Totalitarian Europe

How about this for a bit of totalitarianism from the EU? This is from the Tobacco Products Directive and part of the stifling regulations they propose to bring into law.
5. Member States shall ensure that:
a) Commercial communications with the aim or direct or indirect effect of promoting electronic cigarettes and refill containers are prohibited in information society services as defined in Article 1(2) of Directive 98/48/EC, in the press and other printed publications, with the exception of publications that are intended exclusively for professionals in the trade of the products and for publications which are printed and published in third countries, where those publications are not principally intended for the European Union market;
b)Commercial communications with the aim or direct or indirect effect of promoting electronic cigarettes and refill containers are prohibited in the radio;
c)Any form of public or private contribution to radio programmes with the aim or direct or indirect effect of promoting electronic cigarettes and refill containers is prohibited;
d) Any form of public or private contribution to any event, activity or individual with the aim or direct or indirect effect of promoting electronic cigarettes and refill containers and involving or taking place in several Member States or otherwise having cross-border effects is prohibited;
e) Audiovisual commercial communications falling under Directive 2010/13/EU are prohibited for electronic cigarettes and refill containers;
You would think this is about something bad for you, like cigarettes, rather than about something that has allowed 7 million people across Europe to either quit smoking or cut down on their smoking. Do you see what the above means? A health revolution akin to the invention of the Polio vaccine must not be advertised, anywhere.
If you, as an individual, have given up smoking by using an ecig you are not allowed to talk about it on radio, on the TV or in the newspapers, or here on the Internet. All the media – newspapers, TV, radio, Internet – is to be gagged because if anyone in them talks about ecigs in any other terms than them being the product of Satan that will be the ‘direct or indirect effect of promoting electronic cigarettes’. The ‘cross-border effect’ can be ignored, since newspapers, TV, radio & Internet cross all borders. In fact most of the posts I have on this blog concerning ecigs will be prohibited. Meetings of ecig enthusiasts will be banned and ecig fairs will be prohibited, since just one tweet would make it ‘cross-border’.
Welcome to the future as it increasingly looks like The Departure
Here’s my Vamo which I recommend to anyone who wants to try quitting smoking.
Fuck EU.

Viscount Ridley’s Speech on Ecigs in the House of Lords

Viscount Ridley (Con):
My Lords, I congratulate my noble friend Lord Astor, on securing this debate. It is an issue of much greater importance than the sparse attendance might imply and one that is growing in importance. I have no interest to declare in electronic cigarettes: I dislike smoking and have never done it. I have only once tried a puff on an e-cigarette, which did nothing for me. I am interested in this issue as a counterproductive application of the precautionary principle. I should say that I am indebted to Ian Gregory of Centaurus Communications for some of the facts and figures that I will cite shortly.
There are, at the moment, about 1 million people in this country using electronic cigarettes, and there has been an eightfold increase in the past year in the number of people using them to try to quit smoking. Already, 15% of ex-smokers have tried them, and they have overtaken nicotine patches and other approaches to become the top method of quitting in a very short time. The majority of those who use electronic cigarettes to try to quit smoking say that they are successful.
Here we have a technology that is clearly saving lives on a huge scale. If only 10% of the 1 million users in the country are successful in quitting, that would save £7 billion, according to the Department of Health figures given in answer to my Written Question last month, which suggest that the health benefits of each attempt to quit are £74,000. In that Answer, Minister said that,
“a policy of licensing e-cigarettes would have to create very few additional successful quit attempts for the benefits to justify its costs”.—[Official Report, 18/11/13; col. WA172.]
But who thinks that licensing will create extra quit attempts? By adding to the cost of e-cigarettes, by reducing advertising and by unglamorising them, it is far more likely that licensing will create fewer quit attempts. Will the Minister therefore confirm that, by the same token, a policy of licensing e-cigarettes would have to reduce quit attempts by a very small number for that policy to be a mistake?
Nicotine patches are also used to reduce smoking and they have been medicinally regulated, but there has been extraordinarily little innovation in them and low take-up over the years. Does the Minister agree with the report by Professor Peter Hajek in the Lancet earlier this year, which said that the 30-year failure of nicotine patches demonstrated how the expense and delays caused by medicinal regulation can stifle innovation? Does my noble friend also agree with analysts from Wells Fargo who this month said that if e-cigarette innovation is stifled: “this could dramatically slow down conversion from combustible cigarettes”?
We should try a thought experiment. Let us divide the country in two. In one half—let us call it east Germany for the sake of argument—we regulate e-cigarettes as medicines, ban their use in public places, restrict advertising, ban the sale of refillable versions, and ban the sale of e-cigarettes stronger than 20 milligrams per millilitre. In the other half, which we will call west Germany, we leave them as consumer products, properly regulated as such, allow them to be advertised as glamorous, allow them on trains and in pubs, allow the sale of refills, allow the sale of flavoured ones, and allow stronger products. In which of these two parts of the country would smoking fall fastest? It is blindingly obvious that the east would see higher prices—and prices are a serious deterrent to attempts to quit smoking because many of the people who smoke are poorer than the average. We would see less product innovation, slower growth of e-cigarette use and more people going back to real cigarettes because of their inability to get hold of the type, flavour and strength that they wanted. Therefore, more people would quit smoking in the western half of the country.
What are the drawbacks of such a policy? There is a risk of harm from electronic cigarettes, as we have heard. How big is that risk? The Minister confirmed to me in a Written Answer earlier this year that the best evidence suggests that they are 1,000 times less dangerous than cigarettes. The MHRA impact assessment says that the decision on whether to regulate e-cigarettes should be based on the harm that they do. Yet that very impact statement says that, “any risk is likely to be very small”,
that there is, “an absence of empirical evidence” and “no direct clinical evidence”, that “the picture is unclear”, and—my favourite quote—states: “Unfortunately, we have no evidence”, of harm.
There is said to be a risk of children taking up e-cigarettes and then turning to real cigarettes. Just think about that for a second. For every child who goes from cigarettes to electronic cigarettes, there would there have to be 1,000 going the other way, from e-cigarettes to cigarettes, for this to do any net harm. The evidence suggests, as my noble friend Lord Borwick has said, that the gateway is the other way. Some 20% of 15 year-olds smoke, and evidence from ASH and a study in Oklahoma suggests strongly that when young people use electronic cigarettes they do so to quit, just like adults do.
If we are to take a precautionary approach to the risks of nicotine, will the Minister consider regulating aubergines as medicines? They also contain nicotine. If you eat 10 grams of aubergine, which you easily could with a plateful of moussaka, you will absorb the same amount of nicotine as if you shared a room with a cigarette smoker for three hours. It is not an insignificant quantity. That is data from the New England Journal of Medicine in 1993. If we are worried about unknown and small risks, can the Minister explain to me why, as Professor Hajek, put it, more dangerous chemicals, such as bleach, rely on packaging and common sense rather than on medicinal licensing?
There has been approximately an 8% reduction in the use of tobacco in Europe in the past year. The tobacco companies are worried. A big part of that reduction seems to be because of the rapid take-up of electronic cigarettes. They are facing their Kodak moment—the moment when their whole technology is replaced by a rival technology that, in this case, is 1,000 times safer. Does my noble friend think that there may be a connection between the rise of electronic cigarettes, the rapid decline in tobacco sales and the enthusiasm of tobacco companies for the medicinal regulation of electronic cigarettes?
It is not just big tobacco; big pharma has shown significant interest in the regulation of electronic cigarettes. That is not surprising because they are, again, a rival to patch products and other nicotine replacement therapies. Perhaps more surprising is that much of the medical establishment is in favour of medicinal regulation. I never thought I would live to see the BMA and the tobacco industry on the same side of an argument.
The BMA says that electronic cigarettes cannot be considered a lower-risk option, but this completely flies in the face of the evidence. As we have heard already, electronic cigarettes are 1,000 times safer. The BMA says that it is worried about passive vaping, the renormalising of smoking and the use of electronic cigarettes as a gateway to smoking. The excellent charity Sense About Science, to which I am proud to be an adviser, has asked the BMA for evidence to support those assertions. I must say that there is a strong suspicion that the only reason the medical establishment wants to see these things regulated as medicines is because it cannot bear to see the commercial sector achieving more in a year in terms of getting people off cigarettes than the public sector has achieved in 10. Instead of talking about regulating this product, should we not be talking about encouraging it, promoting it and letting people vape indoors if they want to—in pubs, on trains and in football grounds—specifically so that they are tempted to vape instead of smoke? That would be of enormous benefit to them and to the country as a whole.
I end by asking specifically in relation to the agreement that, as we heard from my noble friend Lord Borwick, was agreed last night, what its impact will be on what is happening, and in particular on advertising. As I understand it, under the agreement reached yesterday, it will be possible for the advertising of these things to be banned as if they were cigarettes. What is the justification for that, given the proportionality and the evidence that they will actually save lives rather than harm them?

Ban Tea!

This is brilliant:

“Dear Sir/Madam

I would like to draw your attention to a situation that has gone under the radar for too long. Businesses up and down the country are, to this day, allowing this situation to continue, and are in many cases misguidedly encouraging it by providing and in some cases even allowing its consumption at the heart of the workplace, potentially risking the health not only of the person consuming it, but of those innocent people who have its effects forced upon them. 

I am of course talking about tea.”

E-Cig Summit

I don’t like the name e-cig or e-cigarette because the association in that name wins part of the battle for who are trying to ban these devices, or regulate them out of existence. I prefer the word vaporiser, but I’m sensible enough to know that fighting against popular usage is a battle you’ll lose. This is unfortunate, really, because the name e-cigs contributes to the ignorance about the thing so named. Many people, it would appear, seem to think an e-cig is that cheap plastic object that looks like a cigarette and is sure to raise the hackles of the of the ardent anti-smoker. In the growing e-cig subculture these are ‘cigalikes’ and generally worthy of only contemptuous dismissal.

A couple of days ago there was a big summit on e-cigs which included the likes of  Dr Konstantinos Farsalinos, the sensible Clive Bates, Jeremy Mean a MHRA spokesmuppet on e-cigs and everyone’s favourite rabid anti-smoker Deborah Arnott of ASH. Presentations can be found here and more can be read here and here
The guy in the pictures (my thanks to Elva Pote for providing these) is Dave Dorn who is the frontman for Vapour Trails TV, and a discussion on VTTV about this e-cig summit can be found here. During that discussion it was mentioned how people from Big Pharma, Public Health and elsewhere were quite astonished upon seeing the items on this table. Here then are people who have been pushing to regulate or ban something they don’t appear to have a clue about. Here then are people suffering from a bad case of future shock. Part of their argument is that upon seeing someone using an e-cig others might think it is okay to smoke an analogue cigarette, or that it will ‘renormalize’ smoking. Do these items look anything like a B&H or an Old Holborn roll-up to you?

Ender's Game – Orson Scott Card

We went to see Ender’s Game and thoroughly enjoyed it. The film isn’t in the league of something like Aliens. It’s a bit young/adult and there’s nowhere near enough gore for me. Still, it was enjoyable, and not too far from the original book. If it’s successful we’ll probably be seeing Speaker for the Dead, though, of all Orson Scott Card books I would rather see Wyrms.
I note that some in the gay lobby are calling for a boycott on the film because of Orson Scott Card’s (religion-based) bigotry concerning them. I’d heard about this before but never really bothered to look into it. I see now that it all stems from an article he wrote in 1990 that has all the justifications and twisted logic of any who believe in a sky fairy, and that in intervening years he’s gone into a fast PR reversal from it. Doubtless he has also made other comments elsewhere on this and, apparently, funds an anti-gay political pressure group. But in the end all of this is an argument he and his kind have lost (well, in civilized countries).

As I have noted elsewhere: if I limited my reading and other entertainment to the product of only those I agreed with I’d have missed out on some wonderful stuff (Aliens being a case in point). But then I’m not gay, nor could I judge this if Card was against heterosexuality since I don’t define myself by my sexuality. The closest I can get is: how would I have felt if he’d been arguing to make atheism illegal? Come to think of it I’d still have gone to see the film and I would still have read the books. Views like his are so far outside the Zeitgeist as to be irrelevant.
Henry Gee has some interesting stuff to say about this on his blog. I can’t say I’m surprised by the first sentence – SF conventions seeming to have become the home of much righteous prickery of late. Check Jim Braiden’s comment for a relevant quote from Card.

Letter from my MP – E-cigs

Just to repeat things here’s a letter I sent to my MP:

Dear Sir,
A number of months back my wife was diagnosed with a serious complaint that requires major surgery and, this tending to focus one on matters of health, we both decided it was time to give up smoking. However, having made numerous attempts in the past and simply failing, we weren’t optimistic.
Some friends, who had given up a few years before, handed over their stash of NRT including patches, gum, microtabs, inhalators and some electronic cigarettes. All of these worked to some degree but the e-cig was the most effective, even though the ones we had were a few years old and malfunctioning. We then, to our surprise, found them for sale in Tesco and bought a Vapestick each. These, with their ‘cartomizers’ and more modern design were even better. Better still, thereafter, was an e-cig with a small glass tank that can take various flavours of e-liquid. It was the moment I started using one of these that I had an epiphany, realising that I would never ever again smoke a cigarette.
Incidentally, since I’m a known SF writer (ask David Davis) who also blogs a lot, this has led to six of my fans finally taking the plunge and giving up smoking using the same method.
It is now the case that even if I cannot give up ‘vaping’ my chances of dying from all those smoking-related maladies have just dropped through the floor. These devices are massively harm-reducing. Ignore all this mealy-mouthed nonsense that starts with ‘but we don’t know enough’. We know that a ‘vaper’ breathes in nicotine, a vaporising substance found in asthma inhalers, and water. Nicotine is certainly addictive, but is no more harmful than caffeine. Yes, some further supposedly harmful substances have been found, but no more than are found in conventional NRT – trace amounts – and of course the merest fraction of a per cent of two or three of the thousands of chemicals and 60 or so known carcinogens in real cigarettes.  
So, imagine my surprise and horror to learn that there are people who want to ban these devices, and that bans have in fact already been introduced on some trains and in some pub chains. Imagine how annoying it is for me to discover that legislation is being introduced, much to the delight of drug and cigarette companies, that will kill innovation in this new industry, make these devices difficult to sell, impose limits on the strength and flavours of e-liquids and, in essence will drive many ‘vapers’ back to smoking; many of the 1.3 million people now using e-cigs in Britain today.
This is madness. This reveals that activists at the likes of ASH are more concerned with activism itself rather than the purported reason for it. This reveals that such is the hatred of anti-smokers that they would rather people died than use something that looks like a cigarette.  This leads to complete Twilight Zone situations like one recently, when an NHS quit-smoking manager was complaining about a lack clients because they were using e-cigs.
Now, as my MP, what are you going to do about this? Here is something you can get behind that will actually save lives.

Yours Sincerely,

Here’s my MP’s reply:

What a total twat he is. One e-cig company recently checked with the MRHA about getting their products licensed. If they wanted to license them all the cost was in the millions.