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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.

Jamie Oliver addresses a small gathering in London

Published on 2022-05-20 15:07:00.
Website: Velvet Glove, Iron Fist

Contemptible multi-millionaire Jamie Oliver turned up to speak to the staff of his front group Biteback and a handful of journalists in Westminster today in a protest against affordable food. Waving a high-sugar, high-fat, high-calorie luxury dessert, the failed restaurateur demanded the government ban multibuy deals such as '3 for 2' and '50% extra free' on food that contains modest quantities of fat, sugar and salt. The government is doing this anyway, just a year later than over-the-hill chef would like.
  I wrote about this issue for Spiked in the week, so I will leave Tom Harwood to summarise the day's events. I particularly enjoyed the last 15 seconds of this.

Jamie Oliver was campaigning with a small group outside Parliament today in favour of banning Buy One Get One Free offers on food.

The man who took away our turkey twizzlers is back for more. pic.twitter.com/cUeldNAlUp

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Do nanny state policies work at all?

Published on 2022-05-18 15:33:00.
Website: Velvet Glove, Iron Fist

Carl Phillips and Marewa Glover have produced a very interesting study assessing the efficacy of anti-smoking policies in the USA. With the exception of tax rises, they find very little evidence that any of them have made any measurable difference to smoking rates and that most, if not all, in the fall in smoking rates would have happened without any legislation.  Why, then, have smoking rates been declining for decades? Their theory is that it began with the "information shock" of public health authorities, such as the Surgeon General, declaring smoking to be a major health risk in the 1960s. This led to an immediate decline in smoking rates which has echoed down the years through inter-generational effects. As they note, the most robust predictor of individual smoking initiation is parental smoking. When parents quit or never start smoking, their offspring are less likely to smoke.  
And so, by their calculations...

Results: About one-third of the observed prevalence decline through 2010 can be attributed solely to fewer parents smoking after the initial education shock. Combining peer-group cessation contagion explains well over one-half of the total historical prevalence reduction. Plausible additional echo effects could explain the entire historical reduction in smoking prevalence. 

Conclusions: Ongoing anti-smoking interventions are credited with ongoing reductions in smoking, but most, or perhaps all that credit really belongs to the initial education and its continuing echoes. Ensuring that people understand the health risks of smoking causes large and ongoing reductions. The effect of all other interventions (other than introducing appealing substitutes) is clearly modest, and quite possibly, approximately zero, after accounting for the echo effects.

 I recommend reading the whole study, but the following section should give you the gist of what they mean by echo effects: 

We know that choosing to smoke is socially contagious – the more people around someone who smokes, particularly their parents, the more likely they are to start smoking.1 Parental smoking is the most consistent strong predictor of whether a teenager (of a particular age, in a particular population) will start smoking. Smoking prevalence among siblings, peer groups, and the wider community affects uptake via overt and subconscious social signaling. All of these are taken as fact in the scientific literature and in Phillips et al tobacco control politics, where they are cited as motivation or points of leverage for interventions. But one important implication – that a downward shock or trend in smoking prevalence will, by itself, cause further downward trending for more than a generation – is generally ignored. 

Similarly, smoking cessation is a contagious behavior. This is particularly clear for switching to a lower-risk alternative, wherein the person quitting smoking demonstrates to their social contacts that the choice is appealing and educates them about the alternative. However, even if the choice of cessation method is not affected by social-contact education, the demonstration effect of quitting itself is still powerful. Seeing a friend quit smoking takes it from being an abstract possibility to a concrete example of success. In addition, simply having fewer people who smoke in one’s social circles encourages quitting. Each of these, and all of them together, creates a positive feed-forward effect from any smoking reduction. 

Thus, a one-time permanent downward shock in the popularity of smoking – like that caused by initial education about the harms from smoking – causes a long tail of transition to a new lower equilibrium, echoes of the initial shock. If many people quit smoking, then many more who would have started smoking had they come of age earlier will not do so and others will be motivated to quit over time. The subsequent cohorts coming of age not only will experience the effect of the downward shock, but also be subject to less social contagion. There will be a new equilibrium, but it will only be reached slowly, with a substantial portion of the effect taking more than a generation. This will happen with or without any further efforts to discourage smoking. Subsequent interventions could still have effects beyond the secular trend toward a new equilibrium, of course, but it makes no sense to try to quantify those effects without trying to estimate the background effects of the echoes alone.

 Phillips and Glover stress that it cannot be proved either way whether the bulk of anti-smoking regulation has made a difference to smoking rates. They present a hypothesis and a series of models. But it is an intriguing hypothesis and I have often wondered to what extent the tobacco control lobby has been dining out on a decline in smoking rates that would have happened without them (and for many years did happen without them). 

That would certainly help explain why tobacco-style regulation fails to work when applied to other activities. These policies tend to focus on the Three As - affordability, advertising and availability - but whilst it is Econ 101 to note that higher prices tend to lead to lower consumption, albeit at the expense of consumers, the evidence for the other two As is remarkably thin on the ground. 

Take alcohol. A 2019 systematic review titled 'Do alcohol control policies work?' and written by two members of the South African Medical Research Council concluded that ‘[r]obust and well-reported research synthesis is deficient in the alcohol control field despite the availability of clear methodological guidance.’ The policies examined included restricting alcohol advertising and restricting on- and off-premise outlet density.

With regards to advertising, a Cochrane Review, which is usually considered definitive, found 'a lack of robust evidence for or against recommending the implementation of alcohol advertising restrictions'. 

Even the authors of Alcohol: No Ordinary Commodity, the bible of the secular temperance movement, were only able to make a limp case for advertising bans.

‘Imposing total or partial bans on advertising produce, at best, small effects in the short term on overall consumption in a population, in part because producers and sellers can simply transfer their promotional spending into allowed marketing approaches. The more comprehensive restrictions on exposure (e.g. in France) have not been evaluated

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Trying to find common ground on food policy

Published on 2022-05-18 09:10:00.
Website: Velvet Glove, Iron Fist

Sky News have a show presented by Trevor Phillips which tries to find common ground between people who disagree. It is called, reasonably enough, Common Ground and I like the format. It's half an hour long so there is time to get deeper into issues than you get in a standard TV interview. 

Yesterday I was on the show with Thomasina Miers, a restaurateur and food campaigner, to discuss the BOGOF ban and obesity policy in general. She is not a fanatic like Graham 'Mad Dog' MacGregor nor is she a grifter like Aseem Malhotra. She's mostly interested in improving the nutritional quality of school meals, but she also supports things like the BOGOF ban, so we naturally disagreed.

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Bog off forever

Published on 2022-05-17 11:17:00.
Website: Velvet Glove, Iron Fist

The ban on volume price discounts, such as '3 for 2' deals, for HFSS food has been delayed by a year and will now come into force in October 2023. The advertising ban has also been delayed by a year and will come into force in January 2024. 

Both of them should be ditched for good, as I argue in Spiked today... 

The scoundrels of ‘public health’ have persistently claimed that the ban only applies to ‘junk food’. Most of the media have gone along with this conceit, but ‘junk food’ is in the eye of the beholder and has no legal definition. In Britain, the category of HFSS (high in fat, sugar or salt) is used as its nearest equivalent, but this covers far more products than you might expect, including olive oil, raisins and walnuts. 

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Gambling as a 'public health' issue

Published on 2022-05-15 19:52:00.
Website: Velvet Glove, Iron Fist

Martin McKee and Mark Petticrew, two of the most inept 'public health' blowhards in Britain, have bumbled into the gambling debate with a letter in Lancet Psychiatry. McKee has form for talking rubbish about gambling, having been an opponent of the National Lottery way back in 1995. Neither he nor Petticrew have conducted any research into problem gambling, but they recognise that efforts to redefine gambling as a 'public health' issue offers them a new dragon to slay and new opportunities to write opinion pieces about industry websites masquerading as research (which is Petticrew's speciality).

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New Study Finds that Switching from Smoking to Vaping Reduces Heart Disease Risk by 34%

Published on 2022-05-11 23:19:00.
Website: The Rest of the Story: Tobacco and Alcohol News Analysis and Commentary

A new study published just days ago in the journal Circulation reported that adults who exclusively use electronic cigarettes experience a 34% reduction in their risk of heart disease. 

(See: Berlowitz JB, et al. E-cigarette use and risk of cardiovascular disease: A longitudinal analysis of the PATH study (2013-2019). Circulation 2022; DOI: 10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.121.057369.)

The study used a longitudinal design, following approximately 32,000 adults over a six-year period from 2013 to 2019. E-cigarette use and tobacco cigarette use were assessed periodically, as was self-reported heart disease, including a heart attack, heart failure, or stroke. The study examined the risk of incident heart disease for smokers compared to exclusive e-cigarette users, dual users, and nonsmokers, while controlling for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, body mass index, hypertension, high cholesterol, diabetes, and family history of heart disease.

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Prohibition doesn't work - South African edition

Published on 2022-05-06 12:41:00.
Website: Velvet Glove, Iron Fist

Mark Petticrew and a few of his headbanging colleagues have written a little diatribe for the BMJ. The gist of it is that arguments and evidence they don't like are a form of 'pollution' and should be controlled as such. Or something like that. I don't recommend reading it as it is largely gibberish, but I was amused by this sentence...
Public health research and advocates were also framed as “nanny staters” or “prohibitionists”6 engaging in “class warfare.”7 The citation for the supposedly unfair claim that 'public health advocates' are prohibitionists is this article from Tobacco Control which literally calls for a total ban on the sale of cigarettes (the authors argue that if they call it 'abolition' rather than prohibition, they will throw the public off the scent).

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World Health Organisation admits its anti-obesity policies don't work

Published on 2022-05-05 09:40:00.
Website: Velvet Glove, Iron Fist

From The Times... 

Britain is on track to be the fattest nation in Europe in a decade, with the rise in obesity driven by takeaway services such as Deliveroo and sedentary lifestyles, a World Health Organisation expert has warned.

By the early 2030s, 37 per cent of British men and women are expected to be obese, a report from global health chiefs says. The present figure is 28 per cent.

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The impact of minimum pricing

Published on 2022-05-05 08:58:00.
Website: Velvet Glove, Iron Fist

I've summarised the results of my recent research into minimum pricing for Cap-X... 

From an economist’s perspective, the unusual natural experiment of minimum pricing offers a chance to see how human beings respond to floor prices. The sale of wine stayed more or less unchanged, but the sale of fortified wine rose by 25%. Much of this came from a surge in the sale of the notorious tonic wine Buckfast which was never sold below 50p per unit to begin with. 

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A swift half with Martin Durkin

Published on 2022-05-04 10:00:00.
Website: Velvet Glove, Iron Fist

The latest Swift Half with Snowdon features the excellent Martin Durkin. He makes all the best documentaries. Check it out.

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The cost of minimum pricing

Published on 2022-05-03 13:51:00.
Website: Velvet Glove, Iron Fist


When minimum unit pricing was introduced in Scotland in May 2018 it became illegal to sell alcohol for less than 50p per unit. One of the SNP’s flagship policies, it aimed to reduce alcohol-related harms, including death and crime, by raising the price of the cheap, off-trade alcohol that is often associated with harmful drinking. Lacking the power to raise alcohol duty itself, the Scottish government turned to minimum pricing as a way of using the price mechanism to reduce consumption. It was assumed that reducing consumption would lead to a decline in the associated harms.

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Saying farewell to Covid again

Published on 2022-04-30 12:50:00.
Website: Velvet Glove, Iron Fist

Every time I call time on the Covid pandemic another variant shows up so let's hope that doesn't happen now that I have written what I hope is my last article about it for the Spectator... 

James O’Brien, LBC’s pied piper of mid-wits, told his listeners on 22 April that ‘646 people died yesterday’ of Covid-19. He acknowledged that official statistics showed that the infection rate was falling, but muttered conspiratorially that he was ‘a little bit confused about how we’re keeping a proper handle on the number of infections now given that most of us have stopped testing’.

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Pod chats

Published on 2022-04-28 12:34:00.
Website: Velvet Glove, Iron Fist

I did a couple of podcasts this week. I was back with TV funnyman Geoff Norcott for the third time (I think) talking about Musk, Le Pen, China and much more. If you haven't already subscribed to What Most People Think, check it out here.
And I was on the Adam Smith Institute's Pin Factory podcast discussing nanny state issues, including vaping, so-called junk food and more. You can listen to that here.

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Frank, April 2014

Published on 2022-04-28 10:07:12.
Website: Frank Davis

April 11, 2014 finds Frank reflecting on his Idle Theory: I’ve been angry today that the 40-year struggle to get the Idle Theory into the world is over. Who knows whether I succeeded or not? The next day: I was … Continue reading →

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Kellogg's sues the government

Published on 2022-04-27 07:24:00.
Website: Velvet Glove, Iron Fist

'Junk food'

John Harvey Kellogg was a miserable, teetotal, anti-smoking puritan so it's richly ironic to see his company attacked by 21st century neo-puritans. And it's pleasing to finally see a bit of pushback...   
Food giant Kellogg's is taking the government to court over new rules that would prevent some cereals being prominently displayed in stores because of their high sugar content.  Excellent.  

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An innovation principle for new nicotine products

Published on 2022-04-25 09:35:00.
Website: Velvet Glove, Iron Fist

My colleague Victoria Hewson and I recently wrote a report about vaping in which we discussed the precautionary principle. The precautionary principle is often invoked as a justification for banning things. When it comes to reduced risk nicotine products, we argue that such an approach is reckless rather than cautious. We have ample evidence that e-cigarettes are much safer than smoking and are attractive substitutes to cigarettes for smokers. A study published last week found that smokers in Germany are 78% more likely to quit smoking if they use e-cigarettes, for example.  But we would not have any of this evidence if every country had acted like Australia and preemptively banned them. The lesson is that we need an innovation principle, not a precautionary principle.

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Graphic warnings on alcohol

Published on 2022-04-12 14:19:00.
Website: Velvet Glove, Iron Fist

More thinly veiled activism from the University of Stirling... Prominent health warnings on alcohol products make drinking “unappealing”, new study finds Young adult drinkers are more likely to perceive alcohol products as “unappealing” and “socially unacceptable” if they display prominent health warnings, according to new research. Straight away we have a problem. Health warnings are not intended to make products "unappealing", let alone "socially unacceptable". They are supposed to give people important information that they might not otherwise have access to. Once consumers are appropriately informed, they can do what they damn well like. Who the hell do these people think they are, trying to make alcohol socially unacceptable to adults??
The study itself is a typical piece of 'public health' guff, being based entirely on an online survey. Its authors include Crawford Moodie, who was responsible for a large amount of the junk science that led to plain packaging. Moodie's specialty is showing people ugly photos and asking them if they find them ugly, usually via an online survey. In the usual slippery slope manner, he has transferred his skills to anti-alcohol activism. Each warning set included one general (‘Alcohol damages your health’) and two specific (‘Alcohol causes liver disease’, ‘Alcohol causes mouth cancer’) warnings. The specific warnings were selected as more than three-quarters of alcohol-specific deaths in the UK in 2020 were caused by alcoholic liver disease and past research suggests that it is more effective to specify the type of cancer, with alcohol-related mouth cancer prevalent in the UK.

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Escaping Paternalism with Glen Whitman

Published on 2022-04-10 11:08:00.
Website: Velvet Glove, Iron Fist

It was my great pleasure to speak to one of my favourite economists, Glen Whitman, this week about nudge theory. His book Escaping Paternalism, which he wrote with Mario Rizzo, is a must read.


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Anti-gambling fanatic asks government to ignore the facts

Published on 2022-04-08 16:40:00.
Website: Velvet Glove, Iron Fist

The English Football League (EFL) is worried about the government banning sponsorship by gambling companies - and with good reason. When the House of Lords select committee carried out its review in 2020, it concluded that: 

It seems that the removal of sponsorship would not unduly harm Premier League clubs, but it would very probably have a serious effect on smaller clubs; some of those in the EFL might go out of business without this sponsorship if they cannot find alternatives. This would be highly regrettable, especially given the close link between some of these clubs and their local communities. The financial situation of some of them is currently particularly fragile because of the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on sport. 

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So many awkward studies about smoking and COVID-19

Published on 2022-04-06 13:28:00.
Website: Velvet Glove, Iron Fist

If you check out my list of COVID-19/smoking studies you'll find more than 70 epidemiological studies looking at how smokers fare when faced with the virus. In short, the evidence overwhelmingly shows that they are much less likely to get infected. 

Almost the only exceptions are a handful of Mendelian Randomisation studies that can't distinguish between smokers and nonsmokers and instead assume that people with genes that are associated with a propensity to smoke are smokers. For various reasons, that is not a sound assumption after decades of anti-smoking education and legislation. When it comes to lifestyle risk factors, the blunt tools of MR are only any good if you don't want to find an association.

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The sorry state of vaping research

Published on 2022-04-05 13:43:00.
Website: Velvet Glove, Iron Fist

Dozens of new studies about vaping are published every week and most of them are absolutely dismal. They start from a false premise, use biased terminology, treat 'EVALI' as if it was caused by conventional vaping, fail to distinguish the effect of vaping from the effect of prior smoking, treat correlation as causation, and employ poor methodologies to come up with a desired anti-vaping conclusion.

A new study titled 'Analysis of common methodological flaws in the highest cited e-cigarette epidemiology research' shows just what a sorry state the field is in, particularly the garbage that gets the most citations and is most attractive to journalists. 

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Boris's BOGOF rip-off

Published on 2022-04-01 09:50:00.
Website: Velvet Glove, Iron Fist

The plan to ban buy-one-get-one-free (BOGOF) and 3 for 2 deals on so-called junk food just as the cost-of-living crisis peaks in the autumn increasingly looks like an act of political self-immolation. The idea was championed by Public Health England which was closed down for being incompetent and, as Jeremy Driver says, it was a classic example of "luxury politics, divorced from the material concerns of citizens". 

This point is underlined by the Public Health England report which originally pushed the idea in 2015. It says...

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Last Orders with Brendan O'Neill

Published on 2022-03-31 12:00:00.
Website: Velvet Glove, Iron Fist

The latest Last Orders is with Spiked's Brendan O'Neill. We talked about Will Smith, the cost of living and a few other things. Quite a depressing episode but a good one. Check it out.

There will be a new Swift Half going online today at 5pm with Johann Norberg.

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Frank from November 2017

Published on 2022-03-29 11:54:01.
Website: Frank Davis

I’m responding to a request from RdM who asked if I could look through the diary around his November 14, 2017 flat earth versus spherical blog. I came across entries on November 11 – he wrote more than 5 pages … Continue reading →

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NGOs want 'junk food' promotion ban extended to all meat and fish

Published on 2022-03-26 11:37:00.
Website: Velvet Glove, Iron Fist

UK inflation is already above 6% and the Office for Budget Responsibility expects it to hit 8.7% in the autumn. Awkwardly for the government, and very awkwardly for hard-pressed consumers, the ban on multi-buy food promotions is due to come into force in October. 
Once the ban comes into effect, the government's own modelling suggests that consumers will have to spend an extra £634 per household if they want to keep buying the same basket of goods. The intention of the policy is that people will buy a slightly different basket of goods, of course. Nevertheless, the extra cost is likely to run into several hundred pounds which would not be welcome at any time and especially not when inflation is at a 40 year high. 
There are rumours that the government might back off and at least postpone this misguided initiative. Meanwhile, displaying a staggering inability to read the room, a bunch of NGOs want it to go further.
From the Guardian (where else?)... UK supermarkets accused of ‘bombarding’ shoppers with cheap meat Britain’s biggest supermarkets stand accused of “bombarding” shoppers with offers of cheap meat, despite pledging to promote more meat-free diets to improve health and tackle global heating. The word 'bombarding' is here used in the 'public health' sense, meaning 'to make available at a reasonable price'.  Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda and Morrisons are each offering scores of deals every week on meat products such as burgers and sausages to drive sales and boost their profits, according to a report from the charity Eating Better. Because cutting prices is the obvious way to boost profits, isn't it? It's not as if they're in a fiercely competitive industry or anything?
The report also discloses that only 1% of the many hundreds of multi-buy offers for meat products examined by researchers will be banned when the government’s crackdown on the promotion of foodstuffs that are high in fat, salt or sugar – to tackle childhood obesity – begins in October.  Newspapers usually refer to this as a ban on promotions for 'junk food'. Tellingly, that phrase is not used here because most people, quite rightly, do not consider meat to be junk food. That is why the government has excluded meat from its list of HFSS food despite meat sometimes being high in fat. It has to make exemptions because the full list of what activist-academics consider to be junk food is preposterous.

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Nothing to see here, just some normal academics doing academic research

Published on 2022-03-25 10:47:00.
Website: Velvet Glove, Iron Fist

Some news from Australia that I came across on Twitter yesterday...  I've blocked out the name because it's not the person I'm interested but the role.
We’re championing 3 inspired minds who will take on the title of ‘Harmful Industries Fellows’. These roles will fuel fresh, bold research Victorians can use to put our people’s health before industry profit. New postdoctoral research fellowship program puts Victorians before profit

These 3 early-career research fellows will look at brands, companies or organisations who profit from products that are harmful to health and wellbeing including:

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The return of dodgy minimum pricing modelling

Published on 2022-03-23 09:52:00.
Website: Velvet Glove, Iron Fist

The MESAS evaluation of minimum pricing (MUP) in Scotland has produced a report which uses the IRI sales data. This differs from the Nielsen sales data in various ways. Neither system is perfect (they both have to guesstimate how much alcohol is sold in Aldi and Lidl, for example), but it is useful to see how they compare. 

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Fixed odds betting terminals: the house didn't always win

Published on 2022-03-22 13:01:00.
Website: Velvet Glove, Iron Fist

The government is in the process of conducting a gambling review. As usual with governments, it is very unlikely to lead to any liberalisation but it is unclear which forms of illiberalisation it has in mind.
I found this podcast a useful guide to what's going on from some people who understand the business, including Philip Davies (Conservative MP), Jon Bryan (poker player and gambling writer) and Emmet Kennedy (presenter on The Final Furlong Podcast). They talk about the prospect of the government limiting how much money people can spend on gambling each month, an idea so ludicrous that I see it as a red herring. More likely are advertising bans and heavy restrictions on online gambling.

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Frank from February 2020

Published on 2022-02-27 12:07:51.
Website: Frank Davis

This instalment of Frank’s diary/journal covers parts of February 24th and 25th 2020. He starts the page with comments on Rush Limbaugh and moves on to the smoking ban, his health, the Earth’s albedo and Glaciation, mentioning barrel-vaulted cathedrals in … Continue reading →

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From Frank’s archive – 6th October 2012

Published on 2022-01-31 12:57:25.
Website: Frank Davis

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Frank Davis – a lost voice

Published on 2022-01-29 13:12:31.
Website: Frank Davis

Frank Davis – Christopher Francis Davis – died on October 8, 2021. He was 73 and is much missed by his family and friends. His blog of 10 years is being preserved here as a tribute to his writings, the … Continue reading →

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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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