The Tobacco Products Directive: worst. sequel. ever.

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Ban that. And……yep, ban that. Because children.

 

I had a good chuckle earlier today after a friend sent me a link to the latest edition of Purse-lipped Puritan, with its December centrefold Miss Sweden:

 

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I’d have left it at that were it not for the fact that I spotted the name Martina Pötschke-Langer on the advisory board.

I was well aware that these two worked closely together at the extremist, fanatical end of the Tobacco Control anti-harm reduction spectrum. After all, when Public Health Sweden hosted a conference with the PH Minister Gabriel Wikström earlier this year, the presentation on ecigarettes was led by the wibbling moonbattery of Martina’s DKFZ outfit. As you can imagine, they were simply gushing with praise for this harm-reduction revolution.

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Oh. Surely they must have had something nice to say?

 

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Ah. A begrudging admission that respiratory improvements were likely, assuming you don’t die of all the scary but implausible, highly unlikely and/or impossible stuff they focused on.

This is what really boils my piss about these cross-border scaremongering initiatives; the way the junk science & scaremongering, which is ultimately intended to influence and coerce politicians and public alike, spreads like the cancer they pretend they are trying to prevent. The anti-vaping Powerpoint assault gets exported to Sweden, while a quick glance at Pötschke-Langer’s documents on this site highlights how decades of anti-snus propaganda and lies can be neatly bundled together and exported to Germany. It’s one of the worst pieces of anti-THR drivel ever created, and that’s a pretty competitive field.

Little wonder then that other organisations who are represented in this group, such as ASH Ireland and UKCTAS, are so woefully uninformed.  They’ve been subject to a relentless barrage of blood-curdling Nordic Noir, courtesy of the pens of Stockholm’s Karolinska University researchers. International prohibitionists play a never-ending game of chinese whispers, and the junk science gets ever more exaggerated, abused and exploited with every border it crosses.

The EU snus ban was a triumph for hysterical fanatics, who succeeded in spreading the junk science of a small group of researchers with highly dubious motives, and by provoking the knee-jerk instincts of uninformed and more often than not misinformed politicians to “be seen to be doing something”.

If you haven’t read Christopher Snowdon’s excellent account already, treat yourself to a Christmas present and discover more about the remarkable series of events that led to the ban. The parallels between that and the current war on vaping (by the same protagonists) is uncannily familiar:

Flavours!

Gateway!

Nicotine!

Poison!

Not a proven cessation product!

THINK OF THE CHILDREN!

The implementation of the EU Tobacco Products Directive in May 2016 will uphold the original EU snus ban, as well as introducing a raft of wholly arbitrary bans, restrictions and unnecessary and prohibitive regulations on e-cigarettes. As sequels go, it is nothing more than a pale imitation. What makes it as scary as the original is that they believe they can get away with it again.

 

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Dame Sally’s Blooz

Dick Puddlecote’s astonishing revelations about the UK Chief Medical Officer Dame Sally Davies earlier this evening have me lost for words. Thankfully, Fergus Mason has plenty to spare on the subject, so I urge you to read both superb posts. There’s also more on the Ashtray blog.

The information released after an FOI request paints a gloomy picture of Dame Sally, and asks a number of questions about anti-vaping campaigner Martin Mckee. It also throws the spotlight on the actions of the Faculty of Public Health and its new President, John Middleton (or Dr Blooz as he prefers to be known by on twitter). According to the blogpost, he appears to have set his mouth organ down to act as Sally mouthpiece in an effort to keep Public Health England’s increasingly positive position on vaping silent.

One thing’s for sure – there is going to be a heap of pressure from the millions of vaping members of the public to spend the >150 hours required to approve the release of all 3000 correspondences. We have a right to know.

In the meantime, I’m going to write an arrangement of Sally’s Blues. For harmonica, cantata choir and Belfast castrato.

 

Auntie Beeb tries vaping

The BBC show Trust me I’m a Doctor broadcast 29th October (watch it here) featured a series of tests on vapers, smokers & the effects of passive vaping on non-smoking bystanders. The results were most interesting:

We’ve taken samples of saliva, urine and breath from a range of vapers and a group of smokers. And we’ve done the same tests to look at the risks(sic) of passive vaping.

First, nicotine levels. We found that vapers got a similar dose of nicotine to smokers.

Now for the real nasties: Carbon Monoxide, associated with heart disease, and Acrolein, associated with cancer and lung problems.

The vapers had significantly lower levels (of CO & Acrolein), similar to those found in non-smokers.

As for the risk from passive vaping, our tests found no evidence that vaping was affecting people nearby.

Perhaps it’s time for the BBC to reply to the British Medical Association. I’ve even drafted them a letter.

Dear BMA,

Thanks for your unscientific and frankly lame scaremongering disguised as advice. It suggested we ban vaping in our workplaces based on spurious evidence. We over-reacted as a result of your whining puritanism and enforced a ban, but we’ve changed our minds. It’s fine.

Love Auntie xxx

Analyze this – The loopy snooping on vapers

That thing where you get $2.7 million to eavesdrop on the public….

 

Deep in the heart of one of America’s top universities, we overheard this lunchtime canteen conversation between two researchers:

So what you working on?

We’re analyzing tweets by vapers.

Gee. How’s that going?

You know, I think these e-cig things are more dangerous than we thought.

How so?

Well, they keep going on about fat glands causing a pain in the ass for one thing.

Uh-huh.

And some of the crazy stuff they’re “vaping” sounds really nasty.

You’re kidding?

No Sir-ee Bob – check this out. 146 people reported cranial injuries in ONE DAY! <Reads> “Been banging my head on my desk all day. This BMJ Spunktrumpet is pure evil.” There’s more: “ Have you checked out Chippy’s latest? Guarantee you will puke.” And look: “Any more of this Leftard Bubblegimp and I swear I will gouge my own eyes out.”

That’s fucked up.

But you know what the real puzzle is? 78% of them are called Clive.

That’s insane! One for the stats-jockeys to fondle I guess. Still, at least you haven’t been forced to wipe chimp shit off computer keyboards for six months.

Ha! The infinite monkey project. Is that finished yet?

Yup.

Did they write a heap of crap?

How did you guess?

Still can’t believe you got funding for that!

We didn’t.

What?! So where did the cash come from?

The chimps got hired at UCSF. We got the finders’ fee.

WHO’s next

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Fresh from their much-publicised failures on the handling of the Ebola outbreaks, the World Health Organisation have taken it upon themselves to piss all over anyone, anywhere in the world, who has the temerity to smoke, use an e-cigarette or partake in smokeless tobacco products. You can read all about it here.

So I have a question for you:

How many articles on either smoking or e-cigarettes have you read in the past 5 years? A fair few I should imagine. How many of them contained this: “According to the World Health Organisation…”?

Now don’t get me wrong, journalists have a responsibility to research and report the views of the major authorities in any given issue. What is increasingly worrying – both in the media and more particularly among Public Health authorities and professionals – is how the views of the WHO are used as an appeal to authority to justify an argument.

When the WHO proclaims “More research is needed” or “We shall monitor the situation” and other such bland media sound-bites, it is doubtful whether they have any real impact on a debate. But as we have seen at this week’s FCTC COP6 meeting, their diktats and policy proposals are more than capable of shaping world policy, and we should be very concerned indeed.

Countries such as the US, UK and France have so many vapers and so many vaping advocates, that it is less likely that the FCTC’s unbridled attack on ecigs and tobacco harm reduction will have a massive impact. But who knows? We’ve seen how easy it is for mischievous Public Health industry talking heads to mislead the public in our media already. The FCTC enables them to appeal to authority with even more “credibility”. We can only hope that their arguments have been exposed for the scaremongering witterings that they are, and that their junk science has been destroyed so emphatically that the tide of public opinion is now firmly on our side. It’s certainly beginning to look that way.

The real damage, the real harm that will be caused by the FCTC, is in all the countries where vaping has barely taken off yet. Where laws can be passed and bans can be imposed before people are even given the opportunity to try what it is that is being banned. And where any resistance, however vocal, can be brushed aside with a wave of the WHO-approved diktats.

But of course it goes so much further than that. Not only does the COP6 mean that vapers will have to fight with renewed vigour, but users and advocates of snus and other smokeless tobacco are also in the firing line. In countries where snus is forbidden, it makes it harder for those fighting for its legal sale. In countries where it is permitted, such as Sweden, it gives ammunition to the anti-nicotine extremists who campaign against it.

As for the global tobacco tax policies, I think they will be an ineffective tragedy. They will increase poverty among the world’s smokers and smokeless users, with little chance of any reduction in consumption. Not to mention the boost it will give to the illicit tobacco trade. I’m sure that the superb Christopher Snowdon & Dick Puddlecote will be covering this in greater detail, and with greater aplomb, than I could ever dream of.

So who exactly are these people, who would ride roughshod over the free choices of people in the free world with their undemocratic, unaccountable and increasingly tyrannical outbursts?

Well the WHO is headed by Margaret Chan, who is from China (more specifically Hong Kong, where you may have noticed a few people on the streets recently, demonstrating against the regime).

The new FCTC Bureau President is from….drum roll…..Russia!

I’m pretty sure you’re aware of the democratic and human rights records of these two countries, so let’s move on to the newly-appointed Vice Presidents:

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Woah, did you say Oman?

Umm…the Maldives? Really?

Flogging is a punishment imposed upon women for extramarital sex. On 5 July 2009 an eighteen-year-old woman was sentenced to 100 lashings for sex with two men outside marriage; her pregnancy was used by the courts as proof of guilt. The two men were acquitted. Journalists reported that she fainted after the punishment was carried out and taken to a local hospital.

As the state practices Sharia law, homosexuality is illegal. The punishment for men is nine months to one year imprisonment, or 10 to 30 lashes. The punishment for women is nine months to one year of house arrest.

Ah Kenya. I know that’s OK. Isn’t it?

Even the collection of Pacific Islands known as Micronesia appears to have an “interesting” concept of law:

Understanding Law in Micronesia notes that “law in Micronesia is an extraordinary flux and flow of contrasting thought and meaning, inside and outside the legal system”.

Random.

As reported by Drew Johnson of the Washington Times, delegates at the WHO FCTC took it upon themselves to throw out the press and public, pass motions without voting, physically restrain and silence delegates who declared opposing views or questioned policy proposals, and took a cool 20 million dollars of taxpayers cash to fund the entire sinister jamboree.

One of the noble goals (and genuine achievement) of supra-national bodies such as the UN and the WHO is to spread modern, transparent, democratic freedoms to some of the darker corners of the world. So when representatives of countries where homophobia, misogyny, corruption and state-sponsored violence are sitting at the top table of an organisation such as the WHO FCTC, then it’s time for those countries that support democracy and freedom to walk away.

They are not fit for purpose.

Hands up who likes cancer?

There was a walkabout in Stockholm yesterday, organised by the major charity Cancerfonden (The Cancer Fund). It was a bright and sunny day, but the walkers sported natty pink woolly hats to ward off the chill in the air, and more importantly to raise awareness for this fine organisation.

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I think we can all agree that cancer is a BAD THING. I can’t think of anyone who either holds or expresses an opinion contrary to the prevailing view that cancer is a BAD THING. Maybe there are – let me know in the comments if you find one.

So a march to raise awareness of cancer, and to raise funds for research into different forms of cancer is always to be applauded. They even managed to get a celebrity to march with them. When I say celebrity, I mean politician.

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For those of you who don’t recognise him, this is Carl Schlyter. He was a Green party MEP, but after qualifying for his generous EU pension, he stepped down from his Brussels post to run in the recent general election. His party managed to shed tonnes of votes since the last election, and received a paltry 6.9% this time around. So, as befits a modern democracy, the Greens are now in government as part of a shaky coalition with the main socialist party (there are at least four here – I know, it beggars belief).

So what message did Carl have for the people who braved the first of Sweden’s autumnal chills to join him on the walkabout? A pledge to increase funding for child leukemia research & care? An increased determination to spend his time in government exploring how the worrying recent rises in skin & breast cancer could best be tackled? Oh no. As reported by Smart Ungdom, the youth charity, he said:

“I hope that this new government will be brave enough to make an even stronger effort against tobacco.”

Wait..what?

I don’t know about you but I’m pretty sure people would rather see politicians (and charities) focussing their efforts on those forms & cases of cancer that strike seemingly at random, rather than castigating people’s freedom to make their own lifestyle choices. Particularly when half of those who choose to use tobacco in Sweden don’t even smoke.

Now Carl’s not a big fan of companies it seems. Or of people selling things that he doesn’t like. So perhaps his decision to focus on tobacco was simply an ideological preference? After all, you can’t blame skin cancer on Big Sun, or breast cancer on…well you know what I mean.

As you may well know, or have picked up from my previous posts, snus has had quite an effect here in Sweden. In fact, despite Sweden consuming among the highest levels of nicotine per person in the EU, it also has the lowest levels of lung & pretty much every other cancer going.

Let’s ask an expert shall we? Here’s Brad Rodu on health effects:

“The impact of this preference (for snus) on their health is so small that it is barely measurable by modern epidemiological methods.”

“(UK epidemiologist) Dr. Lee confirms what I have been asserting since 1994: Smokeless tobacco use is 99% less hazardous than smoking, and the magnitude of risk, if it exists, is difficult to measure using modern epidemiological methods.”

So since 50% of the tobacco users in Sweden use a form of tobacco that is so extraordinarily different to smoking lit tobacco, you’d have thought that Carl would be keen to distinguish between the two. But they never do, do they?

If Carl is genuinely concerned about the risk of cancer for those who smoke, he’d object to the EU-wide snus ban. He’d object to his own government’s latest tax rise on snus. He’d at the very least be a fan of the spread of vaping among smokers & an increasing number of now ex-smokers throughout the EU, wouldn’t he?

EU Tobacco Products Directive 2014.

Shadow Rapporteur: Carl Schlyter.

Oh dear.

Carl prides himself on refusing to have any contact whatsoever with cigarette companies or their lobbyists during the legislative process of the EU TPD. Noble principles indeed. But had he met them, he may have experienced calls for punitive over-regulation of the thing that cigarette manufacturers fear the most: small-medium independent enterprises in the e-cigarette industry and their products.

He might have smelled a rat.

Since he didn’t meet them, we can assume that he must look on in astonishment (and one would hope a deal of shame) as cigarette manufacturers lobby the FDA for the very same kind of prohibitive over-regulation that he himself helped to deliver in Europe.

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Oh dear indeed.

In case you were in any doubt, Carl is by no means unique; anti-vaping, anti-snus, anti-harm reduction sentiment is rife in Swedish politics, and not entirely exclusive to the left. Not all Centre-right MEPs campaigned or voted against the snus & ecig ban elements of the TPD, and very few of them seem interested in opposing the state’s ongoing court case to ban ecigs as illegal medicines. It’s simply that the left are often more vocal, and always the keenest to deny choice in the name of anti-business rabble-rousing.

Kudos to former MEP Christian Engström of the Pirate Party and Christopher Fjellner MEP of the Moderate Party for fighting the good fight – I’m sure the entire vaping community is grateful for your support for ecigs & snus, and share the hope that it will not be in vain.

Thanks to snus, Sweden earned the reputation as the world leader in tobacco harm reduction. These days you’d be forgiven for thinking that the accolade is no longer deserved.

Harming harm reduction harms people

Less than a week into the new Socialist-Green coalition government, and the signs are already on the wall that it’s going to be a nightmare – with leftist Public Health ideology set to triumph over common sense and thought for the people that they represent.

Not satisfied with the continuing attempts to ban the sale of ecigs via medicinal regulation (which no ecig on earth can hope to satisfy), the new government has set its sights on another hero of tobacco harm reduction – snus.

As reported in Expressen today, Sweden is set for a tax rise. Well that’s hardly surprising for a group of Socialist parties, you might think. And you’d be right. There will be many tax rises. But this is a tax rise that they specifically and vocally ruled out in their shadow budget last year.

While cigarette tax is set to rise by 6%, these bright sparks have decided that snus tax will rise by 12%.

This batshit crazy policy will cause harm – as some people might decide to choose to smoke, instead of using a product that is so much safer that it isn’t just in a different ballpark, it’s a different sport altogether.

Such policies aren’t simply the brainchild of a deranged government, however. They are the direct result of these countries signing up to the FCTC – which is in turn used by raving hordes of prohibitionists to blackmail & bully the public, the media and most significantly the politicians, into anti-tobacco policies that rarely, if ever, put the health of the public in focus.

The result is that in Tobacco Control circles a tax rise – any tax rise – is “a good thing”, irrespective of the potential effects of such a rise. Whether that’s an increase in smuggling, increases in poverty amongst tobacco users, or in this case the potential for increasing the amount of people smoking lit tobacco.

I’ll leave you with his graph – the retail price of snus versus cigarettes. For your reference, Sweden signed the FCTC in July 2005.

Retail Price snus