Consumer Goods/Lifestyle

The beef ban is what happens when climate alarmism takes hold

Earlier this week, 243 people at the London School of Economics passed a students’ union motion to introduce a ban on beef for all 11,000 of its students, making it the third university in the country to do so. And it was the perfect example of how brazen climate change alarmism causes huge problems for everyone. Feeling that you are doing your bit to help the world solve its most pressing problems has, it seems, become more important than respecting the fundamental freedom to choose.

As it happens though, the only way to tackle climate change is by embracing the latter. Students are the consumers of tomorrow, and they deserve the same consumer choice.

There is something pretentious about a minority trying to impose its views on everyone else through bans, especially when it comes to market issues. In such cases, we should always ask ourselves how it is that a group of people who we have probably never met can know what is right for me?

Such logic penetrates a wide spectrum of lifestyle regulations from smoking tobacco and cannabis to sugar. In the context of climate change, it undermines individual responsibility on a very basic level by implying that we, as individuals, do not care enough about the environment to help reduce CO2 emissions.

In reality, for better or worse, it is hard not to. Thanks to Greta Thunberg, extensive media campaigns and green deals coming from every direction, climate change has become a topic of high concern all across the world, especially in Europe and the US which, unlike China, are not the biggest global polluters. We all agree that we should be aiming to cut carbon emissions. We differ only on how we should do that.

Human nature has a tendency to be impatient. It has become popular to think that if we pass a ban, the issue will disappear overnight. That’s to say, it is assumed that if we ban beef on the campus, every student will soon stop eating meat and become climate-conscious. Such an approach might achieve some success in the short term at the expense of consumer choice, but in the long run it’s neither sustainable nor does it help save the planet.

Embracing innovative solutions, on the other hand, is a far more rewarding way forward. Developing meat substitutes is an example of one of them.

We have seen incredible advancements in the area of agriculture in the past decades, helping to make farming and consumption more sustainable. The potential of genetic engineering is very often dismissed because of unproven food safety claims and risks associated with altering the face of agriculture.

However, there is plenty of scientific evidence debunking the belief that gene-edited foods are less safe than those grown conventionally. Cutting off all beef products now means capitulating to the challenges in front of us.

Educating students about meat substitutes and their propensity to help mitigate climate change is crucial too. Popular unscientific rhetoric along with existing market restrictions (currently, products containing GMO are labelled as such) are intended to direct us away from the most innovative products.

Marketing and promotion are key in dispersing information about products, and both GMO and GMO-free products should be treated equally. Making students aware of the benefits of genetic modification would ensure that as consumers they make science-based food choices.

Banning beef on the campus of a respectable educational institution is a step backwards. The UK can do much better than this. We need to welcome innovation and provide consumers with a choice to move away from conventional food not by banning it, but by encouraging the development of meat substitutes.

Nannying students is easy; encouraging them to become responsible consumers mindful of the importance of their freedom to choose is harder, but key.

Originally published here.


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 consumerchoicecenter.org

La taxe digitale est mauvaise pour les consommateurs

Le Royaume-Uni a annoncé pendant le Forum économique mondial à Davos qu’elle va introduire une taxe digitale. Depuis trois ans, l’Union européenne (UE) discute d’une proposition similaire pour le reste du continent. Les États Unis soulèvent la question de l’équité au niveau des échanges commerciaux, et le Grand-Duché propose de trouver une solution à l’échelle de l’OCDE. Avant tout par contre, la taxe digitale (ou taxe GAFA) est mauvaise pour les consommateurs.

Le concept de la taxe digitale date de moins de cinq ans. Le concept est celui que dans un aspect de justice sociale, il ne serait pas acceptable que les grandes entreprises du net ne paient pas leurs impôts. Une taxe digitale fera en sorte de remédier à cette injustice — et pourra aussi remplir les trésoreries des États avec de nouvelles recettes.

Le ministre des finances français, Bruno Le Maire, avait commencé à l’automne de l’année 2017 à s’orienter vers ce qui était alors connu sous le nom de «taxe numérique». Le Maire avait mené une campagne primaire de centre droit pour le parti républicain français, en tant que conservateur fiscal. Tout de même, il semble avoir trouvé le social-démocrate en lui depuis qu’il a rejoint le gouvernement d’Emmanuel Macron. Qualifiant cette situation de «question de justice», Le Maire a appelé à l’unité européenne sur la matière de cette taxe digitale. Pendant la présidence estonienne de l’Union européenne, il a réuni les ministres des Finances pour obtenir un soutien.

Cependant, les ministres du Danemark, de la Suède, de Malte et de l’Irlande ont rapidement manifesté leur opposition. Certains critiques ont fait valoir que cette mesure pourrait être considérée comme une punition des entreprises américaines, car la plupart des entreprises concernées seraient américaines.

Ces pays n’avaient pas tort : Donald Trump a clairement indiqué qu’une taxe digitale sera considérée comme mesure protectionniste par Washington, et aura des conséquences en matière de politique commerciale. Le débat sur les droits de douane sur le vin français, qui date de l’été de l’année dernière, était une conséquence de l’introduction de la taxe digitale (dite taxe GAFA) en France.

Le Luxembourg a abandonné le camp de ceux qui s’opposent à la poursuite cette taxe, et propose plutôt de négocier au niveau de l’OCDE. Est-ce que le gouvernement oppose toujours la taxe, et la proposition OCDE est en connaissance du fait que les États-Unis ne donneront jamais leur accord, ou estce que le Luxembourg va ultimement soutenir la proposition de la Commission européenne ? Le temps nous le dira.

Il est difficile de donner un sens à ce débat – et aux propositions concrètes. Pour commencer, la Commission européenne ne précise pas ce qui fait qu’une entreprise est numérique, et encore moins où tracer une ligne entre les modèles économiques plus numériques, moins numériques ou non numériques. De plus, elle reste ouverte sur ce qui relève exactement d’une taxe sur les revenus numériques. En effet, le groupe de l’OCDE sur l’économie numérique, qui s’est penché sur cette même question pendant plus de 2 ans, a conclu qu’il était en fait impossible de mettre une clôture autour de l’»économie numérique». L’opposition de l’Allemagne – qui a bloqué l’avance de cette taxe pendant les trois dernières années – n’est ainsi pas seulement une réaction de peur face à Donald Trump, mais aussi une réaction informée.

Les données financières passées et récentes révèlent que les niveaux de rentabilité sont très divers pour les entreprises numériques, moins numériques et non numériques. Les données du monde réel montrent également que les secteurs traditionnels comptent un grand nombre d’entreprises traditionnelles très rentables. Dans le même temps, ce sont les entreprises numériques qui affichent les taux d’imposition effectifs les plus élevés – et non les entreprises traditionnelles. En outre, les données concernant les taux effectifs d’imposition des sociétés suggèrent qu’il n’y a pas de différence systématique entre les impôts sur le revenu payés par les sociétés numériques et ceux payés par leurs homologues traditionnelles.

Comme d’autres taxes, l’impact d’une «taxe numérique» sur les revenus des entreprises numériques se répercuterait sur les activités commerciales moins numériques dans l’UE et ailleurs, affectant ainsi l’emploi et les recettes fiscales des entreprises numériques comme les PME ainsi que les taxes sur les revenus personnels générés dans les industries numériques et moins numériques de l’UE. Avant tout, une taxe numérique est aussi une taxe sur la consommation de leurs produits.

Très souvent, l’augmentation des impôts indirects implique inévitablement une augmentation des prix pour les consommateurs sur le continent européen. La TVA a longtemps été reconnue comme la taxe qui affecte le plus durement les plus pauvres. Il semble cruel de restreindre leur pouvoir d’achat à un moment où les personnes à faible revenu en particulier peuvent avoir un accès plus simple à de nombreux produits grâce à l’Internet.


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 consumerchoicecenter.org

Déchets technologiques: il faut repenser les idées reçues

Àtravers le «European Green Deal», la Commission européenne veut rencontrer les défis écologiques des années à venir. Parmi ses ambitions : réduire considérablement les déchets technologiques (surtout dans l’électroménager) en responsabilisant les entreprises. Une cible de la Commission est «l’obsolescence planifiée», existant comme idée reçue dans la tête de beaucoup de consommateurs. Discutonscette notion.

L’obsolescence planifiée part du principe que les producteurs vendent des articles de toutes sortes à des fins de consommation continue. L’idée est que la durabilité d’un article serait prédéterminée, afin que le consommateurs rachètent le nouveau modèle. Le nombre croissant d’iPhones nous vient en tête, ou la mode vestimentaire. On entend souvent qu’autrefois «les produits duraient beaucoup longtemps». Serait-il possible que les producteurs planifient les durées de façon malintentionnée ? Il y a de fausses hypothèses ici. Premièrement, le modèle suppose que les fabricants sont beaucoup plus intelligents que les consommateurs, qui sont traités comme des victimes passives de puissants intérêts capitalistes. En fait, dans le monde réel, ce sont les fabricants qui réclament à cor et à cri de suivre les consommateurs toujours changeants, discriminatoires, bon marché et difficiles, qui se débarrassent des produits et en choisissent d’autres pour des raisons rationnelles et parfois mystérieuses.

Deuxièmement, le modèle fait une étrange hypothèse normative selon laquelle les produits devraient durer le plus longtemps possible. En fait, il n’y a pas de préférence préé-tablie sur le marché quant à la durée de vie des produits. Il s’agit là d’une caractéristique de la fabrication entièremen déterminée par la demande des consommateurs.

De nos jours, nous avons de la chance si un mixeur à main dure quelques années. Il en va de même pour les laveuses et les sécheuses, les tondeuses et les coupebordures, les vêtements, l’équipement électronique et même les maisons. Rien ne dure plus longtemps qu’avant. Mais est-ce un argument contre le marché ou simplement le reflet de la préférence des consommateurs pour des valeurs (prix plus bas technologie la plus récente et commodités différentes) autres que la longévité ?

Comme le prix des matériaux a baissé, il est plus logique de remplacer le bien que de le créer pour qu’il dure éternellement. Voulez-vous un mélangeur de 200 euros qui dure 30 ans ou un mélangeur de 10 euros qui dure 5 ans ? De la même façon, il est tou à fait concevable que votre vieux Nokia 3310 fonctionne toujours. Ce téléphone est indestructible, mais il ne vous donne pas l’option de regarder des vidéos, consulter vos mails, ou de mettre à jour votre calendrier. La mise à jour des smartphones nous propose constamment des produits innovants. Ce que les consommateurs préfèrent à long terme, c’est ce qui domine le marché.

Comment peut-on en être sûr ? La concurrence. Disons que tous les fabricants fabriquent des mélangeurs qui se cassent en 5 ans seulement, et ce fait est largement détesté. Un fabricant pourrait battre la concurrence en offrant un produit qui met l’accent sur la longévité plutôt que sur d’autres caractéristiques.

Si les consommateurs accordent vraiment de l’importance à la longévité, ils seront prêts à payer la différence. La même logique s’applique aux voitures, aux ordinateurs, aux maisons et à tout le reste. Nous pouvons savoir quelle préférence domine (dans un marché libre) en regardant simplement quelle pratique est la plus courante sur le marché.

L’obsolescence planifiée est un mythe – pas au sens que le phénomène en lui-même est inexistant – mais dans le fait qu’elle répond aux demandes des consommateurs, au lieu d’une méchanceté organisée par des grandes entreprises.

Au niveau politique, on va me dire : «Méchanceté ou non, il faut interdire l’obsolescence.» Possible ? Oui. Mais à quel prix ?

Imaginez que votre vendeur d’ordinateurs vous propose un ordinateur à vie éternelle. Si vous le traitez bien, et si vous êtes prêt à payer le prix plus élevé, ce sera le dernier achat d’ordinateur de votre vie. Vous êtes sûrement sceptiques. Vu l’innovation rapide et constante sur le marché des ordinateurs, vous aurez très vite du retard sur d’autres collègues ou amis, qui utilisent des fonctions inconnues au moment de votre achat. Obliger le consommateur à dépenser plus pour un ordinateur qui sera de moindre qualité après quelques années est contraire au libre choix de ce consommateur. Pire encore, dans beaucoup de cas, une telle interdiction nuit à l’environnement.

Il y eut un moment dans le passé quand la consommation de carburant d’une voiture pouvait être de 12 litres aux 100 km, sans qu’elle posât problème. De nos jours, la consommation moyenne est la moitié de ces 12 litres. Oui, une voiture ne dure plus aussi long-temps qu’avant, mais de quel intérêt est la longue vie d’une voiture, quand nous pouvons réduire les frais
courants, et en même temps réduire les émissions de dioxyde de carbone ?

Dans la pratique, une interdiction de l’obsolescence planifiée est ironiquement elle-même une mesure de planification centralisée. En dictant la durée optimal d’un produit de façon législative, l’État se mêlerait encore une fois de plus de l’économie de marché. Cette mesure ne serait ni avantageuse pour les consommateurs ni bonne pour la planète.

Espérons que dans la vie politique, la rationalité n’a pas d’obsolescence planifiée.


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 
consumerchoicecenter.org

Low-battery warning fight

Microsoft’s carbon dating, Google in $1tn club, Logitech’s split keyboard

Don’t tell anyone, but my iPhone charger is hidden under some newspapers on my desk so that it’s less likely to go walkies when I’m not there.

I’ve always taken precautions, with people very eager to “borrow” this vital energy supply, and in future, I may have to bolt my chargers to the desk. The European Union just doubled the chances of me losing them this week when it revived the idea of universal chargers that would fit Apple, Samsung and any other smartphones.

Apart from the extra jeopardy I will face personally, the tech industry’s own selfish interests are in focus here. “The EU-enforced common charger is the enemy of progress” was the headline of a release from the corporate-backed Consumer Choice Center, which said any such move would undermine innovation and restrict competition. It echoed the argument when this last came up from Apple, which is the king of proprietary technologies and whose Lightning connectors are still cursed by anyone wanting to plug in a headphone jack.

I don’t buy their concerns. Where would we be without common USB and HDMI standards, and WiFi and Bluetooth, all with dongle-less backwards compatibility? I would happily trade a little innovation and commercial advantage for those invaluable conformities. 

Of course, legislators are always behind the tech curve and the common charger debate would become moot if we all bought wireless charging mats that removed the need for hard connections completely. Then again, some companies are not being as innovative in taking us to that bright new future as they think they are. Apple announced its AirPower wireless charging mats in 2017, but had to cancel the product less than two years later after struggling to make one that worked properly.

The Internet of (Five) Things

1. Microsoft’s carbon dating The software shop has gone further than other tech giants in committing to become “carbon negative” by 2030 and offset all carbon emissions made since it was founded. The $1.2tn company also announced a $1bn innovation fund to tackle the climate crisis.

2. There’s another trillion-dollar tech titan Alphabet on Thursday became the fourth Big Tech company to reach a market capitalisation of $1tn. Apple was the first public company to achieve the milestone, in August 2018, and is now more than a third of the way to a second trillion. It was followed by Amazon, which has since fallen back below the 13-digit threshold, and then Microsoft. Meanwhile, Tesla’s soaring share price is giving short sellers the heebie jeebies.

3. Peacock proud of its free streaming strategy The last major streaming debut is also the cheapest. Comcast unveiled its NBCUniversal Peacock streaming service on Thursday and said it would be free for its existing cable customers when it launches fully in July. There will be live sports and news, a large catalogue of older sitcoms, and the service will primarily rely on advertising rather than the subscriptions favoured by rivals. “We like the idea of zigging when others zag,” said NBCUniversal chairman Steve Burke.

4. WhatsApp won’t rely on ads Facebook is dropping plans to show ads on its WhatsApp messaging service, according to a report by the Wall Street Journal. WhatsApp disbanded the team working on integrating ads on to the platform recently and even the code they had created was deleted from the app.

5. Ad industry faces wrath of regulator The UK’s data protection regulator is braced to do battle with the country’s £13bn online advertising industry, saying it will start investigating individual companies that are in breach of European data protection law and enforcing it against them. The Information Commissioner’s Office said the ad industry had responded insufficiently to a six-month grace period to get its house in order.

Originally published here.


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 
consumerchoicecenter.org

Florida should crack down on frivolous lawsuits, costly verdicts

Lawsuits: A St. Louis jury awarded a record $4.7 billion verdict in a lawsuit in which plaintiffs said Johnson & Johnson’s baby powder caused cancer.

In a time of bitter division in our country, it’s refreshing to see partisan flags fall and elected leaders rally to improve our institutions and make our communities better off and more secure.

In Florida and dozens of other states, that mantra of late has been “criminal-justice reform.”

Florida’s 2019 reforms sought to rehabilitate rather than punish, giving new opportunities to nonviolent offenders who’ve done their time and are ready to transition back into society. That includes training programs and job opportunities, but also more-compassionate treatment of the accused while still providing swift justice to victims.

State lawmakers and activists should be applauded for these steps. But it doesn’t end there.

If we truly want to have a more just and balanced legal system, we’ll also need to address the broken tort system that elevates bad science, rewards unscrupulous lawyers and raises prices for all consumers.

Florida is famous for its billboard advertisements from injury lawyers: “Have you been injured?” Who can forget the injury firm Morgan & Morgan’s ads bearing the face of former governor and current U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist on major interstates?

For years, Florida has ranked highly as having one of the worst legal climates in the country. It even topped the list of “judicial hellholes” in 2017.

Key to these rankings has been Florida’s embrace of awarding exorbitant damages, anti-scientific jury verdicts and sometimes outright bogus lawsuits.

In November, a $5 million class-action lawsuit was filed in Miami by a vegan man upset with Burger King’s “Impossible Whopper,” claiming the company did not disclose that the meat-free patties were “contaminated” by being cooked in close proximity to beef patties.

Cases like these are more common than you may believe. And dozens of websites and newsletters give people opportunities to pick and choose the best class-action lawsuits to “get cash now” — regardless of whether or not they were a victim.

The latest headline-grabber is the billion-dollar nationwide attempt to pin various cancer diagnoses on the makers of baby powder Johnson & Johnson. Plaintiffs and their attorneys claim the company has knowingly sold asbestos-tainted talc in its baby powder for years, even though scientific studies have yet to prove a definite link between modern-day talc and any cancers. The same has been echoed by the American Cancer Society.

That didn’t stop a St. Louis jury from awarding a record $4.7 billion verdict last year, one of the largest in American history. That has only fueled the epidemic of trial lawyers extorting companies and doctors’ offices to get the results they want.

Naturally, the tort courts are an important part of our justice system. And they should be used for those victims who have suffered real harm. But many of these claims do not stand up to the science and end up keeping legitimate victims from ever getting their day in court.

Frivolous lawsuits clog up the system, mislead consumers, and ultimately raise the costs for basically everyone. Now society is plagued with threats of lawsuits and major class actions. That’s not a good status quo, and it must change.

Here are some simple fixes. Let’s define who can actually be a member of a class-action lawsuit. Online sign-ups and promises of quick cash in newsletters aren’t standing for plaintiffs. Capping the amount on exorbitant lawsuits would help avoid costly litigation that amounts to higher prices for consumers. Stricter courtroom rules on what is considered scientific expertise would also help.

Overall, we must use the positive spirit channeled by the criminal-justice reform movement to ask the same of our tort law system. Only then will we get real justice.

Originally published here.


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 
consumerchoicecenter.org

After another big lawsuit bites the dust, can we admit it’s time for legal reform?

It seems California isn’t so lawsuit crazy after all. Last Monday, Los Angeles jurors announced their ruling in just one of the dozens of lawsuits currently making their way through the courts on baby powder made by Johnson & Johnson. The jury found the company was not at fault for a woman’s mesothelioma diagnosis.

The trial brought forth experts from all stripes who presented their evidence and conclusions on whether the talc used in the baby powder produced by the Philadelphia-based company contained asbestos.

This is one instance in which a jury has sided with the scientific evidence, but that’s not often the case.

We shouldn’t forget that it was a California jury that initially awarded $2 billion to plaintiffs in a case considering whether the glyphosate found in Round-Up made by Monsanto, now a subsidiary of Bayer, caused cancer.

The judge, though, eventually reduced the verdict to $78 million to avoid the “arbitrary award” first conjured up by the tort lawyers. And that’s considering no major national body has deemed glyphosate to be carcinogenic.

In 2016, after the first $72 million verdict against J&J for its baby powder, scientists interviewed post-trial cast doubts on the claim made by the case, specifically because there has yet to be a definite link between modern-day talc and any cancers. The same has been echoed by the American Cancer Society.

But that won’t stop the trial lawyers who now recognize their golden goose. A record $4.7 billion verdict was delivered in Missouri in July 2018 against the pharmaceutical and consumer goods giant, and that’s proved fodder for the legal firms now lining up to cash in. And that’s because a jury has determined these products to be unsafe, rather than regulators and scientific experts. In the eyes of our legal system, juries provide more proof than actual evidence.

And considering the legal fees billed by national law firms, it’s not hard to see why these cases are so lucrative for them.

If you’ve been glued into television at all the last few years, you’ll know that between political ads, dozens of law firms around the country are aggressively soliciting plaintiffs for class-action lawsuits. “Call today, you could be compensated!” “You deserve justice now!”

Websites such as TopClassActions.com purport to “connect consumers to settlements, lawsuits, and attorneys”, and maintain an active log of thousands of open class-action lawsuits that any consumer can click and join. Their daily newsletter highlights potential awards and deadlines and gives top billing to the biggest cases with a low threshold to become a plaintiff.

While such services may be necessary for legitimate harms and victims, we must admit it’s all gotten a bit out of hand.

The tort system was devised as a way to offer justice to those who have been harmed.

Originally published here.


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 
consumerchoicecenter.org

What NZ can learn from Canada’s cannabis experiment

New Zealand and Canada, despite being 13,000 kilometres apart, have a lot in common. Both countries are small in terms of population, punch above their weight economically, and are politically compassionate.

If New Zealand is to succeed where Canada has failed in legalising cannabis, it needs to create a more consumer-friendly regulatory regime, says Clement.

If New Zealand votes to legalise cannabis in 2020, that will be one more similarity that these two Commonwealth countries will share.

The draft policy positions for New Zealand’s cannabis referendum have been released, and for the most part, they mirror what Canada has done for recreational cannabis legalisation.

As a Canadian, I can tell you that legalising cannabis is the right thing to do. I can also say that New Zealand should avoid the regulatory approach that Canada took.

There are several mistakes that Canada made which New Zealand should steer clear of replicating.

The first major one is the failure to differentiate between THC products and non-intoxicating CBD products.

The draft policy positions state that any product produced from the cannabis plant is to be considered a cannabis product. This puts CBD products that are not intoxicating on par with THC products that are.

If New Zealand is to succeed where Canada has failed in legalising cannabis, it needs to create a more consumer-friendly regulatory regime, says Clement.

Following what Canada has done fails to regulate based on a continuum of risk, and runs against the New Zealand Government’s goal of harm reduction.

If the Government cares about minimising harm, it shouldn’t regulate non-intoxicating low-risk products the same way as intoxicating psychoactive ones. Harm reduction should mean making the least harmful products more available, not less available.

The second major mistake in the draft policy positions is the ban on all cannabis advertising. This proposal takes Canada’s very paternalistic advertising laws and exceeds them.

Complete marketing and advertising bans for legal cannabis products are misguided for two reasons. The first is that they are wildly inconsistent with how New Zealand treats other age-restricted goods, such as alcohol. Alcohol has a much higher risk profile when compared to cannabis, but does not have such strict advertising rules.

The second reason is that a complete ban fails to properly understand the role marketing has in moving consumers over from the black market. Modest forms of marketing allow for the legal market to attract existing consumers, who are buying cannabis illegally, into the legal framework.

Legal cannabis accounts for only about 20 per cent of all cannabis consumed in Canada, and that is in large part because the legal industry is handcuffed by regulations that stop them attracting consumers from the black market.

For purchases, and a personal carry limit, the proposed policy is that no New Zealander be allowed to purchase more than 14g of cannabis a day, and that no-one should exceed carrying more than 14g on their person in public. This is extreme when compared to Canada’s 30g limit, and inconsistent when compared to alcohol, which has no purchase or personal limit. It is reasonable to assume that the people criminalised by this arbitrary limit will be the same who were most harmed by prohibition: the marginalised.

Lastly are the policies on potency and taxation. The Government wants to establish a THC potency limit for cannabis products, which is understandable.

That said, whatever the limit is, the Government should avoid setting it too low. If the limit is excessively low, consumers are likely to smoke more to get their desired THC amount. That runs directly against the Government’s harm reduction approach. Secondly, if the limit is too low, it creates a clear signal for black-market actors that there is a niche to fill.

It is important to keep taxation modest, so that pricing can be competitive between the legal and illegal markets. Canada’s onerous excise, sales, and regional taxes can increase the price of legal cannabis by upwards of 29 per cent.

Poor tax policy in Canada is in large part why legal cannabis can be more than 50 per cent more expensive than black-market alternatives. Incentivising consumers to stay in the black market hurts consumer safety, and cuts the Government out of tax revenue entirely.

New Zealand is on the right path regarding cannabis legalisation, but it is important that regulators learn lessons from Canada’s process. For the sake of harm reduction, and stamping out the black market, it is vital that New Zealand has a consumer-friendly regulatory regime, one that specifically avoids, and not replicates, the mistakes made in Canada.


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 
consumerchoicecenter.org

A Recipe for A Better World; Nine Parts Innovation, One Part Regulation

“To protect the environment, our health, and promote the social good we have to live more austere lives.”

How often have we heard something along these lines? The problem is, it’s not a very effective approach. 

Tackling the world’s most intractable problems, preserving freedoms and making life better for everyone requires something often overlooked by many who are sincerely interested in making the world better. If advocates for austere living promote bleeding heart liberalism, I believe we should stand for bleeding heart market advocacy.

For a better world, we need more innovation.  

True, the world would be better off if there were more generosity and kindness. But technological innovation, usually backed by private investment, is the most important ingredient for a healthier and yes—more enjoyable—planet.

Meatless Choice

I enjoy eating meat. Although I am sympathetic to concerns about the impacts from eating meat, some more valid than others, I’m not willing to become a vegetarian. Some have gone so far as to propose a sin tax on meat to fight climate change. Whether it is animal welfare, the environment, or my own health, a reduction in my consumption of meat would only please other people. And they are out of luck. At least until now.

Patrick Brown, a biochemistry professor at Stanford saw industrial animal agriculture as the top environmental threat. “I started doing the typical misguided academic approach to the problem,” he said in a Pacific Standard Interview  in 2016. The magazine reported that “he organized an A-list 2010 National Research Council workshop in Washington called “The Role of Animal Agriculture in a Sustainable 21st Century Global Food System,’ which caused not a ripple. Not long after, he determined that the only real way to impact meat production would be to beat it in the free market.”  

Brown, now sounding like a mission-driven innovator, rather than a government funded activist, said “All you have to do is make a product that the current consumers … prefer to what they’re getting now. ” He added that “It’s easier to change people’s behavior than to change their minds.”

With seed funding from Bill Gates, Google, and other innovation-oriented investors, Impossible Foods has deployed scientists to develop plant-based meat alternatives meant to appeal not to vegetarians, but to meat-lovers like me. Unlike vege-burgers, which appeal primary to vegetarians, the goal of this new class of alternatives to burgers are meant to appeal to meat eaters. That’s why they‘ve been rolling it out it as a “plant-based meat” in fast food restaurants known for beef burgers.

The innovation has been the target of displeasure from cattle-ranchers, opposition from environmental activists, and, this is hard to believe, outrage from PETA. Leftist food elitists are also furious. Adrionna Fike of the Mandela Grocery Cooperative criticized the company for trying to switch burger lovers at Burger King because “They exploit so many workers  Think about all the migrant workers.” 

Yet the Impossible Burger and other disruptors like Beyond Meat are taking root in the U.S. market. The Food and Drug Administration recently backed the safety of Impossible Foods’ plant-sourced Leghemoglobin. The protein contains heme, also present in real meat, and is partly responsible for the taste, texture and appearance of bloody-good meat.

The burger even cleared another major regulatory hurdle in May, when it was certified kosher by the Orthodox Union.  

Consumers clearly have an appetite for meaty tasting alternatives to livestock products; The company is facing supply shortages as it ramps up production of Version 2.0, sold at fast food outlets including Burger King, even before it becomes available in the meat department at supermarkets later this year. Food behemoth Nestle just joined the feeding frenzy, announcingthe launch of their own plant-based burger in the fall.

While I may not become a vegetarian, the Impossible Burger and its technological offspring increase the likelihood that I’ll reduce my meat consumption, should I so choose. That’s good news for those who think the world will be better off if I ate less meat. This outcome won’t restrict my freedom, rather it gives me – and many like me – more choices. It is important to note that it came about as the result of private-sector innovation, timely government clearance, and no costly, finger-wagging “public education” campaigns.  

Tobacco Harm Reduction

Cigarette smoking remains a top killer around the world. Even in countries with the strictest anti-smoking taxes and regulations, smoking is still a scourge. It turns out that regulations and taxes do little to help addicted smokers quit, yet many in the tobacco control community continue to oppose tobacco harm reducing technologies, instead calling for only technology-killing regulation, as if that were the only tool in their toolbox. 

In fact, innovative products like e-cigarettes and heated tobacco can—and do—help smokers quit smoking, even though they are not without risk. As the U.S. FDA explains it, “nicotine – while highly addictive – is delivered through products that represent a continuum of risk and is most harmful when delivered through smoke particles in combustible cigarettes.”

Yet innovative companies like Juul, who create alternatives to cigarettes, are seen by many in public health as public enemy number one. But it really shouldn’t be so complicated or divisive. 

E-cigarettes are not entirely safe and they should not be used by kids. The FDA and local governments should use the regulatory and enforcement power and budgets they already have to prevent kids from obtaining e-cigarettes.  Schools and parents should use their moral authority to prevent kids from using them. And regulators should foster an environment which encourages innovation to develop a range of enjoyable and less harmful alternatives for adults who wish to use nicotine.

To its credit, the FDA recently authorized the sale of IQOS, a heated tobacco product, finding that the product is “appropriate for the protection of the public health because, among several key considerations, the products produce fewer or lower levels of some toxins than combustible cigarettes.”

Even a leading skeptic of the benefits of e-cigarettes for smoking cessation recently found it necessary to make a major course correction. In a caveat-rich policy statement, the American Cancer Society acknowledged that “switching to the exclusive use of e-cigarettes is preferable to continuing to smoke combustible products.” ACS’s Clinical Recommendations state that the organization supports “any smoker who is considering quitting, no matter what approach they use.”  

ACS now recommends “that clinicians support all attempts to quit the use of combustible tobacco and work with smokers to eventually stop using any tobacco product, including e-cigarettes.” Finally, and rather reasonably, the ACS advises that “these individuals should be encouraged to switch to the least harmful form of tobacco product possible; switching to the exclusive use of e-cigarettes is preferable to continuing smoking combustible products.”  Unfortunately, the science hasn’t gotten down to ACS’s lobbyists, who continue to call for a ban on the e-cigarette flavors adult smokers use to quit.

In the UK, government health officials estimate that e-cigarettes could already be helping at least 20,000 smokers quit annually, and that’s a conservative estimate, they say. 

Professor John Newton, director for health improvement at Public Health England said the government’s review “reinforces the finding that vaping is a fraction of the risk of smoking, at least 95 percent less harmful, and of negligible risk to bystanders.” To those who continue to sow doubt about the difference in risk between cigarettes and e-cigarettes, Professor Newton noted that “it would be tragic if thousands of smokers who could quit with the help of an e-cigarette are being put off due to false fears about their safety.” 

Who are these modern day merchants of doubt?

Big pharma, which makes FDA approved (but largely ineffective) nicotine replacement therapies and smoking cessation drugs has a lot to lose. Companies such as Pfizer and GlaxoSmithKline are major backers of highly-regarded but old-school tobacco control groups including the American Lung Association, the American Heart Association and the American Cancer Society, which regularly lobby to treat e-cigarettes just like cigarettes. 

Tobacco companies who don’t successfully innovate, also have a lot to lose if the cigarette goes the way of the rotary phone. No wonder some back costly regulatory schemes which serve as a barrier to entry to pesky competitors. 

Innovation-Oriented Problem Solving

Disruptive innovation is not only technologically difficult, but as Impossible Foods is learning, bringing game-changing products to market requires overcoming obstacles from entrenched interests. Those interests frequently masquerade as being in the public interest, but are often anything but.  

I recommend we shift our perspective. If we want to solve problems while protecting our enviable lifestyle we should embrace the idea that imaginative solutions, rather than reliance on ever-more restrictive regulations, are our best hope. Appropriately narrow regulation protects safety while also fostering innovation. 

Sometimes well-intentioned, restrictive government interventions are backward-looking problem-solving tools. Too often, they fail to deliver on the promises made to justify their costs, both in terms of unintended consequences and their cost to individual freedoms. Technological advances, however, are solution-oriented and can make real strides against problems that seem otherwise impossible to overcome. And in today’s polarized environment, that’s no nothing-burger. 

* * * 

Jeff Stier is a Senior Fellow at the Consumer Choice Center and a member of the Federalist Society’s Regulatory Transparency Project FDA Working Group.

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San Francisco vape ban embraces harm over science

OPINION by YAËL OSSOWSKI

In an attempt to curb youth vaping, the Board of Supervisors of the city of San Francisco voted yesterday to ban all sales of vaping devices and e-cigarettes. The ban was passed unanimously and will apply to the sales and distribution of e-cigarettes once it has final approval.

The ban was counterproductive and took the approach of endorsing fear over science. The fact remains that San Francisco consumers can still buy tobacco in all forms, but they won’t be allowed to purchase vaping devices and e-cigarettes that are significantly less harmful.

This is increasing potential harm by only making tobacco legal and pushing committed former smokers and current vapors to travel outside the city to buy their vape products, or even worse, create a black market with no regulation and no oversight.

For the truck driver, waitress, or customer service employee who is addicted to nicotine and has found an alternative to smoking cigarettes in vaping products, they will now be denied that choice by the elected San Francisco Board of Supervisors.

The science is clear: vaping is 95 percent less harmful than smoking and gives adults a fighting chance to quit tobacco. Public policy should be aimed at achieving the goal of less smokers, not more.

The focus on youth access to vaping products is a question of enforcement: for that, there needs to be focus on retailers who are selling to minors illegally, not wholemeal bans that will take away the choices of law-abiding adults.

Youth vaping is a concern, but in the pursuit of reducing its likelihood, San Francisco politicians are effectively denying alternative technologies to adult smokers who want to quit. That’s a dark stain on the Golden City.

YAËL OSSOWSKI  is the Deputy Director for the Consumer Choice Center (CCC). The CCC represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe, closely monitors regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Geneva and other hotspots of regulation and informs and activates consumers to fight for consumer choice.

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More Toronto grocery stores will soon be carrying booze

David Clement, Toronto-based North American Affairs Manager of the Consumer Choice Center (CCC), said that the announcement is a step in the right direction.

“The move helps underserved regions, while maxing out the amount of grocery stores allowed under the Master Framework Agreement (MFA). It is positive to see these changes while the province undergoes the process of scrapping the MFA and allowing for alcohol sales in convenience stores,” Clement said.

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