Monday 30 October 2023

Time zone activism


Long time readers may know from several posts over the years that I am quite keen on British Summer Time and not such a fan on Greenwich Mean Time. I was therefore delighted to accept an invitation to appear on BBC Politics South East to make thee case for year-round daylight savings time.

You can see the interview from 11 minutes 30 seconds here.

I was also pleased with this...

Friday 27 October 2023

Road traffic accidents: another minimum pricing fail

Five 'public health' academics, including Niamh Fitzgerald, studied what happened to road traffic accidents (RTAs) after minimum pricing for alcohol came into effect in May 2018. As their study published last week shows, it didn't go well for them.
In Scotland, MUP implementation was associated with 40.5% (95% confidence interval: 15.5%, 65.4%) and 11.4% (−1.1%, 24.0%) increases in fatal and nighttime RTAs, respectively.
Yes, you read that correctly. There was a 40% increase in fatal road traffic accidents. The wins just keep coming, don't they?
Did minimum pricing cause the increase in fatal RTAs? Probably not, in my opinion, although the authors propose one plausible mechanism.
The increase in fatal RTAs could have multiple explanations, such as some qualitative evidence that MUP led people to switch from consuming strong beers and ciders to drinking spirits and getting more intoxicated.
The authors downplay the finding and instead settle for the inarguable conclusion that minimum pricing didn't reduce road traffic accidents. 

Overall, we found no evidence that the introduction of MUP could be associated with reductions in the RTAs most likely to be alcohol-related in Scotland for the first 20 months of its implementation. This may be in contrast with the economic theory suggesting a decrease in alcohol-related RTAs as a consequence of an increase in alcohol price (that had already led to a reduction in alcohol consumption in the population).
It may indeed!
Regular readers will be able to predict what comes next...
Overall, we found no difference in night-time RTAs and a transient increase in fatal RTAs.
Say the line, Bart!
One explanation for the lack of decrease is that the floor price of £0.50 could have been too low to generate such an effect with visible repercussions on drink-driving/pedestrian road safety and then in RTAs. 

The medicine's not working. More medicine!

Wednesday 25 October 2023

The farce of the COVID-19 enquiry

I watched a day of the COVID-19 enquiry hearings last week, God help me. I've written about it for The Critic.

The COVID-19 inquiry is a colossal waste of money. Not only will it never establish the truth about what happened in 2020-21, it is going out of its way to falsify the historical record to cover the backs of the public health establishment. It is a kangaroo court rewriting the recent past to paint flawed scientists in the most flattering light at the expense of the then-government.

Do read.

Friday 13 October 2023

Classic Guardian

I've written about a particularly absurd Guardian article for The Critic. The article is about ultra-processed food so it was bound to be a target rich environment but there are so many sentences that are beyond parody that I couldn't fit them all into my article. Here are some of the ones I left out.

Not all UPFs trigger addiction. Sweets and salty snacks, which are designed for pleasure (and therefore profit), are more likely to be addictive than, say, plant milks and meat alternatives, which are also ultra-processed but are designed for a purpose, in this case replacing animal products.

Don’t underestimate convenience: “If I had to make my own chocolate or pizza, I probably wouldn’t eat it that often,” says Gearhardt.

In this way, packaged biscuits are similar to cigarettes. No, really. “Processed tobacco leaves have been available for hundreds of years for people to make their own addictive tobacco products,” the researchers say. “However, the invention of the cigarette roller in the 1880s to mass-produce cigarettes … contributed to a more than 1,000% increase in cigarette smoking.”

Yeah, no one smoked until the 1880s. Ever heard of pipes? 

A third driver of addiction could be the additives in UPFs. Again, there is a parallel with cigarettes, which often contain additives such as sugar, cocoa, menthol and salt to improve flavour and increase brand loyalty.

So that's the reason cigarettes are addictive. Salt! 

I ask Gearhardt if she has completely eliminated UPFs from her diet. “No! I’m drinking a glass of wine as we speak!”

And there are some even better ones in my article.

Thursday 12 October 2023

Kids are buying illegal vapes illegally

As the government opens an eight week public consultation on vaping and smoking regulation, the BBC runs a story about a 12 year old girl who was supposedly hospitalised as a result of vaping.

Never start vaping, says 12-year-old girl with lung damage

A 12-year-old girl who suffered a lung collapse and spent four days in an induced coma has told the BBC that children should never start vaping.

Sarah Griffin had asthma and was a heavy vaper when she was rushed to hospital with breathing problems a month ago.

There is always a frustrating lack of detail in articles such as this. There are a lot of vapers in Britain, but very few cases of lungs collapsing as a result, even among children. You don't need to read between the lines too much to see that there may be more to this than meets the eye. 

Sarah's asthma and the fact she was not good at using her preventative inhaler left her at risk of complications.

In early September she also developed a head cold, and when combined with her vaping, it all added up to what Sarah's doctor describes as a "perfect storm".

Make of that what you will. The BBC doesn't hammer the point home, but she was also using illegal, unregulated vapes that often contain chemicals that have been banned for health reasons.

Sarah had started vaping when she was just nine.

Her mum Mary tried to stop her - searching her when she came home, confiscating her phone - but nothing worked.

By the summer, Sarah was getting through a 4,000-puff vape (a regulation vape contains 600 puffs) in just a few days.

She was also buying these illegal vapes from shops at an age at which she was nowhere near old enough to do so.

Even though it's illegal to sell vapes to anyone under the age of 18, Sarah bought vapes over the counter and became addicted to the nicotine hit.

So once again, we see laws being blatantly flouted. Children are being illegally sold e-cigarettes and the e-cigarettes themselves are illegal. How about we start enforcing the laws that already exist before making new ones?

Last Orders with Patrick O'Flynn

The new episode of Last Orders (with a new sponsor!) was recorded the day before Sunak announced tobacco prohibition, but we had a fair idea that he would do so. Have a listen.

Tuesday 10 October 2023

Will the UK stand up to the World Health Organisation?

The WHO has its biennial tobacco shindig next month. COP10 will be held in Panama and I'll be joining some mischief-makers there to report back. 

The WHO's approach to vaping is diametrically opposed to that of the UK so it is a mystery why we continue to give this corrupt outfit so much money. This year's COP (conference of the parties) seems to be all about e-cigarettes, none of it good, but according to The Sun, there is a chance that the UK might stand up for vapers.

MINISTERS will stand up to hardline global health chiefs next month to defend our “world-leading” swap-to-stop free vapes scheme.

The World Health Organisation will call for COP10 countries to clamp down harder or even ban e-cigarettes, which it calls “harmful to health and not safe”.

But England this year launched the world’s first government scheme to offer free vapes to smokers to help them kick the killer habit.

Now the UK delegation will reject policies that jeopardise our revolutionary programme – instead offering advice to nations that want to follow our lead.

A major review recently found e-cigarettes are one of the best ways to ditch fags – with a 14 per cent quit rate compared to nine per cent for nicotine patches or gum.

Tory MP Craig Whittaker said: “It is essential that at COP10 we stand up for our record and policies as a world leader on tobacco harm reduction.

The story doesn't have a quote from a minister, although it does quote something public health minister Neil O'Brien said a few months ago.

A government source said other countries can do what they want and the UK “will continue to share our experience of our approach to vaping”.

Health Minister Neil O’Brien said: “The delegation will not agree to any decisions which would impact on our ability to make vapes available for smokers who wish to quit.”

It also includes a quote from me.

Chris Snowdon, of the Institute of Economic Affairs, said: “The WHO’s unscientific and fanatical opposition to e-cigarettes is a threat to global health. 

“The UK has an opportunity to make a difference at the Panama conference by vetoing any anti-vaping proposal. 

“British taxpayers give too much money to the WHO to be bossed around by a fundamentally corrupt and incompetent organisation.”

Like other countries, the UK has a veto at this meeting so let's hope the British delegation (whose names are secret, as usual) grow some cojones and use it.

When ASH pretended to oppose prohibition

I'll just leave this here, courtesy of the Wayback Machine. The assurance that ASH didn't want to ban tobacco was on their website for years but disappeared at around the time of the smoking ban. You've got to look out for these little clues.

Wednesday 4 October 2023

The beginning of the end for legal tobacco

Virginia Slims: “You've come a long way, baby” 

So the day finally arrived in the UK. The prohibitionist crusade that pretended not to be prohibitionist has turned fully prohibitionist. The New Zealand style incremental purchase ban will enjoy a few years of absurdity before the puritans admit that it's absurd and demand a full ban for everyone. For the time being it looks like we'll have a Conservative government to credit for taking us to the beginning of the end. I didn't have that on my bingo card, but after 13 years of coercive Tory paternalism it shouldn't be a surprise.

I've written about it for the Spectator.

There is no point outlining the libertarian case against prohibition. Either you think adults should have the right to smoke tobacco or you do not. Personally, I think they should, but you have to give the devil his due. The incremental approach outlined today is politically clever because few people are prepared to defend the rights of adults who smoke as it is, let alone people who might want to smoke in the future. Eventually, in about 100 years’ time, no one will be able to smoke at all. When Sunak said that this year’s conference was going to be about ‘long-term decisions’, he wasn’t kidding.

Rather than focus on the rights of the unborn smoker, let us focus on the practical reasons why this is an absurd policy. At some point in the future, a 33-year-old will be able to buy cigarettes while a 32-year-old will not. Unless my finger is even further from the pulse of public opinion than I thought, this must strike most people as absurd, and it will be scarcely less ridiculous in a few short years when some first year university students will be able to buy cigarettes while others cannot.

It's also worth checking out Anabel Denham in the Telegraph...

It should alarm us that the Prime Minister thought long and hard about smoking prohibition. It would be more reassuring to learn that this was another knee-jerk idea spouted out of the Conservative government’s random policy generator as its remaining days in power dwindle.

And Fraser Nelson in the Spectator...

So this sits ill with the rest of the Sunak agenda and ‘good conservative common sense’ he was defending earlier on in his speech. I suspect it was inspired more by Wes Streeting saying that a Labour government might do this. Is this shooting your opponent’s fox, or adopting their agenda? Before this speech, I’d have said that Sunak is a liberal. I’m not quite so sure that I’d say that now.

But let's give the last word to Guy Bentley at Reason...

It's been 35 years since Britain banned smoking on airplanes, 16 years since all pubs and restaurants were forced to go smoke-free, and six years since all branding was removed from cigarette packs. At every stage, warnings that such coercive policies were a stepping stone to prohibition were ignored as hysterical overreactions by excitable libertarians. As the now-illegal cigarette ads used to say, "You've come a long way, baby."

I've just done a pre-recorded interview for Times Radio, debating someone from the IPPR. It's nice to be able to call these people prohibitionists to their face and  - for once, finally - they can't deny it.