Day: February 21, 2022

Group censures public lobby vs.vaping for return of smoking in US

A consumer group blamed public health lobby against vaping and aversion to innovation in the market for contributing to the return of smoking in the United States, with cigarette sales picking up in 2020 for the first time in two decades.

“If we want to reclaim a true public health victory and help smokers quit to give them long and fruitful lives, it is time to cast aside this aversion to the innovations of the market. The future health of our nation depends on it,” the Washington D.C.-based Consumer Choice Center said in its website.

“Smoking is up for the first time in a generation. The public health lobby is to blame,” said the CCC, a consumer advocacy group supporting lifestyle freedom, innovation, privacy, science and consumer choice. It focuses on main policy areas such as digital, mobility, lifestyle and consumer goods and health and science.

Top publications highlighted the “comeback” of cigarettes among the bourgeois hipster crowd in Brooklyn, New York amid the misconception that switching back to cigarettes would be healthier than vaping, according to CCC.

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Smoking bounces back in the US as public health groups block less harmful alternatives

An international consumer advocacy group has warned about the rising smoking prevalence in the United States, amid aversion to innovation and the persistent public health campaigns against vaping and other less harmful alternatives to cigarettes.

“Smoking is up for the first time in a generation. The public health lobby is to blame,” the Washington D.C.-based Consumer Choice Center (CCC) announced on its website.

CCC is a consumer advocacy group supporting lifestyle freedom, innovation, privacy, science and consumer choice. It focuses on main policy areas such as digital, mobility, lifestyle and consumer goods and health and science.

Yaël Ossowski, deputy director of CCC, cited figures from the 2020 Cigarette Report of the Federal Trade Commission showing that Americans bought more cigarettes in 2020 than they have in more than a generation.

“The total number of cigarettes reported sold by the major manufacturers, 203.7 billion units in 2020, increased by 0.8 billion units (0.4 percent) from 2019, the first increase in cigarettes sold in 20 years,” according to the report.

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Don’t worsen the position of consumers

The highest inflation in 13 years is hitting American consumers. Since September 2020, overall food prices have risen by 4.6%, with eggs, poultry, meat, and fish being the most affected.

As consumers scramble to make ends meet in a labor market that remains volatile, it stands to reason that U.S agriculture policy should follow suit.

Over in Europe, the situation for consumers is comparable: with food prices on a 3.4% inflation rate, automatic indexation systems in countries that apply them have already affected wages. However, not all European countries benefit from the same luxury, and even those getting a salary boost are still seeing their purchasing power reduced. Meanwhile, European Union lawmakers continue their push for mechanisms set out to make the food system more sustainable.

Sustainability in agriculture means different things depending on who you ask. For the EU, sustainability has long meant a reduction in crop protection tools (i.e. pesticides), even though there is no link between organic pesticides and a more environmentally friendly food system. Since the early 2010s, the EU has been leading the way in confronting neonicotinoid insecticides, which have been accused of harming honeybee populations. On top of these bans, the EU now seeks to export its policy abroad: The European Commission has announced that food products grown with the help of two specific neonicotinoids will no longer be allowed to be sold in the EU.

There are two ways in which you can analyze this decision: Is it scientifically sound; and is it suitable for trade? Uniquely, the European Commission gets it wrong on both ends.

Just this year, Health Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency decided that the two neonicotinoids in question – clothianidin and thiamethoxam – were not harmful to pollinators, reversing its own 2018 decision. The entire conversation on “bee-harming pesticides” needs to get back to the facts, meaning that the European Commission needs to establish that these insecticides harm pollinators and should be transparent about the fact that bee populations are not declining. If it did those things, we would not be looking at increasingly dire situations for farmers needing to protect their crops from pests.

The other issue is that of international trade. This is not a food safety concern, per the idea that the imported foodstuffs are bad for European consumers. It applies European political and environmental conclusions to trade partners who did not reach those conclusions. Decisions like this need to come under close inspection by the WTO and have no place in an international food market based on free exchange. Consumers should have choices, including those choices that the European Commission disapproves of politically.

For consumers, reduced crop protection toolboxes for farmers is bad news. Unable to protect their crops from pests, farmers will see a significant reduction in output, leading to higher prices. This is not just theoretical. Just last year, France voted to cancel its ban on neonicotinoids because it saw a dire situation for its beet farmers, who saw a dramatic production decline. At the brink of needing to import sugar beet from abroad, French lawmakers abandoned the ban for three years.

In 2015, the French far-right National Front campaigned in the European Parliament for a ban on the insecticide sulfoxaflor, often named as an alternative to neonicotinoids. Back then, Marine Le Pen’s party was shot down politically on the issue, only for the French government to outlaw the substance early last year. One of many decisions that led to the crisis of beet farmers last year.

The United States cannot afford to follow the path of Europe. Increasingly, environmental groups have targeted insecticides, leading to a battle in New York between farmers and legislators wishing to outlaw the substances in question. For all the talk of listening to farmers in the push for sustainability, political actors have done very little of it.

In fact, the policies seeking to impose a one-size-fits-all solution to farming will reduce agricultural output and increase prices at the time we can afford it the least.

Originally published here

Let’s Learn Well What Farming Once Was, Don’t Go Back

Those privileged of having met their grandparents, or even better, their great-grandparents, know of the staggering improvements in human prosperity over the last 100 years. For those born into wealth it’s noticeable through the advances of modern medicine (allowing you to meet your great-grandparents in the first place), but the changes are even more breathtaking for those whose ancestors have a background in farming. 

In fact, most of our ancestor’s stories relate to farming. European immigrants to the United States are often referred to as “seeking a better life”, but the harsher reality is that in most of Europe famine and disease was haunting those living from day to day. The Irish famine of 1845 killed one million people, which at the time represented 15% of the total population. About a century before the mainstream introduction of fungicides, the farming population had no ability to fight potato blight – leading to famines across Europe which caused civil unrest, even toppling the French July Monarchy in the Revolution of 1848. 

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Marketers, manufacturers and even the media have been keeping tabs on all things related to logistics like never before. Coverage of supply chain matters practically doubled in 2020 and media messaging for 2021 spiked towards the end of the year, referring to both bottlenecks and backlogs that created a supply chain crisis that hampered holiday shopping sprees.

The hashtag #emptyshelvesJoe trended on Twitter while Amazon, Target and Walmartrolled out the holiday deals early to curtail any looming delays.

Now, at the start of 2022, it seems concerns are heightened as new problems and new political pressures are bubbling to the surface. Businesses are realising now more than ever just how dependent they are on ensuring supplies and shipments in addition to making sales.

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Potentials for Bitcoin in State Government

Our country is dealing with some of the highest inflation in a generation while COVID jitters and government restrictions shake the economy. But state and local policymakers are not powerless to protect their residents. There is always Bitcoin.

In a time of inflation, ballooning government debts, and broader financial uncertainty, a Bitcoin-first policy would be a welcome message.

The main advantage of Bitcoin, apart from being an alternative to the monetary manipulation of Washington, is that it is digital cash based on a decentralized and transparent public ledger that must be verified by thousands of independent nodes, or computers. It is forever limited to just 21 million units, and it can be sent to anyone around the world who has a wallet address. 

Miami Mayor Francis Suarez is one of the most prominent Bitcoin-loving public officials. He has pledged to make Miami a “Bitcoin City” and already receives 100 percent of his paycheck in Bitcoin. He has joined forces with Scott Conger, mayor of Jackson, Tenn., in finding an option to pay city workers in Bitcoin as well.

For his part, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has made the boldest move of all, including cryptocurrency payment of state fees as a multi-department pilot project in his 2022 budget.

If East Coast mayors and governors can hop on the Bitcoin train, why not everywhere?

State lawmakers could pass legislation allowing treasurers to hold Bitcoin on the state’s balance sheet. That authorization could also allow local governments to follow suit. 

Lawmakers could also welcome Bitcoin mining, as Texas has already done. Mining is the process of unlocking new blocks of Bitcoin by using computing hash power to solve complex algorithms. Some states already provide a sales tax exemption for data centers. That exemption could be broadened to also benefit Bitcoin miners.

As Jesse Colzani has pointed out, rural areas of the world with low energy costs have the biggest economic advantage in Bitcoin mining. Mining computers only need a reliable internet connection, a cool environment, and access to stable power. Welcoming miners would increase investment in facilities, jobs, and help return dividends to local and state coffers. By making it easier for price and energy-conscious Bitcoin miners to relocate, it could help spur a new energy revolution that would dwarf that of hydroelectricity or natural gas.

At present, some states offer financial service companies licenses via the Nationwide Multistate Licensing System & Registry. For Bitcoin specifically, this means registered brokers, or “money transmitters”, can apply for licenses in multiple states that are honored in others. That is a great first step, but it should be even easier.

By offering full reciprocity of money transmitter licenses, any state could ensure that Bitcoin firms could set up shop without hassle in a big city or small town alike. That would be similar to the reciprocity of occupational licenses, which reduce barriers to work and make it easier for qualified individuals to work anywhere. Let’s do the same for the money of the future.

The quick-moving technology of the crypto space is numbing at times, but the role of government is to set clear and easy guidelines for entrepreneurs and citizens.

By opening itself to Bitcoin and the broader cryptocurrency space, states like Texas, North Carolina, or Idaho would have an advantage over the highly regulated financial markets based in New York or California. Low taxes coupled with a light-touch regulatory environment and openness to entrepreneurship would be key to this evolution.

While there are vast philosophical questions invoked by the role of digital assets, the advantage of giving more choice to state residents cannot be overstated. It is a real alternative.

By instituting pilot projects to let citizens offer bitcoin as payment for state fees or keeping it on state balance sheets, giving crypto options for state employees, and easing the regulatory burdens faced by crypto entrepreneurs, states have the opportunity to ensure their residents are ready for the digital age, to the moon and beyond.

Originally published here

We should only ban PFAS when there’s evidence of a health risk

PFAS, also known as man-made or forever chemicals, are the latest addition to the long list of environmental scapegoats. In a hunt for a quick fix, the United States have chosen the path moving towards a complete PFAS ban. A diverse group of over 4000 chemicals, all PFAS–regardless of their individual risks, benefits, and availability of substitutes–could be outlawed.

The PFAS Action Act was introduced in April last year. It was passed in the lower chamber in July and is now sitting with the Senate. Rep. Debbie Dingell, a sponsor of the Bill, called PFAS “an urgent public health and environmental threat.” According to Dingell, “PFAS is causing cancer, infertility, thyroid problems, and a host of other health issues.” This mirrors the rhetoric of Pennsylvania congressional delegation members Madeleine Dean and Mary Gay Scanlon. Both Democratic congresswomen have emphasized the link between PFAS and various diseases, such as cancer as well as their presence in the blood of Americans. Overreaction–not evidence–drives the US PFAS legislation. The assumption behind such an approach is that PFAS as a group carry equal risks.

This view is primarily mistaken because PFAS have a wide array of uses, and, depending on the environment, they break down differently. The regulators should only resort to bans, where the evidence about risks associated with PFAS is solid. PFAS can be found in household items and other consumer products, medical equipment, food packaging, and more. Water, acid, and oil resistance are some of the main features making PFAS hard to substitute. Surgical gowns, curtains, and floor coverings that contain PFAS help protect doctors from infections during surgeries. PFAS also play a key role in cell phone production. A smart way to approach PFAS would be to assess them individually. This would allow us to identify those chemicals that pose a significant risk to our health and wellbeing and introduce regulation accordingly.

In December 2021, the Australian National University published a groundbreaking study on PFAS. The findings provide some helpful insights into what anti-PFAS efforts should focus on. To assess the risks associated with PFAS, three PFAS-contaminated Australian communities were chosen. One of the key findings was that exposure to PFAS in impacted communities almost entirely comes from water and firefighting foam. Those who drink contaminated water, or eat locally grown food that is contaminated, are at the highest risk of PFAS-associated health problems. This suggests that production, specifically poor production processes, carries most of the risk, while the risks associated with consumer items and other PFAS applications are non-existent.

Other findings include the increased PFAS-induced anxiety, which is not necessarily consistent with evidence-based risks of these chemicals. People who thought they had been exposed report symptoms that are entirely unrelated to PFAS. That is not surprising given the number of times PFAS have been presumably linked to multiple health problems.

The connection is weak though. While the Australian study found that PFAS exposure (PFOA and PFOS) increased higher cholesterol, other risks have not been confirmed. Even so, new research published in the Peer Reviewed journal Environmental Research states that there is often insufficient data supporting PFAS exposure with any specific disease. The Australian study shows that policymakers, and the population at large, tend to overreact to PFAS. Irresponsible production processes–not risks posed by consumer items– should be the true reason for concern and regulation.

The overreaction and knee-jerk policy response in the form of blanket ban is also largely mainly by the underreporting of PFAS phase out successes. The self-regulation of medical production companies in the 2000s led to a decrease of PFAS levels in the bloodstream of Americans. According to a 2018 Toxicological Profile for Perfluoroalkyls by the Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry, “industrial releases have been declining since companies began phasing out the production and use of several perfluoroalkyls in the early 2000s.”

There is still a lot we don’t know about PFAS and the specific risks each of these chemicals carries. What we do know, though, is that exposure to contaminated water is dangerous. U.S. government regulation should target these harmful production processes–rather than looking to ban all PFAS, in particular those found in consumer items. It is key to not overreact and spread anxiety around PFAS, where there is no evidence.

Originally published here

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