Friday 12 April 2024

The Tobacco and Vapes Bill

The Impact Assessment for the Tobacco and Vapes Bill is laughable, relying on nonsense figures from ASH and ignoring the impact on the illicit trade. I've written about it for The Critic where I also ask for an ethical justification for stopping informed adults engaging in risky but self-regarding behaviour.
 

Last week, the Regulatory Policy Committee gave its verdict on the Impact Assessment. It expressed concern about the “over-reliance on evidence from ASH” and spotted the obvious problem that ASH’s productivity estimates “do not control for other factors that may affect a person’s earnings”. It suggested rethinking the assumption that the prohibition was “unlikely to have substantial impacts on tourism” since smokers may be reluctant to visit a country where they can’t even buy cigarette papers, let alone tobacco. And it politely recommended that more consideration be given to “the continued likelihood of some people buying cigarettes illegally for others”, an issue that is given astonishingly little attention in the Impact Assessment. 

Legislating for prohibition without considering the effect on the black market is almost comically negligent, but there is one other aspect of this policy worth mentioning that is ignored in both the Impact Assessment and the RPC’s opinion. A lot of people enjoy smoking and, if this policy works as intended, that enjoyment will be denied them. This is not a popular thing to say and the anti-smoking lobby goes to great lengths to deny it. They claim that people only smoke because they started in childhood and got hooked. The government claims that “most smokers want to quit”. But do they? There is enormous social pressure on smokers to say that they don’t want to smoke, but in the last Public Health England survey, only 20 per cent of smokers expressed a strong desire to quit and even among this minority, most did not intend to quit in the next three months. Moreover, it is no longer true that most smokers start in childhood. The majority of people who start smoking today have their first cigarette between the age of 18 and 24.

 


Thursday 11 April 2024

Big Tobacco meets Big Food

I've seen a few posts like this recently, claiming that 'Big Tobacco' used its mysterious, fiendish tricks to manipulate food when some of them bought food companies in the 1980s. 
 

 

So why say it? Presumably because it advances the goal of applying tobacco-style regulation to the food your eat.



Wednesday 10 April 2024

A swift half with Simon Clark

I had your friend and mine Simon Clark, the indefatigable leader of FOREST, on the Swift Half last week. We talked about his career fighting for liberty. Check it out.



Monday 1 April 2024

Why is alcohol regulated differently to tobacco?


Why is alcohol advertised openly in the UK, without pictures on the packaging highlighting the medical effects, for example, when tobacco is treated so differently? John Fisher, by email


Yesterday, the Observer published the replies, a mixed bag mostly harvested from the comments section. There are one or two nutters but also a few sensible souls. 

Nobody mentioned the official reason that was repeated for decades by the anti-smoking lobby and which is gradually fading from the popular memory as we slide down the slippery slope.

The official argument for regulating tobacco differently to alcohol is that cigarettes are a “unique product”. The WHO says that tobacco “is the only legal consumer product that kills when used exactly as intended by the manufacturer." This was the explanation given by anti-smoking campaigners for decades whenever it was suggested that tobacco regulation creates a "slippery slope”. For example, when campaigning for plain packaging in 2012, Deborah Arnott of Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) said:

“...the “domino theory” i.e. that once a measure has been applied to tobacco it will be applied to other products is patently false. The same argument was used against the ban on tobacco advertising, but 9 years after the tobacco ban in the UK, alcohol advertising is still permitted with no sign of it being prohibited. Tobacco is a uniquely dangerous consumer product which is why there is a WHO health treaty (the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control) to regulate tobacco use.”


The American anti-smoking activist and academic Stanton Glantz wrote in 2003:

"The 'slippery slope' argument is one that the tobacco industry has routinely raised to oppose policies against its interests, including smokefree policies, decisions by arts and cultural organizations not to accept tobacco money, advertising restrictions, and other policies. These predicted subsequent problems simply have not materialized"


In the same year, with reference to warning labels on cigarettes, the Australian anti-smoking activist and academic Simon Chapman wrote:

"In pre-warning days, when arguments could be couched in incredulity that tobacco should be singled out from other consumer products, the industry used “slippery slope” or “thin edge of the wedge” rhetoric, arguing that the policy would inexorably bleed into other product areas. 'The precedent is one which could easily come to affect other industries. For instance, a number of medical scientists claim that butter and milk are dangerous to the health of some people. It is recognised that drinking too much liquor or reckless driving are hazards to life... can we expect all these products to carry a ‘danger’ label …?' This argument appears to have quickly lost momentum when the dire predictions of rampant warnings never materialised.”


More recently, however, public health campaigners have cited the precedent of graphic warnings, advertising bans and plain packaging for tobacco as a justification for applying the same regulations to other products, including alcohol. It is far too early to say that the “dire predictions” were wrong.



Saturday 30 March 2024

The nanny state trough

If you told me that there was a massive pile of cash to be dished out to 'public health' academics and asked me to guess which two people would be first in line for it, I would say Anna Gilmore and Petra Meier. And sure enough, they were. This week it was announced that they're getting £15 million between them to build yet another little empire, on top of SIPHER, SPECTRUM and the rest. It is, as I say on my Substack, a racket. 
 

Anna Gilmore has her finger in so many pies that it is difficult to keep up. She made her name back in the day by pretending that England’s smoking ban reduced the number of hospital admissions for heart attacks. Having demonstrated that she will say anything for money, she was made a professor and spent the 2010s in a flurry of activity, displaying an extraordinary degree of ineptitude in a range of disciplines, including economics. She became director of the Tobacco Control Research Group at the UK Centre for Tobacco Control Studies, an organisation that received millions of pounds from the (state-funded) UK Clinical Research Collaboration despite doing no clinical research. Spotting new funding opportunities, the UK Centre for Tobacco Control Studies became the UK Centre for Tobacco and Alcohol Studies in 2013. She has since branched out into ‘research’ on fossil fuels which she says, not unpredictably, should be subject to ‘tobacco control style regulation’.

In 2018, she got $20 million from Mike Bloomberg to set up an ‘industry watchdog’ and in 2019 she got a grant from SPECTRUM to research ‘unhealthy commodity industries’. SPECTRUM is the preposterous acronym for Shaping Public hEalth poliCies To Reduce ineqUalities and harM. It was funded to the tune of £5.9 million by the UK Prevention Research Partnership, a largely taxpayer-funded body created in 2017 to provide yet another source of cash for nanny state quackademics.

Gilmore is also the co-director of something called the Centre for 21st Century Public Health which doesn’t have much to say about itself but is more than likely paid for by you and me.

 

Also, there's a new Last Orders to listen to.

Happy Easter!



Tuesday 26 March 2024

Looking back on the WHO and looking forward to prohibition

I caught up with Martin Cullip and Lindsey Stroud on their podcast Across the Pond last week. I was with them in Panama in February to shadow the big WHO anti-nicotine conference. We looked back on events over there and discussed Rishi Sunak's looming crackdown on vapes and tobacco.



Monday 25 March 2024

Temperance 2.0

There's a good article in the wine trade press titled 'How Neo-Prohibitionists Came to Shape Alcohol Policy' by Felicity Carter looking at temperance groups masquerading as 'public health' NGOs. Give it a read. 
 

Movendi International describes itself as "the largest independent global movement for development through alcohol prevention."

Founded in upstate New York in 1851, it began as a temperance group that was heavily influenced by the Freemasons-complete with regalia and rituals. Originally called the Independent Order of Good Templars (I.O.G.T.), it spread rapidly across the U.S., Canada, and England. By 1900 there were groups in places as far-flung as Sri Lanka, Burma, Nigeria, and Panama. Everywhere the I.O.G.T. went, it inspired the founding of other temperance groups.

The efforts of such groups culminated, of course, during Prohibition, yet the unpopularity of Prohibition caused membership to fall, while the rise of Alcoholics Anonymous made such groups less relevant. After World War II, the I.O.G.T. turned to southeast Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.

It dispensed with the regalia in the 1970s and rebranded as Movendi International in 2020. Movendi is a portmanteau of 'modus vivendi,' meaning 'way of living;' it presents itself as a human rights, "heart-led" organization and says it is not against alcohol12. Instead, "...we advocate for every person's right to choose to live free from alcohol." Yet anyone who joins must agree13 that "I lead a lifestyle free from the use of alcohol and other drugs."

Movendi's worldview is simple: There are no artisans, small producers, or vignerons connected to land and history. There is only 'Big Alcohol,' which uses propaganda words like "moderation" and "craft" to conceal its true nature.

And Big Alcohol is an ally of Big Tobacco14Movendi links alcohol to tobacco whenever it can.

But while Movendi and other groups are busy mischaracterizing the alcohol industry as one united group, they go out of their way to hide their own origins.

Take Movendi's Swedish branch, the IOGT-NTO15, which presents itself as an anti-poverty organization-solving poverty by solving alcohol. It was formed in 1970 after the Swedish branch of I.O.G.T. merged with a Christian temperance group.

Ironically, the Swedish branch is partly funded by a lottery16; in 2018 they were taken to court17 and threatened with a fine of 3 million kroner (about $260,000) if they didn't stop using deceptive practices. Specialists have long recognized that gambling is an addiction, making this a curious choice of funding for a temperance movement.

Other temperance groups use similar tactics. Take the Institute of Alcohol Studies18 in London, for example, which has a stellar line-up of doctors and scientists advising it, but which is funded by Alliance House19, a temperance group headed by religious figures.

 

 



Friday 22 March 2024

Dan Malleck on drink, drugs and prohibition

I forgot to mention that we've started a new series of The Swift Half with Snowdon. Check out the entertaining episode with the anarcho-capitalist Charlie Amos here.

The Canadian historian Dan Malleck was in London recently so I got him to come on The Swift Half again. Dan is one of the few people to have publicly spoken out about the zany new alcohol guidelines that have been proposed in Canada. We discussed how that was going and talked about drink, drugs and prohibition generally. Give it a watch.






Wednesday 20 March 2024

Greg Fell - Britain's most pointless man?

Our old fiend Greg Fell has been busy getting billboards banned in Sheffield in what even he admits is a pointless endeavour. 
 

There are over 130 directors of public health in England and it is nice work if you can get it. The job comes with a six figure salary and you don’t need a medical degree. So long as you can turn up to meetings and drop phrases like “health inequalities” and “commercial determinants of health” into conversation, you’re in clover. Not knowing much about infectious diseases proved to be a handicap when COVID-19 emerged in 2020 and public health directors were left twiddling their thumbs while they waited for instructions from central government, but Greg Fell spotted an opportunity. When Boris Johnson closed the pubs on 20 March, he suggested that “whilst we are implementing emergency legislation why not go really far and ban tobacco sales”. Exactly four years later, the government brought forward legislation to do precisely that.

With COVID-19 in the rearview mirror, there is a palpable sense of relief among directors of public health that they can get back to lobbying for petty interventions in private lifestyles. Last December, Wakefield’s public health director complained that legal action from Kentucky Fried Chicken was “thwarting efforts to stop fast-food outlets near schools” in his area. There was happier news in Sunderland where the council managed to prevent a Mexican takeaway shop from opening and the public health director’s annual report focused exclusively on the “commercial determinants of health”. They are so back!

 



Tuesday 19 March 2024

Same old ASH

Last week, former public health minister Steve Brine wrote in support of Sunak’s tobacco ban for Conservative Home. Like nearly everyone who goes to the Department of Health, Brine went native and has never recovered. His article is the usual blinkered prohibitionist nonsense - he even denies that the ban will boost the illicit trade - but he starts with a statistic that sounds credible.
 

Two-thirds of adults in Britain back the Government’s smoking ban plan, including nearly three-quarters of Conservative voters, in a representative poll carried out by YouGov for ASH.

 
He returns to this poll in his closing paragraph.
 

The public understand that the Government’s smoking ban will save lives and improve the health and wellbeing not just of individuals and their families but also of our economy. That is why the overwhelming majority of the public and parliamentarians support the legislation.

 
Since 87% of Britons do not smoke and the UK has become an oppresively intolerant country in recent years, this claim wouldn’t surprise me. But I know better than to trust an ASH survey. Before the smoking ban, they conducted several polls claiming that most people wanted a total ban on smoking in pubs. They achieved this by giving people a binary option between smoking everywhere versus smoking nowhere. But when other polls gave people the option of allowing separate smoking rooms, most people were happy with that (and remained so for years after the ban was introduced).
 
The question ASH used in their latest survey is almost unbelievable:
 

How strongly, if at all, do you support or oppose a goal to make Britain a country where no one smokes?”

 
You will have noticed that there is no mention of ban there. There is no mention of any policy, coercive or liberal, let alone the gradual prohibition of all cigarettes, cigars, heated tobacco, shisha and cigarette packs. It doesn’t show that ‘the overwhelming majority’ ‘support the legislation’. It is just an aspiration, a ‘goal’. It would be quite possible for a liberal who supports tobacco harm reduction but hates the nanny state to agree with this ambition.

Read the rest on my Substack (free). And I have replied on Conservative Home today.



Monday 18 March 2024

Prohibition, problem gambling and playing with words

Australia's umpteenth attempt to ban e-cigarettes has been warmly applauded by the renowned wowser and imbecile Simon Chapman. Nicotine-containing vapes have always been illegal in Australia. Importation of these products for personal use was banned a few years ago and now the government is banning all e-cigarettes regardless of whether they contain nicotine or not. 

As dozens of tobacconists are being literally firebombed, the devastating yet predictable consequences of prohibition (for vapes) and neo-prohibitionist sin taxes (on cigarettes) could not be more obvious to Australians. (There's an excellent article by two criminologists in The Conversation that is well worth reading.) But Simple Simon not only refuses to take any share of the blame for the consequences of the policies he spent his life lobbying for, he refuses to accept that what is happening to vapes is prohibition. Why? Because vapers will (in theory) be allowed to get e-cigarettes on prescription.
 


Note the way in which he portrays those who think e-cigarettes should be sold as consumer products like they are in normal countries as 'extremists'. Note also that he is using a photo of an anti-Prohibition rally taken during Prohibition in the USA. This is, of course, the example that comes most readily to mind when people hear the word 'prohibition'. Chapman is keen to distance himself from that kind of prohibition because it was such a notorious fiasco.

However, if he weren't such an ignoramus and didn't suffer from Dunning-Kruger syndrome, he would know that alcohol was available on prescription during Prohibition (Winston Churchill famously got a doctor's note when he visited the USA). Indeed, the Volstead Act was softer on drink than the Aussie government is on vapes. Ordinary people were never arrested for mere possession of alcohol whereas people are already being arrested for the possession of vapes and vape juice in Australia.

So if Chapman doesn't think the ban on vapes is prohibition, he must think that Prohibition wasn't prohibition either.

Back in Britain, the anti-gambling lobby's rising star Matt Gaskell has also been playing with words.
 

The problem here is that most of these phrases are technical terms with scientific definitions. The exception is 'addict', but the only people who use that word about problem gamblers are anti-gambling activists and the media. Problem gambling does not necessary involve addiction, but problem gambling is definitely a thing. It is recognised by clinicians and researchers around the world and is diagnosed with the PGSI test. PGSI stands for Problem Gambling Severity Index.

A similar but distinct test is the DSM-V. This refers to the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. It is the diagnostic test for the recognised condition of 'gambling disorder' which, in the previous (fourth) edition, was called 'pathological gambling'.
 
Matt Gaskell is the Clinical Lead for the NHS Northern Gambling Service which is part of the NHS's National Problem Gambling Clinic . When it opened in 2020, he said:
 

"Gambling addiction is a new public health crisis. It’s causing serious harm to thousands of people across the UK. This includes mental health problems, serious debt, breakdown of relationships, loss of employment, crime, homelessness and, tragically, sometimes suicide.

"Through my work in mental health and addictions treatment over the years I’ve seen the harms that problem gambling can cause people. However the chances of recovery from addictions like problem gambling can be very good with proper treatment." 
 
Running a problem gambling clinic without uses terms like 'problem gambling' and 'gambling disorder' is like being an oncologist and banning the terms 'cancer' and 'tumour'. So why this sudden retreat from recognised scientific terminology that no one has had a problem with in the past? It all comes back to what I was writing about last year - the 'public health' takeover of gambling policy and research. Under the new ideology, everyone is at risk from gambling, every gambler is harmed and gambling is inherently dangerous. 

Put simply, the existing literature correctly sees problem gambling as a complex mental disorder (“gambling disorder”) that is best dealt with by clinicians and augmented by harm reduction policies. By contrast, the “public health” approach is to stigmatise gambling, demonise the gambling industry and use tobacco-style regulation to deter as many people from gambling as possible. The difference between the two approaches is that the former is based on evidence and works whereas the latter is based on wilful ignorance, creates negative unintended consequences and fails.
 
The new wave of anti-gambling activists take issue with anything that implies that the psychological condition of gambling disorder only affects a relative handful of people (which it does) or implies that individuals can do anything about it (which they can). It's going to be difficult for people who treat problem gamblers to maintain this conceit because the first step to recovery is getting people to admit that they are responsible for their actions and can change their behaviour, but I'm sure they'll manage it.
 
 


Thursday 14 March 2024

The menthol cigarette ban - another 'public health' win!

Menthol cigarettes were banned in the EU in May 2020 and, as usual, the UK government decided against using its new freedoms outside of the bloc to allow more freedom to people in the UK.

A study in the junk journal Tobacco Control by the usual career anti-smokers (Linda Bauld etc.) now claims victory because...
 

The current study shows no increase in illicit purchasing 3 years after the ban in GB and is an important contribution to the literature assessing the longer-term impact of menthol cigarette bans; it is another example of how the industry’s oft-predicted surge in illicit cigarette purchases as a result of tobacco control measures did not materialise.

 
Big Tobacco in the mud! Take that!

However...

Despite being banned in 2020, one million adults continue to smoke menthol cigarettes in GB. The prevalence of menthol cigarette smoking only decreased slightly and non-significantly among adults who smoke, from 16% at the end of 2020 to 14% at the beginning of 2023.
 
Oh dear. Still, let's not allow the total and utter failure of the policy to achieve its goal distract us from Big Tobacco being wrong about the illicit trade. They're in the mud!
 
According to the authors, people who smoke menthol cigarettes were no more likely to buy from illicit sources than those who smoke normal cigarettes, although that's not what their own data shows (see table below).
 
 
Nevertheless, it is clear that a lot of people have been buying menthol (or menthol-ish) cigarettes from legal sources. The authors explain various ways in which this can be done, all of which could have been predicted by someone who is a genuine expert on the tobacco market rather than a rent-a-gob prohibitionist.
 
There are several reasons why people in the UK may continue to smoke menthol cigarettes despite the ban. First, it is possible to buy factory-made cigarettes or roll-your-own tobacco with menthol flavour in countries without a ban and bring them back to the UK either within the legal limits for personal use or through illicit means. Second, people can purchase menthol accessories, such as filters or capsules inserted in a hole in filters of factory-made cigarettes, infusion cards for cigarette packs to spread menthol aroma and flavour or menthol-flavoured filters for use with roll-your-own tobacco. These accessories are not covered by the ban and some of them seem to have been placed on the UK market in direct response to the ban. Another tactic that the tobacco industry used to circumvent the ban is to produce cigarettes that may be perceived as mentholated, while the manufacturers claim that the flavours are not characterising and are therefore allowed.

So the reason there has not been a booming black market in menthol cigarettes is that the legislation was so badly drafted that a black market wasn't necessary. And this is supposed to be a win??
 
Incidentally, all the data used in this study starts in October 2020 and ends in March 2023, despite the ban taking effect in May 2020, so it doesn't tell you anything about what happened when the ban was introduced. Tobacco Control really will publish any old rubbish.



Wednesday 13 March 2024

Follow the money in the campaign against GambleAware

The 'Good Law Project' has suddenly started going after the dull but worthy charity GambleAware. Why? As I explain in this article for The Critic, it looks like a case of follow the money.
 

A levy on gambling companies is imminent and is expected to raise at least £50 million a year. The money will be earmarked for “research, prevention and treatment” and there are a lot of potential recipients who will be fighting like rats in a sack to get their hands on it. The House of Lords called for a gambling levy in June 2020 and the government consulted on the matter later that year. Since then, problem gambling NGOs have been sprouting up all over the place. Among the organisations that have already received grants from the Gambling Commission are Gambling Harm UK (founded in 2020), Deal Me Out CIC (founded in 2020), the Epic Restart Foundation (founded in 2021), GamFam (founded in 2022) and the Academic Forum for the Study of Gambling (founded in 2022).

Having been founded in 2018, Gambling with Lives is a relative veteran and has received £600,000 from the Gambling Commission so far. It is likely to be in the running for further grants when the levy takes effect, alongside such recently formed organisations as The Big Step (founded in 2019), Clean Up Gambling, the Coalition Against Gambling Ads, Bet Know More, Action Against Gambling Harms (all founded in 2020), Tackling Gambling Stigma (founded in 2021) and GamLEARN (founded in 2022).

GambleAware, founded in 2002, is the daddy of them all and has an income of nearly £50 million a year, virtually all of which comes from the gambling industry. These donations will cease when the statutory levy is introduced. The levy will effectively nationalise industry donations, with decisions about how the money is spent made by bureaucrats rather than businesses. When the donations dry up, GambleAware will have to bid for the pot of money marked “prevention”. With 20 years experience of running educational campaigns and helping problem gamblers, it will be the favourite to get the contract, unless its name is sullied in the meantime. If GambleAware becomes politically toxic, there are plenty of pressure groups ready to accept the money who will argue that the most effective form of “prevention” is tobacco-style regulation.

 
The difference between helping individuals and the 'public health' approach is that the latter doesn't work. It is a political stance to make people within the extended bureaucracy feel virtuous.   

You can see the new ('public health') approach most clearly in Manchester where the local authority has got into bed with Gambling With Lives to create this website which is straightforwardly anti-gambling. It has links to places where problem gamblers can get help, but if you click on the National Gambling Helpline, you will be effectively warned off it by an ad hominem statement.  
 
 
So you have a charity subtly dissuading problem gamblers from ringing a problem gambling helpline. This should be a "are we the baddies moment?"
 
 




Friday 8 March 2024

Fighting Scotland's sockpuppet state

Annemarie Ward, CEO of the addiction recovery charity FAVOR doesn't hold back in this interview with The Herald. Unlike most Scottish health organisations, she is not funded by the state - and it shows.

Here are some of the choicest quotes...

 

“So many aspects of their approach need to change,” she says, “but if I were to choose one then it’s this: get rid of all the addiction quangos that have grown fat on public money.”

She begins to describe a lucrative, self-serving sector which is in denial about the true nature of addiction and doesn’t really believe that people can actually recover. And so they specialise in ‘harm reduction’, which she says is “middle-class virtue-signalling at its worst”.   

... She begins naming the addiction quangos and says she’ll soon be compiling a list of them to show how crowded the field is.

This is where Scotland’s public sector gravy train can be seen at full tilt, driven by a vast array of political actors who attend all the right networking events; leadership seminars and lobbying dinners. 

“They’ve become a shadow state,” she says. “They’re policy actors with at least one organisation employing 70-odd staff. There’s no equivalent to them south of the border because England got rid of them years ago. They simply de-funded them as part of a structural change leading to more funding for front-line services.  

“All of these Scottish quangos think they’re doing something, but they’re little more than the government lobbying government for no other purpose than to maintain funding levels.” 

... “I’m willing to work with Labour. I want to contribute positively; I don’t want to be the one who’s always screaming. But if they don’t get rid of these quangos then I know they’ll just continue with the grift of government lobbying government.”

 
On minimum pricing:
 

In recent weeks, she’s become a harsh critic of the Scottish Government’s Minimum Unit Pricing policy which seeks to discourage people from buying alcohol. “It simply doesn’t work,” she says, “because those making the policy have no clue about the reality of the lives of those who are worst affected by alcohol addiction.” 

... “I read 40 studies around this and only seven were looking at health-based outcomes. Then I looked at who commissioned the research on all the studies and the only one that was positive about MUP was a researcher from Public Health Scotland. And it was Public Health Scotland who were writing the report. So you wonder if there’s some jiggery-pokery going on here.  

“These people don’t live in the real world. If they were, they’d looking at the correlation in the rise in drugs deaths since Minimum Unit Pricing was introduced in 2018. It doesn’t need a genius to work out why. And in the meantime, I’m still burying my friends.”

 
On alcohol advertising: 

“I don’t even see the problem with booze adverts. I don’t care about ‘the optics’ of a swimming pool sponsored by Tennent’s lager. The Government thinks the people in these communities are stupid and that we’re easily influenced. They’re obsessed with channelling ethics but what they’re doing in facilitating the already vast profits of the booze industry is grievously unethical.”

 
Can I get a "hell, yeah"?
 
You can follow her on Twitter here.


Wednesday 6 March 2024

The vape tax

So the UK is set to have one of the world's highest vape taxes to go alongside a ban on disposable vapes and the gradual (or not so gradual) prohibition of tobacco. I've written about the Tories' deranged scorched earth policy for Spiked...
 

Hear me out: is it possible that when Rishi Sunak became UK prime minister he set himself a Brewster’s Millions-style challenge of getting support for the Conservative Party down to zero by the time of the General Election? Does he have brainstorming sessions in Downing Street late at night to identify the dwindling number of people who might still vote for him and discuss how to alienate them? ‘We’ve already lost the people who use disposable vapes, but there are still people who use refillable e-cigarettes’, you can just imagine him saying. ‘How do we needlessly annoy them? I’ve got it! Let’s tax e-cigarette fluid.’

 



Pipes and pipemen

There is an epidemic of kids smoking pipes and cigars, if you believe the people at SPECTRUM. As I explain in The Critic, you shouldn't. 
 

As a rule of thumb, any sharp rise or fall in a longstanding data series is due to a change in methodology. When it comes to surveys, you reach different groups of people depending on whether you knock on their door, phone them up or use an online questionnaire. People may be more or less likely to confess to bad habits depending on whether you ask them face-to-face, over the phone or on a website. The abrupt rise in the number of people claiming to smoke non-cigarette tobacco in this study is obviously the result of the change in methodology and yet the authors refuse to admit this. Instead, they put forward a bunch of unlikely explanations for why people suddenly started smoking cigars and hookah in March 2020, including the fear that smoking cigarettes increased the risk of getting Covid-19, the ban on menthol cigarettes that was introduced two months later and economic pressures that meant people could only afford to smoke cigars (!). 

You have to scroll down to the “strengths and limitations” section before there is any acknowledgement of the obvious problem. Although the authors claim that people tend to give similar answers in substance abuse surveys regardless of whether they are asked face-to-face or online, they admit that when they used both surveys in a one-off test in March 2022, they found “the prevalence of exclusive non-cigarette smoking was 1.24 percentage points higher in the group surveyed via telephone than face-to-face (2.03 per cent [95 per cent CI = 1.42–2.90] vs. 0.79 per cent [0.48–1.31])”. This is clear evidence that people are nearly three times more likely to say “yes” when you ask them over the phone and yet the authors still insist that the fivefold increase in non-cigarette tobacco consumption is real.




Thursday 22 February 2024

Panama conversations

While I was in Panama recently for the Good COP conference, I met lots of interesting people. I interviewed two of them for the IEA podcast: David Williams, President of the Taxpayers Protection Alliance, and Prof Dr Rohan Andrade De Sequeira, a Consultant CardioMetabolic Physician from Mumbai, India. We talked about tobacco harm reduction and the damage done by the WHO's approach.

Have a listen.



Wednesday 21 February 2024

Normal for Tasmania


 
A Tasmania anti-smoking activist called Kathryn Barnsley has made a grotesque banner lying about e-cigarettes and has been telling vapers to look forward to getting mouth cancer. It is based on a dreadful case report in Pediatrics that should never have been published and is a new low even by Australian standards, as I explain in The Critic...
 

The claim that e-cigarettes caused the cancer in this instance rests solely on the fact that the patient was a vaper. He was also a former smoker of cigarettes who took up smoking marijuana after biting his tongue, but this gets short shrift as an explanation from the authors. His alcohol consumption is not mentioned at all. 

Case reports of this kind can be useful to medical practitioners but they were never designed to identify the cause of illnesses and they are totally incapable of doing so. Although vaping cannot be discounted as a risk factor for oral cancer, any investigation should begin by asking whether there has been a rise in young people getting oral cancer since e-cigarettes came on the scene and whether oral cancer is more common among vapers who have never smoked than among other nonsmokers. A case study of a solitary individual tells us absolutely nothing and looks more like exploitation of a personal tragedy than a serious scientific endeavour.




Friday 16 February 2024

A depressing conversation with Christopher Snowdon

It was a pleasure to sit down with Amul Pandya recently for a thoughtful chat on his Meeting People podcast. We discussed the abuse of statistics, social media, Rishi's tobacco ban, low grade politicians, daylight saving time, face masks, obesity and much more. You can watch it below or (I assume) download the audio wherever you get your podcasts.




Thursday 15 February 2024

McCarthyism as a protected philosophical belief

Jim McCambridge, a 'public health' zealot whom we have encountered before, is involved in a strange employment tribunal after York University found him guilty of bullying and harassment. He now claims that his dogmatic, anti-industry opinions are protected philosophical beliefs under the Equality Act.

I have written about this for The Critic.
 

McCambridge has taken his behaviour a worrying step further at the employment tribunal by portraying McKeganey’s association with York University as a real and present danger to people’s health. His argument, as summarised by the judge, is that:

The impact of Mr [sic] McKeganey’s relationship with the University of York would be to impact adversely on the health of some unidentified people in society. This was explained in two ways: firstly, that Mr [sic] McKeganey’s association with the University would improve his credibility. Because he (allegedly) supports tobacco companies, an improvement in his credibility will add greater weight to any support he gives to tobacco companies, thereby increasing the risk that more people will smoke and thereby impact on the health of those (unidentified) people. Secondly, that an association with Mr [sic] McKeganey by the university would undermine their criticism of tobacco companies thereby increasing the risk that more people might smoke similarly presenting an increase risk to those unidentified people.

Leaving aside the question of whether the tacit endorsement of an obscure academic by York University is ever likely to influence an individual’s decision to start smoking, this takes no-platforming to a new level. The clear implication is that anyone who might inadvertently increase the chances of an unidentified, theoretical person to start smoking is a health and safety risk. Furthermore, anyone who fails to ostracise such a person is also a threat to public health. The same presumably applies to alcohol and any of the growing number of adult activities that are now considered to be “public health” issues. This is a recipe for blanket censorship and cancel culture on steroids.

 


Wednesday 14 February 2024

Ultra-processed food labels

 

From the BBC...

Ultra-processed food should be clearly labelled - study

Ultra-processed foods should be clearly labelled, experts say.

Scientists said the warnings were needed as some ultra-processed foods could fall into the "healthy" green category of the "traffic-light" system.


Is that a problem with the labels or is it the problem with inventing an excessively broad category?
 

UCL senior research fellow and weight-management specialist Dr Adrian Brown told BBC News he had looked at a "meat alternative", for example.

"Generally, it can be considered highly processed - but if you look at front-of-package labelling for energy, fat, saturated fat and sugar, they're all green, which would be considered healthy," he said.


'Meat alternatives' offer a good opportunity to test the UPF theory. Run some trials to find out if they are associated with obesity and/or cancer. If they don't then the claim that UPFs are associated with obesity and cancer (which is made in the BBC article) is false.

The curious thing about the article is that no one is quoted saying that UPFs should be labelled and the only people mentioned consider it to be an open question as to whether UPFs as a category are bad for health. And although the headline seems to quote a study, the only study mentioned in the article has yet to be written.
 

Dr Brown's team at UCL have now begun a trial to see how healthy a UFP-only diet can be, compared with a minimally processed one, and whether guidance should be given to consumers.

"We're putting people on an eight-week diet which meets the government's recommendations for salt, fat, sugar and energy - what is considered healthy - and we're comparing the outcomes of them, related to weight and other changes in terms of health as well," he said.

 
Good stuff. Makes sure it's randomised and that people are given different versions of the same meal this time. Better still, change the methodology and give the control group a diet that is merely processed (not minimally processed or ultra-processed).

As for UPF's alleged relationship to cancer, it's worth reading this response from some scientists to the authors of a study who made that claim recently...

The authors conclude that “our results suggest that higher consumption of UPF increases the risk of cancer and cardiometabolic multimorbidity”, but their data only show that consumption of foods of animal origin and sugary or artificially sweetened beverages is associated with such a risk, which is not surprising.

This indicates that the association between UPF consumption and the risk of multimorbidity would disappear if the data were adjusted not only for the consumption of sugary or artificially sweetened beverages, but also for foods of animal origin at the same time. Indeed, in our opinion, the article underlines the absolute need to return to the evaluation of foods on the basis of their nutritional role (including their nutrient composition, quantities consumed, metabolic effects, etc.) and not on the basis of their degree of processing.

 
 Amen.
 


Monday 12 February 2024

COP 10 - what happened?

I got back from Panama City on Saturday after a great few days with some of the best people in tobacco harm reduction. The Taxpayers Protection Alliance did a terrific job of running an alternative conference to the WHO farce and it was good to speak to so many journalists who had come from far and wide.

Inside the WHO conference, who knows what went on? The meeting is so secretive that outsiders can only feed off scraps. From what I can tell, there was no success in getting the corrupt and incompetent WHO to endorse products like e-cigarettes but nor was it able to toughen its stance against them. A whole bunch of public sector troughers got a little holiday in Latin America and very little was achieved. We can perhaps call it a defensive win.

This account from EU Reporter is worth reading:
 

The WHO’s tenth conference of the parties (COP10) to its Framework Convention on Tobacco Control has spent the week in heavily defensive mode. Like many journalists, I was refused accreditation but that made little difference as the conference voted to exclude the press. That was shortly after the organisers cut off the microphone of a delegate who had the temerity to suggest that the priority should be harm reduction.

 It might seem an obvious point that harm reduction -getting people to stop smoking cancer-causing cigarettes- should be the focus but it’s hard to overstate how heretical that view has become. Science has gone out of the window and when another delegate posted a mocked-up picture of a ‘cancer flavour’ vape it went viral. 

The conference organisers took no action over this incident. They were too busy getting the Panamanian authorities to stop consumer activists handing out leaflets to delegates urging them to support e-cigarettes and other non-combustible alternatives to smoking.

 
Panama itself tells you a great deal about what happens when countries embrace the neo-prohibitionist approach, as I explained in The Critic...
 

Panama has done everything the WHO has recommended. E-cigarettes are not only illegal to sell, but are illegal to use. Smoking is banned almost everywhere, including on roof top bars and within two metres of buildings. No smoking signs are invariably accompanied by no vaping signs. Tobacco is heavily taxed and tobacco products come with graphic warnings.

Panama has a low smoking rate but it had a low smoking rate long before it introduced any of these policies. What it also has is an extraordinarily large black market in tobacco. 92 per cent of all cigarettes sold are counterfeit, a fact that is bizarrely advertised by Panama’s health department on billboards. Single cigarettes and cigars are sold by children on the street. Unregulated vaping products are openly sold on street corners. Despite the sale of e-cigarettes being illegal, I saw an advertisement for one in the middle of Panama City. The laws on smoking and vaping in public are casually and routinely flouted, especially in bars. On paper, Panama is a model of neo-prohibitionist tobacco control. That is why the WHO decided to come here. But outside the conference centre, the reality is very different.

 
It's worth remembering that the WHO treaty that spawned all these COP meetings is so ineffective that a study published in the British Medical Journal in 2019 found “no evidence to indicate that global progress in reducing cigarette consumption has been accelerated by the FCTC treaty mechanism.”
 
There's lots of content from the alternative conference here if you want to catch up or get a flavour. Regulator Watch also ran regular shows throughout the week. The one below is from the first day and features me towards the end.




Monday 5 February 2024

Greetings from Panama

I am currently in Panama as a guest of the Taxpayers Protection Alliance at their Good COP meeting, held as a truthful alternative to the WHO’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) Conference of the Parties (COP). Don’t be fooled by the word 'tobacco' there. These days, the WHO is all about suppressing e-cigarettes.

Also with me are the campaigners Mark Oates and Martin Cullip, and the researchers Konstantinos Farsalinos, Riccardo Polosa and Roberto Sussman, plus many more.

 We will be broadcasting and podcasting throughout the week. See the full programme for details.



Thursday 1 February 2024

Times Radio interview with ASH man

I did a pre-recorded interview on Times Radio the other day with ASH's Nick Hopkinson about the forthcoming bans on disposable vapes and, eventually, tobacco. I'm grateful to ASH for posting it on YouTube because I never would have found it otherwise, but I don't understand why they've done it because I didn't think their man did very well and he made it fairly clear that they're going to go after vaping next. But you decide.





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?