Sunday, 23 April 2017

A Nanny State Shop In London

The awesome guys from Students for Liberty paid London a visit on Thursday. If you are not aware of SfL, they are a global movement of students campaigning, as it says on the tin, for the protection of our freedoms ... and they are delightfully passionate about it.

Regular readers will remember that a contingent from SfL travelled to India to present the World Health Organisation with an award for being "The Least Transparent Organisation in the Galaxy" in November, and they have also campaigned against nanny statism in a number of major global cities.

On Thursday, they opened a pop-up nanny state shop in Cheshire Street, Shoreditch, so I sauntered up there to get a glimpse of our future.

Sitting at the top of Brick Lane with its many convenience stores and fast food outlets, it was a good choice of location by SfL. With plain packaging already in place for tobacco, and the 'public health' racket already discussing the same treatment for alcohol, sugar and fast food, it is not outlandish to suggest many of the shops in the vicinity could see shelves like this someday, and not in too distant a timescale either.

In fact, as someone observed on Thursday, if anything SfL's packaging and point of sale displays are far too attractive ... to be realistic, and true to the perverted imagination of vile 'public health' gravy train riders, they should carry pictures of rotting teeth, obscenely obese people and diseased livers.

After being given a tour by the guys at the shop, and a glass of water (natch) to soothe my thirst on a warm day, I said goodbye clutching a memento of the place that they kindly gave to me (a practice that I fully expect some charmless 'public health' trougher is already thinking should be banned just as giving away free tobacco is now).

Sadly, the shop was only open for the one day, but it was pleasing to see SfL replicating their nanny state store in the UK after a couple of previous incarnations across the Atlantic. If you couldn't make it on Thursday, there is a panorama of it at this link that should work OK.

Alternatively, here is a short film of one they made earlier.

If you want to learn more about Students for Liberty, or are a student yourself and would like to join them, click here and have a browse. 

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Authoritarians Left And Right

The Foundation for Economic Education published an interesting essay last week on the nature and politics of authoritarianism and how it is not the sole preserve of the politically left or right. The tract is primarily focussed on the US but it works just as well for this side of the pond.

Here are some extracts which will be easily recognisable by fellow jewel robbers. 
What exactly is authoritarianism, though? It’s rather hard to defeat an enemy that one cannot define, let alone understand. 
Broadly, authoritarianism is the desire to impose one’s own worldview on others in one’s society by institutionalized coercion. Authoritarians, therefore, see punishment as an appropriate response when members of the group with which they identify (the United States, in this case) diverge too far from values that the authoritarian believes are best for society – even if the punished person has neither caused direct harm to another nor infringed another’s rights.
Yep, "leave us alone" is no longer a defence against the people we despise here, they insist on doing things to you for your own good. 
Authoritarianism becomes a significant force in the politics of a society when a psychological disposition to authoritarianism is activated among enough of the people who possess it. Any large country has a significant minority that score highly for the authoritarian psychological disposition. Usually, however, that disposition is latent, driving neither behavior nor political preferences.
There used to be an insignificant minority who peered through their curtains and didn't like what other people were consuming, but they were insane, anti-social, and thankfully powerless.

'Public health' massaged their bigotry, encouraged their misanthropy, and turned them into a vile throbbing mass of seething anger about the inconsequential choices of others. In an era where racial, sexist, homophobic and religious hatred has been largely reined in, the legions of self-enriching 'public health' professionals nurtured the bile and redirected it towards the harmless choices of friends, family, acquaintances and strangers so much so that online comments such as "the only good smoker is a dead one" are not only not unusual, but almost endorsed by the state. 
Authoritarians – whether they lean left or right – justify their politics, like everyone else, by arguing for particular positions on issues they care about. But if your goal is a free and kind society, then arguing an issue on its merits with an authoritarian may often be to shoot yourself in the foot. Doing so can mean buying into the unstated assumption that underpins all authoritarian politics – that an argument that X is right is automatically an argument for using force to make people do X. 
It isn’t.
Specifically, the fact that “X is morally right” is a long, long way from, “It is morally right to compel people to do X,” because the latter actually means, “It is morally right to harm someone for not doing X”… and whether that is true can only be determined by an unprejudiced comparison of the harm caused by not doing X vs. the harm done by the enforcement.
And, as we know, on lifestyle issues, the 'public health' racket never, ever, even considers harm done by enforcement, just as it also ignores the benefits of the behaviour it is paid to hate. 
In any political argument with an authoritarian of any stripe, the real issue – the meta-issue, if you will – is whether, even if he is right about the best way for people to behave in a certain situation or for society to organize itself, what makes it right to cause physical harm to compel it?
It isn't right, obviously. And this is a truth which was universally held to be true from the teachings of J S Mill for over 150 years before the current crop of repulsive state-funded prohibitionists resurrected a new age of obnoxious hate-filled puritanism against respectful and law-abiding citizens. 

You can read the whole thing, "Authoritarians to the Right of Me, Authoritarians to the Left", here

Sunday, 16 April 2017

An Outbreak Of Truth On The ASH Twitter Feed

Unless the cleaners got hold of ASH's Twitter feed on Good Friday or something, was this a fleeting glimpse of real life intruding on the fantasy economics they usually try to present to the world?

Indeed it has, as the article they link to describes.
THE numbers have reached a staggering level. For every two cigarettes smoked in Malaysia, one is an illicit cigarette. 
In other words, the share of the cigarette black market has reached 57.1 per cent as at December 2016, based on Nielsen Cigarette Study 2016.
By Christ! How could this sorry state of affairs have happened?
Right now, illicit cigarettes are priced between 17 and 25 sen per stick at the retail level. 
This compares with 85 sen per stick for legitimate cigarettes. This includes the excise rate of 40 sen per stick. 
No wonder the industry volume for legitimate cigarettes has been on a sharp decline. Last year, the volume fell 25 per cent to just eight billion sticks from 2015, much less than the number of illicit cigarettes.
Perhaps that is the part - about tobacco companies not selling as many legal cigarettes - which attracted ASH's attention, I dunno. It's true to say that the richly-funded tobacco control Goliath's emphasis has long since become a crusade against industry rather than having anything to do with health, so that would fit very nicely.

Except it's not the whole story (emphases mine).
One worrying effect is that the number of smokers is on the rise, not on the decline
Seven out of 10 youths are buying illegal products, according to the Health Ministry. 
According to the Health Ministry’s Global Adult Tobacco Survey 2011, the number of smokers in Malaysia was 4.75 million. 
Subsequently, the ministry’s National Health and Morbidity Survey (NHMS) 2015 – Reports on Smoking Status among Malaysian Adults reported that the number of smokers increased to five million. 
However, cigarette prices during the same period increased by an average of more than 30 per cent. If cigarette price increases really do have a correlation with smoking cessation, the percentage of smokers would have dropped.
Blimey! Do they mean that applying excise to cigarettes to an extortionate degree inevitably leads to a burgeoning black market? But ASH have always said this is nonsense, a figment of the tobacco industry's imagination in fact!

Still, I suppose in Malaysia there could be a partial solution to this 'problem' with the advent of risk reduction products like e-cigs, couldn't there? Yeah, well kinda.
Looking at the treatment of vaping in Malaysia is like entering a frightening 1984 world of doublespeak. The Deputy Education Minister is quoted as saying: “We must go to schools. And parents must be aware that e-cigs and vape are no different from tobacco products… We must ‘de-normalise’ smoking.” 
And as if vape replacing smoking wasn’t denormalising smoking to begin with, the paper repeats the hysterical calls from the Association of Adolescent Health: “[We] urged the Health Ministry to take aggressive steps to protect our youth from the harmful effects of using e-cigs or vape, by implementing a complete ban on the manufacturing, distribution and marketing, of the devices.”
So, faced with too many Malaysians smoking, both young and old, the response from the country's government - which apparently doesn't like the prevalence of smoking though you could be forgiven for thinking otherwise from their daft policies - is to ramp up tobacco taxes to ridiculous levels and stamp hard with a steel toe-capped Doc Marten boot on any potential alternative.

Now, considering ASH are the most vocal organisation in the UK for punishing the poor by demanding eye-watering tobacco tax rises; were frenzied in their support for the EU's TPD which puts huge concrete blocks in front of vaping as an alternative; admitted they don't give a shit about collateral damage; and have been utterly silent as vape ban after vape ban is introduced in the UK, I suppose we should find it refreshing that they are tweeting about articles proving their approach is irresponsible and not even remotely to do with health.

And if they are going to choose a weekend on which to repent on Twitter, admit their sins, and illustrate why their policies are counter-productive, self-serving, mendacious and retarded, the Easter one is as good as any.

Meanwhile, it looks like we here are still firmly on the side of the angels because, for years, we have been warning that price prohibition and over-regulation will have this effect. Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose, huh?

H/T @d4nno_

Monday, 10 April 2017

When The Music Stops, RSPH Look The Fool

On Friday, for some unfathomable reason, the Royal Society of Public Health (RSPH) decided it was a doozy of an idea to do the dirty on vapers who had put much store in their support of e-cigs. I wrote about it here.

As a brief reminder, here was the 'scandal'.
Vaping shops selling to non-smokers
Almost nine in 10 e-cigarette shops in the UK are selling vaping products to non-smokers against the industry's code of conduct, an investigation reveals.
As you may remember, it wasn't "the industry's code of conduct" but that of the Independent British Vape Trade Association (IBVTA) which makes up just a small proportion of the industry as a whole.

However, the RSPH made great play of this code of conduct and wanted to see it adhered to by every e-cigarette company and vendor nationwide. Specifically, they wanted e-cig businesses to never sell to non-smokers under any circumstances.
Chief executive of the RSPH, Shirley Cramer, said e-cigarettes should be treated as "evidence-based quitting aids, rather than lifestyle products", and therefore should be aimed at smokers. 
She said: "We applaud the Independent British Vape Trade Association code of conduct, which is in line with this principle. 
"However, as our investigation shows, the majority of vape shops in the UK are not adhering to these important standards.
By not selling to non-smokers, they meant, which is the only 'revelation' their undercover operation really discovered.

Of course, there are very many reasons why it would be perfectly reasonable to sell a customer an e-cig if they are an adult and request to - as the RSPH's dogged investigator did - which were well-articulated by Clive Bates here. Not just for the benefits to public health it could represent but also that it is a matter of choice for adult consumers in a free society to be able to purchase legal products if they so desire. None of which seemed to be considered by the RSPH before they embarked on such a hare-brained agitprop exercise.

Their CEO Shirley Cramer left us with a parting wish.
"We are keen to support the sector to strengthen their codes of best practice, and for individual retailers to sign up and ultimately adhere to them."
Unfortunately, that is now nothing but a pipe dream as the IBVTA have today wisely amended their code of conduct in the opposite direction.
With hindsight, the use of the word “sell” was not appropriate when “market” would have been.  The Board has therefore unanimously agreed to amend point three of the IBVTA code of conduct so that it now reads: 
“Never knowingly market to anyone who is not a current or former smoker, or a current vaper.”
Their guidance is now significantly changed so that the RSPH's 'scoop' simply doesn't hold water. Vape shops do not 'market' to non-smokers and never have done, quite rightly, but there are plenty of reasons why they might 'sell' to a non-smoker if they insist they wish to buy ... as the RSPH researcher did quite clearly.

So when the music has stopped after this pathetic non-story, all RSPH are left with as a policy demand is that bit about urging vendors to advise potential buyers that e-cigs are cessation devices, which they are not allowed to do by law.

Great to see common sense prevail from IBVTA, but it leaves RSPH with egg on their face - which is nice - except that the headlines will stay on Google for quite some time and convince a large proportion of the public that vape shops are nefarious businesses only out to hook customers into a lifetime of addiction, which is utter rot. The real news wasn't that shops are breaking a code (they didn't sign up to), but that the code was wrong anyway, but I wouldn't hold my breath until the RSPH go to the media and correct the misconception.

RSPH have shown stunning lack of awareness about vaping with their naive and ill-thought through exposé and should go back to vapers and ask some further questions to educate themselves, because it's quite clear they are woefully ill-educated on the subject matter and should zip it until they are. 

Sunday, 9 April 2017

Smoke Free North West Just Quit

Last year we heard the joyous news that Smokefree South West had been canned, which was richly deserved I have to say. Now it seems that another bunch of pointless tax-draining nags in the north west will be popping down to their local JobCentre Plus too.

Via Simon Clark:
Healthier Futures, formerly Tobacco Free Futures and before that Smokefree North West, has bitten the dust. 
In the words of Monty Python it has kicked the bucket, it has ceased to be. 
"Rejoice!" as someone once said.
Rejoice indeed!

They can't really complain; they've been living the high life on the public teat for a long time now and their only performance indicators were to make life more difficult and expensive for ordinary people. It's good to see that sense is prevailing and someone has recognised that they are a great big waste of public money.

If this is a trend, let's hope it continues, it's long overdue. There are plenty more savings to be made by cutting snouts in this particular sector of the 'public health' trough.  

Friday, 7 April 2017

Today's Lesson In Who Not To Trust

Welcome, Ladies and Gents, to today's lesson in our ongoing course on why you should never trust a tobacco controller.

You may have noticed that the Royal Society of Public Health released a report today on who vape shops sell their legal products to, since it was covered pretty widely by the media, including in the Daily Mail, Independent, Telegraph, and Gizmodo amongst others. It was, of course, also given loud prominence by the BBC.
Almost nine in 10 e-cigarette shops in the UK are selling vaping products to non-smokers against the industry's code of conduct, an investigation reveals. 
The Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) said 87% of shops were knowingly or unwittingly prepared to sell e-cigarettes to people who have never smoked or vaped.
It's the usual anti-smoking cocktail of misdirection, ignorance and scaremongering, but what's extra significant about the RSPH doing this is that they are another 'public health' organisation which claims to be on the side of vapers.

They are just the latest of such bodies to stab vapers in the back. Just like a football team which nobbles the opposition's star player by taking turns to clatter his shins enough to earn a yellow card but not a red, it seems today was RSPH's turn to rubbish the e-cigs category in the minds of the public, while still pretending that they are the vapers' friend.

ASH have been doing this for years; from campaigning to ban all non-medicinal e-cigs in the early years, through to many and varied further abuses in the intervening period. Arnott and pals have kept up the facade of being on board with vaping while simultaneously doing everything in their power to handicap its progress.

In 2014, the thankfully now defunded Smokefree South West shat on the category by swearing to vaping advocates they wouldn't undermine e-cigs but then treacherously doing so anyway, and last year ASH Wales chipped in by "fully welcoming" the UK's first ever outdoor vaping ban.

Today's effort from RSPH came about due partly to a cross between appeasement and cronyism from the Independent British Vape Trade Association (IBVTA). In their code of conduct they produce for their members (and their members only) , they include this rather stupid clause.
Vape products are for current or former smokers and existing users of vaping devices, therefore never knowingly sell to anyone who is not a current or former smoker, or a current vaper.
Erm, why? E-cigs are a product which anyone over 18 can legally buy, this condition is just a sop to public health miseries, and is tacitly accepting the false premise that nicotine in e-cigs is a wildly dangerous and highly addictive drug, which it isn't.

It was an open invite to the RSPH to come along, pretend that this is some kind of industry-wide set of guidelines instead of a voluntary code with some spineless simpering to tobacco controllers in it, and exploit it for a report like today's.
Chief executive of the RSPH, Shirley Cramer, said e-cigarettes should be treated as "evidence-based quitting aids, rather than lifestyle products", and therefore should be aimed at smokers. 
She said: "We applaud the Independent British Vape Trade Association code of conduct, which is in line with this principle. 
"However, as our investigation shows, the majority of vape shops in the UK are not adhering to these important standards. 
"We are keen to support the sector to strengthen their codes of best practice, and for individual retailers to sign up and ultimately adhere to them."
I don't know about you, but that almost sounds like an advert for the IBVTA to me. And you know what? In order for IBVTA to fully comply with Shirley Kramer's demands, I think the IBVTA should insert another condition into their code of conduct that states all vendors must advertise that their products are "evidence-based quitting aids". Oh hold on, they can't because that would be illegal under advertising regulations.

What a crock of shit.

RSPH's study apparently toured 100 different shops (not necessarily IBVTA members so not bound by this code) and must have cost a fair bit considering they also employed secret recording equipment to do so. I'm sure it must have been very exciting for them but - as Clive Bates points out today - it has no value whatsoever for 'public health'.
This is a matter of adult choice involving a low-risk activity that is an alternative to a high-risk activity.  Is RSPH about to start intervening on every minor risk-taking activity? 
So, have you considered that this is simply none of your business? Perhaps you should stop wasting time and money on stunts that have the aim or effect of demonising much safer alternatives to smoking, harming decent businesses doing a good job, misleading the media and diverting attention from much more pressing problems. 
For the Royal Society of Public Health, this has not been its finest hour.
Quite. Though it could well be its grubbiest and most ignorant hour.

Nobody comes out well in this. Totally Wicked - whose owner is founder of the IBVTA funnily enough - has applauded the "reliable" and "important" RSPH research despite it further encouraging a public already willingly disposed to disliking vaping to view it as a grubby industry. Well done guys!

Meanwhile, the RSPH has shown that they have absolutely no clue about the subject matter if they cannot recognise that e-cigs being "lifestyle products" is exactly why they are successful, and - as Bates says above - have also sullied their reputation while dumping on vapers from a height.

Oh yeah and RSPH, I have news for you. Cigarettes are sold to non-smokers. Every. Single. Day.

Have you considered that while you were raising alarms about a non-story in the country's press? Sometimes you have to wonder if the tobacco control industry is becoming terrified that vaping could threaten their funding once politicians realise that they don't need to spunk millions of our taxes on prohibitionist make-works, when it's been vaping doing all the hard yards for smoking cessation in recent years at no cost to the Exchequer whatsoever.

See also:

In cheap publicity stunt Royal Society of Public Health sounds a fake alarm about a non-problem - Clive Bates

Much ado about nothing - Facts Do Matter

Thursday, 6 April 2017

The FCTC's Global Regress Report

This week saw the publication of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control's (FCTC) Global Progress Report following their seventh Conference of the Parties (COP7) in November.

For those not familiar with COP7, it was an event where around a thousand grey, soulless, anti-smoking extremists from all over the world jetted to India on tax-funded expenses and - during the worst lung-choking smog that Delhi has seen for 17 years - spent two days discussing whether or not to ban e-cigs. I went along too out of morbid curiosity; you can read my account here.

The FCTC's report is exactly what we've come to expect from such a hideous, unaccountable and opaque insult to decency and tolerance. However, considering such an inordinate amount of time was spent at the conference agonising on whether to ban vaping outright, or simply handicap it to make absolutely sure it can never significantly threaten the sales of cigarettes, it's interesting to see how they describe this kind of "progress".

You see, considering even the most insane of tobacco controllers concede that e-cigs are less risky than smoking, and that some jusrisdictions are actively promoting vaping as a means of stopping smoking, an outsider would be hard pressed to recognise that seeing as the FCTC - an organisation that supposedly wishes smokers to quit smoking - employs language which suggests the very opposite.
There is an urgent need for Parties − with or without new and emerging tobacco products on the national market − to enact and enforce protective policies and regulations.
That's right. They see an "urgent" need to bring in policies which will "protect" against a device that has helped millions of people switch away from the tobacco that the FCTC loves to hate. They're pretty hot on it too, painstakingly recording what countries are doing to obstruct this new threat to tobacco control industry salaries.

Click to enlarge
For clarity, e-cigs are the bars on the right of that graph. ENDS stands for the deliberately clinical term Electronic Nicotine Delivery Devices. It's worth noting here that it's laughable enough that e-cigs are included in a convention for tobacco control, but the accompanying acronym ENNDS is their classification of e-cigs which contain no nicotine at all. So removed from tobacco are ENNDS that it would be just as logical for the FCTC to suggest regulations on the global colour schemes of double decker buses!

The FCTC's report also singled out specific praise for the EU's wildly damaging Tobacco Products Directive (TPD) (emphases mine).
COP6 urged Parties to consider banning or restricting the advertising, promotion and sponsorship of ENDS. Significant progress in this area was made with the new tobacco products directive (TPD) of the European Union (2014/40/EU).  
The TPD noted that disparities between national laws and practices on advertising and sponsorship concerning electronic cigarettes present an obstacle to the free movement of goods and the freedom to provide services, and create an appreciable risk of competitive distortion. It was therefore necessary to approximate the national provisions on advertising and sponsorship of those products and to give them cross-border effect, ensuring a high level of protection for human health. This restrictive approach was adopted because of the potential risk of nicotine addiction as electronic cigarettes, like traditional cigarettes, normalized tobacco smoking.
It is quite incredible that, with millions of Europeans quitting smoking entirely using e-cigs, or considerably cutting their tobacco consumption, the FCTC considers it "significant progress" that a mountain of red tape has been unleashed on vaping, and a vat of treacle poured over the previously rapid innovation of a disruptive technology. But then, when you are such a bunch of swivel-eyed monomaniacs that you take it as a given that e-cigs 'normalise' smoking when they don't; and that restricting and demonising a pathway out of smoking is somehow 'protecting' health, I suppose the TPD perversely makes sense while nurse tucks you into your straitjacket for the night.

There is a big clue in the report's conclusions as to why the FCTC is concerned about such products, and it's almost Freudian in its make-up.
New and emerging tobacco products continue to spread and become essential elements of the tobacco-use landscape. This will have adverse consequences on tobacco control if policies do not progressively reflect their presence.
"Adverse consequences on tobacco control". Just digest that for a few moments. Not adverse consequences on smoking prevalence or public health, but on tobacco control, because it's quite clear that the industry is mightily threatened by smokers quitting without the help of their local neighbourhood, eye-wateringly salaried tobacco controller. Hence their eagerness to crowbar vaping into tobacco control policy areas wherever they can; the expense account, generous pension and top of the range BMW depends on it.
Comprehensive and concerted actions are needed with the participation of all concerned stakeholders to address such products, including through the development of specific policies to curb their use. 
Curb their use? Seeing as every survey of e-cigs users consistently tells a story of smokers wishing to give up tobacco or reduce the amount they smoke, why is a policy to "curb their use" even remotely consistent with what the FCTC stands for? Especially since harm reduction used to be one of the organisation's main pillars until they changed it to "demand reduction" once a threat to their livelihoods raised its ugly head.

I have to wonder where this leaves supposedly supportive types like Debs Arnott of ASH and Alette Addison of the Department of Health. They were in attendance in India and are apparently fully behind the UK government's entirely different stance on e-cigs. How can they possibly square that with endorsing an approach like this from the FCTC?

What's more, why are we throwing another £15 million at them and not threatening to leave such a basket case convention, instead financing them to spread the same barking lunacy elsewhere in the world?

Do you think it might not be about health after all? Hmm.  

Monday, 3 April 2017

All Aboard The Gravy Train

Fancy a glimpse into the tiny, self-proclaimed David v Goliath 'underdog' world of 'public health'?

Up and down the country there are people being paid hefty sums of your taxes to work full-time telling you what you are allowed to consume with your own post-tax cash.

For example:
World Obesity Federation Executive Director 
The Role
We are looking for an outstanding Executive Director to work with our members, trustees and staff to achieve our vision to drive forward global efforts to reduce, prevent and treat obesity. 
Salary: £65,000 to £80,000 depending on experience. 
Minimum years preferred: 
In the Not for Profit sector 5-10 years.
Those who have experience in economy-boosting industry need not apply. Only tax-scrounging parasites are fit for this job.

If that's not your bag, how about ...
Programme Manager
Public Health England 
£50,154 - £61, 976 per annum 
The post holder will provide public health expertise relating to tobacco control, helping to drive forward the delivery of organisational objectives in this rapidly developing field. 
key working relationships 
Department of Health NCSCT Regional Offices for Tobacco control UCL Health Behaviour Research Centre UK Centre for Tobacco Control Studies Local Government Association Association of Directors of Public Health Chartered Institute of Environmental Health Tobacco Control Collaborating Centre Action on Smoking and Health
Up to £61k, not a bad screw is it?

If you're not a hideous anti-smoker, there's always this non-job instead, you might even get to meet Jamie Oliver and playfully tug on his double chin in your professional life.
Senior Scientific Officer (Sugar Reduction) 
£38,207 - £45,769 per annum 
The Diet & Obesity team is seeking to recruit a senior nutrition scientist (SEO), to work within the Dietary Improvement team and take forward the reduction and wider reformulation programme specifically focussed on the nutrients of concern including sugar, calories, salt and saturated fat. 
Circa £40k for ensuring that kids' treats are made smaller? What's not to like?

There are tons of deliciously-remunerated roles here, go have a look and knock yourself out. There's a whole ton of gravy on that train, just waiting for you to tuck into if you have an authoritarian bent and are not afraid of taking money from taxpayers in order to bully them.

Remember this kind of thing when the public sector talks about those "savage cuts", won't you? 

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?