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Press Release

Thailand takes the dangerous path of denying harm reducing alternatives

Thailand’s Public Health Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Anutin Charnvirakul said last week that the importation and production ban on vaping products will continue, depriving Thai smokers of provable alternatives to quit.

“Thailand’s failure to acknowledge the powerful benefits of harm reduction — specifically in vaping products and other nicotine alternatives — shows that they are letting down the 15.4 million Thai smokers,” said Tarmizi bin Anuwar, an associate at the Consumer Choice Center.

“There is a reason that countries such as Japan, and more recently the Phillippines have embraced these novel technologies, empowering their own people and giving them legal alternatives to save lives. The government must take an evidence-based policy approach in developing policy to ensure that the government does not do wrong actions,” he added.

“Every health ministry in the world is looking for solutions to reduce the use of combustible tobacco by their populations. While they continue searching, nicotine alternatives such as vaping have proven to be a gateway away from smoking and are now a key tool for harm reduction globally,” said Yaël Ossowski, deputy director at the Consumer Choice Center.

“If the Thai government continues its prohibition on nicotine alternatives, they are depriving their citizens of other means of putting down the cigarette. This impacts every segment of society — young and old — and will have real health consequences.

“To demonstrate to the international community that Thailand is serious about this issue, they should empower their consumers and entrepreneurs to deliver the solutions that have already driven record-low smoking rates in other countries, by embracing and legalizing vaping products and nicotine alternatives,” said Ossowski.

“Otherwise, smokers will be forced to turn to illicit markets to find these products that are widely available outside the country, which will be harmful for society overall.”

UK is Right to Delay the Decision on China’s Semiconductor Takeover

The UK government has decided to delay its decision on whether China can take over the UK’s largest semiconductor company. In May, an inquiry into the state of UK chips was announced.

The Consumer Choice Center, a global consumer advocacy group, welcomed the decision, arguing that at a time of great geopolitical turbulence and global chip shortages, the UK should indeed be extremely cautious about any dealings with China.

“China is well-known for building back-doors into its technologies, spying, and breaching users’ privacy. For that reason, the fact that China owns major chip firms in the UK and aspires to expand is concerning. To compensate for the once lenient approach towards Chinese expansion into the UK semiconductor sector, the government should now focus on enhancing domestic semiconductor production,” said Maria Chaplia, Research Manager at the Consumer Choice Center.

“Regaining a competitive edge in the semiconductor industry is vital, but it is impossible without taking an evidence-based approach to PFAS, a grouping of 4000+ man-made chemicals, which are vital for the production of semiconductors. If the UK is serious about increasing domestic chip production, they have to also work to secure the key inputs involved in the production process, and PFAS are one of those key inputs.” said David Clement, North American Affairs Manager at the Consumer Choice Center.

“British green groups have been fear mongering around PFAS, but the UK government should prioritise long-term national security and consumer welfare over populist claims,” added Chaplia.

“With the global chip shortage, the UK has a unique chance to become a semiconductor powerhouse if it doesn’t ban PFAS. Among other things, this will ensure the UK can effectively counter China’s increased chip manufacturing. The UK government shouldn’t succumb to Chinese influence and calls to ban all PFAS,” concluded Chaplia.

Consumer group says TRIPS deal sets a dangerous precedent for the future of prosperity

GEVENA, Switzerland — Last night, the World Trade Organisation (WTO) agreed to waive patents on COVID-19 vaccines, known as the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) flexibility. The historic decision had been in the making for over two years, with developing countries putting enormous pressure on the WTO and its members to strike a deal. The United Kingdom, once fervently opposed to the TRIPS waiver, was among the last countries to drop its opposition.

Under the agreed deal, third-party suppliers will be allowed to produce COVID-19 vaccines without seeking the consent of the patent owner.

In response, the Consumer Choice Center (CCC), a global consumer advocacy group, criticised the deal, stressing that the TRIPS flexibility represented a significant blow to the future of innovation and prosperity globally. The TRIPS waiver threatens the safety of consumers in the developing world, as vaccines will likely be produced without any respect for the high standards, set by patent owners. 

“There is a sense that some countries and people at the WTO put the deal on TRIPS at the core of their legacy. Instead of bettering the world and increasing COVID-19 protection, the move will be remembered as a grave mistake that threw our prosperity under the bus. We must do everything we can to prevent further waivers,” said Fred Roeder, managing director at the Consumer Choice Center.

Maria Chaplia, research manager at the Consumer Choice Center, said: “While the TRIPS waiver seems like a quick fix, the consequences of such a move will be dire. We have too many challenges ahead of us, and millions in Europe and beyond still await life-saving Alzheimer’s, Cystic Fibrosis, Diabetes, or HIV/AIDS treatment. The risk of more patent waivers being introduced in the future reduces the incentive to innovate across the board.”

“There is no guarantee that generic vaccines will increase the vaccination rates in developing countries, considering high rates of vaccine hesitancy in Africa, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam, to name a few. Trading the future of the planet and next generations for a few million unsafe vaccines, which people in developing countries might refuse to take, doesn’t seem like a fair calculus,” concluded Chaplia.

***CCC Research Manager Maria Chaplia is available to speak with accredited media on consumer regulations and consumer choice issues. Please send media inquiries to maria@consumerchoicecenter.org***

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.

UK PFAS Ban Could Undermine Semiconductor Manufacturing Efforts

London, UK: A new report published by the Consumer Choice Center highlights how calls for heavy handed chemical policy could exacerbate the state of the UK’s semiconductor production.

Maria Chaplia, Research Manager at the Consumer Choice Center explained: “A few weeks ago, the UK announced an inquiry into the state of UK chips. The global microchip shortage has hampered UK car production in 2021, with limited signs of recovery. As the security concerns over UK semiconductor firms, sold to China, continue to grow, boosting domestic production should be a priority. However, regaining a competitive edge in the semiconductor industry is impossible without a flexible evidence-based stance on PFAS.

PFAS are the next target of green groups. As the pressure to ban PFAS in the UK builds up, the evidence should prevail.

“PFAS, a grouping of 4000+ man-made chemicals, are vital for the production of semiconductors, and if the UK follows these green groups and bans their use, increasing domestic chip manufacturing will be incredibly difficult. If the UK is serious about increasing domestic chip production, they have to also work to secure the key inputs involved in the production process, and PFAS are one of those key inputs.” said David Clement, an author of the report.

“In fact, we know that this is what will happen if the UK opts for a phase out. This is exactly what happened when Belgium paused production at a PFAS chemical plant in response to the tightening of environmental regulations. Reporting done by Business Korea highlighted that semiconductor producers have only 30 to 90 days of coolant inventory left before they will encounter serious production problems.” said Clement.

“With the global chip shortage, the UK has a unique chance to become a semiconductor powerhouse if it doesn’t ban PFAS. Among other things, this will ensure the UK can effectively counter China’s increased chip manufacturing. Banning PFAS would achieve nothing but feed the green groups with yet another socially disruptive victory and shift the production of chips elsewhere. The UK government shouldn’t succumb to calls to ban all PFAS,” concluded Chaplia.

New York lawmakers just killed Bitcoin and crypto mining and consumers will suffer

Albany, NY – Early this morning, the New York State Senate joined with the State Assembly to pass a moratorium on Bitcoin and cryptocurrency mining, issuing yet another reminder that state lawmakers want to deny their residents from interacting with cryptocurrencies.

The law would prevent new permits from being issued to carbon-based fueled proof-of-work mining operations that use behind-the-meter energy, putting millions of dollars worth of investments into jeopardy. This follows the logic of the much-derided BitLicense regulation, which has made it nearly impossible for small and medium-sized firms to offer crypto services to New York residents.

“By passing this bill, New York lawmakers are unequivocally stating they want their residents completely locked out of cryptocurrencies, from generation and mining services to actually being able to easily buy them through an exchange,” said Yaël Ossowski, deputy director of the Consumer Choice Center, a consumer advocacy group.

“If Gov. Hochul signs this bill, it will drive a stake through the Bitcoin mining industry, and states like Florida, Montana, Utah, and Texas will rejoice at the opportunity to invite those entrepreneurs and innovators to establish operations in their states.

“Because Bitcoin, and cryptocurrencies more broadly, will serve a vital role in making finance more inclusive and accessible for sending, receiving, and saving value, we hold it in the interest of consumers that the hashrate (the total computing power of the network) continue to grow, and that better public policy on cryptocurrencies is embraced among states.

“New York, however, has decided to take the NIMBY approach and deny their residents that opportunity,” added Ossowski.

“Cryptocurrency generation and mining firms have an incentive to use the most affordable and renewable energy sources available, and the data backs up this claim. This is a win-win scenario for towns and localities with these facilities, for employees of these firms, residents in these towns that benefit from increased commerce, and energy customers overall,” said Ossowski.

“As cryptocurrency mining proliferated in New York, it opened up new entrepreneurial activities that helped improve the lives of New Yorkers in small communities and large urban centers alike. Passing a ban on these activities, in pursuit of an unclear climate goal, will negate these gains. There is a better path,” added Ossowski.

“The aim of embracing climate goals to ensure 100% renewable energy usage in cryptocurrency generation and mining is well-intended, but a complete ban will have a devastating impact on innovators and entrepreneurs hosting their facilities in the state of New York, and consumers and investors that rely on their services,” said Aleksandar Kokotovic, crypto fellow at the Consumer Choice Center. 

“We understand that the quick rise of cryptocurrency mining raises many questions for residents, particularly when it involves the local economy and environment. However, a more prudent path would be an environmental review conducted by relevant authorities, rather than a wholesale ban and moratorium that would put many projects in legal jeopardy,” added Kokotovic.

***CCC Deputy Director Yaël Ossowski is available to speak on consumer regulations and consumer choice issues. Please send media inquiries to yael@consumerchoicecenter.org.***

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

New Yorkers need prudence, not bans, on Bitcoin and cryptocurrency mining

On May 24, 2022, the Consumer Choice Center sent a letter to New York state lawmakers, warning of the potential consequences to consumers if bill S6486D was adopted, a moratorium on Bitcoin and cryptocurrency mining.

The full letter is available below, or in PDF version here.

Dear Senators,

We write to you to urge you to vote against S6486D, a companion bill to A7389C, which would order a state-wide moratorium on cryptocurrency generation or mining.

If passed, this bill would be a death blow to the Bitcoin and cryptocurrency industry, resulting in thousands of jobs lost in New York, a loss of capital to scale up renewable energy, and would harm all potential benefits to consumers from cryptocurrency projects and initiatives. 

The aim of embracing climate goals to ensure 100% renewable energy usage in cryptocurrency generation and mining is well-intended, but a complete ban will have a devastating impact on innovators and entrepreneurs hosting their facilities in the state of New York, and consumers and investors that rely on their services.

As a consumer group, it may seem odd for us to weigh in on a topic that affects mostly industry players and firms. However, because we believe that Bitcoin, and cryptocurrencies more broadly, will serve a vital role in making finance and economics more inclusive and accessible for sending, receiving, and saving value, we hold it in the interest of consumers that the hashrate (the total computing power of the network) continue to grow, and that better public policy on cryptocurrencies is embraced among state legislatures.

If the Bitcoin hashrate grows specifically in the United States, then we will have more control in how mining develops and how it can benefit the country, its citizens, and our energy grids.. This last part is vital for climate goals, which cannot be said for China or other nations.

According to the latest figures from the first quarter of 2022 on Bitcoin mining specifically, 58.4% of miners are using renewable energy sources, and that number has only increased in several years. In New York, many firms are retooling abandoned processing and power generation plants to build cryptocurrency data centers, and are providing economic value in return that is putting renewable energy to work.

What’s more, this wide-ranging energy diversification is happening at a pace faster than any other industry, leading to more investment in renewable energy capacities and delivery systems. This increased demand is leading to more environmentally favorable energy delivery for customers of all public electricity utilities, and will also help bring down costs. And this is being carried out due to the incentives of firms and individuals who participate in adding hash rate to mining: they want to lower their costs and find better alternatives. 

Cryptocurrency generation and mining firms have an incentive to use the most affordable and renewable energy sources available, and the data backs up this claim. This is a win-win scenario for towns and localities with these facilities, for employees of these firms, residents in these towns that benefit from increased commerce, and energy customers overall.

As cryptocurrency mining has proliferated in New York, it has opened up new entrepreneurial activities that will help improve the lives of New Yorkers in small communities and large urban centers alike. Entertaining a ban on these activities, in pursuit of an unclear climate goal, will negate these gains. There is a better path.

It should not surprise you to know that New York’s previous policy decisions, including the highly criticized BitLicense, have locked many New Yorkers out of the new cryptocurrency ecosystem due to the high compliance costs. Some New Yorkers have chosen to change residences in order to acquire cryptocurrency or to invest in crypto businesses, which they can do in any other state, but more specifically Texas, Wyoming, and Florida.

If this moratorium on cryptocurrency generation comes to pass, it will be yet another signal to entrepreneurs and consumers that Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are not welcomed in New York, and the regulatory framework is too unfavorable to justify investing here.

A number of industry organizations, communities, and unions have already expressed their concerns about the impact this bill would have on their families and livelihoods, fearing potential job loss in case industry gets driven away from the state as a result of this legislation. The loss of future investments and new jobs is another concern expressed by many communities in cities such as Rochester, Albany, and Syracuse.

According to the May 2022 Empire State Manufacturing Survey, the general business conditions index has dropped thirty-six points statewide. The last thing many affected and marginalized communities need is a moratorium that would drive businesses away from the state, and keep millions of New Yorkers from being included in a new system of value.

We understand that the quick rise of cryptocurrency mining raises many questions for residents, particularly when it involves the local economy and environment. However, a more prudent path would be an environmental review conducted by relevant authorities, rather than a wholesale ban and moratorium that would put many projects in legal jeopardy.

As consumer advocates, we are strongly opposed to this bill. We believe that New York residents deserve a chance to take part in the nascent industry that so many other states are hoping to accommodate. Using the force of regulation to drive away investments and jobs, stop economic progress, and shut out millions of New Yorkers from a more inclusive financial system would not only be wrong, but it would also be negligent.

Please vote No on S6486D aiming to place a moratorium on proof-of-work and help New York become a hub of innovation that embraces new technologies. New Yorkers should have the opportunity to participate in one of the biggest innovations of our age. With your vote against this bill and a more prudent direction, we can ensure that will happen.

Sincerely Yours,

Yaël Ossowski

Deputy Director

Aleksandar Kokotovic

Crypto Fellow

Liberal Housing Plan Misses The Mark

Ottawa, ON: Today the Federal government released their budget, which includes a significant portion addressing the housing crisis. Major policy announcements include a ban on blind bidding, a new tax-free First Home Savings Account, a foreign buyer ban, and $4 billion for municipalities who grow quicker than the historical average.

The Consumer Choice Center’s Toronto based North American Affairs Manager David Clement responded stating “Unfortunately, the government’s housing plan is not bold enough to properly tackle the housing crisis and effectively deal with the issue of chronic undersupply.”

“They’ve proposed a ban on blind bidding, which has already been shown to have no impact on prices and does nothing to increase supply. Their foreign buyer ban is yet another policy that is attempting to tinker with demand, without addressing supply. And while some of Ottawa’s response will allow for consumers to save more, like the Tax Free First Home Savings Account, these tax policy changes also do nothing to increase the supply of housing,” said Clement

“The only supply side policy the federal government has announced is their earmark for communities that grow at a quicker pace than the historical average. The government’s own estimate states that this could result in the building of 100,000 new homes by 2025, but the problem is that a province like Ontario needs another 650,000 new homes just to get to the national average, which wouldn’t be much to celebrate considering that Canada ranks dead last in the G7 for housing units per 1000 people,” said Clement.

“Rather than tinkering with demand and an underwhelming earmark program, the federal government should have focused on zoning reform. The federal government could quite easily tie federal funding for affordable housing and public infrastructure to density goals, with zoning reform as the core mechanism to achieve it. This would be broadly similar to the recent child care agreements which involve the transfer of federal dollars in exchange for a set of provincial deliverables,” said Clement.

Biden’s Digital Assets Executive Order Gets It ‘Mostly Right’ on Protecting Consumers and Innovation in Crypto

Washington, D.C. – Today, President Biden signed an executive order on digital assets, the first major federal executive action relating to cryptocurrencies in the United States.

Yaël Ossowski, deputy director of the consumer advocacy group Consumer Choice Center, praised the order for getting smart cryptocurrency regulation “mostly right”.

“President Biden’s statements demonstrate the federal government’s acknowledgment that Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies will play a positive role in our nation’s future, and offers some key guidance on ensuring the entire crypto economy remains competitive, transparent, and innovative for consumers,” said Ossowski.

“Protecting consumers from scams, giving legal certainty, and allowing for innovation to create new standards for cryptocurrency rules is a responsible and legitimate role for government when it comes to digital assets. We must recognize that the nascent crypto finance space is ever-changing and rapidly evolving and that overzealous regulation could cripple future potential.

“Biden echoed concerns about Bitcoin and cryptocurrency mining, but we believe the environmental benefits from accepting mining will far outweigh any negative repercussions. Crypto mining is an innovative field that strengthens networks and creates incentives for clean energy,” said Ossowski.

“Last year, my colleagues and I at the Consumer Choice Center released our Principles for Smart Crypto Regulation, underscoring the need for preventing fraud, pursuing technological neutrality, reasonably low taxation, and legal certainty and transparency.

“However, considering the toll of inflation on ordinary Americans and the civil liberties concerns related to consumers’ financial privacy, the plans to research a Central Bank Digital Currency are concerning and will need much more scrutiny in the months to come.

“Overall, we praise the administration’s efforts on keeping cryptocurrency legitimate and accessible and hope any legislation to come will follow these bedrock principles. We’re all going to make it,” concluded Ossowski.

Congress wants to sneak in an effective ban on synthetic nicotine vaping that would harm consumers

WASHINGTON, D.C. – This week, it was revealed that several congressmen and US senators have added a provision in the upcoming emergency government funding bill that would relegate tobacco-free synthetic nicotine to the regulatory authority of the Food and Drug Administration and its premarket tobacco application process.

This would give vaping firms less than two months to file a lengthy and convoluted Premarket Tobacco Application (PMTA), which will ultimately lead to most small vaping firms and shops going out of business.

Yaël Ossowski, deputy director of the Consumer Choice Center, said this will actively harm adults who want to quit smoking.

“The byzantine process of asking permission to sell harm reducing vaping products in the 21st century is asinine in itself. But using sleight of hand during an emergency government funding bill to castigate millions of vapers and the entrepreneurs who make and sell the products they rely on is the definition of active harm,” said Ossowski.

“Only the largest and most powerful vaping and tobacco companies can afford the lawyers and the time necessary to complete the paperwork necessary to pass the FDA’s process, meaning thousands of hard-working American business owners will now be forced to close, depriving millions of adult consumers of harm reducing options. Many will be forced back to cigarettes.

“Synthetic nicotine is an innovative method of providing nicotine independent of tobacco, and millions of American adults now use these products as a less harmful method of consuming nicotine. A back door bureaucratic power move like this represents a sledgehammer to the men and women of our country who have sought out vaping devices to kick their cigarette habit,” added Ossowski.

“The method of fattening up continuing resolution bills with laws that benefit special interests, without broader democratic debate or analysis of the costs and benefits, is shameful in our modern American Republic.

“We hope our elected representatives reject this particular provision on synthetic nicotine and go back to the drawing board to offer a more permanent, sane, and smart policy on the next generation of vaping products,” said Ossowski.

41% of European consumers agree that sharing economy apps make life easier

The Consumer Choice Center commissioned the market research company Savanta to survey European consumers on four different EU policy-making areas: Consumer Choice and Government; Innovation & Sharing Economy; Agriculture & Food; and Science & Energy.

In February 2022, 500 people were surveyed in Belgium on their views on innovation, nuclear energy, agriculture, sharing economy, and government intervention in the economy.

Maria Chaplia, the Research Manager at the Consumer Choice Center, said: “The polling results are encouraging. European consumers overwhelmingly appreciate consumer choice. A wide array of agricultural regulations put forward by the EU and member states are at odds with what European consumers want.”

Key findings:

  • 69% of European consumers agree that the government should not restrict their freedom to choose.
  • 73% of European consumers think that the European Union should be more open to innovative solutions.
  • Two times more European consumers (41% agree and 22% disagree) agree that sharing economy apps makes their lives easier.
  • 69% of European consumers interviewed agree that innovation plays an important role in making their lives better.

“Innovation has made millions of European consumers better off. Thanks to platform economy apps such as Uber, Deliveroo, and many others, consumers can now choose between various delivery and transportation options. No wonder European consumers value the sharing economy apps so much,” said Chaplia.

“Platform economy apps have boosted consumer choice and given many Europeans the opportunity to work independently. Gig work provides flexibility which increases its attractiveness to many Europeans. However, in December 2021, the European Commission presented plans to regulate gig workers’ work conditions, which will essentially diminish the self-employment model. The overregulation of platforms will have spillover effects on consumer choice, and the EU should abstain from such moves,” concluded Chaplia.

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