Month: June 2021

May 2021

Publications, media hits, team announcements, and more! 
Another month has wrapped up here at the Consumer Choice Center, and summer is starting but our work doesn’t stop! 

Obesity is on the rise like never before. More than one in four people in the UK are now obese, one of the driving forces behind the mortality rate from Covid. In the year leading up to the pandemic, more than a million people were admitted to hospital for obesity-related treatment in England. Our policy fellow Jason Read wrote about this for CityAM.

We joined a global coalition to protect innovation and property rights around the world! 

We love indices! And after publishing the Railway Index, here we are with the Pandemic Resilience Index: where Israel and the United Arabic Emirates topped the list! And what about the rest of the world? Well, I’d suggest you check it out! 
And Mariia was on fire this month writing a ream of information on the Pandemic Resilience Index in both the UK and Ukraine:

Kyiv Post – Pandemic Resilience Index
The Conservative – Pandemic Resilience Index
The Conservative – Pandemic Resilience Index

Meanwhile, in North America, my colleagues David and Yaël wrote an article on Intellectual Property and COVID vaccines in the Financial Post. It generated a lot of fire. Check it!
David also went on Canadian national TV talking about why Canada should not uphold the TRIPS Waiver on Covid Vaccines at the World Trade Organization:

And my dear colleague Yaël wrote a syndicated article on the pie-in-the-sky broadband plan contained within the Biden’s administration infrastructure plan. What will it mean for consumers?

David also got published in the Financial Post, making the case for ending the liquor monopoly in Ontario, which he argues would be a win-win solution for consumers.

We are delighted to announce two new addition to the Consumer Choice Center team: 
Fellow Amanda-Ellen Gibbs
Adjunct research fellow Kimberlee Josephson
And stay tuned, because this month we are set to publish two indices instead of one! Look forward to the Latin American Sharing Economy Index, written in collaboration with Somos Innovacion and Relial, and the Global Sharing Economy Index of 2021! After our pandemic year, which city will fare the best? Stay tuned to discover more!

All the best,

Luca Bertoletti
Senior Government Affairs Manager

April 2021

Spring is upon us, and the CCC has been as active as ever.
Spring is upon us, and the CCC has been as active as ever. Over the course of April, my CCC colleagues and I have been passionately defending consumer choice. Here is a snapshot of some of our accomplishments in April:

Our entire team worked throughout the month of April to push back against a content quota proposal in Mexico. Our efforts to combat the law were featured in more than 50 Mexican newspapers after we hosted a successful webinar with Irene Levy, Antonella Marty, Fernando De Fuente, Manuel Molano, Adriana Labardini to discuss how problematic the policy would be. And the good news is……the law has been delayed, and will now have to go under a full review by Mexico’s legislature and be debated in open parliament.

Our Managing Director Fred Roeder was invited to appear on The Mark Dolan show to explain why Germany’s vaccine rollout has been so poor.Fred also got the chance to fly on the world’s first fully vaccinated flight. Check out Fred’s interview with Emirates Airlines COO here:

Fred also got the chance to fly on the world’s first fully vaccinated flight. Check out Fred’s interview with Emirates Airlines COO here:

Canada Should Block A Patent Waiver For Covid Vaccines
Yael and I had our piece titled “Canada Should Block A Patent Waiver For Covid Vaccines” published in Canada’s Financial Post. In the article, we defend intellectual property and encourage the Canadian government to continue to block the erosion of IP rights. 

We published a blog post on the Biden administration’s decision to support the TRIPS waiver that would undermine global IP rights.

In April we launched a tremendously successful consumer privacy campaign, reaching hundreds of thousands of Americans on the issue of consumer privacy. 

Our Senior Policy Analyst Bill Wirtz testified at the European Parliament Intergroup for ‘Climate Change, Biodiversity & Sustainable Development’, on the issue of Integrated Pest Management (IPM). Bill stressed the reasons that farmers use crop protection in the first place: to insure that consumer products are safe and affordable. Innovative new technologies such as smart sprayers will also help farmers reduce the amount of pesticides used over time.

You can find Bill’s statement here: 

On plastics, Yael and I published our research paper “Deconstructing the war on plastic” which evaluates local, state and federal laws aimed at solving the issue of plastic waste. You can read the full report here.

On top of that, I was a guest on ABC and NBC’s affiliate network in Virginia to talk about Virginia’s new single-use plastic law.

My European colleague Maria Chaplia published a policy note on tackling obesity in the EU.

Maria also wrote a scathing response to the Philippines recent attack on breastmilk substitutes. 
That might be a wrap for April, but there is still lots of work to do on the frontlines of defending consumer choice. Be sure to follow the CCC’s social media channels, and tune in to our broadcasts on Consumer Choice Radio and the ConsEUmer Podcast.

All the best,

David Clement
North American Affairs Manager

March 2021

March: hey there, sunshine, things are looking up!
Temperatures are rising as fast as vaccination rates, and that’s not the only reason we’re smiling here at the CCC.

Across the world, my colleagues have been putting in the hours writing articles, cutting videos, recording interviews, penning research, and submitting to government consultations like no other — and our efforts have won us the prize of Best New Think Tank!
Best New Think Tank
We were awarded the title of one of the “Best New Think Tanks” of 2020 by the Lauder Institute at the University of Pennsylvania, nestled into their massive report that examines policy organizations around the world.

European Railway IndexNot to be outdone by last year’s efforts, my colleagues Maria Chaplia and Tamar Tarsaidze put their heads together and scoured the Old Continent for data and digits to piece together our 2021 European Railway Station Index, highlighting the most passenger-friendly train stations from the British Isles to the Ural mountains. How did your favorite station rank?

And, wouldn’t you know it, it’s already been featured in top media outlets and newspapers across the continent, including the Daily Mail (with a sour headline as London’s St. Pancras station was demoted), the Independent, Der Spiegel, Der Standard, and every travel blog known to man. 

Okay, not EVERY travel blog, but at least more than I’ve ever heard of.

The fun part of these indices is getting feedback from train and travel lovers galore, who provide always very cordial and nicely-worded responses to our work.

You can check out the full index people are raving (or even fuming) about below.

From Smoking to VapingDid you know that if Indonesia embraced the same policies on vaping as the United Kingdom, it would potentially save the lives of 15 million people? Or in Germany over 4.2 million?

Those are just some of the key takeaways from our latest From Smoking to Vaping interactive map, detailing the very real health benefits that come with embracing both innovation and tobacco harm reduction.

Encouraging smokers to switch habits in favor of less harmful alternatives has the potential for saving hundreds of millions of lives globally, yet many countries still do not follow this approach.

Track how your country could potentially save lives here.

Welcoming Elizabeth Hicks! We’re also happy to announce that we’ve brought on Elizabeth Hicks as our new US Affairs Analyst! 

She’ll be working with me and David on our efforts stateside, reaching out to partners old and new, splashing newsletters with consumer choice content, and connecting with lawmakers to make our visions a reality. Her background is in political education and grassroots advocacy, so we’re thrilled about having her on the team.

Be sure to give her a follow on Twitter!

Fred made an appearance at an in-person conference! Of course, we wouldn’t be approaching summer if our managing director Fred Roeder wasn’t talking up aviation and travel someplace, and this time he was featured at the Arab Aviation Summit! 

He gave his thoughts on consumer trends in travel, the complexities and problems with vaccine passports, and why some legislative proposals and taxes would end up making travel more expensive and cumbersome for the little guy! Super like.
Would you pay 250 EUR for a COVID vaccine? If you’re still one of the tens of millions without the jab and who’s ready to get the needle to get back to normal, I’m sure you’d say yes.

Let me know if you agree!

Pushing Back Against Australia’s Facebook PlanSpeaking of being shy, you can’t claim that about my colleague David Clement. He appeared on Canadian television with former minister and now TV host Tony Clement (David claims there is no relation) to discuss the bungled media regulations Australia tried to pass over on Facebook and its users.

There is talk of a similar plan in Canada, and David ain’t having any of it. I’ve written about the impact this will have on consumers in Australia, and we can pretty confidently say the same wherever legislators are colluding with major media outlets to ponder the same.

Check out the video segment below.

Time to Stand Against Streaming Content QuotasHitting on a similar topic, our colleague Bill Wirtz is (finally) getting into consuming some great TV shows and movies on popular streaming services. Atta boy! He’s been able to stream international productions from his small enclave in Luxembourg and he’s had a blast.

However, if certain content quotas are passed in countries like Mexico, millions of Mexican consumers will be deprived of many of the streaming options Bill can enjoy on his laptop in Europe. These national content quotas would drive down investment and reduce the library of shows and movies that Mexicans can access. That’s a rotten deal for cord-cutters and streamers.

Check out his article in the Brussels Times below.

Hittin’ Those Radio WavesAnd as always, if you like these words, you’ll love this voice. Check out our internationally syndicated radio show Consumer Choice Radio. It’s got a nifty new website with all our feeds for you podcast fans.

Each week, David and I try to break down the latest news and debates affecting consumers and have on guests to provide context.

Some of our recent highlights include Dr. Kimberlee Josephson on “Why Corporations Should Cater to Consumers and Not Causes”, entrepreneur and investor Steve Forbes on Joe Biden’s stimulus bills, and Goodwood Brewing CEO Ted Mitzlaff on why he’s suing the governor of Kentucky for his overzealous COVID restrictions.

We love our radio family and listeners, but the podcast crew is growing! Give us a “subscribe” if you’ve got your phone handy (that is how you’re reading this, right?).

Innovation or Stagnation?And our colleagues in Europe aren’t shy about broadcasting either! They host regular livestreams featuring EU policymakers and innovators on the themes of the day.

This time, it was about whether EU digital regulations lead us to innovation or stagnation, featuring German MEP Svenja Hahn, Eglė Markevičiūtė, Vice Minister at the Ministry of the Economy and Innovation of the Republic of Lithuania, AEI Fellow Shane Tews, and Kay Jabelli of Computer & Communications Industry Association.

Hear their thoughts on our YouTube and check out the write-up in Parliament Magazine.
I would need plenty more space to expound on ALL our activities, so I definitely would recommend you follow our FacebookTwitter, and YouTube!

Until next month, keep up the good spirits, and let’s hope for Normal!

Yaël Ossowski
Deputy Director

[EU] Public Consultation on the Taxation of Tobacco Products and New Products

As a global consumer group representing millions of consumers in Europe and globally, we have been working on spreading the harm reduction message to help spread awareness about vaping as a life-saving tool both among smokers and non-smokers. In light of the EU Beating Cancer plan, Dutch vape flavour ban, and proposed German tax on nicotine e-liquids, it appears that the European Union and Member states have decided to turn a blind eye to smokers and push them into abstinence through coercion. Such an approach is disastrous and should be reconsidered.

We urge the EU Commission to follow science and keep the interests of smokers and former smokers in mind as well as the economic costs of excessive taxation of both vaping and tobacco products.

Vaping is a lifesaving tool

Vaping has been proven to be 95% less harmful than smoking and has been endorsed by multiple international health bodies as a safer alternative. While some critics have argued that vaping is a gateway to smoking, the opposite is true. Vaping is a gateway from smoking, and has been used by millions of adults to reduce the health risks associated with tobacco consumption. 

Higher taxes on vaping products are particularly harmful to the lower income brackets of the population

The highest proportion of current smokers are from low income population segments. “[Higher taxes on] vaping liquid would raise the proportion of adults who smoke cigarettes daily by approximately 1 percentage point, translating to 2.5 million extra adult daily smokers” in the United States. With tax increases in the EU, similar consequences would be seen in Europe.

Overregulation of tobacco products boosts illicit trade

Smoking should be seen as a matter of consumer choice and personal responsibility. Tobacco products should not see any further scrutiny. The evidence regarding the effectiveness of taxes, marketing and other restrictions is too weak to justify such drastic interventions. Furthermore, such policies encourage illicit trade. Tobacco price disparity between the EU and other countries in Europe is a contributing factor; however, that also demonstrates that despite anti-tobacco efforts, demand for cigarettes doesn’t go away. 

Adult consumers should be encouraged to make responsible choices bearing in mind the consequences of their actions. Policies based on respect for consumer choice such as education should be preferred over restrictions.


The ConsEUmer Podcast nominated as a top European Union podcast by Welp Magazine

We’re excited to announce that the ConsEUmer Podcast, produced by Consumer Choice Center, was named as one of the best European Union Podcasts of 2021. The list was recently published by Welp Magazine and is intended for everyone wanting to boost their knowledge of everything related to the European Union. 

Various factors played a part in selecting these podcasts and it is worth noting that podcast hosts and guests come from across the political spectrum, so listeners have a chance to hear different points of views about the European Union. The ranking was created using the data provided by ListenNotes, Crunchbase, SemRush and Ahrefs.  

ConsEUmer Podcast is hosted by Bill Wirtz, a senior policy analyst at the Consumer Choice Center. Besides his active role at the organisation, Bill is a pro-liberty freelance journalist who publishes in 4 languages, he has been featured in multiple news outlets around the world. His podcast focuses on consumer issues, such as free trade, science-based policy making, privacy, digital single market, and more. The podcast also offers insightful commentary on the hottest EU related topics. Bill critically examines and evaluates strategies and policies of the EU and its member states. Each episode lasts around 20-40 minutes and features experts and policy makers from various fields. Some of the topics that have been discussed on the podcast include the Polish sugar tax, EU Beating Cancer plan and its effect on vaping, Farm to Fork strategy, the e-scooter revolution, nanny state index, and more. As you can see, the podcast is very diverse in topics and there’s definitely something for every taste. Stay tuned for podcast updates and in the meantime catch up with the past episodes below.

P.S. If you want to find out more about the work we do around Europe, we recommend checking out our European Railway Station Index 2021 as well as the list of Europe’s Most Passenger-Friendly Airports 2020

EP75: Monkeypox, Shanghai lockdown, and The wireless connection (co-hosted with Fabio Fernandes) The ConsEUmer Podcast

This week's ConsEUmer podcast is co-hosted with Fabio Fernandes. This week: 🦠 Monkeypox is making the rounds 🔒 China continues its zero-COVID policy 📱 Wireless charging: we weigh the benefits and downsides  Check out these websites if you want support Ukraine financially: https://www.blue-yellow.lt/en/ https://how-to-help-ukraine-now.super.site/?fbclid=IwAR2HawZT-H0iLD08QdXDMBG2qFKA3dpHsjDXt7bppN092YP2TVnQuDJ4j8A You can follow Fabio Fernandes on Twitter @DeFariaeSilva. Check out his new podcast Liberdade Para Esolher: https://bit.ly/LiberdadeParaEscolher May 26, 2022 Follow ConsEUmer wherever you get your podcasts: Apple: https://apple.co/2HR4TLT Spotify: https://spoti.fi/3l3GZdx Google podcasts: https://bit.ly/3fyyzto Donate: http://consumerchoicecenter.org/donate See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
  1. EP75: Monkeypox, Shanghai lockdown, and The wireless connection (co-hosted with Fabio Fernandes)
  2. EP74: RyanAir being kind of awesome, "Rumscholzen", and Germany eyes cannabis legalisation (w/ Daniel Kaddik)
  3. EP73: Agri-ultimatum for Turkey, CCC Research, and Flavour confusion (w/ Patrick Griffin)
  4. EP72: Macron re-elected, Poland and Bulgaria cut off, and Timmermans is wrong on F2F
  5. EP71: Goodbye masks, Chaotic summer, and The breakfast divide (co-hosted with Elizabeth Hicks)

Leaked: Bloomberg-funded ‘Campaign For Tobacco-Free Kids’ Global Strategy to Ban Vaping Products By Bribing Public Bodies

To people in the United States, billionaire Michael Bloomberg is most well-known as a swashbuckling former New York City mayor who blew a lot of money on an ill-fated presidential primary run.

But around the world, his network of charities and selected groups he provides with millions of dollars in grants are, for all intents and purposes, a sort of private government who influence government leaders, fund the entire salaries of public health officials, and write legislation that is then introduced into legislative bodies, including the recent example of vaping bans in Mexico and the Phillippines.

Some of these organizations are those directly chaired and controlled by Bloomberg, including Bloomberg Philanthropies, but most are various campaign groups that rely heavily on funding and guidance from the New York City billionaire, including those focused on the environment, education, public health, and general tobacco control.

According to the latest article from Michelle Minton at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, who was able to get her hands on internal documents from the Bloomberg-funded Campaign For Tobacco-Free Kids organization, the pernicious impact of the campaigns to target developing countries goes much beyond standard tobacco-control measures such as taxes, age-gating, and advertising restrictions.

Influence and Cash-Strapped Governments

Instead, there are direct payments offered to government bodies and public health officials that implement the CTFK wish-list of legislation. Because developing nations spend less on public health measures and programs than developed nations, foreign NGOs that seek specific policy measures in exchange for millions of dollars in public funding are granted immense influence.

As such, rather than actual domestic democratic demand for measures against tobacco and vaping products, including all-out bans on vaping flavors and technology, these nations pass laws in direct exchange for grants, often much larger than their own domestic department budgets. In other contexts, this would rightly be defined as bribery.

Considering Michael Bloomberg’s charities have spent nearly $700 million globally to hurry these measures into law, the long arm of the global anti-tobacco advocacy movement has already chalked up several success stories.

In government, CTFK and its partners engage in lobbying, like most other advocacy organizations, but CTFK’s strategy for influencing tobacco policy really hinges on establishing itself as an indispensable resource for regulators and lawmakers. For example, the CTFK plan lists myriad examples of support it has provided to government entities, such as assisting in lawsuits against the tobacco industry in Brazil, Peru, Uruguay, Uganda, Nigeria, and Kenya. In Panama, it notes “collaboration with the Ministry of Health of Panama who is interested in financing a regional effort” for tobacco litigation.

Michelle Minton, Exposed: Bloomberg’s Anti-Tobacco Meddling in Developing Countries

The documents outline the efforts of campaigners from CTFK to pass various tobacco control and anti-vaping measures in countries such as Brazil, China, and Nigeria, including “financial support” to ministries and government offices.

More than just government officials and health bodies, exorbitant funding is also made available to universities and media institutions, documents show, to amplify the core messages and aims of CTFK.

The Smokescreen

Rather than advocating for general tobacco control measures, a good portion of CTFK’s campaigns has focused on banning or severely restrict harm reducing technologies such as vaping, especially in developing countries such as India, the Phillippines, China, Brazil, Peru, Uruguay, Uganda, Nigeria, Kenya, and more.

Diverting from their mission of truly “tobacco-free kids,” Bloomberg’s connected organizations have instead used their influence to zero in on innovative and novel technological vaping products that deliver aerosolized nicotine and have nothing to do with tobacco.

Instead, organizations like Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids have used powerful rhetoric on the need to eliminate smoking as a literal smokescreen for eliminating or severely restricting all non-combustible nicotine alternatives, including vaping devices, heat-not-burn devices, nicotine pouches, and more.

Considering the demonstrated health potentials that come with endorsing nicotine-delivery alternatives as a means to quit smoking, as is recommended by relative health ministries in the United Kingdom and New Zealand, the hundreds of millions of dollars spent to undermine these efforts in developing countries with relatively high smoking rates should be a scandal of epic proportions.

But, alas, those headlines are far from prominent. Instead, we have multiple policy victories that restrict consumer choice and access to alternatives without much regard for actual public health.

Achieving True Public Health

What makes these revelations most startling is that there is no room for nuance on whether innovative new vaping devices and other alternatives, which do not contain tobacco, should be considered tobacco products. Organizations such as the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, an organ of the World Health Organization, say they are no different.

But they’re wrong. The growing compendium of academic studies and government reports demonstrating that vaping is 95% less harmful than combustible tobacco speaks to that.

The fact that millions of people have been able to quit smoking by using nicotine vaping devices should be a testament enough to how the market can deliver solutions for public health, not to use a cudgel to hamstring and deny developing nations the real opportunity they have to improve and save the lives of millions of their citizens.

But as noted by Minton at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, “the strategy of CTFK and the wider Bloomberg-funded anti-tobacco effort appears aimed at winning policy battles and passing laws with little consideration of whether they result in actual reductions in smoking or improvements in health.”

If this is the face of the modern tobacco control movement, then we know that public health is not actually their goal.

Qui paiera les “ressources propres” de l’Union européenne?

Depuis que le plan de relance de l’Union européenne a été lancé par les institutions européennes à Bruxelles, tout le monde sait que les obligations de la dette commune que l’UE a contractée jusqu’en 2058 devront être remboursées d’une manière ou d’une autre. C’est d’autant plus vrai que maintenant que nous avons ouvert la boîte de Pandore d’une dette européenne, il y a fort à parier que ce ne sera pas la dernière fois que nous allons lever des fonds de cette manière. Selon l’accord effectué, les 750 milliards d’euros de prêts sont censés être payés par les ressources propres de l’UE, c’est-à-dire les impôts.

Le 1er janvier de cette année, la taxe sur le plastique de l’UE est entrée en vigueur. Cette taxe facture les États membres de l’UE pour leur consommation d’emballages plastique et exige qu’un montant proportionnel soit envoyé à Bruxelles pour le budget de l’UE. Il est également question d’une taxe d’ajustement aux frontières pour le carbone (des termes créatifs pour décrire une taxe sur le CO2), d’une taxe numérique et d’une taxe sur les transactions financières. Selon certains commentateurs, cela permettrait à l’Union de devenir plus indépendante des intérêts du Conseil européen, auquel la Commission se sent trop souvent redevable, alors que la plupart de ses soutiens “intégrationnistes” se trouvent au Parlement européen.

Mais qui va réellement payer ces taxes ? Une taxe numérique sur Microsoft, Amazon, Google, Apple ou Facebook sera-t-elle payée par ces grandes entreprises de l’autre côté de l’océan et ira-t-elle dans les poches du Berlaymont ? Pas du tout. L’UE propose de taxer les services numériques là où la transaction a lieu, et non dans le pays de résidence de l’entreprise. Dans le cas d’Apple, les ventes européennes sont organisées par le siège de la société à Dublin, en Irlande, afin de bénéficier du système fiscal irlandais plus avantageux. De la même manière, Amazon bénéficie de règles au Luxembourg. Google et Microsoft vendent davantage de services numériques, Google surtout à travers des services publicitaires. Ici, le coût de cette taxe serait, à l’instar de la TVA, supporté par les consommateurs finaux. Les partisans du libre-échange et opposants à ces taxes prouvent ici leur point :  le protectionnisme qu’implique ces taxes n’est pas payé par les entreprises étrangères mais bien par les consommateurs locaux. 

C’est également ce que provoque la taxe carbone sur les importations. Certains biens provenant de pays qui ne partagent pas les réglementations climatiques ambitieuses de l’UE seront bien plus compétitifs en raison des faibles coûts de production dans leurs pays. Si l’on tente d’écarter ces produits du marché au moyen d’une taxe sur le carbone, les consommateurs européens paieront simplement la facture .

Une taxe sur les transactions financières est un exemple encore plus flagrant de pensée fiscale erronée. Aux yeux de ses partisans, elle frappera les grands acteurs des marchés financiers internationaux, alors qu’elle ne sera payée que par les investisseurs particuliers et les petits actionnaires qui commençaient à apparaître récemment grâce à l’utilisation de plateformes de trading accessibles.  

Il faut comprendre une réalité économique malheureusement peu comprise : les entreprises ne paient pas d’impôts ou de taxes, ce sont toujours des personnes qui les paient. Une entreprise est toujours un nœud de contrats entre des personnes physiques. Cette entité fictive ne peut pas payer d’impôts ou de taxes : soit ce sont les propriétaires qui les paient (par une baisse de leur dividende), soit ce sont les consommateurs (par une hausse des prix des services ou une baisse de la qualité) soit ceux sont les employés (par une baisse de leurs salaires et conditions de travail). D’ailleurs, c’est bien souvent  cette dernière solution qui est privilégiée.

Les taxes européennes discutées actuellement sont censées créer une indépendance pour l’Union et taxer les grands acteurs financiers pour réduire les inégalités. En réalité, seul le premier objectif sera atteint. Devrions-nous s’en étonner ? 

Junk food ad bans don’t work

Recognised as a risk factor for severe COVID-19 cases, obesity will likely top the European policy agenda for the years to come.

The recent launch of the MEPs for Obesity and Health System Resilience intergroup combined with several surveys and events signals an increased interest in finding the most effective solution. However, the traceable tendency to use the WHO’s recommendations as a shortcut when it comes to lifestyle issues does more harm than good.

In November 2016, the WHO published a report calling on the European Member States to introduce restrictions on marketing of foods high in saturated fat, salt and/or free sugars to children, covering all media, including digital, to curb childhood obesity. 

Same year the “What about our kids?” campaign, led by Romanian MEP Daciana Octavia Sârbu and organised by 10 European health organisations, called for a change of the Audio-Visual Media Services Directive (AVMSD) to impose a watershed on junk food advertising at a time when the directive was undergoing a review. As a result, the updated directive did include a clause on the co-regulation and the fostering of self-regulation through codes of conduct regarding HFSS.

The WHO’s implicit impact is traceable across the board which, however, doesn’t add up to its legitimacy. The said report claims that there is unequivocal evidence that junk food ads impact children’s behaviour, but it doesn’t back it up with facts to show a causal link between the marketing of these foods and children’s obesity. What the report does though is demonise the marketing industry globally for intentionally targeting children.

The link between advertising – in particular TV ads – and childhood obesity is weak and most of the current conclusions are based on studies from decades ago. One such example is a trial conducted in Quebec over 40 years ago. As part of a 1982 study, five- to eight-year-old children who were staying at a low-income summer camp in Quebec underwent a two-week exposure to televised food and beverage messages. It was found that children who viewed candy commercials picked significantly more candy over fruit as snacks. Although there appears to be an established non-directional link between childhood obesity and television, and a plausible link with food ads, it is not sufficient to justify bans.

Junk food ad bans policies fail to recognise that childrens’ choices are heavily dependent on the environment where they grow up and behaviours that are treated as acceptable.  Therefore, if the parents live unhealthy lives then their children are much more likely to live unhealthy lives as well. 

To tackle obesity, we need to fundamentally change the societal narrative of what is healthy and what is not, and futile attempts to solve the problem through bans are not an effective way forward.

Education – both at school and home through model behaviours – and parental responsibility play a key role in fighting obesity. WHO’s junk food ad bans are a knee-jerk solution to a problem that requires a fundamental societal change.

Originally published here.

Shocking footage of police tasing a teenage boy for allegedly vaping in public has spurred outrage across the globe.

A group of Maryland officers was seen forcefully arresting the 18-year-old after claims he was asked to stop vaping on the Ocean City boardwalk.

Eyewitnesses say police instructed the teen, Taizier Griffin, to remove his backpack and lay down on the ground, but tased and hog-tied him when he reached for his bag.

Griffin was reportedly charged with resisting arrest and second-degree assault, however, viral footage of the event showed that he appeared to be complying with police instructions at the time.

Twitter user Rob Wiscount said:

“Besides the obvious police brutality on display here, it is also an astounding display of misappropriation of police resources.

“Ocean City used six officers and 50,000 volts…to stop one 18-year-old…from VAPING!

“If he had a skateboard, they’d have called SWAT?”

Rapper Ice T also commented on the incident, tweeting: “Cops tased this kid for Vaping??? RealIy…! At least they didn’t kill him I guess…smh…. wow.”

Astonishingly, the same thing happened just six days later, with a group of four teens being arrested after allegedly ignoring the ban on vaping.

One of the boys involved claims he was tased, whilst another was pinned down and repeatedly kneed in the side by an officer.

Ocean City officials said that ‘officers are permitted to use force, per their training, to overcome exhibited resistance,’ but many are questioning why the police took such aggressive steps to enforce the boardwalk’s vaping regulations.

Twitter user Jukka Kelovuori also weighed in, saying: “Getting arrested over vaping is probably way riskier than a lifetime of vaping in itself.”

Officials confirmed that both arrests will be investigated, explaining that they are aware of public concerns about the incidents.

They said: “While the use of force is never the intended outcome, our police department’s first priority is to protect and serve.”

Vaping advocates have raised concerns that widespread bans and strict regulations could lead to more arrests like this.

Yaël Ossowski of the Consumer Choice Center said:

“The MORE you ban and demonize ordinary consumer products, the MORE police interactions you condone.

“We don’t need more situations like this…Let People Live.”

The consumer group Rights4Vapers also tweeted: “We cannot let vapers be criminalized.

“Vaping is not a crime.”

Originally published here.

Stop the bailouts

The rulings on KLM, TAP, and Condor should be just the beginning

The airline RyanAir has successfully challenged the bailouts of the Dutch airline KLM, the Portuguese company TAP, and the German carrier Condor. The crusade of RyanAir CEO Michael O’Leary seems to show effects, as the €550 million bailout for Condor has been put on hold – despite the court not asking the money back immediately from the airline – while others are hanging in the balance.

TAP and KLM have seen the same things happen to them. In all three cases thus far, the justification of the European Court of Justice has been that the bailout funds hadn’t been sufficiently justified by the member states in question. Ryanair welcomed the two rulings as an “important victory for consumers and competition”. The state aid had violated the principle of the internal market in the EU and reversed the liberalisation of air transport. They led to unfair competition by inefficient companies. Europe’s largest low-cost airline has filed a total of 16 lawsuits against state aid to competitors with the Luxembourg court, including the billions in aid to Lufthansa. However, the EU court had rejected lawsuits against state funds for the Scandinavian SAS, Finnair and Air France. The Irish company had taken legal action in May 2020 to denounce on the one hand guaranteed loans granted by Sweden, in particular to the Scandinavian company SAS for an amount of 3.3 billion crowns (308 million euros).

In the case of France, as in the case of Sweden, it considers that the aid measures are indeed aimed at remedying the damage caused by this extraordinary event to airlines in both countries. The State aid is also considered to be “proportionate”.

One point where the ECJ judges in the Condor case see a need for clarification is the question of the costs for the insolvency proceedings. This had to be extended after the cancellation of the PGL (Polish Aviation Group). The EU Commission had not sufficiently explained why it had included the extended insolvency period when calculating the damage to Condor from the Corona crisis, the judges explained. In principle, the Commission itself has stipulated that only damages directly caused by the pandemic – such as cancelled flights – may be compensated with taxpayers’ money. Moreover, it had not been explained why the planned sale to PGL had failed because of the pandemic. On this point, improvements could solve the headaches of Condor, but it’s not a given.

The problem with only attacking the precise justifications is that while the ECJ temporarily suspends the bailouts, the court does not strike down the principle of airline bailouts at all. Most of these airlines demanded funds in just a few weeks after the lockdown measures began, showing that they were all short-stripped for cash to begin with. Why should taxpayers fund companies that do not secure themselves sufficiently for times of crisis? After all, individual citizens or small companies would also be asked to pay their bills – and if caught spending money they do not have, would be called fiscally irresponsible. How airlines balance (or rather not balance) their books is their business alone, and not that of the taxpayer.

Originally published here.

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