Sunday 29 January 2017

Is There Something In The Water In Wales?

A few years ago, I hinted that perhaps small populations don't tend to be conducive to producing a large talent pool.
When England play football against San Marino, what generally happens? Well, they get thrashed of course. In fact, they get thrashed by just about everyone because they're pants. Even Scotland can put a couple past them! 
It's not their fault. It's just that their population is so small that there is very little talent to choose from. Pitting 31,000 San Marinoans - or whatever they're called - against 53 million Englanders is only going to end in one result.
I'm starting to think that this population handicap could be the reason why Welsh officialdom seems to be populated by utter dickheads. How else does one explain this week's asinine and Luddite advice about e-cigs from Public Health Wales?
ENDS should feature alongside other health-harming substances e.g. tobacco and alcohol, in all health education for children and young people, and be presented as harmful to health.
A systematic enforcement programme should be developed to minimise the sales of ENDS to those less than 18 years of age, including development of a register of retailers and systematic test-purchasing, prosecution and media activity.
‘Confectionary-like’ (sic) flavours of e-liquid should not be permitted, in order to reduce the appeal of ENDS to children and young people.
There should be restrictions on the use of ENDS in settings predominantly used by children e.g. in schools and school grounds and around the entrances to schools.
There should be restrictions on the advertising of ENDS in all media that would be regularly viewed by children and young people.
So, fresh from being frustrated in their attempt to ban vaping in all public places - for no reason except bigotry and spite - PHW have instead decided that they should do the next most stupid thing and issue advice which can surely only have been designed to handicap vaping as much as possible.

As others have already mentioned, the sweeping statement that e-cigs are "harmful to health" for youths is not true in all cases, so can be described as appalling advice. A fair amount of young smokers in Wales will now henceforth be told that e-cigs are a no-no. 

Likewise, advocating bans around entrances to schools smacks of butthurt 'public health' morons trying to exact revenge after their pathetic and ignorance-based full vaping ban proposal was kicked out by the Welsh Assembly, despite Dangle-belly Drakeford's two year marathon of lying.

As for restrictions on advertising, considering there is no evidence that non-smokers are taking up vaping but that there is compelling evidence in favour of e-cigs being hugely less harmful than smoking, you have to wonder why PHW want to reduce the potential positives by hiding the good news away like some mad Uncle in the attic. Does the affront to their egos hurt that much that they'd prefer vaping to wither and die? Well yes, it would appear so. Yet again, e-cigs ruthlessly expose that 'public health' in the field of smoking has absolutely nothing to do with health, and all to do with repulsive prejudice and vile class-led snobbery.

However, the recommendation which illustrates that PHW collectively are less brainy than Kurt Cobain's ceiling is the one about flavours! Firstly, it's spelt "confectionery" for God's sake; does no-one at PHW have the intellectual wherewithal to spot that mistake before releasing a position statement or are they unaware of the existence of spellchecker? And as for this ...
Ashley Gould from Public Health Wales (PHW) said: "You can buy bubblegum, candyfloss, jam doughnut flavour e-cigarettes and they are only aimed at one audience - and that's about recruiting children."
Yes that's right Ashley, you cretin. We've just had advice from dentists that 'cake culture' must be eradicated from offices because adults love cake too much, but according to you only children like doughnuts? As for the other flavours mentioned, I've vaped both and my two regular vapes are Pear Drops and Aniseed Balls ... I'm in my late 40s.

I'm not an outlier either, as the Ashtray Blog has repeatedly pointed out.
“Think of the children,” has been a rallying cry of the anti e-cig movement. 
According to this movement, the e-cigarette industry is deliberately targeting children to get them hooked on nicotine young. So far, evidence has included the fact that some e-cigs are pink and that e-liquids are provided in a range of flavours. 
But vapers like flavours too! In fact, a survey of 10,000 vapers by ECigaretteForum showed that only 22% of them chose to vape tobacco flavours:
Indeed. PHW would like to throw the baby out with the bath water and ban flavours despite this being probably the prime driver of smoking cessation via vaping.

So what the blithering fuck are the provincial pricks at PHW doing with our taxes if they are employed full-time on high salaries and yet haven't managed to find this information for themselves? Because if we put Ashley's 'expert' wisdom on the subject into a Venn Diagram it would look something like this.

Look, I'm a decent guy, quite forgiving in fact. I can see that PHW have obviously got something disastrously wrong with this advice considering it is off dancing with pixies compared to the sanity over vaping in the rest of the UK's 'public health' community (fat Irish blowhards and Scouse communists aside). So I'm prepared to think that maybe it's not be driven by spite, and that maybe population constraints are not to blame as to why Wales has to suffer officials who - like we don't let alcoholics pilot aeroplanes - should not be in charge of anything except a box of crayons.

So - and this is a long shot to be fair - the only other possible reason must be that there is something nasty in the water in Wales. And if so, perhaps PHW should be looking into that instead of unleashing mentally-incontinent bullshit about vaping to the poor Welsh saps who have to suffer it.

Good grief. 

Friday 27 January 2017

Snus Gets A Day In Court, And Wins The First Round

Yesterday I wrote about a challenge to the EU-wide snus ban by Swedish Match and the NNA that was being heard in the High Court and my thoughts on why it should succeed. Well, the outcome was indeed successful as the case was given leave to appeal to the European Court of Justice despite being opposed by the Department of Health.

If you are interested in hearing more about the day, I can recommend this video of Professor Gerry Stimson, who led the NNA's involvement, in conversation with VTTV's David Dorn. Stimson explains the basis of the challenge, what went on in the court, and describes what happens with the case from here.

Do consider pouring yourself a brew and having a watch, it's very heartening to see one of tobacco control's most insane moral panics coming under legal scrutiny.

Thursday 26 January 2017

Snus Ban Stench To Be Aired In The High Court

This morning sees the start of an extremely interesting case brought in the UK High Court to attempt to lift the EU ban on snus. It is led by snus manufacturer Swedish Match and supported by the New Nicotine Alliance (NNA) to give a consumer aspect to proceedings.

You can read about the basis behind it at the NNA website here.

To give you a very brief rundown of how snus was banned all across the continent (except in Sweden who negotiated an opt-out when they joined the EU), in 1989 Health Secretary Kenneth Clarke ruled against it when a product called Skoal Bandits popped up in East Kilbride to predictable moral outrage. It was promptly banned in the UK after ASH and their fellow prohibitionist plankton did their usual bit of screaming about Big Tobacco and metaphorically smeared shit on the walls of parliament by pulling out every piece of junk science available at the time. Not content with this, Edwina Currie as Junior Health Minister then ignorantly and shamefully petitioned the EU to extend the ban across the whole of the EU, which it duly did in 1992.

Real life evidence has since shown this to be a criminally stupid thing to do. Snus has now been proven to be almost entirely harmless and in Sweden, where it is legal, smoking rates and levels of smoking-related cancer are lower than every other EU member state by an impressive margin.

The ban was maintained in the recent EU Tobacco Products Directive (TPD) despite further overwhelming evidence of its harm reduction potential having come to light in intervening years and despite the public consultation being overwhelmingly in favour of lifting the ban. Over 83% of the public who responded in 2010 argued that the ban should be rescinded, and of those the majority against the ban was over 63% from even governmental representatives.

The EU however then went to great lengths to bastardise this crushing condemnation of their piss poor legislation. They did so partly by throwing public responses in the bin.
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. 
But even if we exclude these two countries, the majority is still for lifting the export ban on snus, 10-6, when respondents are broken down by country.
In fact, even if they stripped out the public altogether it was still no good, a majority still told them the ban was wrong. So they had to think of a new plan.
The European Commission's health directorate claims to have received responses from governments who in other ways support the ban on snus, but refuses to show them.
Well that's all nice and transparent then, isn't it? Take a public consultation, rip it up, then miraculously find a whole load of huge support for a ban, and refuse to allow scrutiny of the justification behind those opinions. I really can't understand why the British public get the idea that the EU isn't democratic, can you?

And, to top it all off, it's important to remember that the EU Health Commissioner at the time was John Dalli, a guy so utterly incompetent in health affairs that he believed e-cigs to be more harmful than tobacco and who was eventually fired by the EU after being implicated in soliciting bribes of €60 million to lift the snus ban. Despite his closest political ally having been recorded requesting a €10 million {cough} lobbying fee, and Dalli having been discovered jetting off to the Bahamas to investigate how to hide "sums of up to $100 million", the Commissioner insisted it was all just a plot by just about everyone ... against poor 'ickle him, as Maltese investigative blogger Daphne Caruana Galizia ridiculed at the time.
No doubt, two of the world’s most reputable newspapers are in a conspiracy with Saviour Balzan’s Queen of Bile, evil bloggers, gOnziPN, Giovanni Kessler, Jose Manuel Barroso, the nasty European Commission, and the mysterious agents who hacked Dalli’s email account and called him J Dalli BA. 
I am sure his psychiatrist – a man I mention because his medical certificates were so much in the news when he certified Dalli unable to get on a plane because of ‘psycho-social’ problems – has a name for this disorder, which unites persecution mania with the ability to convince oneself that one is absolutely innocent at all times, even when one is not. 
Enough of this nonsense. Really, enough.
In the ensuing panic, the EU and Malta closed ranks to show solidarity, and the TPD was passed - complete with the unamended snus ban - by replacement Maltese Health Commissioner a fellow clueless incompetent plank by the name of Tonio Borg.
Borg started out by saying that there was a need to take action because new tobacco products "looked like lipstick"!  
Borg went on to (wrongly) say that the EU had a ban on Snus 20 years before Sweden joined (it was 3 years) - the false statements continued as Borg (wrongly) told the meeting that there was "no evidence" that Snus reduces smoking. He was keen to stress that he did not want to "interfere with peoples choice" and proceeded to announce plans to remove the choice to use Menthol, Snus or electronic cigarettes.  
It came, as Borg used the seatbelt argument (these laws are for your own good) as he started talking more windy nonsense - he showed that he was appallingly ignorant of the basic facts, and also a liar, as he proclaimed that electronic cigarettes "give people a false sense of security" and "do harm just the same". These evidence free statements were followed (yet again) by him saying "we are not a nanny state".
All of this came as an embarrassment to Daphne Galizia, who hinted that Malta should be a little bit ashamed at the actions of Dalli especially.
This is enough for the European Commission to open a fresh investigation/case against him. 
And quite frankly, they should sue us for inflicting somebody so substandard on the Commission in the first place.
Although it's probably harsh to sue Malta for the stunning ignorance of its EU Commissioners, it's clear that something should definitely be done about the catalogue of callous disregard for the truth that the snus ban represents.

It is the result of pre-conceived demonisation of a benign product, willful scientific philistinism on an epic scale, crassly inadequate political skill, undisguised bigotry, corruption, stupidity and cant. It has led - in the parlance of those who seek to control our choices by way of computer models - to arguably hundreds of thousands of premature deaths.

As policies go, the snus ban is one of the most deadly and ill-conceived in the western world and deserves nothing but our utmost contempt. Today the High Court has an opportunity to clear the EU's Augean Stables of the stench of their malignant, deceitful and cretinous ban by guiding public health policy towards something just a little bit more sane and grounded in reality. Let's hope it does so.

God speed Swedish Match and the NNA. 

Tuesday 24 January 2017

If You Believe They're Just Guidelines, You're A Fool

It's a constant source of astonishment to me how a huge section of society seems so incredibly incompetent at learning the lessons of history.

Take yesterday's story about 'killer' toast and roast potatoes, for example. It is pretty clear to anyone with reading skills and an education which included comprehension tests that the risk of cancer from toast and pizza ranges from negligible to non-existent. However, whenever these hysterical scares are published, they are always accompanied on social media by comments from smug, bovine cretins who claim it's just advice and why should we be concerned.

Well, this might be a clue.
Pubs and restaurants could soon be fined for serving well-done items such as triple-cooked chips or thin and crispy pizza under a second phase of the Government's crackdown on burnt food.   
Following the launch of a major public awareness campaign yesterday to help people reduce "cancer-causing" acrylamide in food, the Telegraph can reveal that food safety watchdogs are planning to extend the warning to every food-serving business in Britain.  
Under a new European Union food hygiene directive, due to be adopted in the UK by the the end of 2017, pubs and restaurants will be told to take reasonable steps to reduce acrylamide in food or face enforcement measures.
Now it becomes clear, doesn't it? Yesterday's 'guidance' from the Food Standards Agency wasn't so much a "mind how you go" piece of sage advice for the domestic chef, but more a piece of scaremongering to soften us up for yet more authoritarian nanny state interference in our lives and choices, instigated by the EU and faithfully followed by cowardly British public sector toadies.

I expect some dullards will say that this only affects businesses, but I'm sure I don't need to remind readers here that the pubs and restaurants involved will pass on any fines, or insurance against fines, in their pricing or - just as bad - stop serving up food as their customers prefer it to be served. Successful hospitality businesses thrive by producing what the customer wants to consume, unless of course the state comes in and spanners it all up.

The result will be higher prices and/or food that isn't quite as tasty as you'd ideally like it to be. Whichever way you slice it, the public loses ... and all due to junk science promoted by regulators effectively transferring your loss into a financial benefit to their pockets.

It's far from the first time too. Just last year we had the same kind of ignorant bleating that Silly Sally's corrupt re-jigging of alcohol advice was just an exercise in issuing guidelines, you didn't have to follow them and it wouldn't affect you if you didn't. Yet barely a breath was drawn before those same 'guidelines' were being used to inflate the figures on hazardous drinking in order to demand advertising bans, sales restrictions, taxes and minimum alcohol pricing, it was just a tool; a means to a pre-determined end.

It's hardly a surprise. Scroll back to 1971 when the government came to a deal with the tobacco industry to include messages on cigarette packets and you were benignly advised "WARNING by H.M. Government, SMOKING CAN DAMAGE YOUR HEALTH". What's the problem, eh? You could just ignore it, it's only guidance. Similarly in the 1990s 'public health' was merely educating us that passive smoking could be a problem, no-one was going to obstruct your liberties, it was just a little bit of unobtrusive advice.

Look, if you are one of those who really believes that the insanely lucrative and parasitic global 'public health' Goliath only exists to gently guide you, you are mindfuckingly gullible and your opinion on these kind of issues is about as inspired as a knitted condom is to birth control. There has never been anything remotely altruistic about 'public health', history shows us that. Every move they have ever made has simply been to facilitate something else more draconian; more obscene. To take the "next logical step", and every time that step is taken our lives suffer by becoming more oppressive, expensive or mostly both.

If the laughable notion of deadly roast potatoes helps wake the public up to the repulsive curse of public health fanaticism, that would be great. But I reckon it'll be the same old rolling of eyes around water coolers, in pubs and in every bus queue up and down the country; they'll laugh at the stupidity and just ignorantly mutter about how they're just guidelines as the noose gets gently tightened yet again.

If only we had examples from history to show that 'guidelines' never stay that way, eh? Good grief. 

Monday 23 January 2017

More Cuts Required For The Good Of Public Health

So today's vitally important 'public health' message from our cash-starved 'austerity' government was about the colour of toast. Yes, really.

The awareness campaign, entitled Go for Gold and backed by athlete Denise Lewis (geddit?) was faithfully shared by state-run Nanny Beeb.
Bread, chips and potatoes should be cooked to a golden yellow colour, rather than brown, to reduce our intake of a chemical which could cause cancer, government food scientists are warning. 
Acrylamide is produced when starchy foods are roasted, fried or grilled for too long at high temperatures. 
The Food Standards Agency (FSA) recommends carefully following cooking instructions and avoiding browning.
If you're a hypochondriac - and/or are gullible with no understanding of risk whatsoever - you will naturally be terrified on hearing this new information. The truth, however, is in plain sight within the article, not once but twice.
"However, Cancer Research UK said the link was not proven in humans." 
"as yet there is no conclusive evidence."
No, and as David Spiegelhalter points out today, it's not for want of trying either; a massive report by the European Food Standards Agency found nothing worrisome in 16 studies and 36 publications they analysed. Spiegelhalter also went further and questioned the wisdom of the FSA publishing such advice in the first place.
Reactions to Go for Gold may range from the extremes of encouraging obsessive concern in the worried-well, to irate editorials on yet another intrusion from the ‘nanny state’. More worrying, people may just consider this yet another scare story from scientists, and lead them to dismiss truly important warnings [...] the FSA provide no estimate of the current harm caused by acrylamide, nor the benefit from any reduction due to people following their advice. To be honest, I am not convinced it is appropriate to launch a public campaign on this basis.
That didn't matter to The Sun though, who slapped the tale of "killer" toast on their front page as an "OFFICIAL WARNING", no less.

So there we have the UK's most respected news broadcaster and the country's best-selling newspaper both parroting absolute codswallop which will be believed by millions (Mrs P tells me that some of her white collar office colleagues did today).

Those of you with long memories might remember a similarly hysterical Sun headline from August last year - also a result of irresponsible junk science - which was equally devoid of truth, an original of which has been kept by Professor Peter Hajek who waved it at a South Bank Uni audience last week as an example of "total nonsense".

Now, there are quite a few things to note about the increasing absurdity we are seeing from 'public health' studies and campaigns.

Firstly, it is very easy to dismiss The Sun's front page today as gutter journalism, except that the BBC also prominently covered it over all platforms despite the health risk being so negligible as to be unworthy of comment. The cult of self-perpetuating 'public health' is now so entrenched that supposedly respected news sources will vomit it out as pliantly as derided red top rags. Irresponsible clickbait in journalism is now endemic.

This moves us onto the second point. I find it quite ironic that the 'public health' industry is packed full of lefty ideologists who consider The Sun and the Daily Mail to be abhorrent shitsheets which will print any old garbage, yet they are in the front line for spreading ignorant junk science. This should, surely, flag up a message as to how corrupt and shabby the output of tax-sponging 'public health' professionals really is.

Thirdly, we are living in an age where brows are being furrowed at the prevalence of "fake news" and how so many gullible individuals are susceptible to it. Well, when you have supposedly credible authorities such as the FSA producing contemptible and evidence-free arse-gravy reports of killer roasties, anything else is possible, isn't it?

Fourthly, while the media's attraction is the page views they will gather, it's quite clear that the FSA is guilty of confusing the public with the similarly selfish motivation of pursuing salaries. The NGO is state-funded, with a web address, but on this evidence seems more concerned with being seen to be doing something than actually weighing up if the information will have a beneficial effect on public health and well-being.

Which leads us onto the final point, that if the FSA has time and resources to waste on such trivial crap, we need to see far more cuts to public sector spending. There has been no benefit gained for the public's health today, all that has happened is a bunch of overpaid rubber band-flickers have panicked many people and caused a large proportion of the public to make choices which make their lives just that little bit more miserable for no reason whatsoever.

More cuts required please Mr Chancellor, the public's health and enjoyment of life depends on them. 

Tuesday 17 January 2017

"A Big Shift Towards The Idea Of Harm Reduction"

With all the Christmas shenanigans going on, this positive short film (11 minutes-ish) from the Speccie kinda crept under my radar last month, but is definitely worth a watch.

Now, I've been rightly critical of TV Doc Sarah Jarvis before, but she is pretty sound when asked the question "Can businesses help us to be more healthy?", as are Sam Bowman of the ASI (from whom I pinched the blog title) and Chris Snowdon, as you'd expect.

The answer, of course, is yes as anyone familiar with e-cigs should know very well. The interviewer is Max Pemberton, who eagle-eyed readers will remember was a panellist at a health debate chaired by BBC The Daily Politics' Andrew Neil that I attended in February last year.

If you have time to spare, I can recommend viewing it over a cuppa; there is a lot to like (unless you're a business-hating, nanny state prohibitionist, of course).

Sunday 15 January 2017

That's Your Problem, Not Ours

There has always been a suspicion that the real reason that the tobacco control industry tends to dislike vaping is simply because it looks, to the uneducated, like smoking.

They can never say that, of course, because it's akin to claiming that water should be treated as a controlled substance because it looks like vodka. As a result, we have seen some quite desperate contrived arguments as to why e-cigs should be distrusted, mostly centred around the sector of society that tobacco controllers most like to exploit; children.

However, this week saw an article published by the University of Chicago which is the closest yet to admitting that, yes, the fact that vaping looks like smoking really is the reason many want the devices banned.
Seeing vape pen use boosts desire to smoke among young adults
Although they look less like cigarettes than first-generation e-cigarettes, a new study found that the newer generation e-cigarette vape pens (also known as vaporizers) stimulate the urge to smoke as powerfully as watching someone smoke a “combustible” tobacco cigarette.
We'll leave aside the fact that they seem pretty ignorant of the subject matter if they describe an e-cig as a 'vape pen', although I suppose it's marginally better than their usual preferred clinical renaming of e-cigs as "ENDS" (Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems).
“The new e-cigarettes, known as vape pens, are now larger and more powerful devices,” said study director Andrea King, PhD, professor of psychiatry and behavioral neuroscience and director of the clinical addictions research laboratory at the University of Chicago. “They have low resemblance to cigarettes, so some people were hoping they might not produce the same urge to smoke.” 
“But we found that they do stimulate the urge,” she said. “Vape pens look different but they share too many salient features of the act of smoking – including inhalation, exhalation and hand-to-mouth behaviors. This makes them a potent trigger, encouraging people to smoke. Their impact is roughly equal to watching someone light up a cigarette. They made the young adults in our study want to smoke.”
And? Who cares, quite frankly.
“We’ve made real progress on reducing smoking in our country,” King said. “We’ve done a good job banning indoor smoking. We rarely see two-pack-a-day smokers like we used to. Yet seeing people smoke in public remains common. Our study focused on a classical Pavlovian trigger, as seeing someone smoke is a known potent cue that can induce others to smoke. We did not expect that the vape pen would be as potent a cue as the regular cigarette, but it was as potent.”
Well, it was "potent" because the researchers placed cigarettes in front of their subjects - all smokers - while they were watching others vape; what other result did they expect? But, that aside, it seems clear that the point of this research was merely to sling a little more mud around about e-cigs, and to hint at how it might be viewed by legislators.
“The regulations in the U.S. on when and where somebody can use an e-cigarette are not yet standard,” she added.
Not standard, no. Vaping is banned by lazy and ignorant businesses and authorities worldwide but - to the horror of many tobacco controllers - it is still perfectly permissible in many public places!
“But we do know that, so far, the use of e-cigarettes has not had a major direct impact on smoking cessation efforts above and beyond public health messages and taxes.
Yes. Millions of smokers have quit using an e-cig but tobacco control still pretends it didn't happen. Instead, only tobacco control initiatives work ... because their colleagues - who would also lose funding if they were shown to be irrelevant - have done, erm, 'impartial' studies to 'prove' it.
The sight of someone using a vape pen bumps up the urge to smoke, so this may play a role in dual use of cigarettes and e-cigarettes, but future studies are needed.”
Nudge, nudge, wink wink eh politicians (and funders)?

Andrea King stopped short of demanding vaping be banned in public places alongside smoking, but it's safe to say that's what the dried-up witch was hinting at, it wasn't well hidden.

Of course, this is just a standard tobacco control industry exercise in junk science. We don't actually need to test King's theory in focus groups because we have compelling evidence already. In something called "real life".

So if King's bullshit was true, we'd have seen a marked decrease in quit attempts since e-cigs emerged, now wouldn't we? In England, at least, that certainly hasn't been the case (pdf).

I'd say it's not the case in the US either considering the country is experiencing record low levels of smoking prevalence across the board. So it's safe to dismiss this 'study' as a pitiful fairy tale spun by warped prohibitionists; about as useful to 'public health' as picking fly shit out of pepper.

Not surprising, then, that the only news outlet willing to publish on King's bullshit propaganda was the Mail and - seeing as the 'public health' community as a movement routinely condemns the Mail as bog roll - that fact should, ironically, tell them what an embarrassment King and her colleagues are to their University, and to science in general.

Still, it's all moot anyway. Let's assume for the purposes of debate that King's conclusions are 100% correct, and that smokers reach for their tabs the moment someone vapes. So what? There is still no reason to ban vaping in public places. In countries like the US and UK, we have conventions that say we don't ban our people from doing things as long as they don't harm others. E-cigs are legal products and there is no evidence whatsoever (nor will there ever be) that they have the potential to cause illness in others; while cigarettes are legal products too, and it is up to the smoker whether they smoke or not.

Anyone who proposes a ban which goes against these rules of liberty - a concept which is 150 years old - is simply a fascist, as I've said many times before. If smokers are tempted to light up when they see someone vaping, (the same could be said about no smoking signs and graphic health warnings that tobacco control favours) so what? That's your problem sunshine, not ours. Go for a stroll on the freeway and leave us alone. 

Monday 9 January 2017

Officious: The Rise Of The Busybody State - A Review

It's a while since I've done a review here, but there's a recently-released book I think you might enjoy as much as I did.

During my trip to The Battle of Ideas in October I was particularly drawn to a panel discussing The Busybody State featuring Josie Appleton of the Manifesto Club. I was hoping to buy her book, Officious: Rise of the Busybody State while I was there but had to mark time till the December launch, but it was worth the wait.

The blurb gives you a good indication of the content:
In Anglo-Saxon countries there is a new and distinctive form of state: the busybody state. This state is defined by an attachment to bureaucratic procedures for their own sake: the rule for the sake of a rule; the form for the sake of a form. Its insignias are the badge, the policy, the code and the procedure. The logic of the regulation is neither to represent an elite class interest, nor to serve the public, nor even to organise social relations with the greatest efficiency as with classic bureaucracy, but rather to represent regulation itself. 
This book analyses the logic of the busybody state, explains its origins, and calls for a popular alliance defending the free realm of civil society.
And it really does exactly what it say on the tin.

Back when meddling in other people's affairs was frowned upon, we used to call these type of people 'jobsworths'. The idea that a rule is so important that it could never be ignored because "it's more than my job's worth Guv" was anathema to us in an age where society was more important than petty rules, and the Jobsworths were so derided that even Esther Rantzen kept a special section of her That's Life show free to ridicule them.

As Appleton describes in her book, though, this has all changed and now rules have become so important that they are elevated above what is actually desired by the public and society at large. The rule itself is now so important that it has taken precedence over what is actually beneficial to the public, often being positively harmful as a result. If that seems an alien concept, the example - although extreme - of PCSOs standing by and watching a child drown because they weren't trained and the rule book says they have to ignore human instincts might help explain it.

Josie begins by describing how no-one is immune to the new state-sanctioned busybodies, however petty the regulation may be.
War veterans must queue up with political activists to gain their charity-collection licence; foxhunters are targeted as equally as football supporters. Officious authority rises up only in counter-position to the shady, dubious citizenry.
And it is this deep mistrust of the public as a whole which is so shocking; modern affairs are being scrutinised and restricted by officialdom with the assumption being that whatever people wish to engage in should be immediately regarded with suspicion. The object is not to make life easier for what the public chooses to do, but rather to deliberately make it more difficult.
Rather than starting from the position of a public need, these officials start from the position of problematic public behaviours, such as people leaving lights on, failing to recycle correctly, organising events without the latest safety guidance, drinking too much, smoking or eating unhealthy foods. The job is not related to a need or a public demand but to an identified problem with the things people are doing. Officious action does not serve but instead acts upon the public.
Indeed, the rise of the busybodies has become an independent force of itself, with the head of Cambridgeshire Police complaining in 2014 that there were more officers in her force carrying out criminal-records checks than there were investigating or prosecuting child-abuse cases. The checking of people had become more important than the tackling of real abuse.

The author has been investigating these abuses of power for a long time so it is a keenly-referenced work. You find yourself often flicking to the references section, astonished at some of the excesses such as school staff stubbornly determined to enforce a ban on photography despite overwhelming objection by the parents; clubs and societies either closing down or being starved of volunteers due to hysterical adherence to CRB check rules; and parents being so distrusted in Scotland that the state has decided a stranger to the family should be appointed to oversee their children. It is an atmosphere the author quite rightly interprets as "the contamination of the human relationship".

The book also highlights how the very idea of a space free of restrictions is one most specifically targeted by this new officious class of busybody.
The English pub was traditionally a semi-autonomous sphere, with frosted glass and backrooms where the landlord held sway and police could enter only in the direst of emergencies. This has now become one of the most regulated spheres, with requirements for bag searches, ID scans and restrictions on certain cocktail names and happy hours. The very site of freedom becomes a particular target of officiousness.  
Similarly, the beach was traditionally a space of semi-wilderness, independent from the conventions of the town. It was acceptable to do things on beaches that would not be allowed in a park: petting, nudity, sleeping in public. The threshold of the beach was a line of freedom, a release from social control. Now the beach has become the particular target for rules and regulations, with bans in various places on: ball games, beach tents, kites, barbecues, smoking and drinking, dog-walking, building sandcastles, surfing. It is the very freedom of the beach which marks it out for special attention, special bans (smoking is banned on the beach but not in the street) and special patrols by officials to confiscate alcohol or issue reprimands.
Appleton takes us through the history of bureaucracy and the officious tendency, discussing the causes of this modern state disease and how it has transformed our liberal nation into one where we are all under constant suspicion, often from friends and co-workers co-opted by the state to be a 'designated person' or 'compliance officer'. The emphasis is always that rules must be adhered to, no matter how disadvantageous and insulting they are to our way of life.
The compliance officer is loyal not to their group or to the sport, but to the state. The designated person is required to view the group with the eye of suspicion, to monitor their actions and to report any infractions, treating their neighbours or colleagues as foreign and unknown. They must ask a neighbour to complete a police check, even though they go around to their house for dinner and their children are friends.
A system of licences, fees, databases, intrusive checks and restrictions on benign behaviour has grown which is in itself ironically anti-social. It is also, as Appleton highlights, self-replicating, where "rules beget rules, procedures beget procedures", which often attracts the most unpleasant contaminants in society.
This structure also creates an opportunity for the genuinely officious people – the tut-tutters and curtain-twitchers, who in a previous age were ignored – to step forward into leadership roles.
As a measure for how oppressive this system has become, Josie points out that 15 years ago there were 11,000 on-the-spot fines levied on the public, whereas the figure now is over 200,000 thanks to coercive powers to enforce fines being handed out to hospitals, schools, councils and a whole array of other bodies for pretty inconsequential misdemeanours.

Not that the busybody state calls them coercive powers, of course. No, they are described in cuddly terms like "support", and each illiberal condition, restriction or ban is considered as a handy "tool" for state-appointed officials to clamp down on 'unregulated' public actions. Many of these will be familiar to readers here.
For the officious state, there is rarely a good reason not to ban things, and lifestyle bans are posed as the answer to every social problem or ethical failing. 
Never has so much attention been paid to the appearance of tobacco or alcohol: the images on the packaging, the position and location of the display, the product name, the exact positions in which they may be consumed. Never did authorities tell smokers exactly where they should stand.
As the book describes, the overall contribution of officious regulation on society is a net negative, and often quite damaging. Conmen have been known to exploit the cult of the hi-viz by fraudulently issuing fines and profiteering ... though the effect is not any different from the one inflicted by official wardens.

I could quote loads more from this book because it is so succinct and condensed; but instead I'd just recommend you get yourself a copy and enjoy over a few cuppas. You will find yourself nodding throughout while also becoming quite angry in places, right up to the optimistic denouement where Josie helpfully suggests how we can best "[send] the busybodies back behind the curtains". A laudable goal and one I reckon we should all aspire to.

Officious: The Rise of the Busybody State is available as a paperback or e-book at Zero Books or via Amazon. 

Sunday 8 January 2017


The tobacco control industry, in its relentless pursuit of factual impurity, has just released a junk study which accuses vape shops of using the Pokemon Go game to attract kids to using e-cigs. Yes, as with everything they do it's quite obviously bullshit and designed to panic the gullible by way of screaming "children" as much as possible. 

Now, I don't know a lot about the game myself but a fellow jewel robber does. Here is a guest post from Pokemon Go-playing Neil Robinson to explain how their alarmism is not only utter nonsense, but also shows that they understand even less about the app than I do ... and that's really saying something! 

Over to Neil.

July of 2016 saw a social revolution unlike anything that has been seen previously. Large swathes of the population were spontaneously getting off their sofa’s and engaging in exercise, many walking several miles each day. Disparate groups were forming in public places exchanging happy and excited conversation; a real sense of burgeoning community was to be felt in the air.

Were these Remain protesters? Was this the start of the inevitable overthrow of the patriarchy? Were the masses seizing the means of production?

No, we were all playing Pokémon Go.

And I do mean all. In its first month after launch, it was getting 45 million daily players whilst still being rolled out worldwide. By August 1st, it had reached 100 million downloads, and was earning $10 million a day through in-app purchases.

So why the hell is this on Dick Puddlecote's blog you ask? Because even tobacco controllers can't miss that sort of hype. Cue the inevitable “study”.

“Electronic cigarette retailers use Pokémon Go to market products” extol the authors with breathless excitement. Unfortunately, the rest of the pitch is garbled nonsense, Joe Camel and unfounded accusations.

The gist of the paper is that those evil peddlers of death, vape companies, are latching on to this childrens' game to market their 'deadly' wares to kids in an attempt to hook the next generation, despite the fact that their own source of demographics (a Forbes article!) shows that a full 78% of players are over the age of 18.

An important element of gameplay in Pokémon Go are things called Pokéstops, where gamers can visit the physical location chosen by the games creators, Niantec, collect free in-game goodies such as extra pokéballs for catching more Pokémon, health potions etc. You also stand a much better chance of catching a Pokémon near each pokéstop, so its common to find players hanging around near them waiting for yet another Pidgey, Rattata or Weedle (gotta catch ‘em all!).

Each pokéstop is chosen because the location has an element of significance about it, be it a church, a monument or statue, or even if its a pub, they’re all commonly chosen by Niantec to act as pokéstops. To activate these pokéstops and get your free goodies, you must be within range of it, which is a circle of approximately 100m. This means that should a pokéstop happen to be on a pub, a vape shop, or as in my local area on the Masonic Temple, you don't have to go inside to catch the wee beastie.

If you own a vape shop, you can't just decide that it’s going become a pokéstop – it’s not going to happen (there was a period of 10 days back in July when Niantec did accept suggestions, but they were quickly swamped and withdrew it). So its not like evil vape shop owners are deliberately placing “child friendly” pokéstops in their shops, Niantec has always and will always be the final arbiter of where they appear. If there's one near a vape shop, its entirely down to luck.

The average player is a white, female 25 year old earning over $90,000 a year, yet these happy clowns try every trick in the book to make it sound apocalyptic:
This game-based promotional strategy could increase tobacco marketing exposure among adolescents and young adult non-users, increasing their risk for future initiation.  Further research is warranted to determine whether non-tobacco users visit vape shops and/or initiate e-cigarette use after being exposed to these advertisements via game playing, and whether current e-cigarette users increase use as a result of game play. 
If I were a vape shop owner and hordes of rich 25 year old women started hanging around my shop, I think I’d try and get some inside, wouldn't you?
several vape shops and online retailers have incorporated Pokémon Go as part of promotions on Twitter, linking game performance with discounts on their products (eg, “…show us a rare Pokemon that we don’t have and get 10% off entire purchase!”; “Check out our Pokémon Go sale! Level 10=5%, Level 20=10% OFF STORE WIDE!!!!”; “Come to our store, we just dropped a lure out…”).  
Vape shops have also staged in-person events combining Pokémon Go play and interactive e-cigarette promotional contests. Figure 3 (left panel) shows an advertisement for an event at a vape shop in the Los Angeles area featuring “Lures, Pizza, DJ, Giveaways, and Prizes all night long at the Cloudscape Mural PokeStop”.  
Additionally, Planet Vape sponsored an event (“Pokemon Go Planet Vape Meetup!”) announcing that their store was a PokéStop (“We are lucky to have a Pokéstop just outside the front door!”) and offering prizes for best Pokémon caught in their shop. 
The clear assumption here is that the vape shops in question will happily sell to anybody who walks through their door - which is of course nonsense - and is backed up by precisely zero evidence. What it really shows is that vape vendors are connected to their community in ways that Tobacco Controllers can only dream of (or possibly have nightmares about), and are using the popularity of a game that a large proportion of their customer base are already using to try and increase their market share and make a few bucks. To anyone not intent on overthrowing capitalism, this would seem like a good business move, and indeed it was widely publicised as such at the time.

They also throw in a snapshot taken from Joyetech’s Instagram as proof of e-cigs being marketed to kids, once again failing to realise that the image would only have ever been seen by those who already subscribe to Joyetech’s content. The internet is not a broadcast medium, but they just can't seem to get that through their pointy little heads!

Realising the weakness of their argument, our stalwart heroes of the common good decided to throw in some scary looking pictures to help make their point.

Anyone who has ever seen the game played will recognise this as a Pokémon being captured, which can occur randomly at any location. The background image comes from the camera of the phone being used, in a sort of augmented reality way; meaning that the authors have deliberately pointed their camera directly at the store front of a vape shop in order to make it look as scary as possible. They could equally well have used either of the following two pics to illustrate their point, but chose to manufacture that one.

But then I guess they’re not too well known for their sense of humour.

In a final desperate attempt to justify the waste of electrons, the “researchers” turned to Yelp (not welp). They found 19 vape shops in their area which could potentially be in reach of a pokéstop. For some reason, they decided to only visit 8 of these 19. Perhaps the others were in areas they promised their Mom they wouldnt go to. Of the 8 locations they could bring themselves to visit, 6 actually were lucky enough to be within range of where Niantec decided to put the pokéstop, and of those 6 only 1 was using it to their advantage.

One shop. With one A3 poster outside it.  Oh wait, there's more…
while another promoted their products using other cartoon images. 
which I can only imagine was a roaring political lambast from Gerald Scarfe. Given that they neither provide a photo nor description, I have as much chance of being right as anyone.

You can imagine my horror at these blatant underhanded industry tactics. *yawn*

This however did not deter our insipid intrepid investigators, who went on with the usual demands for more research (money), and the usual policy “recommendations”.
Policies specifically prohibiting the use of Pokémon Go and other cartoons/video games to promote e-cigarettes and related products should be considered, as this would be consistent with both current US legal agreements by major tobacco companies to avoid the use of cartoons in their advertisements (ie, the Master Settlement Agreement) 
Despite the fact that vaping is not smoking, contains no tobacco and is not covered under the MSA agreement. And all for a game where 78% of the players are over the age of 18.

Spot the kid at a Pokemon convention

Wednesday 4 January 2017

No Evidence 'Public Health' Aids Public Health

Following swiftly on from the tobacco controllers who believe lying about the benefits of reduced risk products is a fine and ethical idea, comes this remarkable article in the Guardian.

Brace yourselves, because this one is through the looking glass with Alice and the fucking Mad Hatter!
No evidence sugar-free soft drinks aid weight loss – study 
Soft drinks made with artificial sweeteners, such as diet colas, do not help people lose weight and may be as big a part of the obesity problem as the full-sugar versions, academics have said.
That's right, drinks which contain no sugar and no calories are just as bad as ones which do, apparently. So, I presume we can now forget all that ridiculous panicking about sugar, can't we? I mean, they've been telling us the stuff is death personified for the past year or two, but if a drink with no sugar in it at all is on a par then surely there's absolutely bugger all to worry about, no?

You could pitch the conclusion in a slightly different way and say "full sugar drinks are about as harmless as those with no sugar and no calories". Great, why didn't they just say so before. Hey Public Health England, you can shut the fuck up about fizzy drinks now and instead go and do something useful with the monumental amount of our cash you waste.

Of course that's not going to happen, is it? There's still a lot to be milked out of this particular fake health lobbying cash cow.
A paper by researchers at Imperial College London and two universities in Brazil contends that artificially sweetened beverages, often called diet drinks, are just as big a problem as those containing sugar. There is no evidence they help people lose weight, they say, possibly because people assume they can eat more because their drinks are low in sugar.
Oh right, so you mean that it is nothing to do with the drink, it's that people eat more and, erm, eating a lot makes you fat ... as we have kind of known since Neanderthal man overindulged on Sabre-toothed Tiger steaks.

Of course, if there is no difference between sugary and non-sugary drinks in respect to obesity, we can all ignore these chumps about sugar and they can toddle off and talk about over-eating, huh?
Many manufacturers are looking to boost sales of drinks containing artificial sweeteners in order to escape the levy. Such products already account for 25% of the global soft drinks market. 
Prof Christopher Millett, senior investigator at Imperial’s School of Public Health, said: “A common perception, which may be influenced by industry marketing, is that because ‘diet’ drinks have no sugar they must be healthier and aid weight loss when used as a substitute for full-sugar versions. However, we found no solid evidence to support this.”
In which case, there is absolutely no point in the government trying to get manufacturers to reduce the sugar content in their drinks because - as we have been saying on these pages for quite a while - it will have no effect on the nation's weight whatsoever. The best argument yet for scrapping the utterly laughable and pointless sugar tax, eh? Thanks for your help guys, much appreciated.
The paper, published in the journal PLoS Medicine, is a commentary on the research done so far into artificially sweetened beverages promoted as healthier alternatives and the impact on weight.
Erm, "commentary", did you say? So this is opinion and not a "study" or, in fact, any kind of science at all? Well no, because they skip pretty early into the ad homs.
Maria Carolina Borges, the first author of the study, from the Federal University of Pelotas, in Brazil, said: “The lack of solid evidence on the health effects of ASBs [artificially sweetened beverages] and the potential influence of bias from industry-funded studies should be taken seriously when discussing whether ASBs are adequate alternatives to SSBs [sugar-sweetened beverages].”
"Potential bias"? They don't actually bother to try to do science themselves - God forbid! - to disprove the conclusions of these studies, but merely drag their knuckles along the ground, point an accusatory finger and grunt "Ugg! Industry-funded!", which is an instant fail in my opinion.

It gets worse ...
Prof Carlos Monteiro, a co-author, from the University of São Paulo, said: “Taxes and regulation on SSBs and not ASBs will ultimately promote the consumption of diet drinks rather than plain water, the desirable source of hydration for everyone.”
Desirable to whom, sunshine? Who made you the arbiter of what I, and everyone else on the planet, wishes to fucking drink? Why don't you just Samba off into the River Amazon you odious dictatorial motherfucker you.

As one commenter under the line pointed out, this is 'public health' not just aping satire, no it's even more hilarious than that.
"Possibly because people assume they can eat more because their drinks are low in sugar" is potentially one of the stupidest things I have ever heard and reminds me of Little Britain's half the calories diet, where you cut your food in half and it's half the calories. And because it's half the calories, you can have twice as much. 
We're not talking side-achingly funny farce here, this is an actual policy position from people who claim to work in the 'scientific' 'public health' arena. It truly beggars belief!

Of course, we jewel robbers know exactly what is going on here because we've seen it all before. 'Public health' science is never interested in truth, instead it merely endeavours to support whatever policy position the lying bastards are pursuing at any particular time. In the case of sugar taxes, those opposed have pointed out - quite rightly - that the 'problem' is solving itself as the public move onto lower sugar products or ones with no sugar at all, and industry reacts by providing products to satisfy the demand. As a result, low and no sugar alternatives have to be demonised no matter how ridiculous it makes 'public health' fucktards look.

This is not a serious study, piece of research, or even a wise opinion based on sound science. It is merely an attempt to counter a very compelling reason why we should not be subjected to daft taxation policies that the 'public health' bandwagon requires to survive just as much as a great white shark needs to keep moving to breathe.

These people are so incredibly cretinous that I don't think they even considered that the message they could be sending is the opposite of what they hoped for; their one-eyed insanity is so deeply-entrenched that they delivered a message saying full sugar drinks are as 'safe' as Coke Zero almost on auto-pilot.

The real target - as is always the case - is industry and free choice. These snobby fucks don't like that people are enjoying drinks that they personally don't - "plain water, the desirable source of hydration" is a pretty blatant clue - made by companies that they ideologically despise.

It's all drawn from the same dishonest and corrupt playbook that tobacco control created when they declared snus, chewing tobacco and now e-cigs to be as dangerous as chain-smoking, and is designed only to demonise industry and deny our free choice of these products as a concept.

However, there's always an upside. We need a tipping point to make politicians ignore the massed ranks of lying 'public health' parasites, and the more they rip into hugely popular products like Coke and tell us that eating cakes in an office is a 'public health' disaster, the quicker the public will wake up and realise they're a bunch of pompous, fraudulent, right-on, money-grubbing, industry-envious arseholes who will happily destroy civil society if it earns them a buck.

Oh yes, and stratospherically-incompetent with it. 

Monday 2 January 2017

Bullshit Bingo With The Cult Of Tobacco Control

I've often accused the tobacco control industry of being packed full of self-enriching plankton who variously lie, produce junk science, pretend rules of physics and economics don't exist, and who do so because they are not even remotely interested in improving public health. We see examples of the aforementioned character flaws almost on a daily basis, but it's very rare we find an item which includes every single one of them.

Behold, then, exactly such a thing with this study just released courtesy of four unrepentant moonhowlers from the University of North Carolina. It's a true classic of the genre.

The experiment contacted smokers in a phone survey, and measured how many of them were interested in using e-cigs under a variety of different scenarios. Unsurprisingly, the more the researchers stated that e-cigs contained fewer harmful chemicals, the more interest their subjects showed in using them. In other words, the less risky something is, the more people will be willing to try it, this is hardly rocket science.

But here's where the junk science part comes in, as the NNA explains here.
What isn't immediately obvious from the publicly available abstract, but is noted in the limitations section of the full paper hidden behind a paywall, is the fact that the study concentrated on those smokers who said they would start or increase their use of e-cigarettes without stopping smoking. So smokers who indicated that they would completely switch to the safer product were excluded.
This small adjustment enables the North Carolina maggots in human form to then fraudulently portray all users of e-cigs as 'dual users' who smoke as well as vape. Vital if you have pre-committed to coming up with something negative about reduced risk products (which was probably a condition of the grant they received, to be fair).

We then see the blithe dismissal of long-accepted scientific consensus on dose and toxicity (from here).
"[E-cigarettes] may not be able to be approved as a modified risk tobacco product on the basis of reduced chemical exposure alone because the public views information about lower chemical amounts as inherently related to reduced health harms"
Yes, the public views it that way because it has been known since the 16th century that the dose makes the poison, and if you are ingesting fewer harmful chemicals that is quite obviously a good thing if you are interested in reducing harm.

Not if you're in the cult of 'public health' and especially its subset of tobacco control though. Because, you see, tobacco controllers will always insist that just smoking one cigarette exposes you to the same harm as smoking 40; they have spent so much time concocting utter bullshit to 'prove' this that now researchers such as those in North Carolina actually believe it. Their swivel-eyed obsession is so important to them that they are willing to produce junk that actually pretends the rules of physics and biology don't exist.

The result of all this is a conclusion which advocates lying to the public as a policy suggestion, based on their own corrupt and mendacious reality-bending lunacy!
FDA is required to publicly display information about the quantities of chemicals in cigarettes and cigarette smoke in a way that is not misleading. This information, if paired with information from advertising or FDA disclosures indicating that e-cigarette aerosol contains lower amounts of those same chemicals, could have the unfortunate effect of encouraging smokers to become dual users or increase their existing dual use under the mistaken impression that they are significantly reducing their health risks
There is no "mistaken impression", because it is scientific fact.

They know that misleading information is likely to deter people from switching to e-cigs, and I'm sure they know that their junk science and perversion of the truth is likely to have that effect too. But they really don't care, because they're not remotely interested in improving public health, instead more having an eye on the lucre they can gain in the future by continuing to torment and loot smokers. Fewer packets sold mean less tax dollar for 'public health' and therefore fewer grants, and that just won't do, will it?

So there you have the tobacco control full house. Every piece of truth-torturing bullshit all wrapped up in one neat but astounding package. They're not trying to improve public health, they're just playing 3D chess.

What a great start to 2017, playing bullshit bingo with the 'experts' of the anti-smoking scam. Yet again e-cigs have exposed the tobacco control industry as a collection of crooked, manipulative, rust-hearted shitsacks who are prepared to lie at all costs to keep their harmful but lucrative bandwagon going.