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Anti-prohibition news from over the world

Collected live from our allies' blogs.
Note: All opinions expressed below are those of the authors only, not necessarily TICAP's.

A cure far worse than the disease

Published on 2021-09-23 15:09:32.
Website: Frank Davis


https://underdogsbiteupwards.wordpress.com/2021/09/19/tetanus-gangrene-botulism/#comment-63744 Once they have everything centralised, step out of line and they turn off your bank account. Again, that’s started. Nigeria has announced that the unvaccinated will not have access to banking services. I wonder how long I’d last without … Continue reading →

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Delay the Next Ice Age

Published on 2021-09-20 18:46:06.
Website: Frank Davis


Breitbart: During an event in Cambridge, England on Thursday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said that despite communist China’s long list of human rights abuses, the United States must partner with them to fight climate change. Does she want to … Continue reading →

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Isolated Protected Smokers

Published on 2021-09-17 15:40:40.
Website: Frank Davis


https://alexberenson.substack.com/p/the-most-damning-article-about-vaccines Britain has pursued a mass vaccination strategy as aggressively as any country. It approved Pfizer’s vaccine even before the FDA. More than 80% of Britons over 16 are now fully vaccinated. But Britain is in far worse shape than … Continue reading →

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Idiotic sugar reduction scheme spreads to Europe

Published on 2021-09-17 09:32:00.
Website: Velvet Glove, Iron Fist


The UK's hopeless sugar reduction scheme is spreading to Europe thanks to the equally hopeless WHO. 

I've written about it for The Critic...
If you want to know what the new, outlook-looking, post-Brexit, global Britain is all about, the Department of Health dropped a clue this week. In a punch on the nose for embittered Remoaners, it announced that the UK “has been chosen by the World Health Organization (WHO) to lead a new Sugar and Calorie Reduction Network to take global action on sugar and calorie reduction.” In a press release, the Department of Health mentioned twice that the WHO’s EU region “covers around 50 countries” and has “a much wider reach than the European Commission’s remit.” In your face, Eurocrats!

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Lowering the drink-drive limit didn't work in Scotland

Published on 2021-09-16 09:37:00.
Website: Velvet Glove, Iron Fist


My City AM column today is about the way governments prefer legislating to governing...

In December 2014, Scotland introduced a new policy modifying its drink-drive limit, to reduce the number of alcohol-fuelled traffic accidents. The legal limit was slashed from 80 to 50mg per 100ml of blood. Now, seven years later, a study published in the Journal of Health Economics has looked at the impact of the policy. The results are perhaps surprising.


Do have a read.



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No Privacy

Published on 2021-09-14 14:14:18.
Website: Frank Davis


https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-9954265/Staff-banned-smoking-working-HOME-Japanese-brokers-Nomura.html A Japanese brokerage firm has banned its staff from smoking, even while working from home. Nomura, the country’s biggest investment bank, has asked its local staff to give up smoking during the working day in a move labelled as … Continue reading →

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Jardim Botânico

Published on 2021-09-13 13:16:47.
Website: Frank Davis


When, many years ago, I lived in Rio de Janeiro, I spent many hours wandering around its botanical gardens. It’s a pleasure to revisit.

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How a typo tricked the media: half a beer a week won’t harm your health

Published on 2021-09-12 17:53:00.
Website: Velvet Glove, Iron Fist


First published in Spectator Health in February 2017

Eggs were on faces yesterday after some astonishingly bad science reporting in sections of the media. In articles that have since been taken offline, the Telegraph and Mirror announced that half a pint of beer a week is sufficient to harden the arteries and cause heart disease. Given the almost homeopathic quantities of alcohol involved — not to mention the fact that moderate drinking is known to reduce heart disease risk — this was a rather surprising finding, but it had supposedly been published in the Journal of the American Heart Association and was therefore considered legit.

Alarm bells started ringing when the Telegraph came up with this eyebrow-raiser:

‘The UK study defined consistent long-term heavy drinking as equivalent to drinking one serving of alcoholic spirit, half a pint of beer or half a glass of wine per week.’
The idea that drinking half a pint of beer once every seven days constitutes ‘long-term heavy drinking’ is patently ludicrous. There are some strange ideas floating around in the world of ‘public health’ these days, but things are not quite that mad. You have to wonder how that sentence got written, let alone approved and printed, without somebody at the Telegraph saying ‘surely that can’t be right’?

The rest of the story hinged on this basic error. The study itself is pretty good. Its authors set out to see whether heavy drinking stiffens people’s arteries, because arterial stiffness is a predictor of cardiovascular disease. They used a database of civil servants stretching back to the 1980s and measured something called pulse wave velocity (PWV) to gauge the state of their arteries. The higher the number, the harder the arteries.

The authors note that previous research has found the relationship between PWV and alcohol consumption to be J-shaped, which is to say it is relatively high for non-drinkers, lower for moderate drinkers and high again for heavy drinkers. This is significant because the relationship between cardiovascular disease and alcohol consumption is also J-shaped, ie moderate drinkers have a lower risk than both those who abstain and those who drink heavily.

The authors set out to test this and succeeded. Defining heavy drinkers as anyone who consumed more than 14 units a week, and measuring in metres per second (m/s), they found PWV levels among men of 8.8 m/s for non-drinkers, 8.3 m/s for moderate drinkers and 8.7 m/s for heavy drinkers. Among women the readings were 8.6 m/s, 7.9 m/s and 8.3 m/s.

Over the years, the PWV levels rose, but it was the non-drinkers and ex-drinkers who saw their levels rise the most. By contrast, the authors note that ‘stable moderate drinkers have the lowest PWV values throughout the study period’.

This seems to confirm the J-curve, but how does it support the claim that drinking half a pint a week gives you heart disease? It doesn’t. The study found the exact opposite of what the Telegraph and Mirror claimed. It showed that moderate drinkers, including those who limit themselves to a swift half once a week (if such people exist), have a lower risk of heart disease than those who never drink at all. So how did the press get it so wrong?

If you are going to rely on reporting science by press release, you have to be confident in the press release. Unfortunately for the fourth estate, this one was a stinker. The study’s authors defined anyone who drank more than 112 grams of alcohol a week as a ‘heavy drinker’. There are eight grams of alcohol in a unit, therefore they were drinking more than 14 units, but when the press release tried to explain this, it all went wrong:

‘Consistent long-term, heavy drinking was defined in this UK study as more than 112 grams (3.9 ounces) of ethanol per week (roughly equivalent to one serving of alcoholic spirit, half a pint of beer, or half a glass of wine); consistent moderate drinking was 1-112 grams of ethanol per week.’
The first part is true and so is the last bit. It is the middle section that’s the problem. 112 grams is by no means ‘roughly equivalent to one serving of alcoholic spirit

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Disruptive innovation webinar - today

Published on 2021-09-09 11:14:00.
Website: Velvet Glove, Iron Fist


I'll be speaking at a webinar on vaping at 7pm UK time (2pm EST). I'll be mainly talking about how the UK became a success story for tobacco harm reduction by not doing too much. Click here to sign up.

There's a Full article

The envy of the world

Published on 2021-09-08 10:02:00.
Website: Velvet Glove, Iron Fist


I've got an article in the Daily Mail today about the NHS.

The reality is that it is not normal for a health service in a rich country to have a flu crisis every winter.

We expect to wait months for an operation and are pleasantly surprised if we wait less than several hours in A&E.

We are meant to be impressed by being able to see a GP today, even though we called yesterday. Services that would be substandard in many countries are regarded in Britain as normal, if not excellent.

The fact is that the NHS is a failing system. The UK has 2.5 hospital beds for every 1,000 people, close to half the EU average and less than a third of the number in Germany — or even Bulgaria.

We have 2.8 practising doctors for every thousand people, fewer than any EU country bar Poland and Cyprus and well below the EU average of 3.7 per 1,000.

The UK's cancer survival rates lag behind Italy and France, and more of us die from cancer than do Belgians, the Dutch, Germans, the Japanese and New Zealanders — all countries with a social health insurance system.

Rates of 'avoidable deaths' are even worse.

In 2014, a league table by the Commonwealth Fund found that Britain performed well on 'access', 'equity' and 'care process' but came second-last for 'health care outcomes'.

What does that mean? As the Left-wing Guardian newspaper put it, the 'only serious black mark against the NHS was its poor record on keeping people alive'.


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The gambling epidemic that never grows

Published on 2021-09-07 09:56:00.
Website: Velvet Glove, Iron Fist


First published by Spectator Health in February 2016

Doctors prescribe drugs to tackle Britain’s gambling epidemic’ was the top story on the Times‘s front page on Wednesday. ‘The growing toll of problem gambling in Britain,’ it said, ‘is now so serious that the NHS has started prescribing £10,000-a-year drugs for some of the worst addicts.’ The Times echoed calls from the Campaign for Fairer Gambling for a ‘crackdown on fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs), which have been dubbed the “crack cocaine” of gambling’.

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A swift half with Claire Fox

Published on 2021-09-03 09:00:00.
Website: Velvet Glove, Iron Fist


My guest on the Swift Half with Snowdon this week is Baroness Fox of Buckley. You may know her better as Claire Fox. 


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Nanny State Index - interview

Published on 2021-09-02 11:59:00.
Website: Velvet Glove, Iron Fist


I was on GB News last night talking about the Nanny State Index. It was nice to have a bit more time than usual to discuss it, although I had to bite my lip when Aseem Malhotra's name came up.


 


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Richard Doll, smoking and moderate drinking

Published on 2021-09-01 09:46:00.
Website: Velvet Glove, Iron Fist


First published by Spectator Health in January 2016


Sally Davies, the Chief Medical Officer, recently described the belief that moderate alcohol consumption was good for the heart as an ‘old wives’ tale’. This was the culmination of a long-running campaign within a section of the public health lobby to cast doubt on the large body of evidence showing lower rates of heart disease and lower rates of mortality among moderate drinkers. A report from researchers at Sheffield University, released on the same day, claimed that the health benefits of drinking were ‘disputed’ and the subject of ‘substantial debate’.

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Last Orders with Mark Littlewood

Published on 2021-08-29 11:37:00.
Website: Velvet Glove, Iron Fist


I had a blast recording a new Last Orders episode on Friday with Tom Slater and Mark Littlewood. It's the first time the show has been recorded in person for about eighteen months.

We discussed the Extinction Rebellion cult, smoking and Zero Covid. Listen here.


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A Swift Half with Stuart Ritchie

Published on 2021-08-25 14:55:00.
Website: Velvet Glove, Iron Fist


The latest Swift Half with Snowdon features Dr Stuart Ritchie, a psychologist at KCL and the author of Science Fictions. We discuss IQ, fraud in psychology and Covid 'sceptics'. 


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The WHO's war on alcohol

Published on 2021-08-24 13:00:00.
Website: Velvet Glove, Iron Fist


Last year the World Health Organization launched a public consultation on its draft “Global Alcohol Strategy to Reduce the Harmful Use of Alcohol”. It is not obvious that the world needs an alcohol strategy, nor does it seem an obvious priority for the WHO in the middle of a pandemic. National governments are quite capable of deciding how alcoholic drinks are taxed and regulated without pressure from a UN agency. Some countries allow you to buy a beer at any time day or night. Others have total prohibition. The huge differences in the way in which governments treat alcohol make it an unlikely candidate for global regulation, but the World Health Organization is keen to leave its mark on the issue nonetheless. 

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A critique of the sugar panic

Published on 2021-08-21 16:44:00.
Website: Velvet Glove, Iron Fist


I've been reading an interesting critique of the current hysteria about sugar published in Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition. Here are some highlights...

The pursuit of power and profit via the demonization of dietary factors such as alcohol and sugar dates to at least the seventeenth century. Thus, as the public’s fear of fat and cholesterol waned and the lipid-heart disease hypothesis began to lose empirical support, it was only a matter of time before media attention, political grandstanding, and research funding were once again directed at dietary sugars. The net result of this shift in attention and resources was an apparent ‘consensus’ that sugar consumption is harmful.

.. because a million matching but ill-informed opinions do not constitute a fact, the anti-sugar consensus, either real or apparent, is not a statement about nutrition science but merely the ‘status quo’ made explicit.

.. the distinctions between ‘added’, ‘free’, and ‘intrinsic’ sugars are scientifically and biochemically mean- ingless. As such, the use of the term ‘added sugar’ in a scientific or health context is misleading. Nevertheless, the ubiquitous use of the term in popular and social media led to ‘added sugars’ becoming “the nutrition villain du jour” (Slavin 2014, p. 4) with subsequent ill-informed changes in the public’s perception of sugar-health relations

Importantly, by recommending breast-feeding, public health organizations are implicitly arguing that infants should consume $40% of their total calories as dietary sugars. Yet these same organizations also recommend that sugar consumption by infants and children be limited. The striking contradiction between the passionate prescription of breast-feeding and the puritanical proscription of dietary sugars is due to the failure to acknowledge that, despite its political expediency and marketing potential, the distinction between ‘added’ and ‘intrinsic’ sugars is bio- chemically and scientifically meaningless.

In the U.S., sugar availability (i.e., a crude proxy for consumption) increased $600% from 18.6 lbs (8.5kg) in 1863 to 125 lbs (57kg) in 1930. The fastest rate of increase in U.S. history was 3 lbs per capita per year (36.1%) from 1918 until 1930. Yet as sugar availability increased exponentially, the U.S. population improved in almost every health metrics (e.g., malnutrition, mortality, health-span) while rates of obesity and T2DM were extremely low.

Diet-centric paradoxes exist because investigators often ignore contrary evidence or refuse to question assumptions that have been demonstrated to be false. For example, there are countries in which sugar and sugar- sweetened beverage consumption declined while obesity and metabolic diseases increased. In Australia, sugar/sweetener availability decreased 18% from 56.2 kg in 1961 to 46.1 kg in 2013 as the prevalence of obesity increased over 450% from more than 5% in the 1960s to 28% in 2015). In the United Kingdom (U.K.) availability decreased 20% from 51.7kg in 1961 to 41.3kg in 2016 while obesity increased over 400% from less than 5% in the 1960s to over 26% in 2016. In the U.S., sugar/sweetener availability declined 18.2% from 69.1 kg per capita in 1999 to 56.5 kg in 2018, as the prevalence of diabetes in adults increased 36.8%, obesity increased 39%; and severe obesity increased 95.7%

The end result of the intellectual decline and corruption in nutrition research has been decades of impassioned but physiologically illiterate disputes about sugar, salt, fat, and cholesterol, increasing confusion about what constitutes a ‘healthy diet’, and the public’s loss of confidence in ‘science’ to inform their lives. 

.. physiology, not food and beverages, causes metabolic diseases. This fact explains why identical diets consumed by different individuals result in divergent nutritional, metabolic, and health effects, and why some individuals can consume massive quantities of sugar and other carbohydrates while maintaining metabolic health, whereas less fortunate individuals develop obesity and/or T2DM. We contend that current policy recommendations on ‘added’ sugars and sugar-sweetened beverages are not only unscientific, but also regressive and unjust because they harm the most vulnerable members of our society while providing no personal or public health benefits 

 

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Signs of sanity in US tobacco control?

Published on 2021-08-20 12:26:00.
Website: Velvet Glove, Iron Fist


The American Journal of Public Health has published an article by fifteen past presidents of the Society for Research on Nicotine and Tobacco. Not all of it is sensible - they support raising the age at which e-cigarettes can be bought to 21 and they support the idiotic policy of reducing nicotine in cigarettes - but it is a beacon of enlightenment compared to most of the commentary coming out of the USA these days.
The key points:
Vaping reduces the smoking rate
For years, US cigarette sales declined 2% to 3% annually. More recently, as vaping product sales increased, cigarette sales decreased much more rapidly. Con- versely, following the EVALI outbreak and e-cigarette sales restrictions, sales of e-cigarettes fell and sales of cigarettes resumed their prevaping pattern. Studies finding a positive cross-price elasticity of demand between cigarettes and e-cigarettes support the conclusion that the products are substitutes. Although not the final word, the totality of the evidence indicates that frequent vaping increases adult smoking cessation. Smokers unable to quit smoking with evidence-based cessation methods should be well informed about the relative risks of vaping and smoking and vaping’s potential to help them quit smoking.

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Vaccines, vaping and varenicline

Published on 2021-08-19 15:21:00.
Website: Velvet Glove, Iron Fist


In my City AM column today, I discuss the risks of vaccines, vaping and varenicline and the contradictory ways in which they are treated by regulators and the WHO.
When the AstraZeneca vaccine was found to be associated with blood clots in a small number of cases, the World Health Organisations’s Global Advisory Committee on Vaccine Safety urged its continued use because, it said, “the AstraZeneca vaccine’s benefits outweigh its risks”. It added that: “The question with any pharmaceutical or vaccine is whether the risk of taking it is greater or less than the risk of the disease it is meant to prevent or treat.”

Full article

Randomised controlled trial shows that plain packaging doesn't work

Published on 2021-08-18 09:20:00.
Website: Velvet Glove, Iron Fist




Nearly a decade after plain packaging was introduced in Australia, a randomised controlled trial has been conducted to see if the policy actually works. The trial was registered last September and its results were published last week.
You probably missed it. It received virtually no media coverage, for reasons that will soon become obvious, and it was confusingly portrayed as being a study of graphic warnings. Indeed, the study is titled 'Effect of Graphic Warning Labels on Cigarette Packs on US Smokers’ Cognitions and Smoking Behavior After 3 Months'.

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Alcohol-related deaths rose sharply in Scotland last year

Published on 2021-08-17 10:44:00.
Website: Velvet Glove, Iron Fist


The alcohol mortality figures for Scotland were published today and 2020 saw a significant increase. This was expected because it is what we saw in England and Wales. In England and Wales, the death rate rose last year by 18% to 13 per 100,000 people. In Scotland, it rose by 16% to 21.5 per 100,000 people.  

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The drinking guidelines were set by temperance zealots

Published on 2021-08-16 14:24:00.
Website: Velvet Glove, Iron Fist


First published by Spectator Health in February 2016 


I've been reading the minutes of the meetings held by the committee that reviewed the alcohol guidelines recently. You may recall that this was the first full review since 1995 and led to the Chief Medical Officer (CMO), Sally Davies, lowering the recommendations for men from 21 to 14 units a week. The female guidelines were left at 14 units. She also claimed that the health benefits derived from moderate drinking were an ‘old wives’ tale’ and claimed that there was ‘no safe level of alcohol’.

The most striking difference between the 1995 review and the 2016 review is the make-up of the panels. Whereas the 1995 committee was dominated by civil servants who had no obvious prejudices for or against alcohol, the meetings held from March 2013 to discuss alcohol guidance were dominated by activist academics and temperance campaigners.

The Institute of Alcohol Studies (IAS), a small but hardline anti-alcohol organisation, was heavily represented on the committee. The IAS was formed in the 1980s as a direct successor to the UK Temperance Alliance which, in turn, had been formed out of the ashes of the UK Alliance for the Suppression of the Traffic of All Intoxicating Liquors, a prohibitionist pressure group. The IAS receives 99 per cent of its income from the Alliance House Foundation whose official charitable objective is ‘to spread the principles of total abstinence from alcoholic drinks’. Its director, Katherine Brown, was on the CMO’s panel, as was its ‘expert adviser’ Gerard Hastings, although he failed to disclose his IAS role in his declaration of interests.

The IAS’s scientific adviser Petra Meier was also on the committee and was joined by her Sheffield University colleague John Holmes. Holmes and Meier are both strong advocates for minimum pricing and helped develop a computer model which has been repeatedly used to promote minimum pricing by producing estimates of the number of lives that will supposedly be saved by the policy.

Another staunch anti-alcohol campaigner, Ian Gilmore (chairman of the Alcohol Health Alliance, of which the IAS is a key member), was unable to attend the first meeting but was involved thereafter. Gilmore has campaigned for many years for higher alcohol taxes, minimum pricing and a total ban on alcohol advertising.

Other members of the committee may have been less strident than Gilmore and the IAS but there was no doubt where their biases lay. Mark Bellis wrote an article for the British Medical Journal in 2011 complaining that existing alcohol guidance was too generous and ‘read more like an alcohol promotion slogan’. Mark Petticrew and Theresa Marteau are both strong advocates of a range of heavily interventionist ‘public health’ policies, including sugar taxes, plain packaging and minimum pricing.

Of those who attended the initial meetings in 2013, only three did not explicitly advocate stricter alcohol control: the health economist Martin Buxton, the health sociologist Sally Macintyre, and the epidemiologist Valerie Beral. The latter appears to have been selected because of her research linking alcohol to breast cancer, which would become a crucial element in the ‘no safe level’ narrative.

The minutes of a meeting in June 2013 indicate that the path towards dismissing the benefits of moderate alcohol consumption was mapped out from an early stage. Mark Petticrew told his new colleagues: ‘The beneficial effects of alcohol consumption, where they are evidenced, are limited to a low consumption level of half a drink per day.’ Moreover, he said, ‘The population cohort who experiences any beneficial health effect from alcohol is very small. Given these limitations, there is an argument that beneficial effects could be considered not to be relevant in the context of an overall population message, advice or guidance.’

These bald assertions were based on private meetings held between Petticrew and two alcohol researchers, Jurgen Rehm and Tim Stockwell, a fortnight earlier. As a result of this information, the minutes of the 25 June meeting state that the group ‘agreed that a key message from the Rehm/Stockwell discussion is that the evidence shows that any amount of alcohol increases the risk of cancer. Therefore it cannot be said that there is such thing as a “safe” limit.’

Here were the two central messages that would be transmitted, almost word for word, to the British public two and half years later — that the benefits of moderate consumption had been much exaggerated and there is no safe level of drinking. This new narrative appears to have arisen from nothing more than a private meeting with two researchers. Rehm has strong views on alcohol policy (he advises governments to ‘treat alcohol like tobacco’) and he is a respected alcohol researcher but his views, as ventriloquised by Petticrew, bear little relationship to what he told the BBC after the guidelines were announced. On BBC Radio 4’s More or Less programme, he made it clear that there was good evidence that moderate alcohol consumption reduced the risk of heart disease and other diseases. Rehm’s own research concluded that the protective effect of alcohol on heart disease was ‘hard to deny’ and not just for those who consume ‘half a drink a day’, as Petticrew claimed, but for larger quantities too. Rehm’s 2012 systematic review found that heart disease risk was at its lowest for men drinking around four units a day, with a lower optimal level for women.

While Rehm’s views may have been misreported by Petticrew, those of Tim Stockwell were not. Stockwell is the world’s most persistent and prominent critic of the evidence showing that moderate alcohol consumption saves lives. His various letters, editorials and studies casting doubt on the benefits of drinking were given a hugely disproportionate prominence in the 2016 guidance. It is telling that Petticrew’s first act was to approach Stockwell and allow his controversial opinion to frame the debate.

The other striking difference between the 1995 review and the 2016 review is the range of evidence put before the respective committees. Whereas the 1995 panel received dozens of submissions, the minutes of a March 2013 meeting show Sally Davies’s team explicitly rejecting a call for evidence, preferring instead to rely on their own wisdom. Several new reports were commissioned, but all were co-authored by members of the committee.

Most of these were commissioned from the Centre for Public Health at Liverpool John Moores University and co-written by Mark Bellis. One of them, entitled ‘A summary of the evidence of the health and social impacts of alcohol consumption’, did its utmost to cast doubt on the benefits of alcohol consumption.

Sceptics such as Stockwell often claim that non-drinkers have a lower life expectancy than moderate drinkers because many of them are unhealthy former drinkers. Despite many studies showing that moderate drinkers also live longer than lifetime abstainers, this zombie argument continues to be made and it reappeared in Bellis’s report for the committee. He was, however, forced to admit that studies which have controlled for this potential confounder still found a protective effect. The draft document concedes: ‘A few meta-analyses have sought to account for such bias, and based on the extent to which this misclassification error can be accounted for, compared with lifetime abstainers a protective association appears to remain for type-2 diabetes, ischaemic heart disease, and ischaemic stroke.’

This was undoubtedly true. The Liverpool report included a summary of epidemiological studies showing that risk from several major diseases is lowest for people drinking between 1.5 and 8.5 units a day and that risk only reverts to that of an abstainer at a level of at least 4 units a day (or 28 units a week). The authors did not dwell on this evidence. Instead, they immediately suggested that there were ‘further reasons to suggest that the beneficial effects of alcohol consumption may currently be overestimated’, a vague claim for which the only citation was an opinion piece by Tim Stockwell.

The Liverpool document has since been made available to the public but the published version has been edited to further obfuscate the benefits of drinking. Whereas it previously acknowledged the evidence that moderate drinking reduces the risk of type-2 diabetes, ischaemic stroke and heart disease, it now only mentions heart disease and Stockwell’s opinion is given added prominence. The passage quoted above has been replaced by the following: ‘A few meta-analyses have sought to account for such bias; for example a recent meta-analysis, which reported that light to moderate alcohol consumption was associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular outcomes, included lifetime abstainers as a reference category in sensitivity analyses. However, Stockwell et al question the robustness of the conclusions generated from this literature

Full article

Smoking and COVID-19: a new evidence update

Published on 2021-08-12 10:53:00.
Website: Velvet Glove, Iron Fist


Studies which find smokers to be significantly less likely to get COVID-19 continue to be published, even if they are ignored by the media. There are so many of them that it's difficult to keep up. 

The indefatigable Phil has found over 4,000 studies in which smoking status is recorded (see this heroic thread), although the vast majority do not look at smoking specifically as a risk factor, so we can only compare smoking rates among Covid patients/cases with the smoking rate of the general population. Most of them seem to show smokers significantly under-represented among Covid patients/cases, but it is a crude method and is not considered conclusive (interestingly, however, the over-representation of fat people in Covid wards is considered sufficient evidence to mark obesity as a risk factor).

Full article

Some much needed exposure of Stanton Glantz

Published on 2021-08-10 15:16:00.
Website: Velvet Glove, Iron Fist


Despite being one of the worst cranks to have worked in academia in the past half-century, Stanton Glantz  has largely escaped the attention of professional sceptics and debunkers, presumably because he has mostly focused on tobacco control. (Not exclusively, however. He has also spread fear about mobile phones and created baseless conspiracy theories around sugar.)

It was therefore a pleasant surprise to see this excellent article which has since been republished by Mother Jones (of all places). 

“Stan has always been an advocate and ideologue willing to twist the science,” says David Abrams, a New York University professor and veteran tobacco researcher. He says that some scientists ignored flaws in his work when Glantz focused on combustible tobacco because they, too, strongly opposed smoking. “Frankly, none of us cared if he was a little bit sloppy with his research because the ends justified the means,” Abrams says.

Full article

Correcting Lockdown Sceptics

Published on 2021-07-30 18:32:00.
Website: Velvet Glove, Iron Fist


Will Jones at the Lockdown Sceptics blog has responded to my Quillette article about the corona-crazies. It's the usual stuff, but let's try one more time to put it to bed.  The post is headlined, rather weirdly, 'Is Christopher Snowdon an anti-vaxxer?' because Jones thinks he has a savage burn to deliver.

Christopher Snowdon is plainly an anti-vaxxer, however well he tries to hide it. “Existing Covid vaccines are simply not good enough at preventing transmission and infection,” he writes. Hasn’t he read the trial results, showing 95% efficacy against infection for the Pfizer vaccine and 74% for the AstraZeneca vaccine? Or the large population study from Israel showing Pfizer’s 92% efficacy? Or the study from Public Health England showing 67% and 88% vaccine efficacy against the Delta variant for AstraZeneca and Pfizer vaccines respectively?  On what does he base his bald assertion that they are “not good enough at preventing transmission and infection”? Clearly not the science.
It's based on Public Health England's weekly vaccine surveillance report.
  Jones continues... 
He doesn’t appear to feel it necessary to give a single scientific reference for a claim that flies in the face of all these respectable studies, leaving the baffled reader assuming he must have picked it up in some article he read on an obscure website somewhere, presumably by a pseudo-scientific sceptic in denial. I thought it was common knowledge. We can also look at heavily vaccinated countries such as Iceland, Malta and Israel which have recently seen new outbreaks and therefore have clearly not reached herd immunity.
As it happens, I agree with Christopher that the current vaccines are not very good at preventing infection or transmission, particularly now the Delta variant is in town. But I’m also aware that that is not the current mainstream scientific position (though it is based on recent official data and reports).
It is the current mainstream scientific opinion. The Delta variant has pushed the herd immunity threshold into the high 90s which is not going to happen and, as Professor Francois Balloux of UCL recently said, “the vast majority of the global population is expected to get infected by the virus, likely more than once over their lifetime.”  


Full article

The WHO's crazy war on vaping

Published on 2021-07-30 08:46:00.
Website: Velvet Glove, Iron Fist


I've got an article in this week's Spectator about the World Health Organisation and its insane war on e-cigarettes. You can read it for free here

It might be hidden from the eyes of the world, but a showdown between the pragmatists and prohibitionists beckons at COP9. With a delegation of its own now that it has left the EU, Britain has the opportunity to take a world-leading role in the promotion of science and good regulation. The British delegation is likely to include some ex-smokers who quit thanks to vaping and who will argue for the UK model of light-touch regulation and evidence-based messaging. If they succeed, our most successful post--Brexit export to date may not be a product, but a model that will save millions of lives.

Full article

Return of the coronavirus cranks

Published on 2021-07-29 11:31:00.
Website: Velvet Glove, Iron Fist


In January, I wrote an article for Quillette about coronavirus cranks such as Ivor Cummins and Michael Yeadon. I've now written a follow up article to chart their descent into madness. 

The fat lady had not just sung. She had sung, taken off her frock, had a smoke, and was in a cab home. But this produced no contrition or self-reflection from the sceptics. Instead, they just got crazier. Whether it’s using the Freedom of Information Act to find out how many cremations took place last year (a lot more than usual) or pestering authorities for details of PCR cycle thresholds, there is no barrel they won’t scrape. At the anti-lockdown protest in London on Saturday, David Icke accused “demons” of using “a fake virus, a fake test, and fake death certificates to give the illusion of a deadly disease that has never and does not exist.” The MC, a former nurse and current conspiracy theorist named Kate Shemirani, explained that “you cannot catch a virus—it was a lie manufactured by the Rockefellers.” Piers Corbyn—brother of the UK Labour Party’s last leader—emphasised the urgent need to “close the jab centres” and “take down 5G towers.” If those who attended were disappointed to find a rally against lockdowns and vaccine passports turn into a showpiece for anti-vaxxers and assorted lunatics, it was not obvious from their cheers.

Full article

The lying, incompetent World Health Organisation

Published on 2021-07-28 11:02:00.
Website: Velvet Glove, Iron Fist


Having done such a cracking job with COVID-19, the WHO has gone back to doing what it loves best - scaremongering about vaping. It has put out one of its infamous Twitter threads with the usual half-truths and outright lies.
 

The aerosols from e-cigarettes contain toxic substances that can cause

???? cancer
???? cardiovascular diseases
???? lung disorders
???? damage to children’s brain development#CommitToQuit e-cigarettes now for a healthier life!

Here's how ????https://t.co/7OReiIXXpd pic.twitter.com/MvwAZqB8oB

Full article

Tobacco: Australia's new drug war

Published on 2021-07-27 16:55:00.
Website: Velvet Glove, Iron Fist


Let's take one of our occasional trips down to Australia to see how the World Leader in Tobacco Control is getting on with its staggeringly high cigarette taxes

As authorities target illicit tobacco imports, criminal groups are turning their attention to farming their own crops across regional Australia.

Illicit Tobacco Taskforce Australian Border Force Commander Greg Linsdell said that in the past 12 months there had been a significant increase in seizures involving the domestic growth of illicit tobacco as criminal groups look to maintain their supply after COVID-19 impacted imports.

Full article

The WHO Doubles Down On Its Incompetence

Published on 2020-05-29 17:13:00.
Website: Dick Puddlecote


You'd think, wouldn't you, that after the damning political and media criticism the World Health Organisation has rightly been subjected to over fucking up the health of every nation on Earth - with their pitiful and incompetent response to the Coronavirus - that they would have learned a lesson on getting their priorities right.

Well, it seems not. This week, they were celebrating the "defeat" of e-cigarettes in Finland, as if this is in any way a good thing.

Full article

It's That Man Again!

Published on 2020-05-21 19:57:00.
Website: Dick Puddlecote


So, the menthol tobacco ban - mandated by the EU's Tobacco Products Directive from 2014 - came in this week and many smokers will have been completely unaware of it until Wednesday when they found that their usual smokes are never to be seen again.

However, one thing we did see again was the British tobacco control industry's only supporter amongst retail tobacconists. Not surprising since just about every anti-smoking initiative could have the potential - even if it is not designed, which is arguable - to put corner shops and newsagents out of business.

Meet - once again - John McClurey, an anti-smoking newsagent who has had years to stop selling cigarettes in his shop but seemingly without success.

Full article

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