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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.

Inside the UK's illicit tobacco business

Published on 2022-01-19 10:30:00.
Website: Velvet Glove, Iron Fist


Article in Vice about Britain's illegal tobacco problem. 

Phil Mykytiuk has spent a decade mapping tobacco crime gangs in the north of England. He is new in post as a trading standards manager at Bolton Council in Greater Manchester but worked for 10 years on a tobacco enforcement team at nearby Rochdale Council.

.. The National Crime Agency said that while it supports partner agencies on tobacco enforcement, its focus is on prohibited commodities like drugs and firearms, with HMRC taking the lead on tobacco. 

Full article

Uncomfortable truths about the costs of healthy living

Published on 2022-01-18 14:55:00.
Website: Velvet Glove, Iron Fist


There's a good article in the New Statesman raising some uncomfortable truths about healthcare spending and lifestyle regulation. It mentions some research I commissioned at the IEA a few years ago.
In Britain we talk often of the “cost” to the NHS of people who smoke or are obese – the health support service One Small Step, for example, points out that smoking costs the UK government £12.6bn a year, £2.5bn of which is spent on NHS smoking services. On the same page, however, it notes that “half of all life-long smokers die early, losing on average 10 years of their life”. Given how dramatically health, social care and pension expenditure increases as someone ages past retirement, those 10 lost years actually represent a saving for the taxpayer.

That is an immensely grisly – not to mention heartless – way to look at things. But if your argument is that those who cost more should pay more, it is vital to crunch the numbers. Despite the perception that certain lifestyle choices would save money as well as lives, a Dutch study from 2008 found that smokers and the obese were cheaper to care for over their lifetimes, while research from the Institute of Economic Affairs concludes that: “By dying early, overweight and obese people saved the government £3.228bn in pension, healthcare and benefit payments in England and Wales in 2014.”

Full article

Dishonest arguments against vaping

Published on 2022-01-17 12:18:00.
Website: Velvet Glove, Iron Fist


It's 2022 and certain people are still arguing about e-cigarettes as if it's 2012. Even in 2012, we knew more about them than the European Respiratory Society (ERS) does today. In a head-to-head debate in the British Medical Journal, three members of the ERS take on Nicky Hopkinson, the chairman of Action on Smoking and Health, to discuss whether e-cigarettes should be available on prescription. 

It's a controversial question and there are reasonable arguments on both sides, but the medics from the ERS don't bother with reasonable arguments. Instead, they bluster and lie and act as if no research has been carried out since their organisation took an ideological position against vaping back in the day. Here's how they start off...


Full article

The grips of obsession

Published on 2022-01-13 09:23:00.
Website: Velvet Glove, Iron Fist


A brief follow up on Monday's post in which I discussed the 'public health' academic Mark Petticrew who is obsessed by the idea that alcohol awareness charities are covertly encouraging people to drink.



Full article

The Philippines take an enlightened approach to vaping, prohibitionists in the mud

Published on 2022-01-12 15:54:00.
Website: Velvet Glove, Iron Fist


The Philippines have had enough of Mike Bloomberg sticking his nose and money into their business. The wrinkly prohibitionist was caught last year funding numerous 'public health' groups in the country and giving pay outs to the Philippines FDA - the agency that regulates e-cigarettes.

The legal status of e-cigarettes has been all over the place in the Philippines in recent years. As far I can tell, they were effectively banned by the nation's autocratic president in February 2020, but they have now been deregulated in a conscious bid to encourage smokers to switch to them. 

Full article

Marginalised outgroup is marginalised, new study reveals

Published on 2022-01-10 15:58:00.
Website: Velvet Glove, Iron Fist


This study would be funny if the subject matter wasn't so grim.
Background

Smoking is often colloquially considered “social”. However, the actual relationship of smoking with current and future social isolation and loneliness is unclear. We therefore examined these relationships over a 12-year follow-up. Methods

In this cohort study, we used a nationally representative sample of community dwelling adults aged 50 years and over from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (N=8780) (45% male, mean(SD) age 67(10) years. We examined associations of self-reported smoking status at baseline assessment, with social isolation (low social contact, social disengagement, domestic isolation), and loneliness (3-item UCLA loneliness scale), measured at baseline, and follow-up at 4, 8 and 12 years, using ordinary least squares regression models.

Findings

At baseline, smokers were more likely to be lonely (coef.=0·111, 95% CI 0·025 – 0·196) and socially isolated than non-smokers, having less frequent social interactions with family and friends (coef.= 0·297, 95%CI 0·148 – 0·446), less frequent engagement with community and cultural activities (coef.= 0·534, 95%CI 0·421 – 0·654), and being more likely to live alone (Odds Ratio =1·400, 95%CI 1·209 – 1·618). Smoking at baseline was associated with larger reductions in social contact (coef.=0·205, 95%CI 0·053 – 0·356, to 0·297, 95%CI 0·140 – 0·455), increases in social disengagement (coef.=0·168, 95%CI 0·066 – 0·270, to coef.=0·197, 95%CI 0·087 – 0·307), and increases in loneliness (coef.=0·105, 95%CI 0·003 – 0·207), at 4-year follow-up) over time.


Who could have guessed that a concerted, state-led campaign of ostracism and demonisation in which the law was used to drive smokers out of all indoor venues and a large number of outdoor venues would have led to the outgroup being socially isolated? I for one am stunned.

Full article

Behold the merchants of doubt!

Published on 2022-01-10 13:08:00.
Website: Velvet Glove, Iron Fist


Public health epidemiologists have been dining out on the smoking-lung cancer link since the 1950s. They're not going to find anything as big as that again and the trophy cupboard has been fairly empty ever since. 
'Public health' activists have been dining out on the tobacco industry's 'merchants of doubt' campaign since the 1990s and are eager to tar every industry of which they disapprove with the same brush. 
The latest example of this is a study titled Manufacturing doubt: Assessing the effects of independent vs industry-sponsored messaging about the harms of fossil fuels, smoking, alcohol, and sugar sweetened beverages written by our old friends Mark Petticrew, Nason Maani et al. You may recall that Petticrew has an obsession with the bland alcohol education charity DrinkAware which was set up by the government and is funded by the drinks industry.  Petticrew is convinced that DrinkAware exists to downplay the risks of drinking and encourage pregnant women to get drunk. He and his colleagues have been knocking out studies trying to prove this at a rate of one or two a year for the last five years. I've covered some of them on this blog, mainly because I find them funny. The latest study is no exception. The gist of it is that the tobacco industry circa 1950-1980 put forward 'alternative causation arguments' to cast doubt over the smoking-lung cancer association. Indeed they did. There was talk of sulphur in matches being the real problem. Hans Eysenck suggested that the personality traits which led people to smoke also happened to increase the risk of developing cancer. This was all obviously nonsense and we can laugh about it now. Petticrew's theory is that the same thing is going on today with regards to sugary drinks and alcohol. To get to the bottom of this, he and his chums conducted an online survey - the gold standard for 'public health' research these days - and gauged people's reactions to a series of statements. 
 

They were subsequently presented with a short, anonymized, paragraph containing either an alternative causation argument about a particular harm obtained from one of the four industry-sponsored sources (randomly selected from examples from either the fossil fuels, smoking, alcohol, or sugar sweetened beverages industries), or information from an independent scientific or non-governmental agency. Respondents were then asked about their certainty about the risk of the specific harm from that product (certain it does increase risk, uncertain it increases risk, certain it doesn't increase risk).


The idea was to see whether the industry's filthy lies would outweigh the impartial truth in the mind's of ordinary folk. Alas, they did.
 

Overall, (i.e. grouping all industries together) industry-sponsored uncertainty messages significantly increased the odds of uncertainty, or false certainty, by 60%, compared to independent sources of information (Summary OR 1·60, 95% CI 1·28–1·99) (see Fig. 1 and Table 2).


It seems that about seven per cent of participants went from being certain to uncertain when presented with the 'industry text'. Weirdly, it seems that the biggest effect was found when people were presented with ancient statements from the tobacco industry, albeit from a lower (but still surprisingly high) base.

 
 What kind of statements are we talking about? This is where it gets interesting. The authors don't include them in the study but they can be found in a ropey Word document in the supplementary material. For alcohol, the first statement from 'an independent scientific or non-governmental agency' is this... 

"Alcohol is a Group 1 Carcinogen. Like Tobacco." (Balance North East) http://www.balancenortheast.co.uk/our-campaigns/alcohol-and-cancer/
Balance North East is an anti-alcohol pressure group entirely funded by the taxpayer. It is questionable whether it is 'independent' (from whom?) or 'non-governmental'. Either way, it has an incentive to portray alcohol in the worst possible light to drive support for its various campaigns, which include minimum pricing and advertising bans. 

The claim about alcohol being a Group 1 carcinogen is true, but IARC's classifications are notoriously confusing to the general public since they are based on the strength of evidence rather than the magnitude of the risk. Processed meat is also a Group 1 carcinogen, but it is nothing like tobacco. As Cancer Research UK explains... 

While this may sound alarming, it’s important to remember that these groups show how confident IARC is that red and processed meat cause cancer, not how many cancer cases they cause, as we wrote when we covered a previous IARC decision on diesel emissions, and interviewed one of our experts in the causes of cancer.

As Professor David Phillips – a Cancer Research UK-funded carcinogen expert from King’s College London – explains, “IARC does ‘hazard identification’, not ‘risk assessment’.

“That sounds quite technical, but what it means is that IARC isn’t in the business of telling us how potent something is in causing cancer – only whether it does so or not”, he says.

To take an analogy, think of banana skins. They definitely can cause accidents, explains Phillips, but in practice this doesn’t happen very often (unless you work in a banana factory). And the sort of harm you can come to from slipping on a banana skin isn’t generally as severe as, say, being in a car accident.

But under a hazard identification system like IARC’s, ‘banana skins’ and ‘cars’ would come under the same category – they both definitely do cause accidents.

 So the first supposed statement of fact from an impartial organisation related to alcohol is not from an impartial organisation and is likely to mislead the vast majority of people. In the study, Balance North East's claim is juxtaposed with the following statement from - you guessed it! - DrinkAware.

"It's important to put the risks from drinking alcohol into context. There are many other factors that increase the risk of developing breast cancer, some of which we can't control, like:
 - Age: you're more likely to develop it as you get older
- A family history of breast cancer
- Being tall
- A previous benign breast lump
 However, in addition to alcohol, other lifestyle factors such as being overweight and smoking are thought to increase your risk of developing breast cancer." (Drinkaware, UK)


Again, this is all true. Is it misleading? Aside from the fact that smoking isn't actually a risk factor for breast cancer, I wouldn't say so. In any case, it needs to be put in the context of an entire webpage and a downloadable fact sheet which makes it very clear that "drinking alcohol increases your risk of breast cancer". This is hardly 'merchants of doubt' territory. 

The next pairing of 'non-industry sponsored' and 'industry sponsored' texts is...   

"The Chief Medical Officers advise: Alcohol can cause cancer, including breast and colon cancers" (Warning msg from Hobin et al, 2020)

"Not all heavy drinkers get cancer as multiple risk factors are involved in the development of cancers including genetics and family history of cancer, age, environmental factors, and behavioural variables, as well as social determinants of health" (Drinkaware, UK) 


This is not actually from DrinkAware. It is from the Australian equivalent, DrinkWise. The same webpage says 'Excessive drinking can increase the risk of developing colon cancer' and 'Studies indicate a relationship between alcohol consumption and developing breast cancer'. Hardly the stuff of a hardcore denier.

It seems that Petticrew's beef is that DrinkAware and DrinkWise acknowledge that alcohol is not the only cause of cancer. This is obviously true. Alcohol causes only a small minority of cancers. If the aim is to educate the general public, the quotes from DrinkAware and DrinkWise are more informative than "Alcohol is a Group 1 Carcinogen. Like Tobacco."

Some may disagree, but everyone should be able to agree that these 'industry-sponsored' organisations are not putting forward an 'alternative causation argument'. An alternative causation argument would be something like this: 

Some studies have found a link between alcohol and cancer, but correlation doesn't equal causation and the statistical association may be due to factors such as X, Y and Z.


That is what the tobacco industry and its supporters did in the twentieth century. It is not what DrinkAware are doing. Pointing out that not every drinker gets cancer and listing some other causes of cancer is not an alternative causation argument. It is the truth and it is quite useful since most people would like to know what risks they face in life.

The next pairing takes a quote from Alcohol Concern - a defunct anti-alcohol pressure group - and the International Alliance for Responsible Drinking, an industry-funded body.  

"For some cancers, any amount of alcohol increases the risk. For other types of cancer, the risk only increases after drinking two or three drinks per day – around 26 to 35 units per week.

Any amount of alcohol increases the risk of:
- Mouth cancer
- Upper throat and voice box cancer
- Food pipe (oesophagus) cancer
- Breast cancer" (quote from Alcohol Concern information on alcohol and cancer (now Alcohol Change https://alcoholchange.org.uk/alcohol-facts/fact-sheets/alcohol-and-cancer)

“Breast cancer is the leading cancer among women, and is associated with a large number of individual risk factors. Research has shown that breast cancer risk is associated with family history and hormonal and reproductive factors. Increased risk has been reported with hormone replacement therapy, but varies by the type of breast cancer (ductal, lobular, or mixed). Similarly, risk associated with other reproductive factors, such as age at menarche or breastfeeding, have been shown to differ by cancer subtypes. According to IARC, cancer of the female breast is causally associated with the consumption of alcohol beverages." (IARD, global)


In this instance, the 'industry-sponsored' message is more factual than the 'non-industry' message. The idea that light drinking increases the risk of breast cancer is actually pretty shaky. The same is true of laryngeal ('throat box') cancer. Meanwhile, the IARD statement is factually correct. It's difficult to see what Petticrew's problem with a sentence like 'According to IARC, cancer of the female breast is causally associated with the consumption of alcohol beverages' could be. Presumably he is upset because they mention other risk factors. It is understandable that a temperance pressure group wouldn't want to mention other risk factors, but it hardly seems unreasonable to do so.

The authors then move on to drinking in pregnancy with examples such as this:

If you are pregnant or planning a pregnancy, the safest approach is not to drink alcohol at all, to keep risks to your baby to a minimum. (UK Chief Medical Officer Guidelines, UK) https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/alcohol-consumption-advice-on-low-risk-drinking

There is confusion about how much one can safely drink during pregnancy. We know very clearly that excessive amounts, either in isolated binge drinking or in prolonged drinking, are very harmful. What we don’t know for sure is the lowest possible level that you can drink safely. We therefore say, for that reason, the safest possible thing that you can do is to not drink at all during pregnancy or while you’re breastfeeding. (Drinkwise, Australia) 


It is certainly true that there is 'confusion about how much one can safely drink during pregnancy'. It is likely that there is a 'safe level' but it would be unethical to run a randomised controlled trial to establish what it is. In the absence of firm data, total abstinence is clearly the risk-free option. And that is exactly what DrinkWise recommends! Presumably Petticrew included this quote because it mentions uncertainty, but the uncertainty is very real. 
They then move on to sugary drinks.

“Children who consume higher amounts of sugary drinks have a 55% greater chance of being overweight or obese compared to those who consume less [sic] sugary drinks." (American Heart Assn: (https://www.heart.org/idc/groups/heart-public/@wcm/@adv/documents/downloadable/ucm_474846.pdf)

"Obesity is a complex problem that is influenced by many factors, most importantly diet, exercise and genetics.

Full article

What is 'ultra-processed food'?

Published on 2022-01-05 12:48:00.
Website: Velvet Glove, Iron Fist


In 'public health', the name of the game is to interfere with people's lives without having your own choices meddled with. This is straightforward with smoking since the philosopher kings of the nanny state don't smoke. Alcohol is more tricky since most of them drink, but minimum pricing - which was introduced in Ireland yesterday - offers the perfect way to penalise ordinary people while leaving fine wine and craft beer unaffected. 
The war on food poses the trickiest problem since its pretext - obesity - is the result of over-consumption and physical inactivity rather than the consumption of any specific type of food. 'Junk food' is too narrow since most people interpret it to mean 'fast food' from a handful of restaurant chains. And so, in the absence of an obvious dietary culprit, the 'public health' lobby is shifting towards a crusade against 'ultra-processed food'.  Most people don't know what this means, but it sounds bad if you have an instinctive objection to industry and modernity. Perhaps it evokes thoughts of 'chemicals' and 'E numbers'. Certainly, it sounds like the opposite of the 'natural', 'organic' and 'home made' food so beloved of those who think they are superior to other people. It is, however, a classic 'public health' bait and switch. Just as people didn't realise that a ban on 'junk food' advertising would result in adverts for cheese and butter being banned, people won't realise what a war on ultra-processed food means for them until it is too late.

In a deranged op-ed in BMJ Global Health, some of Mike Bloomberg's minions from Vital Strategies call for tobacco-style regulation of 'ultra-processed food', starting with warning labels.

Simply put, ultra-processed foods are foods that can’t be made in your home kitchen because they have been chemically or physically transformed using industrial processes. They are recognisable on the supermarket shelf as packaged foods that are ready-to-eat, contain more than five ingredients and have a long shelf-life. The industrial processing, as well as the cocktail of additives, flavours, emulsifiers and colours they contain to give flavour and texture, make the final product hyper-palatable or more appealing and potentially addictive, which in turn leads to poor dietary patterns. With more than half the total calories consumed in high-income countries coming from ultra-processed foods and rapid increases in low- and middle-income countries, these products are exposing billions of people to a higher risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, depression and death.
Scary stuff, eh? Alas, they don't give any examples of ultra-processed foods so let us instead turn to a recently published study about them....

Baked goods, including cakes, pastries, industrial breads, and soft drinks ranked among the top contributors to sales of UPFDs [ultra-processed food and drinks]

Full article

The awesome power of vaping

Published on 2022-01-04 17:46:00.
Website: Velvet Glove, Iron Fist


I don't post many studies about e-cigarettes and smoking cessation these days. The science was settled years ago, regardless of how much the WHO-Bloomberg spin machine tries to muddy the waters. Nevertheless, it cannot be said too often that vaping is remarkably good at getting people to stop smoking even when they have no intention of quitting. I have personal experience of this and it has been shown empirically in observational studies.  It is quite something when you consider how few people manage to stop smoking even when they have a strong desire to do so.

A new study in JAMA Network Open provides some dramatic new evidence of this phenomenon. The researchers found 1,600 smokers in the USA who did not use e-cigarettes and had no intention of giving up smoking. They were followed for five years between 2014 and 2019. By the end of that period, 6.2% of them had stopped smoking, but there was a massive difference between the quit rates of those who had taken up e-cigarettes in the meantime and those who hadn't. 
The odds of cigarette discontinuation were significantly higher among those who used e-cigarettes daily (28.0%; 95% CI, 15.2%-45.9%) compared with those who did not use e-cigarettes at all (5.8%; 95% CI, 4.6-7.2; aOR, 8.11; 95% CI, 3.14-20.97), while the odds of cigarette discontinuation among those who used e-cigarettes nondaily did not statistically differ from those who did not use e-cigarettes at all. ... results showed that those who subsequently used e-cigarettes every day experienced an 8-fold higher odds of cigarette discontinuation compared with those who did not use e-cigarettes at all.
You read that correctly. The smokers who used e-cigarettes were eight times more likely to have stopped smoking after five years than the ones who didn't. 
Studies like this have some major implications. Firstly, vaping obviously works. If it can work for people who don't want to stop smoking, it can certainly work for the large number of smokers who do.  Secondly, the anti-vaping crusades going on in the USA and elsewhere are extremely counterproductive and the prohibitions on e-cigarette sales in places such as Australia and India are insane. But you already you knew that, I'm sure. 

Thirdly, the UK government should take note. Thanks to Theresa May, it has an arbitrary target of bringing the smoking rate below 5% by 2030 (it is currently about 14%). It has very little chance of achieving this, not least because while groups such as ASH claim that 80% or 90% of smokers want to quit, this is a self-serving lie. In fact, the proportion of smokers who say they want to quit has been falling for years. In the most recent ONS survey, only 53% of smokers expressed a desire to quit.

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Goodbye, 2021

Published on 2021-12-30 12:44:00.
Website: Velvet Glove, Iron Fist


It's time to bid 2021 a fond good riddance and hope for better days ahead. It feels like it passed quickly, but looking back on the year's blog posts I'm reminded that a lot went on.

COVID-19 obviously dominated events, with the UK in some form of lockdown for most of the first six months. By January, the 'lockdown sceptics' movement had moved on from asking whether lockdowns were worth the trouble to denying that they had any benefit at all. I debated this with Toby Young. The second wave had destroyed most of their claims from 2020, but they carried on regardless, getting crazier and crazier. Within a few months, many of them had gone full anti-vax. Meanwhile, the Covid modellers jumped the shark with some predictions - sorry, projections - that defied belief and the legacy public health establishment told us of their plight during lockdown..

Full article

The psychology of the slippery slope

Published on 2021-12-16 11:56:00.
Website: Velvet Glove, Iron Fist


My City AM column today looks at the slippery slope. 

'I don’t think this is a big step or a slippery slope', Dominic Raab said on Tuesday when asked about the introduction of Covid-19 passes. This will come as news to the people of Italy, New Zealand and several other countries where normal life is now impossible without proof of two jabs.

In Austria, the government started with vaccine passports and then moved on to a lockdown for the unvaccinated, with plans for mandatory vaccination in a few months.

Full article

Were 'public health' busybodies the real victims of COVID-19?

Published on 2021-12-14 14:50:00.
Website: Velvet Glove, Iron Fist


In February, we saw the first fruits of the £500,000 of taxpayers money given to Niamh Fitzgerald and her little temperance chums by the Scottish government. The grant was to investigate the impact of the pandemic and the associated restrictions on alcohol consumption and the night time economy. It was always pretty obvious that they would look favourably on anything that restricted people's ability to drink alcohol and the findings of their first study did not come as a surprise.
 


Full article

A million cases a day by Christmas?

Published on 2021-12-11 14:29:00.
Website: Velvet Glove, Iron Fist



 On the day Boris Johnson announced 'Plan B' (8 December), the Telegraph ran this story

Omicron Covid cases could soon exceed one million a day, says Sajid Javid

Full article

Tobacco prohibition coming to New Zealand

Published on 2021-12-09 14:40:00.
Website: Velvet Glove, Iron Fist


New Zealand's irritating prime minister Jacinda Ardern has made it very clear that she is running a two-tier country when it comes to Covid vaccinations. Part of her legacy will be to create a two-tier society for smokers too. From 2027, most adults will be allowed to buy cigarettes but younger adults won't. Eventually, old adults will be allowed to buy cigarettes but middle-aged people won't.

As Reuters reports:


Full article

My thoughts on Plan B

Published on 2021-12-09 14:07:00.
Website: Velvet Glove, Iron Fist


At the Spectator... 

Despite consulting the jeremiads at Sage, there was simply not enough evidence to cobble together at short notice to justify the sudden change of gear. Poor old Chris Whitty was wheeled out to do his thing and for the first time in the pandemic found himself calling for tough new restrictions while standing next to graphs showing declining hospitalisations and deaths.

In a statement to the House of Commons, Sajid Javid resorted to ‘Disco Stu’ mathematics to justify his extraordinary claim that the UK was heading towards one million cases of Covid a day by the end of this month. He said that if there were 10,000 cases of Omicron in the country (only 568 have been confirmed) and if the numbers double every two or three days, a million cases per day would be the result. This would be far beyond anything seen in the most Covid-ravaged parts of the world since the pandemic began. Moreover, rates are no longer doubling every two or three days in the Gauteng province of South Africa where Omicorn was first discovered.

Full article

'A European Union for Health'

Published on 2021-12-09 09:55:00.
Website: Velvet Glove, Iron Fist


MEPs are voting on an aspect of the BECA Beating Can Plan later today. It has been described as ‘the first step towards a European Union for Health’. Most of the policy recommendations are fairly sensible but a few nanny state proposals have inevitably wormed their way in. 

I've written about it for Brussels Reports...

Many of the ideas in the draft Beating Cancer Plan, such as scientific collaboration on genomics and diagnostics, have great potential, but others are more troublesome. Proposed restrictions on cross-border shopping for tobacco and alcohol would undermine the integrity of the single market. The proposal for plain packaging of tobacco across the whole EU is baffling given the total lack of evidence that the policy has had any positive impact in countries such as France, Australia and the UK. Restrictions on alcohol advertising and sponsorship in sport would deprive players and teams from the top to the bottom of the sporting pyramid of much needed revenue while achieving nothing for public health. A ban on using e-cigarettes in indoor public places is outside the EU’s remit, but by recommending such a policy the European Parliament would be sending out the wrong signal to Member States and the public.

Full article

The Beatles in Get Back - a review

Published on 2021-12-06 12:50:00.
Website: Velvet Glove, Iron Fist


I've reviewed the epic new Beatles film, Get Back, for Quillette

If these four men on the rooftop hate each other, they hide it extremely well. They do not look like a band that is about to split up. And yet the fact remains that the Beatles did split up and they all remember the “Get Back” sessions as the moment when a split became inevitable. They strongly suggest on camera that they’ve been miserable for some time. “Ever since Mr Epstein passed away, it’s never been the same,” laments Harrison, who describes the band as being “in the doldrums.” “We’ve been grumpy for the last 18 months,” says the normally indefatigable Starr. “Nothing's going to change my world,” sings Lennon in a reheated version of ‘Across the Universe,’ before adding “I wish it fucking would.”

But comments like these have to be weighed against hours of evidence in Get Back showing the band clearly enjoying each other’s company and being highly creative. So where does the truth lie?

When enough years have passed, a photograph becomes the only thing you remember about the day it was taken. Is it possible that the Let It Be film implanted memories in the Beatles’ heads that dislodged happier recollections? McCartney is beginning to think so. He told the Sunday Times that “I definitely bought into the dark side of the Beatles breaking up and thought ‘God, I’m to blame.’ It’s easy, when the climate is going that way, to think that. But at the back of my mind there was this idea that it wasn’t like that. I just needed to see proof.” Confirmation bias? Perhaps, but Harrison’s recollections of the “Get Back” sessions in the 1995 TV anthology also seem to have been entirely based on scenes from the Let It Be film.

Throughout the sessions, Lindsay-Hogg can be heard asking himself and others what he’s doing there. What is he filming? What is the purpose of it? By the time Let It Be was released in April 1970, the Beatles had broken up and the purpose of the film had become to explain why they had broken up. The answers it hinted at were, in crude terms, that Paul was bossy and Yoko was domineering. Beatles historians have always known that this explanation is overly-simplistic if not flat-out wrong. Get Back makes a strong case for treating the Let It Be version of events with scepticism, but is Get Back the whole truth?


Full article

Last Orders with Simon Evans

Published on 2021-12-03 12:30:00.
Website: Velvet Glove, Iron Fist


It's always a pleasure to talk to TV funnyman Simon Evans. He's our guest in the new episode of Last Orders in which we discuss the new Covid variant, the decline of the USA and whether left-wing journalists have a sense of humour. By the end, the conversation had deteriorated into a moan about the state of modern music and why they don't make 'em like they used to. That was mainly my fault, tbh.

Listen here.


Full article

Vaping works in New Zealand

Published on 2021-12-02 16:23:00.
Website: Velvet Glove, Iron Fist


New Zealand legalised the sale of e-cigarettes in 2018 as part of its attempts to be 'tobacco-free' by 2025. The government now actively encourages smokers to switch with messages like this.


If you believe the claims of anti-smoking, anti-vaping, anti-nicotine fanatics, this should have led to a surge in smoking - because of the supposed 'gateway effect' and the supposed 'renormalisation' of smoking.

Full article

It's a sin

Published on 2021-11-25 11:38:00.
Website: Velvet Glove, Iron Fist


In my column for City AM, I wrote about a shocking statistic about sin taxes...

According to an economic study published last month, 90 per cent of all “sin taxes” on tobacco, alcohol and soft drinks in the US are paid by just 20 per cent of households. Eighty per cent of the taxes are paid by just ten per cent of households. This tax burden tends to fall disproportionately on low income households.


Do have a read.

Full article

Boris Johnson's corona victory?

Published on 2021-11-23 09:10:00.
Website: Velvet Glove, Iron Fist


Another article from me for the Telegraph about the Covid situation which is worsening at a bad time in Europe. France and Germany (to name but two) are making a mockery of the idea that face masks and vaccine passports can keep the virus under control and Boris Johnson's decision to 'let it rip' in summer is looking increasingly sound.

We shouldn’t count our chickens yet, but as restrictions come back into force across Europe, it is becoming increasingly obvious that delaying “freedom day” would have made a winter lockdown more likely, not less. While many countries are facing their first major wave of the delta variant against a backdrop of waning immunity and cold weather, England built up a wall of resistance to Covid in the mild summer and autumn months, which has now been fortified by twelve million booster shots.

This was always the plan, a fact some Government critics conveniently seem to have forgotten. Back in July, the Chief Medical Officer, Chris Whitty, said: "There is quite a strong view by many people, including myself actually, that going in the summer has some advantages, all other things being equal, to opening up into the autumn when schools are going back and when we’re heading into the winter period when the NHS tends to be under greatest pressure."

In the first year of the pandemic, those who favoured more restrictions could usually rely on Whitty and most epidemiologists to support them. But not any more. “We are not behind Europe in this wave, they are behind us,” Professor Paul Hunter told the Guardian earlier this month. “We are not currently seeing a surge of the same magnitude as Europe at present largely because of the high case numbers over recent months, which most of Europe missed out on.”

The “slight gamble” of opening up in July – as Professor Neil Ferguson put it – seems to be paying off. Although the number of Covid cases has been rising for the last two weeks, rates have continued to fall among the over-60s, and the number of people in hospital with Covid has dropped by a fifth since the start of November. In France and Germany, the number of cases reported each day has doubled in a fortnight. In England, cases have fluctuated at a relatively high level but have not doubled since early July, and there have been periods of sustained decline.

In short, the virus is finding it harder and harder to find susceptible individuals to infect. Those who have had their booster shot have strong immunity against symptomatic infection, while those who are unvaccinated have mostly been infected by now and have a similar level of protection.

What’s more, anyone who wants to enjoy a normal life has been able to do so for the last four months. This was a major benefit of “freedom day” that is rarely acknowledged by critics of the Government.


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A swift half with Henry Dimbleby

Published on 2021-11-18 17:10:00.
Website: Velvet Glove, Iron Fist


A new episode of The Swift Half has dropped. This week's guest is Henry Dimbleby, founder of the Leon restaurant chain and author of the National Food Strategy. Regular readers will know that we don't agree on everything.





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Corona-centrism is the only game in town

Published on 2021-11-12 13:47:00.
Website: Velvet Glove, Iron Fist


AstraZeneca has said it will start making a profit on its Covid vaccine. The company said that they would sell it as cost during the pandemic but that the pandemic is now over. I quite agree, as I say in Spiked today... 

In the six months between October 2020 and March 2021, there were 3.8million recorded cases of Covid in the UK and 85,000 deaths. In the following six months, during which restrictions were reduced to nothing, there were 4.8million recorded cases and 14,000 deaths. Based on these figures, the case fatality rate fell from 2.2 per cent to 0.3 per cent. Since around half of all infections are not recorded, the infection fatality rate is now around 0.15 per cent, not much different to seasonal influenza. And remember that these statistics include a large number of deaths among the unvaccinated. For fully vaccinated people, the risk of dying if you catch Covid is lower still.

A glance at the Covid mortality figures shows us that we are more or less where we expected to be. After two surges of the epidemic – in spring 2020 and winter 2020-21 – we have reached endemicity. A graph of hospital occupancy looks very similar. The numbers go up a little, they go down a little, but it is nothing a half-decent healthcare system couldn’t handle. Covid will remain a health issue for many years – possibly forever – but it is no longer a civil-liberties issue. Arguably, it should only be a minor news story from now on.


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NHS England's ignoble lie

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


The head of the NHS claimed that there are 14 times as many people in hospital with Covid than there were this time last year. Many people on social media knew immediately that this was not true but several news outlets apparently did not realise.

The health lobby is not averse to the 'noble lie', as regular readers know, but this was in a different league. I wrote about it for Cap-X and spoke to Tom Harwood about it yesterday. 

'Some media organisations will report anything - no matter how absurd - so long as it makes the UK look like it's in a bad situation.'

Christopher Snowdon criticises the media for how they use Covid-19 numbers. pic.twitter.com/PssTHvv2hw

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The Bloomberg Health Organisation

Published on 2021-11-09 15:18:00.
Website: Velvet Glove, Iron Fist


 

The International Network of Nicotine Consumer Organisations (INNCO) has published an excellent document about the WHO, vaping and the malign influence of evil billionaire Mike Bloomberg. It gives a good overview of how the WHO and its COP meetings on tobacco are subverted by anti-nicotine prohibitionists and looks at the dodgy dealings of Bloomberg's myriad front groups. It also collects a lot of handy quotes and sources in one place.

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Living in an overregulated, overtaxed, brainwashed prison camp

Published on 2021-10-05 14:59:12.
Website: Frank Davis


Delingpole: Oh the contrast with the overregulated, overtaxed, brainwashed prison camp of mostly compliant sheep and grim apparatchiks to which I am now unhappily returned. Boris Johnson’s United Kingdom is much, much closer politically, socially and economically to Tito’s Yugoslavia … Continue reading →

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Good Riddance

Published on 2021-10-03 15:38:07.
Website: Frank Davis


Good news. Goodbye and good riddance to Public Health England. All these public health organisations are essentially coercive, for the simple reason that they intrude upon individual autonomy. My health is no longer my concern alone, but the concern of … Continue reading →

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Bushcraft Bear

Published on 2021-10-01 15:30:46.
Website: Frank Davis


I’ve been following the volcanic eruption on the island of La Palma in the Canary Islands.  The best reports come from somebody called Bushcraft Bear. Bushcraft Bear is just a guy with a webcam standing on a hill in La … Continue reading →

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Social Isolation Tyranny

Published on 2021-09-30 14:03:42.
Website: Frank Davis


https://www.breitbart.com/politics/2021/09/28/australia-official-warns-sydney-residents-unvaccinated-will-face-social-isolation-difficult-life/ Unvaccinated residents of Sydney, Australia, will face social isolation and a difficult life should they continue to resist vaccination, says New South Wales state Premier Gladys Berejiklian. Just like smokers. Australia went from a free country to a police state … Continue reading →

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The Absolute Tyranny of Public Health

Published on 2021-09-27 16:32:46.
Website: Frank Davis


Via Clicky: Australia has fallen.. a man is arrested 200mtrs from his house.. his crime.? Having a cigarette ???? pic.twitter.com/c3l0K28X0b — Pelham (@Resist_05) September 26, 2021 Four or five policemen tackle an Aussie smoker, quite likely injuring him in 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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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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