Friday 12 April 2024

The Tobacco and Vapes Bill

The Impact Assessment for the Tobacco and Vapes Bill is laughable, relying on nonsense figures from ASH and ignoring the impact on the illicit trade. I've written about it for The Critic where I also ask for an ethical justification for stopping informed adults engaging in risky but self-regarding behaviour.

Last week, the Regulatory Policy Committee gave its verdict on the Impact Assessment. It expressed concern about the “over-reliance on evidence from ASH” and spotted the obvious problem that ASH’s productivity estimates “do not control for other factors that may affect a person’s earnings”. It suggested rethinking the assumption that the prohibition was “unlikely to have substantial impacts on tourism” since smokers may be reluctant to visit a country where they can’t even buy cigarette papers, let alone tobacco. And it politely recommended that more consideration be given to “the continued likelihood of some people buying cigarettes illegally for others”, an issue that is given astonishingly little attention in the Impact Assessment. 

Legislating for prohibition without considering the effect on the black market is almost comically negligent, but there is one other aspect of this policy worth mentioning that is ignored in both the Impact Assessment and the RPC’s opinion. A lot of people enjoy smoking and, if this policy works as intended, that enjoyment will be denied them. This is not a popular thing to say and the anti-smoking lobby goes to great lengths to deny it. They claim that people only smoke because they started in childhood and got hooked. The government claims that “most smokers want to quit”. But do they? There is enormous social pressure on smokers to say that they don’t want to smoke, but in the last Public Health England survey, only 20 per cent of smokers expressed a strong desire to quit and even among this minority, most did not intend to quit in the next three months. Moreover, it is no longer true that most smokers start in childhood. The majority of people who start smoking today have their first cigarette between the age of 18 and 24.


Thursday 11 April 2024

Big Tobacco meets Big Food

I've seen a few posts like this recently, claiming that 'Big Tobacco' used its mysterious, fiendish tricks to manipulate food when some of them bought food companies in the 1980s. 


So why say it? Presumably because it advances the goal of applying tobacco-style regulation to the food your eat.

Wednesday 10 April 2024

A swift half with Simon Clark

I had your friend and mine Simon Clark, the indefatigable leader of FOREST, on the Swift Half last week. We talked about his career fighting for liberty. Check it out.

Monday 1 April 2024

Why is alcohol regulated differently to tobacco?

Why is alcohol advertised openly in the UK, without pictures on the packaging highlighting the medical effects, for example, when tobacco is treated so differently? John Fisher, by email

Yesterday, the Observer published the replies, a mixed bag mostly harvested from the comments section. There are one or two nutters but also a few sensible souls. 

Nobody mentioned the official reason that was repeated for decades by the anti-smoking lobby and which is gradually fading from the popular memory as we slide down the slippery slope.

The official argument for regulating tobacco differently to alcohol is that cigarettes are a “unique product”. The WHO says that tobacco “is the only legal consumer product that kills when used exactly as intended by the manufacturer." This was the explanation given by anti-smoking campaigners for decades whenever it was suggested that tobacco regulation creates a "slippery slope”. For example, when campaigning for plain packaging in 2012, Deborah Arnott of Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) said:

“...the “domino theory” i.e. that once a measure has been applied to tobacco it will be applied to other products is patently false. The same argument was used against the ban on tobacco advertising, but 9 years after the tobacco ban in the UK, alcohol advertising is still permitted with no sign of it being prohibited. Tobacco is a uniquely dangerous consumer product which is why there is a WHO health treaty (the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control) to regulate tobacco use.”

The American anti-smoking activist and academic Stanton Glantz wrote in 2003:

"The 'slippery slope' argument is one that the tobacco industry has routinely raised to oppose policies against its interests, including smokefree policies, decisions by arts and cultural organizations not to accept tobacco money, advertising restrictions, and other policies. These predicted subsequent problems simply have not materialized"

In the same year, with reference to warning labels on cigarettes, the Australian anti-smoking activist and academic Simon Chapman wrote:

"In pre-warning days, when arguments could be couched in incredulity that tobacco should be singled out from other consumer products, the industry used “slippery slope” or “thin edge of the wedge” rhetoric, arguing that the policy would inexorably bleed into other product areas. 'The precedent is one which could easily come to affect other industries. For instance, a number of medical scientists claim that butter and milk are dangerous to the health of some people. It is recognised that drinking too much liquor or reckless driving are hazards to life... can we expect all these products to carry a ‘danger’ label …?' This argument appears to have quickly lost momentum when the dire predictions of rampant warnings never materialised.”

More recently, however, public health campaigners have cited the precedent of graphic warnings, advertising bans and plain packaging for tobacco as a justification for applying the same regulations to other products, including alcohol. It is far too early to say that the “dire predictions” were wrong.

Saturday 30 March 2024

The nanny state trough

If you told me that there was a massive pile of cash to be dished out to 'public health' academics and asked me to guess which two people would be first in line for it, I would say Anna Gilmore and Petra Meier. And sure enough, they were. This week it was announced that they're getting £15 million between them to build yet another little empire, on top of SIPHER, SPECTRUM and the rest. It is, as I say on my Substack, a racket. 

Anna Gilmore has her finger in so many pies that it is difficult to keep up. She made her name back in the day by pretending that England’s smoking ban reduced the number of hospital admissions for heart attacks. Having demonstrated that she will say anything for money, she was made a professor and spent the 2010s in a flurry of activity, displaying an extraordinary degree of ineptitude in a range of disciplines, including economics. She became director of the Tobacco Control Research Group at the UK Centre for Tobacco Control Studies, an organisation that received millions of pounds from the (state-funded) UK Clinical Research Collaboration despite doing no clinical research. Spotting new funding opportunities, the UK Centre for Tobacco Control Studies became the UK Centre for Tobacco and Alcohol Studies in 2013. She has since branched out into ‘research’ on fossil fuels which she says, not unpredictably, should be subject to ‘tobacco control style regulation’.

In 2018, she got $20 million from Mike Bloomberg to set up an ‘industry watchdog’ and in 2019 she got a grant from SPECTRUM to research ‘unhealthy commodity industries’. SPECTRUM is the preposterous acronym for Shaping Public hEalth poliCies To Reduce ineqUalities and harM. It was funded to the tune of £5.9 million by the UK Prevention Research Partnership, a largely taxpayer-funded body created in 2017 to provide yet another source of cash for nanny state quackademics.

Gilmore is also the co-director of something called the Centre for 21st Century Public Health which doesn’t have much to say about itself but is more than likely paid for by you and me.


Also, there's a new Last Orders to listen to.

Happy Easter!

Tuesday 26 March 2024

Looking back on the WHO and looking forward to prohibition

I caught up with Martin Cullip and Lindsey Stroud on their podcast Across the Pond last week. I was with them in Panama in February to shadow the big WHO anti-nicotine conference. We looked back on events over there and discussed Rishi Sunak's looming crackdown on vapes and tobacco.

Monday 25 March 2024

Temperance 2.0

There's a good article in the wine trade press titled 'How Neo-Prohibitionists Came to Shape Alcohol Policy' by Felicity Carter looking at temperance groups masquerading as 'public health' NGOs. Give it a read. 

Movendi International describes itself as "the largest independent global movement for development through alcohol prevention."

Founded in upstate New York in 1851, it began as a temperance group that was heavily influenced by the Freemasons-complete with regalia and rituals. Originally called the Independent Order of Good Templars (I.O.G.T.), it spread rapidly across the U.S., Canada, and England. By 1900 there were groups in places as far-flung as Sri Lanka, Burma, Nigeria, and Panama. Everywhere the I.O.G.T. went, it inspired the founding of other temperance groups.

The efforts of such groups culminated, of course, during Prohibition, yet the unpopularity of Prohibition caused membership to fall, while the rise of Alcoholics Anonymous made such groups less relevant. After World War II, the I.O.G.T. turned to southeast Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.

It dispensed with the regalia in the 1970s and rebranded as Movendi International in 2020. Movendi is a portmanteau of 'modus vivendi,' meaning 'way of living;' it presents itself as a human rights, "heart-led" organization and says it is not against alcohol12. Instead, "...we advocate for every person's right to choose to live free from alcohol." Yet anyone who joins must agree13 that "I lead a lifestyle free from the use of alcohol and other drugs."

Movendi's worldview is simple: There are no artisans, small producers, or vignerons connected to land and history. There is only 'Big Alcohol,' which uses propaganda words like "moderation" and "craft" to conceal its true nature.

And Big Alcohol is an ally of Big Tobacco14Movendi links alcohol to tobacco whenever it can.

But while Movendi and other groups are busy mischaracterizing the alcohol industry as one united group, they go out of their way to hide their own origins.

Take Movendi's Swedish branch, the IOGT-NTO15, which presents itself as an anti-poverty organization-solving poverty by solving alcohol. It was formed in 1970 after the Swedish branch of I.O.G.T. merged with a Christian temperance group.

Ironically, the Swedish branch is partly funded by a lottery16; in 2018 they were taken to court17 and threatened with a fine of 3 million kroner (about $260,000) if they didn't stop using deceptive practices. Specialists have long recognized that gambling is an addiction, making this a curious choice of funding for a temperance movement.

Other temperance groups use similar tactics. Take the Institute of Alcohol Studies18 in London, for example, which has a stellar line-up of doctors and scientists advising it, but which is funded by Alliance House19, a temperance group headed by religious figures.