Friday, 23 September 2016

David Nutt's designer drug

The Adam Smith Institute have got a nice little report out about the future of 'vice', featuring e-cigarettes, gambling, legal high and 'synthetic alcohol'.

As I have said before, David Nutt's 'synthetic alcohol' seems to be no more than a legal high with a novel marketing plan. Nutt portrays alcohol as being so extraordinarily dangerous that almost any drug looks like a harm reduction device by comparison. The question is whether his drug is a closer substitute to alcohol than other drugs. It seems to me that most of his sales pitch could be applied to marijuana, cocaine and opium.

A new type of synthetic alcohol has been discovered which could allow people to enjoy the sociable effects of a few pints, but skip the hangover that usually follows.

Yep, what's what drugs do, and since the government has banned all legal highs with its appalling Psychoactive Substances Act, the chances of bringing a new recreational drug to market are not good, but you have to applaud Nutt's ingenuity. He's worked out that the only way you can get a designer drug on the market is by invoking the all-powerful concept of 'public health'. However, he's laying on the sales patter a bit thick by saying things like this...

"People want healthier drinks," said Professor Nutt. “The drinks industry knows that by 2050 alcohol will be gone." "They know that and have been planning for this for at least 10 years. But they don't want to rush into it, because they're making so much money from conventional alcohol."

I'll be on a panel with him at the Conservative party conference on October 4th. I hope he brings some product with him.

Read the ASI report here.

Thursday, 22 September 2016

The truth continues to emerge about smoking ban miracles

Via Michael Siegel, I see that another large study has concluded that smoking bans do not have an effect on the rate of heart attacks. I have written so much about the junk claims about smoking ban miracles that I won't go through the whole story here.

The claim is that you get a notable drop in heart attack admissions to hospital as soon as a smoking ban is introduced.

Check the archive for the extensive background but the basic facts are these: heart attack miracles are mathematically impossible and the claims of smoking ban advocates are based on blatant cherry-picking and bent modelling that bears no relation to the data recorded by hospitals - with a bit of publication bias thrown in for good measure.

The new study is different from those conjured up by 'public health' charlatans in that it applies proper statistical methods, such as using controls. It also doesn't cherry-pick. Its authors have a subtle dig at those who produced previous efforts in the text...

Our study possesses three important strengths. Unlike most previous studies of smoking bans, we measure the association between the implementation of smoking bans and hospitalization rates for hundreds of U.S. counties, rather than one or two areas, or a handful of regions. We employ an extensive set of covariates including cigarette tax rates, along with time and county fixed effects to control for factors that could confound the observed relationship between smoking bans and hospitalizations. This is the only study in the smoking bans literature that includes county-specific time trends, even though this approach has become the standard of practice for health economics studies over the past 15 years.

And by looking at a large number of communities rather than retrospectively selecting one which had an unusually sharp decline in heart attacks, the authors found that...

Contrary to most previous studies, we found no evidence that comprehensive public place smoking bans lowered hospitalization rates in the short-term for AMI or heart failure.

This is in line with a previous study that looked across the whole of the USA and included two million heart attacks. Like this new study and others that have come to the same conclusion, that research made absolutely no impression on the media whereas the ridiculous miracle of Helena, Montana (population: 29,000) was broadcast around the world. The lie has won the day.

I have been beating this drum for years, as has Michael Blastland (the creator of the BBC's excellent More or Less series). For his trouble, Blastland was described as a 'denialist' by Martin McKee and Martin Dockrell.

Spare a thought also for Michael Siegel who, despite being an anti-smoking activist and a supporter of smoking bans, found the heart miracle scam to be one lie too many. He has been going on about this issue longer than anybody and his blog post is worth reading if you want to see what happens when you expose fraud in the tobacco control cult...

It is interesting to note that it was my expression of the above opinions about these studies back in the mid-2000's that led to my "expulsion" from the tobacco control movement, including being thrown off several list-serves, ostracized by many of my colleagues, accused of being a "tobacco mole," being characterized by my hero and mentor - Stan Glantz - as being "a tragic figure," [to be fair, if Glantz is your hero, you are kind of a tragic figure - CJS] having copyright to one of my articles violated by an anti-smoking organization, no longer being invited to speak at tobacco conferences, not being able to present at tobacco control conferences anymore, not being able to obtain further research grants, and having colleagues refuse to appear with me at conferences to discuss these or any other scientific issues. In fact, it was this censorship that led to the creation of the Rest of the Story in the first place.

Nearly three million page views later, perhaps these groups knew what they were doing because it appears that I may have been right all along. By silencing me, these groups were able to disseminate their pre-determined conclusions widely to the public through the media long enough for the conclusions to be generally accepted. Now, it is too late to undo the damage. The media and the public have already made up their minds, and one article noting the results of this new study is not going to correct or undo 10 years of dissemination of unsupported and errant scientific conclusions.

For me, the appearance of smoking ban miracles was the point at which it became obvious that the modern anti-smoking movement was incorrigibly dishonest. Nothing I have seen in the years since has given me the slightest reason to change my mind about that.

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

The victory of vaping

I wrote about the recent sharp fall in the smoking rate and ASH's attempt to steal the credit from vapers. It's at Spectator Health. Here's a sample...

What’s going on? Deborah Arnott of the anti-smoking quango Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) attributed the fall in smoking, in part, to the government’s ban on ‘glitzy tobacco packaging’. She means plain packaging. Ms Arnott has spent the last five years of her life furiously lobbying for this silly piece of virtue signalling so it is no surprise that it is at the forefront of her mind, but the smoking prevalence figures were collected in 2015, whereas plain packaging was only introduced in May 2016, and hardly anybody has seen a plain pack yet because retailers are still selling old stock. Doubtless ASH are already thinking of ways to put lipstick on this pig of a policy, but they could at least wait for it to come into effect before they start making their ridiculous claims.

What Arnott cannot quite bring herself to say is that it is the e-cigarette, not big government interference, that has been the game-changer. As Public Health England has acknowledged, e-cigarettes are the most popular stop-smoking aid. Correlation doesn’t equal causation, but vaping is a much better explanation for the sudden downturn in smoking rates than brown cigarette packs that no one has seen.

It is easy to assume that smoking rates have been dropping like a stone in the nine years since the smoking ban was introduced, but this is to mistake action for results. In reality, the smoking ban marked the point at which the long-term decline in smoking pretty much came to a halt.

Do read it all.

Regulator Watch: Puritans and Prohibitionists

I did an interview with Brent Stafford for Regulator Watch recently. We talked about vaping, the 'public health' movement and the history of anti-smoking. Here it is...

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

More on that sugar conspiracy

Further to my post about Stanton Glantz's ridiculous sugar conspiracy, I'm pleased to see other people critiquing this nonsense. The two articles below are both excellent and well worth reading if you interested in how activist-researchers create media narratives...

Sugar and Spite: Mark Hegsted and the Great Sugar Conspiracy

Rewriting history to expose a non-existent conspiracy
And don't forget this post from Nutrevolve.

Not for the first time, the blogosphere has been quicker to get to grips with peer-revieed drivel than the mainstream media. Take this from the Financial Review, for instance...

The food and artificial sweetener industry, which have previously opposed the tax, have been making global headlines with academics alleging the business is skewing health research.

An academic at the University of California published a paper arguing five decades of research responsible for shaping dietary recommendations was likely sculpted by the sugar industry.


Monday, 19 September 2016

"Calories are the new tobacco"

Yes, Simon "Caps Lock" Capewell actually says those words in this Radio 4 interview. I don't know what's more worrying: that he said it or that it went completely unchallenged in a supposed head-to-head debate.

It's only a few minutes long so listen to it if you want to have peek into the mind of a 'public health' fanatic.

Sunday, 18 September 2016

Day of the jackass

I've been away for a few days hopping around the English Channel. While I was out of the country, the Royal College of Medicine gave the British public a unique chance to see some of the worst people in the world for one night only.

At a self-congratulatory event with the delusional title 'Winning the end-game against tobacco', the Royal College hosted not only the thick-as-two-short-planks junk scientist Anna Gilmore and the obese nonentity Martin McKee, but also the champagne socialist Gabriel Scally and lemon-sucking prohibitionist Deborah Arnott. As if that weren't enough - and, let's face it, it isn't - it also featured drunken social media casualty John Ashton and - all the way from Australia! - dense sociologist Simon Chapman.

Chapman brought the curtain down on this intellectual feast with a talk entitled 'Years well spent. A reflection on a professional lifetime spent in public health advocacy'. That's 'advocacy', you will notice, not 'scholarship', 'academia', or even 'magazine editing'. The 'years well spent' were largely dedicated to vandalising advertising billboards, burning taxpayers' money and demonising anybody who uses nicotine.

Having travelled so far, Chapman was disappointed to find that none of his many antagonists fancied paying good money to see him toot his own horn.

Alas, it seems that almost everybody else in Britain made the same inexplicable decision to stay away, as one of the event's seven speakers confirmed.

Ouch! Let's hope the Royal College of Medicine made Simple Simon pay his own way.


I see that Mr Puddlecote has also noticed that the 'public health' crusade is not exactly a mass movement. 

I've also managed to track down one of the audience members and he is - surprise, surprise - a anti-vaping tax-sponger who works at a sock puppet NGO....