Month: February 2021

Climate change, nuclear power and security

Germany is a modern country that, for many, serves as an example of a functioning state. All the more astonished must be those who have observed our energy policy in recent years.

Not so long ago, when a pandemic did not yet dominate the world, there was one central issue in politics. Thousands of young people took to the streets every Friday to show their anger at politicians’ perceived inaction on the climate issue. Eventually, Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old face of the movement, named Time Magazine’s “Person of the Year 2019” despite criticism. The award certainly shows how much momentum the movement had last year.

The solutions of NGOs, governments, scientists and the young demonstrators differ fundamentally among themselves. Still, there is one thing they have in common: all strategies have a reduction of greenhouse gases, especially CO2, as their goal. In doing so, governments are faced with a difficult task. After all, there are interests to be weighed up. Without a significant loss of prosperity, one cannot merely close all coal and gas-fired power plants and switch to wind.  

A safe, efficient, CO2-neutral alternative that could produce a lot of energy, as well as having been tested by years of experience from different countries, does not exist. 

Except, of course, nuclear energy. To say that nuclear energy is a safe alternative is almost like calling water low calorie. Even renewable energy sources, such as hydroelectric power plants, solar and wind power, tend to be inferior to nuclear energy in this respect. If you look at the data, it makes your head spin to think of the ideological battle that has been waged against nuclear power for years. The safety of energy sources is calculated by relating the number of deaths to energy production. For example, a 2016 study found that nuclear energy production kills about 0.01 people per terawatt hour. Just for comparison: with lignite, it’s approximately 32.72 people, and with coal, we’re talking about 24.62 deaths, according to a 2007 study.  This means that about 3200 times as many people die with lignite as with nuclear power – there are beautiful places inhabited by fewer people.

But how does nuclear power compare to renewables? In the 2016 study already cited above, solar energy comes in at 0.019 deaths per terawatt hour, hydropower at 0.024, and finally wind power at 0.035 ends. The research includes the traumatic experience of Fukushima. But how traumatic is it? One would think that the disaster would cause the numbers to skyrocket, but, at the time of the study, there was not a single death that was a direct result of the disaster – in 2018, the Japanese government reported the first death, one person died of lung cancer.

But what happens if we use a conservative, cautious methodology? The 2007 study cited above does just that. In the systematic comparison of energy sources at “Our World in Data”, both studies are quoted and compared. The authors of the 2007 study are quoted there:

“Markandya and Wilkinson (2007) include estimated death tolls from separate accidents (not including Fukushima) but also provide an estimate of deaths from occupational effects. They note that deaths:

“can arise from occupational effects (especially from mining), routine radiation during generation, decommissioning, reprocessing, low-level waste disposal, high-level waste disposal, and accidents. “

So the paper says that Markadya and Wilkinson use the LNT method (linear-no-threshold), which assumes that there is no harmless “minimum” and radioactive irradiation, but rather that the potential damage is linear to the radiation levels. This is a very conservative and cautious method, but we only arrive at a rate of 0.074 deaths per terawatt-hour of energy produced even with this study. 

One terawatt hour is about the amount of energy consumed by 27 000 people in the EU per year. If we assume the very conservative methodology, the converse is that we would need 14 years for one person in this group to die. This study includes one of the most significant nuclear accidents in human history, Chernobyl. It is highly probable that the processes that led to the super disaster in the Soviet nuclear power plant have very little to do with the responsible management of today’s nuclear power plants. Moreover, technological progress has brought about further safety improvements.

So if we take the less conservative approach, it would take about 100 years before we had the first fatality in this group of people. And this with a downward tendency, because we can assume that there will be further technical improvements in the future.

Against this backdrop, the German energy turnaround not only appears to be a defeat of politics, which cannot implement its goals, it is above all a failure of science and reason.

The targets set for the promotion of renewable energies have not been achieved. According to European statistics, Germany emitted 752.655 Mt of CO2 into the air in 2018. This corresponds to 9.146 t per capita annually. Just for comparison, France produced 323.279 Mt of CO2 in the same period, which is equivalent to 4.956 t of emissions per capita.

What about the reduction of CO2 and greenhouse gases? Germany was able to reduce CO2 emissions from energy production by 24% between 1990 and 2018. That sounds good, as long as you don’t know the data of your neighbour. In France, we read of a reduction of 27%. Between 2005 and 2015, Germany recorded a decrease of 8% for all greenhouse gases in this category. The model pupil from France can score here with 44% (!). Of course, there are several reasons for this. Among other things, France obtains a large part, namely 75%, of its energy from nuclear power. Unfortunately, there are plans to reduce this share to 50% by 2035, but this cannot be compared with Germany’s brutal nuclear phase-out. 

Steven Pinker, a world-renowned Harvard professor, is puzzled by the irrationality of the Germans. In a Spiegel Online interview, he argues that nuclear power plants are safe and that the German consensus on nuclear energy could soon be history. If you want to fight climate change, he says, it is simply irrational to forego a low-CO2 and safe option. 

It makes no sense to do without nuclear energy and at the same time continue to use fossil fuels, which are responsible for many more deaths every year.

In the USA, P.A. Kharecha and J.E. Hansen examined the historical impact of nuclear energy in 2013. According to their calculations, about 2 million lives were saved between 1973 and 2009 because nuclear energy was used instead of fossil fuels. They also try to quantify the impact of the German energy transition. For example, Stephen Jarvis, Olivier Deschenes, and Akshaya Jha calculated in a 2020 study that the Energiewende has cost 1100 lives a year.

It is really not easy to understand why, at a time when climate change is one of the main issues in politics, a safe and low-carbon alternative is being abandoned. 

Nuclear power is not a danger but an opportunity. Goals such as climate and environmental protection are an essential challenge of our time. The German nuclear phase-out harms Germany’s inhabitants and the climate, it also harms the entire world, as Germany has taken on a pioneering role.

It is to be hoped that the German consensus on nuclear energy will indeed be broken and that as few states as possible will follow Germany’s policy. Fortunately, the latter is unlikely due to the results of the energy turnaround so far.

Originally published here.

Free the buses

We need to push bus market liberalisation further.

One of the EU’s common transport policy principles is the freedom to provide services in the field of transport. This freedom includes access to international transport markets for all EU carriers without discrimination on the grounds of nationality or place of establishment. The second Mobility Pack is encouraging the liberalisation of the inter-city bus market. Therefore, it is attempting to replicate that which has been a success in countries like Germany (and subsequently France after the Macron labour reforms).

In Germany, the coach usage has sextupled between 2012 and 2016, while ticket prices are simultaneously falling from €0.11 to €0.089 per kilometre in the same period, with discount prices going down from €0.05 to €0.036 per kilometre. This evolution is crucial for the development of improved transport services, and most importantly, for the living standards low-income households. The competition of buses in the inter-city transport business has increased competition between air travel, rail, and car-sharing, to the extent that consumers see themselves with increased choices and reduced prices on all fronts. Instead of giving in to interest groups in one sector or the other, which profit from restricted market access, allowing for the competition is the real way to improve consumer services quality.

Protecting a local provider for the sake of protectionism would negate the spirit of free trade within the Single Market. This will ultimately be the challenge if liberalisation of the coach market is settled as a desirable goal by the EU: market entry costs will be crucial in determining if the system works. Allowing for bus travel between city A and B is all well-intended. Still, suppose city B requires a special permit, paid in the local currency and subject to administrative approval. In that case, we’ll soon find ourselves once again with increased prices in favour of a state-owned rail company or a subsidised airline. Market entry costs cannot only be unfairly advantageous to local providers but may very well turn against them. Large coach-providers have the capabilities to comply with local market regulations and figure out rules and regulations, while small start-ups might not be able to do the same. 

Once again, market-entry costs would then limit the supply and give a specific provider preferential treatment. In the interest of the consumers, member states should commit to liberalise the routes and make it easy for new companies to enter the market and compete on it.

Bus transport providers will be aware that price increases will experience the market’s price-elastic nature, meaning that consumers respond swiftly to higher prices. This is, of course, related to the fact that the market provides alternatives such as air travel, car sharing, rail, or simply using your car. The fact that all options remain on the table is crucial for the price development in this sector.

As long as local regulators respect this principle, the fear that the current market landscape, or even a more concentrated market in which a handful of companies take over their competitors, would become predatory, is doubtful. In this instance, consumer choice isn’t only an argument of principle for the freedom of consumers. Still, it represents a guarantee against a market controlled by a handful of people or companies.

Ultimately, bus market liberalisation means that consumers can travel more efficiently and cheaply than ever before. It offers low-income households the opportunity to benefit from the same opportunities as everyone else. It helps reduce social inequality. 

However, challenges remain even as liberalisation progresses. Not all member states are on top of their game when it comes to reducing barriers, so more is left to be done to reach a fully integrated single transport market.

Originally published here.

Bar owners call on province to sell them cheaper booze

Ontario’s hard-hit hospitality industry is urging the province to give licensed bars and restaurants a reduced price on alcohol.

A new change.org petition started by David Ouellette, beverage director at the highly anticipated Vela (by Amanda Bradley of Alo and Robin Goodfellow of Bar Raval), opening this spring, asks for an immediate 25% reduction in the LCBO markup on alcohol sales to bar and restaurant licensees.

Ouellette is one of several people in the business calling out for lowered alcohol prices.

What’s really needed is wholesale pricing, but that, said Ouellette in a statement, will take too long. The25% reduction is a more realistic goal and will give fast relief to the sector.

Ontario’s antiquated liquor laws are the reason bars and restaurants pay full retail price through the LCBO for the alcohol they serve; to make any sort of profit they then add their margin, and consumers are left paying through the nose when they order a drink at a restaurant, bar or club.

John Sinopoli, co-owner of Ascari Hospitality Group and co-founder of SaveHospitality.ca — a grassroots coalition of Canadian restaurant and hospitality businesses — wrote about this issue last month in the Toronto Sun.

The upcoming Ontario budget expected in March, he said, “presents an opportunity for a regulatory change that is completely in line with the platform that Premier Doug Ford and the Progressive Conservative government campaigned on, i.e. reducing taxes for small business, modernizing the LCBO, and the sale of alcohol in Ontario.”

Sinopoli acknowledged that Ford’s government has already made an important change by allowing restaurants to sell alcohol with take-out.

Still, wholesale prices would be an economic game-changer; as the new petition states, even a 25% reduction will help the industry and the consumer, and will also, “Return huge dividends to the LCBO as this reduction in the markup will be the single most effective investment in future sales that the LCBO will ever make.”

What’s at stake are more than 30,000 establishments and more than 300,000 employees.

Support for Ouellette’s petition and the push for lower alcohol prices to bars and restaurants is coming from David Clement, North American affairs manager for the Consumer Choice Center.

Clement says this is one way the province could really help both consumers and bar and restaurant operations right now.

“Consumers want, and need, more competitive pricing at restaurants for beer, wine, and spirits, and this change would do exactly that,” said Clement.

“Ideally restaurants would be able to order beverage alcohol directly from producers without having to deal with the LCBO as the middleman. All the LCBO’s involvement does is ensure artificially-high prices for consumers.”

This change would also help businesses recover after the pandemic is finally over.

“This could be the lightning rod needed to get people back into restaurants post-COVID. It has an immense upside now, and after COVID is gone.”

There are other hoped-for changes, said Clement. Grocery stores that now sell beer and wine could also sell spirits, if the government would allow it.

The government has already shown itself willing to change, said Clement, via extended hours of sale, allowing delivery from restaurants and their commitment to eventually sell alcohol in convenience stores.

Lowering the markup now“is part of fixing our archaic and dated alcohol system.”

Originally published here.

[AGGP COP9] Framework Convention for Tobacco Control (FCTC)

1) WHAT PROBLEM ARE THESE POLICIES AND POSITIONS SUPPOSED TO ADDRESS?

At present, the FCTC organization refrains from recommending or even positively mentioning electronic nicotine delivery systems, or vaping devices. One of the latest briefs, dated 24. May 2018, they claim at the evidence on vaping devices is “inconclusive,” and “urge the COP not to engage in lengthy debate on this topic”.

What’s more, they have specifically claimed that ENDS devices do not have enough research or evidence to prove that they are less harmful than traditional combustion tobacco.

This claim is directly contradictory to Public Health England’s own research and official position, which has time and time again found that vaping is 95% less harmful than smoking. 

At the 2018 FCTC COP8 meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, Anne Bucher, director-general of the EU’s Health and Food Safety Directorate, mentioned that despite containing no tobacco, vaping and e-cigarette devices should be considered ‘tobacco products’, subject to all the same laws, restrictions, and bans. The treaty itself sought to enforce the same restrictions on vaping and e-cigarettes as cigarettes and cigars. This will actually hamper people’s ability to quit smoking, and thus is antithetical to the mission and statements of the United Kingdom’s own public health agencies.

The FCTC’s treaty proposals aim to equate vaping products with traditional tobacco products, which is a claim that does not hold up to scrutiny and should be outright objected to by the UK member delegates at COP9.

Rather, the FCTC must revisit its recommendations on ENDS products in order to differentiate them completely from traditional tobacco and to encourage member states to implement the research conducted by bodies such as Public Health England that greenlight vaping as a powerful harm reduction tool for smokers.

2) JUSTIFICATION OF PROPOSALS

The FCTC is a global treaty organized by the World Health Organization. It claims its authority from the Conference of the Parties member countries, as well as the Convention Secretariat. As such, all recommendations that come from the delegation debates and discussions are based merely on topics and scientific evidence that is accepted by the Convention Secretariat, rather than proposed by the individual member countries.

This is antithetical to the United Kingdom’s broader democratic goals domestically, and its commitment to further evidence-based policy in treaty-making organizations abroad.

The main decision-making authorities within the COP process come to their conclusions based on political considerations rather than scientific ones, outright rejecting peer-reviewed scientific claims that seek to amplify broader voices of tobacco harm reduction. Rather, the FCTC and the COP are mostly focused on tobacco control and eradication, rather than harm mitigation and reduction.

3) TRANSPARENCY AND CONSULTATION

The vast majority of the advice and evidence accepted by the FCTC and COP is submitted by nongovernmental organisation members and member states. Most, if not all, nongovernmental organisations that are also members of the COP are strictly tobacco control groups that also do not discuss the advantages or life-saving potential of harm-reducing technologies such as vaping. 

Groups such as the International Network of Nicotine Consumer Organisations have had their observer status to the COP rejected on such frivolous grounds. Because the entire mission of their organisation is not “the eradication of tobacco” in name, it is not allowed to participate or even witness the proceedings. This is also true of our organisation, the Consumer Choice Center.

The only scientific evidence on vaping that has been allowed into the proceedings are drafted, funded, and proposed by tobacco control groups. To no one’s surprise, much of this evidence posits that ENDS and vaping devices “have no proven potential” to be a safer alternative to traditional tobacco.

In addition, the FCTC’s COP, in recent years, has committed large sections of its programming and delegate member time to decide whether journalists should be allowed to sit on or reports on various proceedings of the parties in attendance. This has resulted in dozens of journalists being stripped of their accreditations and forcibly removed from the physical event. This stands against the UK’s defence of freedom of speech.

This rejection of current scientific evidence and consensus, especially from the UK’s own health bodies, is a troubling and problematic state of affairs for the entire FCTC COP procedure. As is the growing “closed-door” proceedings that do not allow in a free press. This must be challenged on all fronts.

4) EXPLORE THE THREAT OF UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES OF PROPOSALS WITHIN COP9.

Public health policies in the United Kingdom are harmed by the FCTC because the treaty mechanism serves to disincentivise policies that endorse general harm reduction via vaping devices. Seen by the COP, the UK’s policies that encourage smokers to switch to vaping are seen as problematic and could result in sanctions and penalties by the global health body.

What’s more, the stated recommendations of largely outlawing or discouraging vaping devices and vaping technology by the treaty attach compliance with “implementation funds”. That means that member countries that pass restrictions on vaping products are “rewarded” with hundreds of millions of pounds. This was the case with the Republic of Georgia in 2017, which received millions of pounds in exchange for passing a tough anti-tobacco law which also targeted vaping devices. By passing the bill, the Georgian government received promises that it would vastly increase its chances of future European Union accession. The vast majority of the money offered came from British taxpayers, by way of the British delegation to the FCTC.

In this way, the UK’s membership in the FCTC’s COP is not only helping support health policies that directly contradict its own public health establishment, but it also means that British taxpayer dollars are being used as an incentive for countries to implement policies that discourage vaping and make it more difficult. The FCTC’s policies and grants are also being used to coerce current and hopeful member countries that are in large need of developmental funds to grow their economies.

5) FIT FOR PURPOSE.

  1. Because of the evidence stated above, the FCTC protocol has become more of a tool for political power and control rather than considerate public health policies. The goal of harm reduction, which is key to the United Kingdom’s policies toward smokers, is now completely abandoned by the FCTC, if not outright rejected in a hostile manner when brought up by researchers and member countries.
  1. The WHO’s FCTC has strayed from its original intent on helping switch from tobacco to become an organisation that is wholly concentrated on eradicating all alternatives that could help save lives. Reduced-risk products are innovative tools that have helped millions of ordinary Britons and even more people around the world, but the status quo within the FCTC COP ensures that these products cannot get a fair hearing.
  1. Rather than serving as an international platform to discuss smarter and more effective ways to reduce tobacco consumption, the FCTC has instead become an insular sounding board for tobacco control groups and member country delegations that wish to centralise and bureaucratise efforts to reduce smoking, all the while denying the very real positive impacts associated with alternative nicotine delivery products such as vaping. The revolution of harm reduction has so far been championed by UK public health authorities and has encouraged millions of entrepreneurs to creatively offer these products to former smokers. For the FCTC and affiliated organisations, this robust private sector revolution is a movement to be condemned and thwarted. The United Kingdom can longer afford to tacitly agree with the direction of this organisation and is recommended to champion the scientific cause and purpose of harm-reducing technologies such as vaping. With the United Kingdom’s influence, the FCTC could once more achieve its purpose of reducing tobacco consumption around the world.

The Marlins Park Saga, Illegal Fishing, And Are Plastic Bans Good For The Environment?

Miami’s tough relationship with the Miami Marlins. Why illegal fishing is having devastating effects on marine life. Do plastic bans actually work in favor of the environment?

The Marlins Park Saga

If you’ve lived in Miami at some point in the past decade or two, you’re probably familiar with the controversy surrounding Marlins Park. Essentially, it was paid for with more than $600 million taxpayer dollars.

The city agreed to pay for it — as long as the team’s then-owner shared in any profits he made from selling the team.

“In 2008, Jeffrey Loria, the former owner of the Marlins, threatened to leave Miami if they didn’t get a new stadium. The Major League Baseball president at the time, Bob Dupuy, put an ultimatum to [Miami-Dade] County saying, ‘If you guys don’t help finance a new stadium, you can kiss baseball in South Florida goodbye,’” said WLRN reporter Danny Rivero on Sundial.

When Loria sold the team in 2017 for $1.2 billion, he refused to share the money promised, claiming he lost money in the sale.

“He said because of that, he didn’t owe the county or the city any money on this. That is what led to the lawsuit with the county and the city saying, ‘Hold on. Like, there’s no way that that math adds up. Like, we’re clearly owed something.’ The taxpayers are owed something from this huge profit,” Rivero said.

This week a settlement was reached on that lawsuit filed by the county, but commissioners decided to delay voting on the proposed $4.2 million from settling the suit.

Illegal Fishing

When you take a bite out of spicy tuna roll, or purchase salmon from your local supermarket, do you know if that fish was obtained illegally?

It’s nearly impossible to pinpoint just how much of that fish is coming from illegal sources, experts say. Marine ecosystems have been devastated by these unregulated markets and the practice of overfishing.

“Fish is the principal source of protein in the world. Lots of populations throughout the world only depend on fish and fish to survive. One of the most devastating impacts that illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing has is that it takes away the only source of protein that many coastal communities have throughout the world,” said former Costa Rican president Luis Guillermo Solís on Sundial.

Solís is currently interim chair of the Kimberly Green Latin American and Caribbean Center at Florida International University. He was part of the university’s annual State of the World Conference this week, where he presented on the illegal fishing market.

He added that as a consumer, insisting that stores identify the source of the fish they’re selling, is a step in the right direction.

“Fishing has been determined as of the highest national security importance. This is very important in the Western Hemisphere. It’s going to be fundamental because it will allow for greater degrees of collaboration between our countries,” Solís said.

Are Plastic Bans Good For The Environment?

Plastic pollution contributes to a lot of our environmental hardships. It harms wildlife, the ocean and it contributes to the climate crisis by emitting greenhouse gases.

But plastic is also practical, durable and cheap.

Florida has a state-level preemption that blocks local governments from banning single-use plastics.

“We need to ask companies to reduce the amount of plastic they are putting into the supply chain and find alternative ways to package and deliver their products,” said Catherine Uden, the South Florida campaign organizer for Oceana. “Often consumers are not even given a choice when they go to the stores.”

In January, state lawmakers Linda Stewart and Mike Grieco introduced a bill to change that preemption to allow local plastic bans. Some argue, though, that these bans are not the solution.

“There are legitimate and environmentally conscious reasons for why we use plastic,” said David Clement, with the Consumer Choice Center advocacy group.

“The differences between a glass container for something like baby food and a plastic container. It’s about 33 percent better for the environment to have that product be in plastic because it’s lighter. It’s easier to get to your grocery shelf. It costs less in terms of fuel and emissions,” Clement said.

Clement recently penned an op-ed in the Miami Herald saying that extending the lifespan of plastics by building better infrastructure for recycling would be a better option.

Recycling, as it is now, has not been effective — less than 10 percent all plastic waste has been recycled.

“It’s like going into your house and seeing your sink overflowing and instead of turning off the tap, then just grabbing them up and trying to mop up the floor,” said local advocate Andrew Otazo. He spends his time cleaning up plastic trash from South Florida’s waterways.

Originally published here.

Red meat is not the enemy

Targeting meat misses the point.

The leaked EU Beating Cancer Plan layed out that Brussels wants to crack down on red meat, in an effort to reduce cancer in Europe. The European Commission considered dropping marketing subsidies for red and processed meat because of health concerns, but later reverted as it faced backlash. We now know that the Commission was testing the waters.

While it’s generally good news when a government institution drops subsidies, the reasons for it do matter. The idea that red meat constitutes a public health risk is not a new one, nor are calls to tax or sometimes even restrict the consumption of it directly. 

The essential claim is that processed meat is a danger to public health, as it is associated with an increased risk of cancer. The “associated with” is quite an important keyword here, especially since it is being repeated so often. Everything you consume is essentially carcinogenic, and can therefore be linked to different cancers. The question is how dangerous it is exactly. 

A study by Dr. Marco Springmann and James Martin, both Fellows at the Oxford Martin School bases claims on is a 2011 meta-analysis from the Paris Institute of Technology for Life, Food and Environmental Sciences, which says this:

“The preventability of colorectal cancer in the United Kingdom through reduced consumption of red meat, increased fruit and vegetables, increased physical activity, limited alcohol consumption and weight control was estimated to be 31.5 per cent of colorectal cancer in men and 18.4 per cent in women.”

You may have noticed here that reducing red meat consumption is just one out of five key characteristics that people would have to follow in order to cut down their risk of colorectal cancer by up to a third (for men). If you narrow it down only to red meat consumption, you find a possible risk reduction in the UK of five per cent, provided the person was eating more than 80g of red meat per day. So yes, certain people can reduce their risk of certain cancers to a certain degree if they limit their consumption of red meat.

However, this is only true if people reduce their consumption of red meat without offsetting it with any other consumption.

It seems that there is an unfortunate disinterest of public health advocates for the occurrence of unintended consequences. If you limit access to one product, people are likely to find alternative routes to consume that product elsewhere. Take the example of Denmark’s fat tax, introduced in the same year that the Paris meta-analysis was published. In October 2011, Denmark’s leading coalition introduced a tax on fattening foods and beverages, such as butter, milk, cheese, meat, pizza, and oil, as long as they contain more than 2.3 per cent saturated fat. After fifteen months, the same parliamentary majority repealed the tax, as the Danes recognised the measure to be a failure.

The EU’s Beating Cancer Plan initial draft was ready to open a Pandora’s Box, and it only hastily closed again after an excess of criticism. Cutting subsidies is not bad in itself, but the belief that all red meat is a human health hazard can lead to deeper paternalistic policies that are not based on evidence. It is true that we should all consume products in moderation — including red meat — and should increase our willingness to exercise. That said, it is not for legislators to tilt the scales on our diets, and decide which products are good for us, and which are not. It is for consumers to plan and execute their diets, in a conscious way.

Originally published here.

Planet of the Vapes: Vaping is the gateway out of smoking

The Parliament Magazine is issued on a fortnightly basis to inform and educate politicians with “with balanced, objective and informative coverage”. The latest issue carries an article by Consumer Choice Center’s Maria Chaplia and World Vapers’ Alliance’s Michael Landl saying that “Vaping is the gateway out of smoking”.

The World Vapers’ Alliance has been exceptionally active lately, from attacking the SCHEER Report [link] and demonstrating at the European Parliament [link] to organising a spectacular protest in the Netherlands [link].

The Consumer Choice Center says it, “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 Parliament Magazine and its sister publications highlight, “innovation and best practice across key regional policy sectors, as well as providing up to date news and analysis of regional policy legislation and developments at EU, national and regional levels.”

In the latest edition Chaplia and Landl say: “The innovative nature of vaping has contributed to its success and allowed it to quickly gain popularity among smokers.”

They argue that despite the novel technology being targeted by opponents as a gateway into smoking the truth is the opposite, and the longer the EU continues to attack harm reduction, “the fewer smokers get a chance to switch to a safer and healthier alternative.”

The newest Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) UK report states that “only 0.3 percent of never-smokers are current vapers (amounting to 2.9 percent of vapers)”. Therefore, a gateway effect to smoking is not reflected in the data and many studies show the opposite effect. For example, smoking rates in the UK – where public health authorities encourage vaping as a gateway out of smoking – are at an all-time low and there is no sign of vaping causing more smoking.”

They address the fact that countries which have embraced harm reduction, such as the UK, have seen accelerated declines in smoking rates, whereas countries like Australia have witnessed a deceleration to abject stalls.

The correlation between the introduction and the popularity of vaping and declining smoking rates suggests that vaping is an important innovation to help people quit smoking. The 2018 US National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine Report found that the smoking rate has decreased overall more rapidly since vaping became more prominent in the United States.”

While politicians may read the text, will they listen to the message? It’s very clear: “Despite many voices seeking to undermine vaping as a gateway out of smoking, the evidence is sound: vaping saves lives.”

Originally published here.

UK: Bipartisan Inquiry Into The UN’s Harmful Anti-Vaping Regulations

With growing international recognition of the danger to public health the World Health Organization poses, it is pleasing to see that across the pond a bi-partisan committee has been established to launch an inquiry into the scandal-prone taxpayer-funded bureaucracy. https://www.facebook.com/plugins/quote.php?app_id=&channel=https%3A%2F%2Fstaticxx.facebook.com%2Fx%2Fconnect%2Fxd_arbiter%2F%3Fversion%3D46%23cb%3Df12cad97182a658%26domain%3Dwww.atr.org%26origin%3Dhttps%253A%252F%252Fwww.atr.org%252Ffb516df5bf615%26relation%3Dparent.parent&container_width=567&href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.atr.org%2Fuk-bipartisan-inquiry-uns-harmful-anti-vaping-regulations&locale=en_US&sdk=joey

The All Party Parliamentary Group for Vaping, comprised of Members of Parliament across all sides of politics, is currently collecting evidence on the failures of the UN’s anti-tobacco harm reduction policies

The Americans for Tax Reform Affiliate, the Property Rights Alliance, submitted the following testimony to the Inquiry (full version with citations may be downloaded here): 

29 January 2021

Subject: Comments to the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Vaping Inquiry into the Ninth Conference of the Parties

Dear Chairman Pawsey,

Thank you for the opportunity to submit comments to the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Vaping (APPG) inquiry into the Ninth Conference of the Parties (COP9).

Property Rights Alliance (PRA) is an international advocacy and research organization based in Washington, D.C. dedicated to protecting intellectual property rights, physical property rights and promoting innovation around the world.

1.UK Government policies should promote the successful quit aid tools.

There is a consensus in the United Kingdom among academics, scientists, and the medical community that reduced-risk tobacco alternatives such as vaping e-cigarettes are significantly less harmful than smoking combustible cigarettes. Extensive research by Public Health England and the Royal College of Physicians has determined that by providing users with nicotine, but bypassing the combustion process that is the main cause of tobacco-related morbidity, electronic cigarettes are 95% less harmful (Public Health England, 2018) than combustible tobacco. For this reason, over 30 of the world’s leading public health organizations have endorsed nicotine vaping as safer than smoking and an effective way to help smokers quit.

In addition to their relative safety compared to combustible tobacco, scientific data support the function of vaping products as a successful quit aid tool considerably more effective than traditional nicotine replacement therapies. A 2019 study by the U.K. National Health Service published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that e-cigarettes may help adults quit. A group assigned to e-cigarettes as a combustible tobacco replacement were more likely to remain abstinent at one year compared with a group using nicotine replacement products (18% versus 9.9%).

According to a report commissioned on e-cigarettes by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine (2018) which analyzed the findings of 800 peer-reviewed studies, it was determined that there is moderate evidence that risk and severity of dependence are lower for e-cigarettes than combustible tobacco cigarettes. and that there is conclusive evidence that completely substituting e-cigarettes from combustible tobacco cigarettes reduces a user’s exposure to numerous toxicants. The published update of the Cochrane Collaboration review in October 2020 also showed that e-cigarettes helped smokers to achieve long-term smoking abstinence.  It assessed the results of 50 studies from across 13 jurisdictions, representing 12,430 participants.

As a result of their effectiveness as an aid to quit smoking, e-cigarettes have become extremely popular, increasing from about seven million users in 2011 to 41 million in 2018 (Euromonitor International). Over the next 10 years about six million premature deaths could be averted, if most smokers switched to e-cigarettes.With the introduction of e-cigarettes, a rapid drop in the smoking rate has coincided from 19.3% in 2010 to 13.7% in 2018.

Public Health England has played a significant role in advancing evidence-based policymaking and ensuring that alternative nicotine delivery devices, which are less harmful than smoking, are available to smokers who are trying to quit. As such, this is in line with Government Policy to reduce mortality rates.

The FCTC has as its mission to ‘protect present and future generations from the devastating health, social, environmental and economic consequences of tobacco consumption and exposure to tobacco smoke …. to reduce continually and substantially the prevalence of tobacco use and exposure to tobacco smoke.’ Policies enacted under this framework must therefore aim to actually reduce smoking prevalence. Evidence has demonstrated that recent policies promulgated have not only strayed from this goal but are in active opposition to it.  While the UK has played a positive role in terms of reducing the burden of people smoking, and with e-cigarettes helping millions of adult smokers quit smoking, it is disturbing that the World Health Organization thus far refuses to acknowledge the science and is actively advising governments against effective tobacco harm reduction policies.  The government of the United Kingdom should promote harm-reducing practices within the WHO discussions and reduce barriers to access innovative products that are game-changers for smoke-free policies. Any measures that COP9 will propose should recognize the data presented and consider the UK national experience.

The United Kingdom, as a global leader in tobacco control, can ensure that regulatory measures are based on sufficient and convincing data. This is the only case to implement realistic measures to each country that will be efficient. A general idea about the protection of public health is not enough. The reports to COP9 will likely continue to recommend that countries either ban new harm reduction products or regulate them strictly to discourage their use. An example of strict regulation is the Plain Packaging implemented for tobacco, which has been conclusively proven to have failed to have any impact upon smoking rates in any jurisdiction where it has been tried but has instead led to a boon in black market illicit tobacco smuggling by international criminal syndicates.  

2.The discussions within the WHO and COP do not reflect real-life evidence.

The policy positions presented by WHO should be based in realistic and accurate criteria about tobacco consumption and efficacy of harm reduction tobacco products. A procedure based in transparency and public consultation will contribute more to the goal of smoking reduction. The Advisory Bodies (TobReg and TobLanNet) and the Governing body of COP should collect data from independent scientific teams and make them visible to countries like the UK. Similarly, it is a fundamental principle of good government that decisions be made in an open, accountable, and transparent manner. Unfortunately, COP meetings operated behind closed doors, with no opportunity for journalists, scientists or non-profit watchdogs to observe or participate.  Furthermore, there is no public consultation between the release of the Secretariat report and the COP session. WHO should make transparency part of their policy.

As most anti-tobacco policies and legislation ratified under the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) aim to reduce smoking prevalence, the justification of COP proposals should be formed based on the smoking rate of each category (adults, youth etc), the tobacco consumption and the success of the quit aid tools in each country. Massive bans or brand removals are trade tactics oriented towards the market structure and not the protection of public health. Prohibition time and time again has been shown to fail.

In contrast to the “abstinence only” policy of the WHO, Public Health England (PHE) has offered guidance for employers and organizations looking to introduce policies around e-cigarettes and vaping in public and recommends that such policies should be evidence-based. This is a more sensible system of regulation, which works with consumers to ensure better public health outcomes. It is noted that the UK government can further improve some aspects of its tobacco policy and the constraints (health warnings and advertising ban) imposed by the EU Tobacco Products Directive should be removed so as to ensure smokers have access to appropriate information regarding the health benefits of quitting smoking through vaping.

3.The tobacco control policies for adolescents and the unintended consequences of proposals.

In the UK, the rate of minors using vape products has consistently been below 2 percent.Data from the 2019 ASH YouGov Smokefree youth GB survey suggest that a large majority (93.8% in total) of children ages 11-18 in the UK who have never smoked have also never used an e-cigarette (87.8%) or are not even aware of them (6.0%). The overall trend in tobacco use over time in both adults and children has been downwards since 2010, when e-cigarette use became widespread among adult smokers and ex-smokers (Adult smoking habits in the UK, 2017-2018). A 2018 report by Public Health England found that e-cigarettes are attracting very few young people who have never smoked into regular use and that e-cigarette use among never-smokers is less than 1%. A possible flavor taste ban is a policy measure hurting the public health and the UK Government should be aware of the unintended consequences of such measures. Governmental policies should protect young people and at the same time provide a cessation aid for people attempting to quit smoking. 

The United Kingdom followed the European Tobacco Products Directive in response to the WHO’s call to action in preventing youth from using tobacco products. In a framework of going completely ‘smoke-free’ by 2030, the UK banned the manufacture and sale of menthol cigarettes since 20 May 2020, despite the lack of evidence of flavored tobacco being responsible for any increased tobacco usage. Alternative products such as menthol vaping products  are still available in the market. In some countries such as Netherlands, the Government proposed banning flavors in electronic vaping products as well, a measure that failed to consider the public health benefit of a harm reduction tool.

Flavors must remain available through legal channels as a matter of consumer safety. Otherwise, the black-market will flourish while putting dangerous products in the hands of thousands of consumers. Banning vape flavors practically misinforms smokers about the relative risks of e-cigarettes and limits the usefulness of vaping. Significantly more adults and youth may go back to smoking combustible tobacco. According to the Consumer Choice Center, access to flavors increases the likelihood of quitting smoking by 230% and 260,363 vapers would be driven back to smoking without them.

According to the ASH Smokefree Great Britain 2019 Survey, if the flavours were banned, 1 in 5 smokers said they would either smoke more tobacco or return to smoking tobacco. A US 2017 survey of young adults using both e-cigarettes and vaping products, indicated that a ban on e-liquid flavors would lead to increases in combustible cigarette use and simultaneously lead to reductions in e-cigarette use. As such, any proposals through the COP process to further restrict access to flavoured vaping products would without doubt lead to an increase in people smoking combustible cigarettes.

4.WHO bans the use of tobacco harm reduction tools, moving away from FCTC objectives.

According to the latest Global State of Tobacco Harm reduction (GSTHR) report(GSTHR, Burning Issues 2020) almost 100 million people are now using a range of vaping products and they do not use combustible cigarettes at all. The evidence provided by this report shows the effect of harm reduction products such as e-cigarettes on the global decline in cigarette consumption per adult.

On the contrary WHO in its latest report from their expert committee on Tobacco Product Regulation, released December 23rd, recommended to ban and prohibit e-cigarettes and heated tobacco products (WHO Expert Committee Meeting Report, Dec 23, 2020). This recommendation conflicts with the FCTC protocol to Eliminate Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products that aimed at eliminating all forms of illicit trade in the tobacco environment. The banning of vaping products would lead the smokers to purchase their e-cigarettes from illicit markets or from jurisdictions where they are legal. Public health may be damaged with a sharp rise in smuggling and sale of illegal e-cigarettes. Illicit trade of e-cigarettes is a mounting problem across the globe that hurts economies and also may be used to fund terrorist and similar criminal enterprises. Furthermore, it ignores the scientific evidence provided indicating the power of vaping products to increase quit rates more effectively or to modify behaviors associated with combustible cigarettes.

Despite the fact that the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) aims to reduce harmful tobacco consumption, there have only been a few attempts to empirically evaluate the impact of this international treaty. Unfortunately, there is no empirical interventional study to evaluate the effectiveness of the decision to adopt a tobacco control treaty as a strategy for reducing global cigarette consumption. Analysis of tobacco consumption trends is necessary to discern patterns for future tobacco control policies including the different priorities of each country’s strategy. No internationally comparable data on tobacco consumption are available for analysis by quasi-experiment. An interdisciplinary and international collaboration is necessary under the WHO, setting down standards for research and assessing risk and benefits.

Among FCTC’s mandates was the investigation of novel tobacco products. The FCTC is not a good forum for encouraging new ideas. The investigation by FCTC apparently is limited to strict regulations of tobacco products that often referred to the products as a “serious barrier to progress”.There is a persistent problem with the WHO relying on poor evidence or the motivated reasoning of activists. The WHO Executive Board 146th session meeting (February 2020) called for countries to ban or restrict the use of e-cigarettes and novel and emerging tobacco products. FCTC has examined a limited amount of scientific evidence and, by their own admission, “international scientific consensus was not yet reached”on the existing health effects.

WHO should take a fresh look at the function of e-cigarettes as a harm reduction tool and accept the progress that the tobacco industry has made in developing products that are able to significantly reduce smoking. Science should come first in every health issue or situation. The pandemic crisis confirmed this statement. Policies of WHO, including plain packaging and banning of vaping products, damage Intellectual Property Rights and innovation. States can protect public health without damaging private property right protections and security of innovation. Tobacco control should be a social, public health, and quality-of-life concern rather than a business and trade issue.

5. Intellectual Property Rights are significant for the innovative harm-reducing products.

E-cigarettes became possible only due to strong intellectual property rights in a competitive open market. Intellectual property rights connect innovators with consumers’ demand for harm-reducing products. States can protect public health without compromising the protection of private property rights and market-driven innovation. The effective protection of intellectual and property rights is essential and can promote investment in the market.

When a ban in tobacco products is introduced, the right to property (Article 1, First Protocol to the European Convention on Human Rights) is weighed against the legitimate interest of public health. The rationale for the health function of banning vaping products contradicts the overwhelming evidence on e-cigarettes as the most successful quit aid. It is a discriminatory measure for consumers, who are denied the access to products with reduced risk. It may support some fundamental rights including the right to health and a clean environment, but it unduly violates the right to liberty, property and equality. Practices like these, discourage investment and put businesses at risk of losing their competitive edge. Policies that undermine innovation often have unintended consequences, and Property Rights Alliance opposes all measures that have irreparable harm to intellectual property.

6. Conclusion

The initial intention of the COP process was to reduce tobacco dependency and the associated mortality caused by the smoking of conventional tobacco products. In actively opposing the opportunities presented by newer reduced-risk tobacco alternatives such as e-cigarettes, the World Health Organization is now actively working against its stated mission. It is furthermore deeply troubling that independent scientific experts remain excluded from the COP9 process, and the complete lack of transparency and consultation violate every norm of sound public policy.

As a result of the WHO pursing a policy agenda that is contrary to science, the UK faces significant threats that its successful harm reduction model may be undermined, and access to life-saving products may be restricted. As such, unless the UK and like-minded pro-science governments are able to achieve serious structural reform in the WHO, the UK needs to re-evaluate its participation in the FCTC.

Originally published here.

Big media bosses wrap their plea for another bailout in the Canadian flag, and it’s sad

David Clement writes that Canada’s big mainstream media papers are trying to rig the game to grab a second bailout.

If you picked up a copy of the Toronto Star – or almost any mainstream paper in Canada today – you would have noticed that their front page was strangely absent of content. This blank space wasn’t a printing error; it was a deliberate act designed to force the federal government to bail them out. Again.

“Imagine if the news wasn’t there” ominously ran under the paper’s empty front page. The Star wasn’t alone in its call for support, the National Post, and hundreds of others also ran their own versions of an empty page.

The problem is, these newspapers aren’t just asking for you to support their businesses as a voluntary customer. They are asking for the government to intervene in a way that can only be classified naked rent-seeking. Specifically, major media companies are asking that the federal government follow Australia’s lead in regulating Facebook and Google.

Regardless of your opinion of these two tech giants, what the newspapers are proposing is dangerous, and unfree.

What has Australia done and should we really follow their lead? 

To put it bluntly, Australia has enacted a bizarre and backwards approach for regulating how tech companies deal with news agencies. Australia is attempting to force platforms like Facebook or Google to pay news outlets every time one of their web links is shared. That means that when you or I share an article – let’s say from the Toronto Star – Heritage Minister Guilbeault, and newspaper executives, think that Facebook should be forced to compensate the Star, despite the fact that Facebook is acting as afree lead generator. 

For context, 73 per cent of the traffic visiting the Western Standard in January 2021 came through social media platforms. For those not paying attention, the Western Standard uses Facebook and Twitter to get its content in front of eyeballs. It is a symbiotic relationship. 

Media outlets make their money in two ways: advertising dollars linked to views, or through dues-paying subscriptions. Being able to freely share a news story on social media drives traffic to these news outlets, which is exactly how they make their advertising money and solicit subscribers.

This genuinely leaves me scratching my head as to why this is a good idea. And if Australia has shown us anything, following through with this type of legislation would be disastrous for consumers, for newspapers, and for society at large. In response to the regulations down under, Facebook threatened to stop allowing users to share news links on their platform. This hurts consumers because it means that the news won’t be available on social media at all, where most of us consume it. This is a net negative for society because poor news availability ultimately means poor media literacy, which certainly isn’t good, especially in the context of a global pandemic where Canadians are reliant on news companies for important updates. 

And of course, removing social media as a means to find the news is undoubtedly going to backfire and hurt the newspapers that these regulations are supposed to protect. Social media acts as a lead funnel for newspapers, and removing that funnel will mean fewer views on their articles, less ad revenue, and fewer opportunities to solicit subscriptions. 

Media executives also complained that Google pockets most of the revenue from its Adsense platform. Even if this is a legitimate gripe, their solution is not. Just because newspapers don’t like the revenue split doesn’t mean the appropriate solution is more interventionism. 

If Google is a bad actor in this relationship, outlets are free to do exactly what the Western Standard does, which is sell their own ads directly. In fact, this is what media companies used to do.

This desire to have the government further protect the media industry becomes even more strange when you consider that the industry is already subsidized by taxpayers at the tune of $600 million dollars, which makes this call for additional regulation a gross and despicable example of rent-seeking. 

Rent-seeking is the act of manipulating public policy or economic conditions as a strategy for increasing profits. Rather than focusing on innovating, changing their advertising model, or providing a better product for consumers, these companies have sought to have the government ensure their profitability through bogus regulations. 

To their credit, the Financial Post’s Terence Corcoran called this move “Hipster Anti-trustism” while the Globe’s Andrew Coyne called this “self-serving nonsense”. For me, this is crony capitalism 101. Nothing more, nothing less.

Originally published here.

Brusel ide do vojny proti rakovine. Cigarety a alkohol výrazne zdražejú

Ilustračné foto

Európska únia chce zatočiť s rakovinou. Komisia by dnes mala predstaviť plán, ako znížiť túto zákernú chorobu na minimum. Aj keď materiál ešte nebol oficiálne zverejnený, jeho časti už unikli.

Ako uviedol portál politico.eu, Brusel chce do roku 2040 zapracovať na tom, aby vznikla takzvaná beztabaková generácia.

To by malo v praxi znamenať, že počet fajčiarov by mal poklesnúť pod 5 percent z celkovej populácie. V súčasnosti je tento podiel u nás približne na úrovni 20 percent.

Originally published here.

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