Thursday, 2 December 2021

Vaping works in New Zealand

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.

Instead, figures released yesterday show that it led to a sharp decline in the smoking rate which perfectly mirrors the sharp rise in the vaping rate. 

This is no great surprise to anyone who paid attention to what happened in Britain after 2012 and the USA at around the same time

Unusually large declines in smoking are exactly what happens when vaping is allowed to go mainstream as this recent report explains.

It was only a few ago that Australia had a significantly lower smoking rate than New Zealand. Now New Zealand has the lower rate. Both countries have exorbitant tobacco taxes, plain packaging and draconian smoking bans, but Australia banned the sale of e-cigarettes. You don't need to be Hercule Poirot to work out what's going on here, but the tobacco control cult - including the WHO - will continue to bury their heads in the sand.

Thursday, 25 November 2021

It's a sin

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.

Tuesday, 23 November 2021

Boris Johnson's corona victory?

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.

Paywalled but do read it if you can.

Thursday, 18 November 2021

A swift half with Henry Dimbleby

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.

Friday, 12 November 2021

Corona-centrism is the only game in town

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.


Wednesday, 10 November 2021

NHS England's ignoble lie

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.

Tuesday, 9 November 2021

The Bloomberg Health Organisation


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.

I strongly recommend reading it all, but for now here are its eight recommendations for reform.

1. All recipients of funding from Bloomberg Philanthropies (NGOs and journalists) should disclose their funding as a potential conflict of interest, because the funding is from a known anti-vaper and opponent of tobacco harm reduction

2. We endorse the creation of an FCTC Tobacco Harm Reduction Working Group, in line with Article 1 (d) of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, which defines tobacco control as a “range of supply, demand and harm reduction strategies that aim to improve the health of a population by eliminating or reducing their consumption of tobacco products and exposure to tobacco smoke”.

As the APPG for Vaping in the UK has proposed, such a group needs to look at all the science and evidence for new and emerging products. It should comprise both independent experts and informed consumers, including scientists and academics from countries leading the way in the use of, and research on, electronic nicotine delivery systems and other safer nicotine alternatives. It should also include former smokers who use safer nicotine. These individuals should not be affiliated with organisations with a vested interest (e.g., vaping or tobacco firms, Bloomberg or the WHO).

3. All member states of the FCTC Treaty should, in an open letter to the WHO, collectively question this UN agency’s prohibitionist approach to safer nicotine alternatives, challenging the evidence-base and demanding a more open mind to the possibilities of new nicotine alternatives.

In its recent report, the Global State of Tobacco Harm Reduction says that parties to the FCTC have largely been content to follow the direction of travel set out by the WHO on tobacco and nicotine policy pointing out that this is not the same with other significant global issues such as trade and climate, where national governments fight strongly for national positions and leadership.

If nothing changes at COP9 and WHO remains steadfast in its position on such low risk products and continues its hardline stance on vaping and other ENDS (Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems) products, despite the mounting evidence and growing recognition of the positive impact of ENDS to public health across the world, we propose the strongest action possible to ensure the message gets through and puts the organisation in a very isolated and difficult position, namely:

• those countries funding its existence should look to withdraw its financial support as British politicians have called for;

• that the Parties to the Convention (the 181 countries that have signed and ratified the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), the international agreement response to the international nature of the public health crisis caused by tobacco use and smoking) seriously consider boycotting future COPs until WHO demonstrates a much more open minded stance on vaping and other ENDS products.

This might come across as too heavy-handed and disrespectful to the World Health Organisation, but every government across the world has a duty of care to its people, and shutting the door on new nicotine products that have the potential to change the lives of so many who currently smoke, would be akin to neglecting that duty.

As Christopher Snowden [sic] concludes in the Institute of Economic Affairs report on COP9: “The FCTC Secretariat should be put on notice. COP9 is its last chance to mend its ways and operate as a transparent and evidence-based organisation. If it cannot be reformed, it should be disbanded.”

4. An agreement needs to be put in place with WHO and Bloomberg Philanthropies that they are transparent in relation to their collaborations on tobacco control and implement the recommendations proposed by Wellcome Open Research as highlighted earlier in this document.

5. The Parties to the Convention need to force future COP meetings to be far more transparent and inclusive so that they are truly representative and take on board wide ranging perspectives from different stakeholders. In both the UK and USA, policy decisions that affect people living with HIV/AIDS are made with representatives from that community at the table. This should be no different.

Meetings should be open to all those that can provide vital perspectives on tobacco control including the role of ENDS products, such as leading independent scientists and academics, health protection bodies and adult former smokers who have quit their habits by switching to an ENDS product.

6. A full international review, involving an independent body with no vested interests, needs to look at the reported influence that Bloomberg Philanthropies has on low to middle-income countries (LMICs) in the wake of related allegations in the Philippines.

7. The WHO must immediately review its Q and A on vaping, which is seriously misleading and inaccurate and doing a disservice for the 1.1bn smokers worldwide who may be thinking about quitting their habit through using ENDS devices. The Q and A should be based on the wide ranging evidence that has been provided by some of the most respected healthcare protection bodies, academic institutions and scientists in the field of harm reduction. This could, for example, be done in consultation with past-Presidents of the Society for Research on Nicotine and Tobacco.

8. More responsible and balanced reporting in the media - whilst some high profile media outlets have questioned and challenged the anti- vaping stance by WHO, most notably The Times (Anti-Vaping Advice by WHO “Risks Lives Of Millions”), Forbes (The War on E-Cigarettes is Profoundly Wrong) and the Spectator (WHO’s bizarre war on E-Cigarettes), many are content on running sensationalist, clickbait-led reports on vaping that have very little, if any, foundation.

There are many occasions that the media has turned a blind eye to pro-vaping reports such as the peer-reviewed publication from 15 past-Presidents of the world’s top professional society in the field of tobacco control, the Society for Research on Nicotine and Tobacco (SRNT). It is by far the most important publication in the field of tobacco harm reduction since the 2015 report from the UK’s Royal College of Physicians. Yet not one major media outlet has covered it. A more responsible media should investigate evidence fully, consult independent experts who favour tobacco harm reduction (not just opponents), and give equal air to research findings and claims from academic researchers, vape firms, the tobacco industry, and all Bloomberg grantees including the WHO.

Download it and read the whole thing. Also, read this by Clive Bates.