Monday, 26 September 2016

Outdoor smoking bans

Doesn't these people ever get tired of exploiting children? From the Guardian...

Environmental health officers call for smoking ban in playgrounds

Smoking should be banned in all parks and playgrounds to reduce the chances of children growing up thinking that using cigarettes is normal, environmental health officers have told ministers.

Zoos, theme parks and anywhere else children play should also become no-smoking zones, in a significant proposed expansion of the outdoor areas in which smokers cannot light up.

Is there a health hazard from people smoking outdoors? No, and the Chartered Institute for Environmental Health - for it is they - do not claim there is. So what has it got to do with them?

“This would not only include children’s playgrounds but could see no-smoking zones extended to public parks, zoos and theme parks. Children should be able to have fun and enjoy themselves without seeing someone smoking and thinking this is normal behaviour,” she added.

No. No. No. Absolutely not. This is 21st century Britain, not 17th century New England. We do not use the criminal law to prevent people seeing things just because they might offend moral puritans.

This has obviously got nothing to do with children. As usual, it is really about making it as hard as possible for people to smoke. Nor has it got anything to do with playgrounds. As the article makes clear, these bastards want to ban smoking anywhere children ever go. In case you haven't noticed, society isn't segregated into adult spaces and children's spaces. Having banned smoking in every indoor public place they want to ban it in every outdoor space. The only government in the world that currently has such a policy is ISIS.

Unsurprisingly, 'public health' fat cat (and vapers' "friend") Jim McManus who relieves the taxpayer of £130,000 a year is lobbying for this disgusting idea. McManus is one of the country's army of 'public health directors', all of whom should be made redundant.

"You might feel like this is the nanny state – you’d be wrong,” McManus added.

Thanks Socrates, I can't argue that kind of watertight argument. Crawl back under your rock and take the Chartered Institute for Environmental Health with you.

Not news

The lead story on the BBC Health website as I write this is headlined '"Lifestyle illnesses'" cost NHS £11bn'.

Health problems related to poor diet, drinking and smoking are costing the NHS in England more than £11bn each year, officials say. 

Public Health England (PHE) says that unless they are tackled more effectively the NHS will become unaffordable.

It warns conditions such as diabetes and smoking-related bronchitis are a new and untreatable epidemic.

The £11 billion figure is cobbled together from the £2.7 billion alcohol is said to cost the NHS, plus £3.5 billion attributed to smoking and £5.1 billion attributed to obesity. All of these are gross costs and do not include savings to the NHS from not having to treat people who died prematurely. Nor do they take into account the cost of substitute diseases in a counterfactual, ie. how much would be spent on a person who died from lifestyle-related Disease X if they had lived to die from non-lifestyle-related Disease Y.

Even as a gross cost, the figure for alcohol is an overestimate. Moreover, tobacco and alcohol duty bring in around £25 billion a year which covers the alleged gross cost of all lifestyle diseases twice over and covers the real net cost many times over. For some strange reason, the BBC neglects to mention this.

But why is any of this news? Public Health England announced the £11 billion in March this year and the BBC covered it at the time. The actual news content of today's story is astonishingly thin. It continues...

But the town of Fleetwood, Lancashire, plans to tackle these problems head on.

OK. So this is a local news story. And how does it plan to tackle them?

Local GP Dr Mark Spencer is leading an effort to change that picture. He has forged a coalition of local people and health workers to break a damaging cycle of sickness.

 Good for him. So what?

The BBC has been offered the chance to follow this ambitious project over the next year, which will attempt to help people change the behaviour that is damaging their health.

It involves a broad range of different approaches, from educating children in primary schools about food and diet, working with local sports clubs to encourage people to get active, and creating more open green spaces in the town.

That doesn't sound particularly ambitious. It sounds like the bog standard stuff that the 'public health' industry uses billions of pounds of our money for every year.

There's no point me quoting any more of this. There is no news to be found. A bloke in Fleetwood wants people to live healthier lifestyles and the BBC is going to keep reporting on this non-story because it has been 'offered the chance' to do so. I suspect the real reason for the prominence of the article - which has been repeatedly tweeted by the Beeb - lies in the headline. They want to the hammer this Trojan number into people's heads.

Friday, 23 September 2016

David Nutt's designer drug

The Adam Smith Institute have got a nice little report out about the future of 'vice', featuring e-cigarettes, gambling, legal high and 'synthetic alcohol'.

As I have said before, David Nutt's 'synthetic alcohol' seems to be no more than a legal high with a novel marketing plan. Nutt portrays alcohol as being so extraordinarily dangerous that almost any drug looks like a harm reduction device by comparison. The question is whether his drug is a closer substitute to alcohol than other drugs. It seems to me that most of his sales pitch could be applied to marijuana, cocaine and opium.

A new type of synthetic alcohol has been discovered which could allow people to enjoy the sociable effects of a few pints, but skip the hangover that usually follows.

Yep, what's what drugs do, and since the government has banned all legal highs with its appalling Psychoactive Substances Act, the chances of bringing a new recreational drug to market are not good, but you have to applaud Nutt's ingenuity. He's worked out that the only way you can get a designer drug on the market is by invoking the all-powerful concept of 'public health'. However, he's laying on the sales patter a bit thick by saying things like this...

"People want healthier drinks," said Professor Nutt. “The drinks industry knows that by 2050 alcohol will be gone." "They know that and have been planning for this for at least 10 years. But they don't want to rush into it, because they're making so much money from conventional alcohol."

I'll be on a panel with him at the Conservative party conference on October 4th. I hope he brings some product with him.

Read the ASI report here.

Thursday, 22 September 2016

The truth continues to emerge about smoking ban miracles

Via Michael Siegel, I see that another large study has concluded that smoking bans do not have an effect on the rate of heart attacks. I have written so much about the junk claims about smoking ban miracles that I won't go through the whole story here.

The claim is that you get a notable drop in heart attack admissions to hospital as soon as a smoking ban is introduced.

Check the archive for the extensive background but the basic facts are these: heart attack miracles are mathematically impossible and the claims of smoking ban advocates are based on blatant cherry-picking and bent modelling that bears no relation to the data recorded by hospitals - with a bit of publication bias thrown in for good measure.

The new study is different from those conjured up by 'public health' charlatans in that it applies proper statistical methods, such as using controls. It also doesn't cherry-pick. Its authors have a subtle dig at those who produced previous efforts in the text...

Our study possesses three important strengths. Unlike most previous studies of smoking bans, we measure the association between the implementation of smoking bans and hospitalization rates for hundreds of U.S. counties, rather than one or two areas, or a handful of regions. We employ an extensive set of covariates including cigarette tax rates, along with time and county fixed effects to control for factors that could confound the observed relationship between smoking bans and hospitalizations. This is the only study in the smoking bans literature that includes county-specific time trends, even though this approach has become the standard of practice for health economics studies over the past 15 years.

And by looking at a large number of communities rather than retrospectively selecting one which had an unusually sharp decline in heart attacks, the authors found that...

Contrary to most previous studies, we found no evidence that comprehensive public place smoking bans lowered hospitalization rates in the short-term for AMI or heart failure.

This is in line with a previous study that looked across the whole of the USA and included two million heart attacks. Like this new study and others that have come to the same conclusion, that research made absolutely no impression on the media whereas the ridiculous miracle of Helena, Montana (population: 29,000) was broadcast around the world. The lie has won the day.

I have been beating this drum for years, as has Michael Blastland (the creator of the BBC's excellent More or Less series). For his trouble, Blastland was described as a 'denialist' by Martin McKee and Martin Dockrell.

Spare a thought also for Michael Siegel who, despite being an anti-smoking activist and a supporter of smoking bans, found the heart miracle scam to be one lie too many. He has been going on about this issue longer than anybody and his blog post is worth reading if you want to see what happens when you expose fraud in the tobacco control cult...

It is interesting to note that it was my expression of the above opinions about these studies back in the mid-2000's that led to my "expulsion" from the tobacco control movement, including being thrown off several list-serves, ostracized by many of my colleagues, accused of being a "tobacco mole," being characterized by my hero and mentor - Stan Glantz - as being "a tragic figure," [to be fair, if Glantz is your hero, you are kind of a tragic figure - CJS] having copyright to one of my articles violated by an anti-smoking organization, no longer being invited to speak at tobacco conferences, not being able to present at tobacco control conferences anymore, not being able to obtain further research grants, and having colleagues refuse to appear with me at conferences to discuss these or any other scientific issues. In fact, it was this censorship that led to the creation of the Rest of the Story in the first place.

Nearly three million page views later, perhaps these groups knew what they were doing because it appears that I may have been right all along. By silencing me, these groups were able to disseminate their pre-determined conclusions widely to the public through the media long enough for the conclusions to be generally accepted. Now, it is too late to undo the damage. The media and the public have already made up their minds, and one article noting the results of this new study is not going to correct or undo 10 years of dissemination of unsupported and errant scientific conclusions.

For me, the appearance of smoking ban miracles was the point at which it became obvious that the modern anti-smoking movement was incorrigibly dishonest. Nothing I have seen in the years since has given me the slightest reason to change my mind about that.

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

The victory of vaping

I wrote about the recent sharp fall in the smoking rate and ASH's attempt to steal the credit from vapers. It's at Spectator Health. Here's a sample...

What’s going on? Deborah Arnott of the anti-smoking quango Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) attributed the fall in smoking, in part, to the government’s ban on ‘glitzy tobacco packaging’. She means plain packaging. Ms Arnott has spent the last five years of her life furiously lobbying for this silly piece of virtue signalling so it is no surprise that it is at the forefront of her mind, but the smoking prevalence figures were collected in 2015, whereas plain packaging was only introduced in May 2016, and hardly anybody has seen a plain pack yet because retailers are still selling old stock. Doubtless ASH are already thinking of ways to put lipstick on this pig of a policy, but they could at least wait for it to come into effect before they start making their ridiculous claims.

What Arnott cannot quite bring herself to say is that it is the e-cigarette, not big government interference, that has been the game-changer. As Public Health England has acknowledged, e-cigarettes are the most popular stop-smoking aid. Correlation doesn’t equal causation, but vaping is a much better explanation for the sudden downturn in smoking rates than brown cigarette packs that no one has seen.

It is easy to assume that smoking rates have been dropping like a stone in the nine years since the smoking ban was introduced, but this is to mistake action for results. In reality, the smoking ban marked the point at which the long-term decline in smoking pretty much came to a halt.

Do read it all.

Regulator Watch: Puritans and Prohibitionists

I did an interview with Brent Stafford for Regulator Watch recently. We talked about vaping, the 'public health' movement and the history of anti-smoking. Here it is...

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

More on that sugar conspiracy

Further to my post about Stanton Glantz's ridiculous sugar conspiracy, I'm pleased to see other people critiquing this nonsense. The two articles below are both excellent and well worth reading if you interested in how activist-researchers create media narratives...

Sugar and Spite: Mark Hegsted and the Great Sugar Conspiracy

Rewriting history to expose a non-existent conspiracy
And don't forget this post from Nutrevolve.

Not for the first time, the blogosphere has been quicker to get to grips with peer-revieed drivel than the mainstream media. Take this from the Financial Review, for instance...

The food and artificial sweetener industry, which have previously opposed the tax, have been making global headlines with academics alleging the business is skewing health research.

An academic at the University of California published a paper arguing five decades of research responsible for shaping dietary recommendations was likely sculpted by the sugar industry.