Friday 19 July 2024

The Tobacco and Vapes Bill returns

Be afraid.

Labour wants to regulate flavours and branding, and may even be planning to tax vapes (another Sunak ruse). We know from other countries that such policies lead to more smoking and more cigarettes being sold. As mentioned above, the government also intends to include a wide range of reduced-risk tobacco products, including heated tobacco, in the generational ban.

The two parts of the Tobacco and Vapes Bill are therefore pulling in opposite directions. From one side, you have the clumsy hand of the state using a weird and sluggish version of prohibition to coerce people away from all tobacco products. From the other side, you have restrictions on vapes, pouches and other reduced-risk products which, if allowed to flourish, would make smoking obsolete long before 2080. It is possible that the government might still get the balance right — the King’s speech was short on detail — but until it does, I’m backing Sweden.

Read the rest at The Critic.

Wednesday 17 July 2024

Inside the mind of George Monbiot

I reviewed George Monbiot's latest book for The Critic last month. It's online here. It's supposed to be about 'neoliberalism', Hayek and free market think tanks although he doesn't seem to know much about any of them.

This is a thin book, physically and intellectually. The authors show no interest in understanding why Keynesianism “ran into trouble in the 1970s” or why politicians (and voters) were looking for a different way of doing things. They garble Hayek’s work until it becomes a ludicrous caricature and then project an extraordinary amount of bad faith onto his adherents.

Between 1945 and 1960, they claim, with a characteristic lack of evidence, that the Hayekian movement went from being “an honest if extreme philosophy” to “a sophisticated con” and “a self-serving racket”. After complaining that free-market think tanks do not dox their donors, Monbiot and Hutchison assert that there must be “oligarchs and corporations” paying them to promote their “unreasonable demands”. 

In a peculiar twist, they suggest that the “oligarchs” do this not so much to enrich themselves as to get a kick out of making the poor poorer (in fact, the incomes of those in the bottom 20 per cent have doubled in real terms since 1979).

This sounds so conspiratorial that when the authors write a chapter about conspiracy theories they coin the term “conspiracy fictions” to distinguish other people’s conspiracy theories from their own “genuine conspiracies” involving Cambridge Analytica and the Koch brothers. The Koch brothers inevitably get their own chapter in which the authors propose two “likely reasons” for their donating to libertarian causes. The first is “immediate self-interest”; the second is “power”. The possibility that libertarians want to give money to libertarian organisations never seems to cross their minds.

The authors use the word “oligarch” freely, presumably because it brings Russia to mind, but it is only ever applied to the “rich backers” of “neoliberal ideologues”. They have nothing to say about the likes of Bill Gates, George Soros or Michael Bloomberg, let alone the heiress Aileen Getty who funds Just Stop Oil. 


Sunday 14 July 2024

Sugar tax claims jump the shark

The Guardian is trying to find out how gullible its readers are. How else can you explain a headline like ‘Children’s daily sugar consumption halved just a year after tax, study finds’? It can only be deliberate. The alternative explanation is that Guardian journalists cannot read a simple study and are highly credulous, but since that is unthinkable we must assume that such headlines are designed to be idiot tests.


Read the rest at Cap-X.

Thursday 11 July 2024

Smoking-related cancers at an all time high?

Do people in “public health” have little meetings where they dare each other to tell the media the most outrageous nonsense they can think of? Is it a competition? Do they put money in a pot which they only lose if a journalist laughs at their press release and refuses to publish it?

If so, that day never seems to come. I stopped giving money to Cancer Research UK (CRUK) years ago when it became obvious that they were prepared to abuse people’s trust in their brand by using dodgy claims to lobby for stupid policies. I suppose you have to expect activists to gild the lily somewhat, but there’s gilding and there’s gaslighting.

Rishi Sunak’s plan to very gradually prohibit the sale of tobacco had to be put on hold when he pulled off the political masterstroke of holding a general election in July for no reason. It is extremely unlikely that the Labour Party will not revive it — they were keener on the idea than the Tories — but the anti-smoking lobby are not taking any chances and are lobbying hard for it to be made a priority. The only snag is that a mere six per cent of the general public share their belief that it is a priority. And so, to inject some urgency into the proceedings, CRUK announced on Tuesday that “the number of cancer cases caused by smoking in the UK has reached an all-time high”. 

Does anybody in their right mind find this remotely believable? Smoking rates in the UK peaked at around 60 per cent in the 1950s. By 1990, they had halved to 30 per cent. They have since more than halved again, to 13 per cent. It takes a while to develop cancer, of course, but it doesn’t take 70 years. If it did, you might as well smoke. 

Read the rest at The Critic...

Thursday 4 July 2024

Last Orders with Tim Black

We recorded put out the Last Orders podcast a bit earlier than usual this week so it didn't arrive after the election. It's a good one with Spiked's Tim Black discussing the political betting 'scandal', what a Starmer government will look like and responding to an angry nutritionist. 

Listen here.

Friday 28 June 2024

Who is behind the betting "scandal"?

The political betting "scandal" has dominated the British news cycle for two weeks. Very few people are asking the obvious question: who is behind all the leaks and why are they doing it?

It seems to me to be very much like election interference, as I wrote in Spiked yesterday...

A more interesting question is who is pushing this story? As experienced bookmaker Geoff Banks says, the Gambling Commission has ‘studiously maintained for the past two decades that it neither discusses the details of investigations that it undertakes nor does it discuss the fact that an investigation may or may not be in play’. And yet, through a series of leaks to the press, we know that there is not only a series of investigations underway, but also the names of many of the people under investigation. A pattern is becoming familiar. A journalist is tipped off about a gambling investigation into a political figure. The journalist writes a story in which he says that he ‘understands’ that the person is being investigated. The person is contacted by the journalist, admits that an investigation is underway, and is then suspended.

Who is behind all this? The Met Police are involved in some of these cases, but they have firmly denied leaking any of the names. If it isn’t them, someone at the Gambling Commission would seem to be the most likely suspect. The Commission has been tight-lipped in its few official pronouncements, confirming only that certain investigations are underway, but somebody somewhere has been keeping the media up to speed with its every move.


Thursday 27 June 2024

The WHO's 'banish industry' ruse

David Zaruk has written a very nice five part blog post about the bonkers WHO proposal to treat all industries as 'health-harming' and banish them from policy-making. You can start with Part One. The following quote is taken from Part Five....

It is one thing though for an academic or NGO activist to demand that all industries be excluded from the policy process, and quite another for a UN agency responsible for global health policies to follow them down that rabbit hole. Given how beneficial the public-private partnerships have been for the WHO and global health promotion, publishing such a strategy report to try to break up all corporate engagement was both stupid and dangerous.

Perhaps the fact that this report was released via the WHO Europe office and not via the WHO international office is an indication of dissent at the highest management levels toward such a radical strategy. But until the WHO can seriously speak with a single voice, such folly will continue to destroy its trust and reputation. A new leadership needs to clean up the militant factions and ensure a responsible management of global health policy.

The first step is quite easy: remove their terrible strategy publication, commit to stakeholder dialogue and issue an apology.


I recorded a Swift Half with David in 2022 which is worth 30 minutes of your time.