Tuesday 30 January 2024

Tobacco and Vapes Bill moves forward

Yesterday saw the publication of the government's response to the smoking/vaping consultation and an announcement from Rishi Sunak that disposable vapes will be banned. Although it received less media attention, there are also plans for some form of plain (or plainer) packaging, some sort of display ban and restrictions on flavours. It has been reported that flavours will be limited to four, although the government hasn't officially said that. 

Support for anti-vaping measures was not overwhelming in the consultation. A slight majority were opposed to any further regulation of flavours and it is far from clear that there was majority support for the other measures either. As I said on Substack, the consultation was full of leading questions and the response is written in such a slippery way that it is impossible to get to the bottom of some of the numbers.

Even the generational smoking ban, which Downing Street thinks is hugely popular, was only supported by 63% of respondents. Since only 28,000 people responded, a concerted campaign to rally opponents to respond to the consultation could have swung it the other way and given the government more of a headache. When people think through what the policy means, most oppose it.

69% supported banning disposable vapes. This seems to roughly reflect public opinion but, as I say in The Spectator, when only 24% of the public understand that vaping is much safer than smoking, a wiser government would not pander to the majority. 
 

For the minority of Britons who understand that vaping is much less hazardous than smoking and that e-cigarettes are proven to be the most effective way to get people off cigarettes, banning a whole category of vapes is a risky move. A study funded by Cancer Research UK concluded that banning disposables ‘has the potential to slow progress in driving down smoking prevalence and reducing smoking-related harm’. The pressure group Action on Smoking (ASH), which usually shares the public’s love for banning things, says that ‘the risk of unintended consequences is too great for us to support a ban’. ASH’s former director, Clive Bates, says the proposed ban ‘sinks further into empty gesture politics, goes against evidence, does more harm than good, and makes everything worse’. He has called on the Chief Medical Officer, Chris Whitty, to resign for publicly supporting it.

 
Having always opposed a ban on disposables, I note that ASH are now cautiously welcoming it. Perhaps they don't want to bite the hand that feeds it (the Department of Health) or maybe prohibitionists are just inherently untrustworthy. They used to explicitly state that there were 'not trying to get tobacco banned', but that soon changed when the winning line was in sight.

I predict that this will be a nightmare to enforce and will not give the Tories any bump in the polls, although James O'Brien likes the policy so that's something for Sunak to cling to. 

If you want to understand why the public are so ignorant about vaping and you have a high pain threshold, try reading this garbage in the Mirror. 'Fleet Street Fox' (Susie Boniface) thinks that nicotine must be dangerous because it's a pesticide. Nicotine is a natural pesticide, which is why it is in the tobacco plant in the first place, but Boniface struggles with the idea that a substance can serve more than one purpose (caffeine is also a pesticide, for example). She then goes on a weird rant about neo-nicotinoids and calls for all nicotine to be banned.

Limit patches and vapes with nicotine to be prescription-only and medically supervised to wean addicts off the stuff, like we do with methadone, and give the nation its health and sanity back.

But he won't do that, because for every single year since Brexit the UK government has allowed the "emergency use" of neonicitinoid pesticides on British farmland despite the fact expert committees, the COP summits and everyone with a brain has yelled at them to stop doing so. Perhaps it's related to the fact these pesticides are commonly used by sugar beet farmers in East Anglia, home to the bluest of safe seats, and as Brexity as Boris Johnson's underpants. If Rishi banned nicotine being ingested by people, those same people might wonder why he's still spraying it on Norfolk.


Slightly less insane, but equally ignorant is this nonsense in the Telegraph in which Celia Walden confidently predicts, based on nothing whatsoever and contrary to 15 years of research, that vaping will one day be revealed to be "far more dangerous than smoking". 

While doing the media rounds in the last couple of days, I encountered some misinformation face to face when a GP asserted that smoking and vaping were equally dangerous, although he backed down somewhat when challenged.


This is what we're up against: an absolute tidal wave of lies and vibes from people who should know better.



Sunday 28 January 2024

Last Orders with Rob Lyons

New episode here. We discuss Labour's public health plans, large wine glasses and the sinister rise of Brummie bashing.



Wednesday 24 January 2024

The MMR blame game

The usual people on Twitter were scoring easy retweets last week when the resurgence of measles was in the news.
 

 
I'm as happy as the next man to take a pop at the Daily Mail's health coverage (take the way they're reported this useful study about disposable vapes today, for example), but it is a bit much to blame news articles from 20 years ago for the post-Covid decline in measles vaccinations, especially when there are better people to blame.

As I say in The Critic...

If we’re going hark back to 2002 to find a culprit for the current situation, why not go back another four years to where it all started in The Lancet? If Andrew Wakefield’s fraudulent study linking the MMR vaccine to gastrointestinal disease and autism hadn’t been published in one of the world’s top medical journals, he may still have made a career for himself as a celebrity anti-vaxxer, but it is unlikely that the newspapers would have taken his claims seriously if he had been a mere blogger. 

One thing about the Wakefield affair that isn’t talked about enough is that even if the study had not been fraudulent it was unworthy of publication in a journal of The Lancet’s stature. It involved just twelve children, eight of whom had parents who believed the MMR vaccine had something to do with their behavioural disorders. As it transpired, the children had not spontaneously presented themselves at a hospital but had been hand-picked by Wakefield to create a narrative, but it was feeble evidence either way and amounted to little more than hearsay. The decision of The Lancet’s editor Richard Horton to publish the study gave it far more publicity and gravitas than it would have deserved even if it were an honest piece of research. It should have come as no surprise when it led to an international health scare.

By 2004, the MMR-autism narrative had fallen apart and Wakefield’s financial interests in the scare had been exposed, but Horton did not fully retract the study until the General Medical Council struck Wakefield off the Medical Register and described his conduct as “dishonest and irresponsible” in 2010, twelve years after it was published. According to Brian Deer, who uncovered Wakefield’s fraud in the Sunday Times, Horton was opposed to the GMC getting involved in the matter at all.

 



Thursday 18 January 2024

The tree burning racket

I've written a briefing for the IEA about the perverse incentives that have led to the UK importing millions of tonnes of wood pellets to burn to make electricity. 
 

The negative externalities of greenhouse gas emissions leave more scope for political decisions and scientific judgements in the energy market than in many other markets, but this does not mean that governments should ‘pick winners’, nor does it mean that market forces are redundant. On the contrary, governments should set what Milton Friedman called ‘the rules of the game’ and allow the best solutions to prevail through ‘open and free competition without deception or fraud’. We need an institutional framework that is technology-neutral and open to all, leaving it to innovators to produce environmentally sound energy at the lowest cost.

Current carbon accounting practices create perverse incentives and allow governments to boast about reductions in carbon dioxide emissions that only exist on paper. It is difficult to imagine the British government permitting, let alone subsidising, the incineration of imported wood chips to generate electricity if the emissions were counted on its own balance sheet. Far from internalising the externalities, the current system allows governments to completely ignore the externalities of this form of electricity generation, thereby blunting the price mechanism and distorting the market. Without this distortion, it is unlikely that woody biomass would be part of the UK’s energy mix at all.


It's a short briefing so if you want an easy explainer of the arguments for and against the supposedly carbon neutral biomass industry, click here.


Wednesday 17 January 2024

Are children getting smaller?

The claim that British children are shrinking due to malnutrition/austerity/ultra-processed food/Brexit won't go away. Devi 'zero Covid' Sridhar mentioned it in the Guardian today. 
 

Data shows that children in the UK are becoming shorter compared to other countries, and it’s been asserted that the average height of a five-year-old in the UK is likely to have decreased because of rising child poverty and Conservative austerity policies.


But, as I say in The Critic today...

Devi gets it right the first time when she says kids are “becoming shorter compared to other countries” but gets it wrong the second time when she claims that average height has decreased. The fact is that British children have never been taller. They have grown by about a centimetre on average since 2010.
 
Let's nail this once and for all. Some media have being saying that the UK has slipped down the rankings when it comes to the height of five year olds (true), but others have claimed that their height has decreased in absolute terms. The Times used the graph below which seems to show a 2mm decline since 2013.

 
As you can see, the source for these figures is the NCD Risk Factor Collaboration. If you visit their website, their source is this study from the Lancet. And if you look at the appendix of that study, you'll see that its source for the UK figures is the National Child Measurement Study. 
 
It could hardly be anything else. The National Child Measurement Study is the only piece of research that measures the height of the nation's school children. 
 
The figures published by the NCD Risk Factor Collaboration do indeed suggest a slight reduction in height in the last decade or so. The trouble is that the figures from the National Child Measurement Study do not. They are shown below and can be downloaded here.
 
 
These figures show that the height of boys and girls stayed much the same between 2009/10 and 2018/19, but has risen in recent years. On average, Reception age kids (aged 4-5) are nearly a centimetre taller than they were in 2012/13.
 
The figures between 2006/07 and 2008/09 are slightly higher than the figures in the years immediately after, but the researchers say that they "could have been affected by lower participation in the measurement programme." The figures for 2020/21 are unusually high because they were taken later in the school year than usual (and so the kids were bigger). The figures for 2019/20 were also affected by the pandemic and may not be comparable.

Excluding the anomalous year of 2020/21, the most recent years show that English children are, on average, taller than ever. As far as I can see, the figures from the NCD Risk Factor Collaboration are simply wrong. For example, they give a figure of 112.5cm for five year old boys in 2019 which is a couple of centimetres taller than the figure above.

The NCD's figures are for the UK whereas the figures above are for England, but I seriously doubt that this explains the discrepancy. The NCD cites the Scottish Health Survey as an additional source but doesn't cite anything for Wales or Northern Ireland. It is implausible that the addition of Scottish figures could change both the data points and the overall trend so much.
 
I can't really explain why the NCD/Lancet figures bear so little resemblance to the figures in the source they cite, but they do seem to be wrong.

Don't forget to read my piece in The Critic.



Last Orders with Lou Perez

This week's episode is with US comedian Lou Perez. Have a listen.



Monday 15 January 2024

The inanity of 'public health': gambling edition

The British Medical Journal has published another little rant about gambling from two academics of no fixed ability. It’s kind of fascinating watching the ‘public health’ racket try to get its grubby little hands on this issue. They clearly realise that there is money in it and they instinctively hate the activity, but they know nothing about it and can’t be bothered to learn.

The article is titled ‘How we can solve the crisis in UK gambling policy’ but it contains not a single policy proposal, nor even a description of the problem (sorry, ‘crisis’) that they are supposedly trying to solve. Normally, the authors of opinion pieces like this have a particular policy in mind - usually a ban of some sort - and they cite a bit of modelling or some other quack science that suggests the policy will work. They will editorialise a bit about how dreadful a particular industry is and how weak the government has been and how everyone is going to die of liver cirrhosis or heart disease by 2030 unless something is done, but the article will at least have a purpose.

This one is rather different. Insofar as it has a purpose, it is to solidify the idea that something must be done and that people in ‘public health’ should decide what that thing is at some point in the future. But it is completely devoid of ideas, contains no insight at all and simply copies and pastes rhetoric used in similar articles about other lifestyle issues, most obviously smoking. As such, it is modern ‘public health’ academia stripped down to its essence, a load of empty waffle and pompous clichĂ©s. 

The word ‘industry’ appears 24 times and it’s not a long article. That could be some kind of record. There is no acknowledgement that the gambling industry is really a group of competing industries (including, with the lottery, the British government) who produce very different products. To BMJ readers, the very word 'industry' has sinister connotations that grow stronger with repetition.  
 
The authors want a revolution in the way gambling is viewed, one which gives know-nothing 'public health' grifters the top seat at the table.

The Gambling Act 2005 was harmful from its inception. Designed to make the UK the centre of the online gambling industry [eh?! - CJS], it defined people, not products, as the problem, and required the regulator and local authorities to “aim to permit” gambling. A public health approach cannot be “bolted on” to legislation that is based on completely opposing logic. A public health approach requires a transformational shift.

 
And what would that look like in practice? The authors spend the next ten paragraphs not telling us, but it seems to involve giving 'public health' academics lots of money and burning the existing literature on gambling disorders.

Concerning gaps can be found in the evidence base around gambling, including a lack of research focusing on characterising the true nature, scale, and cost of harms to those affected and society. These lacunas, favourable to industry, are products of a system where, for decades, the industry has been the dominant funder. Research programmes are fragmented and much of the output continues to focus on individuals and not the industry. Until the silo of gambling research is breached, and academics are required to compete alongside other areas of public health for funding, it is likely that the same conditions will endure.

 
Notice how many bald assertions appear in that paragraph. We are told that "the true nature, scale, and cost of harms" associated with gambling have been deliberately overlooked. Even if that were the case, how would a better estimate help form better policy rather than help activists get publicity? They complain that "much of the output continues to focus on individuals and not the industry". What would be the optimal amount of research focusing on individuals? None? How would it help to focus research about a psychological condition on "the industry"?

The authors then lay out “four critical areas”. They have already mentioned three of them: how industry funding supposedly shapes gambling research, how problem gambling shouldn’t be seen as an issue of personal responsibility, and the alleged problems with industry-funded research (again). They do not provide any evidence that these are genuine problems and I would like to see them in a room with academics such as Mark Griffiths and Jonathan Parke who have been studying gambling for years (sometimes with industry grants) and see if they will tell them to their faces that they are corrupt - which, when you boil it down, is what they’re insinuating.

Finally…
 

Which brings us to our fourth and most important point. If, in the absence of industry derived funds, the NHS cannot afford to manage the burden of harm caused by the way we regulate gambling then the solution is not more funding, but a change to the regulations.

 
"Industry derived funds" refers to the forthcoming gambling levy which the real headbangers in 'public health' are theoretically opposed to because, as the BMJ authors see it, it "entrenches the dangerous idea that the industry can grow without limits, as long as it pays for the harm it causes". We shall see whether these reservations prevent them from taking money from the gambling levy pot when the time comes. 

The idea that the NHS cannot afford to manage the "burden of harm" related to gambling is nuts. Gambling isn't really a health issue at all and the wowsers have had to go to great lengths to present it as one.If everyone stopped gambling tomorrow, the impact on the NHS would be too small to measure.

But they claim not to want more funding. Instead they want "a change to the regulations". Very well. Which ones? What new regulations need to be introduced and why? Again, they don’t say. Instead they say...
 

It is extraordinary that we welcome industry funding for “problem gambling” clinics. Imagine if instead of adopting effective tobacco control policy, including measures to protect policymaking from industry influence, we had praised tobacco companies for funding cancer treatment services.

 
Everything comes back to tobacco with these people. They are incapable of seeing an issue through any other prism. But gambling is an activity not a substance. Problem gambling is a psychological disorder not a physical disease. The vast majority of gamblers do so enjoyably and without developing a problem. Even among problem gamblers, only a fraction get into serious money trouble and only a tiny fraction suffer ill health as an indirect result.
 
In any case, we do tax tobacco to pay for the negative externalities. 
 

If we, as health professionals and policymakers, fail to call for a new Act, and allow the current approach to gambling regulation to be preserved under the guise of “public health,” we are part of the problem, not the solution.

 
But you’re not really health professionals or policy-makers, are you? One of you is a social anthropologist and the other one writes identikit articles about alcohol/smoking/gambling/Brexit that read like they were written by ChatGPT (look at the state of this, for example).

It's difficult to know what else to say about an article that doesn't say anything. There have been a lot of these recently. On the odd occasion when the people who write them suggest some policies, the policies are preposterous and only confirm that they don't know what they're talking about.
 

We thank Mark Petticrew for his thoughtful and insightful feedback during the drafting of the opinion piece.

 
Imagine asking for input from Mark Petticrew and finding it insightful.
 
Apparently, the Lancet is publishing something about gambling soon. That should be a laugh. The authors have just had a two day workshop. I wonder when any of them last placed a bet?
 


Stunted

The Labour Party has put forward a mixed bag of 'public health' policies for children, including some sort of national tooth-brushing scheme. It was launched with a bunch of half-truths and falsehoods about British children being stunted and fat which I have examined for Spiked.
 

Labour wants to create a ‘national supervised toothbrushing programme for three- to five-year-olds’ to be paid for by taxing non-doms. Some people will argue that teaching kids to brush their teeth is the responsibility of parents. Others will argue that some parents are stupid and feckless. Still others will ask how the relatively small sum of money that will come from abolishing non-dom status is able to cover an endless succession of spending pledges.

Learning to brush your teeth is more useful than a lot of things young children are taught at school. And Starmer is right to identify it as the best and perhaps only way to prevent tooth decay. His scheme is only going to cost £9million a year and it won’t infringe on the rights of adults, so I don’t really care either way. I am more concerned by Starmer’s support for the incremental ban on smoking and the ban on so-called junk-food advertising. I am also concerned that Starmer appears to believe that British children are a bunch of podgy, stunted troglodytes with rotten teeth, as this is simply not true.

 


Friday 12 January 2024

Vaping and heart attacks

Junk science veteran Stanton Glantz is excited about a study that purports to show that vaping causes heart attacks (myocardial infarction). The study was published in November last year but appeared in the obscure, low status (and possibly predatory) journal Cureus and, thankfully, the media never picked it up.

The author, Talal Alzahrani, had previously produced a widely criticised study claiming that e-cigarette use is associated with heart attacks which included dual users of vapes and cigarettes and therefore could not isolate the effect of smoking from the putative effect of vaping. Glantz was a co-author. Glantz himself has had a study claiming that vaping causes heart attacks retracted. The new study, written by Alzahrani alone, seeks to avoid the earlier problem by looking only at vapers who say that they have never smoked. 

As Glantz says on his blog:
 

To get enough adult e-cigarette users who never smoked, Alzahrani combined data from the US National Health Interview Surveys from 2014 through 2021, which yielded 1237 never smoking e-cigarette users.  After controlling for other risk factors for heart attack, he found that current e-cigarette users had 2.6 times the odds of having had a heart attack as non-e-cigarette users (95% CI 1.44-4.77) compared with never smokers who did not use e-cigarettes.

 
This is not far off the risk associated with smoking and is highly implausible from the outset since vapes do not contain many of the substances in cigarettes that are known to cause heart disease. The most suspicious thing about the study is that it does not show how many heart attacks occurred among the vaping and non-vaping groups. All we are given are the adjusted relative risks.

And there must have been some huge adjustments because everything about the vaping group implies that they would suffer fewer heart attacks.
 
A total of 139,697 subjects were never users, and 1,237 subjects were current e-cigarette users. The data analysis showed that current e-cigarette users were significantly younger than never users. E-cigarette users were less likely to be female (40% vs. 60%, p <0.01), or have diabetes (3% vs. 10%, p <0.01), have hypertension (11% vs. 32%, p <0.01), hypercholesterolemia (8% vs. 27%, p <0.01), have or be overweight or obese (56% vs. 65%, p <0.01) compared to never users.
 
The average age of the vapers was 28 whereas the average age of the control group was 50. Heart attacks are very rare among young people and there were only 1,237 never-smoking vapers to study. If you can find the data from the US National Health Interview Surveys, you may be able to confirm or deny, but I would bet the following:

Firstly, that there were a tiny number of heart attacks among the never-smoking vapers. I would be very surprised if there were more than ten.

Secondly, that a larger proportion of the controls had a heart attack than the never-smoking vapers.

Thirdly, that the claimed association between vaping and heart attacks is purely the result of adjustments made to the data that defy logic.

Why else would he not show the unadjusted figures? Why else would he not submit his study - which, if its findings were true, is incredibly important - to a decent journal?  

Nullius in verba.



Wednesday 10 January 2024

Another Simon Chapman zinger

Following Becky Freeman's gob-smackingly stupid comments about e-cigarette prohibition in Australia, her old mentor Simon Chapman has since outdone her.
 

Professor Simon Chapman of Public Health at the University of Sydney said vapes needed to be strictly regulated, and objected to calling the reforms a ‘ban’.

‘Vapes are not being banned but strictly regulated like they always should have been. Anyone who says they are banned probably also believes that every prescribed drug in Australia is by the same argument also banned,’ Professor Chapman told media. 

Prohibition can’t fail if there’s no prohibition! Checkmate libertarians!

Needless to say, alcohol was available on prescription during Prohibition in the USA and yet no one was in any doubt that alcohol was, er, prohibited. Laughing gas was banned in the UK last year, but is still available for medical use. Opiates are banned but can be obtained on prescription. So, yes, it is reasonable to describe any substance that it only available under medical supervision as being ‘banned’.

 
Read more on my Substack.


Tuesday 9 January 2024

Libertarian activism on the streets of East Grinstead


 
Libertarian Charlie Amos took to the streets of East Grinstead at the weekend to rally some opposition to Sunak's tobacco ban. As you might expect, he got a mixed reception. You can read his amusing account here.
 

When it comes to those who favour the ban the central reason given for it was smoking is bad. A medical professional simply said ‘People are stupid’ and when I asked an older lady whether she would like to sign the petition she said ‘I’m a doctor’ and walked off as if that was reason enough.

... I am pleased to report though there remains a strong contingent of liberals within Britain. A few quotes should illustrate this: ‘Why ban anything’, ‘I am against smoking, but it should be a free choice’, ‘They’ve got no right to tell us what we can and can’t do’, ‘They should allow everything’ and ‘People should have the right to choose’ and ‘I think people should be free to smoke crack’. After explaining how although I thought smoking was bad, but people should be free to do bad things to themselves, to a young shop assistant, I managed to convince her to the cause too (although given she was a smoker ‘on the edge’ this may not have been that hard). Orwell’s name was spontaneously mentioned as was the ‘nanny state’ and ‘Big Brother is watching you’ as well – reassuring facts.

... A side note here is the two people I spoke to who put forward the idea the World Economic Forum is trying to take over the world and control everyone actually favoured the tobacco ban, such is their commitment to freedom. How someone who quotes ‘You will own nothing and be happy’ at people and not be against the tobacco ban frustrates me, because, it shows their opposition to authoritarianism is really skin deep and not really rooted in an intrinsic love of freedom. An older woman who opposes the WEF, who, I had spoken to last year, declined to sign my petition as well. Usually, I’d leave it there, but this woman had a ‘Keep Britain Free’ label on the back of her jacket, so, I thought I’d try and persuade her. Although she opposed ‘the paedophiles and Communists’ at the WEF she would not accept they were the same people as the paternalists, (even when I said paternalism was at the root of the fifteen-minute cities she explicitly opposed), and, when I jibbed her she wanted to keep Britain free, but not to make mistakes such as taking up smoking, she remained resolute in her support for the ban. She ended up taking a leaflet though.

... I must say people are willing to go onto all sorts of tangents when you talk to them in public, this is probably selection bias, i.e., lonely people who never get to talk to anyone will gladly speak to someone, anyone, who is willing to listen to them. This is why I ended up hearing about the situation in Israel, someone being banned from Wetherspoons and foreigners entering the country.


 



Monday 8 January 2024

Australia's vaping train wreck

 
As Australia makes its umpteenth attempt to ban e-cigarettes, the Sunday Times reports that prohibition is going as well as ever.
 

The latest reforms are partly necessary because a previous attempt to ban recreational vaping by the Australian government proved a flop. Unlike in the UK and New Zealand, vapes may not be sold to anyone under 18 [Eh? The UK and NZ both ban the sale to minors - CJS]. Smoking [sic] e-cigarettes has been illegal without a prescription since 2021, punishable by hefty fines or a prison sentence. Only pharmacists and licensed retailers are legally allowed to sell them to patients trying to give up smoking. Beyond this, selling nicotine vapes is a criminal offence.

But the laws have been largely ignored by customers and retailers alike, while fuelling a booming black market. Millions of illegal e-cigarettes are flooding into Australia, mostly from China, and are sold in shops across the country or online. Manufacturers and retailers simply relabel vapes, falsely claiming they are nicotine-free.

 

As of this month, the government has banned the importation of nicotine-free vapes. The early indications are not good.

 

Mark Butler, the health minister, who has previously described vaping as the biggest behavioural problem in Australian primary schools, called the crackdown “world-leading”. He added: “If you vape, this new year make it your resolution to quit.”

Those gathered in the Perth shop did not appear to heeding this advice. “I didn’t know about any ban,” a member of staff said after selling a A$25 (£13) pineapple ice vape to a customer.

Down the road, the manager of another general store selling vapes, as well as an array of bongs, said he was not worried. “Maybe, maybe not,” he shrugged, when asked whether he intended to obey the new law.

... The Australian Border Force (ABF) believes organised crime groups are behind three quarters of the illicit vapes and tobacco imported. Rohan Pike, a police officer for 25 years who established the ABF’s tobacco strike team to target smuggling, believes the prescription-only model for vaping will drive sales further underground. “The laws introduced in 2021 were a complete farce and these latest ones are also largely unenforceable,” he said. “It’s naive to think we’ll be able to stop vapes flooding in across the border.”


The article makes it very clear that Australia has enormous problem with illicit vapes and that the Aussie public feel no compulsion to obey stupid laws. Doubling down on prohibition will only make the problem worse. Despite it all, deluded wowser Becky Freeman (one of Simon Chapman's protĂ©gĂ©s) reckons there's nothing to worry about.

The latest restrictions have been opposed by the tobacco industry — which owns some of the popular e-cigarette brands — and politicians, spearheaded by the right-wing National Party. They argue that adults should have the right to choose whether they vape or not and have called for a tougher licensing regime to ensure vapes are sold responsibly and kept away from children.

Freeman said she had heard all these arguments before. “We always see these black market claims when we take something off the market that’s highly addictive and incredibly profitable. Is cocaine sold at [supermarkets] to 13-year-olds? No. Nor is it in sparkly packages and fruit flavours.”
 
I suppose this non-sequitur made more sense in Becky's head than it does when written down. The reason we always see these black market claims when we take something off the market is that organised crime always steps in when legal businesses are prevented from selling popular products. Australia is currently in the midst of a tobacco turf war with dozens of arson attacks carried out on the principle of 'earn or burn'. This is the direct result of the neo-prohibitionist policy of making cigarettes unaffordable to people on average wages. The illicit vape market is the direct result of prohibition. 
 
All of this was predictable, predicted and avoidable. Sticking your fingers in your ears and singing "la, la, la" isn't going make it go away. 


Tuesday 2 January 2024

Me and my Spoons

I've written about Sir Tim Martin and Wetherspoons for the Spectator...
 

Spoons-haters would like to believe that his pubs are grubby, anonymous, identikit dives selling bad beer to alcoholics. None of this could be further from the truth (apart from the bit about alcoholics, but why shouldn’t they have somewhere nice to go?). Every Wetherspoons is unique and many of them have breathed new life into great buildings that would otherwise have been demolished or turned into flats. No two Wetherspoons carpets are alike and their toilets are second-to-none (the company is a multiple winner of the prestigious Loo of the Year Awards). They have a superb app and a magazine (Wetherspoon News) that has a readership of two million. They don’t play music. They offer a solid range of real ales and a fine selection of guest ales. There are 236 Wetherspoons in The Good Beer Guide. The only people who have a legitimate reason to dislike Spoons are neighbouring publicans. Let’s face it, they are great pubs and they got even better after they were boycotted by the kind of person who retweets James O’Brien.