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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.

Subglacial Megaliths

Published on 2021-05-08 16:06:46.
Website: Frank Davis

I have in the past written about megalithic structures. The idea I had was that, with the surfaces of the ice sheets uninhabitable, humans may have lived in warm caverns beneath the ice, building megalithic structures to hold up the … Continue reading →

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Last Orders with Geoff Norcott

Published on 2021-05-07 16:11:00.
Website: Velvet Glove, Iron Fist

There's a new episode of Last Orders out with special guest Geoff Norcott. We talk about working class Tories, the state of Britain’s pubs and PC policing. It was recorded before the election results came through, btw.

You non-subscribers can listen here.

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Jamie Oliver’s guilty sugar secret: his own recipes are full of the stuff

Published on 2021-05-07 10:15:00.
Website: Velvet Glove, Iron Fist

First published by Spectator Health in September 2015

Imagine a country in which state-subsidised television networks wheel out popular celebrities to scare the masses into supporting more taxes. Imagine no longer. This is not a dystopian future, this is Jamie’s Sugar Rush.

According to a Guardian journalist, Mr Oliver is ‘extremely well liked’. If so, I have drifted further from mainstream public opinion than I realised. In his guise as a TV evangelist on Channel 4 last night, he increasingly resembled a cadaver being zapped with electricity, all blank eyes and random facial expressions. ‘I’ve come here to get my head around it,’ he said with faux-naivety as he prepared to fire loaded questions at another sympathetic interviewee. In an hour of staged encounters and predictable factoids, it was the voyage-of-discovery charade that grated more than anything. It was always going to end with advertising bans, higher taxes and a new crusade for a celebrity chef. Channel 4 knew it, we knew it and Jamie knew it.

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George Monbiot blames the government for rising obesity levels – there’s a simpler explanation

Published on 2021-05-06 09:12:00.
Website: Velvet Glove, Iron Fist

First published in Spectator Health in August 2018

George Monbiot has written a curate’s egg of an article for the Guardian on the subject of obesity. Struck by the near-total absence of fat people in a photo of Brighton beach in 1976, he wondered whether the rise of obesity in the intervening years was the result of more calories in or fewer calories out.

What he discovered came as a shock to him. His first revelation will be no surprise to readers of this blog: calorie consumption has fallen over time. Thanks to the National Food Surveys, we have a treasure trove of information going back to 1940. It shows that the average Briton was consuming more than the modern recommendation of 2,500 calories a day during the war. This rose after 1945, peaking in the 1960s, and falling thereafter. Average daily calorie consumption fell from 2,850 in 1970 to 2,560 in 1980. By 2011, it had dropped to 2,269. Figures from the National Diet and Nutrition Survey, which began in the 1980s, tell much the same story.

These surveys have raised concerns about mismeasurement. We know that people under-report what they eat and that fat people under-report more than thin people. In 2016, Public Health England hired the Behavioural Insights Team to look into this. Sure enough, they found evidence that people under-reported calorie intake and that the scale of under-reporting had risen over time, but even after correcting for this, they found that we are consuming fewer calories than we did in the 1970s.

All the evidence points in the same direction. Average calorie consumption – and, indeed, sugar consumption – is lower today than it was in the 1970s when obesity was relatively rare. The only way to deny this is to dismiss decades of research as worthless rubbish. That is not a good look for an empiricist and it is to Monbiot’s credit that he does not do so.

If we are not consuming more calories then the rise of obesity must be due to us burning fewer calories off, right? Not so fast, says Monbiot. He offers evidence that children are doing just as much exercise as ever and that people in poor countries burn the same number of calories as people in rich countries.

So what is the answer? Alas, this is where Monbiot’s article descends into gibberish. If you’re familiar with his oeuvre, you won’t be surprised to hear that the blame lies with those nasty corporations. They use advertising to ‘overcome our resistance’. They ’employ an army of food scientists and psychologists to trick us into eating more than we need’. They ‘discovered our weaknesses and ruthlessly exploit them.’

This is all standard Guardian banter but it doesn’t make any sense in the context of Monbiot’s article. It is almost as if – perish the thought – he decided what his conclusion was going to be before he began his research.

Even if everything Monbiot says about ‘Big Food’ is true, even if he is right when he says that ‘the opportunities to load our food with sugar have boomed’, we are still faced with the inescapable fact that we are consuming less sugar and fewer calories than we did in the glorious summer of 1976. As far as I can tell, Monbiot does not subscribe to magical thinking about particular types of calorie. His explanation therefore explains nothing.

So what is the real answer? There are factors that Monbiot does not mention, such as the rise of central heating and the decline of smoking, which are likely to have had some effect, albeit only on the margins. It is possible that future research will find that some unsuspected biological factor has also played a role. And it is important to remember that averages do not tell the whole story. It would be an ecological fallacy to assume that everybody is eating less just because average consumption has fallen.

Nevertheless, it is puzzling, to say the least, that the rate of obesity could rise so sharply if calorie consumption has fallen and people are as physically active as they have ever been. But this is where Monbiot makes his mistake. Physical activity has declined and his slivers of evidence to the contrary do not stack up against the facts. Public Health England says that levels of physical activity have dropped by a quarter since 1961. The World Health Organisation says that western countries have seen ‘decreased physical activity levels due to the increasingly sedentary nature of many forms of recreation time, changing modes of transportation, and increasing urbanization.’ Harvard School of Public Health says that: ‘Physical activity levels are declining’ and that ‘this decline in physical activity is a key contributor to the global obesity epidemic’.

Physical activity is not always easy to measure and it is often confused with leisure time exercise, but there should be little doubt that we are burning off fewer calories than ever in our day to day lives.
Britons are walking less (from 255 miles per year in 1976 to 179 miles in 2010) and cycling less (from 51 miles per year in 1976 to 42 miles in 2010). This is true of both adults and children.

 Unsurprisingly, people who drive to work are fatter than those who go by foot or by bicycle. And when we get to work, we are more sedentary than ever, as Tim Olds notes:
In the 1960s, half the jobs in private industry in the United States required at least moderate-intensity physical activity, compared to less than 20% today.
Work in factories and farms has given way to office work, and that has amounted to over 400 kilojoules less each day that adults expend at work. This difference alone results in a weight increase of about 13 kilograms over 50 years, which pretty closely matches actual changes in weight.
Only 18 per cent of British adults report doing any moderate or vigorous physical activity at work while 63 per cent never climb stairs at work and 40 per cent spend no time walking at work. Outside of work, 63 per cent report spending less than ten minutes a day walking and 53 per cent do no sports or exercise whatsoever.

This trend is confirmed by the National Food Surveys, which occasionally allude to the fact that the rise of office work resulted in people not needing to eat so much. As early as 1962, they reported that:

 ‘energy requirements have decreased in all regions

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E-cigarettes above Ebola? How the WHO lost the plot

Published on 2021-05-04 11:42:00.
Website: Velvet Glove, Iron Fist

First published in Spectator Health in November 2016

How do you deal with a man who likens himself to Hitler, describes the murder of children as ‘collateral damage’, slaughters thousands, and says he’s happy to slaughter three million more?
If the man is Rodrigo Duterte, president of the Philippines, and you are the head of the World Health Organisation’s anti-tobacco division, you will send your personal congratulations. Never mind that Duterte’s indiscriminate shoot-to-kill policy for drug users has brought him to the attention of the International Criminal Court. Duterte has recently introduced a smoking ban and that, it seems, is enough for him to be embraced by the public health community.

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The Most Persecuted Minority

Published on 2021-05-01 12:51:00.
Website: Frank Davis

Murray Rothbard wrote the following article in August 1994… Quick: Which is America’s Most Persecuted Minority? No, you’re wrong. (And it’s not Big Business either: one of Ayn Rand’s more ludicrous pronouncements.) All right, consider this: Which group has been … Continue reading →

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Smokers are the real virus, am I right?!

Published on 2021-04-30 11:19:00.
Website: Velvet Glove, Iron Fist

An absolute classic of the "COVID-19 shows that we should do what I've always wanted to do" genre on the Tobacco Control blog
 As we reflect on COVID-19’s toll, the US must also act on the tobacco pandemic  Yes, I thought you might say that.

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The new drinking guidelines are based on massaged evidence

Published on 2021-04-30 09:48:00.
Website: Velvet Glove, Iron Fist

First published by Spectator Health in October 2017

When the Chief Medical Officer, Sally Davies, lowered the drinking guidelines for men last year, she cited a report from the Sheffield Alcohol Research Group (SARG) as supporting evidence. SARG had been commissioned by Public Health England to help define a ‘safe’ level of alcohol consumption in October 2014 after using their computer model to predict the impact of minimum pricing on several occasions in the past.
The SARG report was published on 8 January 2016, the same day as the Chief Medical Officer announced the new ‘limits’. Its authors stressed that it was not their job to recommend specific limits, but nevertheless concluded that ‘the implied weekly guidelines in this report vary between 7 and 13 units per week for males and 13 and 15 units per week for females’. These figures were significantly lower than the ‘safe level’ implied by epidemiological evidence, but they were consistent with the new advice which lowered the male guidelines from 21 units a week to 14 units a week (the female guidelines remained at 14 units).
But there is another version of the SARG report tucked away on the Department of Health website that few people have ever seen. Along with a series of e-mails released under the Freedom of Information Act, it shines a light on the process that led to the Chief Medical Officer telling the nation that there is no safe level of drinking.
A year before the guidelines were changed, a draft of the SARG report was sent to Public Health England that was very different to the final publication. For example, it contained a graph (see below) based on SARG’s model showing the relationship between the amount of alcohol consumed and the risk of alcohol-related death.

Reflecting the epidemiological evidence, mortality risk is lower for light drinkers than for teetotallers but it then rises. According to this graph, drinkers’ mortality risk rises to that of a teetotaller at 17.6 units per week for women and 21.2 units per week for men. On this analysis, a guideline of 21 units for men was appropriate and a guideline of 14 units for women was slightly over-cautious. But that graph was never published. When the SARG report was released in January 2016, the findings had been altered and the graph now looked like this

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Banning menthol cigarettes

Published on 2021-04-29 16:14:00.
Website: Velvet Glove, Iron Fist

American politicians have discussed banning menthol cigarettes for years, but the issue is tied up in US race politics. Since menthol cigarettes are much more popular with African-Americans than with whites, the question is whether a ban would be racist because it disproportionately limits the freedom of blacks, or anti-racist because the benefits of the ban will disproportionately fall on blacks. I don't see any benefits from the ban so it seems pretty racist to me, albeit inadvertently (perhaps). America certainly has a tradition of banning recreational substances that are associated with - or are perceived to be associated with - ethnic minorities.  Menthol smokers are a minority within a minority. I suspect this is the main reason anti-smoking activists have been campaigning for a ban: less resistance from the public. They claim that menthol cigarettes are particularly appealing and are harder to quit, but if that were true they would be the most commonly consumed type of cigarette rather than a niche product. Whatever the reason, the EU has already banned menthol cigarettes and the same policy is now being seriously pursued in the USA by the FDA under the alleged progressive Joe Biden.
 Guy Bentley has given ten reasons why a ban would be a bad idea. Read his article for Reason, but you only need his tenth reason - "Adults should be free to choose which cigarettes they smoke" - and I only want to add a titbit of information from a 2012 study entitled 'Lung Cancer Mortality Risk for U.S. Menthol Cigarette Smokers'... Results:

The overall HR for lung cancer mortality for menthol smokers was 0.69 (95% CI = 0.45–1.06). The HR for lung cancer mortality for menthol smokers at ages 50 and over was 0.59 (95% CI = 0.37–0.95). All-cause mortality net of lung cancer mortality did not differ for menthol and nonmenthol smokers.

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The Tyranny of Public Health

Published on 2021-04-25 16:15:52.
Website: Frank Davis

Good to see someone notices. Infowars: In this speech delivered at a Health-and-Freedom rally in Orange County, California, human-rights attorney Leigh Dundas lights the fire of liberty in the hearts of her audience as she shows the parallels between the … Continue reading →

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War on Pubs

Published on 2021-04-22 19:55:33.
Website: Frank Davis

https://www.zerohedge.com/political/uks-war-pubs-about-silencing-dissent Is The UK’s “War On Pubs” About Silencing Dissent? …health bureaucrats seem to be intent on the British public remaining joyless as part of some demented puritanical drive to oversee the “crude sanitisation of our understanding of the human … Continue reading →

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A swift half with Sam Bowman

Published on 2021-04-22 16:00:00.
Website: Velvet Glove, Iron Fist

New episode out now and you can watch it below...

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Smoking and COVID-19 again

Published on 2021-04-21 09:31:00.
Website: Velvet Glove, Iron Fist

My thanks to the indefatigable Phil for pointing me in the direction of yet another study looking at the relationship between smoking and COVID-19. It's the usual story. As the authors say in the introduction...
Influenza infection and severity are worse in smokers compared to non-smokers. In contrast, studies throughout the world have reported a low prevalence of current smokers among people that tested positive for SARS-COV2 and/or were hospitalized due to COVID-19.
The researchers looked at 12,169 people in Texas who have tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 since the pandemic began, of whom 10,216 had previously provided information on their smoking status. Only 3.9 per cent were current smokers. 87 per cent had never smoked. 
1,150 (11.2%) of the people who tested positive were hospitalized due to COVID-19 within 14 days. Ex-smokers were more likely to be hospitalised, but current smokers were less likely.

Univariable analysis showed that former smokers had significantly higher odds of hospitalization from COVID-19 compared to never smokers (Odds Ratio [OR] 2.31; 95% Confidence Interval [CI] 1.94-2.74). In contrast, current smokers were less likely to be hospitalized from COVID-19 than never smokers (OR 0.68; 95% CI 0.60-0.99).
They then made adjustments for body weight and other factors, but this only made the effect bigger...
During further analysis (adding BMI, previous inpatient hospitalizations and number of comorbidities), there was a trend towards increase in odds of hospitalization for former smokers compared to never smokers, but the difference did not reach statistical significance (OR 1.05; 95% CI 0.86-1.29). Current smokers’ odds of hospitalization due to COVID-19 remained lower than that of never smokers (OR 0.55; 95% CI 0.37-0.83).
The smokers were also around half as likely to die from COVID-19 (the researchers do not give a precise relative risk, but 0.8% of the smokers died compared with 1.6% of the never-smokers and 5.1% of the ex-smokers). All the other findings were as you might expect from other studies. For example, obese people were 67% more likely to be hospitalised and women were 43% less likely. 
As the authors say...
Our results are in line with the observations of other authors about smoking and severe COVID-19. Indeed they are. Several mechanisms are proposed for this and you can check their references by looking at the study (which is not paywalled). 

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Public health expert at work

Published on 2021-04-20 16:10:00.
Website: Velvet Glove, Iron Fist

It's been a bad few days for SAGE's Theresa Marteau. Regular readers may recall that she is obsessed with the size of wine glasses. She thinks people drink more if they use large glasses and she'd quite like to regulate their size as a result. 
Alas, the evidence for this theory is mixed, at best. Last year, she cobbled together a 'mega-analysis' of studies which didn't really show much but she made the best of it and put out a press release calling for wine glass regulation anyway. She was back again yesterday with a new study co-authored with eleven fellow 'public health' researchers who apparently have nothing better to do during a pandemic. 
This time she was looking at beer and cider glasses but she came up empty-handed once again...

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Amor Vincit Omnia

Published on 2021-04-20 12:59:21.
Website: Frank Davis

I sometimes wonder whether they’ll ever stamp out smoking. And the answer seems to be that they won’t. After all, they’ve been trying for over 100 years without success. Over 400 years if you go back to James I. And … Continue reading →

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Last Orders with Clare Fox

Published on 2021-04-18 07:00:00.
Website: Velvet Glove, Iron Fist

A new episode of Last Orders came out at the start of the month but I forget to mention it here. Our guest was Baroness Fox of Buckley. You may know her better as Clare Fox. 

We discussed vaccine passports, the controversy over pictures of Muhammed at Batley Grammar School and the nanny state post-Covid.

Have a listen.

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Less drinking, more problems - the lockdown alcohol "paradox"

Published on 2021-04-16 13:08:00.
Website: Velvet Glove, Iron Fist

I was on the Irish radio station Today FM yesterday talking about alcohol policy and lockdown drinking habits. I was up against someone from the Alcohol Health Alliance, an organisation that was specifically set up by the state-funded pressure group Alcohol Action Ireland "to support the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill". Sockpuppetry doesn't get much more blatant than that.

The Public Health (Alcohol) Act, as it now is, includes a number of hardline temperance policies including various advertising bans, minimum pricing, and a retail display ban (the latter is the first in Europe and is know in Ireland as the 'Booze Burka'). 

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Calorie labels on alcohol

Published on 2021-04-15 11:30:00.
Website: Velvet Glove, Iron Fist

The government is considering mandating calorie labels on alcoholic beverages. This is an anti-obesity push rather than an anti-drinking initiative. It is an extension of the plan to force food outlets to put calorie counts on their food menus.  That policy is unworkable for smaller establishments who frequently change their menu and has already been watered down by the government. It will now only apply to businesses that have more than 250 employees. The same caveat will apply to the alcohol labelling policy, so it will only be the big chains that have to put calorie information on their beer pumps and/or menus. The British Beer and Pub Association is said to be 'furious' about this idea and Matt Kilcoyne of the Adam Smith Institute is also unhappy...
 ‘Brits backing their locals are well aware that too many pints makes beer belly more likely. We don’t need government enforced calorie counts to tell us something we already know.’

‘Ministers thinking up this madness should stop and drop the policy. Let the publicans and the punters do what they want in the pubs without Mr Hancock wagging his finger each time a pint is pulled.’

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A swift half with Freddie Sayers

Published on 2021-04-12 14:47:00.
Website: Velvet Glove, Iron Fist

The second episode of The Swift Half came out last week and has proved remarkably popular. Freddie is the executive editor of Unherd and has been interviewing most of the major players on every side of the lockdown debate since last spring. Check it out.

I'll be interviewing the Sunday Times' Matthew Syed live at 6pm, also for the IEA but not for The Swift Half. Catch it here.

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Another awkward study about smoking and COVID-19

Published on 2021-04-06 12:39:00.
Website: Velvet Glove, Iron Fist

A study in pre-print from Germany looks at a particularly deadly outbreak of COVID-19 in the county of Tirschenreuth in spring 2020. The researchers took blood samples from 4,203 residents to see who had antibodies (and therefore who had contracted COVID-19). All the participants filled in a questionnaire with various questions about their lifestyle, e.g. alcohol consumption, how much TV they watch, physical activity, etc.  Overall, 8.6% of those tested had antibodies. To the surprise of the researchers - but perhaps not to regular readers of this blog - only one lifestyle factor was associated with having antibodies for SARS-CoV-2 - and it was a negative association. 

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Behavioural economics and flawed paternalism

Published on 2021-04-03 10:28:00.
Website: Velvet Glove, Iron Fist

I've been reading a very interesting paper by Charles J. Delmotte and Malte F. Dold who discuss the problem with using sin taxes to tackle so-called internalities. Paternalists argue that taxes are not only needed to address negative externalities - costs and harm to others - but negative internalities - ie. costs that people impose on their own future selves which they are not always fully aware of. Classic examples include teenagers taking up smoking without realising how addicted they are going to get and students taking on debt without realising how little their degree is going to be worth. The latter example is a fairly recent problem largely created by government policy and it doesn't lend itself to sin taxes, but nicotine products, alcohol, food and cannabis do. 
Economists want resources to be distributed efficiently and this requires people to make rational choices. Behavioural economics has shown that people do not always make rational choices (although we already knew that). But much of the paternalist argument relies on the paternalist making assumptions about what people's 'true' preferences are and then showing that people do not always follow them. A lot of this is based on comparing stated preferences with revealed preferences. Delmotte and Dold give an example:
Consider for instance alcohol consumption: a hyperbolically discounting drinker might promise today not to drink at the party on Saturday but then she reverses that decision once Saturday has become today. In such a scenario, following a behavioral welfarist logic, sin taxes on alcohol would help as a commitment device to align individual choice with one’s ‘true’, long-term preferences. I have always found this kind of reasoning problematic. It seems weird to assume that what people say they want in the future is their true preference, but the choices people actually make in the present are illegitimate. I discussed an example from the behavioural economics literature in Killjoys...   In Inside the Nudge Unit, David Halpern (2015: 139) details the results of two behavioural experiments that appear to show ‘time-inconsistency’, with people making different decisions in the here and now than they would make for their future selves::

‘Around three-quarters of (Danish) workers chose fruit over chocolate when the prize was due to be delivered the following week, yet the majority instead chose chocolate when offered the choice at the point of delivery. Similarly, most people choose a healthy snack option over an unhealthy one for later in the day - especially if they have just eaten - but the reverse is true when asked immediately before the snack is available. The same appears to be true for other forms of consumption: most people choose a ‘highbrow’ movie (such as Schindler’s List) over a ‘lowbrow’ one (such as Four Weddings and a Funeral) when deciding what to watch next week, but the reverse when thinking about the evening.’

What should we conclude from this? Halpern says it shows that we are ‘trapped in our present’ and links it to hyperbolic discounting in which ‘the further into the future a cost or benefit, the disproportionately smaller it becomes relative to immediate costs and benefits’. So it does, but it also shows something else. People have a tendency to think - or hope - that they will have a different outlook in the future. If you have ever agreed, months in advance, to do something in which you are not very interested - such as going to a conference that is likely to be dreary - you will be familiar with this cognitive bias. Like an elephant in the distance, it seems very small when it is only a date in the diary. You think that you will be eager and ready when the day comes, but when it does you wonder why you ever agreed to it. This is a cognitive bias, but it tells us more about second-order preferences than it does about being ‘trapped in the present’. You wish you were the kind of person who enjoyed going to tedious conferences, eating healthy food and watching highbrow films. You hope that in the near future you might become that person. But you are not.

In the experiments above, the participants were given a straight choice. They did not have to pay for their food and films. There was nothing to sway them in the choice architecture, no nudging, no default option. Given that they opted for chocolate and Sleepless in Seattle, it would take a leap of faith to conclude that what they really wanted was celery and The Piano. Yes, they chose healthy food and highbrow films for their future selves, but putting something off until tomorrow is only one step removed from not doing it at all. At best, these experiments show that people know what an idealised version of themselves ought to do. Awkwardly, though, they also show what people really want to do.

Stated preferences are fairly worthless because people don't have to balance any costs or benefits. They are not making a real decision. We are all familiar with the experience of going to the pub with the intention of having just one pint and ending up having significantly more. It is not obvious that one pint is the welfare-maximising amount, nor is it obvious that your wellbeing would have been enhanced by being kicked out off the pub before you could have the second. 

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The APPG on Vaping's report about the World Health Organisation

Published on 2021-04-01 11:32:00.
Website: Velvet Glove, Iron Fist

The All Party Parliamentary Group on Vaping has published its report on the WHO's secretive tobacco conferences, the latest of which is due to be held in the Netherlands in November. Known as COP meetings (conference of the parties), they have become a hotbed of anti-vaping agitation in recent years. The WHO encourages member states to impose the strongest regulation on e-cigarettes, preferably including prohibition. They made the wrong call early on and has been doubling down ever since...
Two leaked papers from WHO’s Eastern Mediterranean Regional Office (EMRO) suggest that the WHO is exploring whether to advocate that reduced risk products are treated in the same manner as cigarettes or to ban them outright.
This is not the approach of the British government and that is a problem because British taxpayers are largely paying for these events. Indeed, they are paying a great deal to the WHO in general. As the report notes, the UK is the WHO's biggest state donor and recently agreed to increase its funding by 30 per cent.
 The COP meetings fly under the media radar because they are held in secret and involve lot of private horse-trading and log-rolling on issues that can often seem boring, but they deserve more attention. The APPG report is a useful piece of work which says everything that needs to be said, much of which is stated starkly.

The WHO continues to undermine a policy which has been proven to help people stop smoking.   That is the long and short of it. The UK is a major contributor to the WHO (77% of its budget in 201826), therefore the world-leading policies we employ in this country towards reduced risk products – and the personnel behind them - should be backed up by our COP delegation in The Hague in November and that the UK has every right to do so. It would be entirely in keeping with previously stated aspirations from the WHO towards harm reduction; fits with the articles of the FCTC; is consistent with the scientific evidence; endorses the UK’s leadership in this policy area and would advance public health on a global scale. 
That requires us to send the right people to the meetings. How the UK chooses its delegates remains shrouded in secrecy...
 During oral evidence, APPG members were told by witnesses that the process for choosing the UK’s FCTC COP delegates was not transparent. The delegations are published, and names of those attending is disclosed, but the process should be more open and transparent to ensure confidence, particularly the process by which delegates are selected.  
So, who should we send?

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Smokers told to cough up again

Published on 2021-03-31 11:48:00.
Website: Velvet Glove, Iron Fist

Apparently smokers still aren't paying enough tax. The government is looking into the idea of taxing tobacco companies to claw back the £40 million that cigarette litter supposedly costs to clean up each year.

This tax will inevitably be passed on to Britain's seven million smokers who already pay £11 billion a year in tobacco duty (including the VAT on the duty). Simple maths tells you that the average smoker is paying more than £1,500 a year in tobacco taxes alone. But it's never enough for the depraved fanatics at ASH who have suddenly become interested in littering. 

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A new dawn or Public Health England 2.0?

Published on 2021-03-29 14:54:00.
Website: Velvet Glove, Iron Fist

So Public Health England's nanny state functions will be passed to a new agency called the Office for Health Promotion. We don't know how much it will cost or who will be running it. Is there any hope that it will be anything other than Public Health England Mark II? Probably not, but let's not rush to condemn it just yet.

I've written about this for the Telegraph... 

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The future of UK tobacco harm reduction

Published on 2021-03-28 16:37:00.
Website: Velvet Glove, Iron Fist

I'm chairing a panel (online, natch) about the future of tobacco harm reduction on Monday at 6pm GMT. Martin Cullip, Clive Bates and Mark Pawsey MP are my guests so it should be lively.

Details here. You can watch it here or in the screen below.

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Victory (part two)

Published on 2021-03-27 11:58:00.
Website: Velvet Glove, Iron Fist

It's been a bit of a good news week. On Monday, AG Barr announced that its "limited edition" full sugar version of Irn-Bru would be on the shelves permanently, and now we're hearing that the online ban on tasty food advertising is being dropped.

An online junk-food ads ban is to be axed as it would have almost no effect on obesity.

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"Well, well, if it isn't the consequences of my own actions"

Published on 2021-03-26 21:00:00.
Website: Velvet Glove, Iron Fist

It's been a while since we had a laugh at Simon Chapman on this blog. He used to bring us so much entertainment. Australia's leading vaping prohibitionist is still knocking about in his nursing home shouting at clouds. He's been recently complaining about a "tsunami" of black market e-cigarettes. This is not a problem we have in Britain for some reason.

Hearing there's a tsunami of illegal cheap, disposable highly addictive nicotine vapes inundating Australian convenience stores with kiddie-friendly training wheel chemical flavours like these. In NSW you can log complaints here. They'll prosecute https://t.co/lp9ZO2tFBP Take pix pic.twitter.com/XXpfBdLZrG

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Vaccine passports

Published on 2021-03-26 11:07:00.
Website: Velvet Glove, Iron Fist

No thanks
 The government is running a public consultation on 'COVID-Status Certification' - vaccine passports to you and me. If it was hoping to grab the public's attention, it has succeeded. People have been talking about little else for the last two days. It began with Boris Johnson rightly suggesting that pubs should be free to serve whoever they want, but the idea of the government banning people from going to the pub unless they can prove they haven't got the virus soon took hold.  It's difficult to tell whether the government is seriously entertaining this or if it is media spin. Johnson's comments have been pretty vague so far and both Johnson and several ministers have previously ruled out the idea. On the other hand, the government is not exactly going out of its way to squash these rumours and we know from the last twelve months that the 'public health' zealots advising the government never miss an opportunity to stick the boot into the licensed trade. It has been suggested that people prove they don't have the virus in one of three ways: - An antibody test (for those who have previously had COVID-19)- A certificate of vaccination- A negative lateral flow test
 Weirdly, it has been suggested that this won't happen in the short term, but will be ready for Christmas. 

Big hint this won’t be in place before July but some on whitehall think it’s the key to being open next Christmas https://t.co/WjLJbYPjxC

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Chris Whitty - back to the day job

Published on 2021-03-25 10:20:00.
Website: Velvet Glove, Iron Fist

Chris Whitty had barely got his feet under the desk at the Chief Medical Officer's office when COVID-19 came calling. This week he gave an online lecture to remind us what his day job is when he doesn't have a real public health issue to deal with.  The subject was obesity and he took up where Sally Davies left off. He doesn't seem quite ready to call for a ban on people eating on trains, but he stuck to orthodox 'public health' line about the food 'environment' being the problem and the government being the answer.  Have a read of his slides.

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Lockdown, one year on and still in

Published on 2021-03-23 15:49:00.
Website: Velvet Glove, Iron Fist

It's a microphone

 I've made the case for speeding the lockdown roadmap for CapX. Let's have more focus on data and move those dates forward. I was talking to the great Simon Evans about the anniversary of lockdown in the first episode of my new IEA chat show, The Swift Half With Snowdon. It is, as the title hints, half an hour long. It's early days for me as a sort of interviewer, so let me know what you think in the comments. More great guests to come.

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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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