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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.

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). 


Full article

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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Lockdowns and Microchips

Published on 2021-04-13 16:27:38.
Website: Frank Davis


Zerohedge: Iconic author Frederick Forsyth has accused the UK government of waging a “campaign of mass fear” against the British public by using psychological methods to ensure compliance with lockdown that resemble those used against East Berliners in the 1960’s. … Continue reading →

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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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Is It Worth Watching TV?

Published on 2021-04-10 14:21:02.
Website: Frank Davis


I haven’t owned a TV licence for over 10 years. I got threatening letters for quite a long time, but I simply replied that I didn’t own a TV set. After a while the letters stopped. It’s saved me about … Continue reading →

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Royal Clowns

Published on 2021-04-08 13:30:50.
Website: Frank Davis


James Delingpole:: Prince William has confirmed that he’s at least as dodgy a kingly prospect as his father the Prince of Wales by calling for a ‘Reset.’ William, who is second in line to the British throne, slipped the codeword … Continue reading →

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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. 

Full article

The British Police State

Published on 2021-04-02 14:09:41.
Website: Frank Davis


Breitbart: Mr Farage reminded Britons during a YouTube broadcast on Wednesday that he had warned the government was “taking far too much power” and eroding Britons’ liberties for several months, but that “all of this went a step too far” … Continue reading →

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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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Victory!

Published on 2021-03-22 14:52:00.
Website: Velvet Glove, Iron Fist



 Some happy news to cheer you up in these troubled times...

IRN-BRU bosses have revealed their 1901 recipe which is crammed with MORE sugar than the axed pre-sugar tax original is back for good.

Full article

Keep on vaping

Published on 2021-03-18 12:23:00.
Website: Velvet Glove, Iron Fist


A new study from the UK provides yet more evidence that vaping helps people quit smoking. It found that smokers who used a disposable e-cigarette were three times more likely to quit and people who used a refillable e-cigarette were five times more likely to quit.

Compared with using no help, the odds of abstinence were increased by daily use of disposable/cartridge ECs (OR=3.31 (1.32, 8.26), p=.010) and daily use of refill/modular ECs (OR=5.47 (2.70, 11.11), p

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Vaping's image problem

Published on 2021-03-17 20:13:00.
Website: Velvet Glove, Iron Fist


A new Eurobarometer survey came out last month looking at attitudes towards vaping in the EU. It makes grim reading. Things are going backwards on every level.

I wrote about this for New Europe.  

The survey shows that among those who have little or no experience with vaping, only 20 per cent think e-cigarettes and heated tobacco products help smokers quit. Seventy per cent think they do not. The proportion of all respondents who believe that e-cigarettes are ‘harmful to the health of their users’ increased from 27 per cent in 2012 to 65 per cent in 2020. The survey does not ask what they mean by ‘harmful’ and no one claims that e-cigarettes are completely risk-free, but there are indications elsewhere that the average member of the public thinks the risks are much greater than they are. A study published last year found that 59 per cent of Europeans wrongly believe that vaping is as dangerous or more dangerous than smoking.

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Last Orders with Nick Cater

Published on 2021-03-16 10:53:00.
Website: Velvet Glove, Iron Fist


There's an episode of Last Orders out. I can't say it's new because I forgot to mention it when it came out two weeks ago, but our guest is Nick Cater - once a Brit, now an Aussie - who wrote an excellent book titled The Lucky Culture which I'm told is a favourite of Boris Johnson's. It explains how Australia got taken over by the metropolitan left and is relevant to many other countries.

In the pod, we discuss Zero Covid, internet censorship and a few other things. Check it out.

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Cash for honours at the W.H.O.

Published on 2021-03-12 10:23:00.
Website: Velvet Glove, Iron Fist


 The World Health Organisation has given the UK an award. Public health minister Jo Churchill picked it up on a Zoom call on Wednesday and the Secretariat of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control made a little speech
 We are very pleased that the United Kingdom has been awarded a 2020 United Nations Inter-Agency Task Force Award recognizing the UK’s role in the global prevention and control of noncommunicable diseases.  How exciting.  


Full article

The sugar tax evaluation

Published on 2021-03-11 14:59:00.
Website: Velvet Glove, Iron Fist


From the Independent....

 Consumption of sugar from soft drinks fell in the year after sugar tax brought in


Consumption of sugar in soft drinks was falling long before anyone took the idea of a sugar tax seriously, as I pointed out in 2016.


 However, the headline is not quite a statement of the obvious. It refers to a new study in the BMJ which looks at soft drink consumption between 2014 and 2019. It is part of the official evaluation which, in classic 'public health' fashion, is being conducted by academics who spent years cheer-leading for the policy. And it's costing the taxpayer £1.5 million.
The study's conclusion is - obviously - that the sugar tax was a success. The authors report no change in the number of drinks sold, but claim there was a 9.8% fall in sugar consumed in soft drinks after the tax was implemented. That's 29.5 grams a week per household.

Reasonably enough, the authors attribute this to manufacturers reducing the sugar content. They even try to reach out to the 'food [sic] industry' in the text. ... the overall reduction in sugar with no change in volume we report here might represent a valuable benefit for public health with little harm to the food industry.  As artificial sweeteners are cheaper than sugar, that may be true. However, the data only go up to March 2019 and it's worth remembering that the summer of 2018 was unusually hot and therefore saw more drink sales than normal (a fact that has been mentioned in connection to minimum alcohol pricing which also began in spring 2018).
 The SDIL [Soft Drinks Industry Levy] has also been found to have had no long term negative effects on the share value or turnover of UK soft drinks companies, suggesting that, contrary to industry predictions, public health can gain without negatively affecting the soft drinks sector.


Firstly, tell that to AG Barr whose share price has never recovered from its poorly received reformulation of Irn-Bru.  

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New IEA report on gambling - A Safer Bet

Published on 2021-03-10 12:27:00.
Website: Velvet Glove, Iron Fist



 In December, the government launched a consultation on how to make gambling regulation 'fir for the digital age'. It runs until the end of the month. No doubt every anti-gambling group will be responding to it demanding more bans and restrictions. 

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The elites are revolting

Published on 2021-03-08 16:06:00.
Website: Velvet Glove, Iron Fist


From The Times... 

Anti-obesity activists using the lever of forcing unwanted shareholder resolutions on blue-chip companies have claimed victory after Tesco agreed to set itself public targets to sell healthier food.

Britain’s biggest supermarket group pledged to try to lift the proportion of healthy products it sells from 58 per cent of total sales today to 65 per cent by 2025.

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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.

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.

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