Thursday, 28 July 2016

The Thoughts Of Chairman Dave

No doubt encouraged by the modern hysterical cult of 'public health', David Aaronovitch wrote a particularly anti-social piece in The Times today on that, erm, 'ever-increasing' obesity 'epidemic'.

Employing a whole host of fellacious arguments (I didn't spell that wrong, it's derived from the latin word fellatio, because they suck) including how 'unhealthy' food should be treated as dictatorially as smoking, he suggests a raft of snobby, finger-wagging policies.
We could ban the advertising of foods that contain too great a proportion of sugars and calories, enforce warning labelling (“This food is UNHEALTHY”) and allow manufacturers producing good food to market them more aggressively. We could specify the display of nutritional information in all canteens and workplace restaurants.
As a lefty, of course, Aaaronovitch is one of those who believes in the weakness of all humans and the hyper-hypnotic power of advertising. Because we all simply do what advertisers tell us, now don't we?

These measures though, pointless and authoritarian as they are, are just hors d'oeuvres before he gets around to letting us know what he really wants to see.
But we’ve left out the central idea of compulsion and perhaps it’s time to bring it in. Often things don’t change unless the community says, in effect, what it collectively thinks of a particular act — usually in the form of law.
Well yes David, and currently the vast majority of the public are very happy with the food choices that are available or they wouldn't be immensely popular. But when did that ever put off a ban-happy people-hating socialist, eh?
Of course, we could try to attach the same opprobrium to being fat as to being a smoker. Some pundits (step forward Katie Hopkins) enjoy this idea and it has its attractions. I’m pretty convinced, though, that “shaming” people because of their weight would produce more harm in the shape of disorders, breakdowns and bullying than it would gain in altering behaviour.
Here instead is a grab-bag of ideas that would convey the same message, some or all of which will one day be enacted. Ban fast-food outlets from stations and airports. Ban the sale of confectionery and sugary drinks to the under-16s. Ban the sale of over-sugared products in supermarkets (as measured by a ratio of sugar to other nutrients). Ban the bringing into schools of unhealthy foods. Ban the presence in offices (like our own here at The Times) of vending machines that seem to sell mainly crisps and chocolate. Specify a weight-to-height ratio limit on air passengers wishing to avoid a surcharge.
Firstly, doncha think, David, that with all those bans a message would be sent that fatties are something harmful to the nation; that it would encourage the same "disorders, breakdowns and bullying" that you are trying to avoid? No?

Secondly, again typically socialist, Aaronovitch seems to have no respect whatsoever for personal choice and a scant disregard for property rights. In order to impose his preferences on just about everyone else by way of ineffective and stupid legislation, he would actually be happy if coercive policies were forced on businesses and children were banned from eating sweets!

It never ceases to amaze me how dreary and joyless a world prohibitionists are willing to impose on the rest of society simply to satisfy their personal pet hates. I mean, whatever drives that kind of appalling anti-social behaviour?

Oh hold on ...
As a youth, David Aaronovitch was a mere slip of a thing, but as he grew older he fell into the habit of eating the most comforting, and fattening, of foods. Then, aged 46, weighing 18 stone and with his blood pressure spiralling out of control, he was faced with a stark choice - lose weight or risk a heart attack. Fearing for his health, Weekend sent him to a fat camp in America. It changed his life. 
I don't remember 12 stone. Thirteen, however, came as something of a shock, standing on a set of scales in a friend's bathroom in Mornington Crescent, London, in the late 1970s during a party. By then someone had called attention to a slight paunch, but I can't recall who. Fourteen arrived on a speak-your-weight machine in Stamford Hill in 1984. Fifteen, counterintuitively, on a set of gym scales five years later. I was 16 stone by the time my second child was born, and passed 17 somewhere around my 45th birthday. After that I stopped looking. No matter how much bigger I got, I was always 17 stone something. The scales in our bathroom broke, and we didn't get them fixed. 
Increasingly, the moment of gratification was accompanied either by a moment of denial or a moment of anxiety. As I got bigger the denial became more difficult. There were fluctuations that helped me disguise the truth from myself. I never completely stopped taking exercise, and in my 40s I had personal trainers who kept me lifting and running, but couldn't stop me eating. Caramel macchiatos from Starbucks, Egg McMuffins, Lindor chocolates (the round ones with the soft, somehow colder centres), Ben & Jerry's, sausage and sourdough toast - wrappers in the wastebasket and steady, relentless growth. 
I put off buying trousers because they never seemed to fit. I became unable quite to get the little folding tables down on aeroplanes when it was dinnertime. A comedian, who didn't like my stance on the Afghanistan war, began to call me "Fatty Aaronovitch".
Ah, the old evangelical reformed smoker/alcoholic/fatty routine, huh? Isn't it always the way? So perhaps today's article is more a plea for the government to stop putting temptation in front of poor, weak-willed David himself rather than everyone else. Except it's everyone else who would suffer that little bit more misery and lack of enjoyment of life as a result of his struggle for reformation, especially kids. Still, as long as David's all right, eh?

Aaronovitch once wrote a very interesting and revealing book about his childhood.
If my childhood was not much fun it had nothing to do with the party. Something in our family didn’t quite work and little tended towards joy.
There wouldn't be much joy in the vile world that he now proposes for other children either.

File this as another example of why we are on the side of the angels here, and people like Aaronovitch are not.

Saturday, 23 July 2016

Hey PHE, Actions Speak Louder Than Words

Earlier this week I touched upon PHE's new 'guidelines' on vaping in workplaces and public spaces.

Well, since then the government's prime 'public health' advisory body - for it is they - has tweeted a clarification of some of the wording they were using.

This should be pretty clear if you read the guidelines, it has to be said, because although it is buried in amongst public sector makework gobbledegook, they do say that this should be a prominent feature of any policy.

Yet, as I have pointed out before, this is the precise opposite of what is happening with policies in almost all social settings. A few hours after PHE posted that tweet my BFF and I were told by stewards at Lord's cricket ground that "you can't smoke those things there" (we weren't using them at the time) and directed to the smoking area instead. The same is true of all Premier League football grounds and all Arriva Premiership rugby grounds too. Hence my hint to PHE that some action may be useful on their part if they are to be taken seriously.

For those who don't know, Healthy Stadia are a bunch of repulsive north west England-based pharma-funded charalatans who have been badgering sports clubs and stadium owners with misleading - and arguably fraudulent - information about e-cigs in a deliberate but successful campaign to get them banned.

So we have one cheek of the tobacco control arse saying that vaping should be encouraged while the other (infected and unwiped) one runs around advocating that e-cigs should be prohibited just about everywhere.

It's not just sports grounds either, for example here's one policy tweeted to me just yesterday from a 'leisure' park in Cornwall which prioritises petty and pointless rules over the enjoyment and free choices of its customers.

And, of course, we have the ban on smoking and vaping on a Pembrokeshire beach which is "fully welcomed" and endorsed by ASH Wales as well as a similar ban on smoking and vaping which London's ASH think is absolutely fabulous. Meanwhile, in the past couple of weeks ASH Scotland has confirmed that it too is very happy with vaping being treated exactly the same as smoking. You know, like PHE is adamant should not be the case.

Now, can you see something wrong with this picture?

If you're a vaper I'm pretty certain you will have come up against this kind of policy yourselves. And if you've ever asked why the policy exists - in open air - you'll have been met with a lot of ignorance. The general excuse is that "they look like smoking" which is equally deranged because there is no law against smoking in the open air either, for the simple fact that it is not a danger to anyone's health outdoors, as I've written before.
The ban on smoking in stadia is purely a vile bullying policy imagined, lobbied for and supported by grubby, tax-sponging organisations such as ASH and others in the same mould. 
There is, and never will be, any measurable harm to others from passive smoking outside, it is a fantasy demon that the tobacco control industry has created amongst the public. Worse still, those in tobacco control who promote this fear are very clever with their words because they know very well that they are purposely lying about the potential 'dangers'. 
So what if someone slips under the radar and smokes amongst others who are vaping? Neither is any kind of a problem we should be worrying about. If it is, we sure as shit need another war to illustrate what discomfort is really all about, and to remind many that a lot of people fought very hard to protect the freedoms that the selfish and affected amongst us are now seemingly content to flush down the toilet. 
Ah but, I hear you say, some people don't like the smell of smoke, so it's only fair they be catered for. Well of course, but did anyone consider smoking and non-smoking areas? Well of course not because that wouldn't sit with ASH's chosen policy of bullying and 'denormalisation' of perfectly law-abiding people consuming a legal product. It is only the effete, snobby and repellent who ASH cater for. 
Besides, if the smell of smoke is so rancid and identifiable, it wouldn't be much of a problem to spot, now would it? 
No, the drive by tobacco control tax-spongers is based solely on the 'denormalisation' strategy; to bully and shame smokers into submission. They have deliberately created ignorance to encourage policy-makers to wrongly believe there is something dangerous about smoking outdoors, and the compounded ignorance of e-cigs has encouraged venues to ban vaping too as a matter of course.

A direct result of tobacco control extremism towards smoking has therefore resulted in the widespread 'denormalisation' of vaping as well, at the same time that PHE are declaring that the opposite should happen. Way to go 'public health', you cretins.

So what can PHE do to - as their Martin Dockrell claimed was the goal earlier this week - avoid "policies that end up doing more harm than good"?

Well, they could start by telling their own tobacco controllers that it is completely unacceptable to support any bans on vaping in outdoor spaces. Healthy Stadia should be told to go back to the sports clubs they have lied to and fix the damage that they have created or be closed down. If they refuse to do so, well PHE receive half a billion pounds a year to deliver their policy objectives ... a few stamps and a firm letter to the clubs that Healthy Stadia have shamefully misled would cost pennies and is the very least they could do.

PHE could also advise the government that if it is serious about its support for vaping - which I sincerely doubt - it should order any organisation which receives state-funding to cease blithely allowing vaping bans but instead to oppose them, and that supporting them like ASH Wales did will be a serious offence for the individual concerned which will result in their instant dismissal.

It is empty rhetoric and a crass waste of taxpayer funding to produce reports and issue 'guidelines' if you're just going to sit back and allow shit counterproductive policies on vaping in order to not derail the vile, dictatorial and entirely unnecessary 'denormalisation' campaign against smokers.

Tobacco control seem very quick to speak to organisations and demand smoking bans everywhere, but slow to the point of inertia in opposing vaping bans. You could be forgiven, in fact, for believing that they actually like them on the sly.

Anyone can say that they support vaping, but actions speak louder than words. So come on PHE, put our money where your mouth is, what are you waiting for?

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

The Problem With 'Public Health'

2016 is still proving to be the most busy and stressful year that I can ever remember (albeit in a good way), and I do still intend to refer to Rod Liddle's excellent speech at the Freedom Dinner last week at some point as promised, but I can't help but comment on this while I have some time.

Yesterday, by total chance, I managed to hear Martin Dockrell of Public Health England on radio 5 live speaking about the new guidelines his organisation has produced on vaping in the workplace. (You can listen to it here from 41:45 onwards).

In the humble opinion of your host here, it speaks volumes about the problems we face with both 'public health' and the public sector in general.

For example, the slot was introduced almost as a comedy piece by the vacant BBC presenter. Y'see, everyone knows those dirty smokers are to be condemned at every opportunity, don't they?
"Every now and then you get a story where you think, I think this might get the listeners going"
Got that listeners? Prepare to get your hackles up, Auntie Beeb is eagerly awaiting your outrage.

PHE's guidance was then presented as if they had encouraged businesses to give vapers more breaks from their workstations than those already hated smokers! The bloody nerve!

It comes from an implied premise by the BBC that - obviously - vaping is either already banned by any self-respecting business or is surely going to be soon - so that the only way one can be able to afford vapers "frequent interim top-ups" of nicotine is is by allowing staff to "step away from the desk" and do so.

The fact that vaping is not harmful to anyone and perfectly legal to be used indoors is completely avoided.

Now, Martin Dockrell (who many readers will recall that I've had issues with in the past) is, as I understand it, admirably supportive of e-cigs so should surely nip this nonsense in the bud, don't you think? Sadly not.

He spoke about how vapers should "not necessarily" be banned from vaping indoors and how some - only some - employers may feel that vapers should be allowed a "stealthy puff" every now and then (not in the BBC, of course, har-di-ha because they've banned them everywhere). He was thrown the old canard about people who like chocolate being given time away from their desk to enjoy their habit and replied that staff in every company have 8 hours a day to "chomp their chocolate" and that "nobody is made to go outside to chomp their chocolate".

Erm, wouldn't this be a perfect opportunity to say there is no reason vapers should be made to go outside to vape either? Just a thought.

But no, open goal after open goal was missed by Dockrell and the end result was as predictable as it was saddening. The listening public could only really come to the conclusion that vapers should be shoved outside like smokers, just in a different area.

So let's look at what the PHE guidelines actually said. They fudge a lot too but there are some unequivocal views in there once you cut through the 'public health'  tip-toeing.
International peer-reviewed evidence indicates that the risk to the health of bystanders from exposure to e-cigarette vapour is extremely low.
For extremely low, read 'non-existent'.
The evidence of harm from secondhand exposure to vapour is not sufficient to justify the prohibition of e-cigarettes. Managers of public places and workplaces should ensure that this evidence informs their risk assessments.
This should give people like Dockrell a green light to say something like - ooh, I dunno - there is no health or legislative reason that vaping should be banned in workplaces.
e-cigarette use is not covered by smokefree legislation and should not routinely be included in the requirements of an organisation’s smokefree policy
Yes, exactly that. Because it is not any kind of threat so should be up to each business to decide.

However - and this is extremely important - surely 'public health' should be giving a very clear message that using e-cigs in public is quite simply not a public health issue! Far be it for me to suggest things for PHE to say on media if they are asked but how about this clear and concise one?
Vaping indoors is legal, not at all harmful to anyone, and it's not any of our business what companies do. However, we'd like to say that if you ban these devices you're a bit of a dick unless you have extremely strong grounds to do so.
Isn't it funny that in alcohol policy we're told that nuanced advice has no place and so only "no safe level of alcohol consumption" will do, but with nicotine a simple message that there is nothing to worry about and we're going to butt out of your lives is far too simple so, erm, we're going to try to say something nuanced instead?

The upshot is, of course, that listeners were guided into believing that this was a call to give filthy smokers more breaks, which the BBC were happy to stoke by gleefully reading out "what a load of old tosh!" reactions from their listeners who they led by the nose to object before a word was spoken by Dockrell.

It's difficult to understand why people like Dockrell can't just clearly say "there is no problem with vaping at all" until you understand three core problems with 'public health' in this area.

1) As we saw with the McKee FOIs, PHE are operating in an environment where they are being attacked by hideous anti-vaping dinosaurs who have no care for health whatsoever and are backed up by a Chief Medical Officer who is a disgrace and not fit for purpose. Offering proper advice must be difficult so it could be argued that Dockrell is dancing on eggshells in media appearances like this.

2) When you have pandered to the selfish, bigoted and anti-social with the myth of secondhand smoke and its imaginary dangers based on laughable relative risk, how can you then come out and say that even negligible risk from vaping is perfectly fine? It kinda opens you up as a bunch of liars doesn't it? So we have the bizarre situation whereby the PHE guidelines talk about bans being justified on the basis of "nuisance", "distraction" or - as Dockrell mentioned in his 5 live piece - "comfort". Erm, wasn't it about the threat of death to bystanders? If you're consistent you'd say there is absolutely none with vaping. But then that doesn't keep the shekels rolling in does it? Which brings us to 3) ...

3) 'Public health' is not really about public health, it's about salaries. If PHE came out and said that they have no position about vaping indoors because it's not a public health danger, and that their only comment would be that it should be roundly supported, then how could they justify their share of the £500m per year they are shovelled?

This is not to knock PHE's laudable support of e-cigs but to condemn their limp and spineless defence of vaping indoors or outdoors. It's great being supportive but absolutely no fucking use if there is increasingly nowhere that they can be used where cigarettes aren't.

Dockrell mentioned a policy goal during his radio interview which I think he failed to deliver.
"We don't want policies that end up doing more harm than good"
Well, when the message taken by BBC listeners is that PHE guidelines are "a load of old tosh" then it's fair to say that this goal is not being achieved and, in fact, prejudiced bans on e-cig use are actually being legitimised.

I'll start to believe all the guff about how 'public health' believes in e-cigs when outdoor bans in sports stadia begin to disappear, not before.

Thursday, 14 July 2016

A Day With The Doctors

Having been incredibly busy recently with Puddlecote Inc stuff, it was quite refreshing to have managed to take in two events this week instead of biting fingernails over delivering our new contract.

On Tuesday I attended the Freedom Dinner and witnessed a superbly entertaining speech by Rod Liddle, I'll be writing about that soon but for now I really must describe a very encouraging event that took place at the Royal Society of Medicine yesterday afternoon.

Before you say anything, yes, the Royal Society of Medicine, and it really wasn't that bad. The subject matter was the regulation of pleasure and it comprised a number of speakers in different fields talking to an audience of medical types about substances which would usually horrify them.

To give you an example, Danny Kushlick of Transform - a think tank devoted to ending the war on drugs according to their website - regaled attendees with tales of the benefits of drug use. Yes, really! This is the best pic I could get of him on my shonky phone (it was, after all, the day after the night before of the Freedom Dinner and I hadn't quite got my act together early on).

This promoted a question from the floor as to what exactly the benefits of drug use are (only a medic could ask that, couldn't they?). Kushlick replied by asking if the questioner 'uses' alcohol, to which she replied yes. "Well, it's pleasure, isn't it? I'm not being flip here, but all drugs give pleasure", which is true. He went on to explain that the vast majority of illicit drug users are not the stereotypical homeless junkie living in shop doorways but instead hold down respectable jobs and contribute to society, and that it is only the harm from drug use that regulators should be tackling. Describing the 'war on drugs' as "a catastrophe of extraordinary proportion" he went on to point out that "drug use policy and prohibition isn't built for us, it's for social control and prejudice" and that sensible policy towards drug use "really isn't that hard or we can carry on letting criminals make them".

He was encouraged that the possibility of decriminalisation of drugs - and even legalisation - is beginning to be spoken about in political circles (we have to begrudgingly thank the Lib Dems for some of that) and that it would be good for the public if that were to happen.

I start by talking of Kushlick's contribution because it introduces a theme which was central to the RSM event, that the regulation of pleasure is currently not in keeping with what the public wants and is purely political in its make-up.

Another speaker, the Earl Of Erroll (pic below) - a former soldier who said that his goal in life had never been about making absolutely sure he lived as long as possible, along with millions of others - later alluded to the same concept.
"Studies show 40% of women and 80% of men have watched porn. Overall that's a majority of the public, so it's normal. Can you imagine, though, if a politician ever came out and said that? It would kill their political career very quickly"

Kushlick had also referred to this condition amongst our political classes. Describing those who run our institutions as "elites", he mentioned that there was almost an Omertà amongst them that prevents any constructive comment on drug use of any kind until they are out of office or have retired. He pointed to Mo Mowlam only speaking positively about drugs once out of politics and others doing the same. I can add a few Professors to his short list too, who rubbished the passive smoke myth only once they were retired and buffered against the inevitable bullying endemic in tobacco control industry circles (comprehensively discussed by my ecclesiastical friend Churchmouse in 2012).

On the subject of e-cigs, Lorien Jollye described how difficult it has been to get past the closed minds of tobacco control despite being an amateur promoting a product which is arguably beneficial to public health (another shonky pic).

Explaining how tobacco controllers routinely no-platform citizens who are not part of the lucrative tobacco control echo chamber, she explained that smokers have been so denormalised over the past 30 years or so that no-one really cares about them anymore. The public has been so conditioned to attacking smokers that it is almost seen as encouraged by government.

There has been a furore of late about the Brexit vote giving the vile in society a green light to abuse foreigners, yet no-one seems to be bothered about repulsive people (who should, in my opinion, be in jail or put down) being told it's perfectly OK to treat smokers as third class citizens and abuse them openly and proudly in public by tobacco controllers who love to foment hatred and are paid by the state to do so (I don't think I have to name names, do I?).

This has led to a situation whereby harm reduction is seen as a danger rather than something really rather great which costs the country nothing but does exactly what politicians have been telling us they want to see.

Well quite.

Chair of the event, Dr Axel Klein, spoke of the "pleasure economy" which seems to be routinely ignored by 'public health'. People don't buy cigarettes, drugs, coffee, Heineken, Frosties, full fat Coke or Big Macs for the good of their health, they buy them because they enjoy them. The aim of prohibitionists in all those areas, though, seems to be that the idea of pleasure is redundant and that we should all be pursuing a sole target of living as long as is humanly possible.

Says who? Well, those who enjoy fat salaries on the back of pretending that is what is important, rather than the enjoyment of life taking into account risk factors along the way, of course.

As a result, as brought up by the dapper yank Jeff Stier (pictured below) of the National Center for Public Policy Research, we have ludicrous policies such as the ban on snus.

Here is a snapshot of the smoking prevalence in the EU by country ...

.. can you guess in which one snus is legal and which others it is banned due to the actions of hideous tobacco controllers? Yes, it's Sweden yet the ban was reinforced under the TPD just implemented this May. These absurd policy recommendations are not just undesirable, but they should be actionable by imposing jail terms on those who demand them (waves to ASH).

So what's to be done about it? Well the RSM event yesterday was well attended by medical types who were receptive to ideas which are more useful than the crock that we are served up by NGOs and politicians currently. One stand-out moment was when Kushlick accused the medical community of being blind to enlightened thinking and was instantly pulled up about it by a doctor in the audience.
"I have to object to that, sorry. It is not practitioners which are the problem, we are mostly receptive, it is the likes of the BMA and other organisations which claim to speak on our behalf."
And therein lies the problem. Vested interests - thinking only of their own self-enrichment - are perverting the debate surrounding drug use of any kind, promoting abstinence-only policies which are neither in keeping with how we wish to live our lives and are often vastly detrimental to the health of the public. A lose/lose situation that can easily be remedied by cutting off state funding to these parasites and closing the political door to their insane, trouser-stuffing recommendations.

People have always liked pleasure, as the Earl of Erroll alluded to by saying that "every culture has its drug of choice for parties" and addressing the assembled medics in the auditorium with "I say to you, people are not going to stop taking drugs, they are fun".

Indeed, and anyone who believes that is an achievable policy goal is quite barking, it has to be said. The subject of the event was the regulation of pleasure; for some it seems that pleasure itself is something to be regulated rather than the often rare harms associated with it. As if to emphasise this disconnect in political thinking, at the culmination of proceedings we all decamped to the bar where attendees, medical and otherwise, enjoyed some pretty decent French Sauvignon Blanc without heeding the daft guidance from Silly Sally that there is "no safe alcohol limit" and certainly didn't appear to "think about cancer" as their glasses were topped up.

As an additional bonus, I also met the awesome former chief whip of the New South Wales government Peter Phelps who popped in during his hols to say hello. All of which made for quite an enjoyable day with the doctors, which is something I certainly wasn't expecting yesterday morning.

Sunday, 10 July 2016

This Debate Really Is Over

Back in 2010, radio presenter Jon Gaunt was fired by LBC radio for calling a Redbridge councillor - who had banned smokers from adopting children - a 'health nazi'.

It prompted something of a debate at the time, with the BBC predictably weighing in with an article that almost audibly tutted while you read it. I, of course, disagreed and explained why the term is entirely justified when it comes to treatment of smokers recently.

I think this week saw the debate put to bed though because how else does one describe behaviour like this in Australia?
Enforcing a smoking ban in two key public areas in Sydney, Martin Place and the Pitt Street Mall, the City of Sydney council is pushing ahead with plans to arrest and fine smokers who defy the ban. 
Announcing its plan to turn Pitt Street's busy shopping mall into a smoke-free area, the council initially claimed its rangers could demand the name and address of people caught smoking and then arrest offenders who refused to give their details when faced with a $110 fine.
Papieren bitte?
The council plans to enforce the smoke-free zone later this year in the Mall and at Martin Place, which has undergone a 12 month trial as a no smoking area. 
During the trial, City of Sydney rangers were given the power to demand a smoker's details, and if they didn't comply, to follow them into their workplace and pressure them into providing their information.
It's important to note that there is no credible science - even of the junk variety - to show that secondhand smoke outdoors is any harm to anyone, and even Australia's smoker-hater-in-Chief admits the idea is bonkers.
"fleeting encounters with cigarette plumes" in wide open spaces pose "a near homeopathic level of risk to others", [Prof Simon Chapman] says. 
So this is not anything to do with health, merely the wilful and blatant bullying of smokers, for no other reason than to denormalise and humiliate them. Ring any bells?

Yet no-one in authority in Sydney, it seems, is able to step back and see how vile this is.

I wrote something about this last summer and I think it bears repeating.
This is why when I say we are on the side of the angels here, and that tobacco control tax spongers deserve prison time for encouraging such hate and division in our population, I really do mean it.
Now, read those fascistic measures being employed in Sydney again and tell me I'm wrong.

Wednesday, 6 July 2016

Callanan's Continuing Crusade

Callanan, giving it large
Back in May, a number of Lords engaged in a debate over the Tobacco Products Directive and its degenerate regulations on vaping. This encouraged Lord Callanan to put forward a fatal motion in the Lords which - in the face of disgraceful lobbying by ASH - was beaten down into a far less powerful 'regret' motion. Even this wasn't good enough for ASH, who then attacked the regret motion too.

It was in this environment that Lord Callanan's proposals were finally debated on Monday, and boy did he do a good job of it. Here are some highlights of his introduction.
[G]iven all that evidence, these regulations will reduce by 95% the number of products on the market, ban the stronger liquids favoured by many vapers and ban virtually all forms of advertising to prevent suppliers from recruiting new smokers to the vaping cause. 
So how have we ended up with this crazy state of affairs? The Department of Health prides itself on being a “global thought leader” on tobacco, to use its words, and while the department has played a strong game on pure control measures, by which I mean the ban on public place smoking and the taxation of smoking, it has been little short of appalling on its approach to tobacco harm reduction, by which I refer to the development of much less harmful substitutes to smoking.
Indeed it has, led by the nose by ASH, the DoH has waged a long-term campaign to prohibit and/or restrict e-cigs at every turn.
A ... major blunder has been of course with the much more modern substitute of e-cigarettes. Here the Department of Health’s medicines agency, the MHRA, tried to ban them outright in 2010. It failed, so it tried again in 2013, declaring that they should all be medicines. 
The 2.8 million vapers using those products are not smoking literally billions of deadly tobacco cigarettes. Displaying a marvellous gift for understatement, the Royal College of Physicians this year declared that the MHRA’s policy had been “counterproductive to public health”. However, in 2013 the Department of Health lobbied vigorously in Brussels for a Europe-wide policy of compulsory medicinal regulation.
Turning his guns on personnel, he then had a perfectly justifiable pop at Anna 'ministerial car crash' Soubry and Sally "backbone" Davies.
Not only was it a disastrous policy, it was also a disastrous policy process. In 2013 the then Public Health Minister, Anna Soubry, appeared before the European Scrutiny Committee to explain why she had decided to use a scrutiny override without informing other departments when she voted for this directive on behalf of the UK Government. The Minister told the committee in her evidence that e-cigarettes had in fact been excluded from the directive. They had not. If noble Lords can cope with viewing that cringe-making performance, it is, as they might imagine, widely available on YouTube (indeed it is, see here - DP). That level of competence was not just available at ministerial level. The Chief Medical Officer declared to the New Scientist a few months later that e-cigarettes were one of the three biggest health threats to the UK, along with obesity and binge drinking. It would be funny if the issue were not so serious.
He also issued a sage warning on why the MHRA should not be trusted.
The other issue that needs to be looked at very hard is the role of the MHRA in policy development. It is a fact that this agency derives most of its revenue from the pharmaceutical industry. It is also clear that it has lobbied very hard for a land grab on e-cigarettes, yet has signally failed to deliver with any product available for consumers. Ministers should be extremely cautious about listening to its lobbying.
And offered a withering condemnation of the Department of Health's performance and its capture by pharmaceutical interests.
Bizarrely, while the department is doing its best to restrict sales of one tobacco substitute, which costs taxpayers nothing, we are heavily subsidising nicotine-containing gum and patches, because they are given out on prescription. The difference, of course, is that these products are made by the big pharmaceutical companies, which appear to have the Department of Health as a sort of wholly owned subsidiary. 
Well, some of us have mentioned that before, it has to be said.
These companies stand to lose large amounts of money as sales of their nicotine substitutes have collapsed with the advent of e-cigarettes. The pharmaceutical industry uses its massive spending power to manipulate the harm reduction debate. It funds conferences, so-called medical charities and quasi-academic research to justify its position. If the Department of Health is to improve its performance on tobacco harm reduction, it needs to be just as cautious in its dealings with pharmaceutical companies and their allies as it is with the tobacco industry.

But he didn't just grumble, he also offered some positive proposals which - I'm sure - the Westminster wagon-circling exercise will roundly ignore, but which have at least now been put on the table.
Where should policy go now? Although contrition from the Minister would be welcome, the key is to take concrete steps to improve the situation. Critical issues to which I ask the Minister to respond this evening include measures to rebuild consumer confidence in e-cigarettes. Smokers who do not currently vape perceive e-cigarettes to be much more dangerous than scientists say they in fact are. We need serious action, not just a few warm words. We also need a clear plan to put into production medicinal supplies of the stronger e-liquid used by a quarter of a million vapers, including my noble friend Lord Cathcart. It would be unconscionable if the MHRA was to fail on this once again. The need is simple: several suppliers of base e-liquid should be approved by the MHRA before Christmas.
This is an incredibly well-drawn observation. As a result of the cavalier attitude of ASH towards higher strength e-liquid, about the highest available strength post-TPD is 18mg (1.8%) which is not strong enough to provide the throat hit that smokers find so appealing about e-cigs. If the DoH and its simpering anti-smoking offshoots are serious about being supportive of e-cigs (debatable) then they should be right behind this suggestion by Lord Callanan.

If strengths higher than 18mg are not commercially available due to the ignorant clunking fist of the EU, domestically-mixed liquids of higher strengths should be endorsed by the MHRA licensing the nicotine base which is required to facilitate them.

He also raised the possibility of Brexit being a way that the UK can escape the quite stupid TPD regulations on vaping.
Now that we are going to leave the EU, we have the opportunity to make regulations that will be evidence-based and to create a climate in which smokers can quit for safer products. We need to remove the ridiculous restrictions on product choice and the advertising of e-cigarettes and other reduced-harm products, such as heat-not-burn products. To this end, I welcome the Treasury’s consultation on the taxation of heated products later this year.
Indeed. We've seen many weasel words on the subject of harm reduction, coupled with much shrugging of shoulders that we are in a cleft stick because these are EU regulations we are legally bound to implement. So let's see how serious the DoH and ASH really are about the benefits of vaping; let's see moves to reject the TPD provisions on e-cigs the moment we leave the EU or - if we are to disgracefully remain anyway - pressure brought to bear on the EU during negotiations to secure an opt-out for the UK from having to enforce them.

Lastly, but probably most importantly, Callanan turned his attention to the WHO and COP7 in New Delhi in November.
Finally, there is the global policy-making role of the department. When the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control meets in India later this year, I hope it will consider a Department of Health advocacy paper on harm reduction free from the commercial interests of the pharmaceutical industry.
This is very astute from the noble Lord. As we know very well here, the UK representation at the debacle that was COP6 in Moscow included Deborah Arnott of ASH and Andrew Black of the DoH. Arnott has huge influence within the FCTC and will be attending this year, while representation from the DoH is thus far uncertain according to written parliamentary questions.

So it should be made very clear what the UK's negotiating position will be at start of proceedings for COP7. Arnott professes to be a big fan of vaping, so let's see her openly come out and declare that she is going to advocate for e-cigs and harm reduction in New Delhi, likewise the DoH.

The recommendations at the culmination of COP6 sought to formulate "guidance on smokeless tobacco products". If this country's proud boast to be progressive on harm reduction and vaping is to be believed, our starting position should be to publicly detail clear policy objectives that our representatives will be promoting to the FCTC and red lines over which they will on no account cross no matter the ignorance, deception and misinformation which is certain to be flung at the category by FCTC delegates in November.

If I were to suggest a next cause for vapers, it would be to write to your elected representatives and demand that ASH and the DoH do precisely that. At least then we will know where we stand if - as I suspect - the FCTC demands that e-cigs are treated as a tobacco product globally post-November. It is very heartening that Callanan has identified COP7 as a crucial indicator of the true intentions of self-professed 'public health' vaping advocates, and that a spotlight should be shone on grubby dealings in this area.

I shall turn tomorrow to other speeches in Monday's debate (which you can read in full here) but, for now, we should congratulate Lord Callanan for continuing to highlight the incompetence, chicanery and cronyism within the DoH and 'public health' while also making some common sense suggestions as to how they can be remedied.

Bravo Sir!

Monday, 4 July 2016

Politicians, Look In The Mirror

As the hysterical finger-pointing drags on and on after the EU referendum vote, there was a tiny glimmer from Nicky Morgan on the Peston show yesterday morning. Here's what she said.
"I just think actually that it's time that we treated the British people more like grown ups"
And the truth will set you free!

Yes, someone up there in the Westminster bubble finally seems to be getting it.

In amongst the cries of how "stupid" the public were for making the 'wrong' choice; or the accusations that anyone who voted to leave was quite obviously racist; or that such decisions shouldn't be entrusted to the little people, instead it should be career-minded politicians only to decide such things, here - at last - was someone actually understanding the problem.

She'll sink without trace, I'm sure, because it's almost heresy to harbour such thoughts amongst the grinding atmosphere of self-enrichment and ladder-climbing enjoyed by her peers, but she's correct.

Just read that comment again. Isn't it quite astounding that she should even have to say it? Jaw-dropping that the attitude of politicians has sunk to such a level that they do actually treat us all like children.

We know this attitude very well on these pages. The tobacco display ban, for example, is such a ludicrous policy that it is openly laughed at by everyone you speak to at any supermarket tobacco kiosk. The public know very well that plain packaging is a waste of everyone's time, and the public also knew that the ban on smoking in cars was unenforceable as the police have now confirmed by saying it “hasn’t been thought through”. Well of course not, because it wasn't imagined to further the interests of the public, it was brought in to swell the pockets of bureaucrats and parasitic grant-seeking lobby groups.

Politicians haven't listened to the public for a very long time. 'Public' consultations ceased to be about consulting the public yonks ago, and political policy has shifted instead into ordering the public around at the behest of taxpayer-funded prohibitionists, self-installed moral guardians and repulsive snobs. They want you to pay more for your booze because you're not grown up enough to make a choice for yourself; they want to stop you smoking because, well, they just don't like it; and they sure as shit don't want you eating or drinking anything with sugar in it so they're going to slap a tax on things you freely choose to buy, mostly because you like them and the companies which sell them.

These are just examples in the policy areas we discuss here, but it's the same condescending and smug attitude in every department of government ... the people are too stupid to make their own decisions, therefore those decisions must be denied them. By overwhelming force if necessary and always with a threat of impoverishment and/or incarceration. The politician and his trusty tax-leeching bureaucracy must be satisfied, the public can go fuck itself.

Of course, if you complain about any of this you're instantly described as selfish and irrelevant. Who amongst vapers who read this place has been dismissed for their hatred of the EU because "vaping is a tiny issue, not worth throwing our whole EU membership away for"? I'd guess very many. Because, you see, it's only the sages, those with wisdom, that can see the bigger picture. Yet you can bet that every other irked group with a valid claim to have been marginalised and ignored by the EU and its strangling paper-pushing self-perpetuation will have heard the same daft argument.

When every grass roots group is hearing that their cause is irrelevant, it suggests that the bigger problem is the overarching arrogance of the state. It's not the small matters and those who advocate for them who are at fault, it is the "bigger picture" that has been painted by a blind political class!

When every area of policy strives to silence public dissent is it any wonder that the public strikes back? If the political elite didn't want that to happen, perhaps they should not have taken the piss out of us for so long. If the political establishment want to apportion blame for the Brexit vote, perhaps they should take a long hard look in the mirror.

Because democracy, believe it or not, should actually be about the people as Ronald Reagan explained when he was on his way out and had no reason to spin.
'We the People.' 'We the People' tell the government what to do; it doesn't tell us. 'We the People' are the driver; the government is the car. And we decide where it should go, and by what route, and how fast. 
When did our country, a proud early adopter of democracy, forget that?

So well done Nicky Morgan for beginning to work out that the public don't appreciate being treated like kids and that - despite all the fear-mongering and emotional rhetoric spouted recently - we are actually quite happy to have voted out one level of wasteful, self-serving, bureaucratic, public-hating, aloof, uncontrollable and unaccountable drains on society and free choice.

The next step might be to actually do something about it, so when is that going to begin. Exactly?