Wednesday, 31 July 2013

On Bloomberg And Other Insane Nannies

When you're ignominiously scraping the bottom of a barrel for self-worth, you're inevitably going to drag up nothing but icky muck ... as nannies worldwide are starting to find out.
Appeals court upholds ruling striking down NYC’s large soda ban  
A state appeals court Tuesday upheld a lower court decision blocking the mayor’s controversial ban on sugary drinks over 16 ounces, ruling that the Bloomberg-controlled Board of Health had overstepped its powers.
He's not too happy, is apron strings Mike.
Bloomberg, in a statement, called the Appellate ruling a “temporary setback” and vowed to appeal the matter to the state’s highest court, the Court of Appeals.
You have to wonder about the mental state of someone like this. To doggedly persist with hugely unpopular Alice in Wonderland-esque rules while also being publicly humiliated by the US court system is, well, the behaviour of a deranged psychopath, surely?

Still, what with plain packs being shelved, minimum pricing being ditched south of the border, and the Danish fat tax disaster finally being scrapped back in April, 2013 is becoming an incredibly bad year for increasingly absurd prohibitionist extremists. Happy days for us though.

Oh yeah, talking of the Danish fat tax, news just in from New Zealand.
Auckland University nutrition expert Professor Cliona Ni Mhurchu told the Science Media Centre that Denmark's saturated fat tax, which was in place for a year, reduced consumption of targeted fats by 10 to 15 per cent, but such schemes had to be carefully studied before introduction. "It is important to assess substitution effects to know whether or not food taxes have positive effects on the whole diet as opposed to just the targeted foods."
I presume they mean the huge fall in sales after the tax ... prompted by huge hoarding prior to the tax.

Yes, it's another public health lie (do they ever tell the truth?)

Prof Cliona seems to have forgotten, however, to mention that the Danish fat tax was one of the most comprehensive legislated fiscal and societal disasters from any developed nation in the past few decades.

Insane. Quite unutterably insane, the lot of them.

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Now The Australian Medical Association Says "No Evidence"

The tobacco control Twitter frenzy of early last week seems such a long time ago, doesn't it?

First it was the NHS, and now - just a couple of days later - the Australian Medical Association has weighed in to pour bromide in the tea of orgasmic tobacco controllers and their wild claims about that plain packaging study.
But although the study, conducted last November and December as the plain packaging laws were being implemented, suggests smokers of cigarettes from plain packs are more likely to considering giving up, there is as yet no evidence that the change has led people to quit. 
Nor, the authors admitted, were they able to “tease apart” whether it was the plain packaging itself, or larger health warnings, that may be influencing the perceptions of smokers. 
As pointed out by the Crikey web news service last week, the study’s results also shed no light on whether plain packaging has been successful in one of its key goals, deterring children and adolescents from taking up smoking. 
And, underlining the need for caution when assessing the effectiveness of plain packaging, the study found there were “no significant differences in the proportion of plain and branded pack smokers who thought frequently about the harms of smoking or thought smoking harms had been exaggerated”.
Yes, that's THE Australian Medical Association joining a kinda global consensus. A real 'et tu, Brute' moment if ever there was one.

Incidentally, did they mention caution? The BBC health team don't know the meaning of the word.

Interestingly, the term 'encourage smokers to quit' does not appear in the study itself, nor does it feature in the Aussie government's breathless press release. Instead it refers to the BBC's own reporting of the story ... they seem to have installed themselves as some kind of expert rather than the impartial news sharers they are supposed to be.

Meanwhile, back in the real world.
“There has been no noticeable impact on legal tobacco sales in the first six months due to plain packaging, as smokers are still purchasing cigarettes just as they were before it was introduced,” BAT spokesman Scott McIntyre said in a statement.
Oh dear, Australia.

On the evidence as it stands, the UK government's 'wait-and-see' decision looks to have been an inspired one, eh?

Harlots Given Modesty Deadline By The Co-Op

From Media Week:

Sharons, Traceys and Chardonnays have until 9 September to dress in a potato sack, or The Co-operative will cease to serve them, the supermarket chain has announced.

The request for decent attire, which would cover scantily clad women at the checkout, is aimed at protecting children from seeing sexy girls out to grab a bag of Doritos or a can of Smirnoff Ice.

The Co-operative has already introduced linen sheets to conceal most of the prominent attributes of their young female customers, in accordance with guidelines drawn up by the Mary Whitehouse Legacy Foundation, in association with the National Federation of Retail Newsagents and endorsed by Porno Perry.

It is now asking lascivious flesh-exposers, including clubbers and those just out on a hot afternoon, to provide their own coverings, saying that it is responding to concerns by its customers about the over-exposure of children to the carefully-crafted sexual image of many females who visit Co-op stores.

Steve Murrells, chief executive of retail for The Co-operative Group, said: "Whilst we have tried to mitigate the likelihood of young children seeing strumpets in hot pants with a number of measures in-store, the most effective way of doing this is for these slappers to be concealed with their own money.

"Tarts in bikini tops now have until 9 September to start covering up their alluring bits, after which any lads' dream date who does not look like a haggard old prude will not be served in our stores."

The company's retail arm, The Co-operative Food, claims to be one of the biggest teen and twenty-something suppliers in the country, with more than 4,000 stores.

A spokeswoman for young women everywhere did not confirm whether they would cover up for the Co-Op, but said: "We are sensitive to the mood of the public and to that end we have responded accordingly, and have changed from a string and a smile to skater skirts and a crop top.

"We already have agreements in place with all major retailers, including the Co-op, to ensure our nation's finest totty is displayed appropriately and we work closely with all retailers to ensure they are adhered to."

A spokesman for the PPA said: "The average age of a drooling lech is 30, according to the National Geezer Survey, and these scantily-clad girls are not created for, or marketed to, children."

In the style of Mark W

Monday, 29 July 2013

Wilful Memory Loss

The problem with those who incessantly demand more and more legislation is that they tend to forget the laws they previously campaigned for.

Take this from the Guardian, for example.
Sports Direct: 90% of staff on zero-hour contracts
Retail chain's 20,000 part-time workforce do not know how many hours they will work each week and have no holiday or sick pay
This is quite wrong, as the statist rag should know very well since they would have been 100% in support of current statutory entitlements which apply. Do you think they might have just forgotten on purpose?

You see, under the European Working Time Directive (the part we didn't opt out of), employees are entitled to 5.6 weeks' paid holiday if full time, which is to be paid pro rata if on any other casual or part-time basis. It works out at around 1 day for every 9 worked, or 12.07%.

This applies just as much to zero hours contract staff as it does to anyone else. In fact, there is even a calculator for it at the government's new all-singing, all-dancing website.

It is also not true that statutory sick pay is not applicable to zero hours contracts. It certainly is, as this advice booklet by HMRC states quite clearly [pdf page 37].
A casual employee is usually someone who works for an employer, as and when they are required on a series of short contracts of employment with that person. Such casual workers may also be called short contract employees. If you have to deduct PAYE tax and Class 1 NICs from the worker’s earnings, then you will have to pay them SSP if they satisfy all the qualifying conditions.
Now, there are many ways in which a worker may not satisfy these conditions, but one of them is not simply that they are on a zero hours contract.

If the Guardian is saying that Sports Direct are not observing statutory holiday pay and SSP entitlements, the story should have been that Sports Direct should be challenged on it. The Guardian, for example, could have pointed concerned employees in the direction of Citizens Advice and their free counselling. Instead, they have presumably opted to cleverly insinuate that zero hours contracts are designed to bypass holiday and sick entitlements ... even though they don't.

Just yer regular, common-or-garden, anti-business Guardian fairy tale, then.

If pulled up on their wording, the Graun would most likely say that they didn't specifically state that zero hours contracts dodge statutory entitlements, but they know full well that their not very bright followers would take it that way.

And, as if to comprehensively prove this theory, while the Guardian didn't technically lie, 38 Degrees did when sending out a rabble-rousing e-mail this evening.
They call themselves a model employer, but today it’s been revealed that 90% of Sports Direct staff are on zero hours contracts. This means employees are stripped of rights like holiday pay and sick pay.
Not us, Guv, says the Graun.

I could tell you why zero hours contracts are vital to businesses (definitely including mine) and a net gain to employees and the country, but that'll be for another day once this naive crusade gains more momentum.

Sunday, 28 July 2013

Yep, Still No Evidence Says NHS

This time last week, the massed ranks of state-funded tobacco control industry execs were cock-a-hoop about a policy-led study which they claimed proved conclusively that plain packaging is a success in Australia. I disagreed, hence the article being entitled "Still no evidence, then".

Sadly for the church of anti-smoking, the NHS tends to agree with me.
However, people were surveyed at only one point in time. It is currently not clear whether the changes in attitudes would lead to people quitting.
The article confirmed my view that this says nothing about the effect of plain packs on deterring children ... which we were repeatedly misled to believe it was all about.
The survey only looked at adults’ beliefs, so we can’t say if younger people would have the same reactions.
The dubious nature of the research was also rightly highlighted.
The study was carried out by researchers from the Centre for Behavioural Research in Cancer at Cancer Council Victoria in Australia and was funded by the anti-tobacco lobbying organisation Quit Victoria.
Because, you can imagine can't you, the reaction if this was a study paid for by a tobacco company coming to the opposite conclusion. So let's be consistent here, it's a pile of junk designed for the singular purpose of pretending something pointless is working.

Personally, I find that very encouraging as it shows that they kinda know there is no evidence - despite their repeated lies claims to the contrary - so are again furiously trying to fabricate some.

To their credit, the authors of the NHS critique were having none of it.
Because this study looks only at one point in time, it cannot establish cause and effect between factors, or say that the packaging is the cause of the change in attitudes.
Yep, still no evidence worthy of heavy-handed legislation. Indeed, not even something to get excited about on Twitter.
Importantly, it cannot tell us whether a change in packaging achieves the desired outcomes of an increase in actual quit rates or preventing people from starting smoking.
And why is this?
While people smoking the plain pack cigarettes were significantly more likely to have thought about quitting and place higher priority on quitting, their intention to quit smoking remained unchanged.
In other words - no matter how much the likes of the Guardian bang on about it - no-one is any the wiser about plain packaging influencing quit rates since the last time tobacco controllers produced nothing but hot air and fantasy.

Nice try, bansturbators. Next!

Friday, 26 July 2013

McAvan, Ministers And Huge Profits

Off to my company's annual summer party tonight, where we attempt to thank usually around 60 of our staff for their efforts throughout the year by providing ample food and drink for them to gorge themselves and get comprehensively hammered at our expense. I shall be joining in merely by way of duty, natch.

In the meantime, via Clive Bates, consider watching this interview of the most dangerous European alive today by Marco van Basten*.

It gives an insight into her thinking, which appears to revolve around her perception that e-cig companies are - shock, horror! - earning "huge profits". 

She also explains the process of the TPD thus:
"Laws are started by the EU commission who put their proposals on the table. But before it can become a law, every European law needs the agreement of MEPs like me - who are directly elected - and the ministers from each country. [..] So our health minister, for example, has been in meetings with her counterparts in Europe, and ... before it can become a law, we have to agree, MEPs and ministers, the law together. [...] There's no EU law until MEPs and ministers agree it."
All of which further highlights how utterly appalling Anna Soubry's actions were in circumventing democratic process through the European Scrutiny Committee, doesn't it?

(Watch with the sound on or you'd think she was describing - with hand signals - the feeding habits of a tarantula)

* Marco sat in the seat next to me on the way back from Brussels, during which we shared discussion about Maplins charging devices, Concorde, and the best way to make glazed croissants, as you do.

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Savage Public Sector Cuts Spotted In The South West

Those cuts to public services must be having a massive debilitating effect! This was spotted by an observant fellow jewel robber at the Avon Gorge Hotel on Tuesday.

So strapped for cash are NHS South West that they are relegated to having to suffer midweek dinners in the squalid surroundings of a £120 a night hotel; forced to eat such horrific dishes as 'pan-fried sea bream'; with only a slim chance of escape.
For those that want a little more space, The Clifton Room can open out onto the private terrace area of the hotel.
Just imagine 50 of the poor sods crammed into that hellish outdoor area in this bright summer sunshine, eh? No free Prosecco Drinks Reception (when you book in July or August) can possibly compensate for that!

See, this is what happens when public employees are restricted to a Tuesday dinner budget of around £1,250 plus sumptuous drinks. That there austerity is brutal, isn't it?

(Almost as inhumane, in fact, as the alcohol-hating BMA being strong-armed into week-long whisky tasting tours.)

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Train Policy Spotting

Amongst other interesting things I learned on the recent trip to Brussels with a train full of vapers (see here) was that Eurostar apparently don't have a policy on the use of e-cigs. Well, I say that but there could be one, it's just that the train manager seemed to use a lot of common sense.

He entered the carriage and asked if there was anyone who wasn't happy, and found that there was a party of three who weren't vapers. This was news to the travelling contingent as it had been assumed that the whole carriage had been booked for the trip. Fortunately - and maybe something to do with one of the three being a smoker and therefore not risk-terrified - there were no objections so it was OK to vape away.

This was good news in light of the recent typically Scottish decision - that is, ban everything, ask questions later - of Scotrail.

On the same subject, this sign at Newark station - sent to me by Pat Nurse - was intriguing.

As she rightly pointed out:
"We welcome smokers but not the smoke ....". My own view is that you cannot have one without the other but as smokers are always willing to compromise, and Network Rail clearly welcomes them, then would the company allow smokers to use E-cigs on board trains and on the platform which does allow smokers to be smokers without the smoke?
Worth asking, I thought. So I did. The reply from Network Rail surprised me somewhat, in a good way.
Dear Mr Puddlecote 
Thank you for your recent enquiry. 
I can advise you that the use of e-cigarettes is permissible within enclosed and within partially enclosed buildings and workplaces. 
The person may be challenged and be required to prove that they are using an e-cigarette. 
Kind Regards
Yes, really! Network Rail are happy to allow citizens to organise things for themselves by discussion, rather than issuing some haughty diktat from on high.

I thought that kind of trust in the public had been banned itself long ago! How refreshing, I thought. Shame they don't have the same attitude to entirely harmless outdoor smoking, but hey.

Newark runs trains on the East Coast line, so I asked them about their policy too.
Dear Mr Puddlecote

Thank you for your email received on 8 July 2013.

I can confirm that, at present, we do allow the use of e-cigarettes on board our trains. However, this policy is under review.

Thank you for getting in touch. Please do not hesitate to contact us again if there is anything else we can do for you.

Yours sincerely
Under review, eh? Hmm, sounds like someone at East Coast is preening their eyebrows and getting ready to massage their ego by way of a wagging finger.

Anyway, with my curiosity aroused, it would be interesting to paint a picture of how the various train companies view e-cigs at the moment, and what their policies are. I'd ask them all myself but before I do, if anyone has already requested a response from any of the scattered companies - or knows of a published online policy like Scotrail's bone-headed one - do please let me know to save some unnecessary badgering.

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Nothing Has Changed, Says Exciting Study!

On Sunday, I declared that there was still no evidence on the efficacy or otherwise of plain packaging but perhaps it was a bit premature. There has been an effect ... and very {yawn} exciting it is too!

You see, as Snowdon reports today, at first glance the 'evidence' looks pretty meaningless.
The study Chapman referred to was published yesterday. It was a phone survey conducted by one of his mates and it didn't remotely address any of these issues. Its main finding—reflected in headlines such as Plain cigarette packs 'encourage smokers to quit'—was that people who smoked out of plain packs were more inclined to think about giving up smoking. According to the survey, 57.1% of those smoking from branded packs were "seriously considering quitting in the next 6 months", whereas this rose to 68.8% for those smoking from plain packs. 
These numbers are pretty feeble.
Indeed they are.

However, when compared to these ...
"Nearly 70% of smokers say they want to quit" - US Center for Disease Control
"70% of smokers want to quit" - ASH Wales
"69% of Scottish smokers report they would like to stop smoking" - ASH Scotland
"Research shows over 80% of smokers want to quit" - ASH Australia website
So, this veritable powder keg of a study on plain packaging seems to confirm that, err, everything is the same as it was before. Or, that constant tobacco control industry nagging may even be deterring smokers from wanting to quit.

Thrilling, huh?

Of course, that's if we assume the previous 69, 70 and 80 percent claims were kosher. But why would they lie, eh?

Monday, 22 July 2013

Anna Soubry: The Most Incompetent Minister Ever?

When I wrote, in April, that Anna Soubry is not fit for a ministerial post and an embarrassing liability to the Conservatives, it seems that I was vastly over-estimating her talents.

For those who didn't have the time to plough through last week's hour long European Scrutiny Committee grilling of Soubry and DoH puppet-master Andrew Black, here's a handy 3 minute summary of her astounding ignorance of the EU Tobacco Products Directive (TPD) concerning e-cigs.

Stunning, isn't it?

She went to the EU - behind the back of parliament and bypassing all proper scrutiny - to vote on a directive about which she knew virtually nothing. Yet she claims, and I quote:
"I'm not going to pretend that I just did what my officials said because it wasn't like that in any event."
So is she, instead, claiming that she subverted democracy by keeping a parliamentary committee in the dark, only to unilaterally vote on a set of measures without even knowing what was on the table? That would seem to be the only other conclusion to take since she was under the impression that e-cigs had been dropped from the TPD altogether.

So is she the most incompetent minister that has ever set foot in Westminster? Or just a 'repulsive little liar'?

You decide.

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Still No Evidence, Then

Do you remember, back in April 2012, the slogan for the Smokefree South West plain packs campaign that the government spent £468,000 on?

No, well here's a reminder.

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 lots and lots of ickle kids.
"Support the campaign to protect children from tobacco marketing"
This was emphasised further on its campaign page (now removed).
"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."
Stephen Williams MP 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.
"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."
Hmm. Do you reckon their message to government was that it is about stopping kids smoking and not about bullying current smokers? It looks mighty like it, huh?

Yet Twitter is abuzz today about amazing new 'evidence' from Australia.
The early indication is that plain packaging is associated with lower smoking appeal, more support for the policy and more urgency to quit among adult smokers.
Err, I thought it wasn't about adult smokers?
536 cigarette smokers with a usual brand, of whom 72.3% were smoking from a plain pack and 27.7% were smoking from a branded pack.
And wasn't it about stopping people starting? Not about current smokers? I could have sworn that's what they said.

Any kids? Well, no! The study doesn't mention the words 'child', 'children' or 'kids' at all.

So perhaps those plain packs campaign slogans - although not as appealing to the public and MPs they were designed to con - would have been more honest if they'd said:
"Support plain packaging to harass smokers and make them think their fags taste shit"
But then, when have tobacco controllers ever been honest?

Meanwhile, in the real world, the most salient aspect is completely ignored by prohibitionist charlatans.
I spoke to a number of retailers to give me some open and honest feedback on what’s happened in the last five months.  
The most telling comment from retailers was that customers are actually starting to trade down. Now the average price of a pack of cigarettes in Australia is about 17 dollars.There are obviously cheaper brands available. So when the brand image goes out of the product and it becomes a commodity, people are saying ‘why should I pay 17 dollars when i can pay 12 or 13 dollars? Nobody’s going to judge me in terms of what brand I’m smoking – I might as well smoke the cheaper brand.’
Especially if - as the tobacco control industry has been rejoicing in today - there is lesser appeal to the unbranded premium packs which carry more profit.
So what’s happened is that people are trading down and actual unit sales are up. People are buying more cigarettes more frequently.
You'd think that would be more of a concern, wouldn't you? You know, if they are remotely interested in health rather than blinkered ideology, that is.

Good grief.

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Why Are Labour Not Outraged By This?

Simon Clark has revealed a scandal involving a Conservative minister which is far more worthy of a political attack by Labour than the Crosby sideshow. Because usurping parliamentary process and bypassing democracy should be a very serious charge, shouldn't it?
Yesterday public health minister Anna Soubry and Andrew Black, head of tobacco policy at the Department of Health, were summoned to attend a meeting of the European Scrutiny Committee which scrutinises draft EU legislation on behalf of the House of Commons. 
Members (MPs) were unhappy they hadn't been given the opportunity to scrutinise draft proposals to revise the Tobacco Products Directive (TPD). Reading between the lines, they were furious.
They have a right to be furious too, because Soubry and Black surreptitiously crept off to Europe to make decisions on behalf of the government and people of this country without consulting a democratically-elected committee as they are supposed to do.

Or, as Clark puts it.
To sum up: 
A committee of elected MPs has been denied the opportunity to scrutinise far-reaching proposals put forward for discussion by unelected EU bureaucrats. 
A UK government minister, having failed to correspond with the relevant committee, took it upon herself to "agree and negotiate" UK government support for hugely controversial measures such as a ban on menthol cigarettes. 
The chairman of the committee believes that there has been a breach of the rules. I would put it a little stronger than that. It's scandalous. So much for Parliament. So much for open and democratic government.

Do go read the whole shameful story, it will astound you.

Then ask yourself this - where is the outrage from Labour? Yesterday at PMQs, Labour MP after Labour MP rose to condemn what they imagined was a case of one individual interfering in government business.

On the same afternoon, though, a Tory minister was excluding parliament entirely and committing the country to EU laws on the say-so of, well, herself and herself alone.

If Labour are going to allow such sleazy actions from a Conservative - and you know how they love to attack Conservatives - without so much as a murmur of criticism, you have to wonder which industry's lobbyists might be pulling their strings, eh?

You can watch the committee's grilling of Soubry in the clip below.

Whiffs like a week old trout, doesn't it?

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

The Public Overwhelmingly Reject Minimum Alcohol Pricing Too

While the faux outrage about some irrelevant strategy consultant for the Tories still rumbles on, the Home Office released its report on the Alcohol Strategy consultation today, hence more reports about how minimum alcohol pricing has been scrapped ... which we already knew from last week.

Some of you may remember an article here going through the consultation questions at the time, and many of you took part in the exercise. It panned out quite nicely, so time for more happy graphs.

The Home Office received 1,145 answers to the silly question as to whether minimum pricing is a good idea, and the majority again rejected a nanny state initiative by a comfortable margin.

And if you thought 56% against and only 34% in favour was a good result, wait till you see the pie once business organisations, NGOs and other assorted vested interests were stripped out.

Responses from ordinary members of the public - such as we jewel robbers, for example - opposed minimum pricing by a factor of three to one! 

Now that's what I call a real thrashing!

Perhaps Labour should re-consider nailing their colours to this wrecked mast, for two reasons. Firstly, it is indisputable that the policy would have harmed those with less money - that's what regressive laws do, and Labour so hate regressive laws, don't they - and, secondly, just look at those numbers! 

Are they really prepared to go to the country advocating a Soviet style price fixing policy which three quarters of the public oppose? 

Good luck with that whole biting voters' hands thang, comrades, but today should really be the last we see of the abomination. 

Mascot Watch 24: Educating Anna Edition

Amongst all the hysterical exaggeration in the House on Friday following the correct decision to shelve plain packs, Anna Soubry seemed very coy about a certain statistic.

Our esteemed mascot was on the case.
Philip Davies (Shipley, Conservative)
I congratulate the Government on this decision. The Minister will recall that the last time I raised this subject in the House, she told me that I would see the light, and I am delighted that she and the Government are the ones who have seen the light on this issue. She cherry-picked some numbers of people in favour of and against standardised packaging from the consultation. Could she tell us the figures from the full 688,000 responses? How many of those were in favour and how many against? 
Anna Soubry (Broxtowe, Conservative)
Forgive me; I do not have that information at my fingertips. I am more than happy to supply it to my hon. Friend by way of a letter, or any other mechanism.
Any other mechanism than admitting it in public, that is.

You see, it looks a lot like this ...

... and it would quite obliterate the one-sided agenda Anna was presenting.

She was, however, very clued up about what is happening in a dustbowl 11,000 miles away.
I have spoken to the Australian high commissioner ... I also spoke with one of the leading experts who have been involved in the legislation in Australia, and I was quite surprised that even after about three or four months, they could not give me a picture of any emerging evidence. 
I thought that we might see some sort of change quite quickly in Australia, but we have not seen it yet; I am surprised about that.
Oh? So all the hyperbolic claims of hundreds of thousands of kids dying through lack of a law are more than premature then, wouldn't you say?

This, sadly, is the intellectual bankruptcy of yer average modern idiot politician. No initial evidence which wasn't rigged; not even the remotest sign of imminent evidence even from corrupt nanny state central; huge potential costs to businesses; a large majority against the proposal which none but the reality-based want to talk about; but let's squawk about fantasy deaths and demand a pointless law anyway. 

Little wonder, then, that very few think it's worth voting for such knuckle-dragging, anti-democratic dickheads, doncha think? 

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

If It Looks Like A Domino ...

Not much comment needed here.
GRAPHIC images and plain packaging for junk food may be forced on consumers, as food industry heavyweights debate tough measures to combat obesity. 
A panel of food science, nutrition and manufacturing experts will tackle whether tobacco's plain packaging approach would help curb the country's growing obesity epidemic at the Australian Institute of Food Science and Technology convention today.
Just six months into the plain packs experiment and we have more proof that the 'domino theory' is, indeed, "patently false", and the slippery slope "the most unslippery slippery dip" ever seen.

Oh how wrong we were, eh?

Now, why on Earth are Aussies coming to this silly conclusion?
A new poll shows the number of people who strongly agree Australia is becoming a nanny state has increased by a fifth over the past year, with 55% believing Australia is a nanny state and more than 70% thinking plain packaging won't be an effective policy.
Bah! What do they know? They're not experts like Debs Arnott and Mr Chapman, now are they?

Monday, 15 July 2013

EU Says "Smoke The Strongest You Can Find"

Along with the incredibly stupid EU decision to effectively ban e-cigs on Wednesday, other restrictions were also passed which impact on tobacco.

Of course, they'll all be pointless or else Ireland - which is always first to implement these imaginative wastes of time and money - would boast one of the lowest smoking rates in the EU, instead of the highest.

You can read them all here, but I found these proposals particularly amusing.
No misleading labelling
The labelling or packaging of any tobacco product must not suggest that a particular product is less harmful than others or has positive health or lifestyle effects.
No more tar and nicotine info on packs
The tar, nicotine and carbon monoxide yields of cigarettes must henceforth be measured on the basis of referenced ISO standards, as existing indications displayed on cigarette packets have proven to be misleading, MEPs say. They therefore propose that no such information should be included on packs.
Now, ignore for now the bizarre situation of the EU demanding less information for consumers - the exact opposite of the costly regulatory burdens they place on every other marketable product in existence - but instead let's concentrate on the word "misleading".

The implication, naturally, is that those nasty tobacco companies have been lying again. But who exactly demanded this information to be placed on packs in the first place? Well, the EU of course.
The lack of information together with the lack of toxicological data prevents the relevant authorities in the Member States from assessing in any meaningful manner the toxicity of, and hazards posed to the health of the consumer by tobacco products. This is inconsistent with the obligation placed on the Community to ensure a high level of protection for human health. 
The greatest possible transparency of product information should be ensured, while ensuring that appropriate account is taken of the commercial and intellectual property rights of the tobacco manufacturers.
They were very specific about how these tar and nicotine yields were to be displayed too.
6. The text of warnings and yield indications required under this Article shall be: 
(a) printed in black Helvetica bold type on a white background. In order to accommodate language requirements, Member States shall have the right to determine the point size of the font, provided that the font size specified in their legislation is such as to occupy the greatest possible proportion of the area set aside for the text required; 
(b) in lower-case type, except for the first letter of the message and where required by grammar usage; 
(c) centred in the area in which the text is required to be printed, parallel to the top edge of the packet; 
(d) for products other than those referred to in paragraph 4, surrounded by a black border not less than 3 mm and not more than 4 mm in width which in no way interferes with the text of the warning or information given; 
(e) in the official language or languages of the Member State where the product is placed on the market. 
7. The printing of the texts required by this Article on the tax stamps of unit packets shall be prohibited. The texts shall be irremovably printed, indelible and shall in no way be hidden, obscured or interrupted by other written or pictorial matter or by the opening of the packet. In the case of tobacco products other than cigarettes, the texts may be affixed by means of stickers, provided that such stickers are irremovable.
Because, you see, they were fully aware of the scientific principle of dose making the poison. Hence why, in the same document, they placed limits on tar, nicotine and carbon monoxide yields.
Article 3 
Cigarettes: maximum tar, nicotine and carbon monoxide yields 
1. From 1 January 2004, the yield of cigarettes released for free circulation, marketed or manufactured in the Member States shall not be greater than: 
- 10 mg per cigarette for tar,
- 1 mg per cigarette for nicotine,
- 10 mg per cigarette for carbon monoxide.
So what changed? Why are the EU's own regulations now termed "misleading"?

Well, since 2001 the tobacco control industry has changed its mind. Apparently, tobacco is now such a unique material that it manages to circumvent the globally accepted rules of chemistry and biology (and economics in some instances).

ASH, for example, have pronounced that - all of a sudden - high and low tar cigarettes are all the same.
Smoking Kills also supported European efforts to set limits on the tar and nicotine delivered by tobacco products but unfortunately it became clear that such limits could mislead smokers about the harmfulness of the products they smoke. Descriptors such as ‘low tar’ can no longer be used and the government is advocating the removal of emission yields from packs.
And dutifully did the EU follow this distortion of scientific reality.

They didn't scrap the limits on tar, nicotine and carbon monoxide yields though. Why not? Surely if they are irrelevant, there is now no need for them, doncha think?

The answer, of course, is that the EU secretly know that these yield figures really are significant, as the Scientific Committee on Smoking and Health (SCOTH) has reported on before.
Health effects of smoking lower tar cigarettes 
Only prolonged smoking of low tar cigarettes can determine the extent to which health risks are reduced. UK figures show that male lung cancer diagnoses have been falling since the early 1980’s which reflects the trend in smoking which has decreased for the last twenty years. This may in part also be due to the lower tar cigarette.

Another possible explanation for the observed reduction in male lung cancer deaths may be the altered ratio between tar and nicotine in the lower tar cigarettes: the ratio between tar and nicotine has reduced as tar levels have come down and this means reduced exposure to tar and other harmful constituents of smoke measured on a per unit nicotine basis.
Every producer reacts to customer preferences, with brands in all areas introducing lines which are lower in fat, sugar, salt, alcohol content, or whatever else they have been hectored into being scared of. Tobacco is no different. Seeing that smokers were concerned about levels of tar and nicotine, tobacco manufacturers developed a range of products with differing strengths to cater for each individual's choice and risk tolerance.

Tobacco control tax spongers don't like that much, though, so once the new directive is installed, smokers will not be allowed to know how much tar, nicotine and carbon monoxide is in their cigarettes even though they vary considerably.

May as well just smoke the brand which gives you the biggest kick then, eh?

And this is supposed to be about health how?

Sunday, 14 July 2013

Criminal Gangs? Lack Of Evidence? Who Cares?

While the country enjoyed a glorious barbecue weekend, the incessant bleating from whey-faced puritans after Friday's decision to shelve plain packaging still hasn't abated, with desperate scrabbling by the tobacco control industry to shift attention away from the fact that it is a nonsense of an idea which has been overwhelmingly rejected by the public.

While some are still trying to blame lobbyists for the Conservative party forcing a fantasy U-turn from a policy the coalition government (an entirely different entity)  had repeatedly said they had an 'open mind' about, TV doctor Sarah Jarvis (pictured left) has chosen a more unusual argument.

In a debate on Radio 4, it was reasonably put to her that plain packs could encourage an increase in vastly more dangerous counterfeit products, and that there was no decent evidence for such a measure (which there isn't, apart from the stuff her side rigged, of course).

She responded that she doesn't care about counterfeit fags - which the BBC found were "thirty times more toxic than ordinary cigarettes" - nor does she think that sound evidence is needed before heavily interfering with businesses; ignoring public consultations; and riding roughshod over international trade treaties.

Says it all, really. It's the usual anti-smoking fare, a policy without evidence which doesn't require any more justification than the fact that arrogant statist prodnoses demand it.

And as for a doctor not caring about harm from dangerous counterfeits nor about how many criminal counterfeit gangs there are, who is truly surprised? It has never been about health anyway.

H/T Moonrakin in comments here.

Friday, 12 July 2013

Fantastic Friday!

There are two campaigns in the sidebar to the right, who would have ever predicted they'd both be announced as successful on the same day?

In the morning plain packs was officially - and quite rightly - shelved, and while nanny statists were still whining like a 747 approaching Heathrow, minimum alcohol pricing was ditched in the afternoon. Cue the most hilarious hyperbole, gnashing of teeth, tearing of hair, and weapons grade shroud-waving ever seen from bansturbators ... and that's saying something considering they're ridiculously over the top on a quiet news day!

The BBC, of course, did its best to pretend this was the government equivalent of a football referee missing the ball blatantly bouncing over the goal line, but it's been very clear from news comments sections, Twitter feeds and Facebook discussions that both these policies were not popular, were ridiculed by the public and were making politicians look even more stupid than they were viewed beforehand.

Of course, there were the usual nonsensical claims of double-headed industry execs with red horns mesmerising the government as they liberally tossed millions of £50 notes at lobbyists, but - like tantrum-throwing children - flinging insults and blaming just about everything and everyone for their misfortune is what the public health industry have always done. So no surprise there.

Jeremy Hunt threw a bone to the pack of slavering, threat-laden public health mongrels on plain packaging by quoting a selective stat
“Of those who provided detailed feedback, some 53 percent were in favor of standardized packaging while 43 percent thought the government should do nothing about tobacco packaging,” Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said in a written statement to Parliament in London today. 
Surprising that he should pick that one when the real story of the day was how roundly the plain packs policy was rejected. You see, the figure Hunt provided to parliament was restricted to those who took time to formally write in and answer the 15 questions the consultation asked. Just 2424 of them (see page 14 here). As you can imagine, a significant proportion of those will be state-funded bodies or individuals whose job it is to submit such stuff.

A more significant conclusion to take from that soundbite is that over 1,000 ordinary people were motivated enough about the subject to go through the purposely onerous rigmarole of finding the consultation buried at the DoH website, and ploughing through it to formally register objection, many of whom - I am incredibly proud to say - fellow jewel robbers who forwarded their efforts my way by e-mail (I still have a folder full of 'em).

But that wasn't the whole story by any means. There were 665,989 responses in total (page 31) and this is how the overall picture looks. 

No amount of blaming Lynton Crosby or tobacco companies for putting pressure on politicians can hide the undeniable fact that the public - you know, those people a democracy is supposed to listen to - are behind this correct decision by a factor of two to one. It's that simple.

The tobacco control industry should take some of the same medicine they've been spooning out for years ... get over it, move on, the public have spoken.

In the meantime, it's Friday, the sun is out, and the health Nazis have received a well deserved smack in the chops. Crack open a bottle of your fave tipple, spark up a cigar and party like it's Friday 12th July! 

Thursday, 11 July 2013

Mind How You Go, Jihadists

I think this belongs in the file entitled 'You'd have to be Hans Christian Andersen to make this up'.
The Al-Ansar Battalion says on its Facebook page the camp is open to all those wishing to participate in "jihad in Homs", where opposition forces are engaged in fierce battles with troops loyal to President Bashar al-Assad for control of the city. However, it lays out a number of conditions for new recruits including the ban on lighting up. "Smokers should abstain from smoking during the camp and completely quit smoking by the end of the training," it says.
Dangerous stuff, that tobacco. Unlike guns, explosives and all-out suicidal insurrection, of course.

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Vapers On A Train

Observant readers will remember that I'm off to Brussels today on a Eurostar train out of St Pancras with vapers who will be protesting appallingly stupid measures being proposed for e-cigs by (now sacked for fraud) John Dalli's tobacco products directive.

I'm hoping to publish a few pics and maybe even a bit of commentary on this post (and on Twitter), so do check back during the day for updates. The plans and schedule for the trip are detailed here if you're interested.

There'll be nothing quite as dramatic as the smoke bombs French farmers are fond of lobbing, but do feel free to pinch anything you see here and share wherever you wish if you're feeling saucy.

08:50 - Carriage 5 awaits for boarding.

09:15 - Vapers on the train, after a little chat with the train manager.

10:42 (11:42 Brussels time) - Crossed into Belgium. There have been a lot of curious fellow travellers asking about the range of devices, many smiles and good luck messages when told of the reason for the trip. Twitter hash tag is #BBJ (Brussels balloon journey).

Arrival 12:07 local time.

12:58 - Balloons being blown up in Place Luxembourg.

13:00 - Piles of balloons blown up, a quick speech on the foolishness of the EU, then a crackling which echoed round the Place as they are burst in a couple of minutes. How very cathartic. 

13:35 - MEP Chris Davies comes out to meet vapers before being interviewed to camera. Said he is expecting a narrow loss in this afternoon's vote, sadly. However, it all depends on the EPP group and how they use their free votes.

17:02 - As Rursus notes in the comments, the ENVI committee has ignored e-cig potential and bowed to Pharma pressure. Those who attended witnessed hugs as prohibitionists celebrated defeat of a competitor.

20:30 - Back in England, 25 mins from London.

Home now after a long day - and a disappointing but predictably stupid decision - and we've learned yet another lesson in how the EU ignores anything but its own opinions. A decision decided in unelected 'Geneva' is passed in Brussels thanks to a liberal greasing of the wheels by companies competing with e-cigs for the harm reduction/cessation market, and a huge dollop of idiocy from politicians.

An incredible effort by many disappointed vapers who arrived back in London only to then embark on another long train journey to places like Sheffield, Barnsley and Durham. But they did their best and the issue moves onto plenary in September or October, so still more time to get their message across.

Or, as one vaper put it on the return journey this evening, "we'll all be back again, you can bank on that!".

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

An LSE Guide On How To Denormalise Alcohol Like Tobacco

As if deliberately trying to embarrass Deborah Arnott and her laughable slippery slope denial, Professor of Politics and Public Policy at the University of Stirling Paul Cairney has written on the LSE website what is effectively a guide to how anti-alcohol miseries can achieve the same as the tobacco control industry in coming decades.

He begins by explaining how prohibitionists 'select' evidence. Or 'lie', as it is known to the rest of us (emphases mine).
Evidence based policymaking (EBPM) is about power: to decide what counts as evidence; to ignore or pay attention to particular studies; to link the evidence of a policy problem to a particular solution; and, to ensure that policymakers have the motive and opportunity to turn a solution into policy. Indeed, an attempt to portray EBPM as a technical or scientific process is often an attempt to exercise power: to rule some evidence in and most evidence out; and, to use particular forms of evidence to justify political action.
Yep, that's about the sum of it. It should, of course, more accurately be called PBEM - policy based evidence-making.

After describing how tobacco was in the same popular position 30 years ago as alcohol is now, he makes observations on how alcohol can follow the same denormalisation route in the future.
The tobacco experience suggests that changes in these factors are mutually reinforcing; major policy change is the result of the complex interplay between all of these processes. For example, an increased acceptance of the unequivocal alcohol-is-harmful scientific evidence would help shift the way that governments ‘frame’ or understand the alcohol policy problem.  The framing of alcohol as a public health problem would allow the health department to take the policy lead and consult primarily with public health groups.  Alcohol control and alcohol use may also go hand in hand: a decrease in drinking rates reduces the barriers to alcohol control; more alcohol control means fewer drinkers (or less drinking).  The replacement of voluntary alcohols with statutory measures would reduce the routine involvement of the industry in government.
He has even provided a very handy visual guide with a doodled flowchart! (click to enlarge)

Now, let's once again revisit Deborah's departure from the realms of reality, shall we?
[...] the “domino theory” i.e. that once a measure has been applied to tobacco it will be applied to other products is patently false.
Course it is, love.

University Professors writing on the website of the London School of Economics about exactly how (and when) it will be done is just part of a vast Big Tobacco funded libertarian conspiracy. 


Monday, 8 July 2013

Ignore The Public, Listen To MacAvan And Her Pharma Friends

Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO) - a group in Brussels opposed to corporate lobbying - today published a mess of a report on the Tobacco Products Directive.
The United Nation's World Health Organisation (WHO)'s 2005 Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) is premised on the basic fact that there is an irreconcilable difference between the interests of the tobacco industry (producing and selling as much of a substance as possible, in order to maximise profit) and that of public health regulators (reducing the consumption of that same substance as much as possible, in order to minimise cancers and other negative health impacts). This piece of international law (to which the EU, and all member states, is a signatory) not only requires transparency around all contacts between public health policy-makers and the tobacco industry but requires that they are avoided and limited only to contacts that are strictly necessary to regulate the industry.  
This report documents the experiences of some MEPs, their assistants, and political advisers, who have testified that the tobacco and electronic cigarette lobby are becoming more aggressive as the voting approaches.
Erm, electronic cigarettes are not included in the FCTC for two rather obvious reasons. One, they are not tobacco products because they don't contain tobacco and, two, I'd be surprised if the WHO had even heard of e-cigs in 2005 as they were only invented in China a few months before.

The authors of the report are more than happy to conflate apples and oranges though, with the help of Irish Socialist MEP Paul Murphy.
Paul Murphy MEP explained that in the Parliament, MEPs “are subjected to a lot of astroturf campaigning in the sense that it is manufactured. We get emails from so-called ordinary constituents about electronic cigarettes. But they are really detailed about the Directive.”
That's right, you don't actually exist.

If a constituent engages in democracy and has read up on the subject they are writing to an MEP about, they must surely be in the pay of some evil corporate body and will therefore be ignored.
‘Astroturf’ is the name given to seemingly grass roots campaigns, that have actually been established, encouraged and sometimes funded by companies and corporate lobby groups interested in their success. One MEP assistant told CEO: “They have organised online, created electronic cigarette forums. They’re quite an aggressive lobby”. 
They have 'organised' have they? Created their own forums and shared information? How very inconvenient for MEPs who just want to make up regulations without a clue as to how crashingly stupid they are, eh?

Best just dismiss all constituents who write in as corporate shills and carry on with the stupidity regardless.
Another said: “We get a lot of abuse on Twitter about calling for more legislation on electronic cigarettes.”
The abuse is fully deserved if MEPs - such as Murphy and, presumably, the other lefty MEPs contacted for this report - are copping a deaf 'un to the views of ordinary people they were elected to listen to.
Totally Wicked, another UK electronic cigarette firm, sent every MEP an e-cigarette. One MEP commented incredulously that “They are sending addictive drugs to MEPs. It is quite incredible”. Jutta Haug MEP from the S&D said she had been “strongly lobbied by electronic cigarette users”. The rapporteur on the Tobacco Products Directive, Linda McAvan MEP, has also said that “There is a very aggressive attitude.”
They have been strongly lobbied by users because when the TPD was first proposed, it illustrated how breathtakingly clueless MEPs were about e-cigs. That's the whole point of interaction between ivory tower politicians and the people they serve ... as a check on incredibly daft legislation being passed for the eventual benefit of no-one.

And to express faux outrage at e-cigs being sent to MEPs is laughable. It's a valid method of education considering only a tiny minority of MEPs had any idea they even existed until the letters began to flood in, so why not show them what they are and what they do?

The authors of this silly statist report declare on their website that they:
[Work] in close alliance with public interest groups and social movements in and outside Europe to develop alternatives to the dominance of corporate power.
Which is very odd, because they don't seem remotely interested in other lobbying or 'corporate power', as discovered by Lithuanian journal Respublika and - surprise, surprise - involving rapporteur for the TPD (and most dangerous European alive today), the aforementioned Linda MacAvan MEP (Google translate tidied up).
Seeking for the adoption of necessary legal acts as soon as possible, pharmacists found influential politician in Europe and socialist David Harley who worked in the institutions of the European Parliament for more than 30 years and therefore is able to talk to and to discuss with almost all politicians of Brussels and high rank officers. 
Harley became a public relations specialist after finishing his career as a eurobureaucrat and started working in the public relations agency “Burson-Marsteller”, Brussels branch, as a senior assistant. 
In 2011, “Burson-Marsteller” declared that it received 8,755,000 Euros (30.2 billion Litas) from its clients for lobbying in Brussels. Some of the largest worldwide pharmacy companies, such as “Johnson&Johnson”, “Pfizer”, etc., supplying nicotine replacement products to the market, were among the most generous clients which allocated their funds to lobbying. In 2011, when discussions on the Tobacco Products Directive just started these two companies spent almost 2 million Euros (7 million Litas) for the lobbying in Brussels. 
Not so long ago, Linda McAvan and Harley were two of the main political figures in the group of socialists of the European Parliament: one served as a vice-president and the other served as a secretary-general. They spent long hours together in meetings, discussions and travels for 12 years since 1998 after McAvan was elected to the European Parliament and to 2010 when D. Harley left politics and started working as a lobbyist. 
Is it just a coincidence that today McAvan is active advocate of the interests of the main former colleague’s clients? She not only speaks against tobacco industry but also signed a letter hustling the European Commission to start activities beneficial for pharmacy companies and her signature can be found near the signatures of “Johnson&Johnson”, “Pfizer” and other large manufacturers of nicotine replacement products such as “GlaxoSmithKline”.
Oh really?

Now, which lobbyists do you reckon would have more influence over the TPD? A few e-cig users writing to MEPs who are being routinely ignored by socialists? Or vast pharma companies paying a former socialist bureaucrat who is great friends with Linda MacAvan, the MEP charged with ushering the TPD through the EU ... complete with its restrictions on competitors to pharmaceutical harm reduction/cessation products? 

Yet those right-on progressives at CEO, who are earnestly opposed to "corporate power", don't seem to be bothered about pharma lobbying at all. 

Doesn't it explain a lot, though? The ridiculous continuation of the ban on wildly successful snus; the ignoring of responses to the public consultation; the desperate measures designed to destroy e-cigs; MacAvan's careful selection of evidence gatherer; and the appalling junk science presented to the ENVI committee kangaroo court.

I'd say there are many questions of MacAvan which require answering. Wouldn't you? 

H/T Gawain

Sunday, 7 July 2013

This Week's Twitter Mob Target Is @KTHopkins

If, amongst this week's gorgeous weather and the Murray Wimbledon climax*, you missed what raised a hell of a lot of hackles about Katie Hopkins, here it is.

Now, you may think she is being deliberately controversial, I do. I've written before about her doing just that and I don't expect she'll change anytime soon.

But how very depressing is the reaction from our mob mentality public?

It's enough that the main media channels are shorn of anything which they deem 'hate speech' - even when it's not - and that they apologise profusely if anyone so much as utters a word like 'shit' on the TV or radio. Now, though, merely expressing an opinion is worthy of reply by the modern version of pitchfork and lighted torch.

Within hours of the appearance, Hopkins' website was hacked. 

Websites were falling over each other to find the best bullying replies; certain newspapers demanded she be censored; and the thousands who are without sin on Twitter went into righteous overdrive to cast the first (and thousandth) stone, confident that they are far more nice and polite, natch.

It was opinion, for crying out loud, and one which has been played upon by left and right-leaning stand-up comedians for decades. Indeed, tapping into the same unsaid prejudice, would Wayne and Waynetta Slob have been half as funny if they were John and Mary with their daughter Jane?

The idea is that you agree or disagree but respect the right of someone to say it. How difficult can that be? 

However, in this bovine country, offending someone - even if a very many might quietly nod their heads in agreement - is far more dangerous than losing the right to free speech! Or, in the words of the person many would happily see killed right now.


The BBC and ITV have featured Katie Hopkins and will undoubtedly do so again. The reason being that she expresses bold opinion and sparks debate, however much one disagrees with it. There is no law against that, nor should there ever be.

In the past, our country was clever and resilient enough to agree or disagree in our own selves. We were strong, well-adjusted and robust. We may have had a debate over a barbecue on a warm weekend about it - and I'm sure there have been many of them this weekend - but were life-grounded enough to leave it at that.

So how the blithering fuck did we descend into a situation whereby an opinion is justification for the kind of abuse normally reserved for paedophiles and police murderers?

It's not like Hopkins will become the country's most hated person forever. Next week it will be someone else. Then some idiot MP will 'demand action', and down that stupid spiral we will continue to descend. 

Is this the same country which won "Two World Wars and one World Cup", as the saying goes? Or just a bunch of easily-slighted myopic bullies who are happy to see free speech curtailed in their selfish pursuit of the perceived right never to hear or read anything which they dislike.

Great Britain? Don't make me laugh. 

* He's a Scot apparently, so not worthy of national pride for many hateful idiots.