Thursday 28 February 2019

Laughable Bullshit Tsunami Incoming From The Telegraph?

A Telegraph 'expert', pictured yesterday
Like Clive Bates who has blogged about this today in an article entitled "Anti-vaping activists pitch unscientific fringe positions to a national newspaper", I also saw an email detailing how the Telegraph is planning on publishing a massive load of bullshit about vaping tomorrow (Feb 29th apparently) in one of "a series of articles".
"We have spoken to the experts listed below and sought their views on the following topics: the medical concerns surrounding e-cigarettes despite them being promoted as a reduced risk alternative to traditional cigarettes; the marketing of e-cigarettes; the risk to young people of becoming addicted to nicotine via the use of e-cigarettes:"
The first thing that sprung to mind when I read this was what could have prompted it? Were Telegraph writers just sitting around one day wondering what to fill the pages of their newspaper up with when one of them said "I know! Let's do a deep investigation into e-cigs!" to which another may have said "Great idea! Let's get on Google!".

If so, one wonders what the search term must have been to come up with this set of 'experts', which is basically a who's who of wacky ideological fuckwit outliers who are out there where the buses don't run when it comes to the thinking around vaping in this country and beyond.
Professor Simon Capeman, Liverpool University  (Professor Public Health and Policy) 
Professor Anna Gilmore, Bath University (Professor of Public Health and Director of Tobacco Control Research Group) 
Professor Mike Daube, Professor of Health Policy, Curtin University, Perth, Australia and Director of the Public Health Advocacy Institute and the McCusker Centre for Action on Alcohol and Youth 
Professor Stanton Glantz, Director Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education, California University 
Professor Martin McKee, Professor of European Public Heath, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and former President of the Faculty of Public Health 
Dr Gabriel Scally, President of Epidemiology and Public Health, Royal; Society of Medicine 
Professor John Ashton, former president of public health at the Royal Colleges of Physicians and former president of UK Public Health 
John Dicey, Global CEO Allen Carr’s EasyWay 
Robin Ireland, former chief executive of the Health Equalities Group
Shall we go through them one by one? 
Professor Simon Capeman, Liverpool University  (Professor Public Health and Policy)
Does anyone remember Sarah Knapton? Well, she is/was a science editor (pfft) at the Telegraph who once wrote an astonishingly stupid article entitled "E-cigarettes are no safer than smoking tobacco, scientists warn" which was roundly condemned as being utter garbage. Her article was so very bad that she is now immortalised in Hansard as a junk scientist by Lord Callanan.
Much of the problem stems from media reporting of junk science. The worst example was a headline in the Telegraph in December, which screamed: “E-cigarettes are no safer than smoking tobacco”. It was a nonsense report based on, as I said, junk science.
The reason I mention her is that she had a roladex or something where she was hooked up with just about every junk science peddler in the safer nicotine debate. It would be a very slim roladex since there aren't too many of them these days. She is not the one who sent the email but it would appear that someone has been raiding her list of conspiracy theorist ne'er-do-wells and looks to have got confused between Simon Capewell and Simon Chapman.

So let's assume this one is Simon "Capslock"Capewell due to the location. The guy who tweets like a kid with ADHD, always in capitals and never a care for calm evidence-assessment. A far left business-hating prohibitionist who wants just about everything banned from fizzy drinks, through pizza and of course harm reduction products, he is part of a north west enclave of denialists who are ignoring anything sent to them by central organisations and even government itself despite deriving their funding from that source.
Professor Anna Gilmore, Bath University (Professor of Public Health and Director of Tobacco Control Research Group) 
Anna "anything for a grant" Gilmore has carved out a career in smearing industry of any stripe for cash. Recently awarded $20m by Bloomberg to make her smears global. Heavily incentivised to find fault with everything industry does because, erm, that's how she gets paid.
Professor Mike Daube, Professor of Health Policy, Curtin University, Perth, Australia and Director of the Public Health Advocacy Institute and the McCusker Centre for Action on Alcohol and Youth 
A geriatric former British tobacco controller now living in Perth, Australia. He was condemned by the PM of Australia in 2014 for leading calls to ban a performance of the opera, Carmen, because it is set in a cigarette factory. He was caught lying about that episode and is on record stating that e-cigs are a tobacco control conspiracy. Australia bans e-cigs for little reason whatsoever and is desperately fighting against a wavering Australian government which looks like it may join neighbours New Zealand in regulating vaping, much to his embarrassment. No conflict of interest there then.
Professor Stanton Glantz, Director Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education, California University 
Where do we start? The world's biggest pharma-funded anti-vaping liar who said in December that vapers should go back to smoking. Currently embroiled in a bit of a kerfuffle after being accused of sexual harassment and stealing accreditation from female students in his team. His university settled out of court for $150k to avoid too many #MeToo negative headlines. His high-profile 'feminist' colleagues are silent about his antics but he is still being pursued by anti-misogynist groups who want to know why his university was rewarded with more grant money despite the scandal
Professor Martin McKee, Professor of European Public Heath, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and former President of the Faculty of Public Health
Porky Paddy who FOI responses showed had lied in the BMJ and to the Guardian over comments he clearly made.  For a professor of 'public health' to deliberately lie in his profession's most prominent journal should surely call into question any integrity he claims to possess, but despite having a huge conflict of interest he is deemed an objective 'expert' by the Telegraph apparently. Even Debs Arnott of ASH called him out as an outlier on national TV news for his extreme, biased and ideological views.
Dr Gabriel Scally, President of Epidemiology and Public Health, Royal; Society of Medicine 
Not sure where Scally fits in here, I haven't seen what he says about e-cigs since he blocked me on Twitter after he threw a hissy fit about having to obey the law and respond to FOI requests during the plain packs campaign. A committed left-wing former NHS lead from the south west, it will be interesting to see what his 'expert' testimony is considering I'd heard he was amenable to harm reduction but despises big businesses, especially those who sell products containing nicotine. In this kind of company, he could actually be a fig leaf of objective balance.
Professor John Ashton, former president of public health at the Royal Colleges of Physicians and former president of UK Public Health 
Notice it says "former"? Yeah, because he lost that job after an astonishing Saturday evening in 2014 where - fuelled by what substance we don't know but suspect must have been mood-altering - he launched a night-long attack on vapers on social media. You can read the extraordinary goings-on here, some of them extremely creepy. Like Glantz and McKee, what should have been career-ending behaviour was passed over by 'public health' and he was reinstated to the Faculty of Public Health with just a small demotion.
John Dicey, Global CEO Allen Carr’s EasyWay
A business which has been rocked to its core by the advent of e-cigs which are a huge threat to their global sales of quit smoking books. No conflict of interest there then.
Robin Ireland, former chief executive of the Health Equalities Group
Yet another from the last bastion of e-cig denialism in the north west acting like Japanese soldiers still fighting an imaginary war once everyone else has gone home. Part of the Healthy Stadia group which lied to football and rugby clubs to get bans on vaping outdoors at their venues, in direct contravention of guidance being given by Public Health England at the time. Hopelessly pharma-conflicted.

And this is the stellar cast that the Telegraph thinks is an objective panel to pronounce on the benefits or otherwise of vaping. That Google search must have been pretty specifically worded to come up with just about every crank and looneytune in the harm reduction debate, whilst not picking up Public Health England, the Royal College of Physicians, Cancer Research UK, the UK government, Stoptober, Royal Society of Public Health and countless other organisations who have all sifted the evidence and are welcoming towards e-cigs.

The star journos at the Telegraph 'science' department seem also to have missed the Cochrane review - the gold standard of research - which contradicts everything their carefully-selected fruit loops and extremist bullshitters have fed the gullible hacks at the Telegraph.

And another thing. You have to wonder why so many left-wing, vehemently Brexit-hating 'public health' freaks are so fond of a Brexit cheerleader such as the Telegraph. Could it be that - via the Sarah Knapton link - it is the only newspaper still remotely willing to publish their crap?

And it truly is bullshit. A tsunami of it. Bates has gone through each one of their ridiculous assertions in this blog article, I do recommend you read it, it will raise a smile or two I promise.

So now we just wait to see what execrable nonsense the Telegraph comes out with tomorrow. It could be a classic of its genre, a masterclass in fake news and the best bit? They are making it a series! Get the popcorn in, this could be great fun. Did I ever tell you it's not about health? 

Monday 25 February 2019

10 Questions, 9 Of Them Stupid

Forgive me Father, I have sinned. It has been three weeks since my last article, hand me the hair shirt and beads.

Real life has been getting in the way like a mofo recently, I'm afraid. Business, family and personal pressures have conspired in such a way that I've had little time to even catch up with what's going on let alone write anything. If you follow me on Twitter too, you may have noticed.

But prior to a busy week, I've a window to have a go at some recreational writing and what better to comment on than an unintentionally funny article from Sydney pensioner Simon Chapman on his blog last week. I do feel for the guy, he's getting old, the dementia might be kicking in and he is still desperately clinging to tried-and-trusted smears against industry which don't hold up in the modern world. You know, like your grandparents who get shouty when you say they should have data on their phone and they reply that "I just want to ring someone on it!".

One of my obstructions recently has been that I've had a lot of building work on my house done, and I mean tons. The team doing it are incredibly experienced (for that, read old) and brilliant at what they do, but the moment the idea of smart bulbs which can be operated by an app came up, their hackles raised and I was told "a light should have a switch, you turn it on and off, that stuff is just nonsense". It's the old dog and new trick mindset, and one which is amusingly illustrated by Chapman in this article entitled "10 questions for Philip Morris International on their “transformation”".

Its basis is this tweet from Moira Gilchrist of Philip Morris.

Now, the impertinence of a tobacco company exec invading the crusty guy's decades long smear-led safe space is red rag to a bull for Chappers, so he leapt into action ... by reproducing correspondence he had with a former PMI exec in 2005, before today's alternative products were available and about a completely different subject.

Anyone with elderly parents will recognise this harking back to the old times as if they were just yesterday. The modern world can be so confusing, can't it?

But anyway, that's not the point of my article. I don't know if Gilchrist will take up his offer of publishing a blog on his site of up to 2000 words, but his 10 questions are so inane and rooted in the past that they're well worth fisking. Corporate reticence, a fiduciary duty to shareholders, along with a legal department shitting bricks and a reluctance to give away info to business competitors might prevent her from replying in depth, but I can have a go.
1) You say you want smokers to switch to IQOS, but Philip Morris USA (a separate company to Philip Morris International which just happens to share the words “Philip Morris” in its title) is on record recently as saying on its website that cigarettes are “our core product” and that they are working hard to keep their smokers happy with “best quality” cigarette products. Are cigarettes also PMI’s “core product’? Or asking another way, how much global revenue does PMI make from tobacco today, and how much from IQOS and what are your forecasts for these numbers in the next 10 years? Are your shareholders happy with you purposefully trying to drive south (by far) your biggest income stream?
The original draft described Philip Morris USA as an "affiliate" of PMI, which is 100% wrong. It is a separate company as he has had to correct but it kinda hurts his line of smear, so he did so in a snarky way. But this is just the start of his quaint misunderstanding of the modern world.

He knows that cigarettes are PMI's core product because, ahem, there are a lot of smokers in the world. So obviously PMI makes a lot more revenue from smoking than it does from nascent products. Chappers, who seems to revel in the fact that new products are just a fraction of 'Big Tobacco's' main offering, went a bit silent when the question of global revenue was answered quite emphatically on Twitter.

So what of his concern for shareholders? That's a first for a guy who is so right-on he's been hating big business of every stripe since he was at university and vandalising bus shelters. They may well be unhappy with a company declaring they are changing their "core product" over time but here's the thing Simon - you cretin - if they are doing that they are doing exactly what tobacco controllers say that they want, reducing the number of cigarettes they sell.

You'd think a rampant lefty who hates smoking would be happy with this double whammy - shareholders losing out and percentage of combustible tobacco declining - but his sympathy for shareholders is just a pubescent debating tactic as we shall see further down.
2) What are the KPIs (key performance indicators) for the sales, marketing and public affairs staff in your cigarette division today? Are they being asked to try and sell less cigarettes or to keep on trying to sell more? Could we all see copies of some of those please?
Fewer cigarettes, Simon, fewer.

In the pensioner's tiny little mind, this is a very simple equation for a multinational company. There is only one policy and it is global. Erm, but it depends on jurisdictions and what the legal framework is, doesn't it. Let's take, for example a random country. Say, I dunno, Australia. How does PMI sell e-cigs containing nicotine in that country when they are banned? How do they transition smokers away from tobacco when they can't sell iQos? I wonder who is behind that kind of retarded policy? Wouldn't it be pretty brazen if someone who had a hand in it then accused a company of being disingenuous by not selling enough products which they had done their damnedest to ensure remain illegal?

Every country is different. Simon only sees a homogenous blob of countries with fully-aligned legislative and trading criteria, or pretends to. Either he is woefully stupid or he is preaching to the unthinking. You decide.
3) In Indonesia, Philip Morris International owns the Sampoerna tobacco company. In 2016, Reuters reported that you were trying to get “wider reach” there via “stronger cigarettes” What do you say to those who say you are being duplicitous with all this reduced harm talk when this is what you are doing when you calculate that people in the west might not notice? Similarly, when the city of Balanga, Luzon in the Philippines wanted to implement a smokefree campus and surrounding environs, you supported the Philippine Tobacco Institute in its (successful) legal case against the proposal. So you say you want people to quit smoking, but only if they switch to IQoS, is that it? And if not you will continue fight effective tobacco control as usual?
Similarly to the bollocks he spouts in question 2, what chance when Indonesia bans e-cigs and any other alternative products?
Indonesia's trade minister Enggartiasto Lukita set off a backlash from anti-smoking groups in November when he suggested tobacco farmers would be hurt by the fledgling industry, and that those turning to e-cigarettes -- also known as vaping -- should smoke regular cigarettes instead. 
"We should turn vapers into conventional cigarette smokers," he said at the time.
And do you know what? I think the old coot knows this.
4) In recent years, your company has aggressively opposed tobacco control policies like graphic health warnings, plain packs, and increasing tobacco tax, all known to reduce smoking. When you do this, can you understand that many people think you are flagrantly lying when you say you want to help tobacco control?
See what he did there?

Plain packs has had no effect on reducing smoking in Australia except in his increasingly senile mind. Nor has it in France or in the UK. There has never been any significant evaluation of graphic warnings either, with many studies showing that smokers just ignore them. But Simon skips past all that controversy and states a bald fact which is debatable at best and simply not true at worst.

Vaping, however, has had a dramatic effect wherever it has been allowed to flourish, which doesn't include Australia.

And, erm, when did PMI ever say they want to "help tobacco control"? Considering how shockingly poor their results have been recently - and the abject misinformation they have been peddling on alternative products - tobacco control is the very last industry producers should be helping. Harm reduction talks directly to consumers and cuts out the parasitical tax-funded leeches of which Chapman is a prominent reactionary in a self-enriching cohort more interested in delaying their obsolescence than any concern for health.
5)  What do you say to critics who say that your business model is surely all about smoking AND vaping, not smoking OR vaping?
There is only one of those, and it's Chapman. Considering all tobacco companies have said that their risk reduced products are more profitable than conventional tobacco, a 5 year old should be able to see that's a nonsense conspiracy theory.
6) I don’t think I’ve ever met a smoker who wanted their kids to grow up and start smoking. Do you feel the same way? Would you also hope that children would not take up vaping? If you really believe ecigs are of minimal risk, why not openly encourage kids to vape?
No-one has ever said that kids should be encouraged to vape, but the old duffer knows this, he's just using an old argument about how even smoking parents don't want their kids to smoke. But it is exactly that, a decades old argument and this particular old dog is still doing old tricks and wondering why he's not getting the same biscuits.

I know Gilchrist wouldn't be able to reply as I do, but I personally couldn't give a toss if my kids took up vaping. And it doesn't seem to have crossed Chapper's increasingly-shrinking mind that if a kid smokes already vaping is a better option for his side, and that if they vape instead of starting smoking, that's something he should be celebrating. I know it's tough for an imbecile to imagine multi-factorial outcomes such as that, but you'd think with more time to feed his carp since retiring he'd have thought a bit more deeply.
7) Smoking by Australian teens is at a record low (1.9% of 15-17 year olds currently smoke) I find it hard to believe if your company had not modeled the impact of such a dire situation on your bottom line into the future if this was to continue. So what does that modelling show? And am I wrong in thinking that if your IQOS product does not attract a significant number of kids into regularly using it, then your company will wither and die within a few decades because if only smokers switch, many of those will quit and die, with no cohort of young people moving through to replace them.
This is the only decent question he asked, and it's a very good one. He could have saved a lot of words and just restricted his article to this one valid point. I remember that this question was asked of PMI's Mark McGregor at a fringe event organised by Forest at Tory Party Conference in October, but it's sadly not made the cut in the highlights (Updated to add the transcribed exchange, scroll to the end of the article).
8) The  parent company of Philip Morris USA, Altria, just invested $US12.8billon in Juul, the vaping product that has spearheaded 20% of US teens using ecigs in the last 30 days.  Are you going to tell me that this teen use of ecigs “concerns” you or that there were a lot of champagne corks popping at work when you all saw that data?
Yawn. Just a rehash of his 'think of the children' scare story from question 6. He knows very well that everuse in past 30 days is experimenting, but he and similarly ideological denialists use this as a dog whistle to scare the living shit out of unwitting parents.

And now for the highlight. You're gonna absolutely love this. If he'd wanted to illustrate to the world that he has not a clue about how e-cigs work and should probably just pick up his pension and go feed the ducks when he is tempted to comment on harm reduction, he couldn't have done it better than this.
9) The average daily vaper inhales 200 times a day and up to 600. The average daily smoker inhales about 95 times a day. Does that comparison suggest that nicotine delivered via vaping might be very, very addictive? Does that bother you?
Stop sniggering at the back, he's an elder statesman don't you know, and degenerative mental health is not a laughing matter.

Does this erstwhile antipodean anti-smoking colossus really not understand that nicotine delivery is vastly different between combustible products and non-combustible products? Here is a graph to illustrate what I mean, courtesy of Lynne Dawkins of South Bank University.

Clive Bates explains further here:
“My wife/boss/friend/agony aunt/dog etc. uses it constantly. S/he must be getting more nicotine”. 
Myth: This is a commonly expressed view that we hear from those whose partners/ friends/ family members have switched to vaping (and retarded Australian blowhards - DP). Given that vaping results in less efficient nicotine delivery to the blood than tobacco smoking, those switching to e-cigarettes need to vape more than they used to smoke (vapers commonly refer to this as ‘grazing’). Concerns over ‘excessive vaping’ can be reduced by switching to a higher nicotine-containing e-liquid.
Now, Chapman likes to tell the world he is an 'expert' on such matters, so why is it that he is so woefully ignorant on something that is central to the debate? I mean, this is a fundamentally basic error. He is arguing on the same level as a Daily Mail reader with not even  basic understanding of the product.

Far from suggesting "that nicotine delivered via vaping might be very, very addictive", it shows the polar opposite. That vapers take or leave their nicotine habit and just top up here and there, never reaching the levels of the big instant hit that smoking delivers.

Is this wilful or is he really that fucking stupid? Can't lie, but it could be either couldn't it?

And now for his jovial "and finally" moment.
10) I’ve heard people very unkindly quip that it would be a good idea if all tobacco company employees were obliged to smoke or vape (in the obverse way that no cancer control agency would hire a smoker). It would be hard to imagine a senior executive in a car company who chose to not drive or own a car, but to always cycle or walk and openly declare that; or the head of a meat marketing board who was an open vegetarian, or a skin cancer prevention advocate who was deeply tanned. So why do you think your company is comfortable with some of its employees choosing not to smoke or vape? Do you smoke or vape yourself?
I'm sure people work for meat companies who are vegan, and I'm sure people who work for car manufacturers only cycle. Classic bait and switch from the old fool to conflate "some of its employees" with upper management to con the gullible with a trite argument.

Irrelevant anyway, as he could have found out if he ever accepted any of the many invitations he has been offered for conferences on harm reduction. Because if he had not been so cowardly, he would have seen that Moira Gilchrist uses an iQos. Relentlessly.

So anyway, 1 hit out of 10 ain't bad for a pensioner. I'm sure there are more brain-addled Australians around, but not many who are still convinced they are sages in a field of which they have very little understanding outside of the funny farm.

You can read his blog unfiltered here, it's great fun.

UPDATE: Relating to Chapman's question 7, thanks to Simon Clark, who has sent me a transcription of the exchange between Chris Snowdon and Mark MacGregor at the Tory Party Conference fringe event.
CS: You don't recommend IQOS for anybody other than existing smokers ... 
MM: No, no. 
CS: ... and you want to reach a point as soon as possible where there are no smokers, so what is the long-term prospects for PMI? Within 70 years there's no smokers to convert to IQOS and all the IQOS smokers are getting older and dying, so within a century, outside, you're finished, aren't you? 
MM: Well, I guess we've quite a big challenge with those billion, or 1.1 billion, smokers so if we could get 300, 400 million of those to convert to IQOS I think that's a big enough challenge for now. What you do in the longer term feels more like a debate for somebody else.
Make of that what you will. 

Wednesday 6 February 2019

Popcorn Poppycock

You'd think, wouldn't you, that the US governmental Food and Drugs Administration would be tasked with giving the public information based on rigorous and robust science. Sadly, you'd be wrong.

This week - in the face of hysterical panic about youth use of e-cigs - they have produced a poster which they will be sending to every High School in America to be put up in school bathrooms. Now, let's put aside for a moment the laughable idiocy of showing kids the new risky fad that many of their peers use and that they might be missing out on, and look instead at what is in it.

Well, as you can imagine from an arm of the tobacco control scam, it is full of lies, none bigger than this.

Erm, inhaling flavours from an e-cig causes popcorn lung? Well that's the message they seem to be wanting to send here. This is the biggest lie that tobacco controllers have ever told, and that is from a long list of fucking massive lies that their industry is renowned for.

Michael Siegel has written extensively about this and, to cut a long story short, it is absolute bollocks.
There is no evidence that e-cigarettes cause popcorn lung. Despite millions of e-cigarette users, there has not been a single confirmed case of popcorn lung caused by e-cigarettes. Moreover, since the level of diacetyl in cigarettes is 750 times higher, on average, than in e-liquids, why isn’t the Tennessee Department of Health warning kids that smoking can cause popcorn lung? The rest of the story is that popcorn lung has not even been associated with smoking. There is absolutely no evidence that vaping causes popcorn lung. 
Juul, the market-leading product in the US which has caused panic amongst knuckle-dragging American parents countrywide, and which the FDA seeks to demonise, doesn't sell flavours containing diacetyl. But then again, nor do any other vape companies because e-liquid manufacturers stopped stocking products containing diacetyl back in 2015, so it's difficult to contract popcorn lung from a substance which is hugely diluted compared with that in cigarettes if it isn't even in any products at all.

But that's the message these government-funded goons are sending to the entire country. 

Shouldn't the FDA know these kinds of things? Instead of basing their decision-making on solid science they are embarking on hare-brained public information rooted in fantasy and seem to be on an intellectual par with medieval witch-finders. It makes you wonder if they are even in the business of seeking the scientific truth at all. Which means that if they can get this so badly wrong, what is the value of taking anything the FDA says on trust? 

The answer, of course, is absolutely none.