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Month: September 2022

Temperance makes a comeback

Dramatic shift in alcohol consumption guidelines could undermine the ultimate goal of harm reduction

More than 100 years ago temperance organizations promoting total abstention from alcohol and ultimately prohibition were a force to be reckoned with in Canada. Luckily for Canadians, sanity ultimately won out and alcohol was legalized in all provinces in the 1920s. Temperance societies may now seem like a thing of the past but there is a growing movement of lobby groups carrying the same banner under a different name.

Take, for example, the Canadian Centre for Substance use and Addiction (CCSA). Just this month it released a new report on alcohol that concluded that consuming more than two alcoholic beverages per week could seriously jeopardize your health. Yes, according to the CCSA, anything more than two beers in a seven-day period is cause for concern.

The CCSA’s new proposed alcohol guidelines are a radical departure from existing guidelines, which state that adults can consume upwards of 15 drinks per week for men and 10 drinks per week for women without serious danger to their health. Based on pre-pandemic data, upwards of 85 per cent of Canadian drinkers consume responsibly, according to these guidelines. Fifteen per cent of drinkers do not, however, and their problem drinking is obviously cause for concern.

The CCSA’s drastically lower guidelines for alcohol consumption will target many more than the 15 per cent of drinkers who regularly exceed the current standards. In terms of realistic public outcomes, it would be far better to focus on the relatively small number of people who struggle with serious alcohol abuse rather than to shift the goalposts so much that virtually all alcohol consumers in Canada become problem drinkers overnight.

In fact, shifting the standard so dramatically could undermine the ultimate goal of harm reduction: guidelines so divorced from the everyday experience of Canadians likely will be ignored by alcohol consumers across the country.

Another CCSA suggestion is a new “standard drink” label for alcohol. Different types of alcoholic beverage would carry labeling indicating how many such standard drinks were in each container. At first glance, this may seem to make sense, especially if the pandemic has warped many consumers’ views of what qualifies as one drink.

On the other hand, a drink’s impact will vary from person to person and situation to situation. Even for the same individual, alcohol’s impact can vary depending on how tired they are, their hydration or whether they have eaten recently. A standardized drink metric might well provide many drinkers with a false sense of security, especially regarding impaired driving. Consumers might believe that consuming two drinks at a bar leaves them able to drive when in fact the impact of those two drinks varies significantly depending on circumstances. Moreover, alcohol sold in Canada already indicates the volume and percentage of alcohol, which are clearly defined scientific metrics, on the bottle.

Beyond the merits of CCSA’s recommendations, there are obvious problems with the policy model in which government funds organizations whose purpose is to lobby government for policy changes. The CCSA is almost entirely funded by the federal government. How strange it is, in this post-Prohibition age, that the government funds a group whose mission is to discourage even moderate alcohol consumption. As Professor Sylvain Charlebois has pointed out, it’s like giving vegan organization PETA money to do a report on beef consumption in Canada. There’s not much suspense regarding what the report will say.

We know that the pandemic — specifically being home-bound for the better part of two years — shifted Canadians’ patterns of alcohol consumption. But the response to a 100-year pandemic is hardly justification for caving in to the new temperance lobby. Expanding the nanny state and infantilizing responsible drinkers is not the answer to any problem.

Originally published here

Vape dan RPP No. 109 Tahun 2012

Industri vape saat ini merupakan salah satu industri yang semakin berkembang di berbagai negara di dunia, termasuk juga di Indonesia. Kita, khususnya yang tinggal di daerah urban dan perkotaan, pasti bisa dengan mudah menemukan berbagai orang yang menjadi pengguna vape dan rokok elektrik, dan juga berbagai toko yang menjual berbagai produk-produk tersebut.

Tidak bisa dipungkiri, sebagai salah satu dampak yang tidak terelakkan dari perkambangan industri vape yang pesat ini di Indonesia, timbul berbagai pro dan kontra terhadap fenomena tersebut. 

Di satu sisi, ada pihak yang menentang dan beranggapan bahwa fenomena semakin meningkatnya industri vape sebagai sesuatu yang sangat negatif.

Bagi sebagian pihak, vape atau rokok elektrik merupakan sesuatu yang sangat berbahaya bagi kesehatan, sama seperti atau bahkan lebih berbahaya, dengan rokok konvensional yang dibakar. 

Untuk itu, fenomena semakin meningkatnya industri vape dan juga meningkatnya para konsumen rokok elektrik merupakan sesuatu yang sangat berbahaya bagi kesehatan publik, dan harus dapat segera diatasi.

Mereka yang memiliki pandangan seperti ini umumnya akan mengadvokasi berbagai kebijakan yang ditujukan untuk melarang, atau setidaknya membatasi melalui regulasi yang sangat ketat, peredaran dari berbagai produk-produk rokok elektrik. 

Hal ini dapat berupa berbagai kebijakan, seperti pembatasan peredaran, mengenakan pajak dan cukai yang tinggi, hingga berbagai kebijakan lainnya.

Di Indonesia sendiri, tidak sedikit pihak-pihak yang memiliki pandangan tersebut dalam melihat fenomena semakin meningkatnya jumlah pengguna vape. 

Mereka melihat fenomena semakin meningkatnya para pengguna vape, yang banyak didominasi oleh kalangan muda yang tinggal di perkotaan, Untuk itu, diperlukan berbagai aturan yang ditujukan untuk membatasi masyarakat untuk bisa mendapatkan dan mengkonsumsi produk-produk rokok elektronik.

Beberapa waktu lalu misalnya, peemerintah melakukan revisi terhadap Peraturan Pemerintah No. 109 tahun 2012, yang merupakan perturan yang meregilasi produk-produk tembakau yang dijual kepada masyarakat, salah satunya adalah rokok. 

Dalam revisi tersebut, dicantumkan juga produk-produk yang termasuk dalam Hasil Pengolahan Tembakau Lainnya (HPTL), di mana mencakup juga produk-produk rokok elektrik.

Salah satu poin yang tercantum di dalam peraturan tersebut adalah, setiap produsen produk-produk tembakau, termasuk juga HTPL seperti rokok elektrik, harus mencantumkan bahwa produk tersebut “mengandung lebih dari 7000 zat kimia berbahaya serta lebih dari 69 zat penyebab kanker.” 

Adanya poin ini tentu merupakn sesuatu yang tepat untuk menggambarkan produk rokok konvensional yang dibakar, nemun tidak relevan untuk mendeskripsikan kandungan yang terdapat dalam produk-produk rokok elektrik (ekonomi.bisnis.com, 28/7/2022).

Sudah menjadi rahasia umum bahwa rokok konvensional yang dibakar merupakan produk yang sangat berbahaya untuk dikonsumsi, dan bisa meneyababkan penggunanya untuk terkena berbagai penyakit kronis, seperti kanker dan serangan jantung. Hal ini dikarenakan terdapat ribuan zat kimia berbahaya yang terkandung di dalam rokok konvensional yang dibakar.

Dengan demikian, regulasi untuk mencantumkan dampak bahaya kandungan yang terkandung dalam produk rokok konvensional merupakan sesuatu yang tepat. Hal itu dilakukan sebagai upaya untuk menanggulangi dampak bahaya rokok terhadap kesehatan publik melalui pengurangan jumlah perokok yang ada di Indonesia.

Tidak bisa dipungkiri bahwa, kebijakan regulasi ini merupakan kebijakan yang memiliki tujuan awal yang baik. Rokok konvensional yang dibakar merupakan salah satu musuh terbesar kesehatan publik, yang telah menimbulkan berbagai penyakit kronis terhadap jutaan orang di seluruh dunia, termasuk juga Indonesia.

Namun, kebijakan yang didasari oleh tujuan yang baik tidak berarti menjadi kebijakan tepat dan akan menghasilkan dampak yang positif. Kebijakan regulasi yang mengharuskan produk-produk HTPL seperti rokok elektrik untuk mencantumkan kandungan 7.000 zat kimia berbahaya seperti rokok konvensional yang dibakar adalah sesuatu yang keliru.

Vape atau rokok elektrik misalnya, merupakan produk yang jauh lebih tidak berbahaya bila dibandingkan dengan rokok konvensional yang dibakar. 

Pada tahun 2015 lalu misalnya, lembaga kesehatan publik asal Inggris, Public Health England, menerbitkan laporan mereka yang menyatakan bahwa rokok elektrik 95% lebih tidak berbahaya bila dibandingkan dengan rokok konvensional yang dibakar (gov.uk, 19/8/2015).

Hal ini dikarenakan, vape atau rokok elektrik memiliki kandungan yang berbeda dengan rokok konvensional yang dibakar. Dua bahan utama yang terkandung di dalam cairan rokok elektrik adalah apa yang disebut dengan propylene glycol (PG) dan vegetable glycerin (VG), yang berfungsi sebagai penambah rasa dan pembuat uap. 

Kedua bahan tersebut juga merupakan bahan yang umum digunakan sebagai perasa kue dan makanan lainnya, dan telah dinyatakan aman oleh lembaga regulasi makanan dan obat-obatan Amerika Serikat, Food and Drugs Administration (fda.gov, 24/10/2019).

Di berbagai negara, seperti di Britania Raya, vape atau rokok elektrik justru digunakan sebagai alat yang dapat membantu para perokok untuk menghentikan kebiasaannya yang berbahaya. 

Pemanfaatan vape atau roko elektrik sebagai alat yang dapat membantu seseorang berhenti merokok tentu merupakan hal yang sangat penting, terlebih lagi mengingat Indonesia merupakan salah satu negara dengan jumlah populasi perokok aktif tertinggi di dunia.

Dengan demikian, aturan regulasi yang mewajibkan seluruh produk hasil olahan tembakau, salah satunya vape atau rokok elektrik, untuk mencantumkan kandungan 7.000 zat kimia berbahaya adalah sesuatu yang tidak tepat. 

Dengan demikian, konsumen akan berpikir bahwa rokok elektrik sama bahayanya dengan rokok, dan bisa mengurangi insentif para perokok untuk mengganti kebiasaan mereka yang sangat berbahaya ke produk yang jauh lebih aman.

Sebagai penutup, rokok merupakan produk yang sangat berbahaya bagi kesehatan publik. Untuk itu, dibutuhkan berbagai kebijakan yang ditujukan untuk memberi disinsentif bagi seseorang untuk mengkonsumsi produk tersebut, salah satunya yang paling penting adalah memberikan produk alternatif lain yang jauh lebih aman.

Originally published here

PROHIBITION 2.0

Une initiative européenne propose la fin des produits à base de nicotine, avec une restriction définitive pour ceux nés depuis 2010. Autant de clients potentiels pour les futurs contrebandiers…  

Une nouvelle initiative citoyenne européenne, lancée par une organisation espagnole à but non lucratif, demande l’interdiction de la vente de tabac et de produits à base de nicotine aux personnes nées après 2010. Si la pétition recueille un nombre suffisant de signatures dans l’UE, elle devra être examinée par la Commission européenne.

Cette proposition est frappante à plus d’un titre. Les objectifs fournis par le militant espagnol NoFumadores sont plutôt courts et ne permettent pas d’établir si les règles qu’il propose seraient efficaces:

« La pandémie de tabagisme est la première cause de décès évitable. Les mégots sur les plages causent des dommages environnementaux à l’océan et à sa faune, dans les forêts ils provoquent des incendies et contaminent le sol et l’eau. 

Pour éviter aux nouvelles générations de tomber dans le tabagisme, en plus d’agir avec force contre les dangers environnementaux causés par les mégots et de lutter contre le tabagisme, il est nécessaire de : promouvoir la première génération européenne sans tabac d’ici 2028, en mettant fin à la vente de tabac et de produits à base de nicotine aux citoyens nés depuis 2010. »

En fait, il n’existe guère de modus operandi d’un point de vue politique aussi brutalement simpliste que la prohibition, tant dans sa motivation que dans son exécution. On pourrait penser qu’après des décennies de tentatives ratées pour restreindre la vente et l’utilisation du cannabis, les décideurs politiques et les militants comprendraient enfin que ces interdictions non seulement ne fonctionnent pas, mais sont même contre-productives.

L’ère des criminels

L’ère de la prohibition aux Etats-Unis est surtout remarquable par sa capacité à créer certains des plus grands réseaux criminels de l’histoire de l’humanité. La contrefaçon et la contrebande d’alcool ont enrichi des criminels bien connus comme Al Capone, John Dillinger, Baby Face Nelson ou encore Bonnie et Clyde, qui, malgré leur réhabilitation cinématographique, ont été responsables du meurtre et de l’extorsion de milliers d’innocents.

L’Espagne elle-même a connu une ère de prohibition sous le gouvernement fasciste de Franco. Le dictateur lui-même, qui était un abstinent qui considérait que le vin n’était utile qu’à des fins sacramentelles, a introduit des contrôles stricts sur l’alcool, les drogues et les fêtes – tous considérés comme susceptibles de perturber l’harmonie religieuse et familiale de la nouvelle Espagne nationaliste.

Ce n’est que depuis les années 1970 que l’Espagne a retrouvé son goût pour les vices, sans se soucier de savoir s’ils sont conformes à une vision conservatrice de la façon dont ils devraient vivre leur vie.

Dans l’Europe d’aujourd’hui, alors que les gouvernements tentent de rendre le prix du tabac et des produits à base de nicotine prohibitif, le marché noir est florissant. Pas plus tard que fin août, une action conjointe de la police fédérale belge, du service de contrôle des gardes-frontières polonais et du bureau de police criminelle lituanien a permis de découvrir deux chaînes entières de fabrication de cigarettes destinées à produire diverses marques connues, pour une valeur marchande de plus de 73 M€. Selon Europol, 274 millions de cigarettes, 88 tonnes de tabac coupé, 65 tonnes de tabac pour pipe à eau et 40 tonnes de tabac brut ont été saisis.

De nouveaux clients pour les contrebandiers

En mai, les douanes françaises avaient déjà saisi 40 tonnes de cigarettes de contrefaçon. Tandis que, début août, les autorités belges ont arrêté 45 personnes et saisi 28 millions de cigarettes. En 2021, toutes les autorités européennes réunies ont saisi 430 millions de cigarettes illégales.

Alors que les douanes cherchent des aiguilles dans des bottes de foin, essayant de traquer les contrebandiers, elles luttent contre un marché noir qui fournit des produits du tabac à ceux qui trouvent que fumer est tout simplement trop cher. Quiconque s’est rendu à la gare du Nord, à Paris, a pu constater la myriade de revendeurs qui ne vendent pas de drogues dures, mais qui sont capables de vous fournir des paquets de cigarettes, pour une fraction du prix que vous payeriez chez un marchand de journaux.

Cependant, une interdiction générationnelle créerait une interdiction stricte basée sur l’âge du consommateur, sans tenir compte de son pouvoir d’achat, et donc beaucoup plus de clients potentiels pour les gangsters inconnus du commerce illégal de cigarettes.

Tout cela soulève la question suivante : parmi ceux qui ont étudié la question, qui regarderait les leçons de la prohibition et tenterait de la répéter ? Les législateurs peuvent interdire un produit, mais ils ne peuvent pas interdire la demande – et là où il y a une demande, l’offre suivra rapidement.

Cela ne veut pas dire que les effets du tabagisme sur la santé ne sont pas réels ; ils le sont. C’est pourquoi il est d’autant plus regrettable que la pétition mette sur le même plan les produits à base de nicotine tels que les cigarettes électroniques ou et les cigarettes classiques.

Il est prouvé que les produits de vapotage sont beaucoup plus sûrs que les cigarettes et servent d’outil de sevrage tabagique. Si les gommes ou les patchs à la nicotine aident certains fumeurs à arrêter, c’est le vapotage qui permet aux fumeurs actuels de se défaire de cette habitude. Ces choix doivent rester à leur disposition.

Originally published here

Why Political Interference in Big Tech Continues To Be a Big Mistake

little common sense and a little historical context make it relatively easy to see that monopoly power concerns for Big Tech are blown out of proportion, since internet incumbents don’t last forever and even the greatest industry leaders can be beaten at their own game. Take for instance AOL’s AIM, which despite having immense market powercouldn’t maintain its dominant position indefinitely – and the same is true for others within the tech sector.

Gen Xers remember when Facebook replaced Friendster and Myspace, just as younger audiences have now replaced Facebook with TikTok and Snapchat. And while TikTok is garnering quite a bit of media attention, Twitch and Discord are poised to be next as preferred platforms

Based on these examples, the pitching of proposals in Congress regarding who can or cannot tweet seems counterintuitive, especially since Twitter ranks rather low in usersanyway. 

Yael Ossowski, deputy director of the Consumer Choice Center, notes that “If Congress succeeds in changing antitrust laws to curb tech power, it will not be to the benefit of the typical user and consumer online. Rather, it would fulfill the political goals of a coalition that seeks to curtail much more than mergers and acquisitions: certain political speech, movements they view as hostile, and products to which they would rather consumers not have access.” Indeed, having the government determine who can post or what can be posted is a more concerning matter than that of a private organization.

Given that government oversight tends to grow overtime, and that regulations rarely get repealed once in place, competition serves a better means than government interference for curtailing Big Tech’s bad behavior. Even the best of the best in the business realm go by the wayside in due time, which is why calls for antitrust action against Big Tech should be squashed and claims for content moderation should also be put to rest – despite the detestable deleting of accounts and posts based on political grounds.

The market should be allowed to do what it does best – as conveyed by Joseph Schumpeter and those who advocate for his stance – incentivize competition via consumer interests and promote creative destruction through innovative processes. 

Government interference will only generate greater forms of technocracy, resulting in any entrepreneur in this realm to spend a greater amount of time and money navigating legal matters rather than on learning how to serve users best. And the amount of big bucks Big Tech is currently spending on lobbying fees could certainly be put toward better and more productive use.

Although politicians herald antitrust as being a means for mitigating the abuse of market power, the opposite is true. Antitrust results in nanny state stipulations that inhibit competition from new entrants and increases opportunities for regulatory capture – which, given Congress’s limited understanding of the tech space, is highly likely as the best of the best in the industry will be called upon to advise and consult on the rules being made.  

The aftereffects of antitrust have always been anti-producer, anti-consumer, and anti-progress. Ayn Rand rightly asserted that, “The Antitrust laws—an unenforceable, uncompliable, unjudicable mess of contradictions—have for decades kept American businessmen under a silent, growing reign of terror.” And according to a study for the Competitive Enterprise Institute, “Aggressive antitrust enforcement can create considerable economic uncertainty, which can have a chilling effect on long-term investment and innovation in both products and in business practices that benefit consumers.” 

It is important to remember that a monopoly in its truest sense is not occurring whenever the potential for an alternative to come about is present. And while some cry foul to how some in Big Tech are calling the shots on posting privileges, or how the creation of competing platforms has been hampered by restrictions of certain hosting sites, such asAmazon blocking Parler, the social media landscape is shifting. New entrants and options may not have come about as quickly as we’d like, but alternatives are gaining ground.

It should also be noted that even when there are limited options in a market economy, this does not always mean something is wrong, in fact it can actually mean that something is right. Consumers are creatures of habit, and so if value is being provided for and people are satisfied, other options may simply not be necessary nor desired. And for most of social media’s history, this was the case. Being able to interact online at no cost has been, and continues to be, a great benefit to many. 

Limited choice can also occur when consumers consist of a small or captive market – Milton Friedman noted how it would be inefficient to have more than one telephone poll producer in each town. Fortunately, unlike Friedman’s example, the World Wide Web is a limitless townsquare and so is our potential for contacts and queries – therefore one platform will never be enough. In fact, according to the Global Web Index, Gen Z and Millennials have, on average, 8.4 social media accounts and are known to gravitate toward other sites whenever something better comes along. 

Currently, image-based platforms are proving to be favored by younger audiences, while decentralized P2P platforms are also making waves. Online usage rates, and online offerings, will adjust to interests at hand, and given that network effects are diminishing through the consolidation of accounts, converting followers from one platform to another is getting easier. Perhaps no one knows this better than Mark Zuckerberg. As it turns out, after Meta acquired Instagram and WhatsApp, one of Facebook’s biggest concerns is competition coming from within. And when all three of these platforms became unavailable for roughly six hours, in October of  2021 due to a network outage, online audiences utilized other sites or simply logged off – proving people can pivot and adjust as needed.

Rest assured that Big Tech is more vulnerable than many realize, and competition isproving to be plentiful. The government’s meddling in social media matters is not only a waste of time and resources for both the public and private spheres, but also a big mistake for promoting the progress of user services and options.

Originally published here

Intel’s microchip expansion could fail if Congress bans this crucial set of chemicals

Opinion: A bill before Congress calls for a heavy-handed ban of PFAS, a set of chemicals that are vital to semiconductor production.

A severe shortage in computer chips roiled the U.S. economy last year, costing auto manufacturers $210 billion in revenue alone as cars sat in lots waiting for chips to be installed.

Other sectors took hits, too, given that semiconductor are used in everything from computers, smartphones, consumer electronics to appliances and medical equipment. 

Luckily for consumers, in response to the shortages, Intel has broken ground on two chip manufacturing plants in Arizona to help secure supply chains and prevent further disruptions. When all is said and done, Chandler will be home to six semiconductor production facilities, employing around 15,000 people

The size and scope of these investments cannot be understated.

The growth experienced in Arizona’s chip manufacturing facilities may be stifled, however, if Congress proceeds with heavy-handed bans for perfluoroalkyls (PFAS) under the PFAS Action Act.

We need PFAS to make semiconductors

Perfluoroalkyls, a grouping of 4,000-plus manmade chemicals, are a vital part of the semiconductor production process – primarily because of their chemical resistance and surface tension-lowering properties. This makes the chips durable and resistant to liquids and erosion. 

The PFAS Action Act could seriously jeopardize chip manufacturing, and ultimately make the chip shortage much worse before it gets better. These chemicals are vital for the production of semiconductors, predominantly the use of coolant, and if Congress continues down the path of wanting to ban PFAS then consumers will be in a world of trouble.

What’s at stake:Separate semiconductor bill could be an economic boon

We know that this is a predictable outcome of heavy-handed PFAS policy because it is exactly what we are seeing in Europe, where officials in Belgium paused production at a chemical plant in response to the tightening of environmental regulations.

Reporting done by Business Korea highlighted that semiconductor producers had only 30 to 90 days of coolant inventory left before they would encounter serious production problems.

If Congress continues down the path it is on, it is naive to think that disruptions like this aren’t headed for the American market, with U.S. consumers bearing the brunt of the chaos. 

Keep them out of water. Don’t ban them outright

This isn’t to say that PFAS producers should be able to operate without any regard for the environment and PFAS exposure. In fact, the opposite is true.

Regulating PFAS has to be done from the perspective of clean drinking water, as opposed to declaring all PFAS chemicals hazardous. Ensuring proper production standards to avoid dumping or leakage helps solve the problem of contaminated water, without resorting to an outright ban of PFAS.

For chip production, this is vital, given that there are no viable alternatives to using PFAS in the production process.  

This is especially important in the context of everyday consumer products that rely on these chemicals in the manufacturing process. If production standards for PFAS are upheld, and enforced, we can tackle the clean drinking water issue while allowing for PFAS to be used where it presents little to no risk to consumers, like the production of semiconductors. 

This is the balancing act that Congress has to consider when deciding what is next regarding PFAS. It needs to evaluate the emerging science on PFAS, evaluating not just hazard but, more importantly, the exposure levels that make PFAS risky for Americans and from where those exposures come. 

PFAS Action Act could doom chip production

In December, the Australian National University published a study on PFAS. The findings provide some helpful insights into what anti-PFAS efforts should focus. 

One of the key findings was that exposure to PFAS in affected communities almost entirely came from water and firefighting foam. PFAS contamination was a result of poor production practices, or criminal dumping, and when PFAS firefighting foam leeched into the ground.

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 poor production processes carry most of the risk, while the risks associated with consumer items and other PFAS applications are limited, like the use of PFAS in the production of semiconductors. 

A clean drinking water approach to PFAS is entirely appropriate, but getting there cannot, and should not, result in outright production bans.

If Congress can narrow its sights on proper production processes, American consumers can avoid water contamination, without the chaos of an exacerbated semiconductor shortage and job losses in Arizona.  

But if Congress proceeds with the PFAS Action Act, Intel’s investment in Chandler and its plans to boost domestic chip production may be destined to fail. 

Originally published here

End the vape ban 

In a move that sent waves across South and Southeast Asia last week, Thailand’s Public Health Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Anutin Charnvirakul iterated that the importation and production ban on vaping products will continue, depriving Thai smokers of provable alternatives to quit.

Harm-reducing alternatives to combustible cigarettes, including vaping devices, heated tobacco, and oral pouches, provide nicotine in a less harmful fashion, according to most major health bodies, but the minister was insistent that the rising use of these products by young people was enough to warrant their continued ban.

While nicotine alternatives remained banned, the minister has been praised for his efforts to decriminalise cannabis products, and rightly so. 

But the continued prohibition on nicotine alternatives such as vaping, however, is a dangerous path that removes opportunities for Thailand’s large population of smokers — currently estimated at nearly a quarter of the population, some 15.4 million people. 

Read the full article here

How to Fight Inflation: 6 Money-Saving Tips for 2022

Don’t think you’re powerless against inflation. Try these financial strategies in six different areas of your spending life.

It’s no secret that inflation has battered a lot of bank accounts in the last year. Some prices have been going down lately, like gas, but other prices, like that for food, are still climbing. 

If you’re looking to save money, here are some money-saving tips in six areas of your spending life.

Travel

Inflation-fighting tip: Remember that you always pay for convenience.

Convenience costs more when it comes to virtually any purchase you make, but it’s especially costly when you’re traveling. John Shrewsbury, a financial advisor and co-owner of GenWealth Financial Advisors in Bryant, Arkansas, often goes on business trips and says that he has observed what many of us likely have: “Convenience comes at a significant price.”

He cites staying at a hotel near your destination as often being far higher a price than staying at a lower price a bit further away.

“Most airlines charge for luggage, so packing efficiently could save $30 to $50 bucks,” Shrewsbury says. “And, on that rental car, pumping your own gas to fill up right before you return will save several dollars over letting the rental company fill it and charge you.”

He has other examples. “Eating at the hotel is likely to be more expensive than at a nearby restaurant. Also, food at the airport is usually more expensive because they have a captive audience, so if possible, eat before you leave for the plane.”

Granted, plenty of travelers are willing to pay more for the convenience, and if you are, that’s fine. But it is something to remember, if you’re looking to save money on travel. If you’re willing to be a little inconvenienced, you can probably go farther for less.

Groceries

Inflation-fighting tip: Shop strategically for your food.

That may not sound like much of a tip. We all know that we need to shop strategically, don’t we? Still, we can always use a pep talk. It isn’t easy shopping strategically for food. We may not be hunting and gathering in the way our ancestors did, but you still have to bargain hunt and scour the landscape for deals. It can be mind-numbing and stressful.

Read the full text here

POURQUOI LES ETATS-UNIS NE NOUS FOURNISSENT PAS PLUS DE PÉTROLE ?

Les Etats-Unis doivent augmenter radicalement leur production de pétrole, non seulement pour le bien des Américains, mais aussi pour apporter un soutien stratégique à ses alliés.

Dans un rare moment de lucidité, Emmanuel Macron, lors du sommet du G7 au mois de juin, s’est manifesté devant Joe Biden pour lui expliquer à quel point l’Europe a besoin de pétrole. « Désolé de vous interrompre », s’est interposé en s’excusant Macron devant les caméras. Les chefs d’Etats et de gouvernement étaient au point d’entrer dans un bâtiment, donc le moment était bien choisi : même si Macron chuchotait, l’intérêt était bien que nous entendions l’échange.

Macron explique qu’il a récemment échangé avec des responsables des Emirats arabes unis, qui lui ont assuré qu’ils étaient pratiquement au maximum de leurs capacités de production (si nous choisissons de les croire). Avec l’ambition de sortir de la dépendance énergétique russe, la réalité pour l’Europe est qu’il y a tout simplement un manque d’approvisionnement. L’hiver prochain, les prix de l’énergie devraient battre des records, même ceux qui ont déjà été battus plus tôt cette année.

De petites promesses

L’appel tacite de Macron à l’égard de Biden est clair : pourquoi les Etats-Unis ne fournissent-ils pas plus de pétrole au monde, alors qu’ils en ont clairement la capacité ?

Lors de sa récente escapade à Bruxelles, Biden s’est tenu aux côtés de la présidente de la Commission européenne, Ursula von der Leyen, et a annoncé la création d’un groupe de travail conjoint visant à réduire la dépendance de l’UE à l’égard du gaz russe « aussi rapidement que possible », promettant jusqu’à 15 milliards de mètres cubes de gaz naturel liquéfié (GNL) américain d’ici la fin de l’année et jusqu’à 50 milliards de mètres cubes par an à la fin de la décennie.

Curieusement, Biden a simultanément promis de rendre ces engagements compatibles avec un objectif d’émissions nettes nulles, mais malgré cela, l’annonce est une bonne nouvelle. Les importations américaines de GNL en Europe aident à combler le fossé qui sépare l’Europe des autres importateurs du monde entier.

En ce qui concerne l’essence, la folie écologique de Biden est plus intense, ce qui entrave les niveaux de production nécessaires pour commencer à penser aux exportations. En fait, l’administration Biden a rendu trop difficile le forage du pétrole : les permis de forage pétrolier ont été réduits de plus de moitié depuis l’arrivée de Joe Biden au pouvoir. Joe Biden a déclaré que les compagnies pétrolières devraient être encouragées à augmenter leur capacité, mais l’industrie a riposté en accusant l’administration de retarder ses activités.

Joe Biden est confronté à une décision qui marquera sa présidence dans les livres d’histoire. Dans le but de rallier l’aile écologiste de son propre parti, il a choisi d’étoffer son administration avec des personnalités qui souhaitent la disparition totale de l’industrie des combustibles fossiles.

Tout doit disparaître

Saule Omarova, à un moment donnée candidate de Biden pour le Bureau du contrôleur de la monnaie, a déclaré à propos des entreprises de combustibles fossiles que « un grand nombre des petits acteurs de cette industrie vont probablement faire faillite. Du moins, nous voulons qu’ils fassent faillite si nous voulons nous attaquer au changement climatique ».

Omarova, qui est née au Kazahkstan à l’époque où le pays faisait partie de l’Union soviétique, avait par ailleurs tweeté en 2019 : « Dites ce que vous voulez de l’ex URSS, il n’y avait pas d’écart de rémunération entre les sexes là-bas. Le marché ne sait pas toujours ce qui est le mieux. »

Elle était donc devenue non viable pour l’administration Biden, vraisemblablement parce qu’elle a révélé la vérité au grand public.

Des nouvelles récentes soulignent que ce n’est qu’en juin que la production pétrolière des Etats-Unis a atteint les niveaux pré-pandémiques. C’est clairement insuffisant pour ce que représente actuellement la demande mondiale. Cela dit, les Etats-Unis ont fait quelques efforts pour fournir à l’Europe des réserves de pétrole supplémentaires.

En avril, plusieurs superpétroliers ont acheminé plus de 2 millions de barils vers l’Europe. L’Europe doit donc adresser ses demandes directement à la caméra, et être claire quant aux implications des parties : L’Europe et les États-Unis devraient mettre en veilleuse toutes leurs ambitions en matière de climat, raffiner davantage de pétrole et coopérer pour l’acheminer rapidement et efficacement.

Pour qu’un embargo énergétique russe fonctionne à long terme (et, compte tenu des circonstances actuelles, il devra fonctionner à long terme), les deux blocs n’ont essentiellement pas d’autre choix. Aucune transition énergétique verte, même si nous la croyons faisable et recommandable, ne peut s’activer assez rapidement pour nous permettre de passer les prochaines années, sans parler de l’hiver à venir.

Les Etats-Unis doivent augmenter radicalement leur production de pétrole, non seulement pour le bien des Américains, mais aussi pour apporter un soutien stratégique à ses alliés. S’il existe un moment où les réserves pétrolières américaines constituent un avantage vital, que ce soit pour lutter contre la baisse du pouvoir d’achat ou pour montrer sa force géopolitique, c’est maintenant.

Originally published here

In the fight between rodents and humans, environmentalists choose the rats

Imagine the scene in 14th-century Europe, as the continent was suffering under the bubonic plague, if a group of aristocrats had taken the side of the rats. What seems like a blueprint for a Monty Python sketch, or a skit on SNL during the days it dared to take risks, is not far from the world we see today.

For years, environmental activists have supported a ban on rat poison, and the Environmental Protection Agency has followed suit by, for instance, banning pellet rodenticides. When activists target examples of products that deserve increased scrutiny, though, their blind spots show. The Pesticide Action Network writes in a blog post: “The fact of the matter? Rodenticides are not needed. Predators like owls, hawks and other raptors do a great job of rodent control.”

While hawks and other raptors may address a rat problem in the countryside, they don’t show up to catch rodents in Times Square. Europe has learned this lesson painfully since the European Union has restricted the use of rat poison. Some EU members, such as the Netherlands, have gone further by virtually banning all rat poison from 2023, paving the way for a significant infestation. 

The Knowledge and Advice Center for Animal Pests warns in major media outlets that new infestations of rats are looming. Its director told a public radio station: “Unfortunately, people will not realize it until the rats and mice run down the street.”

“In the Lanternfly War, Some Take the Bug’s Side,” announced the New York Times in a headline last month. The Chinese insect that has made its way to the United States and infested fields since 2014 now threatenshundreds of millions in farming damages, according to the Department of Agriculture.

However, the article also gives voice to those who believe that protecting the insect, and not preventing farms and forests from being decimated, ought to be the priority. Student Catherine Bonner, 22, says the bugs “didn’t ask to be invasive, they are just living their own life” and “I would be bummed if I suddenly started existing somewhere I wasn’t supposed to exist, and everyone started killing me for it.” The New York Times adds that Bonner shares her feelings about lanternflies “only with close friends” (and a reporter of a national newspaper for her story).

Environmentalists and lanternfly enthusiasts fail to recognize the importance of the agricultural sector. One would think that the last two years have shown how supply chain disruptions and food price inflation affect all consumers alike, making families struggle to make ends meet. Toying with the thin fabric that holds our food system together is irresponsible and ignorant; it’s a luxury perspective that only some in the Western world can afford to have.

On the scale of Roman decadence similarities, it’s hard to tell where taking the side of rats and insects fits in. This phenomenon underlines a fundamental problem of the environmental movement: It does not prioritize the interest and well-being of humans. The essence of their ideals lies in elevating the lives of insects or plants over those of people. If the two interests can’t be immediately reconciled, environmentalists will choose whichever hampers the interests of consumers.

It would be hard for our ancestors to believe that anyone would have to say this, but between rodents and humans, don’t choose the rodents.

Originally published here

THE COUNTERFACTUAL: What is WHO doing about ENDS?

Republished from Clivebates.com with the consent of the author

This section really reveals that WHO does very little other than publish prohibitionist propaganda. It is however worthwhile noting that its regrettable dependence on voluntary contributions leaves it exposed to major conflicts of interest. 

WHO does not pay attention to the evidence. If it did there would be much more discussion of trade-offs and possible benefits and a proportionate and more realistic approach to the risks. In fact, the report highlighted, the WHO Report on the Global Tobacco Epidemic, was “made possible” by the private foundation of the billionaire, Michael Bloomberg, who coincidentally figures prominently in the report despite the claim that it is independent. The report acknowledgements include several anti-vaping activists, some funded by Bloomberg, brought in to do the work.

The influence of anti-vaping outsiders on WHO’s finances. Bloomberg’s foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies, campaigns for vaping prohibitions to the extent possible wherever it works via the work of its grantees. Take the major Bloomberg funding recipient, the Union, for example: and its prohibition policy, Why bans are best. Bloomberg’s approach to evidence and data on tobacco is discussed here: Michael Bloomberg loves data. Except when he doesn’t

WHO is conflicted by the funding it receives from pro-prohibition Bloomberg Philanthropies ($23m). Then there is also the much larger WHO donor, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation ($592m), which supports a range of organisations hostile to tobacco harm reduction. In addition, there are also pharmaceutical companies like GSK ($12.3m) that provide multi-million dollar donations to WHO but take a hostile stance toward e-cigarettes. 

Note that this money does not have to be spent on anti-vaping campaigns for the policy position of the donor and the donation to create a conflict. The point is that anti-vaping organisations play a significant role in WHO’s finances.

Written by Clive Bates

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