Saturday 31 December 2016

Review of 2016: nanny state edition

2016 was the most entertaining year I can remember. I doubt we shall see another one like it.

If 'post-truth' is the word of the year - and apparently it is - the nanny statists have been ahead of the curve for a long time and they excelled themselves again this year. Here are a few of the lowlights of 2016 in the world of so-called 'public health'...


An Australian surgeon takes the anti-sugar crusade to its logical conclusion by waging a war on fruit - ('it advertises itself by being brightly coloured, shiny, sweet and attracts the wild life'). This is not a spoof.

Corpulent anti-vaping toad Martin McKee is caught lying to the Chief Medical Officer. Soon afterwards, the Chief Medical Officer is lying to the public about the health effects of moderate drinking. This was the big 'public health' story of January - the unscientific lowering of the drinking guidelines, as discussed here, here and here.

As plain packaging begins to be endorsed by countries outside the antipodes, the vultures from the obesity and alcohol 'research community' naturally circled. Expect to see much more of this in 2017.

2016 was a particularly paternalistic year for The Times who had a constant bee in its bonnet about gambling and sugar. It started the year by putting its weight behind the sugar tax. You won't be surprised that I argued it was wrong to do so.

Sally Davies' portrait on the wall of the gents toilet in Shepherds, Westminster

Sally Davies calls on women to think about breast cancer every time they pour a glass of wine. I suggested that this was indicative of our Chief Medical Officer's unhealthy state of mind.

There was more shameless bollocks about heart attacks declining as a result of people not smoking in pubs.

America is a basket case on e-cigarettes. The lies coming from across the Atlantic were so bold and brassy they took you breath away.

Cancer Research UK comes up with some fantasy modelling (very much a feature of 2016) to push the sugar tax. See the Stats Guy's analysis of it.

Anti-smoking campaigners in Australia and around the world continue to lie and lie again about the damp squib of plain packaging. The official review of the policy - much delayed as activists desperately groped around for a hint of success - is quietly released and uses some laughable modelling to generate the desired result.

The Times gets its knickers in a twist about a non-existent gambling epidemic.

Inspired by anti-nicotine lunatic Stan Glantz, a deluded Californian takes Hollywood to court for showing smoking in films (the case was recently dismissed).

Television in 2016


The EU Nanny State Index is published for the first time. The UK comes third, just behind the temperance-minded Scandinavians.

Action on Sugar were all over the airwaves in 2016. One of their typically ludicrous pieces of research was covered in this post.

George Osborne masks some embarrassing financial news by announcing a sugar levy. The Office for Budget Responsibility immediately admit that it's going to cost the government £1 billion. Thanks Jamie! I wrote about the regressive sugar tax here.

Public Health England launch a useless, patronising website called How Are You [sic]. I shudder to think of the cost. (It was plugged again a few days ago with this scare story.) I wrote about it at the time for the Telegraph.


Our Brussels overlords raise the idea of taxing e-cigarettes and clamping down on drinkers. If only there was some way of getting out of this bossy institution...

The Lib Dems put together a plan for cannabis legalisation which sounded nearly as grim as prohibition.

Australia goes full wowser. Never go full wowser.

You're not helping, The Sun.

Aseem Malhotra and his low carb oddballs virtually destroy the National Obesity Forum. I optimistically write Malhotra's political obituary for Spectator Health.

Plain packaging starts to be rolled out. ASH spent years - and vast sums of our money - lobbying for this stupid policy. The unintended consequences of it belong to them.

The EU's new, destructive laws on e-cigarettes are also introduced. Somewhat belatedly, the House of Lords condemned them.

Yet another baseless prediction of sky-rocketing obesity rates is produced by partisan hackademics.

'Public health' lobbyists took time out from thinking of the children to thinking of the middle-aged in 2016. In this article, I looked at the supposed epidemic of middle-aged problem drinking.


Being overweight is conveniently redefined as being malnourished for propaganda purposes.

I dig up some historical documents to show how the war on e-cigarettes mirrors the war on snus in the 1980s. I also look at the early years of ASH.

As war continues to ravage Syria, the WHO takes an interest by calling on the country's government, such as it was, to introduce plain packaging for tobacco.

In an unusual moment of clarity, the UK Faculty of Public Health calls for the legalisation of drugs. I offer my suggestions of how this should be done. 

How California views vapers


David Cameron departs. He was probably the most nannying prime minister in living memory. He brought in a sugar tax, a tobacco display ban, a plastic bag tax and plain packaging. He wanted to introduce minimum pricing and goodness knows what else. I tentative suggest that Theresa May will be less bad.

St. Jamie of Essex invests in the processed, frozen food industry and Aseem Malhotra makes a fitness video.

After spending years telling us to avoid sunshine and red meat, the 'public health' industry tells us to take vitamin D tablets to tackle the resulting epidemic of rickets.

Rising tobacco taxes are quite obviously leading to more black market sales and lower tax revenues for the government.

Anything California can do, Scotland can do

Despite a mounting campaign of doubt from the neo-temperance lobby, the evidence that moderate drinking is good for you continues to grow.

Taking its cue from England, the Scottish government gets a bunch of temperance crusaders to look at the drinking guidelines.

The UK government publishes its childhood obesity strategy. It's a massive win for the nanny statists which they portray as a defeat because it would have been even worse if Nanny Cameron had still been in charge

The Taxpayers Alliance publish its Nanny State Rich List, shining a light on the money being sucked up by this parasitic, non-productive industry.

Aussie anti-gambling ad meets The Terminator

With depressing predictability, various mendacious scumbags demand a ban on smoking outdoors.

For those with eyes to see, the truth about smoking ban/heart attack miracles was as plain as day.

After years of flat-lining smoking rates, vaping leads to a downturn. Anti-smoking fanatics try to take the credit. Meanwhile, the WHO remains doggedly opposed to e-cigarettes.

Branches of the NHS start talking seriously about denying treatment to taxpayers who are fat or smoke.

Stanton Glantz tries to replicate his trick of cherry-picking old tobacco industry documents to generate a conspiracy about Big Sugar - and makes an arse of himself.

In post-truth America, cigarette tar ('total aerosol residue') is the same as road tar (asphalt)


The Irish government - which is beyond help by this point - seriously considers putting curtains around alcohol in shops. An Australian temperance zealot can't believe his country didn't think of it first. 

Action on Sugar go berserk when they discover sugar in ice cream.

The SNP wins the penultimate round of the minimum pricing court battle, but since we're leaving the EU it doesn't really matter.

ASH reveal their economic illiteracy - or, some would say, dishonesty - by publishing a comically inept report telling retailers that it isn't worth their while to sell tobacco.

Similarly, the WHO publish a downright deceitful report claiming that sugar taxes work.

When yet another bunch of blinkered campaigners make a ludicrous obesity prediction I put my own money on the line if they are right. No one takes me up on the bet.

The Conservatives - the party of free markets and individual choice


Cancer Research makes the nation cringe again with a pitiful press release about bathfuls of fizzy drinks. They follow this up by chucking some money at the hacks at Sheffield University to produce a worthless figure about alcohol-related cancers to get further cheap media attention.

After a prostate cancer charity takes a sceptical view of neo-temperance claims about alcohol, 'public health' blowhards accuse it of lying for money.

The WHO's biennial tobacco control summit begins in the traditional way, with everybody apart from true believers being turfed out. The conference turned out to be a bit of a waste of time, but it allowed 'clean air' campaigners to have a holiday in smog-ridden Delhi - and UK taxpayers get to give another £15 million to tobakko kontrol efforts. As I said at Spectator Health, the WHO has lost the plot.

We tried to warn you

Public Health England produced a report on alcohol so riddled with inaccuracies, misrepresentations and deceit that it took me two lengthy posts to scratch the surface (part one and part two). As usual, half a dozen people from Sheffield University and a handful of temperance/anti-industry ideologues were responsible.

The PHE report was press released with a claim so bad it had to be retracted within hours, but the claim that replaced it was little better.

Fantasy modelling was taken to new lows by the anti-alcohol people in 2016, but Tobacco Control drove it through the bottom of the barrel when it turned a sharp increase in heart attacks (following the introduction of a smoking ban) into a sharp decrease.

The Times continues to harp on about problem gambling doubling, a claim that has been made several times in the last decade, despite no rise in the number of problem gamblers. I explain what's going on in this Spectator piece.

And that's it for 2016. See you in 2017. May you live in interesting times.

PS. You can still listen to the year's Last Orders podcasts with the following guests:

Claire Fox

Sam Bowman

Michael Fitzpatrick

Rob Lyons

Brendan O'Neill and James Allen

Timandra Harkness

Martin Durkin

And you can listen to the IEA's review of the year here.

No comments: