Sunday 30 December 2012

Good riddance to 2012

A review of this lousy year in blog posts...


While Australian anti-smoking nuts proposed "foul-tasting cigarettes" and smoking licences, David Hockney responded to the miserable puritans with creativity and joie de vivre.

In the USA, perfume was called the "new secondhand smoke" and a Californian university banned people from possessing e-cigarettes on campus.

In Canada, the police took the 'quit-or-die' approach to absurd new heights when they refused to describe the appearance of a killer batch of Ecstasy in case it encouraged people to take Ecstasy.

Back in the UK, the anti-smoking "charity" ASH continued to be funded by the taxpayerCAMRA continued to stick its head in the sand and the British Medical Journal inadvertently showed that the smoking ban had no effect on the heart attack rate.


The Department of Health made its plans for the minimum pricing campaign while its sock puppets campaigned on its behalf. In the House of Commons, Sarah Wollaston MP repeated neo-temperance lies about the 'cost of alcohol'.

The humourous magazine Tobacco Control celebrated its 20th anniversary with an all-out push for prohibition. Meanwhile, a crank of a different hue wanted to 'abolish the food industry' and some unspeakable people in California declared sugar to be "toxic" (more about that here). The Adam Smith Institute published my short book about plain packaging.


In Australia, a simpleton claimed that counterfeiting cigarettes was the easiest thing in the entire world. Meanwhile, I nearly appeared on Newsnight for what turned out to be a hilariously one-sided discussion of minimum pricing. Elsewhere on the BBC, the pro-minimum pricing churnalism continued to pour forth (and forth) and Alcohol Concern kept the junk science coming.


The campaign for plain packaging gathered pace in the UK, mostly funded by the British taxpayer. Ill-informed self-publicist Dr Aseem Malhotra spread misinformation about obesity and I found a couple of documents from the 1980s which showed that the life-saving potential of snus had been recognised for many years (here and here).


While Californian fruitcakes started having a go at fruit juice and Britain's leading advocate of soda taxes announced that he was doing the Lord's workI debated drug prohibition with Peter Hitchens and argued about plain packaging with Gabriel Scally and Amanda Sandford. The Adam Smith Institute published The Wages of Sin Taxes.

One of Britain's countless fake charities called for a retail display ban for sweeties and ASH decided that everybody in the whole world was in the pay of Big Tobacco.


Following the anti-tobacco blueprint to the letter, British doctors demanded a ban on all broadcast advertising for booze and EU-funded temperance groups called for massive health warnings on bottles and cans. Meanwhile, the IEA published my report about government-funded lobby groups, Sock Puppets.

In the USA, the Zombie Apocalypse continued, with 'bath salts' being blamed for a bizarre cannibal attack. It later transpired that the assailant had not taken the drug.

Those who were interested in facts and logic had little to celebrate in 2012—the New Economic Foundation declared that Costa Rica was the happiest place to live—but some interesting graphs surfaced showing the amazing decline of heart disease in the UK and the reasons for the rise of 'non-communicable diseases' in the USA. Statistics also showed a clear correlation between visits to McDonalds and body weight. An inverse correlation, that is.


The horror of the Olympics began with a bit of politics in the opening ceremonyBritish 'public health professionals' demanded graphic warnings on alcohol and the British Medical Association hounded a retired doctor after he denounced their junk science.

Elsewhere, Michael Bloomberg continued to be unAmerican and Aseem Malhotra continued to be clueless.


While the UK's public consultation attracted a huge number of responses against the proposalTasmanian politicians contemplated the prohibition of tobacco. Also in Australia, a knee-jerk ban on alcopops had predictable consequences.


As a Scottish sock puppet supported its paymasters in government over the seemingly doomed minimum pricing scheme, politicians in Queensland decided to stop using taxpayers' money to fund lobby groups.

Panorama produced yet another commercial for minimum pricing. It was reported that housework reduces breast cancer risk. And the Australian government announced a cynical tax rise on cigarettes to make it look like plain packaging works.

The British Medical Journal published possibly the worst article of the year, a deeply authoritarian rant by the left-wing manchild Gerard Hastings which called for a dictatorship of public health. Meanwhile, it was quietly announced that inequality and 'poverty' had fallen sharply during the recession.


The Antipodes officially became a no-go area for sane people and UK politicians were proven to be appallingly ignorant. Meanwhile, Panorama admitted that they used very dodgy statistics and the New England Medical Journal suggested fining people for not having a gym membership.

In other news, the EU's health commissioner was investigated for corruption and sacked, and it was revealed that plain pack campaigners in the UK had been trying to corrupt the public consultation. The IEA published Drinking in the Shadow Economy.


While Australia's wowser-in-chief called for smokers to be registered, licensed and monitored, his fellow zealots extended plain packaging to fruit machines. Deluded bureaucrats decided behind closed doors that they would eliminate illicit tobacco, the hysteria about sugar continued and I gave six reasons why minimum pricing for alcohol should be rejected.


The Tobacco Products Directive gave e-cigarette and snus users another reason to want out of the EU and, in the year's most predictable news, a chap in Australia started selling stickers to cover up the graphic warnings on 'plain' packs. Equally predictably, the demagogues of public health demanded criminal sanctions against him. Also in Australia, a godawful public health professional suggested a return to food rationing as the 'next logical step'.

And finally, in today's Observer, Assem Malhora is at it once again, determined to treat the food industry like the tobacco industry. He even uses the phrase "Sugar is the new tobacco."

If there was ever any doubt that the campaign against smoking was a dress rehearsal for a wider crusade of puritanism and prohibition, those doubts were surely put to bed in 2012. The question for 2013 and, I fear, for many years to come, is how much more taxing, banning, lying and demonising will society permit before a line is drawn.

1 comment:

Jonathan Bagley said...

Great summary of the year Chris. Found the snus articles, and Peto's letter, particularly interesting - must have been away at the time you first posted them. Didn't realise Clive Bates has been so outspoken

O/T Inadvertent publication of evidence that salt doesn't raise blood pressure.

Gazpacho is claimed to lower it; even though it's salty, the other "bio-active" ingredients compensate for the high salt content. Meanwhile, back on Planet Earth.....

Thanks for all your efforts during the past year and all the best for the next.