Consumer Choice Centre: neutrale verpakkingen dienen geen enkel doel

VSK NEWSROOM: In geen van de landen waar de afgelopen jaren neutrale verpakkingen voor sigaretten zijn ingevoerd, heeft deze maatregel geleid tot een daling van het tabaksgebruik. De introductie van dergelijke verpakkingen, een van de maatregelen in het vorige week gepubliceerde preventieakkoord, zal dat ook geen effect hebben op de volksgezondheid. Dat zegt Bill Wirtz, beleidsanalist van de belangenorganisatie Consumer Choice Centre in Brussel in een bericht op het medische nieuwsplatform Medical Facts.

Wirtz wijst er tevens op dat neutrale verpakkingen faciliteren de verkoop van valse sigaretten op de zwarte markt, doordat alle verpakkingen op elkaar gelijken. Algemeen bekend is dat valse sigaretten vaak stoffen bevatten die veel schadelijker zijn dan die in gewone sigaretten.

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About Bill Wirtz

Bill Wirtz is policy analyst for the Consumer Choice Center, based in Brussels, Belgium. Originally from Luxembourg, his articles have appeared across the world in English, French, German, and Luxembourgish. He is Editor-in-Chief of Speak Freely, the blog of European Students for Liberty, a contributing editor for the Freedom Today Network and a regular contributor for the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE). He blogs regularly on his website in four languages.

Greenpeace activists try to sabotage Indonesian economy

The Jakarta Post: But Bill Wirtz, a policy analyst for the Consumer Choice Center (CCC), cited in a recent article the findings of studies by the School of Medical Science and Technology of the Indian Institute of Technology in 2009 and the World Journal of Cardiology, that palm oil’s effect on blood cholesterol is relatively neutral when compared to other fats and oils.

The CCC claims to represent consumers in over 100 countries and monitors closely regulatory trends in Washington, Brussels, Geneva and other hotspots of regulation, and informs and activates consumers to fight for greater choice.

Even with healthier nutritional alternatives, for the sake of a fair market, consumers should be allowed to freely choose which fats they want to consume. It is certainly ill-advised to put labels on one particular product or campaign for a boycott on another.

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About Bill Wirtz

Bill Wirtz is policy analyst for the Consumer Choice Center, based in Brussels, Belgium. Originally from Luxembourg, his articles have appeared across the world in English, French, German, and Luxembourgish. He is Editor-in-Chief of Speak Freely, the blog of European Students for Liberty, a contributing editor for the Freedom Today Network and a regular contributor for the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE). He blogs regularly on his website in four languages.

Both parties can work together to lower drug prices

Healthcare was a key issue for voters in the split-decision midterm elections. So are we in for more partisan divide and no progress? Not necessarily. We simply need to reframe the debate to find common ground.

The Democrat-controlled House won’t consider Obamacare repeal, and the Republican Senate won’t consider Medicare for all. But there are ways to make constructive changes without relying on ideologically charged policies which can’t advance in this environment.

There’s widespread agreement that patients should pay less for prescription drugs. Even as innovative drugs prevent or slow the progression of disease and reduce expenses such as hospital costs, patients and politicians alike are clamoring for lower drug prices.

Many on the Left seek to wave a magic wand and lower prices through government intervention with little regard to how this would discourage life-saving and money-saving innovation. Last month, even the Trump administration proposed dusting off an old and innovation-killing approach which would base some prices paid by Medicare on what other countries pay.

Meanwhile, legislators on the Right who ignore the prices their constituents pay for drugs risk losing their own congressional healthcare plan after their next election. Yet addressing the issue doesn’t require abandoning principles.

While there’s no one magic bullet that would make prescription drugs more affordable for patients, there has been increased scrutiny of the role of middle men known as pharmacy benefit managers. PBMs themselves have rapidly evolving incentives. No longer are they simply independent price-negotiators. Following two recent mergers, all major PBMs are now part of the health insurance industry.

J.C. Scott, the new president of the Pharmaceutical Care Management Association, the PBM industry’s trade group, recently told Politico’s Prescription Pulse that his top priority was simply making sure that people understand what pharmacy benefit managers do.

So what do they do? When PBMs negotiate on behalf of insurance companies, are they playing a crucial role in containing medical costs for patients? Or are they so conflicted, because they take a share of rebates offered by pharmaceutical companies, that they are incentivized to keep prices high?

To know, we’ll need more transparency through the entire supply chain, to show whether consumers are in fact benefiting from PBM’s negotiations.

Lawmakers across the country have begun addressing the lack of transparency around PBMs and its effects on patients. Sens. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass, and Tina Smith, D-Minn., sent lettersto nine PBMs to determine how they are approaching drug pricing rebates. This probe is accompanying more than 90 bills nationwide that are focused on PBMs and their opaque role in the drug supply chain.

Time will tell if patients will actually see the savings that PBMs supposedly generate. The three largest PBMs, all linked to insurers, collectively control nearly 80 percent of the market, meaning that millions of Americans are affected by the decisions they make in negotiating prices for various drugs. Will pharmaceutical price-reductions lead to lower prices for patients? We’ll need transparency from PBMs and health insurers to understand how a reduction in what pharmaceutical companies charge for a drug translates into lower costs for patients at the pharmacy.

PBMs’ defenders maintain that drug prices would be even higher without their role as go-betweens. The recent dramatic price cuts for some drugs put that idea to the test. PBMs can prove their value — or lack thereof — by moving quickly to pass these price reductions along to patients.

Surely, drug companies seeking to remove the targets from their backs in exchange for lowering drug prices will be watching the PBMs’ next moves very closely. So should consumers.

Jeff Stier is a senior fellow at the Consumer Choice Center

Originally published at https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/opinion/op-eds/both-parties-can-work-together-to-lower-drug-prices

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About Jeff Stier

Jeff Stier is a Senior Fellow at the Consumer Choice Center. Mr. Stier has been a frequent guest on CNBC, and has addressed health policy on CNN, Fox News Channel, MSNBC, as well as network newscasts. He is a guest on over 100 radio shows a year, including on NPR and top-rated major market shows in cities including Boston, Philadelphia, and Sacramento, plus syndicated regional broadcasts. Jeff’s op-eds have been published in top outlets including The Wall Street Journal, The Los Angeles Times, The New York Post, Forbes, The Washington Examiner, and National Review Online.

Banning junk food ads to combat childhood obesity

On the November 23rd, London Mayor Sadiq Khan announced that as of February, all advertisements for food high in fat, sugar and salt will be banned from the London’s tube and bus network. The measure is part of the mayor’s plan to decrease child obesity rates.

The Consumer Choice Center’s London-based Managing Director Fred Roeder said that combating childhood obesity is a noble goal, but trampling on consumer choice and the rights of adult consumers isn’t an appropriate solution.

Even though we all agree that obesity is an important issue, marketing restrictions haven’t proved to be effective in stemming it. In 1980, junk food advertising was outlawed in Quebec and contrary to the expected outcomes, childhood obesity rates went up by 140% in the 15 years following the introduction of the ban.

In October, Public Health England indicated that more than 37 percent of 10 and 11 year-olds in London are overweight or obese. It is often mistakenly argued that this is caused by high energy intake, but the obesity rates are dependent on the physical activity, which according to the Public Health England has decreased by 24 per cent since the 1960s. Daily calorie intake in the UK is also decreasing each decade. We don’t have a junk food problem, but a calorie burning problem. Rather than impose the junk food ban, the mayor should advocate promoting healthy lifestyles that include physical exercise.

To back up the plan, the mayor explained that ‘advertising plays a huge part in the choices we make.’ While it is true that advertisements help distinguish products on the market, governments should preserve consumers’ rights to decide for themselves and avoid legislation that seeks to ban brands. Ultimately, we as a society need to focus on educating and empowering parents to ensure their children make healthy choices.”

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About Fred Roeder

Fred Roder has been working in the field of grassroots activism for over eight years. He is a Health Economist from Germany and has worked in healthcare reform and market access in North America, Europe, and several former Soviet Republics. One of his passions is to analyze how disruptive industries and technologies allow consumers more choice at a lower cost. Fred is very interested in consumer choice and regulatory trends in the following industries: FMCG, Sharing Economy, Airlines. In 2014 he organized a protest in Berlin advocating for competition in the Taxi market. Fred has traveled to 100 countries and is looking forward to visiting the other half of the world’s countries. Among many op-eds and media appearances, he has been published in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Wirtschaftswoche, Die Welt, the BBC, SunTV, ABC Portland News, Montreal Gazette, Handelsblatt, Huffington Post Germany, CityAM. L’Agefi, and The Guardian. Since 2012 he serves as an Associated Researcher at the Montreal Economic Institute.

Don’t be scared of AI – it’s improving our lives

We’re in the midst of the Fourth Industrial Revolution – driverless cars, virtual assistants and the gig economy are only a glimpse of what is still to come. Perhaps unsurprisingly, coverage of technological change is often pessimistic and focused on machines ‘taking our jobs’. And we can indeed already see some areas where this kind of displacement is taking place – in supermarkets, airports and banks – to name a few.

But why are we so afraid of the future? Why is that the talk of the implications of artificial intelligence is about our soon-to-be robot overlords and mass unemployment, instead of the opportunities new technology presents? After all, AI will improve the lives of both consumers and entrepreneurs immeasurably.

The applications of AI are manifold, from managing complex supply chains, to virtual assistants freeing up our time for tasks that require a human touch.  In healthcare we see the Rhodes Artificial Intelligence Lab diagnosing kids with sleep apnea and predicting, and preventing, heart attacks. Engineers, architects and doctors are all delivering more, quicker, thanks to the wonders of modern tech.

With efficiency improvements – and as AI enables more budding tech entrepreneurs to enter into competitive markets – standards are shooting up and prices are going down. A key trend we are seeing as the Fourth Industrial Revolution emerges is the development of tech-enabled platforms that disrupt existing industries, by providing a better, quicker and safer service for less money or less hassle.

The taxi industry is a good example. For all Uber’s perceived faults (read: government’s failure to properly regulate), it has made life safer for revellers, quicker for the businessperson and reduced the hassle for the consumer. Lyft, Uber’s closest competitor, pays its drivers better and typically has lower surge rates. The technological nature of their platforms means that companies like Uber and Lyft can perform where black cabs can’t; they track drivers to improve passenger safety and are accessible from the most remote locations.

You would think that by now we would have learned our lesson from history. We have no idea what new jobs will be created by the next industrial revolution and so we tend to worry about the dangers to society and not embrace the possibilities, but if we can combine the AI revolution with sound and sensible policies which protects the most vulnerable, we have little to worry about and everything to gain.

New industries should have limited, but sensible, regulation to ensure entrepreneurs can make Britain a world leader in the Fourth Industrial Revolution while protecting workers. The welfare system will have to adapt to a new world in order to protect the unfortunate, but inevitable, losers of technological innovation. We should start considering a Universal Basic Income as a genuine political necessity and not just a wacky fringe idea, in order to decide how we can make it work.

Big Tech should of course be reminded of its social responsibilities and we should do our best to close tax loopholes, but badly thought-out policies such as the new Digital Services Tax will do nothing but harm small, entrepreneurial firms and help Facebook, Google and Amazon to monopolise. By hurting business we hurt consumers who will inevitably feel the brunt of new corporation taxes which are passed on to the customer and the employee.

In the very-near future, technological innovation will mean a supply-side miracle. Costs of transportation and communication will go through the floor – and the costs of trade will drop. This means cheaper prices, better products and a lower cost of living for you and me, and higher revenue for businesses.

It is time for us to stop thinking of the Fourth Industrial Revolution as robots, big data and zero privacy. Rather, we should think of it in terms of lower costs, easier lives, and a much improved standard of living. I, for one, will welcome our socially responsible, sensibly regulated, robot overlords.

Originally published at https://capx.co/dont-be-scared-of-ai-its-improving-our-lives/

Manitoba’s social responsibility fee could send pot customers to black market: consumer watchdog

GROWTH OP: David Clement, North American Affairs Manager for the Consumer Choice Center, says overtaxing cannabis in the province flies in the face of what the revenue from the promised 6% tax is supposed to do.

The Pallister government introduced legislation on Thursday to create the fee, with the money raised from the tax going to cover public education, safety, health and addictions programming.

Clement says it does the exact opposite.

“It appears both the federal government and various provincial governments, in this case, the Manitoba government, hasn’t realized the role that price plays from diverting people from the black market,” Clement said. “In terms of prices, we have to have a pricing system that competes with the black market. When you add a 6% social responsibility fee on top of the 10% excise tax… the 5% GST, on top of a half-billion dollars applied at different levels in production, it creates a situation that we might be passing policies that are counterproductive to the goal of taking consumers away from the black market.”

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About David Clement

David Clement is the North American Affairs Manager for the Consumer Choice Center and is based out of Oakville, Ontario. David holds a BA in Political Science and a MA in International Relations from Wilfrid Laurier University. Previously, David was the Research Assistant to the Canada Research Chair in International Human Rights. David has been regularly featured on the CBC, Global News, The Toronto Star and various other major Canadian news outlets.

Invoering neutrale sigarettenverpakkingen zal geen effect hebben op publieke gezondheid

MEDICAL FACTS: De Nederlandse overheid probeert om, samen met de Belgische overheid, een van de nieuwe landen in Europa te worden die neutrale verpakkingen voor tabakswaren invoert. Deze maatregel zou Nederland met dezelfde ongewenste gevolgen opzadelen als die reeds zichtbaar zijn in landen waar neutrale verpakkingen reeds de norm zijn.

Bill Wirtz, beleidsanalist voor het Consumer Choice Center (CCC) zegt dat de Nederlandse overheid moet kijken naar de feiten.

“Neutrale verpakkingen bestaan reeds in Australië, Frankrijk, het Verenigd Koninkrijk en Ierland. In geen een van deze landen blijkt dat het tabaksgebruik gedaald is door deze neutrale verpakkingen”

Rookgedrag

“De faculteit economie van de Universiteit van Zurich in Zwitserland voerde in 2014 reeds een onderzoek naar de mogelijke effecten van dergelijke verpakkingen op het rookgedrag van jongeren in Australië. Uit dit onderzoek blijkt dat de neutrale verpakking geen enkel effect had op het tabaksverbruik bij jongeren van 14 tot 17 jaar.”

“De Franse overheid heeft zelfs 100 miljoen euro uitgegeven om alle resterende gekleurde tabaksverpakkingen te kopen, terwijl de onverschilligheid van gebruikers reeds aangetoond was. De globale tabakscomsumptie kende daarbij geen daling.”

Neutrale verpakking

“Meer nog: de neutrale verpakkingen faciliteren de verkoop van valse sigaretten op de zwarte markt, aangezien alle verpakkingen op elkaar gelijken. Australië, die de neutrale verpakkingen in 2012 invoerde, kende een stijging van 30% namaak-tabak in amper 2 jaar. In Frankrijk toonde een onderzoek uit 2015, voor de invoering van de neutrale verpakkingen, reeds aan dat het land maar liefst goed was voor de consumptie van 15% van namaak-tabak op de Europese markt. Dit aandeel kan enkel gestegen zijn door de nieuwe wetgeving”, vervolledigt Wirtz.

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About Bill Wirtz

Bill Wirtz is policy analyst for the Consumer Choice Center, based in Brussels, Belgium. Originally from Luxembourg, his articles have appeared across the world in English, French, German, and Luxembourgish. He is Editor-in-Chief of Speak Freely, the blog of European Students for Liberty, a contributing editor for the Freedom Today Network and a regular contributor for the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE). He blogs regularly on his website in four languages.

FDA’s menthol ban and vaping restrictions will have consequences

CONTACT:
Jeff Stier
Senior Fellow
Consumer Choice Center
[email protected]

FDA’s menthol ban and vaping restrictions will have consequences

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Last week, FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb announced severe sales and flavor restrictions on vaping products and introduced a new ban on menthol flavors in combustible tobacco products.

Reacting to the news, Consumer Choice Center senior fellow Jeff Stier said the plan is riddled with flaws.

“Banning menthol cigarettes will lead to increased youth smoking, especially in minority communities, where a ban would spark illegal markets reminiscent of the days of alcohol prohibition,” said Stier.

Writing in USA Today, he pointed out that various civil rights and police organizations have come out united against the policy, stating that is is both discriminatory toward minority communities and would eat up precious time and resources for police officers.

“When Congress gave the FDA authority to regulate recreational lower-risk nicotine products, it was with the expectation that the FDA would be able to both discourage youth use and help adults quit smoking. Sadly, to date, the FDA has accomplished little on either front,” said Stier.

“These failures don’t justify a misplaced “crackdown” on e-cigarettes and responsible sellers. They require an aggressive effort to stop the bad actors. Accomplishing that now will require a new FDA policy. And clearly, a new commissioner,” he added.

“The FDA should instead concentrate on two primary goals: Enforce already-existing rules that ban the sale of e-cigarettes to minors, and, as recommended by the American Cancer Society, support adult smokers who attempt to quit with e-cigarettes.”

***CCC Senior Fellow Jeff Stier is available to speak with accredited media on consumer regulations and consumer choice issues. Please send media inquiries HERE.***

The CCC represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe. We closely monitor regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Geneva and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice. Learn more at consumerchoicecenter.org.

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About Jeff Stier

Jeff Stier is a Senior Fellow at the Consumer Choice Center. Mr. Stier has been a frequent guest on CNBC, and has addressed health policy on CNN, Fox News Channel, MSNBC, as well as network newscasts. He is a guest on over 100 radio shows a year, including on NPR and top-rated major market shows in cities including Boston, Philadelphia, and Sacramento, plus syndicated regional broadcasts. Jeff’s op-eds have been published in top outlets including The Wall Street Journal, The Los Angeles Times, The New York Post, Forbes, The Washington Examiner, and National Review Online.

Menthol ban will make a bad situation worse

The Food and Drug Administration’s naive plan to ban menthol cigarettes will lead to countless unintended consequences, including increased youth smoking, especially in minority communities, where a ban would spark illegal markets reminiscent of the days of alcohol prohibition.

Kids could easily buy loose cigarettes stored in sealed baggies with unwrapped menthol cough drops. The FDA has failed to enforce its own rules. Consider the agency’s inability to prevent youth use of e-cigarettes, despite an outright federal ban.

One unintended consequence is telling: The ban unites some African-American civil rights leaders and top law enforcement officer groups.

The Rev. Al Sharpton and Ben Chavis, former executive director of the NAACP, harshly criticized the idea last year, claiming that it would “affect black communities more than other communities” and keep police from “solving violent crime and ensuring public safety.”

OUR VIEW: There’s more than just smoke to FDA proposals

Citing a National Research Council report on America’s criminal justice system, they blame policy, not increased crime, for the incarceration crisis. A menthol ban would make a bad situation worse.

The Alabama State Trooper Association, the Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives and other police groups have warned that a ban would create criminal enterprises.

It would also be ineffective. Jeff Washington, a 52-year-old who started smoking menthol Newports when he joined the Army in 1983, told The Wall Street Journal that if menthols were banned, “I’d start smoking Marlboros.”

Rather, Washington should use e-cigarettes. But the FDA, which failed to prevent youth from buying e-cigarettes, is making it harder for him to switch.

President Donald Trump should ask FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, in an exit interview, why the agency couldn’t achieve a central promise of his presidency: Improve our lives not with more regulation but with less of it, wisely implemented.

Jeff Stier is a senior fellow at the Consumer Choice Center.

Originally published at https://eu.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2018/11/15/menthol-ban-makes-bad-situation-worse-editorials-debates/2018265002/

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About Jeff Stier

Jeff Stier is a Senior Fellow at the Consumer Choice Center. Mr. Stier has been a frequent guest on CNBC, and has addressed health policy on CNN, Fox News Channel, MSNBC, as well as network newscasts. He is a guest on over 100 radio shows a year, including on NPR and top-rated major market shows in cities including Boston, Philadelphia, and Sacramento, plus syndicated regional broadcasts. Jeff’s op-eds have been published in top outlets including The Wall Street Journal, The Los Angeles Times, The New York Post, Forbes, The Washington Examiner, and National Review Online.

EU duties on goods from Southeast Asia as a Post-Brexit trade opportunity

Where the EU is walking the plank, the UK should be able to recognise and seize post-Brexit opportunities.

On 6 November, the Italian government asked the European Commission to apply the “safeguard clause” on rice imports from Cambodia and Myanmar in order to protect Italian rice growers. Protectionist measures against southeast Asian countries are not a novelty and have been vehemently backed up by France, Spain, Greece, Portugal, Hungary and Romania.

The EU ‘safeguard clause’ hurts consumers across the EU bloc

Under the ‘safeguard clause’ enshrined in the Treaty of Rome, when imports from a third country jeopardise the trade balance of an EU Member State, it can ask to ‘remedy the situation’, otherwise to introduce trade barriers.

Such interventions pursue a single aim: to protect a specific group from competition. However, whilst taking the producer side protectionism hurts consumers who are the main beneficiaries of free trade.

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is the third largest trading partner of the EU. In 2017, co-operation with the ASEAN resulted in the output of more than € 227,3 billion in goods. As part of this economic engagement, the European Union has been actively trading with both Myanmar and Cambodia and therefore using the agricultural imports, in particular rice, to feed up the EU market.

Should the EU choose to act at the whim of Italian rice growers, it will strip consumers all across the bloc of the opportunity to enjoy a great supply of rice and consequently a favourable pricing.

Post-Brexit UK freely trades with Southeast Asia and not only

As of now the UK has a trade deficit with Southeast Asia. In 2016, UK exports in goods and services to Southeast Asia estimated £13.6 billion and UK imports from the region amounted to £18.8 billion.

While it is of no surprise that Singapore as a former UK colony leads the region, Cambodia and Myanmar, which are next in the queue for the EU trade barriers, are important trade partners as well. In 2016, the UK imported £0,9bn in goods and services from Cambodia and £0,2bn from Myanmar.

Even though trade relations between the UK and Southeast Asia countries make up only for a small fraction of a crucially important economic engagement with the EU, they serve as a significant trade field to explore.

Some of potential co-operation channels are bilateral and multilateral free trade agreements between the UK and ASEAN countries. Moreover, once the UK has put the wind back in its sails and left the EU Single Market and the Customs Union, it will also be able to abolish all import tariffs on the goods it doesn’t produce, most of which belong to the agricultural segment, including rice.

Brexit therefore represents a momentous opportunity which has a propensity to change the history of world trade and pivot if away from protectionism. By exiting the EU, the UK is not only saving its consumers from detrimental outcomes of the EU’s protectionism, but also gets a chance to foster its co-operation with Southeast countries and reclaim its heritage as a trading nation.

Originally published at https://www.vocaleurope.eu/eu-duties-on-goods-from-southeast-asia-as-a-post-brexit-trade-opportunity/?fbclid=IwAR2_Z4zLar4ImfsUouDknBAET4Vy7T7Sa-zhikFwG3yXM2xbO1u5bqNBBiY