Wednesday 29 March 2017

Taps Drip, Clocks Tick, Tobacco Controllers Lie

Back when the tax parasites in tobacco control set their sights on plain packaging for tobacco, they were very clear about why the policy was required.

If you live in the south west, you may remember this advertising hoarding at the time, paid for by government to lobby government in early 2012.

There are other examples here and here
In case you can't quite make it out, it says:
"Support plain packaging and protect our children"
Cancer Research UK ran a similar campaign, with an almost identical tagline, complete with video featuring loads of cute kids.
"Support the campaign to protect children from tobacco marketing"
This was emphasised further on its campaign page.
"It doesn’t matter if you’re a smoker or not, this campaign isn’t about telling people to quit, it’s about stopping the next generation from starting in the first place."
Smoker-hating MP Stephen Williams was certain about the reason for the policy.
"I was pleased to help launch Europe's first major campaign to raise awareness of the dangers of glitzy tobacco packaging to children"
As was Fiona Andrews of Smokefree South West (link has since been removed, as has Smokefree South West funnily enough).
"Smoking is an epidemic that affects children and moving tobacco products into standardised, plain packaging is designed to protect them; it is not about current smokers."
Andy Lloyd of Fresh NE went further.
"Plain packaging is not about stopping existing smokers but everything to do with protecting children"
As did Stewart Brock of NHS Somerset.
"Smokers start as children and continue as adults. Smoking is an epidemic that affects children and moving tobacco products into standardised, plain packaging is designed to protect them and is not about current smokers."
Every one of those statements above was a lie to a lesser or greater degree to mendaciously sway public opinion and to hoodwink politicians. Because, as we see from ASH's Amanda Sandford this week, there was only one real reason for plain packaging.
Why is the packaging changing?
Ms Sandford said: "This is to make smoking less appealing
"There is evidence that from the changes that have already been made to packaging that it has made people quit smoking
"And that is because people are faced with very harsh health images every time they pick up a pack of cigarettes."
Pretty unequivocal, I think you'll agree.

There are a few rules in life that will always serve you well. One of them is that if you hear or read anything from a tobacco controller, assume they're not telling you the truth. 

Tuesday 28 March 2017

The March Of Progress

Thanks to @taffyjock81 on Twitter for this gem.

Back in 2015, ITV news trumpeted the launch of the first ever "quit shop" in Wales. Its unique selling point was quite interesting (emphasis mine).
Wales's first quit smoking shop has opened its doors in Cwmbran. 
It aims to help people quit smoking altogether, rather than simply switching to e-cigarettes.
With the direction of travel in the UK driving headlong towards non-medical avenues such as vaping, Stop Smoking Wales had decided to buck the trend and ignore what is quite obviously the future. All that was needed, they figured, was a shop instead of a clinic. Brilliant! Then the state-sponsored gum would fly off the shelves! Very smart it looked too!

Communities and forums would soon be created, there would be Patchfest 2015 and, most importantly, Stop Smoking Advisers would save themselves from the dole.

The problem, though - as with all public sector operations - is that they were thinking with someone else's wallet rather than their brains. It's been pretty clear for quite some time where the wise money is going.
A sharp decline in the number of smokers using an NHS support programme to help them quit has been linked to the rise in popularity of e-cigarettes.  
Nationwide figures have shown a similar trend to those in the south west of Scotland.  
In 2013, the Information Services Division reported that the number of attempts to stop smoking had fallen by 13% compared with 2012.
A businessman would conclude that throwing a bigger overhead at a decreasing client base is not a particularly good idea, but where there's a magic money tree there's a way, eh? Or maybe not.
It is a trial by Stop Smoking Wales which, if successful, could result in more 'stop shops' opening across Wales.
It doesn't look to have been that successful as a trailblazer, sadly, since it wasn't long before this scintillating idea was relegated to a trestle table in the shopping centre.

It seems that the shop has since been abandoned entirely as the silly idea that it was, and has now been replaced by something far more suited to make money from exactly the same site. I'm sure you're well ahead of me in guessing what is there now instead.

What delicious irony, huh? God Speed Infinity Mist Cwmbran, and all who sail in her. 

Sunday 26 March 2017

Bans Destroy Businesses, Why Lie About It?

Following on from yesterday's article about attitudes to the smoking ban in Wales, one of the biggest lies (of thousands) that the tobacco control industry has ever told is that hospitality businesses are not affected by smoking bans. In fact, it is laughably claimed that they flourish.

The advance notice of the tens of thousands of pub closures we have now seen due to the smoking ban in the UK were blithely dismissed by Linda Bauld back in 2011 (her 'review' is neatly filleted here). Apparently there was no evidence whatsoever that it had happened, or would happen ... even though there was tons of it at the time which was ignored.
If ASH had the slightest interest in seeking the truth, they could easily have consulted figures from the British Beer and Pub Association which show that over 4,000 pubs have closed since the ban came in.
Or they could have looked at the survey from the British Institute of Innkeeping, which found:
  • The proportion of smoking customers dropped from 54% to 38%;
  • 66% reported that their smoking customers were staying for shorter periods;
  • 75% reported that smokers were visiting less frequently;
  • 47% of businesses had laid off staff, although 5% had recruited additional staff;
  • Income from drinks fell by 9.8%;
  • Income from gaming machines fell by 13.5%.
They didn't do any of this. Would it really hurt them to at least acknowledge that thousands of pubs have closed? Do they really have to deny everything?
Likewise, the collapse of bingo halls which just happened to have occurred after July 1st 2007 was just a sad coincidence.

The same happens in the US with their casinos. Here, for example is one such {cough} thriving establishment in 2015 where a picture tells a thousand words.

But it's never the smoking ban which did it. Oh no sirree!

So it's not a surprise that Harrah's in New Orleans is reporting more of the same.
Caesars Entertainment president and CEO Mark Frissora said Harrah's in New Orleans lost about $70 million in revenue during the two years following the start of the smoking ban in New Orleans in April 2015. He and other executives spoke to the task force Tuesday (March 21) at the Capitol. 
Frissora said the ban makes it difficult to compete with venues in the surrounding area, because it only affects Orleans Parish. 
"It's not fair because everyone else around us doesn't have the smoking ban," Frissora argued.  
Task Force chairman Ronnie Jones pointed out that revenues for neighboring properties were decreasing before the ban, and now the reverse is happening: revenues at the New Orleans' location are decreasing as the neighboring properties are increasing.  
"I'm not a scientist," Jones said. "But I think the smoking ban had an impact."
No shit!

Erm, isn't that whole people-voting-with-their-feet thing supposed to be happening in the opposite direction? Shouldn't grateful gamblers be gravitating towards the Utopia of New Orleans casinos instead of the other way around?

In every jusrisdiction, in every country, in every single case, the hospitality industry suffers smoking bans and is collectively forced to spend fortunes (which is eventually borne by the customer) in order to re-attract some of the customers it has lost.

All to protect against the 'problem' of secondhand smoke which is the biggest lie tobacco control has ever told.

There is something of an irony in the fact that the UK is now seeing vaping bans running like wildfire through the private sector which has been conned by the apparent 'success' of smoking bans; after all, vapers merely have to step outside as smokers were told back in 2007, no biggie is it?

Except that it was a mythical 'success' which was helped along by the aforementioned Linda Bauld who is now a champion of vaping. Be in no doubt that without the confidence trick the smoking ban played on pubs, clubs, bingo halls and sports stadia in the past decades, there would be absolutely no appetite in 2017 for treating customers like shit and excluding them for something as inconsequential as vaping. One of the many architects of the smoking ban is responsible for that and is now valiantly trying to stem the tidal wave of bullshit her 'review' helped to encourage.

I suppose what I'm trying to say is that I truly wish tobacco controllers had the courage of their convictions to declare that, yes, bans do destroy businesses (which they damn well know), but that they will eventually adapt to something close to what they were before. But sadly tobacco controllers are too timid to try that approach in case they don't get their illiberal legislation bullied through and subsequently lose funding from our taxes. Lying to politicians is their product and one of the biggest porkies they have ever told is that - against all credible evidence - bans benefit businesses. They don't, and some who created that mistaken belief are now finding out how damaging to everyone such deceitful self-interested spin can be.

Perhaps some might be better served admitting that there most certainly is a slippery slope, and they should be very wary about liberally greasing it in case it comes back to claim them one day too. 

The Debate Will Never Be Over

Two sound bites you will regularly hear from those in the tobacco control industry is that, when it comes to smoking bans and secondhand smoke, "the science is settled" and "the debate is over". This is classic political rhetoric designed to sway the public into backing the winner, a natural human psychological tendency.

It was, as Debs Arnott of ASH boasted at the time, "a confidence trick".
It is essential that campaigners create the impression of inevitable success. Campaigning of this kind is literally a confidence trick: the appearance of confidence both creates confidence and demoralises the opposition. The week before the free vote we made sure the government got the message that we "knew" we were going to win and it would be better for them to be on the winning side.
Of course, part of the reason they like to say the science is settled is because it simply isn't and they'd prefer you didn't look into it too much; and the reason they say the debate is over is that they simply don't want to debate the issue fairly because they know they'd lose. They even have an international treaty article specifically designed to silence all dissent - which they wield at every opportunity and purposely misinterpret - to con politicians into thinking that they are the only voices which should be listened to. This is necessary only because they know damn well that their case is extremely weak, some would say even criminally fraudulent.

The whole thing is a decades old pack of lies based on deliberately manipulated junk science and massive exaggeration of risk, as I mentioned earlier this week.

Sadly for them, though, the very weakness of their case means that however much they propagandise to the media things that they know very well are bald-faced lies, they will always struggle to get away with it.

Via WalesOnline:
A poll has revealed almost 60% of Welsh people want smoking rooms in pubs but nearly 50% want the habit banned on beaches. 
The survey was carried out by pollsters Populus, who asked 1,000 adults in Wales about their views earlier this month. 
It showed 58% backed smoking rooms and 48% backed beach bans - 46% thought people should be allowed to puff on the sand and 6% did not know.
Ten years on from the smoking ban being rolled out in Wales, this shows that the debate is still live, and it's live because there are significant numbers of people who simply don't believe something as benign as a few wisps of smoke warranted the destruction of the hospitality industry in Wales and subsequently the UK. If it was about health - which it wasn't - there were plenty other solutions which could have been considered, but none would have satisfied the vile bullies in tobacco control.

And bullies is the right word. If you have not seen it, and if you can stomach it, you can read in this document how the tobacco control lobby didn't simply present their junk science and hope that a ban would appear. It is a gleeful account from Arnott and Martin Dockrell about how they forced a government to abandon a democratically-accepted manifesto commitment by using division, chaos, propaganda, personal attacks on opponents and, yes, "a confidence trick".

The truth is that when the Health Act 2006 was passed there was absolutely no appetite for the ban we had inflicted on us in the UK. Only 33% of the public favoured an outright ban, as documented by the ONS [pdf] until they stopped asking the question so as to save the Labour government's blushes.

Click to enlarge

It doesn't look like things have changed that much since either. A majority of the sane (only 26% of those polled were smokers) still believe there are better options than the hideous result we now have to suffer.

Even the bansturbators themselves seem confused about what the ban was meant to be about, as the WalesOnline article also shows.
Deborah Arnott, chief executive of anti-smoking charity Ash, dismissed the poll. 
“The benefits of smoke-free laws are not a matter of public opinion,” she said.
Hmm, interesting. That doesn't stop her and her freedom-stifling ilk from relying on public opinion when there is no threat to health whatsoever though, does it?
“The reason there is a complete ban on smoking in pubs, and smoking rooms in pubs are forbidden is that they do not protect the workers from the harmful effects of smoke.”
Wow! The bar workers get a look-in again! She must have got her feather duster out to clean that argument up, so long is it that we've heard it. Because once the bans were passed in Wales, Scotland and the UK, the emphasis instantly changed and was all about how the legislation would lead to a reduction in smoking prevalence (which didn't actually happen until e-cigs arrived later).

She is also being disingenuous because she knows very well that the studies corralled and tortured to come up with the paltry and largely irrelevant 24% increased risk in the SCOTH report were based on persistent exposure to smoke indoors over decades. They did not, and never will, measure harm from a "separate, well-ventilated designated smoking room" as was the focus of this poll. There's a reason for that, it's because they know that even their trademark brand of fake science has no chance of establishing any significant credible risk, so they'll not even attempt it.
“In England the Department of Health commissioned a report on the impact of the ban on smoking in public places,” she said. 
“It found bar workers’ health increased considerably after the laws came into force and their respiratory function improved. 
“In the first year there were 1,200 fewer admissions for heart attacks, purely because of the legislation.”
This is Debs at her junk-science toting best. Spouting about the now much-derided heart attack "miracle" scams puts her into the same kind of category as anti-vaxxers and people who believe the moon landings were faked. Quite apart from their being quite impossible, heart attack miracles have been rubbished even by those who think smoking bans are a great idea.

Besides, the Welsh authorities have a different, and undoubtedly more accurate, justification for the bans.
The Welsh Government said the smoking ban “played an important part of our efforts to reduce smoking rates in Wales, with the percentage of adults smoking now at a record low.” 
“Welsh Health Survey 2015 showed 19% of adults reported they currently smoke, down from 26% in 2003-04,” a spokesman said.
Yep, bullying smokers to quit, as if we didn't know it already.

So it looks like the debate isn't over, after all. And much as the richly state-funded sock puppets in the tobacco control industry would like to think the science is settled, it isn't because they have only innuendo, sleight of hand and conniving lobbying on their side. It seems that the public have noticed this and are ensuring that however much the liars in tobacco control lie, this is one subject that will not go away. Nor should it. 

Saturday 25 March 2017

The Latest EU Health Commissioner Hasn't A Clue Either

A few years ago I wrote about why appointing EU commissioners from low populated states ensured their incompetence.
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. 
It's why, in football, San Marino are not given equal privileges with more successful (normally more populated) nations. They are not thrown into competition draws on an equal footing with Germany and Spain because that would be monumentally stupid; would make football a laughing stock; and would result in the game being devalued as a result. 
The situation with the EU is entirely different, though. You see, there are 27 member nations and they are all treated equally, which means that the least populous member - Malta with fewer than 500,000 citizens - is afforded the same importance as Germany (with 81 million) when it comes to allocating EU Commissioners
Worse than that, though, Malta isn't handed something inconsequential which can't harm one billion EU citizens - like pronouncing on treatment of stray ducks, for example - no, they are currently placed in charge of the continent's health!
The EU, however, has corrected this fundamental problem and has since installed a Lithuanian, Vytenis Andriukaitis, to carry the portfolio for half a billion EU citizens. It's a step in the right direction considering the country's population is close to 3 million!

Sadly, not a significant step because the EU health gig is still being handled by an idiot. Here are a few excerpts from his speech to the European Conference on Tobacco or Health (ECToH) in Porto this week.
Some people say smoking is a matter of choice. Is it really? Do you have a choice if you start smoking as a teenager, as most people do, and then get addicted? Addiction is not a choice! 
Do you have a choice if you use a product that can kill you – and you did not know about it?
Where have you been Vytenis? The EU has demanded cigarette packs say "Smoking Kills" in bold font for nearly 15 years now. The dangers of smoking have been pretty well-known for 50 years, the teaching of anti-smoking propaganda in schools is de rigeur in every nation on the planet. Did not know about it? Great advert for the knuckle-dragging nature of your citizens if that's what you believe, chum.
Evidence shows that people are less likely to smoke if packs display these warnings uninterrupted by branding, logos and marketing designs. This is what we call plain packaging.
Evidence shows nothing of the sort, sunshine. We'll presume that you're playing to the crowd with bullshit considering your crowd is trouser-stuffing tax troughers who desperately need to make plain packaging a success, despite no evidence anywhere in the world proving that it is.
One person's freedom to smoke cannot override another person's right not be exposed to carcinogenics! This is a violation of children's rights.
Carcinogenics? (sic)
It comes as no surprise that the countries ranking the highest - in the new Tobacco Control Scale presented earlier - are implementing well some of the measures I have mentioned.
Yep, just a shame that their ranking in the scale has no bearing whatsoever as to how successful they are at reducing smoking prevalence.
In addition, we must follow closely the scientific and market developments regarding electronic cigarettes – these should not become the gateway for new smokers.
Well, Vytenis, if you actually did follow the "scientific developments" you'd know that there is no gateway, it's a manufactured tobacco control wank fantasy, nothing more.
And if e-cigarettes are to be considered as a possible smoking cessation tool, then they need to be authorised as pharmaceuticals and sold in pharmacies.
They're already a cessation tool for millions; for the vast majority specifically because they are not a pharmaceutical product. At this point we need to refer to Lithuania's e-cig policy and, surprise surprise, they're banned.

Nothing much changes, does it? In 2013, we had a Maltese moron who declared that e-cigs are as bad as smoking, now we have another low-intellect Commissioner from a different non-league nation spouting the same execrable bollocks while the clapping seals of ignorant tobacco controllers lap it all up.

I emphasise, again, that this cretin is in charge of the health of half a billion people, while I'm struggling to understand how he manages to cram so much stupid into just the one life.

Remind me, when is it we are allowed to leave the EU? 

Thursday 23 March 2017

When Is 24% Not 24%?

There's been a lot of oil-spreading today from 'public health' extremists trying to calm waters after a landmark study showed that moderate drinking is better for your health than not drinking at all.
Reduce your chances of having a heart attack by a THIRD with a daily pint or glass of wine 
People who drink in moderation can also slash their risk of dying young by a quarter - even compared to teetotallers
OK, that's The Sun, but it was also widely covered by other news sources. The important bit in this is what The Sun calls "a quarter". The figure, if you look at the source in the BMJ, is an increase in risk of 24% or - in epidemiological terms - a relative risk (RR) of 1.24.

This, strangely enough, is exactly the same RR that the Scientific Committee on Tobacco and Health (SCOTH) - after a generation long campaign of policy-driven cultivated junk science - came up with for your increased chances (not absolute chance) of lung cancer and heart disease from secondhand smoke if you live with a smoker for decades. On the basis of this {cough} incredibly huge risk from about 1 in a thousand to 1.24 in a thousand, property rights were destroyed and smoking banned in every pub, bingo hall, working mens club, office, garage, works van and bus shelter with more than 50% shelter in the whole of the country.

It was compelling; a definite and incontrovertible health threat.

About the time the BMA and ASH were promoting this 24% figure as an Armageddon which has seen the corpses of bar workers piled high in British pubs, the exact same increased RR for heart attacks was dismissed as irrelevant when related to Ibuprofen, as reported by the BBC.
For ibuprofen, the odds increased by almost a quarter (24%), and for diclofenac it rose by over a half (55%). For celecoxib the odds increased by a fifth (21%) and for rofecoxib it rose by a third (32%).
It's very important that people don't panic; hundreds of thousands of arthritis patients take these drugs without problems or side effects 
A spokeswoman from Arthritis Research Campaign
But this translates into a low actual risk.
So what is the reaction by 'public health' to this same RR for teetotalism today? Well, it's kinda a bit meh. They have dismissed it as if it's inconsequential, as if it's not worth even worrying about. The responses have generally been that there are far worse things in life to fuss over, nothing to see here, move on.

As Snowdon notes in Spectator Health, this is the very height of hypocrisy.
If moderate drinking was a pharmaceutical with the same weight of evidence behind it, doctors would be prescribing it. If it was a fruit, wellness gurus would be getting rich off it. But you will never hear anyone from the ‘public health’ lobby telling teetotallers to start drinking. You will seldom even hear them acknowledge the fact that teetotallers die younger. More likely, you will see them resorting to long-debunked arguments to cast doubt on the scientific evidence. They will do almost anything to avoid advising people to drink alcohol. 
On the face of it, this is remarkable. We live in an age in which weak epidemiological associations are used to justify all manner of interventions in people’s lifestyles and yet here is a strong, proven link between the consumption of a product and substantially lower risks of both heart disease and overall mortality, and yet it is treated as a trivial factoid.
How does a 24% relative risk over a very long period indoors translate to "no safe level" of exposure to secondhand smoke even if it's outdoors briefly on a windy day, and lead to liberty-destroying bans and the destruction of the hospitality industry, yet the same 24% when it goes against prohibitionist 'public health' ideology is all of a sudden something to be ignored? When is 24% dangerous in 'public health' communications and when is 24% not?

I think we should be told. I also think we should be told why one 24% figure is used to deliberately decimate pubs and the other one - which would be favourable to pubs - is derided as not very important at all.

It's never been about health, has it? 

Tuesday 21 March 2017

May As Well Smoke Tons, Says Fresh North East

The echo chamber of tobacco control can be a quite remarkable thing at times.

Yesterday, entirely state-funded anti-smoking sock muppets Fresh North East published possibly the worst advice I've ever seen from an organisation of their kind.
Warning to light and social smokers
SMOKERS who've cut down are being warned they are still facing significant risks of cancer and heart disease unless they quit or switch as a campaign launches today. 
But with many smokers cutting down to ten or fewer cigarettes a day, or to hand rolling tobacco, Fresh is warning people not to ignore the substantial risks from smoking only a few cigarettes a day.

As well as record numbers of people quitting in the North East, a survey by Fresh found many smokers have cut down - with 1 in five smokers consuming five or fewer cigarettes a day compared to 1 in 10 smokers in 2009.
This is entirely down to the tobacco control fallacy that smoking one cigarette a month is on a par with smoking 40 a day. It is scientifically preposterous and puts them into the same category as 15th Century knuckle-draggers who opposed Paracelsus's claim that the dose makes the poison.

They don't actually believe that, of course, because most of what the tobacco control industry comes out with is cleverly-worded lies. This is no exception.
[Ailsa Rutter, Director of Fresh, said:] "Cost and awareness of the health risks are both factors. If you only smoke a few cigarettes a day, it must be tempting to hope the risks don't apply. However, the evidence is clear that even a few cigarettes a day can cause cancer and heart disease, and change lives forever.
That may or may not be correct, but it most certainly is true that if you smoke a few cigs every now and then the risks will be far lower than if you walk around like a human chimney.

So wedded to the quit or die approach are these idiots that they cannot even contemplate celebrating the fact that smokers are smoking fewer cigarettes and cutting down their exposure.
Prof John Britton, director of the UK Centre for Tobacco and Alcohol Studies and a consultant in respiratory medicine, said: "Many smokers who are aware of the risks will cut down on how much they smoke, hoping this will reduce the harm."
Well, it will, John, there is absolutely no doubt about that. There might still be a potential for harm, but - just like you have far less chance of being run over by a bus if you run in front of it once instead of 20 times a day - the potential is much reduced if you smoke less. To deny that is right up there with anti-vaccination fuckwittery.

Yet this is the state of corralled anti-scientific groupthink that the government funds these days. Utter garbage presented as sage advice and with unintended consequences written all over it.

It's clear, as usual, that these anti-smoking organisations don't understand smokers even one tiny bit. It's often like they've never actually fucking met one! If you are, or have ever been, a smoker you'd know that there is only one message this sends; don't bother cutting down, the risk is the same so you may as well carry on smoking lots.

For committed smokers who enjoy tobacco - like those studied by Neil McKegany for his Pleasure of Smoking report at Christmas - this is exactly the type of thing they will seize on to explain why they carry on smoking with abandon. Why cut down if there is no benefit, eh? May as well just smoke as many as I like.

There are times when ideology trumps sound thinking, and the tobacco control industry is guilty of that on a daily basis. However, this advice is so pathetic and utterly poor that you have to wonder if it's designed specifically to keep smokers smoking. I can't imagine why a state-funded organisation that relies on there being smokers for its income would go for that approach, of course, but maybe you could enlighten me.

Someone did ask them for more information but there's not been a reply thus far.

I'm sure it will be forthcoming. 

Monday 20 March 2017

Oh Bournemouth Freedom, Shine On Me

OK, Bournemouth doesn't quite scan for the title like Philadelphia does, but Twitter followers may have noticed that I've just returned from the seaside town after a weekend spent at the fourth annual Freedom Festival hosted by The Freedom Association.

If you don't know of the Freedom Association, it is a non-partisan group funded by public donations established in the 1970s which boasts around 30 MPs amongst its paid-up membership. This was evident from the weekend where the speakers list was peppered with MPs, MEPs, prominent political commentators and even a cabinet minister in the form of Priti Patel. The panels focussed on current issues but always - as it says on the tin - with an eye on freedom.

To go through them all in detail would take this into essay territory, but there were discussions on Brexit and Trump, free trade, students unions and safe spaces, council tax and social care, robot technology and driverless cars, vaping and the nanny state. This, along with two "in conversation" interviews including one delving into Priti Patel's ascent to the cabinet - billed as "more a Piers Morgan Life Stories than Daily Politics interrogation" - hosted by Grant Tucker of The Times, and a BBC Question Time style debate with elected local, national, and European politicians chaired by Mark Wallace of Conservative Home. There was also a powerfully shocking account of how the European arrest warrant serves to prop up corrupt Eastern European judicial practices and drag the UK's proud tradition of legal fairness into the gutter from Alexander Adamescu.

Very interesting, too, was a Saturday lunchtime speech by Conor Burns MP on how he knew that the referendum would return a Brexit result when he had reports from his Bournemouth constituency at 10:30 in the morning that voters were turning up with their own pens. So worried were they that the establishment might erase their choice, it was clear from the areas the reports were coming from that these were people who had never voted before and wanted to make absolutely sure their view was logged.

The event was attended by 130 very politically-knowledgeable people who passionately believe in freedom, which was clear from the questions directed at panellists from the floor. The panel on the nanny state, for example seeing as we talk of such things here, saw two members of the audience suggest different descriptions for those who want to deny us just about any pleasurable product on specious grounds. "Nanny State is too woolly, it should be called the Bully State", said one, while another described the word nanny as "a bit Mary Poppins, I prefer the term Medical Gestapo".

The most encouraging panel of the weekend though, for me, was the one that closed the event on the subject of "Freedom: Why it's important and why we need to fight for it every day".

Panel discussing fighting for freedom
Lawyer and columnist Donal Blaney spoke about the regulatory state and how it is growing to frightening levels, enabling government departments to now steal money directly from bank accounts for alleged tax arrears without the necessity of proving the debt in court, while Mark Littlewood of the IEA reminded us - as if you hadn't noticed - that "the main enemy of freedom is the state" and that it is well past time that economic policy focussed on what is good for consumers and not producers.

However, quote of the weekend was from Bill Etheridge. Some may remember that he spoke at our little protest in Stony Stratford in 2011 when he was a Freedom Association activist, but he has come a long way since then and is now a UKIP MEP. He began by describing how, even though he is an elected member of the EU parliament, he is banned from speaking at universities up and down the UK. He was, however, afforded a slot at a university in Israel recently where they were staggered to hear about the 'safe spaces' that have sprung up to deny free speech in our higher education institutions.

He argued that if we want to see real freedom in the UK "politicians should inject the concept of freedom into every area of policy". This is an extremely laudable goal and one which is the direct opposite of what the Medical Gestapo public health nanny statists want to see. Groups like the FCTC and other health harpies regularly talk about placing health at the heart of every policy area above and beyond anything else, so much so that local licensing decisions on pubs, for example, must now pass a public health test instead of being decided on by a judge weighing up all evidence.

As you can imagine, if you look at every policy through the lens of health and health only, our rights as individuals to make choices based on informed assessment of our own risk is going to be impossible; freedom of choice hasn't got a chance. Etheridge is absolutely correct that freedom should be at least considered each and every time politicians sit down to debate any issue. If a health threat is compelling, yes freedom should take a back seat, but it's gone so far into extremism from health lobbyists that there needs to be a drastic re-balance of priorities. To take just one example, when we have a situation where tobacco controllers have no evidence worthy of the name that plain packs will make any impact to smoking rates whatsoever, and yet one of their main planks to enforce the policy is that it will harm the freedom of smokers to express their social identity with branding, it's clear that tobacco control has perverted policy in a ghastly way and that freedom should be given far more prominence by legislators.

The weekend wasn't all heavy political discussion, mind, and it won't surprise you that amongst such freedom-loving people the (vape-friendly) bars thrived until well into the early hours. I crashed about 2am on both evenings and felt like a bit of a lightweight by comparison with some others!

There was also fun and games with the fund-raising side of the weekend. Top prize on the Friday night was a copy of the Brexit Bill signed by Theresa May, something I coveted greatly so eagerly threw in my £10 entry. The entrants were whittled down with a toss of a coin as we stood holding our heads or our backsides to display our choices at each round, not that I got further than the first hurdle after finding out that the mantra "tails never fails" is demonstrably incorrect.

More entertaining still was the Saturday night raffle where the top prize was a full size cardboard cut-out of Donald Trump which humorously greeted everyone at the registration desk. I entered in the hope that it would turn heads on my drive back up the M3 sitting in the passenger seat, but it was won by a triumphant Mark Littlewood who subsequently took it home on the train back to London to be exhibited, it was suggested, on the roof of the IEA in Lord North Street.

"No need for a ticket, he'll sit on my lap"
All in all, it was a weekend bracing both in the face of a brisk cold coastal wind and for the rigorous and encouraging debate which emphasised freedom issues in a current policy environment where you could be forgiven for thinking such concepts are no longer considered.

I'll be back next year for a bit more Bournemouth Freedom, keep an eye out for it if you think it's something for you too and I'll see you at the bar (at least until 2am anyway). 

Tuesday 14 March 2017

PHE "Delighted" At Exiling Vapers To The Outdoors

As Frank Davis will admirably never cease to remind you, when the smoking ban was applied in 2007, an ecstatic Debs Arnott of ASH let her mouth run away with her and boasted gleefully about how "smokers will be exiled to the outdoors".

It's no secret that I believe the ban to have been the most socially destructive and disgracefully illiberal piece of legislation I will ever see in my lifetime. The enforcing of dictatorial rules on private property was hideous enough, but the vile marginalisation of law-abiding citizens and the consequential extension of the idea that laws based solely on snobbery and prejudice are acceptable has been nauseating. These days, you just have to say you are not a fan of something, some wanker will petition the government to ban it and - thanks to the precedent of the smoking ban - politicians will discard all thoughts of personal liberty and seriously consider it. If you can convince people on the back of deliberately contrived junk science that a few wisps of smoke is on a par with letting off a hand grenade, you can install fascist rules on just about anything.

We are that stage now with Public Health England and vaping. On one of their faces PHE will say they are great fans of vaping as an alternative to smoking, for example I was at an event at the Guildhall in September where PHE's Kevin Fenton extolled the virtues of "citizen experts" to aid public health. He specifically singled out e-cigarettes as an example of why this concept was so admirable.

This "consumer-led phenomenon" may be lauded by Fenton and PHE, but it doesn't seem to extend to vapers being allowed to actually mix with the public. You see, in a blog last week, PHE's CEO Duncan Selbie exhibited the other of his organisation's faces by telling us how thrilled he is that vapers, too, are now "exiled to the outdoors".
We're delighted that Colchester Hospital University NHS Foundation Trust and Ipswich Hospital NHS Trust have risen to the challenge and, together with providing quitting advice and support for smokers, introduced completely tobacco-free estates on Wednesday 8 March. 
The hospitals have removed smoking shelters and replaced them with designated outdoor vaping points.
"Delighted", no less, that vapers have now not only been shoved outside despite no evidence whatsoever that e-cig vapour is harmful (while subtlely implying to the public that it is), but also now told to go and indulge in the habit well away from where decent people might see them. With no shelter from the elements, and not even allowed to use their e-cigs in their car while in the car park.

It's significant that PHE's 'support' of vaping in workplaces in July said absolutely nothing about the possibility of indoor vaping rooms. They said that vapers should be allowed to vape ... just not indoors. I'd also be prepared to bet a hefty sum that PHE's endorsement and support of vaping doesn't extend to allowing it in their own offices either.

So here we are, 10 years on from the smoking ban, and it is vapers being told that they should get used to being exiled to the outdoors, and - as if to hammer home the point - to use the same marginalisation pens that were originally designed for smokers.

And PHE, the Champion of e-cigs and vaping "citizen experts" is "delighted" about that, apparently. With friends like these, eh? 

Monday 13 March 2017

Oi! EU! Tax On Vaping? NO!

You may remember that last month was the closing date for an EU consultation on the taxation of manufactured tobacco products. The EU being the meddling EU, this naturally included their initial fumbling towards abusing e-cigs by taxing those too ... despite the devices and the liquid not containing any "manufactured tobacco" whatsoever.

The first results of the consultation have now been made available here, and there are some interesting discussion points.

Firstly, out of 7,686 responses, over 95% of them were submitted by members of the public, with only 3% coming from industry and a mere 1% from NGOs such as those in tobacco control. When tobacco controllers like to paint themselves as a David to the industry's Goliath, that pales into insignificance when it comes to their importance when the public itself gets motivated (more on that later).

Because on the subject of e-cigs especially, the answer to the EU's suggestion of adding tax to vaping was pretty emphatic. And the answer was NO!

As usual, click to enlarge
Yep, a whopping 90% of replies said that the EU should keep their snouts out of vaping and just forget the idea (not that they will, from my educated guess).

Now, it's true that a large majority of the respondents were vapers - to be expected as there was a lot of social media encouragement to take part - but it's significant that those declaring themselves to be e-cig users only accounted for 68% of the responses. So there was also substantial agreement from smokers (4%), non-smokers and even perhaps governmental and non-governmental bodies to reach such a high level of consensus.

The UK featured prominently in the published statistics, making up 8.44% of the total (649 fine upstanding individuals), but were pushed into 3rd place behind Germany (40.48%) and Poland (23.8%).

As you can imagine, with so many logging on just to register their objection to taxation for e-cigs, the post-consultation report's 67 pages are full of tables showing around about 70% of respondents understandably not giving an answer on subjects such as waterpipes, cigarillos and raw tobacco, so the EU will be playing with meagre percentages on a lot of their subject matter.

However, one thing that was quite disappointingly clear is that the theory of harm reduction doesn't extend to new 'heat not burn' technology amongst vapers. To illustrate, asked what a prospective tax rate on vaping should look like, presumably all vapers and another 12% on top thought it should be much lower than cigarettes.

But when the same question was asked about heat not burn, the picture looked very different.

This isn't altogether a surprise. Only 81 people identified as users of HnB - which is to be expected due to the market not being established in Europe yet - so there isn't a great deal of understanding about the concept, and also much distrust about products like iQos, most notable of which being that their emergence might be conflated with e-cigs and sway public perception so far as to favour prohibition and bans on vaping too. This has some merit, but if being consistent the same could also be said about sub-ohming huge clouds in public.

I get the nuances, but vapers have two arguments; freedom choice and health, and the health one relies heavily on the very powerful tobacco harm reduction aspect, especially when talking about recreational use. While it's clear that many respondents were only interested in lending their support to vaping because that's the device they use, it's disappointing that so many are so distant from the harm reduction debate that they are not confident in saying that HnB excise should be set as lower or much lower than tobacco, which is quite obviously the case. Maybe my personal view is not widespread, but if using the harm reduction argument to facilitate being left alone with recreational use of nicotine, picking winners within the harm reduced category is not the way to go.

You have to idly wonder what would have been the result if snus was included in this consultation, I have to say. We will never know, of course, because snus is officially banned by the EU despite the TPD consultation in 2011 showing 84% of the public saying the ban should be lifted. Just as now in 2017, back then a large proportion of the responses came from Poland, which led to the EU throwing out 82,000 of them on the corrupt premise that they were from the tobacco industry. It was clear back then that tobacco control was a tiny David in comparison to the Goliath of public opinion, but that didn't matter to the EU, who listened to a few small dictatorial voices and perpetuated the stupid and science-free ban on snus anyway. Remember that next time some tobacco controller bleats that they are overwhelmed by industry power, because it is proof they are lying to you.

I expect the EU and their hideous NGO chums will probably try the same kind of anti-democratic shenanigans again, but will be more sorely tested with 90% of respondents saying e-cigs should be left alone, from a hefty cohort of 7,686, 95% of which are ordinary citizens.

Some people say that the EU isn't very democratic. This might be an interesting experiment to prove or disprove it, doncha think? 

Wednesday 8 March 2017

ASH Scotland: The Mouse That Squeaked ... Nearly

It is a little known fact that when Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) was formed in the early 1970s, it wasn't a result of a groundswell of popular anti-smoking opinion, quite the opposite. It wasn't even set up by ordinary citizens giving their time and energy for a cause they believed in.

Nope, ASH was created by the government's Chief Medical Officer of the time, George Godber, and was staffed at its launch by full time government employees. In fact, the only reason ASH was set up at all was because the voluntary anti-smoking lobby was negligible to the point of being almost invisible at the time (it still is), and therefore some in the government thought it a good idea to pay for one which could the lobby government for restrictions on smoking. And government has shovelled huge amounts of cash to prop ASH - and its satellite organisations in Scotland and Wales - up for the 40 odd years since. In short, they had to do this because an overwhelming majority of the public really couldn't give much of a shit about smoking either way.

It's fair to say that this is still the case, as ASH Scotland has found out today.

A Thunderclap is a Twitter effect whereby you gather supporters to a cause and a tweet will be sent out from their accounts at a synchronised time and date. ASH Scotland first tweeted to publicise theirs a fortnight ago.

However, to get your Thunderclap to work you have to gather a requisite number of supporters which - in this case - was 100. ASH Scotland tweeted a further 10 times to promote their big social media assault, including three tweets yesterday alone, but to no avail.

Yep, in two weeks, ASH Scotland failed to find even 100 supporters for their No Smoking Day Thunderclap despite repeatedly badgering its 2,400 followers on Twitter.

Compare this with a Thunderclap organised by unpaid (unlike ASH Scotland) vapers in advance of COP6 in Russia, which generated around 10,000 individual posts all with the #COP6 hashtag on October 12th 2014. So effective was this that it dominated the online conversation, drowned out any publicity the FCTC was hoping to create for its prohibitionist cockwaffle, and freaked out the FCTC so much that it arguably led to the social media blackout of the conference which then followed.

The public are largely unconcerned by smoking or smokers, as the spectacular apathy ASH Scotland's Thunderclap failure generated illustrates. Only 90 people (I say people in the loosest meaning of the word because most of their support would have been fellow tax-sponging 'public health' NGO Twitter accounts) could be bothered to lift a finger and make a few clicks of their mouse in support of ASH Scotland and No Smoking Day. Pitiful.

Not so much a Thunderclap then, more like a Clusterfuck.

In the budget today, Philip Hammond pledged to give an extra £2 billion to fund a big hole in social care, and raised National Insurance for the self-employed to help pay for perceived financial shortages in the NHS, both things that the public cares a lot about. Yet government still persists in throwing millions of the health budget every year at wasteful self-promoting organisations like ASH and the hundreds of local anti-smoking groups which replicate their same useless non-job, despite the public not giving a monkey's.

It's an appalling waste of money. The state should stop funding them.

Sunday 5 March 2017

The 'Rigour' Of Simple Simon

If you ask the public what they understand by the title of "academic", they might imagine an austere and profoundly thoughtful sciencey type who will dot every i and cross every t before issuing their opinion.

But tobacco control 'academics' are far from that stereotype. Take Simple Simon Chapman, for example.

Erm Simon, the vape industry doesn't assure us it is "safe", but they do tend to refer to current evidence which suggests e-cigs are safer than smoking, and there has been no credible evidence so far that vaping results in any harm.  "Looks dodgy" really doesn't cut it as rigorous academic opinion from the decrepit Aussie vandal-cum-pub singer, now does it? In fact, it looks more like behaviour people like Chappers used to condemn from the tobacco industry when accusing them of being "Merchants of Doubt". Tweeting that vaping "looks dodgy" and hinting that industry would say that, wouldn't they, is quite obviously designed to create doubt without any evidence to support it.

Hardly the rigorous academic, eh?

As mentioned the other day, he is also a bit woolly and confused when researching where quotes he remembers seeing have been published.

However, his lack of rigour is probably most acute when assessing conflicts of interest. You see, when struggling against the weight of evidence proving his daft assertions wrong he will routinely play the "you're paid" or "conflict of interest" ad hom card which, in my humble opinion, means he immediately loses said debate.

But he's not so concerned about his own conflicts when promoting self-congratulatory, narcissistic books about ... Simon Chapman. In an article in The Conversation last week, Simple Simon basically argued that science wasn't about rigorous objective analysis, oh no, it was about producing headlines.

Except that the piece was clearly promotion for his new book.

It is blatant commercialism, and with no declared conflicts of interest.  Both he and the University of Sydney stand to benefit from this promotion, but this isn't declared. The University of Sydney is both a partner/funder of The Conversation and also publisher of the book by ... Simon Chapman.

So many blurred lines and lack of transparency mean that Chappers, the University and The Conversation are conflicted. Worth remembering next time the crusty clown accuses others of that kind of thing - as he very often does - isn't it? 

Wednesday 1 March 2017

Simple Simon's Six Year Long Senior Moment

I suppose we should expect it from a tobacco control industry which despises comments sections so either doesn't have them or censors the fuck out of them, but it's a common occurrence that they often get quite incredibly confused about which person outside of their echo chamber said what.

Take, for example, my Tobacco Tactics page which attributes me as calling Debs Arnott a "wanker". I'm extremely proud of that page - hilariously inaccurate as it is - so much so that a screen grab of it is my Twitter banner. And although I'm wrongly attributed as calling Arnott a wanker - because it was actually Timmy who said it and I merely quoted him - I'm not overly-fussed because it's fair to say I don't think much of her.

I've also been blocked before on Twitter for quoting others while the person who I quoted from has escaped without sanction, so I think there is a fundamental misunderstanding of how blogs and social media work going on within the tobacco control industry. My Tobacco Tactics page has not been updated since 2012 but I reckon - considering the idea was to pretend everyone on the site was motivated by industry cash - that's about the time they found out I actually am a member of the public who simply despises them so there was no point spending more of CRUK's £56k donated cash and Smokefree South West's £350k taxpayer funding on editing it for accuracy.

Still, that's all just momentary stupidity. What is more worrying though is the case of Simple Simon Chapman, who has been confused about a quote that particularly irked him for about six years now.

Here's what he said about it in 2014 in the BMJ.
Here are some choice examples [Chris Snowdon] has fired at me in recent years: 23 May 2011: “His insane wibblings are worrying yes, but still bloody funny to read. It's quite incredible that such a retard has achieved so high a profile since he must take 10 minutes every morning figuring out how his trouser zip works.”
No, you crusty fruitcake, that was me. I know it's confusing that it was in the comments at Snowdon's site, but it was definitely me. Here's the original.

That was funny enough in 2014, but it appears that the daft geriatric carp-botherer still seems unsure as to who actually said it, as exhibited by the publicity for his new exercise in narcissism book.

The Sydney University shop page says it was me, deftly removing the bit about finding his zip.

Yet the tweet currently pinned at the top of his timeline directs you to a scanned preview of the published book, which claims the quote is Snowdon's.

It's worth noting that this is someone who spent 20 years editing a supposedly peer reviewed journal and yet seems to allow simple errors like that to pass him by. Surely there must be some other explanation for his being unable to fathom something very simple for six long years.

Senility is no laughing matter. You have to have a heart of stone not to feel for the old duffer as he sent his manuscript and promotional materials off to the publishers thinking one minute it was Snowdon, next minute it was me, before forgetting what he was doing entirely and falling asleep at 4pm.

Therefore, I think it fair that I help the fool out and clarify matters to save his six year long addled confusion, so I am writing to Darlington Press to helpfully inform them that the attribution of that quote as apparently published is wrong and potentially defamatory to Snowdon and the IEA.

I would hate it if they had to pulp the dozen copies they had printed ready for the early rush, but I'm a caring guy. Simple Simon can thank me later.

Smoke Signals by Simon Chapman is available at Amazon, currently "#6,059,190 in Books"