Few days ago, The Nigeria Postal Service (NIPOST) introduced a new set of charges that required operating courier services across the country to pay the agency for licences to operate. Beyond this, each courier service has to submit documents that could influence NIPOST’s decision to grant a licence or not. The new charges which rivalled the setup costs of new courier services ranged from 20 million naira to 250,000 naira per year depending on the cadre these companies do business. While public outrage caused the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr Isa Pantami to demand NIPOST to suspend the new tariff on registration of courier services, it does not change the dubious situation where a player in the logistics industry is also acting as the regulator of that industry and attempting to use its taxation powers to suffocate the others players in the market. 

In the past few months, especially after the government placed a nationwide lockdown effectively forcing many businesses to operate from home, online retailing provided the leeway for several companies to stay alive. Due to the positive flux of online services, a supporting logistics sector rose in its number of players. This made sense to enable goods to be delivered to people who are unable to leave their homes. Asides this, as the Lagos State government placed a ban on motorcycles, several transportation workers turned their assets to the logistics sector. This simply required them to invest in a bag or delivery box fitted to their motorcycles. With little branding, several small couriers emerged and managed to stay afloat while the economy took a downturn. A boost in online retail  also meant that effects on the dwindling naira could be further mitigated while customers were able to access important goods whether far or near.

In the same period, NIPOST was receiving scrutiny for its years of failure. Among others, the organization had lost its stamp duty revenue to a fellow government agency, the Federal Inland Revenue Service while the government sought to carve out three subsidiary companies out of it. The Director-General of the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE), Alex Okoh had identified these companies to be NIPOST Properties and Development Company; NIPOST Transport and Logistics Company; and NIPOST Microfinance bank Limited. In a scramble to retain its relevance, the agency, which oversees the Courier Regulatory Department (CRD) that registers and regulates the logistics market and also EMS/Parcel Nigeria which runs a delivery service, introduced a new set of bogus charges as it tried to stamp its feet as a regular of the industry – especially in a way that ensured it made ridiculous amounts of money at the expense of business owners in a name of licensing fees. At the same time, the agency invested more in delivery vehicles to raise its play in the logistics market. They then try to cover their dubious actions by their sudden urge to help people protect their items from bad logistics companies. 

It is difficult to forgive such lack of insight and empathy – when licensing fees rival startup capital, not even taking into account all the other legal and duplicated levies banded on these logistics companies. The agency definitely does not need that amount of money in registration to be able to determine the legitimacy of players in the market. All the information can be supplied to the agency for free. Draconian measures like this ensure customers who were able to access products and services beyond their vicinity might now have to pay through their noses for such access or limit their choices to their surroundings. This development effectively limits the choices of consumers by reducing the players in the logistic sector and increasing the delivery cost of goods.

It is an absurd arrangement for NIPOST which runs a commercial delivery service to regulate other delivery service providers. In a country where the government is notorious for decimating the progress of local business initiatives, reigning an agency with such power renders the space unhealthy for local players. NIPOST becomes a yardstick in an industry it has repeatedly failed at making progress. This anomaly needs to be addressed and very quickly too.

In the past, another public entity had given way for new entrants in the telecommunication industry. Before then, NITEL operated as a monopoly until 1992 when a regulatory body Nigerian Communications Commission was created and new entrants were allowed. This decision was eventually vindicated when NITEL continued on the path of underperformance and never actually met the standards that private organizations set subsequently. Several attempts were made to save NITEL from going down, but its assets were handed over to NATCOM (Ntel’s parent company) in a deal worth $252 million in 2015. The success of the telecommunication industry has been attributed to allowing private organizations to provide key services to the public while allowing the market to sift for excellence. 

NIPOST playing both player and referee is a recipe for disaster. Logistics is a foundation of trade and disruptions in logistics easily raise costs of trade and prices in the market – thus leading to loss of jobs and higher costs of living. 

The WTO is Missing In Action on COVID

According to the World Trade Organisation (WTO)’s latest report to the United Nationès High-level Political Forum (HLPF), global trade will fall by between 13% and 32% in 2020 as a consequence of the economic disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. It is expected that the decline will exceed the collapse brought on by the global financial crisis of 2008-2009, and nearly all regions will suffer double-digit declines in trade volumes in 2020.

The prediction is grim but not surprising. The world was simply not prepared for the pandemic, and, while a lot can be said about whether opting for lockdowns was a reasonable decision or not, what matters more now is the logic behind rushed economic policies. International trade implies interdependence and trust, and, therefore, unilateral withdrawal from a trading relationship is damaging and costly.

More specifically, this has to do with export restrictions on medical supplies and food. In the midst of the pandemic, 72 WTO members and eight non-WTO member countries banned or limited the export of face masks, protective gear, gloves and other goods. In a similar fashion, 15 countries globally made it harder or impossible to export food.

In the said report, the WTO draws attention to the chaotic nature of those trade regulations and lack of international cooperation and coordination. Most countries didn’t notify the WTO of their intentions to restrict trade, and this tells us two things. First, the WTO needs urgent reform to justify its institutional necessity. Second, regardless of how integrated and globalised the world might seem, true power remains with nation-states.

The good news is that the WTO is due to elect its new director-general, and some candidates seem to have a good grasp of what needs to be done to reshape the organisation. One of the frontrunners Amina Mohamed, a 58-year-old minister and former WTO chair, argues that “the [WTO] rulebook needs to be upgraded because of the concerns that are being expressed about the rules not being fit for purpose.”

The persistence of nation-statism is undeniable, and the pandemic has reinforced some of its key traits such as self-sufficiency. Being able to stand on two feet instead of waiting for others to give you a hand and, generally, being concerned only with oneself has become a protectionist mantra during the pandemic. Changing the prevalent narrative in favour of more cooperation and independence is one of the biggest challenges the new WTO DG will face.

However, it’s not all gloom and doom. The COVID-19 situation has revealed that a number of essential goods, such as ventilators or medical-style face masks had previously been burdened with tariffs. Removing many of these trade barriers has been helpful during the crisis, yet these measures are equally unnecessary outside the realms of the Novel Coronavirus. This is a positive shift and the one that needs to be endorsed by the WTO and all its members individually.

The WTO’s impact has been consistently declining over time, and the pandemic exposed its weakest sides: lack of coordination. The coronavirus crisis is not the first and definitely not the last challenge we face, but whatever happens, we should preserve free trade at all costs. The WTO is a much needed organisation, but it has to change.

The Consumer Choice Center is the consumer advocacy group supporting lifestyle freedom, innovation, privacy, science, and consumer choice. The main policy areas we focus on are digital, mobility, lifestyle & consumer goods, and health & science.

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

Is meat unhealthy and killing the climate? No, it isn’t

I had the great fortune to stumble upon an excellent article in the German medical media outlet “Ärzteblatt”. In this piece titled “Nutrition and climate: Eating meat-free, healthy and climate-friendly – the evidence is missing“, Dr. med. Johannes Scholl, President of the German Academy for Preventive Medicine lays out the varying myths surrounding meat consumption. It is increasingly known that the enemies of meat are going to great length to demonise its prevalence, by making statements about its health effects and impact on the environment. I’ve had my own experience arguing against these tendencies on a TV panel on TRT World:

Back to the article in question. Scholl presents a number of highly interesting points, and I’d like to give you the most informative nuggets.

“Reports of disadvantages of meat consumption are increasing and are adding up to a seemingly consistent bouquet of arguments for a meat-free diet. Recently, for example, a new study has been published which proclaims an association between increased meat consumption and cardiovascular mortality and all-cause mortality. In 6 cohorts (29,682 patients), a risk increase was found for both endpoints in 19 years of observation per consumption of 2 portions of unprocessed red meat per week – but only by 3%.

This is a “pseudo result” and can easily be invalidated. Both inaccuracies in data collection and possible systematic errors in observational studies mean that a relative risk of 1.03 (95% confidence interval: 1.01-1.06) simply says nothing. A glance at the details also renders this study unreliable: allegedly, the average alcohol consumption in the study was 1 g per day. This underestimates the real drinking amounts by at least ten times, as has been sufficiently proven by other studies.”

Scholl shows how any blatant claims on nutritional science must be taken with a grain of salt. After decades of nutritional science, we know how difficult it is to account for the multifactorial aspects of human health. He raises a similar point later on:

“For example, studies on meat consumption show that the groups with low meat consumption were on average more educated, slimmer, more athletically active, less likely to smoke, and generally healthier than the groups of meat-eaters. Such systematic differences are attempted to be statistically extrapolated – multivariate adjusted, that is. However, this is often not transparent, because the extent of the adjustment for individual, unevenly distributed risk factors is not disclosed. A distortion of the results is therefore unavoidable even in meta-analyses. A further problem is the so-called “recall bias”. It refers to the uncertainty regarding the correct recall of nutritional behaviour. The authors around Guyatt, therefore, stress that meta-analyses could also provide insufficient evidence for an influence of meat on disease risks. The overall evidential value is too weak to derive serious recommendations for the population.”

Scholl also brings us concerning news about the state of academic debate within nutritional science, notably how some in the camp of activist science are trying to prevent evidence-based information to come out.

“Scientific discussion is called for instead of polemics and defamation, demands Sharp from Harvard. He emphasized that there was no evidence that the meat industry had sponsored the studies. It is true: Texas A&M University, as an institution for its agricultural sector, also receives donations from the meat industry amounting to approximately 1.5% of its total budget.

The stumbling block to the fierce dispute was a series of articles published in 2019 in the Annals of Internal Medicine. In it, the authors concluded, on the basis of strictly evidence-based criteria, that there was no qualitatively sufficient scientific evidence to justify a recommendation to reduce meat consumption. One of the main authors of the publication is Dr Gordon H. Guyatt from the Canadian McMaster University in Hamilton/Ontario, one of the fathers of evidence-based medicine.

There are hardly any randomized controlled nutritional studies with hard endpoints on the topic of meat consumption. In the Womensʼ Health Initiative Study, women who were randomized to a low-fat diet reduced their meat consumption by about 20%. However, this did not result in any difference in the various endpoints such as all-cause mortality, cancer or cardiovascular disease.”

In fact, it turns out that a purely plant-based diet might even produce the opposite effect.

“From the point of view of nutritional medicine, the distinction between animal and plant foods makes no sense anyway. Because not only vegetables, fruit and olive oil, but also sugar, soft drinks and all starch-rich white flour products are vegetables. With an assumed basal metabolic rate of 2,000 kcal, the “Planetary Health Diet” would correspond to an intake of more than 330 g of carbohydrates per day or 55-60% of the total calories. The PURE study had shown that such a high-carbohydrate diet is harmful to the vast majority of people and increases overall mortality (23, 24). It is not without reason that many experts consider carbohydrate reduction – “low carb” – to be a milestone in healthy eating.”

Lastly, Scholl also looks at the claim of environmental damage due to meat consumption. Here again, the accusation doesn’t match the crime.

“The argument that meat consumption is already sufficiently high – not least in Germany – and a further increase would definitely not be sensible may be true. But even if all of Germany were vegan, according to climate researcher Frank Mitloehner, the impact on global CO2 emissions would not even be measurable.

In the past it used to be said: “Meat is a piece of vitality”, today it is more likely: “Meat consumption is the number one climate killer” The content of such a statement is however just as questionable as statements about meat consumption that is harmful to health. According to updated data from the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the entire agricultural sector contributes 9.3 % of greenhouse gas emissions. However, more than three quarters come from transport (27.9 %), energy production (26.9 %) and industry (22.2 %). Fermentation in ruminants accounts for 2.7% of total emissions. Almost three times as much methane is released from fracking, landfills and coal and gasoline production, an aspect that is often overlooked.”

Meat consumption is under fire from activists who use questionable nutritional science to back up their claims. It is our responsibility as consumer choice advocates to set the record straight and defend choice in all aspects of life. This is not to say that we endorse eating meat per se. We defend the right of responsible consumers to make their own choices, with accurate data-points, driven by science, not ideology. 


Zeraatkar D, Johnston BC, Bartoszko J, et al.: Effect of Lower Versus Higher Red Meat Intake on Cardiometabolic and Cancer Outcomes: A Systematic Review of Randomized Trials. Ann Intern Med 2019; 171 (10): 721–31 CrossRef MEDLINE

Zeraatkar D, Han MA, Guyatt GH, et al.: Red and Processed Meat Consumption and Risk for All-Cause Mortality and Cardiometabolic Outcomes: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis of Cohort Studies. Ann Intern Med 2019; 171 (10): 703–10 CrossRef MEDLINE

Han MA, Zeraatkar D, Guyatt GH, et al.: Reduction of Red and Processed Meat In-take and Cancer Mortality and Incidence: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis of Cohort Studies. Ann Intern Med 2019; 171 (10): 711–20 CrossRef MEDLINE

Johnston BC, Zeraatkar D, Han MA, et al.: Unprocessed Red Meat and Processed Meat Consumption: Dietary Guideline Recommendations From the Nutritional Recommendations (NutriRECS) Consortium. Ann Intern Med 2019; 171 (10): 756–64 CrossRef MEDLINE

Vernooij RWM, Zeraatkar D, Han MA, et al.: Patterns of Red and Processed Meat Consumption and Risk for Cardiometabolic and Cancer Outcomes: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis of Cohort Studies. Ann Intern Med 2019; 171 (10): 732–41 CrossRef MEDLINE

Valli C, Rabassa M, Johnston BC, et al.: Health-Related Values and Preferences Regarding Meat Consumption: A Mixed-Methods Systematic Review. Ann Intern Med 2019; 171 (10): 742–55.

Carroll AE, Doherty TS: Meat Consumption and Health: Food for Thought. Ann Intern Med 2019; 171 (10): 767–8 CrossRef MEDLINE

Assaf AR, Beresford SAA, Risica PM, et al.: Low-Fat Dietary Pattern Intervention and Health-Related Quality of Life: The Women‘s Health Initiative Randomized Controlled Dietary Modification Trial. J Acad Nutr Diet 2016; 116 (2): 259–71 CrossRef MEDLINE PubMed Central

The Consumer Choice Center is the consumer advocacy group supporting lifestyle freedom, innovation, privacy, science, and consumer choice. The main policy areas we focus on are digital, mobility, lifestyle & consumer goods, and health & science.

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

The CCC Testifies In British Columbia

On Friday, June 12th the Consumer Choice Center’s David Clement was invited to present to the British Columbia’s Select Standing Committee on Finance and Services. In their annual review in the budgetary process, the province’s finance committee invites, and hears from experts, on various policies that impact the provincial budget.

As part of the consultation, David represented the CCC specifically on two key points:

  1. Urging the BC government to repeal it’s 20% vape tax
  2. Asking that the BC government remove the Provincial Sales Tax from medical cannabis.

Below is a copy of David’s remarks:

Hello members of the Select Standing Committee on Finance and Services. I’d like to first off thank you for the ability to present here today, and to represent the voice of consumers in British Columbia. I’m David Clement, and I act as the North American Affairs Manager for the Consumer Choice Center.

As a representative of a consumer advocacy group, I appear here today to ask that the Government of BC repeal its 20% vape tax, and remove PST from medical cannabis purchases.

For the vape tax, we urge the government to repeal the vape tax, for both cannabis products and nicotine, for the following reasons:

  1. Harm reduction: We know, from mountains of evidence, from credible public health agencies like Public Health England, that vape products are significantly less dangerous when compared to products that involve combustion. Because vape products are reduced risk products, we feel that the additional tax is counter-productive from a harm reduction perspective. Having additional taxation on cannabis and nicotine vape products, wrongly, signals to consumers that these products are more harmful than the alternatives, when the opposite is true. Taxation should be applied based on the continuum of risk, and this tax runs in the opposite direction.
  2. Black market alternatives: Specifically for cannabis, we know that the illegal market has long provided consumers with vaping products. Unfortunately, we also know that these black market products often contain dangerous thickening agents like Vitamin E Acetate. Vitamin e acetate is now known to be one of the main causes of vaping related illnesses in North America, which are not present in legal products, nor is it allowed to be in legal products. The 20% vape tax makes legal, regulated, and safe cannabis vapes considerably more expensive when compared to black market alternatives, which incentives consumers to purchase dangerous and unsafe products. It is important to remember that this 20% cannabis vape tax is added on top of the following taxes and fees that inflate the price of legal products:
    1. The federal excise tax
    2. The federal portion of the sales tax
    3. Application screening fees
    4. Security clearance fees
    5. Annual regulatory fee

The cannabis vape tax should be repealed because it simply piles on to the overtaxation of legal cannabis in this country, and only benefits illegal dealers, who’s products now become more attractive in terms of price. In order for the legal market to compete with the illegal market, it has to be able to offer products at comparable price points. The vape tax makes that nearly impossible.

Beyond the vape tax, we also strongly urge that the Province of BC remove the PST from medical cannabis products. The PST should be removed, firstly, because it would be the consistent thing to do. Other prescription medications in BC do not have the PST applied to them, thus removing PST would simply give parity to medical cannabis. Beyond that, it is incredibly unfair to have additional taxes for medical cannabis patients. In many instances patients are on fixed income, or even disability. It is disproportionate and punitive to add additional taxation to the medicine these patients have been prescribed by their doctors. It was a mistake for the federal government to apply a sales tax to medical cannabis, but luckily the province can somewhat right that wrong. 

Thank you for hearing my concerns, and I look forward to your questions. 

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

Fairness formula: free markets, rule of law, and consumer choice

In light of the Black Lives Matter protests, a statue of former UK Prime Minister Robert Peel, who, among other things, abolished the disastrous Corn Laws in 1846, has been defaced with socialist graffiti. As someone coming from a post-communist country who came to recognise and appreciate the role of free markets in bringing about prosperity, I was heartbroken. 

Communism, or socialism as its lower and more feasible version, has come to personify the Garden of Eden, the idealist dream of liberté, égalité, fraternité. In modern European history, socialism, as we know it today, started off as an outraged response to the ever-growing wealth gap between the rich and the poor. The complete lack of economic freedom in the form of excessive taxation and irresponsible public expenditure was at the heart of the French revolution. The same story then played out in Russia and resulted in the establishment of the USSR. The social order leading up to these and many similar uprisings was extremely unfair, but the cure was free markets, rule of law, and peace, not socialism, cronyism, and tyranny. 

This lesson of history is especially important and is usually overlooked. Free markets, and in particular free trade, have been key to reducing poverty all across the world. The right to choose that comes with economic freedom has led to individual empowerment in various other areas of life. While socialists’ promise of fairness and equality results in one type of consumer goods available on the shelves, long queues, one haircut for all, one school uniform, and extremely low level of innovation, capitalism celebrates the plentifulness of choices, individuality, and entrepreneurship. And yet free markets are increasingly blamed for all the evils in the world: wealth gap, gender inequality, and even climate change. 

It would be a mistake to claim that free markets are a perfect solution to all problems in the world, but it’s the best we have. If left unchecked and without proper incentives, capitalism can really become a brutal race in which those who obtained the most wealth – sometimes not by legal means – win. However, combined with institutional integrity, and the rule of law, free-market capitalism isn’t only the fairest solution based on merit and choice, it’s also the most desirable one. 

Let’s imagine, as in the famous Rawls’s experiment, that we know nothing about our individual identity meaning that we don’t know what gender we have, whether we are straight or gay, what is our skin colour, and whether we are rich or poor. For the experiment to work, we have to imagine that all of the people are in this position and we have to establish a new social contract. What would we want it to be?

Regardless of who we turn out to be, we would all end up as consumers and would want to enjoy the freedom to choose from the widest array of products. We would prefer them cheap – so taxes have to be low – and would like to get all the information we can about those products, and of course more innovation. When considering our position in the world under the veil of ignorance, we would likely also think about our lifestyle. Would we all want to agree to the state of things when we are told what to consume, or when someone intervenes into our voluntary exchange with other people? Likely not, unless we think about it from the standpoint of a government bureaucrat who might be driven by noble motives but still wants to control our lives. The majority of people standing behind the veil of ignorance wouldn’t buy into that anyway. 

In this experiment, I’m focusing on us as consumers because that is one of the key things that socialism in its pursuit of justice gets wrong. If we look at the world through the veil of ignorance, we would like to be able to make decisions for ourselves, we would want to coordinate in the markets between each other through price mechanisms, not have everything centrally planned. Government is an artificial creation with the mission to deliver on the social contract, and therefore protect our rights, in particular the right to live and property rights. What actually happens, though, is that governments often take our desirable social contract from us by force in favour of fewer markets, less economic freedom, and less consumer choice.

Fairness doesn’t mean equality of outcome, it is the equality of opportunity or the freedom to choose. Only free markets combined with the rule of law can safeguard these.

The Consumer Choice Center is the consumer advocacy group supporting lifestyle freedom, innovation, privacy, science, and consumer choice. The main policy areas we focus on are digital, mobility, lifestyle & consumer goods, and health & science.

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

Narcos 3.0: Mexico declares War on Vaping and repeats old prohibitionists mistakes

When Mexico’s far-left President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (or short AMLO) ran for office in 2018, he and his platform promised an end to the decade-long war on drugs in Mexico. He acknowledged that prohibitionist policies cause more harm than they do good. Ironically that same President issued a surprise presidential decree on February 19 banning the import of e-cigarettes, vapes, and heated tobacco products. The order even forbids the import of nicotine-free vaping liquids.

AMLO declared the War on Vaping

The Presidential decree relies heavily on scare tactics, invoking the U.S. “vaping crisis” to justify Mexico’s ban. But even the U.S. CDC and AMLO’s decree concede the “vaping crisis” was actually caused by illicit black market vaping liquids. Pushing Mexican vapers to the black market will exactly cause what the order claims it is trying to prevent: more lung diseases.

Even before this decree, Mexico had opaque vaping regulations, that had to be clarified by a supreme court ruling and allowed at least certain manufacturers to sell e-cigarettes to the country’s roughly 1.2 million vapers.

These vapers are now being left alone with no access to nicotine products that are less harmful than conventional cigarettes, and that in times of lockdowns and people spending most of their week at home thanks to COVID. Two scenarios are most likely to happen if the decree does not get annulled:

  • Narcos 3.0: Mexico has a well developed black market for illicit substances, and, as regular Netflix viewers know, it serves as a massive transit hub for the global drug trade. It wouldn’t take much for organized crime to either smuggle legal vaping products from neighboring countries into Mexico and sell them on the black market or (even more concerning) sell counterfeited vaping liquids to Mexican vapers. The vaping crisis in the United States, which the Presidential decree instrumentalizes for its ban, was caused by illicit black market vaping liquids. Pushing Mexican vapers to the black market will exactly cause what the order tried to prevent: More lung diseases. 
  • Back to the ciggie: Even is the more dramatic scenario of a booming vaping black market might not come true (mainly due to the low margins on nicotine products compared to Cannabis or Cocaine), we would still see over a million vapers left behind. It is more likely that most of them will switch back to smoking regular cigarettes instead of switching to nicotine patches or entirely quit. That, in turn, would also lead to worse public health outputs.

We can see that AMLO’s decree will have serious, negative unintended consequences contrary to its own objectives.

Perhaps the most concerning is that the World Health Organization lauded Mexico’s vaping ban as a public health achievement, it fails to recognize that Mexico’s anti-vape stance will keep smokers and nicotine consumers locked in with combustible cigarettes. This policy deprives them of the choice to switch to the 95% less harmful vapes. The Consumer Choice Center’s interactive vaping map shows that up to 3.3 million additional Mexican smokers could switch to vaping if the government would emulate the UK’s progressive and science-based vaping laws.

Better vaping policies could help millions of Mexicans

So instead of cracking further down on vaping, Mexico should embrace tobacco harm reduction. Due to COVID and the parliamentary schedule, the Mexican Congress is currently out of session. Still, there is a window for legislative action when Congress returns to operation in the fall.

Consumer groups, vaping advocates, and the scientific community need to use this window of opportunity to explain more Mexican politicians and regulators the benefits of vaping and help busting myths around the United States’ vaping crisis. Initial protests against this misguided decree started already in March. This multi-lingual paper on the Myths and Facts on Vaping, written by my colleagues Yael Ossowski and Bill Wirtz explains the reasons behind the perceived vaping crisis in the US and is also available in Spanish. Probably an essential message in this paper for politicians is this one:


Much cause for concern of late has been a flurry of reports of illness and hospitalizations blamed on traditional vaping devices and liquids. The CDC has reported nearly 380 cases of lung illnesses related to vaping. Sensational headlines and opinion articles have convinced leaders in several states and even President Donald Trump to consider banning vaping flavors outright.

But careful analysis of the reported cases reveals that a vast majority of the patients with symptoms were found to have used illicit vape cartridges mixed with the cannabis compound THC. 

A study in the New England Journal of Medicine that examined cases in Illinois and Wisconsin found that 84% of hospitalized patients report using illicit THC vaping cartridges prior to their illness. No illnesses have yet been tied to store-bought vaping pods or liquids containing nicotine.

To that end, two Wisconsin brothers were recently arrested in connection with a multi-million dollar operation that mixed various chemicals (including Vitamin E) with THC in cartridges meant for vaping devices, which they then sold illegally. Authorities have identified this large scheme spread across much of the Midwest as a culprit in the recent lung illnesses there.

What this reveals is that illicit vaping products sold on black markets, rather than licensed retailers, have actually caused the most severe of the lung illnesses reported in the media. 

As such, a ban on regulated devices and liquids, whether with flavors or not, would not address the problem as it currently exists.

By pushing vaping into the black market and Mexican vapers going back to the cigarette, AMLO will (despite the thunderous applause from the World Health Organization) further weaken Mexico’s public health outputs. If he is passionate about fighting lung diseases he should make access to legal and safe ways of consuming nicotine easier and not harder. Everything else is just a stimulus program for organized crime and lung specialists.

How to Unfreeze the Economy

This is a post by a Guest Author
Disclaimer: The author’s views are entirely his or her own, and don’t necessarily reflect the opinions of the Consumer Choice Center.

While governments around the world have focussed on pursuing a ‘flatten the curve’ strategy to dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, they have also had to pursue a simultaneous economic strategy. That economic strategy was an attempt to freeze the economy is place, until the medical strategy had succeeded, and then to unfreeze the economy.

Reasonable people can argue that different choices could have and should have been made. But here we are.

This is the single largest economic intervention in human history. The economic costs that have already been incurred are astronomical. What is going to happen next?

Well, one view is that when government release their populations from lockdown and quarantine that the economy will ‘snap back’. That we’ll go back to work and the economy will simply spring back to life as if we’d all just had a long holiday.

Some of my RMIT University colleagues and I are less optimistic.

We are firm believers in the power of markets to operate and humans to cooperate in the production of value. We have no doubt that entrepreneurs will be willing to experiment, creating new opportunities, business models and consumer goods. But …

The economy that emerges from the COVID-pandemic will be a lot smaller than the economy was just two months ago. Many of the patterns of economic production and cooperation will be broken or destroyed. Many of the entrepreneurial plans that were in place and unfolding are now totally disrupted.

The one thing that has not shrunk, however, is the regulatory state. If the economy was over-regulated and over-burdened by taxation just two months ago, imagine how much more the much smaller post-COVID economy will be over-regulated and overtaxed. Many government have relaxed some regulation and taxation to deal with the pandemic – but so much more needs to be done.

In our new book, Unfreeze: How to Create a High Growth Economy After the Pandemic, my colleagues and I set out why we shouldn’t be optimistic about the economy quickly recovering from the COVID pandemic and what government needs to do to facilitate not just a recovery from the crisis but how to restore our prosperity.

Sinclair Davidson is a professor of economics at RMIT University in Melbourne Australia and an Adjunct Economics Fellow at the Consumer Choice Center.

The Consumer Choice Center is the consumer advocacy group supporting lifestyle freedom, innovation, privacy, science, and consumer choice. The main policy areas we focus on are digital, mobility, lifestyle & consumer goods, and health & science.

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

How liability lawsuits drive up drug prices, stifle innovation, and harm patients

A single drug can cost up to 2 million dollars per treatment. In the light of COVID-19, patient groups and activists have been using the crisis of the moment to call for capping drug and vaccine prices and cracking down on barriers to access for patients. In developing countries, large parts of drug prices are caused by tariffs, taxes, and other regulatory barriers. The United States, on the other hand, has the highest per-capita drug expenditure and drug prices in the world.

Bringing a drug to the US market is usually critical for a company to recoup the roughly 2 billion dollars of development costs per successfully launched medicine. At the same time, the country’s unique legal liability and injury system (called tort law) leads to higher drug prices without necessarily creating benefits for patients. Once a drug has passed the rigorous approval process demonstrating safety and efficacy to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), it is still subject to various liability laws at the state level.

In the last two decades, Pfizer set aside a whopping 21 billion dollars for settlements following tort lawsuits against the diet drug Fen-Phen. Those who were harmed by the drug were able to seek legal recourse. That said, thousands and thousands of people who were not harmed by the drug were also able to seek compensation. So much so that it is assumed that at least 70% of the payouts went to claimants who weren’t harmed at all by the drug.

Johnson & Johnson was ordered to pay 8 billion dollars to one patient for side effects caused by the antipsychotic drug Risperdal. These are just a few examples of a plethora of multi-billion-dollar payments drug companies have been compelled to make after being dragged to court, despite them being deemed safe by the FDA.

Patient advocates who are passionate about lowering drug prices in the USA should take a serious look at liability laws and how their misuse inflates prices. Abolishing liability beyond FDA requirements could reduce drug prices in the United States by 12 to 120 billion dollars a year and therefore give many more patients access to medicines. 

In 2019, US patients spent a total of $360 billion on prescription drugs. Between 3 and 30% of this amount could be freed up for other treatments or price cuts if liability rules for FDA-approved drugs would be reformed. This change might seem radical, but it is what Congress has approved for FDA-approved medical devices. A similar preemption was extended to vaccines in the late 1980s via the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program.

Another impact of lawsuits following product withdrawals of FDA-approved drugs is that they negatively affect new investments in development. Pfizer’s settlement for Fen-Phen alone could have been used to bring 10-15 new innovative and life-saving drugs to patients.

Rather than using these financial resources for more research and development, or to lower drug prices, pharmaceutical manufacturers have to fight law firms who enrich themselves by abusing the US tort system. Tort law on top of FDA regulation is not just stifling innovation, but also an expensive way to compensate for the harm caused to patients. Paul H. Rubin suggests that the costs of settlement for the legal process account for half of the total settlement fees. Reducing this burden could increase the speed of new drugs being developed and reduce their price. Critics of tort reform will say that changing liability rules will endanger patients, but that’s far from the truth. A 2007 study shows that tort law reform in some states led to a total of 24,000 fewer deaths due to price reductions and the arrival of new innovative drugs. That’s something to keep in mind.

As long as we keep existing tort law on top of the FDA approval framework, consumers are being de facto forced to pay a massive markup on drugs in order to get insured against potential side effects. This is a very expensive and inefficient way of insuring patients against harm. 

A smarter way of designing such a compensation scheme is to either expand the vaccine compensation scheme to pharmaceuticals or to allow consumers to personally purchase insurance against such damages. This could, for instance, be supplementary insurance on top of the patient’s existing health insurance plans. Such a system would allow patients who opt-in much lower fees than the existing mandatory tort law system.

Exempting drugs from state tort law would be an easy step to reduce drug prices without putting patients under more risk. American patients would save billions a year and be able to access more treatments than they can currently. This will lead to a net benefit for patients and the health of the nation. Why not give it a try?

Can you sue the ski hut where you contracted coronavirus?

European nations may be opening up their economies throughout the month of May, but that grand opening is likely to be dogged by the wave of COVID-19-related lawsuits.

We learned over the weekend that over 5,000 international tourists to the ski town of Ischgl, Austria are in the process of filing a lawsuit against the town and public officials. There are also being considered against ski resort owners in the area.

The lawsuit is being prepared by the Austrian Consumer Protection Association, which claims health authorities and the bar owners were “negligent” in not shutting down ski huts and restaurants earlier. They launched a website asking potential plaintiffs to share their information in order to join a future class-action lawsuit.

Often described as the “Ibiza of the Alps,” Ischgl made international headlines as an epicenter of the coronavirus crisis. At one particular venue, Kitzloch, a German bartender reportedly tested positive for coronavirus on March 7th. The bar closed its doors two days later. The town went into lockdown on March 13th. Tyrolean Governor Günther Platter then issued a province-wide quarantine on March 18th.

By the end of March, nearly 1,000 cases across Europe could be traced back to the resort town, and as many of 1,500 to the region itself.

The complaint states that the delay from the first known case until the ski town was ordered into lockdown was “negligible” and that authorities should have “known of a threat of mass infection”. Some have even blamed “greed” and “toxic business” as the reason local officials and business owners waited before shuttering doors. But as covered above, ski lodges and restaurants shut before provincial and national lockdowns ordered them to.

The first death in Austria from the coronavirus wasn’t until March 12, after which the town of Ischgl went into complete lockdown. The national lockdown went into effect four days later.

Is this enough to make a case against ski huts and villages where tourists contracted coronavirus?

As my colleague Linda Kavuka has pointed out, the current pandemic is a living and breathing example of Force Majeure, an Act of God that indemnifies certain parties in lawsuits and breaches of contract because it is simply “beyond the control” of any person or organization.

That said, there are legitimate questions to be asked: should ski towns have shuttered their doors and closed down bars and restaurants earlier? Likely. But we simply didn’t have the same information then as we do now.

And considering the very disturbing revelations about obfuscation of information by both the Chinese Communist Party and the World Health Organization at the outset of this crisis, it’s hard to place blame solely at the feet of local mayors and ski hut owners in the Alps.

(That’s why the U.S. states of Mississippi and Missouri have filed lawsuits against China.)

Of course, the fact that any skier or holiday goer would contract the coronavirus at a place where they were supposed to be enjoying themselves is a tragedy. Many people unknowingly spread the virus, were hospitalized themselves and died as a result. No one can excuse that loss of life and the grief that ensues.

But what we must hold uphold, in this situation and many more to come, is the facts and cases we allow to enter our legal system and our courts.

Classifying or assigning claims of negligence in the pandemic could likely mean thousands of unwitting public officials, business owners, and individuals will be held liable for what they didn’t know at the time. That would be a dangerous precedent.

We’ve often covered the incredibly litigious culture in the United States’ tort law system and articulated to reasons to reform it. Now, it seems, we’ll have to spread that same message throughout the European continent.

Battle of the Experts: Judge tosses portions of testimony in J&J talc trial

For the last year, we’ve dedicated a good amount of space in our campaigns advocating for significant reform when it comes to both the U.S. tort law system and the science that is used in courts.

With most courts closed due to COVID-19, that afforded us an opportunity to better dive into one case that’s grabbing headlines: one of the many talc lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson, which we’ve written about before.

Plaintiffs in multiple lawsuits claim their baby powder products contained elements of asbestos in the talc, the main ingredient in hundreds of cosmetic products, food additives, and lubricants, and therefore can cause cancer.

Because these lawsuits have been inundated with scientific testimony from all sides, a judge in a Federal District Court in New Jersey held a Daubert hearing, examining the methodologies and credibility of the science presented in the case.

For those interested in countering junk science in the courts, this is a big one.

The Daubert opinion, written by Chief Judge Freda Wolfson, sheds a lot of light on the process of determining whether certain expert analysis can be entered as evidence for juries to consider.

In this specific case in New Jersey, all experts from the plaintiff-side who had part of their testimonies thrown out because their methodologies were questionable or they made claims they couldn’t back up. All defense witnesses will be heard without reservations.

Overall, there’s a lot of “Battle of the Experts” here, and it makes for fascinating reading.

There was a lot of debate about the strength of weakness of “epidemiological studies” – tell me if you’ve heard about those recently – and about whether expert witnesses were basing their testimonies on “subjective belief or unsupported speculation”.

Specifically, one of the main witnesses says talcum powder causes inflammation in certain cells, and then uses that to claim it’s carcinogenic. Chief Judge Wolfson torches him for his claim without causation.

“For all these reasons, the Court finds that Dr. Saed’s opinion that talc causes ovarian cancer is unsupported by the findings of his study—which can only arguably demonstrate that use of talcum powder causes inflammation in ovarian cells.”

Chief Judge Freda Wolfson, Daubert opinion, pg. 24

Second, because there was no transformation of the cell under experimentation, which is usually how we can prove a link to cancer, the judge called his conclusions “unreliable”.

What is more, Dr. Saed’s findings with respect to CA-125 further demonstrate that his opinion with respect to ovarian cancer causation is unreliable.

Chief Judge Freda Wolfson, Daubert opinion, pg. 56

The second main expert witness gets knocked down for producing scientific experiments that can in no way be replicated. The judge points out that each additional attempt at replication came up with a negative for asbestos, which is claimed to be the carcinogen in focus.

“Without that information, which is internally created by MAS, reproducing Dr. Longo’s test under the PLM would not be possible, and hence, the testing is unreliable…J-3’s PLM analysis was negative for asbestos for each sample.”

Chief Judge Freda Wolfson, Daubert opinion, pg. 23

It’s obviously very difficult for courts to examine and establish good science from bad science.

That’s why Daubert hearings are supposed to weigh methodologies, like disproven bite-mark analysis or tire tracks (as many Netflix series are now exposing).

A lot of junk science is taken as fact because it’s in the courtroom, and that’s wrong. That’s exactly what was explained to us last week on Consumer Choice Radio by Jerry Buting, the famed attorney of Steven Avery from the series Making a Murderer.

What we know is that science is a powerful tool to use in lawsuits that affect millions of consumers or innocent people’s lives, but it can be flawed and have bad consequences.

For that reason, we need good legal reform in each state’s tort system to ensure we can uphold good scientific evidence. Justice depends on it.

A full embed of the Daubert opinion can be found here:

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