Month: September 2019

Lawyers are already using misinformation on vaping to start class action lawsuits

The goal of these legal firms is to drum up as much misinformation on vaping as possible in order to file large class-action lawsuits that will end up financially benefiting them. This is outrageous and irresponsible.

Don’t put ordinary consumers on the hook for flying back Thomas Cook holidayers

Fred Roder
Managing Director
Consumer Choice Center

Don’t put ordinary consumers on the hook for flying back Thomas Cook holidayers

London, U.K. – On Monday, the travel company Thomas Cook announced it would cease operations immediately after it was unable to raise enough money to pay off its debts. This has left hundreds of thousands of travelers without return flights from their holiday destinations.

As a response, several politicians in the U.K. called for government aid to Thomas Cook, and the government has been called to intervene and help out stranded travelers.

Fred Roeder, London-based Managing Director of the Consumer Choice Center, responded by stating that an intervention by the government would be the wrong direction to take.

“It is sad to see a legacy travel company such as Thomas Cook to go under,” said Roeder. “But many politicians want to show their support to stranded travelers by flying them home on taxpayers’ dime.

“While it is very unfortunate to be stranded at the end of a holiday, one should ask why taxpayers should pay for tourists who didn’t buy insolvency or travel insurance?

“Why should those who stayed home because they either didn’t have the money or time for holidays bail out those who went for a holiday trip but didn’t want to spend the extra few pounds for insurance? This is effectively is the scenario that ordinary British consumers and taxpayers are faced with,” said Roeder.

“We cannot expect Britons who didn’t go on holiday to bail out those who did without reasonable insurance, and effectively bail out the company for its own financial mess.

“Airlines and tour operators going bankrupt happens regularly. Monarch and AirBerlin are just two recent European examples. If the government steps in every time a travel company goes bust, the wrong incentives will be set: Travelers won’t buy insurances and at the same time risk booking heavily discounted offers from troubled travel companies.

“If this happens, then the next government-sponsored airlift will just be around the corner,” said Roeder.

The Consumer Choice Center fights for affordable flights across the world. Read more here.

The Consumer Choice Center is the consumer advocacy group supporting lifestyle freedom, innovation, privacy, science, and consumer choice.

We represent consumers in over 100 countries across the globe and closely monitor regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Geneva and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice. Learn more at consumerchoicecenter.org.

Open letter to the Romanian government/parliamentarians

Dear Member of Parliament/the government,

We address this letter to you with regard to the law for the amendment of certain regulations applicable to the tobacco products sector. The amendment would introduce a tobacco display ban at points of sale, bans of sponsorship as well as 1-2-1 marketing. We believe that the rationale for these changes is not conclusive, and would like to explain the reasons for our opposition.

For consumers, the implementation of a display ban reduces the amount of information available for tobacco. Cigarettes are a legal product in Romania, yet consumers would become unable to identify differences between brands and are unexposed to new upcoming products. Added to that, a display ban creates uncertainty on the legal market, as the practice of selling cigarettes “under the counter” is equally present in the case of retailers engaging in the sales of illicit cigarettes.

A radical crackdown on tobacco as a legal product reinforces the prevalence of illicit trade. In France, where constant price increases, smoking bans, heavy regulation on harm-reducing products, and plain packaging are the norm, this phenomenon is particularly noticeable. There are some 7.6 billion contraband and counterfeit cigarettes in circulation in France, making up 13.1% of total consumption.

Some of our members have reported to us to have received counterfeit products when purchasing cigarettes in UK corner stores, where similar legislation is already in effect. A display ban might make it easier for vendors of counterfeit cigarettes to hide their illicit products from consumers and law enforcement until the moment of sale.

We would also like to draw your attention to the fact that a decrease in smoking susceptibility does not necessarily equate to a decline in smoking rates, since this decrease also correlates with a number of other factors, on both the regulatory and the educational side, as well as innovations such as harm-reducing products. 

A negative side-effect of a display ban can be that smoking is perceived as an ominous and secretive act, which encourages certain youth to pick it up. In a comparable fashion, illicit narcotic substances are also purchased in large numbers by youths, without any advertising or display. We know through evidence in countries that have legalised or decriminalised these substances (particularly in the case of cannabis) that youth consumption rates normalise as the handling of the substance reaches social acceptance.

We believe that harm-reducing products such as e-cigarettes represent an innovative way towards smoking cessation. A permissive approach to e-cigarettes would show a positive impact. According to the UK’s National Health Service (NHS), between 2011 and 2017, the number of UK smokers fell from 19.8% to 14.9%. At the same time, the number of e-cigarette users rose: almost half of these consumers use e-cigarettes as a means of quitting smoking.

Public health objectives can be attained through alternative products. This is why a simultaneous ban on e-cigarettes would be counterproductive. Display bans reduce the amount of information available to consumers, and mirrors the shadow economy, whose activities will be eased. Illicit tobacco trade is already a major reason for concern in Europe. Legislative acts such as these, so we fear, would worsen the situation.

We hope that our objections and concerns finds you well, and that we can work together towards achieving public health objectives in a manner that is reconcilable with consumer choice.

The Consumer Choice Center is the consumer advocacy group supporting lifestyle freedom, innovation, privacy, science, and consumer choice. The main policy areas we focus on are digital, mobility, lifestyle & consumer goods, and health & science. The CCC represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe. We closely monitor regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Geneva and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice.

Consumer Choice Champions: The Legislators Fighting Michigan Governor’s Vape Ban

Earlier this month, the state of Michigan took the unprecedented step of outlawing the sale of all vaping and e-cigarette products.

This move will deprive millions of Michiganders of the opportunity to switch away from more harmful methods of consuming nicotine.

Since the ban was announced unilaterally by Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, several committee hearings have been held in the capital of Lansing to discuss the broader issue of vaping’s effects on health, nicotine, and teen access to these products.

Witnesses have provided testimony on the effectiveness of vaping products, how they saved their lives, and why a ban on flavors will directly lead to more harm for thousands of former smokers.

Once such testimony, by Mark Slis, a scientist, vape shop owner, and former smoker in Houghton County, has since gone viral.

Some lawmakers, as a result of these hearings, have taken it upon themselves to fight against the governor’s rash ban.

On Thursday, a bill was introduced in the Michigan State House of Representatives to rescind the ban and to limit the governor’s authority to carry out such orders without properly consulting the State Legislature.

Led by State Rep. Beau LaFave from the Upper Peninsula, the other co-sponsors on the bill were State Reps. Greg Markkanen, Steven Johnson, Matt Maddock, Gary Eisen, Jack O’Malley, Aaron Miller, and Luke Meerman.

“I am getting frustrated with the governor’s double-speak,” said primary bill sponsor LaFave. “First she said she was going to ban flavored e-cigarettes immediately, then after intense public pressure, she decided her administration would take two months to reevaluate. Unfortunately, New York has announced it will implement a similar ban. In a rush to be the first state in the nation to implement this stupid policy, the governor has changed her mind once again, and ordered all businesses to destroy millions of dollars in merchandise within 14 days.”

“I don’t care if the executive is a Republican or Democrat nor a governor or president,” said LaFave. “Bad public policies implemented without input from lawmakers should never be ignored. I urge my colleagues from both sides of the aisle to look at all the facts before we rush to judgement and put thousands of Michiganders out of work and force thousands more back to smoking combustible cigarettes.”

The bill has now been sent to the Committee on Government Operations and will be heard next week.

Consumer Choice Centre warns against hasty vaping ban

A group that advocates on behalf of consumers in Canada and the U.S. is warning legislators not to be too hasty banning vaping.

The Consumer Choice Center is responding to the growing list of illnesses, including a case in London where a teen suffered a severe respiratory disease that health officials believe is associated with vaping.

The unnamed teen has recovered, but CEO and Medical Officer of Health at the Middlesex London Health Unit Dr. Christopher Mackie said the youth had “no other health issues, whatsoever.”

In the U.S., 380 illnesses, including seven deaths, have been recorded. The Consumer Choice Center is warning politicians not to act hastily.

“The cause of the person’s illness should definitely be investigated. However, it would be misguided for legislators to over-react and fail to embrace harm reduction in public policy decisions,” said David Clement, the North American affairs manager.

On Wednesday, Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott announced she had instructed hospitals to share information on possible vaping illnesses with the province’s Chief Medical Officer of Health.

“In light of growing evidence, I have become increasingly concerned about the prevalence and possible health consequences of vaping, particularly as they affect our youth,” said Elliott.

She did not say if the province will move, as other jurisdictions have, to ban flavoured vaping products citing a lack of sufficient data.

“Our worry is that Canadian regulators will overzealously respond to this case by proposing heavy-handed regulations like has been done in the United States,” continued Clement in a release. “Heavy-handed bans and restrictions will discourage smokers from leaving cigarettes behind, which is the opposite of what public health officials are trying to accomplish.”

The CCC also released a list of what it calls myths about vaping. It said vaping is not more harmful than smoking, citing statistics from groups like Public Health England who say it is 95 percent less damaging compared to smoking. It also said restricting vaping flavours will not curb use by minors.

This article was originally published on BlackburnNews.

The Consumer Choice Center is the consumer advocacy group supporting lifestyle freedom, innovation, privacy, science, and consumer choice. The main policy areas we focus on are digital, mobility, lifestyle & consumer goods, and health & science.

The CCC represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe. We closely monitor regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Geneva and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice. Learn more at consumerchoicecenter.org.

Taiwan’s quest to become a “blockchain island”

It has been over ten years since the world first heard of Bitcoin, but blockchain’s applications are still in their infancy. One legislator in Taiwan wants to change that. Nicknamed “Crypto Congressman” by Vitalik Buterin, Jason Hsu worked as a tech entrepreneur before getting involved in politics in 2016. Today, he’s on a mission to turn Taiwan into the world’s next blockchain island and crypto nation. 

Hsu believes that one of the main challenges for global policy making is bridging the gap between society and technology. He’s bringing his open-minded perspective to Taiwan’s parliament in an effort to promote a more tech-driven future for the country. A future in which blockchain plays a key role. 

Taiwan’s tech-forward governance

 “In September 2017 when China banned ICOs, I realized that Taiwan could capitalize on this opportunity,” explained Hsu in an interview. That’s when his quest to introduce blockchain-friendly legislation in the country began.

What followed was the launch of a fintech sandbox in Taiwan. The idea was two-fold: to attract more foreign investment and to encourage more homegrown tech startups in the financial sector. Favorable regulations coupled with a big pool of local engineering talent are hoped to put Taiwan on the map of world-class fintech hubs. 

But Hsu’s aspiration reaches far beyond the sandbox. He envisions applying blockchain to various aspects of governance: from the Department of Health, through Education, to Justice. The Crypto Congressman is currently involved in 25 different projects that aim to increase efficiency and improve people’s lives with blockchain. He also promised to develop an entire blockchain district in Taipei with a special community coin that would be issued to entrepreneurs. 

What can blockchain do for the people? 

Blockchain has gotten a lot of bad reputation in the last few years. When the Bitcoin bubble burst, skeptics were quick to proclaim blockchain a fad. Others, on the other hand, pointed out that the internet started with a speculative bubble, too. It was only after the dot-com crisis that the World Wide Web reached its maturity. Is blockchain’s real potential still largely unexplored? 

According to Hsu and other visionary legislators, the answer is yes. They see the crypto speculation as a distraction from far greater tasks ahead: improving public services and increasing trust in governments. 

The most important thing you need to know about blockchain is that it consists of a chain of immutable blocks, or pieces of information if you will. Every single transaction is recorded and the records stay in the system forever. You can’t delete, change or hide the data. 

For governments, this could be a real deal-breaker. All the mundane transactions between the citizens and the government bodies would be revolutionized. Birth and death certificates, academic degrees, deeds, proof of identity and any other paperwork could all exist in the decentralized system. This would prevent fraud and make safe online transactions a lot easier, including e-voting or online property exchange. 

The distributed ledger system can also be used to hold governments accountable and fight corruption. Blockchain could provide a permanent record of all public funds and spendings. In a utopian scenario, each citizen would be able to track where every penny of their taxes goes. 

Blockchain adoption worldwide

Taiwan is not the only country to experiment with blockchain. The small nation of the Marshall Islands is set to become the world’s first state to adopt a digital legal tender. Sovereign, or SOV, will supplement the US dollar, which is currently the official currency of the Marshall Islands. Following the launch of the national cryptocurrency, the country will transition to a new model of governance, based on blockchain. 

Another country incorporating blockchain for governance is Estonia. The Baltic state uses Ethereum to manage its e-residency program. Under the first-of-its-kind scheme, anyone can apply online to become an e-citizen in Estonia and legally start a business there. With cutting-edge initiatives like this one, it’s no surprise that the Estonian government was quick to embrace blockchain. However, the plans to roll out a national cryptocurrency, Estcoin, were paused indefinitely. 

And finally, there is a contestant for the “blockchain island” title eyed by Taiwan. Malta is known as one of the most blockchain-friendly countries in the world, thanks to a very favorable regulatory framework passed in 2018. The island country already managed to attract many large cryptocurrency exchanges: OKEx and Binance, for example, have established their headquarters there. 

Technology is the only way forward

More and more governments around the world are realizing what Jason Hsu already knows: that “blockchain is here to stay.” Implementation of blockchain-powered technologies is no longer an “if” but a “when”. In a fast-paced digital environment, legislators have a choice to move forward with the tech developments or become obsolete. The entrepreneurial spirit of “moving fast and breaking stuff” that Hsu brings to Taiwanese parliament might be just what contemporary policymakers need. 

The Consumer Choice Center is the consumer advocacy group supporting lifestyle freedom, innovation, privacy, science, and consumer choice. The main policy areas we focus on are digital, mobility, lifestyle & consumer goods, and health & science.

The CCC represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe. We closely monitor regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Geneva and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice. Learn more at consumerchoicecenter.org.

Politicians are scapegoating e-cigs for harm they haven’t done

When there’s an outbreak of deaths or illnesses from injected street drugs, do public health authorities demand diabetics and doctors stop using syringes? Of course not. Yet a host of public officials — from President Trump to Gov. Andrew Cuomo to members of the Squad — are taking just that sort of approach in responding to the spate of vaping-related illnesses and deaths around the country.

Cuomo, for example, went on a tear Sunday about vaping, calling it “a burgeoning health crisis” and threatening to declare an emergency to ban flavored nicotine e-cigarettes. That followed Trump’s announcement last Wednesday of federal plans to prohibit such devices.

The dramatic sudden outbursts of concern come after six deaths and 380 severe acute pulmonary illnesses, including at least 41 in New York. The cases were linked not to nicotine e-cigarettes but to vaping THC, the active ingredient in cannabis.

E-cigarettes like Juul are intended to be used to inhale nicotine, but other types of vaping devices can also deliver cannabis-derived substances such as butane hash oils, known as “dabs.”

Scientists at New York’s Department of Health have led the way in pointing the finger at black-market THC-containing liquids, finding “very high levels of vitamin E acetate in nearly all cannabis-containing samples analyzed” in their investigation.

State laboratory test results found that “at least one vitamin E acetate-containing vape product has been linked to each patient who submitted a product for testing.” Vitamin E acetate is an oily substance used to thicken cannabis-derived vaping liquids.

Vaping devices, including e-cigarette hardware, are simply devices for delivering an aerosolized solution. Nicotine e-cigarettes, which serve as a substitute for deadly cigarettes that burn tobacco, typically contain a solution of nicotine, flavorings and vegetable glycerin or propylene glycol.

Globally, tens of millions of people have used billions of e-cigarettes without any acute ill effects. In fact, the US Food and Drug Administration has told state health officials that lab testing of unused legal nicotine vape products of the type obtained from sick patients (who likely also used an illegal THC oil) found no contaminants or ingredients suspected of causing illness.

It’s a very different story when a vaporizer is used to deliver black-market street drugs like the cannabis-derived oils that are being dangerously adulterated with vitamin E acetate.

In announcing the planned federal ban on flavored e-cigarettes in the midst of the outbreak of lung disease, Trump is being misled. Vaping nicotine is an approach to harm-reduction, and appealing non-tobacco flavors are critical to reduce the likelihood that adults will revert to smoking cigarettes.

Exposure to nicotine is not healthy, to be sure, and kids should not vape (unless they already smoke cigarettes and want to transition to a less harmful alternative). But prohibition seldom works, and data from the FDA indicate that while vaping in teens is up, cigarette smoking has fallen to historic lows.

Still, elected officials continue their attack on e-cigarettes, recommending that nearly everyone stop vaping immediately.

That might seem like an abundance of caution, but it’s really an abundance of chicanery. Linking acute lung disease to e-cigarettes is no more logical than warning people about the dangers of vaccination because vaccines are delivered through a needle, and people can get hepatitis from dirty needles.

Expansive warnings to stop vaping altogether, instead of to avoid illicit contaminated THC products, are like advising ex-smokers who have switched to vaping to return to smoking cigarettes. That puts vapers’ lives at risk.

What we need is aggressive state, local and federal enforcement against teen vaping and Drug Enforcement Administration action against illegal THC vapes that cause lung disease.

Meanwhile, why are politicians and public health officials behaving so badly? We have a hypothesis: Until now, the most prominent allegations of serious health effects (even for adults) from e-cigarettes were hypotheticals — such as that vaping would be a “gateway” to cigarette smoking — that have failed to materialize.

In fact, teen cigarette-smoking has been declining. Now, with reports of verifiable acute illnesses and even deaths, politicians are brazenly attempting to indict nicotine vaping, even though their case against the practice is without merit.

In a reckless attempt to redeem their credibility in their war on e-cigarettes, they’ve doubled down on misinformation, disingenuously implying that cannabis-derived oils, home-brewed THC vapes and unadulterated nicotine-containing e-cigarettes all pose the same risks.

They think they can get away with it because … well, virtually nobody has challenged them. It’s time more people did.

Henry Miller is a Pacific Research Institute senior fellow and the founding director of the Food and Drug Administration’s Office of Biotechnology. Jeff Stier is a Consumer Choice Center senior fellow.

Originally published here

Muito além do chocolate e da cerveja: o que fazer em Bruxelas em 48 horas

Além dessas vantagens, a capital belga também tem o aeroporto mais bem-avaliado da Europa, segundo levantamento publicado em agosto pelo Consumer Choice Center. Uma das dificuldades de acesso ao país, reconhece Geert Van Dessel, gerente do Brussels Airport, é a malha aérea. “Não existe voo direto do Brasil para a Bélgica”, lamenta.

Read more here

La méthode scientifique est menacée

OPINION. La routine du «qui vous finance?» pratiquée par les activistes écologistes nuira à la confiance de la méthode scientifique, avance Bill Wirtz, analyste pour le Consumer Choice Center.

Supposons qu’un scientifique vous dise qu’une certaine équation mathématique est manifestement correcte. On pouvait tourner l’équation de toutes les façons possibles, mais on en arrivait toujours à la même conclusion. Supposons maintenant que ce scientifique ait pris la parole une fois à une conférence et que sa chambre d’hôtel ait été payée par une industrie qui avait un intérêt direct à ce que l’équation soit vraie. Certains diront qu’il y a conflit d’intérêts, mais on ne peut supposer qu’il a orchestré une distorsion de ses travaux scientifiques que si l’on peut démontrer que l’équation est fausse. Aucun argent au monde ne peut changer les faits.

Read more here

DEBATE: London Fashion Week is drawing to a close, but does fast fashion stand up to ethical scrutiny?

Bill Wirtz, senior policy analyst at the Consumer Choice Center, says YES.

Every few weeks, there is a new environmentalist quest to ban something that consumers like. While activists in the UK are protesting “fast fashion”, their German counterparts are shouting about SUVs,in the hope that a week of media attention will move someone in parliament to overreact and outlaw it.

The truth is this: certain consumers want to follow fashion trends on a seasonal basis, and that remains their prerogative. Hardly any consumer renews their entire wardrobe twice a year (mostly for financial reasons). They merely complete it with a new sweater or jeans. And they should be allowed to.

Sustainability is not ignored: many of the brands accused of contributing to climate change are already running sustainability commitments, and even have in-store recycling programmes.

Yes, some consumers follow trends as a way to express their personal style or artistic expression, while others opt for long-term and more durable options. The choice is key – and it would be unethical to limit that.

Read more here

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