Life as a taxpayer: paying to be berated

The EU’s 2018 NGO Health Awards took place this week where the European Commission recognised those NGOs it deems to be the most effective in fighting the use of tobacco. Bill Wirtz watched what he describes as “an insufferable nanny state love-in”, so you don’t have to. 

At the beginning of the EU Health Policy Platform annual meeting, Vytenis Andriukaitis, European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, held an energetic speech against the practice of smoking tobacco. He pointed out that he believes the idea that harm-reduction through e-cigarettes, as it is currently practiced in the UK for instance, is nonsense. He doesn’t seem bothered by the facts. Public Health England found as early as 2015 that e-cigarettes are 95 per cent safer than traditional cigarettes. If the Lithuanian Commissioner really wanted to reward those who get people to stop smoking, he’d give the prize to the companies that produce e-cigarettes or heat-not-burn products, both have which have proven to considerably reduce health risks and contribute to smoking cessation.

Instead, three anti-smoking NGOs, subsidised by public money, received the prizes. The third prize went to Youth Network No Excuse Slovenia, a youth organisation dedicated to the cause of fighting tobacco. “No Excuse” prides itself with the fact it “operates independently from private financiers”, meaning it is entirely funded by taxpayers’ money.

“No Excuse Slovenia” received £71,000 from the Slovenian government in the last three years. It is also hiring people with money from both the European Union’s Social Fund and the Slovenian government. “No Excuse Activists”, an associate program run by the same people, received £592,000 in the last ten years. The organisation is a member of the European Public Health Alliance (EPHA), which for the last three years has cashed in £1.5 million of taxpayers’ money through EU funds. The EPHA calls for higher taxes on tobacco products or for even larger health warnings . These are things that the EU could perfectly well argue independently, but it instead chooses to give your money to NGOs who then lobby Brussels which results in everyone having to pay more tax.

The second place went to Education Against Tobacco (EAT), a group of medical students actively promoting tobacco cessation to students. EAT’s website doesn’t ask for donations and doesn’t present any financial statements, which is why it’s safe to assume that the group is funded by university grants.

Lastly, the winner of the EU health award is the Irish Cancer Society (ICS). The ICS prides itself on being an organisation that operates independently of the Irish government, but is quick to admit that it does cooperate with it, i.e. it receives grants to run things like smoking cessation hotlines. If you think that that is trivial, look at it this way: if the Prime Minister publicly claimed that he did not receive money from Coca-Cola, and then went on to say that the Coca-Cola Company only funds specific expenses, such as her holidays, we’d probably still have some questions. Any accountant will tell you that funds are fungible.

The problem isn’t that people advocate against smoking tobacco. That is their prerogative, just as much as people can argue against the consumption of alcohol. After all, alcohol, as opposed to tobacco, can lead to car accidents, public nuisance, physical altercations, or domestic violence. Tobacco is the thin end of the wedge. On the day that the last person lays down their cigarette, the same activists will come for your whisky, wine, and beer. When looking at public health policies, we see that that is already largely the case. What will be next: an 80 per cent tax on beer, a ban on drinking in pubs? After all, I could give you a long list of avoidable consequences if those measures were introduced.

The problem is, however, that taxpayers’ money is wasted on activists who say exactly what the government wants them to say. There’s is a fundamental dishonesty in what the government does: instead of making a political declaration, writing it in the manifesto, and standing for election with the promises in it, politicians now choose to avoid these issues completely in the times of election, and instead fund “non-governmental organisations” that get their funding from the government, who then give their “expertise” in committee hearings. Instead of standing their ground, politicians hide behind an army of anti-choice lobbyists working for the same government they try to influence. In political jargon you’d call it: civil society representatives providing insights and perspectives to elected officials for the purpose of informed policy-making.

All that is then rounded up with ceremonial award procedure and a cocktail lunch you paid for. But don’t worry, you can still watch the live stream.

Originally published at http://commentcentral.co.uk/life-as-a-taxpayer-paying-to-be-berated/

Luxembourg is expected to become the next country to legalise recreational cannabis – which would make it the first country in the EU to pass such a motion.

THE SPIRIT BUSINESS: According to the Consumer Choice Center (CCC), the incoming coalition has announced it will legalise the recreational use of cannabis, which will form part of the coalition manifesto for the next five years.

Bill Wirtz, policy analyst at CCC, from Luxembourg, said the move by coalition would send a “strong message to other countries in the EU”.

“The ice is broken,” Wirtz said. “Early press statements by the coalition partners indicate that it would only be legal for residents. That would be the wrong way to go, since it is not only discriminatory but could also increase black market presence in the area.

“We feel that cannabis should be legal for purchase to all adults, regardless of nationality. Doing so could help create a new tourism industry in the country. At the end of the day, there is no reason to treat legal cannabis more strictly than legal alcohol. If foreigners, of age, can buy legal alcohol in the country, they should also be able to buy cannabis.

“The government should open a broad consultation process on the legalisation procedure. We want smart legalisation that benefits responsible consumers, helps ensure market-friendly regulations and will help protect the citizens of Luxembourg.”

READ MORE

Politically charged European Court of Justice rules for continued ban on snus

The European Court of Justice on 22 November decided against overturning the European Union-wide ban on the smokeless tobacco snus. The ruling displays a political public health motivation, writes Bill Wirtz, policy analyst for the Consumer Choice Centre, for EU Reporter.

In January last year, the New Nicotine Alliance (NNA) appealed against the 1992 EU-ban on the smokeless tobacco snus. Snus is powdered tobacco, often sold in pre-packed bags the size of an index finger, which the users place on the upper lip.

It is sometimes confused with snuffed tobacco, which is legal. Snus does have associated health risks, and can also lead to nicotine addiction, yet it reduces the risk of pulmonary diseases. The product is particularly popular in Scandinavian countries.

According to Eurostat figures, smoking rates in Sweden – which negotiated an opt-out of the snus ban when it joined the EU in 1995 – are the lowest in the whole of Europe. In fact, they are half those of most European countries, and are three times lower than in Bulgaria, Greece, Hungary or Turkey. It’s hard to imagine that snus doesn’t play a role in this – because it doesn’t qualify as smoking. Similarly, statistics in Norway reveal that 2017 marked the first year in which 16- to 74-year-olds consumed more snus than cigarettes.

The ban was defended by counsels for the European Commission, the European Council, the European Parliament, Norway and the UK.

Among the arguments presented were that tobacco consumption of all kinds needs to be reduced, and that snus could be regarded as a gateway to conventional cigarettes. Not only is there no scientific evidence for the ‘gateway drug’ claim — it is also bizarre that EU outlaws the gateway, while allowing the sale of cigarettes, a drug it considers more dangerous.

Snus advocates suffered a major blow when Danish Advocate-General Henrik Saugmandsgaard Øe concluded that snus remains a health hazard, which legitimizes the ban.

In a ruling published on 22 November, the ECJ ruled against the re-authorization of snus in the European Union.

Pro-snus advocates have two reasons to argue for a lifting of the ban: on one hand there’s the economic incentive of the company’s that make snus, which would not be denied by the companies. After all, producing companies have an obvious business incentive. But more importantly, there’s an aspect of harm-reduction that is important: cigarette smokers can quit smoking through snus. Yes, snus is not a harmless product in itself, but it is a better alternative than cigarettes. Shouldn’t the goal of public health be to encourage this process of reducing risks?

The ruling of the European Court of Justice displays a deep bias against the principle of harm-reduction. The court casts out the experience of Norway and Sweden, and says that that snus as a tobacco cessation method is “uncertain”. It also cleverly manages to avoid asserting that there is a gateway effect, by stating that there is a “risk of a gateway effect”. Calling it a mere gateway risk exempts the judges from proving the gateway relationship, which is not proven.

However, two paragraphs in the ruling stand out:

“Tobacco products for oral use remain harmful to health, are addictive and are attractive to young people. Further, as stated in paragraph 26 of the present judgment, such products would, if placed on the market, represent novel products for consumers. In that context, it remains likely that member states may be led to adopt various laws, regulations and administrative provisions designed to bring to an end the expansion in the consumption of tobacco products for oral use.”

Most interestingly, nothing in this paragraph (58) is untrue. Snus is harmful to health, it can be addictive and it is attractive to young people (as observed in Scandinavian countries). It is also correct that the product would be novel, and that certain member states would feel inclined to regulate on the national level. However, nothing therefore contradicts the claims of harm-reduction.

“Moreover, as regards more particularly the claim by Swedish Match [Swedish company that produces snus] that the permission given to the marketing of other tobacco and related products demonstrates that the prohibition on the placing on the market of tobacco products for oral use is disproportionate, it must be recalled that an EU measure is appropriate for ensuring attainment of the objective pursued only if it genuinely reflects a concern to attain it in a consistent and systematic manner […].”

This paragraph 59 of the ruling is the most telling about the political motivations of the court. Swedish Match made an argument over the proportionality of the ban vis-à-vis other legal products. In essence: why is snus illegal, while other products which are more harmful, such as cigarettes, are legal?

The paragraph contains a lot of legalese, but it refers in its arguments to a ruling of July last year, in which it stated that it considers the overall objective of a law in its judgement regard proportionality. In essence, the ECJ says that EU rules against tobacco are made in an effort to protect public health, which means that any change on the market that could, in any way possible, make a product more interesting to consumers, contradicts the objective of the law. In fact, the court doesn’t deny that a ban on snus is disproportional in itself, but that given the context of the objectives of public health policy, a ban is proportionate. Nothing could indicate more clearly that the court only confirms the policies of the European Union.

Snus is one of the viable harm-reducing products, which can actually give tobacco users a viable alternative for smoking cigarettes. Yes, consumers do not always choose the healthiest option for themselves, but if presented with choices offered on the market, they might actually reduce the health hazards posed to their bodies.

#Snus – #ECJ, politically charged, opposes harm-reduction

Republished at https://www.medicalbrief.co.za/archives/politically-charged-european-court-justice-rules-continued-ban-snus/

Luksemburg pierwszym krajem UE, który zalegalizuje marihuanę do celów rekreacyjnych

FAKTY.KONOPNE: Legalizacja marihuany w Luksemburu to świetna wiadomość

Bill Wirtz, analityk polityczny w Consumer Choice Center (CCC) twierdzi, że chociaż legalizacja marihuany powinna nastąpić już wcześniej, to jest to znakomita wiadomość dla konsumentów.

“Jeśli reforma pozwoli na sprzedaż obcokrajowcom, to wpływ będzie ogromny”, powiedział analityk polityczny z Consumer Choice Center.

“Byłaby to wspaniała wiadomość dla konsumentów i początek nowej ery polityki antynarkotykowej w UE”.

“Luksemburg stanie się pierwszym krajem w UE, który faktycznie zalegalizuje konopie indyjskie, ponieważ Czechy, Portugalia lub Holandia albo je tolerują, albo dekryminalizują. Ta wiadomość to silny sygnał do innych krajów w UE. Pierwsze lody przełamane. “, powiedział Wirtz.

Wcześniejsze oświadczenia prasowe partnerów koalicyjnych wskazują, że marihuana byłaby legalna tylko dla mieszkańców. Jest to jednak niewłaściwa droga, ponieważ nie tylko dyskryminuje obcokrajowców, ale może również doprowadzić do zwiększenia czarnego rynku w tym regionie.

“Uważamy, że konopie indyjskie powinny być legalne dla wszystkich osób dorosłych, bez względu na narodowość. Może to pomóc w stworzeniu nowej branży turystycznej w kraju. Nie ma powodu, aby traktować legalne konopie indyjskie w sposób bardziej rygorystyczny niż legalny alkohol. Jeśli obcokrajowcy, którzy są pełnoletni, mogą kupić legalny alkohol w kraju, powinni również być w stanie kupić konopie indyjskie.”

“Rząd powinien rozpocząć szeroki proces konsultacji w sprawie procedury legalizacji. Chcemy inteligentnej legalizacji, która przyniesie korzyści odpowiedzialnym konsumentom, pomoże zapewnić regulacje przyjazne rynkowi i pomoże chronić obywateli Luksemburga “- powiedział Wirtz.

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#Snus – #ECJ, politically charged, opposes harm-reduction

The European Court of Justice decided against overturning the EU-wide ban on the smokeless tobacco snus. The ruling displays a political public health motivation, writes Bill Wirtz.

In January last year, the New Nicotine Alliance (NNA) appealed against the 1992 EU-ban on the smokeless tobacco snus. Snus is powdered tobacco, often sold in pre-packed bags of the size of an index finger, which the users place on the upper lip. It is sometimes confused with snuffed tobacco, which is legal. Snus does have associated health risks, and can also lead to nicotine addiction, yet it reduces the risk of pulmonary diseases. The product is particularly popular in Scandinavian countries.

According to Eurostat figures, smoking rates in Sweden – which negotiated an opt-out of the snus ban when it joined the EU in 1995 – are the lowest in the whole of Europe. In fact, they are half those of most European countries, and are three times lower than in Bulgaria, Greece, Hungary or Turkey. It’s hard to imagine that snus doesn’t play a role in this – because it doesn’t qualify as smoking. Similarly, statistics in Norway reveal that 2017 marked the first year in which 16- to 74-year-olds consumed more snus than cigarettes.

The ban was defended by counsels for the European Commission, the European Council, the European Parliament, Norway and the UK. Among the arguments presented were that tobacco consumption of all kinds needs to be reduced, and that snus could be regarded as a gateway to conventional cigarettes. Not only is there no scientific evidence for the ‘gateway drug’ claim — it is also bizarre that EU outlaws the gateway, while allowing the sale of cigarettes, a drug it considers more dangerous. Snus advocates suffered a major blow when Danish Advocate-General Henrik Saugmandsgaard Øe concluded that snus remains a health hazard, which legitimizes the ban.

In a ruling published on 22 November, the ECJ ruled against the re-authorization of snus in the European Union.

Pro-snus advocates have two reasons to argue for a lifting of the ban: on one hand there’s the economic incentive of the company’s that make snus, which would not be denied by the companies. After all, producing companies have an obvious business incentive. But more importantly, there’s an aspect of harm-reduction that is important: cigarette smokers can quit smoking through snus. Yes, snus is not a harmless product in itself, but it is a better alternative than cigarettes. Shouldn’t the goal of public health be to encourage this process of reducing risks?

The ruling of the European Court of Justice displays a deep bias against the principle of harm-reduction. The court casts out the experience of Norway and Sweden, and says that that snus as a tobacco cessation method is “uncertain”. It also cleverly manages to avoid asserting that there is a gateway effect, by stating that there is a “risk of a gateway effect”. Calling it a mere gateway risk exempts the judges from proving the gateway relationship, which is not proven.

However, two paragraphs in the ruling stand out:

“Tobacco products for oral use remain harmful to health, are addictive and are attractive to young people. Further, as stated in paragraph 26 of the present judgment, such products would, if placed on the market, represent novel products for consumers. In that context, it remains likely that member states may be led to adopt various laws, regulations and administrative provisions designed to bring to an end the expansion in the consumption of tobacco products for oral use.”

Most interestingly, nothing in this paragraph (58) is untrue. Snus is harmful to health, it can be addictive and it is attractive to young people (as observed in Scandinavian countries). It is also correct that the product would be novel, and that certain member states would feel inclined to regulate on the national level. However, nothing therefore contradicts the claims of harm-reduction.

“Moreover, as regards more particularly the claim by Swedish Match [Swedish company that produces snus] that the permission given to the marketing of other tobacco and related products demonstrates that the prohibition on the placing on the market of tobacco products for oral use is disproportionate, it must be recalled that an EU measure is appropriate for ensuring attainment of the objective pursued only if it genuinely reflects a concern to attain it in a consistent and systematic manner […].”

This paragraph 59 of the ruling is the most telling about the political motivations of the court. Swedish Match made an argument over the proportionality of the ban vis-à-vis other legal products. In essence: why is snus illegal, while other products which are more harmful, such as cigarettes, are legal?

The paragraph contains a lot of legalese, but it refers in its arguments to a ruling of July last year, in which it stated that it considers the overall objective of a law in its judgement regard proportionality. In essence, the ECJ says that EU rules against tobacco are made in an effort to protect public health, which means that any change on the market that could, in any way possible, make a product more interesting to consumers, contradicts the objective of the law. In fact, the court doesn’t deny that a ban on snus is disproportional in itself, but that given the context of the objectives of public health policy, a ban is proportionate. Nothing could indicate more clearly that the court only confirms the policies of the European Union.

Snus is one of the viable harm-reducing products, which can actually give tobacco users a viable alternative for smoking cigarettes. Yes, consumers do not always choose the healthiest option for themselves, but if presented with choices offered on the market, they might actually reduce the health hazards posed to their bodies.

Originally published at https://www.eureporter.co/health/2018/12/03/snus-ecj-politically-charged-opposes-harm-reduction/

Luxembourg next to legalise recreational cannabis use

JUST-DRINKS: The incoming Coalition Government in Luxembourg has confirmed its intention to legalise the recreational use of cannabis in the country.

Consumer group Consumer Choice Center (CCC) said today that the measure forms part of the coalition manifesto for the next five years. The group suggested the move would prompt other European countries to follow.

“Luxembourg will become the first country in the EU to actually legalise cannabis, as the Czech Republic, Portugal, or the Netherlands either tolerate or decriminalise it,” said Bill Wirtz, policy analyst at the CCC. “This sends a strong message to other countries in the EU. The ice is broken.”

The organisation said early press statements by the coalition partners indicate that marijuana use would only be legal for Luxembourg residents.

“That would be the wrong way to go, since it is not only discriminatory but could also increase black market presence in the area,” said Wirtz. “We feel that cannabis should be legal for purchase to all adults, regardless of nationality. Doing so could help create a new tourism industry in the country.

“At the end of the day, there is no reason to treat legal cannabis more strictly than legal alcohol. If foreigners, of age, can buy legal alcohol in the country, they should also be able to buy cannabis.”

READ MORE

Luxembourg set to legalize recreational cannabis

HORTI DAILY: ‘The ice is broken’

Bill Wirtz, Policy Analyst at the Consumer Choice Center (CCC), from Luxembourg himself, says legalisation was overdue, but a great sign for consumer choice at this stage:

“Luxembourg will become the first country in the EU to actually legalise cannabis, as the Czech Republic, Portugal, or the Netherlands either tolerate or decriminalise it. This sends a strong message to other countries in the EU. The ice is broken,“ said Wirtz.

“Early press statements by the coalition partners indicate that it would only be legal for residents. That would be the wrong way to go, since it is not only discriminatory but could also increase black market presence in the area.

“We feel that cannabis should be legal for purchase to all adults, regardless of nationality. Doing so could help create a new tourism industry in the country. At the end of the day, there is no reason to treat legal cannabis more strictly than legal alcohol. If foreigners, of age, can buy legal alcohol in the country, they should also be able to buy cannabis.

“The government should open a broad consultation process on the legalisation procedure. We want smart legalisation that benefits responsible consumers, helps ensure market-friendly regulations, and will help protect the citizens of Luxembourg,” said Wirtz.

READ MORE

Luxembourg next to legalise recreational cannabis use

JUST FOOD: Consumer group Consumer Choice Center (CCC) said today that the measure is part of the coalition manifesto for the next five years. The group said the move is “overdue”.

“Luxembourg will become the first country in the EU to actually legalise cannabis, as the Czech Republic, Portugal, or the Netherlands either tolerate or decriminalise it,” said Bill Wirtz, policy analyst at the CCC. “This sends a strong message to other countries in the EU. The ice is broken.”

The group said early press statements by the coalition partners indicate that marijuana use would only be legal for residents.

“That would be the wrong way to go, since it is not only discriminatory but could also increase black market presence in the area,” said Wirtz. “We feel that cannabis should be legal for purchase to all adults, regardless of nationality. Doing so could help create a new tourism industry in the country. At the end of the day, there is no reason to treat legal cannabis more strictly than legal alcohol. If foreigners, of age, can buy legal alcohol in the country, they should also be able to buy cannabis.”

READ MORE

Incoming Luxembourg government plans to legalize recreational marijuana

MARIJUANA BUSINESS DAILY: “If the reform allows for sales to nonresidents, the impact would be massive,” Bill Wirtz, a Luxembourgian and policy analyst for the Consumer Choice Center, told Marijuana Business Daily.

“It would be great news for consumers and the beginning of a new era of drug policy in the EU.”

He noted that the country has a relatively small local consumer market, but the Greater Region of Luxembourg includes two German federal states, the French region of Alsace and Lorraine, and the Belgian province of Wallonia.

“If the reform ends up keeping nonresidents off the market, the government might even face antidiscriminatory lawsuits,” Wirtz added.

“Moreover, if you really want to solve the black-market issue, you need to open sales to anyone.”

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