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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.

Amazed and Delighted

Published on 2021-06-22 18:39:54.
Website: Frank Davis

18 months ago, in January 2020, I was busy writing my own climate simulation model. But then I came down with something very like Covid-19, and ended up in hospital for 2 weeks. Since then I’ve done nothing at all … Continue reading →

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The WHO's war on vapers

Published on 2021-06-22 09:30:00.
Website: Velvet Glove, Iron Fist

I had an article up at ConHome last week about the WHO's forthcoming conference on tobacco and why vapers should care about it. 

The World Health Organisation’s decision last month to give a special award to India for banning the sale of e-cigarettes was proof that the agency has no intention of taking an ethical and evidence-based approach to tobacco harm reduction. This puts it squarely at odds with countries such as the UK and New Zealand which have successfully embraced vaping as part of their tobacco control strategy.

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The hounding of Katherine Flegal

Published on 2021-06-21 11:36:00.
Website: Velvet Glove, Iron Fist

Way back in 2013, I wrote about a meta-analysis published in the Journal of the American Medical Association which assessed 97 individual studies encompassing a total sample group of 2.88 million people. It found that people who are overweight have a slightly reduced risk of mortality compared to people of 'healthy' weight (RR = 0.94 (0.91-0.96)).
I first wrote about it when it was published because the BBC was using the old trick of putting criticism of the study front and centre. 

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The Impact of COP9 on Vapers

Published on 2021-06-15 09:28:00.
Website: Velvet Glove, Iron Fist

 We have discussed the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control's (FCTC) Conferences of the Parties on this blog many times. Typically, they are cursed events - by Ebola in Moscow in 2014, by air pollution in Delhi in 2016 and by Covid in the Netherlands in 2020. The Netherlands meeting was cancelled and rearranged for this year, but the decision has now been made to hold it online only.

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Covid Scaremongering

Published on 2021-06-14 18:51:56.
Website: Frank Davis

Mail Almost a third of the 42 Britons who have so far died from the Indian (Delta) Covid had been double jabbed, a new report has revealed. From this it would seem that Covid kills hardly anybody. and the vaccine … Continue reading →

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A Swift Half with Dolly Theis

Published on 2021-06-12 10:06:00.
Website: Velvet Glove, Iron Fist

In the latest episode of The Swift Half with Snowdon I spoke to Dolly Theis who is doing a PhD in 'public health'. We spoke about obesity, the nanny state and her mission to achieve gender balance in parliament. Watch below.

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All Freedom Lost

Published on 2021-06-10 14:22:25.
Website: Frank Davis

Julia Hartley-Brewer 9:33 mins “I think the next battle is going to be demanding those rights back, every single one of those rights we’ve given away in this emergency legislation.. I want every last one of them back, and I … Continue reading →

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Did Brits drink more under lockdown?

Published on 2021-06-10 12:32:00.
Website: Velvet Glove, Iron Fist

As the Daily Mail reports, people in the UK supposedly drank more alcohol than usual during the first lockdown... Alcohol consumption fell in countries across Europe during the Covid pandemic – but not in the UK.

Across 21 European countries, the UK was the only one to see an increase in drinking, a study has found.

Researchers surveyed almost 32,000 people across Europe, including 836 in the UK, between April and July last year.

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Strange bedfellows in the moral crusade against gambling

Published on 2021-06-10 09:33:00.
Website: Velvet Glove, Iron Fist

Mary Whitehouse at the Festival of Light, 1971

 Of all the 'anti' groups I write about, the anti-gambling coalition is the most unusual. It includes the Salvation Army, a leftwing think tank (the IPPR), a rightwing think tank (the Centre for Social Justice), problem gambling charities, the Times, the Guardian, the Evangelical Alliance, various bishops, and elements of the rival arcade, casino and pub industries.  
This loose alliance formed over the fixed odds betting terminal issue and was already in the making when the moral panic about 'super-casinos' emerged in the early 2000s. They have now got the band back together to campaign against internet gambling, as I mention in A Safer Bet
No one is keener on this campaign than the Guardian who yesterday reported... ITV criticised for not banning gambling ads during Euro 2020 Did anyone expect gambling ads to be banned during Euro 2020? This is the first I've heard of it. You can always tell whose side a newspaper is on by how they frame the story. For example, when the Guardian uses the headline 'Oxford college criticised for refusal to remove Cecil Rhodes statue', you know they think the statue should have been removed. If they had been against it, they would have found someone who agreed with the decision and written 'Oxford college praised for refusal to remove Cecil Rhodes statue'. If they had just wanted to report the news, they would have said 'Oxford college refuses to remove Rhodes statue'.  In the case of gambling ads during Euro 2020, there is no real climate of opinion against them. In 2019, the gambling industry introduced a whistle-to-whistle voluntary ban before 9pm (foolishly in my opinion), so there are not going to be many gambling ads on TV anyway. It is a non-story, so the Guardian has tried to create a story by finding one person who is unhappy. 

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A smoke-free by 2030 - ASH's plan

Published on 2021-06-09 13:34:00.
Website: Velvet Glove, Iron Fist

ASH's All Party group put out a twelve point plan to make the UK 'smoke-free' by 2030. I looked at the proposals for Spiked... 

ASH has made itself slightly redundant in recent years as a result of governments capitulating to its every whim. Having portrayed cigarette packaging as the one remaining way in which the tobacco industry ‘lured’ in new customers, the introduction of plain packaging in 2017 made it difficult for them to argue that people picked up the habit for any other reason than that they enjoyed it. Since then, they have resorted to moaning about smoking in reality TV shows and trying to get smoking banned outdoors.

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The slow death of freedom

Published on 2021-06-08 15:19:24.
Website: Frank Davis

I was listening to Peter Hitchens talking about the death of freedom in Britain, starting with conscription in WW1 and continuing with the post-WW2 Labour governments’ various utopian legislative programs. One thing missing from his list of lost freedoms was … Continue reading →

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On June 21st everything must go

Published on 2021-06-08 12:28:00.
Website: Velvet Glove, Iron Fist

On a rare trip to London last week, I was struck by how the London Underground makes a mockery of the remaining coronavirus restrictions. Passenger numbers are down on pre-pandemic levels, but although people are less likely to be crammed face-to-armpit, they are still in very close proximity in a barely ventilated, confined space. I was also struck by the number of tourists getting off at Leicester Square and Piccadilly Circus, many of them no doubt on their way to spend a couple of hours in a windowless room watching a film or play. 

Good on them. Most adults – 28 million of us – have now had two doses of a vaccine. Another 13 million have had one jab and millions more have acquired immunity through having Covid-19. Case numbers are rising again, but they have so far not resulted in a commensurate rise in hospitalisations or deaths. With the vast majority of vulnerable people fully immunised, any third wave should be a low mortality event. Covid-19 will remain a non-trivial health issue for months, probably years, but it should no longer be a civil liberties issue. 

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Bloomberg's dark money

Published on 2021-06-06 11:10:00.
Website: Velvet Glove, Iron Fist

If you're going to write a lengthy article in a peer-reviewed journal accusing scientists of having undisclosed competing interests, it helps if you don't have undisclosed competing interests of your own. 
On Thursday, I mentioned the BMJ article which falsely claimed that studies showing smokers to be at lower risk of SARS-CoV-2 infection have been "roundly disproved" and implied that the whole thing was a tobacco industry ruse to promote nicotine. At the moment, my Rapid Response is the only one accepted for publication by the BMJ. The main target of the article - Dr Konstantinos Farsilinos - has written a response but it has not been published. 

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A lazy hit job from the BMJ

Published on 2021-06-03 16:15:00.
Website: Velvet Glove, Iron Fist

The BMJ put up a story today claiming that studies showing smokers at less risk of infection from SARS-CoV-2 have been "roundly disproved" and predictably implying that the whole thing is a tobacco industry ruse. You can read it here and see my "Rapid Response" here or below.

Dear Editor,

I didn't encourage anyone to 'Smoke fags, save lives'. That was the provocative headline put on an article I wrote last April. I don't write the headlines, but looking back at the article I notice that it gives a more accurate overview of the topic than Horel and Keyzer manage here.

The work of Professor Jean-Pierre Changeux cannot be dismissed on the basis of past funding from a "tobacco industry front group" although the fact that this funding took place a quarter of a century ago shows that there is no statute of limitations for ad hominem arguments. If I were to stoop to playing the man rather than the ball, I would note that The Investigative Desk receives funding from Bath University whose Tobacco Control Research Group has received $20 million from Bloomberg Philanthropies. Bloomberg Philanthropies was founded and is funded by Michael Bloomberg, a billionaire who uses his vast wealth to campaign against e-cigarettes. Why isn't this listed as a competing interest?

On the more substantive issue, the authors assert that it has been "roundly disproved that smoking protects against covid-19". This is simply untrue. Of the four studies they cite as evidence, only one (Jackson et al. [1]) suggests that smoking is a risk factor for Covid-19 - and that was based on an online survey.
Of the others, Hopkinson et al. [2] found that smokers were more likely to report a 'classic symptom' of Covid-19, which is perhaps unsurprising since one of the main symptoms is coughing, but it also found that "smoking was negatively associated with the risk of having a positive PCR for SARS-CoV-2 infection (OR (95% CI) 0.73 (0.65 to 0.81)".
Holt et al. (a preprint [3]) found no statistically significant association with smoking. Horel and Keyzer assert that Williamson et al. [4] "found that smoking, when adjusted for age and sex, was associated with a 14% increased chance of covid-19 related death". In fact, it found a statistically significant reduction in risk for smokers in the fully adjusted model (HR 0.89 (0.82–0.97)) and no statistically significant association in either direction after further adjustments were made (HR 0.98 (0.90–1.06)).
Horel and Keyzer do not mention the thorough ongoing meta-analysis by Simons et al. [5] which reports that: "Current compared with never smokers were at reduced risk of SARS-CoV-2 infection (RR = 0.71, 95% Credible Interval (CrI) = 0.61-0.82, τ = 0.34)."
The Simons et al. meta-analysis was last updated in early May. A number of peer-reviewed studies have since been published supporting the 'nicotine hypothesis'. For example, a study from Luxembourg found smokers to be half as likely to have been infected with SARS-CoV-2 (RR 0.50 (0.30–0.83; 0.004)) [6]. A study of healthcare workers in Chile found smokers to be 62 per cent less likely to have had COVID-19 (HR 0.38, 95% CI 0.16–0.93; p = 0.03) [7]. A study from Spain found smokers to be 77 per cent less likely to have had COVID-19 (OR 0.23 (0.20-0.27)) [8]. A study from Iran found that: "Patients with positive history of smoking were less likely to die of COVID-19 than their counterparts." [9]

These are some of the studies that have been published in the last month alone, in addition to preprints such as the large study from Germany which found that regular smokers were half as likely to have had COVID-19 (aOR 0.5, 95%CI 0.3-0.7) [10] and the study from Spain which reported a similar finding (OR 0.57 (95% CI: 0.42-0.79)) [11].

Far from being "roundly disproved", the evidence that smokers are at reduced risk of SARS-CoV-2 infection is much stronger today than it was when the hypothesis first emerged last March. This evidence cannot be dismissed on the basis of tenuous financial links of a handful of researchers to the tobacco and vaping industries. Why do we keep seeing this strong inverse association between smoking and SARS-CoV-2 infection? Is it the nicotine? Is it the smoke? Is it something else? We do not know and we are not going to find out by burying our heads in the sand.


[1] Jackson SE, Brown J, Shahab L, et al. Covid-19, smoking and inequalities: a study of 53 002 adults in the UK. Tob Control 2020 (published online 21 Aug). doi:10.1136/tobaccocontrol-2020-055933.

[2] Hopkinson NS, Rossi N, El-Sayed Moustafa J, et al. Current smoking and COVID-19 risk: results from a population symptom app in over 2.4 million people. Thorax 2021 (published online 5 Jan). doi:10.1136/thoraxjnl-2020-216422.

[3] Holt H, Talaei M, Greenig M, et al. Risk factors for developing COVID-19: a population-based longitudinal study (COVIDENCE UK). medRxiv 2021 [preprint]. doi:10.1101/2021.03.27.21254452.

[4] Williamson EJ, Walker AJ, Bhaskaran K, et al. Factors associated with COVID-19-related death using OpenSAFELY. Nature2020;584:430-6. doi:10.1038/s41586-020-2521-4. pmid:32640463

[5] Simons, D., Shahab, L., Brown, J and Perski, O. The association of smoking status with SARS-CoV-2 infection, hospitalisation and mortality from COVID-19: A living rapid evidence review with Bayesian meta-analyses (version 11) [preprint] https://www.qeios.com/read/UJR2AW.13

[6] Holuka, et al. Adverse Life Trajectories Are a Risk Factor for SARS-CoV-2IgA Seropositivity. Journal of Clinical Medicine 2021 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8157140/pdf/jcm-10-02159.pdf

[7] Iruretagoyena, M. et al. Longitudinal assessment of SARS-CoV-2 IgG seroconversionamong front-line healthcare workers during the first wave of the Covid-19 pandemic at a tertiary-care hospital in Chile. BMC Infectious Diseases 2021; 21: 478. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8149923/

[8] Candel, FJ. et al.  The Demography and Characteristic of SARS-CoV-2 Sero-positive Residents and Staff of Nursing Homes for Older Adults in the Community of Madrid: the SeroSOS Study. Age and Ageing, afab096 2021 https://academic.oup.com/ageing/advance-article/doi/10.1093/ageing/afab096/6263923

[9] Sohrabi, M. Sociodemographic determinants and clinical risk factors associated with COVID-19 severity: a cross-sectional analysis of over 200,000 patients in Tehran, Iran. BMC Infectious Diseases 2021 21: 474. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8146170/

[10] Harries, M. et al. SARS-CoV-2 seroprevalence in Germany - a population based sequential study in five regions 2021 [preprint] https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2021.05.04.21256597v1

[11] Belen, VS. Seroprevalence of SARS-CoV-2 Antibodies and Factors Associated with Seropositivity at the University of Salamanca: The DIANCUSAL Study 2021 [preprint] https://europepmc.org/article/ppr/ppr335544

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Bullying Bastards

Published on 2021-06-03 13:05:00.
Website: Frank Davis

Bullying bastards Hospitality bosses reacted with fury today after five councils in England banned smoking outside pubs, cafes and restaurants with others considering joining them as the Government tries to make the UK smoke free by 2030. Newcastle City Council, … Continue reading →

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'Public health' priorities in a pandemic

Published on 2021-06-03 10:33:00.
Website: Velvet Glove, Iron Fist

The media love a good story about banning smoking outdoors. Radio stations get the phone ringing off the hook. I'm not quite sure the latest one justifies all the media attention. As far as I can see, Oxfordshire council have said that it would be nice if there were fewer smokers. Banning smoking outside hospitality venues has been mentioned but seems unlikely to win a vote, not least because the hospitality industry would be up in arms.
Nevertheless, the vultures at ASH have been all over it and it has made headlines so I've responded in the Telegraph today... 

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Another car crash week for the WHO

Published on 2021-06-02 13:46:00.
Website: Velvet Glove, Iron Fist

Even by the WHO's standards, this week has been a car crash. They've given an award to for banning e-cigarettes. They've put the pariah states Belarus and Syria onto their executive board. And they've come up with a ludicrous system for naming variants of concern to replace the common sense system that nobody had a problem with. I've written about it for CAPX...

If the World Health Organization wanted to prove beyond doubt that it is no longer fit for purpose, it couldn’t have done a better job than to make the announcements it has made this week. 

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Happy World Vape Day!

Published on 2021-05-30 11:21:00.
Website: Velvet Glove, Iron Fist

When I tried my first e-cigarette in 2008 (or was it 2009?), I didn't imagine that public understanding of their risks, relative to smoking, would have gone backwards by 2021. Nor would I have predicted that the World Health Organisation would have gone to war on them or that the European Commission would be gearing up for another bash at regulating them into the dust.

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Another dumb idea from tobacco control: e-cigarette flavour bans

Published on 2021-05-26 15:26:00.
Website: Velvet Glove, Iron Fist

San Francisco's ban on e-cigarette flavours has had a predictable outcome. A study published in JAMA Pediatrics this week looked a ban on e-cigarette flavours implemented in San Francisco on 1 January 2019. The ban was supposed to make e-cigarettes less appealing to young people. And so it did, but with the unintended consequence that high school students smoked more instead. After the ban came into effect, the youth of San Francisco were more than twice as likely to smoke than their counterparts in other districts. As the author noted: “This raises concerns that reducing access to flavored electronic nicotine delivery systems may motivate youths who would otherwise vape to substitute smoking.”

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The nanny state we're in - interview

Published on 2021-05-25 09:49:00.
Website: Velvet Glove, Iron Fist

I recently had a good chat with Gary Kavanagh of the Edmund Burke Institute. Gary is based in Ireland so he knows all about the nanny state. We talked about the Nanny State Index, vaping, smoking, sugar taxes, Minimum Unit Pricing (MUP) for alcohol, the drive towards increased nanny statism coming from NGOs, and what consumers can do to fight back.

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There's one born every minute - the Ivor Cummins story

Published on 2021-05-23 16:02:00.
Website: Velvet Glove, Iron Fist

In the 1980s there was a TV evangelist in the USA named Peter Popoff who was exposed on national television by the late, great James Randi. It turned out that he was wearing an earpiece during his church services so his wife could feed him 'divine' information about people in the congregation. You may have seen it. It is possibly the most famous debunking in television history.


The thing I find most fascinating about this story is that Popoff is still in business. Despite being caught bang to rights on video tape, Peter Popoff Ministries is today producing 'Miracle Spring Water' and broadcasting on several TV networks (including Faith TV in Britain).  

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Prince’s death at 57 was no music industry average

Published on 2021-05-21 10:08:00.
Website: Velvet Glove, Iron Fist

First published by Spectator Health in April 2016 

 After the tragic and untimely death of Prince, an internet meme took flight claiming that the singer died ‘at the average age of death for American pop stars’. This is not really true and, insofar as it contains a germ of truth, it is not useful.

The origin of the claim can be traced back to an article from 2014 in which an Australian professor of psychology and music compared the ages at which pop stars died in each decade from 1950 onwards and compared them to the average age of death of the general population. As the graph below shows, there is a big gap, albeit one that has been closing over time.

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The Truth Initiative versus the truth

Published on 2021-05-20 12:15:00.
Website: Velvet Glove, Iron Fist

America's lavishly funded (by unwitting smokers) Truth Initiative is not happy about nicotine pouches. The pouches are smokeless nicotine products similar to snus which contain no tobacco, but the Truth Initiative doesn't think manufacturers should describe them as such even though it is, well, the truth.

Increasingly popular oral nicotine products are frequently marketed as tobacco-free alternatives to smoking, claims that could imply lower-risk and are not authorized by the Food and Drug Administration, according to a recent Truth Initiative analysis of direct mail advertisements.  They are tobacco-free alternatives to smoking and they are clearly lower-risk, so what is the problem here?  Does the FDA say that products cannot be described as tobacco-free? I doubt it otherwise the Troof Initiative would have gone straight to them with a complaint rather than writing a crummy study about it.

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Is the European Commission about to crack down on vaping (again)?

Published on 2021-05-19 15:11:00.
Website: Velvet Glove, Iron Fist

I've written an article for Brussels Reporter about the clouds gathering over vaping in the EU. Last year, the EU’s Scientific Committee on Health, Environmental and Emerging Risks (SCHEER) published a preliminary opinion on electronic cigarettes. As I said at the time... 

Reading it is like taking a step back in time, or being in Australia.

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Carbohydrate hysteria

Published on 2021-05-19 08:56:00.
Website: Velvet Glove, Iron Fist

First published by Spectator Health in June 2018

One of Twitter’s odder subcultures warns you of its obsessive presence with the hashtag #LCHF. It stands for ‘low carb, high fat’ and its followers have remarkably strong feelings about carbohydrates. Why? Mostly because they used to be fat and then they gave up carbs. They are no longer fat and so, QED, carbs are the cause of obesity and people shouldn’t worry about calories or physical activity. Silly old scientists won’t admit this profound but hidden truth because they have been bought off by Big Grain or Big Pharma or something, but who needs scientists when you have personal testimony?

This rebadged version of the Atkin’s Diet works for many people, at least in the short term, but the conclusions of some of its disciples are based on magical thinking, rather like a cargo cult. People lose weight when they cut out the carbs because they are cutting out a lot of calories. Carbs are easily accessible and energy-dense. That has been their selling point for thousands of years. In a typical meal, the meat provides the protein, the vegetables provide the vitamins and minerals, and the carbs provide the calories (plus fibre, protein, B vitamins and flavour). People in every society on Earth bulk out their meals with bread, potatoes, rice, pasta, noodles or whatever source of cheap carbohydrate is available to fill their stomachs and give them energy. If you cut these foods out of your diet or replace them with vegetables, there is a very good chance that you are going to lose weight.

A low carb diet is not an alternative to cutting down on calories. It is a way of cutting down on calories. It doesn’t guarantee weight loss because you could still gorge yourself on cheese and bacon, but it is so restrictive that you are likely to substitute lower calorie food in practice. In its purest form, it is a highly restrictive diet. A diet which forbade you from eating any food that begins with a letter between N and Z in the alphabet would have much the same effect.

The same magical thinking can be seen in the LCHF view of diabetes. It is well known that obesity increases the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, perhaps by a factor of seven. In recent years, it has also become accepted that the disease is reversible in some patients through intense weight loss. Since a highly restrictive diet like LCHF can lead to rapid weight loss, there are low carb enthusiasts who have seen their diabetes go into remission. With a little cargo cult science, it is easy to come to the conclusion that a low carb lifestyle is the cure for Type 2 diabetes and, by association, that carbohydrates are the cause of Type 2 diabetes.

This is not the conclusion that mainstream scientists have come to. Rather boringly, they prefer the more obvious interpretation that obesity is a risk factor for Type 2 diabetes, that obesity is caused by excess calories, and that both obesity and diabetes can be addressed by creating a calorie deficit. This is not just their opinion. It is based on empirical evidence. For example, the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition found no association between carbohydrate intake and body mass in its latest evidence review and, with regards to diabetes, it concluded

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Vaping junk science and the gateway effect

Published on 2021-05-18 11:43:00.
Website: Velvet Glove, Iron Fist

Carl Phillips has written the definitive critique of low quality vaping research (available in draft form here). He looks at the most popular studies (as measured by their Google Scholar ranking) and concludes that the whole field is plagued by fatal flaws. Some of the problems are intractable, but researchers could get closer to answering the key questions if they improved their methodology and looked at the issue down the right end of the telescope. Most of the time they can't be bothered or they deliberately choose sloppy methods to get the answers they want.
A classic example is the so-called gateway hypothesis - that taking up vaping leads people who would otherwise not become smokers to start smoking. Although many studies have purported to find such an effect, it has been pointed out ad nauseam that the kind of people who start vaping are often - usually? - the kind of people who would have started smoking had e-cigarettes never been invented. The fact that smoking rates tend to decline as vaping prevalence increases strongly suggests that the gateway effect is either nonexistent or so negligible that it is easily outweighed by the gateway in the opposite direction, ie. people using vaping as a means to quit smoking.
Some researchers have sought, with varying degrees of enthusiasm, to control for this personality trait, but it is an intractable problem. Carl's explains better than anyone else why this is...
 Though not strictly trans-scientific, it turns out to be practically impossible to assess whether vaping is causing people to smoke (let alone become smokers) with any of the data that is apparently available. Even the best potential matching or deconfounder covariates are inadequate to control for propensity to use a tobacco product. The covariates used in practice are nowhere near close enough. Variables that are supposed to control for the propensity are typically measures of “risk taking” or “rebellious” behavior and perhaps inclination to use drugs of any sort. (These are often described with the phrase “common liability”, another term that should be avoided by ethical researchers because of the obvious pejorative double entendre of the word “liability”. Notice that in other contexts where there is a common cause -- the appropriate scientific term -- that makes someone more liable to choose both the exposure and outcome, researchers never use this loaded phrase.) 

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Nanny states are no healthier and no happier

Published on 2021-05-17 10:17:00.
Website: Velvet Glove, Iron Fist

The new Nanny State Index was published last week. Every time we publish it, I get people asking me whether the biggest nanny states are happier, presumably because the famously perky Scandinavian countries are mostly near the top of the index.

We know that Nanny State Index scores don't correlate with life expectancy, but do they correlate with happiness and life satisfaction scores?

Reader, they do not. Here are the NSI scores against life satisfaction scores (from Our World in Data). With an r-squared of exactly zero, there is absolutely no correlation.

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Interview with Ronnie O'Sullivan

Published on 2021-05-15 10:38:00.
Website: Velvet Glove, Iron Fist

A very special guest on The Swift Half this week. I thought I dreamt this but here's the video evidence that it happened...

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Another big win for 'public health'

Published on 2021-05-14 08:37:00.
Website: Velvet Glove, Iron Fist

What a year it's been for the heroes of the 'public health' movement. While medics have been working tirelessly to save lives and scientists have created a series of effective vaccines, the over-funded troughers of the 'public health' racket have been busy complaining about tobacco companies donating ventilators to hospitals and alcohol companies producing hand sanitiser.
Last September, Britain's multi-million pound SPECTRUM consortium produced an unintentionally hilarious report whining about food and drink companies donating baby milk, face masks, water and hospital equipment to the needy.
 As I said at the time...
... you could not ask for a more perfect illustration of the moral rot at the heart of the modern 'public health' movement... SPECTRUM would rather COVID-19 victims went without ventilators than have them supplied by businesses of whom they disapprove. When dogma conflicts with saving lives, the 'public health' racket is always happy to side with the virus.

These people see themselves as being in a branch of medicine but they know nothing about medical ethics, such as the old 'first do no harm' thing. 

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The 2021 Nanny State Index

Published on 2021-05-13 10:52:00.
Website: Velvet Glove, Iron Fist

Europe's hall of shame

The latest edition of the Epicenter Nanny State Index, which I've spent the last few months putting together, is published today. Regular readers will know that it's a biennial league table of the best and worst places in the Europe to eat, drink, smoke and vape.

Since the last edition was published in 2019, the COVID-19 pandemic has led governments around the world to impose coercive controls on an almost unprecedented scale. As the world slowly returns to normal, it is crucial that all liberties are restored.

The pandemic was a reminder of the difference between a genuine public health problem that requires collective action and self-regarding private behaviours which do not. Outbreaks of serious infectious disease are thankfully rare in the developed world and COVID-19 required an effective public health response. In Europe, too many public health agencies had been distracted by the nanny state agenda and were ill equipped to carry out their core function of protecting the public from infectious disease. Even the World Health Organisation seemed more interested in banning e-cigarettes and taxing sugary drinks than in controlling the coronavirus.

When lockdowns were introduced in the spring of 2020, paternalists seized the opportunity to impose the kind of lifestyle regulation they had hitherto only been able to dream about. At one point, one in five people worldwide were living in a country where the sale of cigarettes and e-cigarettes was illegal. For a while, a quarter of the world’s population lived under alcohol prohibition. As more people were forced to socialise outdoors, anti-smoking campaigners demanded outdoor smoking bans. Campaigners in the USA and elsewhere claimed (falsely) that vaping increased the risks of people catching the virus. E-cigarette shops and alcohol retailers were deemed ‘non-essential’ in many countries. When lockdown ended, bars reopened but some countries did not allow them to serve alcohol.

It is an ill wind that blows no good and the pandemic response also led to modest liberalisation in some places. A few countries legalised home delivery for alcoholic drinks. Some countries, such as the UK, allowed more bars to serve drinks on the street. But, overall, the pandemic gave the nanny statists an opportunity to ruthlessly exploit.

This edition of the index reflects the situation as of March 2021, but we have not included legislation that is expected to be a genuinely temporary response to the pandemic. The outlook is bleak nonetheless. Almost without exception, governments across Europe are adopting higher sin taxes and more prohibitions.

This year, the index has been expanded to thirty countries - the EU plus Iceland, Norway and the United Kingdom. Norway tops the league table although that could change once it legalises e-cigarettes. Lithuania, with its heavy temperance legislation, is again in second place while Finland drops to third.

The top of the table is dominated by Scandinavia, Eastern Europe and the British Isles. Greece is the only country from southern Europe in the top half, largely thanks to its very high sin taxes on alcohol and tobacco. At the more liberal end of the table, the best countries are a mixed bag. Germany has performed the extraordinary feat of having the lowest score in all four categories of the index. Hovering above it we find Czechia, Luxembourg, Spain and Italy, all of which have done well in previous editions. Denmark is just above this group and is the only Scandinavian country not in the top ten. That seems likely to change in the future, however. Like the Netherlands, Denmark has a slew of hardcore nanny state policies in the pipeline.

Twelve countries now have taxes on sugary drinks, ranging from five eurocents per litre in Hungary to 30 eurocents in Ireland. Several countries also tax artificially sweetened drinks. And thirteen countries tax e-cigarette fluid (up from eleven in 2019), with tax rates ranging from six eurocents per ml in Hungary to 30 eurocents in Finland and Portugal.

Germany is now the only country in the EU that could be described as smoker-friendly. Previous contenders Austria and Czechia have both introduced draconian smoking bans in recent years. The number of vaper-friendly countries is also dwindling. Seventeen of the thirty countries in the index have made it illegal to use an e-cigarette wherever smoking is prohibited. Sixteen countries have a total or near-total ban on e-cigarette advertising.

We have made a few changes to the index since the 2019 edition was published. As heated tobacco products have become popular, taxes on heated tobacco have inevitably become attractive to politicians. A new subcategory has therefore been included in the tobacco section, worth up to five points. Countries that have been foolish enough to ban these products (Malta and Norway) are given maximum points.

Ireland has pioneered the alcohol display ban (otherwise known as the booze curtain) and so a new subcategory has been added to take that into account. It is also worth five points. A subcategory for minimum alcohol pricing, which is now in force in Wales and Scotland and may soon be in place in Ireland, was added in the 2019 edition.

All taxes are adjusted for affordability in the Nanny State Index. This year, in a change to the previous methodology, we use median incomes rather than per capita GDP for this calculation. Median incomes are a better guide to the spending power of individuals, particularly in corporate tax havens where GDP does not accurately reflect average incomes.

The big picture is one of a constantly expanding nanny state raising prices and trampling freedom. The blame for this lies overwhelmingly with domestic governments, not with the European Union. The EU banned menthol cigarettes in May 2020, but it cannot be held responsible for regressive taxation, draconian smoking bans and excessive regulation of alcohol and food. The gulf between the freest countries at the bottom of the table and the least liberal countries at the top is almost entirely the result of decisions made by their own governments. Change is possible.

The Nanny State Index is a huge collaborative project which involves gathering and checking over a thousand pieces of data. As always, we thank our friends and partners across Europe who make it possible.

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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.

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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.

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