial writer Horton - co-chair of an event with McKee last year where it was stated bluntly that e-cigs don't work - hasn't occurred in this case.

So I'm heartened that a fellow jewel robber has notified me by email this weekend that they have submitted an FOI to make absolutely sure. I sometimes well up in admiration for readers here wanting to contribute to the sum of human knowledge and clear up innuendo like this. Bravo! 

Thursday 24 September 2015

150,000 Vile Curtain-Twitching Prodnoses

I hear great news about the latest campaign by odious, preening, self-publicising lardarse Jamie Oliver.
Food and drink manufacturers have praised the government for ruling out Jamie Oliver's proposed sugar tax, claiming the idea was “misplaced”.
Good, it's a daft idea.

By "misplaced" manufacturers mean it will have no effect whatsoever, which should be obvious to all but the most moronic in society, and it seems there are quite a lot of them.
Nearly 150,000 people have signed the celebrity chef's petition which calls for a tax on sugary drinks in a bid to fight childhood obesity.
I'd explain why signatories to that petition should be held in contempt but I don't have to, because Grandad already did a good job of it earlier this month.
So here we have a bunch of mindless morons actually calling on their government to tax them more, just because an idiot with an agenda told them to?  Did someone mention turkeys and Christmas? 
It's not often we get a chance to see into the mind of the brain dead, but here they were in force, with their outpourings of shock and horror.  An odious little arse-dribble tells 'em they must do something and they do it in their droves, without question. 
The Cockney Cunt has a petition on-line to implore the government to apply more tax.  It is a very efficient sheeple counter. 
At the time of writing, there are 98,672 bleating away happily and the number is rising. 
And they wonder why the world is up shit creek?
Quite. Sleb worship meets the great unthinking, with predictable fuckwittery.

I'd disagree only on one minor point, you see these hideous people are not calling on the government to tax them more ... but to tax others more. So perfect do they consider themselves to be that they suffer an irresistible urge to impose their narcissistic worldview on other people by way of force. Vile little bullies, each and every one.

Long time readers may remember the same revolting character flaw being exhibited by Sonia Poulton on Radio 5 Live in 2012, on which I wrote at the time.
[W]hile Poulton was waxing hysterical about how we needed controls for "our children", Gabb challenged her. Exactly as he should. "Our children?", he said, "you look after your children, I'll look after mine". The result was as predictable as it was shrill. 
From then on, Poulton issued insults; demanded people who held that view "be quiet"; refused to debate; and became madder the more it was insisted that others might not share her opinion. She embarrassed herself by asserting that she knew - knew no less - that Gabb wasn't a parent simply because he believed other people's kids were not hers to control, and when the host revealed that Gabb was indeed a parent, simply called him names and became even more insulting. 
This, sadly - in fact, soul-destroyingly - is modern Britain. A place packed full of arrogant people who feel it perfectly acceptable to interfere in every aspect of the lives of others. If you disagree, or resist, they will shout and scream; make a call to their own delusional authority; and denounce you as a heretic or anti-social abuser. 
We used to have a few of these prodnoses dotted around, but they're everywhere now. Self-aggrandising, aloof, condescending of others, and entirely dismissive of choices different from their own.
It takes a special kind of rancid finger-wagging cocknostril to insist that government punish other families for making different choices than the ones Jamie's gullible simpletons think they should.

I'd say their type are as beneficial to society as thrush and I despise them with the power of a thousand suns. So congratulations to the UK government for effectively inviting them to stick their head even further up Jamie's ample arse so we don't have to listen to their snobby, ignorant, spiteful shit anymore.

Tuesday 22 September 2015

The UK Government Will Not Stand Up To Brussels

Back in February, this blog urged you to sign up in support of Totally Wicked's legal challenge to the EU Tobacco Products Directive concerning e-cigs. You might be interested to learn that since then over 60,000 have done exactly that.

The court hearing is scheduled for October 1st so if you haven't already done so, please go here and register your objection to what Clive Bates quite rightly calls "this dire piece of legislation". Personally, I'd call it the predictable pile of toxic and destructive horseshit which always results when you get politicians and regulators gathered together in a room, but that's just semantics.

We should wish Totally Wicked the best of luck for October because it's clear that the UK government - despite David Cameron's empty claims of being willing to stand up to Brussels when regulations are wrong for Britain - will just sit idly back and let the directive pass through unopposed.

Further proof came yesterday in the Lords, where it was made perfectly clear that Westminster couldn't give a fig about the wide availability of a variety of e-cigs being compromised by stupid, inappropriate and damaging EU regulations (emphases mine).
Lord Blencathra, Conservative 
To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they plan to promote the use of e-cigarettes as a replacement for smoking tobacco. 
Lord Prior of Brampton, Conservative 
Electronic cigarettes have the potential to help smokers quit smoking, and the evidence indicates that, for smokers, they are less harmful to health than cigarettes. However, they are not risk free, and therefore they should only be used as a means to help smokers quit. The best thing a smoker can do is to quit completely. 
For those that cannot stop using nicotine completely, or need help not to relapse, National Institute for Health and Care Excellence guidance already promotes the use of harm reduction strategies using a range of nicotine replacement therapies.
You see, it's not enough for Westminster that vapers have quit tobacco, they must quit nicotine too or else they are still 'unclean'. Recreational use of a product, which has so far not cost the taxpayer a penny and presents wholly insignificant health risks, simply cannot be tolerated. Antique and reactionary though it is, "quit or die" is still the prevailing mantra amongst those who govern the country.

It matters not that there have been encouraging noises from government advisers about e-cigs, the fact remains that the UK government is totally unmoved and will happily rubber-stamp the terms of the Tobacco Products Directive in a heartbeat. Anyone hoping that common sense might win the day and Article 20 will be rejected is living in cloud cuckoo land.

Personally, I don't believe the state (or its state-funded minions) should have anything to do with e-cigs whatsoever until politicians recognise recreational use as central to the success of vaping and instructs its departments and agencies accordingly. Lord Prior's response above shows that we are a very long way away from that, and that it will probably never happen. His astounding arrogance in poking his unwanted snobby nose into an industry which is providing hugely popular products with massive potential public benefit - and forcing the government's outdated and uneducated agenda onto it - is quite sickening, to be frank.

So please do go and support the TW challenge by signing up here. Do also go read Clive Bates's article about what else you can do to put pressure on a UK government which - I guarantee you - will not lift a finger while preposterous Brussels-based regulations are installed all over Europe.

If such ridiculous directive terms are allowed to reach our statute book unhindered, it doesn't bode well for any of the other 'renegotiations' David Cameron says he has planned with the EU, does it?

Can we leave yet?

Sunday 20 September 2015

Simple Is As Simple Does

Via Hansard, here is a perfect example of state waste; the stupidity of those in public office; the deeply illiberal nature of 'public health'; the undemocratic abuse of 'public health' powers; the ugly new British trait of banning now, thinking later; and why the state isn't capable of running so much as a whelk stall. All in one neatly-wrapped package.

Conservative peer Lord Blancathra asked a very pertinent question about the ban on e-cigs in the Lords.
To ask the Chairman of Committees whether the Administration and Works Committee will reconsider the ban on e-cigarettes in rooms in the House of Lords which formerly permitted smoking, in the light of the conclusions of a report by Public Health England that e-cigarettes are a good substitute for tobacco cigarettes and should be available on the NHS.
Reconsider? Well, as the Lord points out, since the government's own advisory organisation has correctly stated that there is no threat whatsoever from 'passive vaping' and that e-cigs are a potential boon to the UK's health, I'd have thought the ban would simply be scrapped rather than 'reconsidered', don't you?

Course not.
Lord Laming, Crossbench 
The Administration and Works Committee agreed that the e-cigarette policy should ideally be a bicameral one; it presently is. This has ensured that the policy is simple and applied across the whole Estate. The decision to ban the use of e-cigarettes across the Estate (except in smoking shelters and a dedicated e-cigarette use area) was based on the advice available at the time about uncertainty over the impact of e-cigarettes, safety concerns and the practice of other organisations. I recognise that the position on e-cigarettes is changing and we will keep this matter under review.
Erm, nothing has changed with e-cigs. They have never been dangerous and worthy of a ban, and they are still not dangerous or worthy of a ban. In fact, quite the oposite. There is, and has never been, a single recorded death or evidence of serious illness attributable to e-cig use or exposure to vapour anywhere in the world. The ban was solely a result of listening to horrendous and corrupt state-funded fucksticks.

Have the public been clamouring for a ban? No. Were Westminster staff screaming that they must be protected from a non-existent threat? No. Did the Administration and Works Committee investigate the false claims being made about e-cigs by blatant rent-seekers and incompetent compromised chimps? No. Did they consult with people who use them to get a proper understanding? No (forgive me for asking such a silly question!). And "practice of other organisations"? What the fuck has that got to do with anything? So Wetherspoons have an ignorant policy to ban e-cigs therefore Westminster must follow suit? Is that really what these drab pen-pushing simpletons are saying? Utterly ridiculous, I'm embarrassed on their behalf.

I mean, why bother with all that 'free country' stuff when it's just easier to sign off a "simple" ban and go back to flicking rubber bands around the office on taxpayers' time, eh?

"Keep the matter under review"? The matter has been reviewed in a 113 page report, and the conclusion is that the policy at Westminster is in direct contravention of the opinion of a 'public health' body the government pays £500 million per annum - I'll say that again, half a billion smackers a year - to produce! What further review is required? Just scrap the stupid rule immediately for Chrissakes.

I sometimes wonder what happened to my country to be bombarded by fascistic arsewipery on a daily basis. And when I do, it invariably comes back to the fact we are governed by a collection of screamingly lazy and moronic thundercunts who couldn't give a shit about the people they are paid to serve. This is just yet another depressing chapter. May God rot each and every one of them.

Friday 18 September 2015

Honesty And Consistency In Short Supply At The BMJ

After a busy week here in Puddlecoteville, I shall be watching some rugby this evening and doing absolutely nothing tomorrow except eating and drinking stuff at the cricket, which means this weekend's links will appear on Sunday (if at all).

Before that, however, I'll just add an observation to the week's general commentary surrounding Martin McKee and Simon Capewell's latest pathetic attempt to pour scorn on the PHE's favourable report on e-cigs. You see, they have either told a bit of a porky pie or else they are not very bright ... or perhaps both.

At the end of their vacuous mud-slinging exercise on Tuesday they made this declaration:
Competing interests: We have read and understood BMJ policy on declaration of interests and have no relevant interests to declare.
Considering their condemnation of the PHE report rests solely on accusations of undeclared conflicts of interest (COIs), it is rather important that McKee and Capewell ensure that their own COI declaration is pristine, don't you think? Shame on them, then, because it is nothing of the sort.

To explain, here is what the BMJ - who published the McKee/Capewell piece, remember - has to say in their policy on declaring COIs (emphases mine).
A conflict of interest arises when a person has a personal or organisational interest that may influence or appear to influence the work they are doing. Usually this is a financial interest, but it may also be non-financial
Furthermore, the BMJ also advises that ...
Non-financial interests can take many different forms, including personal or professional relations with organisations and individuals. We would also want to know about strongly held beliefs where they are relevant to the task in hand.
Now, it's very clear - in fact, incontrovertible because they don't attempt to hide it - that both McKee and Capewell hold extremely strong ideological beliefs about e-cigs. In short, they hate them. This, by the BMJ's definition, is a COI.

This includes the way they orchestrated the attempt to discredit Public Health England in their advice on the Lancet editorial, their briefing to selected journalists, and their participation in the Lancet, BMJ and London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine media activity surrounding pieces in the Lancet and BMJ. But their history goes back further; it includes their attempts to push their personal views on e-cigarettes in the many organisations in which they hold positions of trust and influence through personal professional relations, including in and with the Faculty of Public Health, the Society for Social Medicine, the UK Health Forum, World Health Organisation, European Public Health Association and via extensive personal communications with the Chief Medical Officer. Their strongly held beliefs also drive, of course, a hatred of vapers and grubby articles attempting to bully them.

However this blinkered and ideological position on e-cigs came about doesn't really matter. It could be a misguided crusade to put spokes in the wheels of anything the tobacco industry is interested in, their blatant far left anti-capitalism political stance, or just a contempt for smokers in general. Whichever it is is irrelevant, but it's a humdinger of a conflict of interest according to the BMJ's COI policy and they damn well should have declared it!

So to say they have read and understood the BMJ's policy is untrue, because they haven't understood it. To say they have no interests to declare is untrue because the BMJ's policy states that they do. What's more, the BMJ should have evaluated the article and pointed out to readers that the strongly held beliefs and personal and professional relations of both authors are indeed a COI, which just serves as another example of the BMJ's rapidly decaying integrity and credibility.

So next time you read an article by McKee and Capewell attacking others for not declaring conflicts of interest, remember that they do exactly that every time they write anything on e-cigs and dishonestly declare that they don't recognise any.

Wednesday 16 September 2015

Watching Your Choices, From Cradle To Grave

This week's creepiest 'public health' initiative comes to you from Ireland.
Information about people’s lifestyle choices, socio-economic status and whether they are smokers could be recorded in the new health identifier number to be given to every person in the State, the Irish Cancer Society has suggested.
Yes, it is extremely important that smokers are identified at every opportunity. Here's an idea! How about giving them something yellow to wear or something, I dunno.
The individual health identifier (IHI) will be a unique number, separate to a PPS number, which will be used to trace people through every part of the health system from cradle to grave.
Nope, nothing Orwellian about that is there?
“The health identifier provides an opportunity to record not only data that identifies the individual, but also information relating to their health and social status and lifestyle choices – ie. smoking status, diet, socio-economic status. The society will be calling on the Department of Health to broaden out the data recorded under the health identifier to include some of these elements, amongst others,” it said.
Amongst others, of course. Because every possible opportunity to nag you into submission - whichever your freely chosen vice - must be exploited, remember that. It's what a caring state should try to do.

OK, there may be concerns about privacy, but who cares? It's for your own good, Ireland! So happy for y'all over there.

Good grief!

Monday 14 September 2015

A Helpful Review Of @VodafoneUK and @CPWTweets

It's a busy week coming up for Puddlecote Inc and Puddlecoteville in general, so content will be light this week, all the more so due to a clusterfuck of astonishing proportion as a result of my stupidly getting involved with Vodafone (V) and the Carphone Warehouse (CW). Abbreviations necessary for brevity, believe me.

Followers on Twitter would have noticed my utter frustration at V on a number of occasions, so here is just a brief rundown of the extraordinarily piss poor customer service and comical intransigence which led to it.

In what now feels like the long-distant past, Puddlecote Inc was notified that around £100k p.a. of ad hoc work was to walk out the door in November. Not anything to unduly rock the business, but it does make up a significant amount of overtime for around 10 to 12 drivers, so we took on a Business Development Manager (BDM) to replace the work or even increase it. This process doesn't happen overnight - as anyone in sales will tell you - it's something that builds over time, so he needed to get moving quickly.

Stupidly - as I now realise - I went to CW to get a good smartphone to perform as a mobile office because we wanted our new BDM to get on the case straightaway. Sadly, CW aren't able to set up business accounts but, so I was told, I could take out a consumer contract and "easily get it transferred" by ringing V. Ha!

With the phone in our possession, our IT set up the email and I downloaded the transfer forms, filled them out and scanned them back to V. This was seven weeks ago. The phone was finally transferred on Thursday after six or seven phone calls, each one went like this:
DP: Hi, our phone hasn't been transferred yet, what's happening?
V: Oh, it should have been, I'll send a message to the transfer team and find out why.
DP: Will someone ring me?
V: We will get back to you in three to five working days.
Of course, just to get to this stage meant going through push-button menus, queues and 'security questions', meaning each call was a minimum of around 20 minutes.

In the meantime, V sent me a letter saying that the account had been suspended due to non-payment of the monthly charge. I rang to enquire why seeing as they had two different bank accounts and two different direct debit mandates (another 20 minutes on the phone) and was told that it was their mistake; that they were very sorry about it; and that the payments are now proceeding properly. Two payments would be coming out of my bank in the next few days. Here's how that call went:
V: Your direct debit of £25 per month is scheduled for the xth of August, and then another for £29 will come out on the xth of September.
DP: Why is it £29?
V: Because there's a late payment charge on it.
DP: Well you can cancel that right now, why should I pay for your incompetence?
V: Oh yes, I'll cancel that right now Sir.
A few days later they charged me the late payment fee anyway. Not the company, of course, because it still hadn't been transferred. So I rang again, was told the charge would be refunded but I'm still waiting.

By now, curiosity as to how very crap V are was starting to take hold, but that was just an inkling of what was to come. The phone was still inoperable for our BDM and V's phone system had even stopped recognising the phone number even after the account was finally transferred to a business account. So, having "easily transferred" the phone, we were assured it was all hunky-dory ... except the phone didn't work.

"Oh", said V, "it's probably because you need a new SIM card, we'll send you one (you can guess how long can't you) in three to five working days". But that didn't work either. Another phone call, another 30 or 40 minutes. The SIM was activated and "will take about 15 minutes". An hour later it didn't so I called back, only to be told I had to take it to a Vodafone store, the nearest of which is 4 miles away. So - despite my curiosity at the level of V's incompetence - I had spent enough time on it and wasn't prepared to spend anymore so asked for the contract to be cancelled. And that's when the real headfuck started.
V: I'm afraid we can't cancel it Sir, because you bought it from CW.
DP: But it's your contract, you are taking the money, you sent me a letter saying so when you wrongly cut the phone off.
V: Yes, but CW sold it to you, you have to go through them.
So I rang CW:
CW: I don't know why V said that, you have to talk to your service provider, we can't cancel the contract.
Back to V:
V: I can see that we haven't come up to our usual standards of service (that's an understatement! - DP) and we are happy to cancel the contract, but you need to return the phone to CW. Once it is there, we can cancel the contract, no problem.
So I drove to the CW store:
CW: Sorry, it's been longer than 14 days, which is our return policy, you have to talk to V.
Back on the phone to V, and very angry by now:
DP: I'm getting very angry now (because I was - DP) I want this contract cancelled today.
V: Yes, Sir, you've been through a very bad experience, I quite understand. We can cancel the contract if you return the phone to CW. Once I know it is in their possession, I can cancel it straightaway. 
So I drive, once again, to CW, speak to the same guy and say I'm leaving the phone with him then going to ring V.
CW: Well, I'll keep the phone for a couple of days but I can't put it on our system. 
But I'd ditched it and could now get V to ring CW and see that they had the phone.
V: Sorry Sir, you'll have to get CW to do that, we can't act until we get notification from CW that they have the phone. 
Getting bored yet? Imagine 20 or 30 minutes for each of these conversations. So I rang CW, they were very concerned about my experience as a customer!
CW: Unless V tell us in writing that they won't apply charges, we can't return the phone to stock. We'd lose money you see.
This is where I suggested that they just talk to each other on the phone. Because THAT'S THE BUSINESS YOU ARE IN, YOU SURELY HAVE A FEW LYING AROUND! But apparently it was up to me to do.

By this stage, it was clear that trying to cancel a contract through the proper channels was impossible, so the only option was to ring V and make sure their notes were correct and up-to-date. They weren't, of course, but why did I expect any different? So I painstakingly went through it with the guy and made sure it was all down faithfully, then told him the phone was in the CW store, I was cancelling the direct debit and I don't expect to hear from them again.
V: But it's not our phone and you need to return it to the CW store Sir ...
And that's the last I heard before I hung up.

I don't know why I'm jotting all this down, cathartic I suppose. Except it's taught me a lesson which many might be able to learn from. Firstly, don't use Vodafone because they are extraordinarily incompetent. And, secondly, don't buy any phone through Carphone Warehouse either, because if your provider gives you shit service, CW will shrug their shoulders, say "So what? Not our problem" and you're fucked.

I calculated that all this took around 9 or 10 hours of my time including two hours in the morning on Friday and the entire afternoon today when I could be better employed running a business instead of chasing my arse over a business phone which couldn't help our business ... mostly because it couldn't be described as a phone as it didn't work as one.

I spoke to around 15 to 20 different people at Vodafone, went through "security" over and over again, and had to explain the whole saga to every one of them. They made public sector organisations look obliging and red tape-free by comparison. And I'm not optimistic that I won't hear from the clowns again at some point.

I'm going for a lie down in a darkened room and will try to erase Vodafone and Carphone Warehouse from my consciousness. Who knew that trying to do something the right way would be such a house of pain?

Thursday 10 September 2015

Maynard's Whine Chums

Now here's an interesting thing from Twitter today!

Look, it's admirable that Maynard - who has been mentioned here a few times before - appears to be on board with e-cigs and seems disturbed that media reporting of them is inaccurate. But then, she is part of the 'public health' racket which has employed disingenuous manipulation of the press and politicians as a central lobbying tactic for decades. It's a bit hypocritical to complain, isn't it?

Take, for example, a study she led on the effect of plain packaging of cigarettes which was published in March this year (emphases mine).
Conclusions: Plain cigarette packs reduce ratings of the experience of using the cigarette pack, and ratings of the pack attributes, and increase the self-perceived impact of the health warning, but do not change smoking behaviour, at least in the short term.
This wasn't a run-of-the-mill study either. This, as Maynard herself boasted, is the only randomised controlled trial (RCT) so far to look at the effectiveness and behavioural responses towards plain packs. It's a gold standard study, the best there is. And it said plain packs do not work.

Not that this deterred committed tobacco control industry professional Olivia much, of course ...
The results add to the growing evidence base that plain packaging is likely to be an effective tobacco control measure.
Erm, like how? You've just said it didn't change smoking behaviour, in fact you were very clear on that.

See, for 'public health', public health is not actually that important. Careers and the endgame are a far more worthy cause. This is a brilliant example of tobacco control placing more emphasis on feelings and intentions rather than behaviour. Simply because when they look at what smokers actually do, it's completely different from what smokers say they will do. And this normally is also the direct opposite of what the tobacco control industry says they will do. It's a fundamental flaw in every tobacco control industry careerist and runs through their junk science like wording in a seaside stick of rock. Evidence proved that plain packaging is a crock, but Maynard concluded that it was actually immensely useful. Saying otherwise would have led to her being blackballed so screw objectivity.

For background, this 'research' was registered publicly at the ISRCTN registry when Maynard embarked upon this earth-shattering enterprise to show the world the wonders of plain packaging. This would be a game-changer and positive proof of the efficacy of plain packs, and so Maynard signalled to the world that the silver bullet was on its way.

So we have to ask ourselves why the research was completed in 2013 and the results available many months before any parliamentary vote, yet Maynard seems to have completely forgotten that she conducted the study by March this year.
Dr Maynard points to 'considerable scientific evidence supporting the introduction of plain packaging. Two systematic reviews (Moodie et al., 2012, 2013) (which were tobacco control industry bullshit - DP) have shown that plain packaging reduces the appeal of smoking, particularly among young people, increases the noticeability and effectiveness of the health warnings and prevents smokers from being misled about the relative health risks of smoking.
But Olivia, you had proof that plain packs don't work from your RCT, didn't you? Why did you not mention this?
The research we’ve conducted at the University of Bristol supports this ...
Erm, not the RCT you conducted Olivia, it didn't support this at all. Did you even tell your university - which funded it - about the results?

The simple fact is that Maynard - and fellow pro e-cig co-authors Linda Bauld and Marcus Munafo - knew very well that this study would have been useful to MPs debating plain packs, but no-one bothered to tell them. In fact, there is circumstantial evidence that it may have been purposely hidden!

The paper - results of which would have been known by Maynard many months before she pretended her study didn't exist and swore blind plain packs were brilliant - was presented on 26th February in a journal that appears to typically publish papers a week after acceptance. Yet this Maynard study was published two weeks later on March 13th 2015 ... around 32 hours or so after MPs had voted plain packaging into law.

How convenient, eh?

It's almost as if - despite trumpeting the research from the rooftops before the study - it was quietly swept under the carpet until MPs voted, only to be released without fanfare after Maynard had exhibited a strange case of memory loss about her own ground-breaking work.

So when the press is manipulated to produce negative coverage about e-cigs by the dinosaur contingent of tobacco control, the likes of Maynard, Bauld and Munafo can hardly cry foul can they? Their protests are empty bleats from people who have used the very same tactic themselves for a very long time.

Now if they came out and condemned the entire tobacco control industry as a charade which requires root and branch reform to weed out the dubious processes, corrupt practices and outright lies, it would be far more honest. It is the shameful methods employed by 'public health' liars which are producing negative press articles about e-cigs, and until this is recognised and corrected, criticism of the press by any tobacco controller is just a grubby stream of crocodile tears.

Wednesday 9 September 2015

Pulling The CMO's Strings

It seems I may have been a trifle harsh on our Chief Medical Officer Sally Davies.

You see, in the past I've questioned her fitness for the job due to her stunning ignorance when it comes to e-cigs. However, my thanks must go to fellow jewel robber AT - someone who has shared FOI requests with me in the past - for shedding some light on why Sally might have been making such absurd and evidence-free pronouncements.

You see, when asked by AT for correspondence between Sally and Martin McKee about e-cigs and vaping from January 2014 till the present, the Department of Health rejected the request on the following grounds.

3,000?!? 3,000 records over 19 months and there could be more? Crikey O'Reilly, they've chattering away on a daily, maybe even hourly, basis! There are married couples who don't converse as much as that!

It puts a new slant on Sally's silliness now, doesn't it? McKee is an ideological buffoon who has never had a positive word to say about e-cigs or the concept of tobacco harm reduction, is widely suspected to be co-author of the laughable Lancet smear job on Public Health England's recent supportive report on vaping, and enjoys stifling debate by beating up on part-time waitresses from Cornwall.

So when Sally said vapers should "grow a backbone" and quit smoking instead of using an e-cig at the Public Health England forum on e-cigs in early 2014, she was just parrotting McKee's garbage.

When Sally said this ...
"We do not yet know the harm that e-cigarettes can cause to adults, let alone to children, but we do know they are not risk free," Prof Dame Sally Davies, England's chief medical officer, said. 
"E-cigarettes can produce toxic chemicals and the amount of nicotine and other chemical constituents and contaminants, including vaporised flavourings, varies between products - meaning they could be extremely damaging to young people's health."
... she was merely repeating zombie arguments from McKee without checking they were actually valid.

When she declined to comment on this Guardian article on the subject, it was probably because McKee had already accepted the invitation so she would only be saying the same as him.

And when she said this ...
Why are you against increased use of e-cigarettes?
If they were properly regulated as a medicine and we knew what was in them and the dose of nicotine, then they might play a useful role in stopping smoking. But they aren't, so at the moment we don't know their safety or the dose they deliver. They are often aimed at children with their flavourings – not only menthol but cookies and cream and bubblegum. They are sold rather cheaply and many of them are made in China, so I worry about what is in them. We have even got a verb for e-cigarette use: to vape. I am worried about normalising once again the activity of smoking. This matters particularly with children and adolescents. 
So you are worried this could be a rerun of socially acceptable smoking?
Yes. Have you seen the adverts for e-cigarettes? They make them look cool and chic. In the Metrocentre in Newcastle they have a vaping boutique, which looks like a perfume boutique.
... it was just McKee's constant rabbit getting in her ear and pulling her strings. How did we miss such a big clue as 'bubblegum', eh?

All of which suggests that I may have judged Sally harshly. There I was thinking she was not fit for the job and should be sacked for not looking at the evidence or hearing what experts have to say, but she was. It's just that she chose to listen - up to 5 or 6 records per day(!) - to an evidence-avoiding, self-proclaimed 'expert' who only turned up in late 2013 and "is much less interested in 'public health' than he is about fighting a private war against industry".

As you were then, it's not her calm assessment of the evidence which is lacking, just her judgement.

Thursday 3 September 2015

Anatomy Of A Charlatan

As a perfect example of how 'public health' can be run on ideological lines with no care about health or misleading the public, here is an interesting recent timeline involving the Faculty of Public Health's screaming lefty Director of Public Policy Simon Capewell.

Last week, the Lancet published an editorial designed to sling mud at Public Health England's positive report on e-cigs, I wrote about it here. Now, there would be no problem with a health publication debating some of the conclusions but The Lancet didn't do that, instead it merely hurled innuendo and ad hominems around which didn't really amount to a hill of beans, as described in the Speccie.
With wearying predictability, The Lancet launches into an ad hominem attack on two of the 11 authors of Nutt’s study. The editorial notes that one of the authors has consulted for a distributor of e-cigarettes and another has been a consultant to the pharmaceutical industry. Since Big Pharma does not make e-cigarettes and sees them as a rival to their own nicotine products it is debatable whether the second of these is a competing interest at all, but it is nevertheless there in black and white in the original study, as competing interests always are. 
According to The Lancet, the declared interests of two out of 11 authors of one study cited by Public Health England ‘raises serious questions not only about the conclusions of the PHE report, but also the quality of the agency’s peer review process’. This risible attempt to make a mountain out of a mole hill suggests that The Lancet is less interested in assessing the scientific evidence than in groping around for anything that might help blacken the PHE report’s name in the eyes of the public.
The Lancet editorial was published anonymously but it has been revealed since that Capewell was one of the authors. It created hostile attacks on e-cigs in the Daily Mail, Telegraph and Guardian and much foreign coverage complete with hyperbolic idiocy from activists, such as this from a blinkered nicotine-hater in the US.
“One of the studies used to make this conclusion was done by someone on the e-cigarette payroll,” [Erika Sward, the American Lung Association's assistant vice president of national advocacy] alleged. "What we’ve seen from the beginning since e-cigarettes have come out are unsubstantiated health claims by the industry and this is just one more.”
A quite ludicrous leap to get to that from a baseless slur but thank you for smoking America, do carry on.

Scroll on to Sunday and an obscure American online news source publishes an appalling click-bait article on e-cigs entitled  7 reasons e-cigarettes are bad. Considering it cherry-picked long-debunked junk science to make this misleading point, it was easily rubbished by Jacob Sullum of Reason in his response entitled 4 reasons this article about e-cigarettes is bad. It was also ripped to pieces by Mike Siegel.
The rest of the story is that most of these seven claims are false, all are misleading, all seven points actually demonstrate the public health value of e-cigarettes, and all seven arguments are taken almost verbatim from the propaganda being disseminated by colleagues of mine in the anti-smoking movement, demonstrating that their campaign of deception regarding e-cigarettes is working.
"Campaign of deception" is a very good description, because many in 'public health' are no longer working for the public good, they are just sitting on fat salaries and pumping out any old crap to enforce their absurd snobby prejudices on others, irrespective of health.

One of them is Capewell, who chose not to take into account a response to the Lancet by the authors of the Public Health England study, but instead to tweet to like-minded charalatans and fellow travellers the shite article mentioned above.

The Inquisitr article is utter junk - as Siegel's critique very ably shows - and can only mislead and spread baseless fear and confusion. Yet Professor Capewell decides it is more worthy than the considered views of public health colleagues!

Capewell enjoys a position of power in the UK public health network, yet appears completely uninterested in whether he is adversely influencing the public and seems to delight in spreading fear and confusion.  At the same time, he is aggressive and dismissive towards people who are actually listening to consumers and trying to eliminate the confusion, and doing so by smearing his own profession with ad hominems and deliberate abuse of declarations designed to show transparency. Capewell is not interested in whether or not e-cigs may be beneficial, he is just a policy advocate for the policies a guy called Simon Capewell would like to see.

And what's more, he is unelected, unaccountable and - as was shown in the case of fellow FPH nutter John Ashton - entirely immune to censure by his own organisation. He'll keep his job no matter how much nonsense he spouts and no matter how many people continue to smoke due to his bigotry, despite the Faculty of Public Health claiming to want smokers to quit. It's akin to someone working in KFC, openly spitting in customers' food and being given a pat on the back for it.

I only post this by way of explaining why I often say it's not about health, because a lot of the time it really isn't. It also explains why I sometimes use tags like 'shysters', 'health nazis', 'liar', 'troughers' and 'there's something very wrong with this country', because all of those apply to Capewell and many others who claim to be working for the public.

In reality, they couldn't give a shit.

Tuesday 1 September 2015

We Can Solve The Problem We Caused - Honest!

Here is some staggering chutzpah from the Irish brand of tobacco control failure. Via the Irish Heart Foundation.
A new levy should be introduced to force tobacco companies enjoying profit margins of up to 60% on cigarette sales in Ireland to pay the cost of helping smokers to quit, a pre-Budget submission by the Irish Heart Foundation and Irish Cancer Society has urged. 
Research carried out for the Irish Cancer Society and Irish Heart Foundation by leading UK business economist Dr Rob Branston of the University of Bath shows that tobacco multinationals are making combined annual profits of between €110 million and €150 million from Irish sales. This is gained from profit margins of 60% for Japan Tobacco International, which controls over half the Irish market, 41% for Imperial Tobacco and 24% for British American Tobacco – way higher than the normal profit margins for consumer staple industries of between 12-20%.
This "leading UK business economist" seems to be blind to the fact that "normal profit margins for consumer staple industries" are dictated by many different aspects of the market. Most of these are driven by competition in the form of advertising, innovation, new entrants to the market and price wars. Now, I could explain, but I reckon I don't need to. How many of those market mechanisms have been forcibly removed from the tobacco industry?

This is Ireland where duty is so eye-wateringly high that price competition is almost irrelevant. When the producer margin is a tiny percentage of the selling price, buyers wouldn't notice anything but pennies if a price-gouging trade war kicked off. Advertising is banned, packs are hidden behind shutters so there is no chance of the market providing competition for incumbents, and innovation has been destroyed because the Irish government hates tobacco. There is simply no chance of anyone breaking into this market and driving profit margins down, and the Irish government is responsible for it.

So to then compare this profit margin that politicians have facilitated to companies making products like bread, tea and Heinz baked beans is quite ludicrous. A "leading UK business conomist" would surely know this or else he is deliberately comparing apples with toilet brushes, otherwise known as a form of lying.
Kathleen O’Meara of the Irish Cancer Society added: “Permitting such high levels of profit also creates an incentive for powerful tobacco multinationals to fight measures such as plain packaging legislation that hit them in the pocket by reducing smoking rates and discouraging young people from starting to smoke.”
"Permitting" high levels of profit Kath? Your life has been dedicated to ring-fencing tobacco profits for decades with the policies you have demanded!
Ms O’Meara continued: “The smoking rate among Irish adults has fallen below the 20% mark for the first time since records began – that’s around 250,000 fewer smokers now than in 2009. But to maintain the trend we have to do more to help smokers quit and we are proposing that nicotine replacement therapy be made available free of charge to everyone enrolled in smoking cessation programmes.”
The weasel words of a repulsive anti-smoking lunatic. Revelling in the dramatic declines that e-cigs have provided since 2009 and claiming credit for it, while continuing to feed her beloved pharma industry with publicity for their shite ineffective products.

Those with memories which stretch back to January will remember exactly how serious the Irish tobacco control industry and their vacuous government are about helping smokers to quit.
Senators Averil Power and John Crown want to see a ban on the sale of [e-cigs] to under-18s, an end to advertising and the consumption of e-cigarettes in public places and places of work. 
It will also include the prohibition of sponsorship by manufacturers and importers of electronic-cigarettes and the use of them in vehicles where persons under 18 years of age are present.  
The bill also provides for standardised packaging of e-cigarettes and the fitting of child safety caps on liquid nicotine bottles.
Can't be having something that actually works taking all those entrenched income streams away, now can we?

So "leading UK business economist" Rob Cranston of Bath University has a cunning plan.
1) Introduce a levy on tobacco industry profits, with revenue used to support smokers to quit.
Theft from legal businesses to fund useless quitting products while the government bans useful ones.
2) Introduce an annual tobacco tax escalator (inflation + 5%), which would require a tax increase of approximately 50 cent in Budget 2016.
Thereby driving even more smokers to the illicit market - Rob the "leading UK business economist" will be aware of this, of course - while doing the damnedest to deter Irish people from alternatives.
3) Increase tax levels on roll‐you‐own tobacco until they are equivalent to those on cigarettes.
The IRA will be ecstatic!
4) Make NRT (nicotine replacement therapy) available free of charge to all those enrolled in smoking cessation programmes.
Making the Irish Cancer Society ecstatic about sponsorship opportunities in the future!
5) Publish the delayed Revenue Commissioner’s smuggling strategy
Which has all been caused by the tobacco control industry's economically illiterate obsession with stamping out free choice. Why a "leading UK business economist" can't see this is perplexing, do you think he may be a charlatan?

So the gist of this is that there are big problems caused by anti-smoking extremists, but they have a plan to tackle them ... by doing exactly the same myopic crap. Still, it'll keep the cash rolling in for them for a few more years, eh?