Wednesday 30 December 2020

Last Orders with Simon Evans

There's a new end-of-year edition of the Last Orders podcast out. We were delighted to welcome back the great comedian Simon Evans. Check it out. 

Tuesday 29 December 2020

Still ruled by imbeciles

The government's first policy announcement since reaching a deal with the EU was to launch a string of regulations that would have been condemned as a petty, illiberal and anti-business if they had come from Brussels.
From April 2022, we will restrict promotions on food and drinks high in fat, salt or sugar in shops to make healthier choices easier.

Once upon a time, pathetic people complained about sweets and chocolates being displayed at supermarket checkouts. The danger, apparently, was that children would ask their parents to buy them and the parent would have to say no (or yes - it doesn't make much difference in the great scheme of things). Idiotic politicians took the threat of 'pester power' seriously and so did the supermarket owners who, seeing that it was unpopular with Mumsnet and the Daily Mail, stopped doing it.

The idea of banning it nevertheless remained. And it snowballed, as things do when fanatical activists and gullible politicians are involved. The result is an incredibly wide-ranging assault on how retailers will be allowed to do business.
Supermarkets in England are to be barred from displaying unhealthy food and drinks at checkouts or using them in buy one, get one free offers, as part of a proposed government crackdown on obesity.

..The checkout restrictions will apply to other sales-boosting locations such as the entrances to stores or at the end of aisles. Similar rules will apply for websites, banning sales links to unhealthy foods on places such as homepages, or at checkout or payment pages. Restaurants will no longer be able to offer free refills of sugary drinks.

The latest public health minister Jo Churchill (very much no relation) explains the rationale for this in the Orwellian language that shows she has been well briefed by the 'public health' racket. 

We know families want to be presented with healthier choices. This is why we are restricting promotions and introducing a range of measures to make sure the healthy choice is the easy choice.

Better choices through restrictions! As Squealer said of Napoleon in Animal Farm...
'He would be only too happy to let you make your decisions for yourselves. But sometimes you might make the wrong decisions, comrades, and then where should we be?'
Explaining the ban on multiple purchase discounts, the Department of Health says...

Promotions often appear to help shoppers save money. However, data shows that these deals actually increase purchases of promoted products by almost 20%.

I'd never thought it about like that before, had you? All these years I've been buying a pack of four bars of soap and a pack of four tins of baked beans because it worked out cheaper on a per-unit basis than buying one. But now I understand that I would have spent less if I'd have just bought one or two. Admittedly, I'd have had to go shopping more often, but that's a small price to pay for saving money. Thank you, the government, for putting me straight.  

They encourage people to buy more than they need or intended to buy in the first place.
How does Jo Churchill know how much I intended to buy, let alone how I much I 'need'? Have you ever noticed that despite eating something on one day, you need something to eat the next day? If I buy 'more than I intended', the worst that can happen is that I open the kitchen cupboard and there's something in it. The government is legislating against this?
God almighty, how thick do they think we are? The government's own impact assessment shows that multi-buy discounts save shoppers money and that a ban on BOGOFs will cost the average household up to £634 a year.  

We are ruled by imbeciles. Still, at least they're British imbeciles, eh?

Tuesday 15 December 2020

Where are all the obese children?

Spot the fat kid

The Health Survey for England 2019 was published today. As its name suggests, there is a slight lag in the data, but it gives us the obesity figures for last year. For adults, the figure is 28 per cent, similar to the last couple of years. 

Let's do our annual update of the graph to see how the Lancet's 2011 prediction of one in two men being obese by 2030 is looking.

It's miles out, as usual.

For children (aged 2-15) the official obesity rate is 16 per cent. This is similar to recent years. In fact, there has been no rise in childhood obesity since the 1990s, not that you'd guess that from the way campaigners and gullible journalists go on.

As I have explained many times, the UK uses a unscientific system that massively exaggerates the scale of childhood obesity. This is obvious just from looking at the numbers. The 'obesity' rate among 11-15 year old boys is 27 per cent. If you add the 'overweight' it comes to 42 per cent! Among girls of the same age, the figures are 20 per cent and 37 per cent respectively. Where are all these kids? Why can nobody see them?

People tend to get fatter as they get older and yet, if you combine the adult obesity figures - which use the imperfect but adequate BMI cut-off of 30 - with the child obesity figures - which are an arbitrarily derived fiction - it appears that loads of children get very fat at school and suddenly become normal weight once they become adults. 

Here are the data for males:

For 11-15 year olds, the 'obesity' rate is 24 per cent. And yet for the next age group, those between 16-24, it is just 13 per cent. For girls, the figures are an equally implausible 20 per cent and 12 per cent respectively. 

And the same thing can be seen every year; it's not that 2019 had a particularly fat cohort of 11 to 15 year olds. 

Does no one involved in gathering these statistics think it odd that the obesity rate mysteriously halves once kids have taken their GCSEs? Or that it takes them another 30 years to regain the weight? 

This alone should be enough to discredit the measurement and yet the government sticks with it year after year despite it producing statistics that defy credibility. It allows the chumps at Public Health England to claim that one in three children are 'overweight or obese' by the time they start secondary school, despite none of the parents who drop them off at school being able to see them. 

Friday 11 December 2020

Lockdowns, wellbeing and happiness - the evidence

I've written a bit about happiness economics over the years. I concluded that trying to measure happiness, wellbeing and life satisfaction is not very useful in forming public policy because nothing much seems to affect them at the aggregate level apart from the obvious (poverty, war, unemployment, etc.) and even those factors don't affect them as much as you might expect.

I tended to agree with Jamie Whyte's prediction that average happiness scores in Britain would always be within seven and eight out of ten.

But COVID-19 and lockdowns changed all that. I recently did a webinar for the IEA looking at how happiness is measured and what the implications are for policy. It's a talk I've often done in person in the past, but I added some early evidence about the impact of lockdowns with a promise that more data were on their way.

They arrived today from the ONS and it's a grim picture. Rates of depression were double the pre-Covid level in November at 19%, the same rate recorded in June during the first lockdown. Every measure is worse than it was in February and the average scores for happiness and life satisfaction are comfortably below seven out of ten. Note that happiness scores returned to normal in August and September, which suggests that it was the restrictions on freedom, rather than fear of the virus, that was driving these changes.

I suppose you can interpret the data in two ways. Either you can conclude that COVID-19 and the response to it has done unprecedented damage to the nation's wellbeing, or you can conclude that even in the worst year in living memory, wellbeing scores remained above 6.5 out of 10 - and, therefore, that these measures are not sensitive enough to pick up on non-catastrophic changes.

I think both are probably true.

Thirdhand smoke - the bogeyman California deserves

For a bit of light entertainment, let's see what's happening in California...
The COVID-19 pandemic has upended our lives, turning our homes into offices, classrooms and gyms to protect us from the deadly coronavirus. The pandemic has also disrupted the time-honored real estate rituals of open houses and in-person home tours, and we are now using virtual tours and other “non-touch” experiences to find a new home. Buying a home or renting an apartment based on a virtual tour may be a positive development for the real estate industry, but consumers need to know what they may miss in a virtual-only experience.
And what is that?

Most notably, a virtual tour cannot tell us much about hazardous chemical substances in that home: pollutants in the indoor air, in the walls and built-in furniture, and on surfaces.
I suppose so. And if I told you that the author is our old friend, Georg Matt, director of the taxpayer-funded Thirdhand Smoke Resource Center, you can probably guess which 'pollutants' are on his mind.

A common source of indoor pollution is contamination from toxic chemicals in tobacco and marijuana smoke and electronic cigarette vapor. 
Here comes the science...
In a recent study of 220 apartments in San Diego County, we found nicotine residue in every unit, even homes of nonsmokers with strict smoking bans.
Wow! It seems that no one is safe and everyone is at risk. Quick, give Dr Matt some more money!
In about 10% of homes of nonsmokers, we found levels of toxic tobacco residue as high as levels typically seen in homes of active indoor smokers.
Seems unlikely, to be honest. Are sure your equipment's working properly?
Secondhand smoke contains a mixture of many different chemicals, and while we may no longer be able to detect secondhand smoke in the air after a few hours, its toxic chemicals stick to and linger in carpets, furniture, walls and ventilation systems. Over weeks, months and years of repeated smoking, these chemicals can become embedded in materials and remain in these reservoirs long after smokers have moved out. This chemical residue, also known as thirdhand smoke, includes numerous toxic substances listed under California’s Proposition 65 known to cause cancer, birth defects or other reproductive harm.

Probably. Prop 65 is notorious for including so many chemicals that virtually everything has to be labelled with a warning in California. 

With modern technology you can find trace levels of almost anything if you try hard enough. That's why 'toxins' found in tobacco smoke can be found in the homes of people who don't smoke and don't allow smoking. What is always forgotten in screwball states like California is that the dose makes the poison. 

First, we call for a comprehensive smoking ban in all multi-unit housing.

Of course you do. 

Second, we call for accurate disclosure of past smoking (including e-cigarettes and marijuana) in real estate transactions and rental contracts. For the benefit of buyers, renters, sellers, apartment managers and Realtors, we ask the California Department of Real Estate to provide education and require disclosure regarding tobacco, electronic cigarette and marijuana use in real estate transactions and for the Department of Consumer Affairs to require the same in lease agreements. Similarly, we ask the California Association of Realtors to update its seller property questionnaire to include questions about how long, how much and where tobacco products were used on a property.

That's just what California needs - more utterly pointless bureaucracy. 

Third, we call for environmental testing of thirdhand smoke toxic substances to certify homes as free of toxic thirdhand smoke residue. Such testing could allow a seller to advertise a property as free of toxic thirdhand smoke residue or alert the seller to the need to clean up the toxic legacy to provide a safe home for the next occupant. Scientifically proven thirdhand smoke testing methods for homes already exist but need to be made more affordable and accessible to consumers.

I wonder if there are any 'thirdhand smoke' 'experts' with the appropriate equipment who could deliver this service for a price? 

This is one of the grifts of the century.

Wednesday 9 December 2020

The war on gambling: phase two

The Times is strangely puritanical about sugar and gambling. You'd hope that a newspaper so obsessed with these issues would familiarise itself with the basic facts and yet its reporters and columnists have made mistake after mistake from day one. If you relied on The Times for information you would think that the number of problem gamblers doubles every few years, whereas it has remained low and flat for twenty years. 

The Times is far from being alone in misreporting gambling statistics but, along with the Guardian, it seems to have made it a personal mission to get rid of the dreaded fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs). 

You know the rhetoric: crack cocaine of gambling, £100 every twenty seconds, casinos on every high street, etc. Well, that all came to an end on April 2019 when the maximum stake was slashed to £2, thereby making games with a 1:1 payout unplayable to most punters. 
From the media coverage between 2012 and 2018, you would think that FOBTs were almost the sole cause of problem gambling. Certainly, they were portrayed as the main cause. One of Derek Webb's pressure groups, the Campaign for Fairer Gambling, asserted in 2013 that...
‘FOBTs is [sic] the only gambling activity significantly and positively associated with disordered gambling’
Has a de facto ban on this alleged scourge pacified the campaigners who swore on a stack of Bibles that they were 'not anti-gambling'? Has it reduced the number of problem gamblers or significantly reduced the amount of money that is 'lost' to gambling? Reader, it has done none of these things. As I predicted in 2018, it has instead led to open season being declared on gambling, starting with raising the age at which you can play the Lottery as the hors d'oeuvres for a no-holds-barred review of all gambling regulation that has been described as a 'reformers' shopping list'.
The All Party Parliamentary Group on FOBTs has become the All Party Parliamentary Group on Gambling-Related Harm. The Campaign for Fairer Gambling has morphed into Clean Up Gambling, still funded by Derek Webb and fronted by Matt Zarb-Cousin, but with a much wider remit. You will hear no more about FOBTs being the only gambling activity that is 'significantly and positively associated with disordered gambling'. 
The Times has also moved swiftly on to the next phase. There is not a hint in today's editorial that the banishing of FOBTs has reduced the amount of gambling-related harm or done any good at all. On the contrary, it suggests that things are getting worse, as they always are when people are looking for new dragons to slay. 

As betting shops close and online gaming takes its place, the old adage that the house always wins is truer than ever.

Is it? Maybe we shouldn't have closed all those betting shops then (1 in 8 have gone since 2017).

Last year total losses for British gamblers ballooned to £14.4 billion.

No, they fell slightly to £14.2 billion, but who cares about facts when there's a crusade to win? The big losers between 2019 and 2020, as expected, were the bookies who saw their revenue drop by £750 billion, but this was nearly all offset by gains in other areas, particularly adult gaming centres and online. 
Still, 4,000 people lost their jobs in bookmaking last year so you can't say the anti-FOBT measures had no effect at all. 

There is no obvious endpoint to this new war on gambling so expect the bans, lies, destruction and ignorance to continue indefinitely.

Monday 7 December 2020

Food fight

The Adam Smith Institute have set up a campaign to oppose the government's preposterous ban on food advertising. They make a number of salient points on their website, such as...

The proposed ban will have huge ramifications for the food and advertising industries. This is particularly true for small businesses that increasingly rely on online ads and are facing huge pressures from the Covid-19 pandemic.

Research from the Internet Advertising Bureau found 69% of SMEs use online advertising (both free and paid). Of that, 64% believe digital advertising is now more important to the future of their business in recovering from the pandemic.

Up to 45% of the UK’s total digital ad spend comes from SME spend, coming in at over £7bn in 2019.

There were approximately 7,130 SMEs in the food and drink sector with turnover of around £21 billion and 135,000 employees in 2019. In the food sector (excluding beverages) SMEs accounted for 79% of businesses, 27% of employment and 17% of turnover.

So what is to be done? This is where you can help...

The Government thinks that everyone is perfectly happy for them to ruin their local restaurants, pubs and cafés. That’s where you come in. We need to spread the word. You can take action against the ad ban by:

Responding to the Government’s consultation.
You can make your thoughts on the ad ban clear to the Government by responding to its consultation here.

Writing to your MP.
You can find out how to contact your local MP here.

Spreading the word on social media using #ScrapTheAdBan.

I responded to the consultation this morning. It is slanted towards a certain outcome, as government consultations tend to, but you can still make it clear that you disapprove.

Friday 4 December 2020

Desperate ASH demand plain packaging for rolling papers and filter tips

The tax-spongers at Action on Smoking and Health are really scraping the barrel now. Palpably desperate to find new dragons to slay, they want plain packaging for rolling paper and filter tips
If they weren't such a hateful organisation, you could almost feel sorry for them. 

The hook for this latest demand is a flimsy report from CRUK which cobbles together some junk science from the activists at Bath and Stirling Universities, Anna Gilmore being amongst them. 

The first piece of research, from Bath, falsely claims that the 'rate of decline for tobacco sales doubled around the introduction of standardised packaging'. 
On average seven million fewer sticks were sold per month pre-implementation whereas an average of 13 million fewer sticks were sold per-month post- implementation.

HMRC's tobacco bulletin keeps track of tobacco sales. It shows a steep decline in (legal) cigarette sales until 2016/17, no doubt largely thanks to the emergence of e-cigarettes, after which the downward trend slowed appreciably.
For roll-your-own tobacco, sales bottomed out in 2016/17 and have since risen by 20 per cent.

It's nigh on impossible for a credible academic to turn this pig's ear into a silk purse. And so the job was left to Anna Gilmore of Bath University's Tobacco Control Research Group, which is now awash with Bloomberg cash.
John Britton and his team of anti-smoking zealots had to reluctantly concede that the same point in a study published in 2018:

The implementation of standardized packaging legislation in the United Kingdom, which included minimum pack sizes of 20, was associated with significant increases overall in the price of manufactured cigarettes, but no clear deviation in the ongoing downward trend in total volume of cigarette sales.
Nevertheless, Gilmore and co. are once again claiming that black is white. 
The other piece of research, from Stirling University, comes to the unsurprising conclusion that tobacco companies didn't start selling cigarettes in plain packaging until they had to.
Tobacco companies used the full 12-month transition period to delay the removal of fully-branded products and gradually phase in standardised packaging.
The Stirling research actually contains some mildly interesting and useful information. Tobacco companies made sure there was plenty of branded stock on the market until the ban on selling branded cigarettes began on 20 May 2017. I don't think I saw any branded packs until 2017 and this research suggests that I wasn't alone.

Of the 20 fully branded products monitored, 18 continued to be sold throughout the transition period but some changed name. Almost all new names included a colour descriptor and adjective. 
No standardised variants were sold in the first five months. It was not until March 2017 (two months before mandatory compliance) that the average number of standardised products sold by each retailer exceeded the number of fully branded products.

So, although cigarettes had to be manufactured in plain packaging from May 2016, there can't have been any impact on consumer behaviour until 2017 because hardly any consumers had seen them. This further undermines Gilmore's study which compares sales in May 2015 to sales in April 2018. Cigarettes were only widely sold in plain packaging for a third of this period and were not even manufactured in plain packaging for the first third. 

Both the Bath and Stirling studies claim that cigarette prices 'increased as standardised packaging was implemented' in direct contradiction to the Britton et al. study mentioned above. 

All in all, it's the kind of quack science we expect from tobakko kontrol. It's a bit sad to see CRUK endorse it, but never mind. 

The report concludes that the government should ban bevelled edges on cigarette packs, extend plain packaging to filters and rolling papers, and ban the 'use of colours or other descriptors in product variant names'. 

This is desperate stuff, but if you make it to the last page, there are some telling comments.

Unresolved research questions

To date, the evidence we have on the market and industry response to standardised packaging shows that, despite tobacco industry’s tactics to undermine the effect of the legislation, this legislation has been effective in reducing tobacco sales and in tobacco industry revenues in the UK. However, there are still gaps in the academic literature that must be addressed in order to fully evaluate the impact of the legislation. While by no means an exhaustive list, the following key research gaps have been identified:

Smoking behaviours

1. What was the impact of standardised packaging of tobacco products on smoking prevalence in the UK?

2. As standardised packaging was intended to reduce youth uptake of tobacco products, what was the impact of standardised packaging on youth smoking prevalence and consumption in the UK?

In other words, they still don't know whether plain packaging works. Four years after it was introduced, you might hope they'd have an answer by now. 

Spoiler: it doesn't.

Last Orders with Madeline Grant

There's a great new episode of Last Orders out with the Telegraph's Madeline Grant. It was recorded last week when I naively thought that having some of the lowest Covid infection rates in England would put my region in Tier 1. 

Listen here.

Thursday 3 December 2020

Global nicotine prohibition with the WHO

The useless and corrupt World Health Organisation has published a new Global Youth Tobacco Survey (in 'selected countries of the WHO European region', so not very global). It finds that cigarette smoking among 13-15 year olds has declined in nearly every country studied, but there are some telling remarks in the press release.  
New WHO report reveals that while smoking continues to decline among European adolescents, the use of electronic cigarettes by young people is on the rise
How can this be when the WHO reckons that vaping is a gateway to smoking? Or could it be that the fall in smoking is partially related to the rise of vaping? 
While cigarettes remain the most used form of tobacco products, there is a concerning trend emerging from the use of electronic cigarettes (or e-cigarettes). According to the latest available data, young people are turning to these products at an alarming rate. The new report reveals that in some countries the rates of e-cigarette use among adolescents were much higher than those for conventional cigarettes. 

And that's a bad thing?

E-cigarettes and other novel and emerging nicotine- and tobacco-containing products, such as heated tobacco products (HTPs), are the next frontier in the global tobacco epidemic. While the latter is a tobacco product, e-cigarettes do not contain tobacco, and may or may not contain nicotine.
So why are they included in the Global Youth Tobacco Survey? 

Although there are challenges involved in regulating these products, a rigorous application of the WHO FCTC would close advertising loopholes and deny the industry the ability to push its products to young people with impunity. 

That's because the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, which shouldn't include non-tobacco products in the first place, stupidly wants a total ban on lifesaving vaping products.

And here comes the grift...

Another crucial tool in the fight against tobacco- and novel nicotine-containing products is collaboration between research institutes and governments. For several years, the Smoke Free Partnership has been highlighting the need for governments and the European Union to invest in tobacco control policy research, ensuring that research is supported, population-focused and policy-relevant.
Yes, it's a racket. But this is the most telling part...
The tobacco industry has been ruthless in its attempts to maintain and increase profits, with e-cigarettes and heated tobacco being just another means to preserving and expanding its markets. However, with good guidance, research and a rigorous implementation of the WHO FCTC, a path can be built towards a tobacco and nicotine-free future.
Many of us have always said that wiping out nicotine use is the ultimate goal of these fanatics and that they will use the same prohibitionist methods as they have with cigarettes. Well, there it is in black and white. Since when was this within the remit of the World Health Organisation? How do get rid of these people?

Wednesday 2 December 2020

SAGE's tier trick

As of today, 99 per cent of the English population will live under tough new Tier 2 or Tier 3 rules. Mixing indoors with people from outside your household will remain illegal in both of these tiers. In Tier 2, you have to buy a ‘substantial meal’ if you want a drink in a pub - and leave when you’ve eaten it, according to the Prime Minister’s spokesman.  In Tier 3, which includes most of the North, all pubs, restaurant and other venues will be closed.

This amounts to carpet-bombing of the hospitality industry by the government and will lead to unprecedented bankruptcies and unemployment in the sector. The affront to civil liberties since March is unlike anything Britain has seen before, even in wartime, and the tier system looks like it will stay in place for at least four more months.

People who went into lockdown in Tier 1 only to come out of it in Tier 3 are understandably perplexed. Lockdown has been working well. On Friday, SAGE finally acknowledged that the rate of infection (R) was below 1. In fact, the number of positive tests reported each day has fallen by 40 per cent since the lockdown began on 5 November and will fall further. So why is Cornwall, which has an infection rate of 45 per 100,000, in Tier 1 when the Cotswolds and Mid-Suffolk, with rates of 41 and 40 per 100,000 respectively, in Tier 2?

The answer is that government scientists have constructed the evidence for the tiered system in a way that ignores the success of lockdown. For a region to be in Tier 2, they want to see (a) low rates, (b) falling rates, and (c) sufficient hospital capacity. The second two of these are a given in most of the country after nearly four weeks of lockdown, so it all depends on the rate of infection being low. A graph published by the government on Thursday suggests that they are looking for the rate to be below 100 per 100,000 people (the places to the left of the line are those where the infection rate has fallen).

Based on current figures, this should include Dorset, Huntingdonshire, Suffolk, Sussex, South Cambridgeshire and many other places. But SAGE are not using current figures. They are using figures from 19 November and comparing them to figures from 12 November. This is a big problem because the data from 19 November do not tell us what was happening on 19 November, let alone what is happening now.

People don’t typically ask for a test unless they have symptoms, and it can take up to ten days for an infected person to become symptomatic. They then have to request a test and take it. All this takes time and creates a delay between infections occurring and infections being reported. After Wales introduced its ‘firebreak’ on 23 October, for example, the number of cases rose for a week before they began to drop - and they kept dropping for a week after it ended. This is to be expected and it was the same in the Czech Republic, France, Israel and many other countries. Now that we have mass testing, we can see it more clearly than we did in the spring.

By using data from 19 November to decide which areas should go into each of the three tiers, the government is, in effect, using infection data from 12 November, only a week after lockdown began. The number of infections had fallen by 25 per cent by 19 November and will continue to fall at a similar rate until 9 December, but the government has made no attempt to account for the subsequent decline.

Any honest attempt to put regions in the appropriate tier would estimate what the infection rate will be when the lockdown ends, not what it was three weeks ago. SAGE are no strangers to predictive modelling, but on this occasion they decided to base their decision on what happened in the past.  

Contrast this with the decision to go into the lockdown on October 31. The number of new infections had been flat for a week and many of the areas of greatest concern, such as Liverpool and Manchester, were seeing a decline. The government nevertheless introduced a national lockdown off the back of a ‘reasonable worst case scenario’ which, according to Prof Neil Ferguson, assumed that the infection rate was high and the tiered system was having ‘minimal impact’. With these implausible assumptions fed into it, the computer model pointed to lockdown. What else could it do? Garbage in, garbage out.

Making predictions seems to be fine if it deprives us of our liberty, but is unthinkable when it comes to restoring it. The common denominator is an almost pathological desire by government scientists to promote lockdowns at the expense of less costly options.

Tuesday 1 December 2020

Think of the children, ban all advertising

With the government leaving us all to rot until Easter and systematically dismantling the pub trade, the clown show of 'public health' almost offers light relief. 

The nanny state fanatics have yet to get their ban on 'junk food' advertising ban over the line in the UK, but they are already eyeing up the next opportunity to extend their control. They lobbied for the ad ban with the usual 'think of the children' excuse. Earlier this year, the WHO-UNICEF-Lancet Commission of self-appointed do-gooders, including international quango queen Helen Clark, (self-)published an article in the Lancet titled 'A future for the world's children?' which included a section on marketing.

Companies make huge profits from marketing products directly to children and promoting addictive or unhealthy commodities, including fast foods, sugar-sweetened beverages, alcohol, and tobacco, all of which are major causes of non-communicable diseases.

Because you can't move these days without seeing alcohol and tobacco being marketed 'directly to children', can you?
As we have seen with tobacco, and increasingly with food, the zealots insist that children cannot be 'protected' from advertising without advertising being banned entirely. That will always be the longterm goal, not least because they don't want adults seeing adverts for things of which they disapprove either. 

This week, an academic from New Zealand by the name of Darren Powell has written to the Lancet, accusing the Commission of not being extreme enough.

The WHO–UNICEF–Lancet Commission identified an important threat to children's health and futures by stating that children across the globe are exposed to exploitative advertising and marketing by the private sector. Fast food and sugar-sweetened beverages, alcohol, tobacco, e-cigarettes, breastmilk substitutes, and gambling, were positioned as the key products that children are increasingly exposed to and harmed byy [breastmilk substitutes are life-saving and their advertisements are obviously not aimed at children - CJS]. However, by focusing on the marketing of particular so-called unhealthy products, the Commission has made a critical oversight. They failed to acknowledge that all marketing to children is potentially harmful to children's health.

It's not about health, is it? It's about capitalism.

...researchers and policy makers must shift the focus from merely the so-called unhealthy products that are being marketed to children and towards all products and industries—food, toys, clothing, technology, sports equipment, entertainment, and more.

He wants no advertising of anything ever because 'marketing strategies in general shape children's emotional, mental, and spiritual selves', which he evidently thinks is a job best left to progressive academics. 

Aghast at being out-woked, the Commission has written back to insist that they are on the same wavelength. They are just being strategic.

We thank Darren Powell for his insightful feedback. Members of the WHO–UNICEF–Lancet Commission agree with Powell that marketing of any products to children might encourage potentially harmful consumption for the child, the planet, and children's futures, and that more work in both academic and political spheres is needed to highlight the risks.
... Our proposal to add an Optional Protocol to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child on commercial marketing of harmful products was designed to serve as a first step in protecting children from those who would sell them a lifetime of ill health.
... Beginning with overt threats to physical and mental health would seem wise. It will be hard enough to tackle opposition from corporations promoting health-harming products. Imagine trying to fight opposition from a large coalition of companies that range from toys and games to technology and household products.
Don't say you weren't warned, toy, game, technology and household product manufacturers.