Month: January 2022

Triggered: Real COVID-19 stats & Consumer Choice Center

Cory Morgan’s guests on this episode, Melissa Mbarki of the McDonald Laurier Institute, and David Clement of the Consumer Choice Center. Cory also rants on the need for real COVID-19 hospitalization numbers.

Watch the interview here

Too many government mandates hurt Pennsylvania businesses

Pennsylvania has garnered a great deal of media attention over the last two years concerning restaurant revoltselusive event gatherings, and parental protests. And with Pennsylvania ranking in as the 5th most populous state, distinct perspectives and positions are par for the course.

Indeed, PA business owners have not shied away from making their preferences and opinions known – and this is a good thing. Individuals and their interests are what have historically powered America’s economic advancements through decentralized decision-making, grassroots initiatives, and an entrepreneurial mindset.

In Warren Buffet’s 2021 annual letter to Berkshire Hathaway shareholders, he made it clear that he banks on American ingenuity:

“Success stories abound throughout America. Since our country’s birth, individuals with an idea, ambition and often just a pittance of capital have succeeded beyond their dreams by creating something new or by improving the customer’s experience with something old.”

Buffet’s statement highlights two key factors for a successful marketplace – individual choice and an improved customer experience. And it is precisely these two aspects that put business owners on high alert when any new policy may impede either.

Yet, as the new year approaches, new policies are coming into play for some parts of PA.

Philadelphia will be rolling out a vaccine mandate on January 3 for indoor dining experiences. The mandate applies to places like bars, sport venues, and eateries but it doesn’t impact other places where eating may take place such as childcare settings, soup kitchens, and congregated care facilities. The mandate also applies to anyone over the age of 5, and this may prove problematic for those who booked a Philly getaway and are coming from a country where the vaccine has not yet been approved for children (the standard in Europe is for those over the age of 12).

Unlike Philly, Pittsburgh is leaving the vaccination verification up to business owners regarding whether they wish for customers to provide proof or not. For some restaurants, the requisite of requiring patrons to be vaccinated hasn’t hampered business – actually, in some instances, it has helped.

Essentially, Pittsburg is playing a waiting game to see how Philly fares and even what restaurants will require on their own accord. Pitt’s approach allows consumers to choose which retailers and restaurants they wish to frequent, while business owners can choose what policies they wish to enact. It is up to the customer and company to determine how much risk they are comfortable with, and really that is what it all comes down to – determining the hazard present and considering the tradeoffs involved.

When too much emphasis is placed on the hazard aspect, though, blanket bans are often applied from on high, which can sometimes have regrettable results.

David Clement, the North American Affairs Manager for the global think tank Consumer Choice Center, has identified several existing policies, as well as policies being proposed, where the trade-offs simply are not worth the application of risk-based regulations.

An easy analogy Clement uses to illustrate the matter is sun exposure. Although too much can be harmful to one’s health, it would be ill-advised to avoid sunlight altogether since there are beneficial elements derived from the sun’s rays.

With this in mind, one of the cases Clement notes within a policy report is the use glyphosates. Glyphosates are currently under scrutiny in Pennsylvania, but a blanket ban seems counterintuitive given the benefits derived from its use – such as ensuring farmers can have a successful harvest and keeping invasive species at bay. High yield crop productions allow for a greater supply to be brought to market, which then means consumers (and restaurateurs) have more healthy options at a lower cost.

Although traces of glyphosates are found in certain foods and beverages, it is important to keep in mind that traces won’t result in tragedies, and ample evidence attests to this fact.

Clement notes how the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment determined that “in order for glyphosate residues in beer to constitute a health risk, a consumer would need to drink 1,000 liters in one day.” One thousand liters equals 264.172 gallons, and despite Pennsylvania being a bulging hub for craft breweries, consumption to such a degree would be toxic regardless of the presence of glyphosates.

Just like with sunlight, it is the amount that matters – and it is also the individuals involved and the situation at hand. Indeed, some people can down a few more beers than others or partake in a full day of sunbathing without worry, and this is why mitigation efforts mustn’t be made by a centralized power player that is to a large extent separated from the day-to-day aspects of events or actions.

In the New Year, public officials would do well to remember dollar bills from consumers are more powerful in the mind of businesses than House bills from bureaucrats; and as in the words of Elon Musk, it may be best for government to simply “get out of the way” to allow for a 2022 business rebound in PA.

Originally published here

Response to recent media coverage of the CCC’s Harm Reduction work:

A new year means new allegations by so-called journalists that can’t live with the fact that the CCC fights for consumers and is transparent about its work and supporters. This time it’s an article in The Daily Beast in the US, and it feels a bit like Groundhog Day. But we’ll take the opportunity to stress once again how we operate:


The CCC has no “Secret backers”!

CCC is transparent that it receives funding from for profit companies, and this is clearly shown on our website. This includes the fact that the CCC receives funding from British American Tobacco, as well as many other companies, individuals and groups. This is not a secret. We are happy to receive donations from companies and individuals who support our mission and respect our independence, and we are not ashamed of it. 


The CCC operates with full independence from its donors!

CCC welcomes funding from for profit companies, foundations, and individuals who share our mission. CCC operates with full independence from its donors, and all our donors respect this. The suggestion that any donor ‘ran the show’, or directed any of our activities is completely and demonstrably false. We’ve never met, or even heard of, the individual named in the article, and neither he nor anyone else outside of CCC exercises any direction of our activities. 

Anonymous claims from disgruntled former subcontractors are not facts!

One of our agencies engaged a subcontractor to help us reach the global vaping community on social media. This is a vital way for us to reach vapers who want to stand up and fight for consumer rights. This subcontractor knew that their client was the Consumer Choice Center, not any other company or donor of CCC’s. They failed in their mission and were fired more than a year ago. Their anonymous comments suggest a complete misunderstanding and misrepresentation of the situation, and it’s not clear why. Given how bad they were at their job, maybe it’s not a surprise that they can’t remember who their client was. 

The CCC launched the WVA to fight for vapers!

At CCC we are very proud of our work to save lives by reducing the harm of smoking tobacco. That’s why we created the WVA. You can find a longer read on why we launched the WVA here: https://consumerchoicecenter.org/why-we-launched-the-world-vapers-alliance/ 


The CCC is tax compliant and independent!

CCC is a fully independent entity in full compliance with all relevant tax codes. Everything else is a misrepresentation. You can read more here: https://consumerchoicecenter.org/about-us/


Pentingnya Perlindungan Hak Kekayaan Komunal di Indonesia

Ketika kita mendengar istilah hak kekayaan intelektual, apa yang pertama terlintas di benak kita?

Kemungkinan, yang terlintas di benak kita adalah karya-karya seni seperti lagu dan juga film, yang memang hak kekayaan intelektualnya dilindungi. Bila kita pergi untuk menonton di bioskop misalnya, dengan sangat keras kita dilarang untuk merekam film yang dimainkan, karena hal tersebut merupakan bentuk pelanggaran terhadap perlindungan hak kekayaan intelektual.

Contoh lain yang kemunginan muncul di benak kita adalah berbagai logo perusahaan yang sangat akrab dengan kehidupan kita sehari-hari, seperti perusahaan rumah makan ataupun pakaian. Bila kita menggunakan logo perusahaan-perusahaan tersebut untuk keuntungan finansial misalnya, kita bisa dituntut oleh perusahaan tersebut karena telah melanggar hak kekayaan intelektual yang perusahaan tersebut miliki terhadap logo dan nama yang dibuatnya.

Hal tersebut memang sesuatu yang tidak salah. Logo atau nama perusahaan dan juga karya-karya seni seperti lagu dan juga film merupakan bagian dari hak kekayaan intelektual yang harus dilindungi. Bila tidak, maka pihak-pihak yang tidak bertanggung jawab akan dapat dengan sangat mudah membajak karya-karya tersebut, dan tentunya hal tersebut akan merugikan para inovator dan kreator yang membuat karya tersebut.

Tetapi, hak kekayaan intelektual tidak sebatas hal tersebut. Ada jenis-jenis hak kekayaan intelektual lainnya di Indonesia yang oleh sebagian kalangan kerap kurang menjadi perhatian. Salah satunya adalah hak kekayaan intelektual yang dimiliki oleh komunitas tertentu, seperti komunitas tradisional, secara komunal oleh komunitas tersebut.

Jenis kekayaan intelektual tersebut dikenal dengan nama Kekayaan Intelektual Komunial (KIK). Secara garis besar, KIK sendiri didefinisikan sebagai kekayaan intelektual yang kepemilikannya bersifat kelompok dan bukan pribadi. Hal ini umumnya muncul melalui warisan budaya tradisinal yang berkembang di masyarakat tertentu, yang tidak jarang menjadi bagian identitas dari masyarakkat tersebut, dan karena itu wajib dilindungi agar kekayaan intelektual tersebut dapat dilestarikan (jogja.kemenkumham.go.id, 11/8/2020).

Setidaknya, KIK sendiri dibagi menjadi 4 jenis. Yang pertama adalah Pengetahuan Tradisional, yakni karya intelektual di bidang pengetahuan, teknik, keterampilan, dan praktik yang dikembangkan secara berkelanjutan dari generasi ke generasi. Beberapa contoh produk dari kekayaan intelektual komunal kategori pengetahuan tradisional diantaranya adalah pembuatan produk-produk makanan tradisional yang akrab dengan kehidupan kita sehari-hari, seperti pembuatan tempe (bappeda.purworejokab.go.id, 11/6/2021).

Kedua adalah Ekspresi Budaya Tradisional, yang mendakup bentuk-bentuk ekspresi budaya secara tradisional. Diantaranya adala kesenian atau musik tradisional, ritual upacara adat, dan tarian tradisional. Ketiga adalah Sumber Daya Genetik, yakni tanaman atau hewan yang dipergunakan dan dimanfaatkan serta diyakini memiliki khasiat di masyarakat tertentu, seperti berbagai minuman hasil fermentasi tradisiona, seperti tuak dan lain sebagainya tempe (bappeda.purworejokab.go.id, 11/6/2021).

Yang terakhir adalah Potensi Indikasi Geografis, yang merupakan tanda yang menunjukkan daerah asal suatu barang yang dapat memberikan karakteristik tertentu dari barang tersebut. Beberapa dianara contohnya adalah Apel Batu dari Jawa Timur dan Nanas Subang dari Jawa Barat (bappeda.purworejokab.go.id, 11/6/2021).

Berbagai hasil kekayaan intelektual komunal ini sangat penting untuk dilindungi karena bukan saja hanya karena untuk menjaga dan melestariakan kekayaan intelektual tersebut, tetapi juga sangat penting untuk mengembangkan ekonomi komunitas yang kekayaan intelektual tersebut. Berbagai KIK seperti tarian dan juga upacara adat misalnya, merupakan aset yang sangat besar untuk dapat diolah dan dimanfaatkan sebagai daya tarik wisata, yang tentunya akan membawa banyak manfaat ekonomi kepada masyarakat

Begitu pula hal lain seperti pembuatan makanan dan juga pakaian tradisional misalnya, juga memiliki potensi yang besar untuk meningkatkan perekonomian masyarakat. Kain tenun yang dibuat secara tradisional dan juga berbagai makanan tradisional dapat dimanfaatkan dan juga dijual akan perekonomian masyarakat dapat semakin berkembang. Jangan sampai, pihak-pihak yang tidak bertanggung jawab membajak dan membuat klaim tertentu atas kekayaan intelektual komunal tersebut, dan memanfaatkannya demi keuntungan mereka sendiri, seraya merugikan kelompok yang memiliki KIK tersebut.

Sehubungan dengan hal tersebut, pencatatan KIK sebagai bagian dari upaya pelestarian kekayaan intelektual komunal juga merupakan hal yang menjadi perhatian Kementerian Hukum dan HAM (Kemenkumham) sebagai kementerian yang membawahi Direktorat Jenderal Hak Kekayaan Intelektual (Dirjen HKI), yang memiliki tugas dan wewenang untuk melindungi kekayaan intelektual yang dimiliki oleh masyarakat. Hal ini diungkapkan oleh Menteri Hukum dan HAM (Menkumham), Yasonna Laoly.

Menkumham Yasonna mengatakan bahwa KIK bukan hanya bisa mendorong pengembangan di daerah dan juga perekonomian masyarakat, namun warisan budaya tersbeut merupakan bagian dari identitas bangsa yang kita miliki. Maka dari itu, berbagai KIK tersebut harus dicatatkan dan didaftarkan sehingga dapat dilindungi dan dilestarikan (beritasatu.com, 26/4/2020).

Sebagai penutup, kekayaan intelektual komunal di Indonesia merupakan hal yang sangat penting untuk dilindungi dan dilestarikan. Semoga, dengan semkain terlindunginya berbagai KIK dari segala penjuru tanah air, perekonomian daerah dapat semakin berkembang, dan akan mendorong tingkat kesejahteraan masyarakat yang lebih tinggi.

Originally published here

What To Do About PFAS? It’s Complicated.

In the ever-present effort to preserve our environment, the next frontier for regulators is per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). States across the country are narrowing their sights, specifically avoiding their prevalence in water sources. Federally, the PFAS Action Act has been passed in the house, declaring all PFAS hazardous, which could lead to a ban of the entire class of nearly 5,000 chemicals.

It seems obvious that limiting PFAS in water supplies is needed. We know, both from historical cases and recent research, that PFAS can pose a serious threat to human health if it is in the water we drink. It’s the proper role of the government to ensure that dumping is prevented and to punish those responsible to the fullest extent of the law.

But there is good news in this debate that most ignore. Despite alarmist headlines, PFAS has been largely phased out from being used where unnecessary. A  2018 Toxicological Profile for Perfluoroalkyls by the Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry said that “industrial releases have been declining since companies began phasing out the production and use of several perfluoroalkyls in the early 2000s.” In addition, a CDC report shows that since 2000, “mean blood levels of two respective compounds have declined approximately 84 percent and mean blood levels of PFOA have declined about 70 percent,” and recent reports are showing that bodies of water contain only trace amounts of PFAS, and they have been steadily declining.

While that is great news, the conversation in regards to PFAS appears to be stuck in the early 2000s, when a class-action lawsuit against Dupont was launched for what ended up being an egregious case of chemical dumping. The health impact from this was widespread, and the company settled for over $670 million. Unfortunately, federal legislators are responding to headlines of yesteryear as opposed to taking a measured evidence-based approach.

Despite this, a blanket ban would be incredibly misguided because separate use cases for these chemicals present different risks for Americans. Some present no risk to humans, and in fact, provide great value. Take medical equipment for example. PFAS is used in the production of life-saving medical equipment and is vital for contamination-resistant gowns, implantable medical devices, heart patches, and more.

Embracing a “one size fits all” approach to PFAS without evaluating the risk associated with each use puts lifesaving medical technologies in jeopardy and patient safety at risk. That is the fundamental problem with potential bans, regardless of how these chemicals are used and irrespective of whether or not they present a risk to Americans. When produced in a responsible manner that avoids contaminating water sources, the use of PFAS for medical equipment is a net positive for Americans.

But it isn’t just the availability of medical equipment at risk if bans continue. These compounds are fundamental in the production process for smartphones, used by 290 million Americans every day. Forcibly removing these chemicals from the production process would disrupt supply chains, inflate costs for consumers, which is incredibly regressive, all while this use case of PFAS presents little risk to human health.

Unfortunately, this misguided approach is now creeping into the FDA and their Scientific Advisory Board (SAB). During their upcoming December meeting, the SAB plans on releasing the first round of testing data following the release of the National PFAS Testing Strategy in October 2021. The issue with this is that these test orders were issued far in advance of the Agency’s PFAS categorization framework which is essential to obtain data critical for informing the Agency about PFAS hazards, exposure, and risk.

Essentially the SAB is going to publish their findings, prior to the framework that will outline what appropriate thresholds are, and how regulations should be structured accordingly. As a result, the data that is expected to be presented will be presented without any instruction on what the exposure risks are, and will likely lead to a skewed result adding to the PFAS panic and calls for bans.

Luckily, some voices of reason have emerged in Congress, like Indiana Rep. Larry Buschon. As a heart surgeon by trade, he has rightfully pointed out that the heavy-handed approach would put life-saving medical technologies at risk. Hopefully, more will listen, and Congress can both limit PFAS exposure where it is dangerous while allowing for it to continue to be used where it is safe.

Originally published here

6 Reasons Nicotine Is Not Your Enemy

This month’s Christmas festival has great news on public health. In countries that encouraged and accepted tobacco harm reduction policies, the number of smokers has dropped significantly.

In the UK, for example, smoking levels have dropped by 25% since 2013 (when e-cigarettes became popular). Over the past four years in Japan, cigarette sales have fallen by 34%, while sales of reduced-harm alternatives such as heat-not-burn tobacco surged to 30% in 2019.

This was achieved because people who usually look for nicotine do so in a harmless way.

But while these numbers are important wins for consumers, the entire army of nicotine’s unscientific scapegoats undermines their success. This approach has dire consequences: fewer people switch to less harmful alternatives such as vaping, nicotine pouches, or heat-not-burn tobacco devices.

In the Philippines, additional categories of harm reduction are being legalized, but still failing to achieve the widespread adoption required.

Read the full article here

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