Saturday 31 December 2016

Jewel Robbing in 2016

It's been a successful albeit traumatic year for your humble host business-wise, and overall I've quite liked 2016 for having injected some much-required cynicism into public discourse and - just perhaps - made a few politicians realise that they can't just carry on the way they currently do.

Keeping all that mostly separate though, here's a rundown of what we've been talking about here in the past 12 months.


We started 2016 with Dr Stephen Stewart of the Royal College of Physicians making 10 deceptive claims about Minimum Alcohol Pricing, it was also the month that Silly Sally came out with new alcohol guidelines which were anti-scientific and clearly aimed at edging us towards prohibition .. despite what useful idiots might say. Shirley Kramer of the Royal Society of Public Health then advocated plain packaging for fizzy drinks. None of these were the big story of the a month which saw the obscene parasites in 'public health' explode into 2016 though, oh no. That was reserved for Martin McKee, who was caught by FOI with his pants down, privately conspiring with Silly Sally to undermine Public Health England's report on e-cigs and was then revealed to have lied to colleagues in the BMJ. In other areas of research this would be a career-ending revelation, but 'public health' loves liars, so it wasn't.


This month saw a prominent tobacco controller admitting that plain packaging is a failure. We all know that, of course, but it was interesting to see one of their liars breaking ranks for a change. It didn't come as a surprise to we jewel robbers, especially since the Australian government refused to put this 'success' on record during an inquiry on the subject. Fancy that! February was also a month where I detailed how the liars at Health Stadia had encouraged rugby teams to expel vapers from the grounds of Aviva Premiership grounds just a couple of weeks before the National Centre for Smoking Cessation and Training released guidance endorsing their use as a stop smoking aid.


March had a Welsh tinge about it with Mark Drakeford blaming everyone but himself after his Health Bill failed when he refused to drop a ban on vaping from the provisions; meanwhile ASH Wales showed that they were far from being the vaper's friend by saying that they "fully welcome" a beach smoking ban which included e-cigs. It was also the month when the government proposed banning state-funded sock puppet charities lobbying, at which world class sock puppet Anna Gilmore was then outraged at the threat this presented to her future earnings potential. It was additionally when the sugar tax was announced by George Osborne - a triumph for anti-social snobs everywhere - and a smug moron posted the year's most idiotic article by writing about how vapers are all stupid and should let tobacco control walk all over them.


April saw yet another smoking ban which includes e-cigs, and this time it was fully supported by ASH Scotland. It was also the month when Australia decided to evaluate the success of plain packaging and, predictably, appointed Simple Simon Chapman - the guy who advocated for it - to lead the evidence-gathering charade. That's tobacco control 'science', folks. You may also remember that April was memorable for the incessant shrill whining that followed the release of a report by the RCP saying that e-cigs should be promoted widely ... it still hasn't subsided.


The Lords finally woke up to how ridiculous the TPD was in this month, delivering a load of common sense onto the pages of Hansard, albeit belatedly. It was also the month that Brexit: The Movie was released, arguably shifting the debate after being viewed by over 3 million online. Research found that plain packaging could have harmful consequences (not that 'public health' cares) and we dug into emails between ASH and the Department of Health, discovering the extraordinary extent of their (government lobbying) lobbying in favour of the TPD.


In June I delved more into the ASH/DoH emails and found how they tried to destroy vaping and, further, their attempts to grind vaping into the dirt. Meanwhile, 'public health' transnational organisation The Union proposed plain packaging for e-cigs and I reviewed A Billion Lives after a showing in Warsaw, finding that I didn't actually hate it like I thought I might. I also described my Westminster all-nighter on the evening of the Brexit referendum .. a week later once I'd sobered up.


Following the Brexit vote, some political commentators and MPs started to realise that "it's time that we treated the British people more like grown ups", if there's anything that needs cultivating in 2017, it's that! I spent a day with doctors at the Royal Society of Medicine and found that many of them are as sick of over-regulation of our pleasures as we are, and Public Health England's Martin Dickrell made a dogs' breakfast of defending vaping in the workplace on BBC Radio 5 Live.


In August, we saw a hideous bunch of extreme tobacco prohibition fascists actually propose banning smoking in the streets outside their hospital. It didn't seem to occur to them that they have no jurisdiction and that such things must come from primary legislation, but when you're part of a cult, you wouldn't even consider that, now would you? We also saw CAMRA finally realising that the health nutters are after them too, and heard more about how ASH Scotland are doing fuck all about vaping bans.


In September, we discovered that Simon Chapman - who condemned his detractors for not attending his weekday drone-fest at the RSM - had specifically demanded that anyone who dared to do just that be refused entry, pathetic coward that he is. It was also revealed that 'heart attack miracles' were pure fraudulent junk science (as we have always maintained) and a symbol which represents the anti-truth nature of the tobacco control industry scam. Despite being mendacious shysters themselves, tobacco controllers couldn't help themselves in launching a personal smear attack on Chris Russell for daring to attend a conference in Brussels to actually talk about health (which tobacco control is not remotely interested in). And to round off the month, we saw a bunch of vile fascists from the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health and The Faculty of Public Health actually advocate laws to hide smokers from children.


In October, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt directed his obviously huge intellect towards proposing legislation to restrict the size of restaurant puddings. Yes, I bet you didn't expect to read that this time last year, now did you? Soon after, the WHO's FCTC congratulated mass-murderer President Duterte of The Philippines for his contribution to public health, and ASH - who have never had to sell anything in their lives and live on handouts - told corner shops that they didn't know how to run their businesses. It was a surreal time, it has to be said.


I travelled to India for COP7 in early November and posted a few articles on the subject which you can read at this tag, including a truly bizarre day the conference itself. Landing in the middle of a smog which presented a real life public health crisis, it was odd to watch a load of career tax-spongers agonise about outdoor smoking bans and restrictions on e-cigs while they walked around not seeming to care about the huge levels of carcinogens in the atmosphere around them which led to the closure of 1,800 Delhi schools. We also saw the first of what will be turn out to be hundreds of future attacks on Heat not Burn technology from ASH, with threats of bans already being mooted. Tobacco controllers increasingly claim they are in favour of harm reduction options like this, but regularly revert to type and scream for bans when push comes to shove, this is something worth watching in 2017.


The year ended with tobacco controllers squealing that the public had dared to respond to a public consultation; I had a grand day out in Westminster involving plenty of beer, nicotine, caffeine and unapproved food; and I proposed Dick's Law (see below).

With what we thought would be a final 2016 insult, the newly-installed ditzy and cretinous head of the Royal College of General Practitioners binned her organisation's stated stance on e-cigs by calling for vaping to be banned everywhere, but this woeful year end was thankfully tempered by a very interesting report entitled The Pleasure of Smoking which was released just after Christmas.

And that was the year that was. Pick the bones out of it as you will, but I'd go with Snowdon's assessment.
2016 was the most entertaining year I can remember. I doubt we shall see another one like it. 
If 'post-truth' is the word of the year - and apparently it is - the nanny statists have been ahead of the curve for a long time and they excelled themselves again this year.
Indeed they did; at times astounding, at others clearly insane, but always motivated by self-interest rather than health and long due a slap from above.

Happy New Year to all you liberty-loving fellow jewel robbers who have passed through here in 2016, remember in 2017 - as I beseeched at this time last year too - that it is we who are on the side of the angels, not them. 

Tuesday 27 December 2016

The Much-Ignored Pleasure Of Smoking

There is a report out today from the Centre for Substance Use Research (CSUR) in Glasgow which should be compulsory reading for anyone and everyone in the tobacco control industry. Sadly, it will be largely ignored.

Entitled "The Pleasure of Smoking", the report canvasses the views of 583 'confirmed' smokers; that is, smokers who enjoy smoking and are mostly resistant to demands to quit. Lead author Neil McKegany explains why this research should be heeded in the Executive Summary.
This research has provided considerable detailed information on the way in which smoking is viewed by a group of confirmed smokers. This is a group whose opinions are rarely articulated. The implications of these findings from a smoking cessation perspective are significant because there is a clear gulf between the way smoking is typically viewed as a negative, somewhat reprehensible behaviour, and how the smokers themselves saw their smoking as a source of pleasure, a choice rather than an addiction. Whilst it might be objected that "Smokers would say that, wouldn't they?", if stop smoking services are going to succeed in engaging with those smokers who continue to smoke in the face of the extensive efforts aimed at encouraging smoking cessation they are going to have to be prepared to engage with smokers on the terms upon which those individuals view their own behaviour. This includes being willing to recognise the pleasurable elements of smoking. 

There are two things to observe about that introduction. Firstly, tobacco control has never been remotely interested in articulating the views of smokers, instead they have sought every avenue by which they can ensure the views of smokers are silenced or ignored.

Secondly, if any tobacco controller were to admit that smokers derive pleasure from smoking rather than merely being addicted, they would experience an avalanche of abuse and threats from their colleagues who are driven solely by the need to actively denormalise smoking and cast smokers as third class citizens incapable of rational independent thought. The report points out how such vile behaviour from tobacco control would never be tolerated in any other policy area.
In other contexts we recoil at the suggestion of excluding individuals from social gatherings on the basis of their gender, race, religion or sexual identity and yet we positively embrace the notion of excluding smokers from gatherings in enclosed public places. The increasing marginalisation of smokers means that we are less and less inclined to ask them about their views on smoking or their views on the evidence of smoking harm, of addiction, and their interest in changing their behaviour. As a result we understand less and less about the experience of smoking as seen through the eyes of smokers themselves. 
Yep. Those who wish smokers to quit have never been prepared to "engage with smokers" at all, a tactic that vapers might recognise too. It is why tobacco controllers have never, and will never, understand smokers or other users of nicotine. Simply because they don't want to.

Denormalisation has been a stated tactic of tobacco control for many years now, they are quite open about it. Ignoring smokers is just one facet of that approach. Considering this is an attitude endemic within the anti-smoking industry, it is no surprise that the smokers surveyed by CSUR find nothing of any interest when they come into contact with the "well-meaning people but bloody useless" (from the report) staff at stop smoking services.
 “I had worried that quitting smoking would be bleak dull soulless and righteous. Everyone I dealt with through stop smoking services confirmed that view. Not wanting to be like them is one of the reasons I started smoking again”, “It was rubbish and I was rather stunned when it was pointed out to me that ‘By now you are supposed to be using weaker patches and close to quitting’. I was not aware I was on some kind of timetable and they witter on so much at you. They turn it into something much bigger than it needs to be and pepper their speech and information packs with so much negativity and wittering on that it just isn’t worth continuing.” 
Smokers commented that they had found a judgemental attitude on the part of staff within the smoking cessation clinics that had a negative impact on their contact with the service: "I felt the advisor was condescending and holier than thou", "Weak, of little consequence, and coming from a position of sanctimony and patronisation, anti-smoking products are a placebo, they don't work", "Pseudo sales person for the pharmaceutical industry products. Promoted by quit smoking advisors who lacked any knowledge of smoking other than the anti-smoking dogma", "Negative vibe because I am a smoker".
I'm sure staff who profess to be committed to stopping people smoking might not like the idea that their attitude isn't helping, but just like any other industry it is the messages from above which are responsible for it. In an atmosphere, created by the extremists in tobacco control, where smokers are denormalised and society treats them with contempt - merely 'nicotine addicts' who imagine pleasure instead of experience it - it's hardly surprising.

Of course, there is another way.
Successful models of engagement of smokers need to recognise and work with the enjoyment and pleasure that can be found in smoking. If smoking cessation services solely or principally stress the health harms associated with smoking and lay strongest emphasis on an addiction model to explain continued smoking in the face of those acknowledged harms, they will simply continue to find themselves very distant to the sorts of smokers we were surveying. 
The report also details how these committed smokers are very well aware of the health risks involved but - contrary to every policy justification the tobacco control industry has ever suggested - make value judgements based on the (exaggerated) guidance they are given and choose to smoke anyway. In the section on willingness to try harm reduction products like e-cigs, for example, a concern for health was way down in fifth place behind the ability to use them in public places, the fact they are cheaper, and preferences about flavour and smell.

In fact, the CSUR report covers this counterproductive tobacco control idiocy too.
A small number of smokers drew attention to sanctions on public vaping and some people's negative reactions to vaping as having undermined their experience of using the devices. "Same social stigma as as smoking so what's the point, may as well keep smoking the real cigarettes as much more pleasurable", "Still had to stand outside to vape, often right next to rubbish bins, this made it pointless to switch hence not using now", "Restrictions on use" and "Vaping bans"
In light of this, I shall digress briefly and remind you that there are individuals around who believe smokers should quit smoking and use e-cigs instead; are head of organisations which have policies supportive of e-cigs; yet still go to national newspapers like, oh I dunno, The Times, and say that vaping should be banned in all public places. I mean, how cretinous do you have to be to come out with ignorant garbage like that, eh?

It's especially counterproductive when the CSUR research also found that smokers who had tried e-cigs "reported enjoying cigarettes significantly more than those who had not". By attacking vaping simply based on their stupid prejudices, anti-smokers could therefore well be actively harming the chances of committed smokers switching to e-cigs.

Of course, they have no way of knowing that because they won't talk to smokers - instead being determined to ignore them - and will also dismiss today's published report. How do we know this? Well, because they have done so already.

In October, ASH Scotland prepared the way in a blog entitled "The “smokers survey” that can’t tell us anything about “smokers”".
The stated aim “To find out what smokers really think” seems to have missed this crucial point. Surely FOREST is not intending to use the results of this survey to make claims about smokers as a whole? To allay our concerns, will they state clearly that their survey cannot be taken as representative of the views of all smokers and will not be presented as such?
As is customary, attempts were made to make it clear that this wasn't the intention of the report, something that CSUR are open and transparent about in the Executive Summary. However, ASH Scotland were the very opposite of open and transparent, and two months later have still refused to publish comments on their article.

This is because the tobacco control industry, as I have said, don't want to hear about the views of smokers and will wriggle and squirm to make sure they never have to. The CSUR report is very revealing and could be useful to an industry wishing to help smokers to quit. Sadly, the tobacco control industry isn't interested in that at all. It doesn't care about why smokers smoke and definitely doesn't want to hear about what smokers think, far less to engage with them.

So this report will be widely ignored; lessons will go unlearned; and it will all be dismissed as being a tobacco industry plot. This, my valued fellow jewel robbers, is why it has never been about health. 

Saturday 24 December 2016

There's A New Idiot In Town

It may be Christmas Eve where the vast majority of the country has closed down for the holidays, but it seems there is still time for one last piece of cretinous, puritanical, ivory tower codswallop from the 'public health' community.

Via The Times:
Vaping should be banned in public places, Britain’s top family doctor says, signalling a backlash against the enthusiastic welcome of e-cigarettes by the medical establishment. 
Helen Stokes-Lampard, chairwoman of the Royal College of GPs, hit out at e-cigarettes as a “lifestyle choice”, insisting they must be confined to medically supervised attempts to quit smoking.
It seems that, despite the events of 2016, these elitist morons still don't get it.

Stokes-Lampard has only been in her job for just over a month, but is already proving that GPs would probably be far better led by Frank Lampard instead. Her view of e-cigs is so out there where the buses don't run that you have to think seriously about the safety of going to your NHS doctor in the future if this is the kind of profoundly ignorant guidance they can expect to be shovelled.
“The only place that I see vaping has is for people cutting down from smoking on their way to quitting, and therefore the appropriate thing is to treat it like smoking,” Dr Stokes-Lampard said in an interview.
This attitude beggars belief and is so far removed from the consensus of current UK medical opinions about e-cigs that we must either assume she is fishing for headlines to stamp her name on the public's consciousness, or question outright the underlying motive for her uttering such execrable bullshit.
“I think it would be a retrograde step to allow vaping in public places,” she said. Many pubs and restaurants have opted to ban vaping on their premises, as have trains and airports.
Retrograde step? The reason that e-cigs are allowed in public places is that we are not (yet) living in a fascist dictatorship - however much 'public health' attempts to make it so - and there is not, and never will be, proven harm to bystanders from passive vaping. Of course, there is nothing but junk science and innuendo to back up the hysteria over passive smoking either, but since Stokes-Lampard appears to be a fully signed-up member of the cult of tobacco control industry woo, she's too gullible to even reach the first level of understanding of the matter.

This, remember, is the person who has just been put in charge of the organisation that oversees every GP in the United Kingdom. Just pause and think on that for a moment. Truly terrifying, isn't it?

As the NNA described just yesterday, Stokes-Lampard is in the camp of those who know the princely sum of fuck all about what she is pronouncing on.
As the NNA has consistently advocated, a vast number of people derive great pleasure from nicotine just as millions enjoy coffee containing caffeine – both judged to be on the same toxicity level by experts – yet we do not hear of government campaigns to wean the public, or even MPs themselves, off coffee. Smokers are not ill and do not require a medical intervention; in fact, for many the very idea is anathema and would deter them from switching to a less harmful alternative.  
The huge and swift success of vaping in the UK has occurred not because it is viewed exclusively as a smoking cessation device – quite the opposite – instead the success is attributable to vaping being an enjoyable, healthier pastime free from the pressure of real or imagined state coercion. If full nicotine cessation then ensues then so be it, however that should not be the sole consideration. 
This is entirely correct. Smokers don't want to be hectored on high by self-righteous totalitarians like Stokes-Lampard, which is why they are voting with their feet and deserting Stop Smoking Services in their droves in favour of their local vape shop; the result has been a significant decline in smoking prevalence. All that a ban on vaping in public places can possibly do is to slow that down or even slam the bloody phenomenon into reverse gear, yet this ridiculous person - charged with being a thoughtful and wise leader of doctors nationwide, incredibly - doesn't even possess the basic mental capacity to understand even that.

Listen, Helen, we realise it must hurt that smokers are doing things for themselves and don't really need GP lectures any more, but wouldn't it be better if you just shut your vacuous trap instead of jealously endorsing policies which would have the sole effect of deterring people from quitting smoking? Christ on a bike, I thought we'd left this kind of protectionist medical industry ignorance behind when quacks finally conceded that a course of leeches wasn't all it was cracked up to be!
“At the Royal College of GPs we don’t allow people to vape in the building. Until we have the full evidence base we are taking the conservative approach that we do not allow smoking, we do not allow vaping because it’s so closely aligned,” she said.
Yes that's right, Helen, they're one and the same thing. My life, how fucking stupid do you have to be to believe that when all the science says otherwise? Now, I could expect it out of some knuckle-dragging ignoramus down the pub, but this woman is billed as "Britain’s top family doctor"! How bad were the other candidates if this weapons grade bonehead got the job?

Jacob Rees-Mogg MP recently said that "experts, soothsayers and astrologists are all in much the same category", and was lambasted for it by the class of arrogant, over-thinking establishment imbeciles which comprise people such as Helen Stokes-Lampard. Her ignorant wibble on the subject of smokers and vaping has just proved him 100% correct.

Did I ever tell you, by the way, that it's never been about health? 

Thursday 22 December 2016

Insuring The Imaginary

I've occasionally shared with you, dear fellow jewel robbers, some of the crazier things that happen at  - or should I say are inflicted on - Puddlecote Inc (here and here for example), and I think you'll agree that this is up there in the top drawer.

It has become necessary for the company to have a base in a neighbouring local authority to satisfy that authority's licensing demands. A little irritating in itself, but not too onerous because it doesn't need to be a physical presence, just an address and a local landline, so we entered into a contract with a local business offering virtual offices for a monthly fee; this way we can use the address in correspondence and the phone calls are automatically diverted to our main premises. 

This, apparently, is a problem for one of the other authorities we deal with and they have told us they require us to show that we have a Public Liability insurance policy for the new 'office' as well as our real one. We explained that it doesn't actually exist and therefore no member of the public can possibly set foot in it, so we didn't require Public Liability insurance to cover it. They replied that they were well aware of that but require us to produce proof of it anyway.  

So I contacted our broker and explained to him what we needed and he has now arranged for cover in case an imaginary person accidentally trips over the imaginary carpet in this imaginary office space. Of course, insurance companies being insurance companies this didn't come without cost, albeit a nominal £100 or so per year. However, the broker took a couple of days to get back to me due to it being Christmas and he running around like a blue-arsed fly trying to see as many clients as possible before the break. In the meantime, our operational crew were told that we would not be able to use our drivers on work for that authority until we had produced the insurance schedule ... for a fictional office!

Now, I know this isn't too big a deal cost or time wise, but it's just one of dozens of examples of entirely unnecessary public sector box-ticking we have to get through and is relevant to an amusing event I attended last year at this authority. 

They had summoned all transport suppliers to a meeting in the Town Hall to discuss a number of issues, one of which was council spending cuts. The head of procurement detailed the percentage of their budget he was expected to save and asked - with a straight face - all of those assembled why it was that when his staff rang to get quotes they were given one price, but once it was revealed that the work was for the local authority the price went up. He looked astonished when the chamber erupted with laughter. 

All other companies at that meeting were in the same boat as us, beset with red tape upon red tape imposed on them by this authority, almost all of which is not required when providing services for private businesses or directly to the public. So, naturally, those costs are bundled up and form part of the price charged to the authority for performing the work. 

Once the peals of laughter had subsided, three suppliers stood up and went through the list of irritating and absurd box-ticking rules and regs they had to endure just to be included in the framework to be able to bid for work. As they did, the head of procurement had a resigned look on his face and eventually nodded to indicate that he understood. 

Well that's what I thought at the time anyway. But who do you think it was who asked for a schedule for an insurance policy for a non-existent office, covering non-existent accidents suffered by non-existent people, the cost of which will be factored into all future quotes from us for that authority? Why, the very same head of procurement of course. Well, who cares, eh? It's only your money. 

Tuesday 20 December 2016

Delhi: Smoggy City, Foggy Minds

Our esteemed mascot asked an interesting parliamentary question recently, which was answered on December 1st.
Philip Davies Conservative, Shipley 
To ask the Secretary of State for Health, whether the officials from his Department who attended the seventh conference of the Parties of World Health Organisation Framework Convention on Tobacco Control met with representatives of the Group Action on Smoking and Health during that conference. 
Nicola Blackwood The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health 
Officials met with a range of public health stakeholders on 12 October 2016 before attending the Conference of the Parties of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. Deborah Arnott the Chief Executive of Action on Smoking and Health, attended that meeting. No further meetings were scheduled or held before or during the conference.
I thought that quite strange at the time because, as regular readers will know, I was there and I heard differently. My understanding was that they did indeed hold regular meetings, just in bars and restaurants instead of a sterile room, but meetings during the conference nonetheless.

It seemed to be confirmed by someone who was staying in the same hotel for the duration.

It's clear they were gabbing away constantly while there, after all Deborah Arnott is part of the Department of Health team (though conveniently exempted from FOI requests despite being state-funded) so why wouldn't they?

Strange then, that via inquisitive fellow jewel robber AT we find that no-one at the Department of Health has any recollection of these meetings!

Now, just to remind you, Andrew Black and Alette Addison work in the Department of Health. Could the FOI team not have just asked them? I take it they have telephones these days, or maybe they could have emailed seeing as they had around three weeks to give a reply. Too lazy perhaps?

There is another explanation of course. Perhaps they were all too pissed on Kingfisher beer and local plonk to remember. I suppose it would make the wording of the DoH response technically correct.

Delhi was in the middle of an unprecedented public health crisis brought on by record levels of smog; maybe there were also a few foggy and delicate minds the day after all these meetings, eh? The expenses claims would be interesting to see I reckon.

However, all we know currently is that the meetings occurred and no-one - from the Under-Secretary of State right down to humble DoH grunts - wants to admit that they did. Fancy that!

Thursday 15 December 2016

The Children, You Say?

I'm sure you'll all remember how plain packaging was sold to governments as a way of stopping children from taking up smoking, right?

Well, that quickly morphed into deterring adults once the liars in the tobacco control industry had gotten their way, but they did always say that there was no threat to freedom of choice. In fact, it was often stated categorically that they had no intention whatsoever of interfering with the choices that smokers make!

Like everything else anti-smokers say, though, that was untrue as well. Consider this from
Mystery shoppers hired by Imperial Tobacco are sent to retailers with a very specific script. 
“I normally smoke Winfield 30s but I am looking for an alternative, what would you recommend instead of Winfield 30s?” the shoppers are instructed to ask, in a job summary seen by 
When asked how much they want to spend, the mystery shopper says “maybe something a little cheaper”. 
If asked about their preferred cigarette’s strength, the shopper replies: “I usually smoke the blue ones.” 
Then it’s over to the staff member who says the magic words and steers the “customer” towards John Player Special, a brand imported by Imperial. If the staff member does not mention any other brand, they score points towards the company’s incentive program. 
At this point, the mystery shopper identifies him or herself and informs the staff member that the results will be tallied at head office and prizes awarded to those with the top scores.
Note that this is a 'shopper' - an adult one at that - entering a shop with the express purpose of buying cigarettes. A current smoker, too, since there's a clue there when they say "I normally smoke Winfield 30s".

So what's the problem?
[Scott Walsberger, the head of tobacco control and prevention at Cancer Council NSW, said] “Every time we’ve brought in legislation, you see the tobacco industry push the envelope, continually trying to make their product attractive and market them as much as possible,” he said. 
“They’re always focused on selling more cigarettes, more people getting addicted and they go to all lengths to do that — so it’s not surprising that, as we tighten up regulations of how they market their products in some ways, that they’ve sought out the channels where they’re not regulated and exploit them to continue to promote their product.”
So, Scott, quick maths quiz for you. How many more cigarettes would be sold if a person who usually buys 30 cigarettes of one brand is guided into buying 30 cigarettes of another brand? Additionally, if one smoker enters a shop to buy cigarettes and the same one smoker exits the shop with a packet of cigarettes, how many more people have been "addicted"? You can use a calculator if it helps.
He called for new laws to better regulate how tobacco products are sold and marketed and made available through retail outlets, and rejected the argument that trade marketing only targeted customers who were already smokers. 
“They say they’re not marketing to new customers, just getting people to switch brands or building brand loyalty; we know that’s not true,” Mr Walsberger said.
Erm, Scott, all marketing is about brand share unless you're a vested interest knuckle-shuffler who fundamentally fails (deliberately) to understand the advertising industry.

Look, for argument's sake, let's pretend - as you do - that shiny packets are so alluring that they turn innocent and health-conscious people into automatons who simply must buy a packet of fags. Well, you haven't got those anymore in Australia so problem solved.

This case, however, is of a shopper who clearly states their intention to buy a pack of 30 cigarettes anyway and will walk out with a packet of 30 cigarettes, just maybe a different brand. How is the marketing not about brands; how is it "untrue". How is this marketing to new customers if the consumer has already decided to buy cigarettes?

Oh, I see, it's just another tobacco control industry lie, isn't it? You just can't fucking help yourselves.

As usual these days, it is left up to the tobacco industry to inject some honesty and integrity into the debate.
A spokesman for Imperial Tobacco Australia said the company sold a legal product and defended its trade marketing practices. 
“The program in question sees shoppers specifically identifying themselves as adult consumers of tobacco products who are seeking a brand recommendation from a retailer. 
“This clearly neither ‘circumvents legislation’ nor has any bearing on the choice of an adult to consume tobacco. It simply addresses which brand that adult consumer might choose.”
We're a long way from "protecting children from glitzy packets" here, aren't we?

The simple and unavoidable truth now is that the tobacco control charade is just one long and never-ending catalogue of lies. They lie when they wake up, they spend their day lying, and then they lie some more. Once they think they've done all the lying they are capable of for the day, they squeeze out a few more lies just for good measure. Then they go to sleep and dream about what lies they can tell the next day.

Here we see them not protecting children because no children are involved. They are also not protecting adults from starting to smoke because the buyer is already a smoker and intends to buy cigarettes. They are also not protecting people who want to quit smoking because the consumer has every intention of buying cigarettes. They are not encouraged to buy more, simply the same amount but of a different brand.

So, as we all know, this proves pretty convincingly that the tobacco control monstrosity - and their daft and pointless plain packaging makework exercise - is not, and never has been, about protecting kids, nor even about protecting adults. The only possible explanation for this fake fury is that they simply despise industry and hate the idea that smokers might be allowed to benefit from useful advice since there is none available due to the bans 'public health' has brought in.

It is mendacious bullying, nothing more, nothing less. They are the criminally-dishonest, we are the angelic truth-tellers.

It also shows that to be a tobacco controller you must act every day as if you are wearing shit-stained glasses and complain that everything stinks. Every one of them should be stuck on a spike somewhere very public pour encourager les autres. How the entirely disingenuous 'public health' racket still has the ear of governments is anyone's guess, perhaps one day - after a few more electoral surprises - politicians may work out that we've had enough of their shit. 

Sunday 11 December 2016

Dick's Law: A Proposal

Let me show you a few tweets from recent days, because y'see, I think we have a problem within 'public health' debate that needs to be solved.

Here is John Ashton of the Faculty of Public Health (you remember him, surely?) on Friday ...

This is with regard to last week's appalling US Surgeon General report on e-cigarettes which had more holes in its 'evidence' than a Swiss cheese, most notably its complete absence of a citation for April's Royal College of Physicians report.

You would think, wouldn't you, that a UK 'public health' professional would be more predisposed to trust the RCP than a political appointee from across the Atlantic, but then Ashton hates vaping and vapers with a passion so didn't do that. Instead, he cast a tweet into cyberspace deliberately trying to smear any positive view of vaping as having come from the tobacco industry or those who support it.

It was the same approach taken by Luke Clancy of ASH Ireland yesterday.

Just like Ashton, Clancy summarily dismisses not only the RCP report, but also the conclusions of the PHE report on e-cigarettes of August 2015. Just a load of rubbish, according to Clancy. Again, this is intended to dismiss serious research to avoid debate because - as far as we know - Clancy has never conducted his own research or evidence review of e-cigs, so is relying on the opinion of others.

The opinion of others he is alluding to is, of course, that of Simon Capewell and Martin McKee who published criticism in the Lancet and BMJ following the PHE report, and it was based on nothing more than desperate smears (as we found out by FOI).

As Clive Bates commented last year on this subject.
Given the Lancet and BMJ are the giants of UK medical publishing,  might we have expected them to take a scientific perspective and look into whether the 95% claim is actually realistic?   They didn’t bother with this at all. 
In fact, there has been an interesting debate about whether this figure is right or not and if it has been expressed with the proper nuances, but not in the BMJ or Lancet
But here’s the thing: most of the legitimate concern is that this estimate overstates the residual risk of 5% and that a range should have been given, rather than a point estimate.  This is because no likely pathway for serious disease has so far been established and it is quite possible that e-cigarettes will be 99% or 100% less risky than smoking.  
Did the BMJ or Lancet provide any insight or reflection on these figures or on the proper formulation of a message useful to the public? No and no.
This isn't a new tactic, far from it. The tobacco control industry has pumped out an enormous catalogue of junk science for decades and, as a result, has actively sought to silence any meaningful debate on all of it. It doesn't matter how rigorous the science which disagrees with their chosen view may be, it will always routinely be dismissed by way of distraction and playing the man not the ball. It has rightly been compared to McCarthyism by many different commentators.

So successful has this mendacious tactic been that the BMJ now refuses any research - however scientifically perfect - merely on the basis that it is funded by the tobacco industry (but not if it is funded by other industries such as pharma, natch).

Here's another recent example, this time from a colleague of the US Surgeon general, piqued that former head of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control holds the new e-cigs report in contempt.

As always, criticism is not followed by debate, but instead instantly leaps to a veiled smear that the person opposing the 'public health' professional's pre-conceived position must surely have been influenced by industry.

None of those above actually believe it; it's just a way of ensuring the debate doesn't get past square one and, therefore, out of their control.

It's not just in tobacco control that this goes on. In fact, the same dissent-silencing tactic has been enthusiastically taken up by everyone who has a policy they like but for which the evidence is subject to debate. In almost all cases the proponents of these policies will point to how popular they are while dismissing the idea that if the public were truly in favour, their services would not be required because people would be doing what 'public health' wants anyway. When the public do object to these vested interest obsessives, however, they too will be accused of being 'astroturf' or somehow being in the pay of industry; their voice will be ignored and all sound reasoning or evidence-based arguments discarded.

So much has this absurd fallacious form of discourse infected intelligent debate these days that it is vomited out even when it's quite laughable to do so. See this hilarious exchange from Thursday.

There you have Adam Cleave, who openly declares he works for Imperial Tobacco, being told repeatedly that he is quite obviously a front for the sugar industry. You couldn't make this stuff up! It is said without thought; without even cursory fact-checking; and is designed solely to shut someone up who holds a differing opinion.

There is no sharing of ideas or back and forth of evidence with people who immediately spring to the ad hom as a means of defence, they quite simply don't want to have to go to the bother of justifying their point of view. It is lazy, unprincipled, and a form of lying.

So I have a proposal. Just as Godwin's Law dictates that comparisons with Hitler are inappropriate and lazy debate-killers, so should anyone screaming about mythical and shadowy industry interference be equally ridiculed. I call this proposal Dick's Law and it goes like this.
"If, when faced with someone who opposes your point of view and does so by providing personal testimony, references or evidence, you reply without refuting their stance with meaningful justification, but instead accuse them of being in the pay of industry or part of a front group without any proof, you are actively attempting to strangle debate and silence discussion. Furthermore, even if the opponent is in pay of industry or part of a front group, you must disprove their opinions by way of evidence and references of your own. If you cannot do so, you have illustrated that your opinion is not supportable by facts and is therefore too weak for the debate that you have chosen to avoid. As such, at the exact moment you rely solely on an ad hominem attack on their real or imagined industry affiliation, you immediately lose the debate."
I think that works well, whaddya reckon? 

Wednesday 7 December 2016

Vape, Nic, Caffeine, Beer And Chips

As days go, yesterday was quite a busy one and definitely well deserving of the 'Dick Out And About' tag.

It began (quite literally after a few too many Xmas beers the night before) at 2pm with a trip to Committee Room 9 at the House of Commons where the APPG on e-cigs was taking place. Those of you who follow me on Twitter will have seen some quotes from those who were invited to speak but it's still worth writing a few up here. 

First up was Public Health England's Kevin Fenton who set out his organisation's priorities on vaping for the future. Now, PHE irritates me greatly because it is a huge bureaucracy eating up a monumental half a billion pounds a year of our taxes to basically treat us all like children - offering 'advice' such as wrapping up warm when it is winter, for example, is laughable - but Fenton himself appears to be an extremely genuine guy so it's hard not to like him. I suppose you could argue that we would all be very genuine on a £177k salary, but he does always come across as someone who believes in what he says. 

Most interesting was his response to a question from Andrew Allison of the Freedom to Vape campaign on what he intends to do about the wholesale ignorance on display from lazy local authority 'public health' departments on the issue of vaping. 

This came just a few minutes after the MP for Basildon and East Thurrock, Stephen Metcalfe, had also spoken about challenging pubs and other venues which take "the lazy option" of banning e-cigs for no good reason whatsoever.

As I've mentioned many times before, it's no good organisations such as PHE, ASH etc just saying they are supportive of e-cigs when they sit idly and silent as ban after ban is put into place, each one effectively telling the public that vaping is dangerous.

Professor Peter Hajek then spoke about the methods anti-vaping 'public health' bodies are using to ensure negative stories continue to appear in the press. He even used the term 'dirty tricks' about people who I presume are colleagues in his profession. It's nice that they are being noted as charlatans now, but then they've had many years' experience of being just that, so hardly a surprise.

Cancer Research UK's George Butterworth spoke next. You may remember him as the guy whose naive loose talk to a journalist dropped The Times (and his own organisation) in a lot of hot water earlier this year. He wasn't any more inspiring yesterday either, beginning by banging on about (yawn) Article 5.3 and the involvement of tobacco companies in the e-cig industry and then saying nothing much of note afterwards. Of all six speakers he was the only one from whom I couldn't glean a single interesting quote to tweet.

It was then the turn of three representing "the industry" to speak, a description which I'm sure grated on Sarah Jakes of the NNA who APPG Chair Mark Pawsey seemed not to realise has nothing to do with any business.

Charlie Hamshaw-Thomas spoke on behalf of the UKVIA, seemingly addressing Butterworth's concerns by saying, quite rightly, "of course the tobacco industry is involved in vaping now, they are in the business of selling nicotine, why wouldn't they?". That such a statement needs to be made says more about the warped priorities of the tobacco control industry nowadays than the behaviour of tobacco companies (more on that later).

The IBVTA also spoke with Ian Green reinforcing their current campaign to make sure TPD regulations are enforced properly. This is an incredibly interesting development because, obviously, vaping consumers would prefer that the MHRA and trading standards just sat on their hands and ignored the whole car crash. But at the same time, IBVTA businesses have shelled out to be compliant and would now like to see the regulations they have complied with being adhered to. As a business owner and also a consumer I can see both sides, and can see that there could be a lot of friction on the subject in coming months. Might be worth buying in the popcorn early, I reckon.

Lastly on the "industry" side was the NNA's Jakes. She mentioned that ASH's briefing in May was very misleading and that as a result of bad press (which, as previously discussed is not being tackled by 'vape-friendly' health lobbyists) vapers are beginning to be questioned and stigmatised about the products by friends, family and co-workers. The PHE's Kevin Fenton nodded along sagely so should have got that message, the same can't be said about Debs Arnott because she failed to turn up.

Anyway, that finished at 3pm and Sarah Jakes and I were at a loose end for a couple of hours before the Freedom Association's Christmas Quiz at 6pm, so we schlepped on over to Soho to have a gander at the new iQos store on Wardour Street.

We were greeted by some very hipsterish types who asked about our current nicotine usage. Replying that we were both e-cig users, they tried to put us off and advised that we should stick with what we've got. We explained that we were there for research and wanted to try the things out but had no intention of buying, so were offered a tea or coffee and introduced to someone who would give us a tutorial.

On two levels, the place seems more like a marketing exercise than a profit-making shop to me, and we learned that you can only buy the devices and the sticks to go with them if you are inside TfL's London travel zones 1 to 4. No chance of buying online and if you're outside London you have to travel in to sample it. So not the flooding of the market some would expect, more a tentative toe in the water after much-reported success in other countries.

Sitting in a very comfy 'cave' in the basement, we tried the first of the three flavours they offer (all are apparently the same nicotine strength). I had shunned the coffee that was offered because my annual intake of hot drinks is about 2 or 3 per year but once I started using it I had a hankering for one, it felt very much like being in a comfy but ostentatious cafe.

It's also worth noting that despite there being rumours that 'heat not burn' technology might be 90%ish safer than traditional smoking, this factoid was never mentioned during the time we were there. Not that it matters how safe the products are, because - as I accurately predicted - ASH and their tedious satellites will only have bad things to say about them simply because they're not made by their pharma pals. In fact, Scottish belly-acher Sheila Duffy was first out of the blocks this week to declare that, yes, they will indeed demand that iQos is included in the smoking ban despite no evidence whatsoever that they are harmful to bystanders.

But then we know very well now that it was never about protecting staff anyway.

I'd say it's an interesting addition to the market although not something I'd shell out for myself. The cost is quite prohibitive at £89 for the device and £8 per pack of heatsticks or whatever they're called. This is tempered if you sign up to the 7 day trial where they will let you have it for £45 instead and if you opt to buy a pack of 200 sticks the per pack price drops to only £7, but now being used to buying e-liquid for pennies and cigarettes from places with far cheaper tobacco duty, it's not an option I'd want to go for simply because I don't think I'd use it enough to make it worth the outlay.

I'm absolutely certain that some smokers would really enjoy it though, and it would seem to fill a gap in the market in that respect. Apparently, the day before a Labour MP sat in the same seats as us and bought an iQos and a big supply of sticks to go with it. I can't tell you who it was, not for reasons of privacy, but because the lady who gave us the demonstration was French and didn't know the name and I forgot to ask as I sailed out the door on a delicious tide of nic and caffeine.

So it was then off to the Xmas quiz with the hugely entertaining Jake Rees-Mogg as question master.

Our table of six vapers never quite reached the full complement, we got to five at one point but one bailed last minute so it was up to just the four of us to try to put a brave face on coming last. Fortunately, there was one other team who also didn't cheat and only had three on their table so we manged to triumph by coming second last out of eleven. We mashed their arses with a maginificent final score of 15 out of 45, comfortably eclipsing the 13.5 of our naturally inferior rivals. The winners scored 41 but if they did that without Google they're not worth knowing anyway. Bah!

And that was my day yesterday. I travelled back on the tube; fell asleep as usual; and got back to Puddlecote Towers to a sausage and chips supper; fully believing I'd squeezed every ounce of enjoyment from the day ... only to find a free beer token (which was, deliciously, in the form of a casino chip) still in my back pocket.

Still, none of us angels is perfect, eh? 

Sunday 4 December 2016

How Dare Members Of The Public Respond To A Public Consultation!

Regular readers here will know that I often describe the tobacco control industry as 'extremists', and there is a good reason for that. You see, their methods are remarkably similar to those of totalitarian dictatorships.

Their policies consist entirely of lies, intimidation and suppression of debate and - rather like ISIS - they demand that what they say goes and for any dissent or opposing view to be silenced and/or ignored.

So this document which has just come to light won't come as much of a surprise. I've embedded it at the bottom of the page, and you can see that it is a letter from Florence Berteletti-Kemp demanding that EU President Jose Manuel Barroso ignore tens of thousands of responses from members of the public to the public consultation on the Tobacco Products Directive. Incredibly, one of the justifications she gives is that there are too many objections, because such consultations only usually attract about 20 responses, and she complains that there are organisations encouraging people to make their voice heard! I mean, how disgraceful is it that people should be urged to engage with the democratic process (such as it is in the EU), eh?

The pre-consultation report is here and, as you can see, included sections not only on conventional tobacco, but also snus and e-cigs. Considering the huge number of people across the EU who use such products, it should have been welcomed that so many wished to express their thoughts on early proposals, however briefly. I wrote about the consultation at the time in order to drive responses their way, as did former influential blogger and now LBC radio presenter Iain Dale and many others. But tobacco control has never been in the business of debating and will always try to silence any opposition to their insane self-enriching policy-chasing, so there's no way they want to hear from the ghastly public.

There is evidence that these vile anti-democratic and transparency-phobic creeps - including Debs Arnott in the days when she was still honest about her intention to medicalise all e-cigs, along with Anna 'Rent-a-junk-study' Gilmore, CRUK head Jean King, Monika Kosinska, Luk Joossens, Luke Clancy and other well-known fanatical prohibitionists -  got their way too, as we can see from this article in 2011.
The EU Commission, however, dismisses a significant portion of the responses from the 82,000 citizens on the grounds that two-thirds are from Italy and Poland, where tobacco merchants organised petitions.
This isn't an unusual tactic either. We saw the same with the tobacco display ban in the UK in 2008.
Ken Patel, Leicester retailer and National Spokesman for the Tobacco Retailers Alliance, said: "First the Minister refused to meet with retailers, now they have censored our formal response to a public consultation." 
Campaign Manager Katherine Graham said; "We are not listed as one of the respondents although our response was submitted by email and also sent by post, so we can be certain it was received. For some reason the views of 25,000 shopkeepers just seem to have been air-brushed out of the consultation report."
And it was also attempted during the plain packs campaign in 2013, again sneakily involving letters to politicians to demand the public is ignored.
It piqued my interest as I was rather intrigued as to what had been discussed at this meeting, so I submitted a freedom of information request. The response was a brief note which you can read in Scribd here, but this is the part which I found most interesting.
"On plain packaging, the APPG expressed concerns that results of any consultation could be skewed if consumer/retail groups were used to inflate responses. They also wanted to know when decisions were likely to be made."
Now, I don't know about you, but that does seem to suggest that the delegation of MPs Stephen Williams, Kevin Barron and Bob Blackman (not Paul as in the document) - along with Deborah Arnott their ASH secretary - were urging Anne Milton to ignore responses from groups such as Hands Off Our Packs, the National Federation of Retail Newsagents, The Association of Convenience Stores etc. In fact, any organised group who are opposed to plain packaging. 
Note that they were not concerned about organised groups of any stripe collecting signatures which, of course, would have ruled out CRUK responses as well as SmokeFree South West's government-funded campaign. No, they were only addressing campaigns organised in opposition. 
Of course, there were no questions whatsoever about the signatures raised in support of the policy by state-funded fake charities, Cancer Research UK, and even the plain packs campaign itself, even though they were gathered using exactly the same methods. The stark hypocrisy of these odious creatures is stunning. 

All of which goes to prove that tobacco controllers are not just enemies of tolerance and freedom of choice, but also of the right of the public to have their views counted and, therefore, an enemy of the democratic process itself.

You can read their grubby letters demanding public responses be ignored at this Scribd link or scroll through it below.