Life as a taxpayer: paying to be berated

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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About Bill Wirtz

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

However, two paragraphs in the ruling stand out:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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About Bill Wirtz

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

Consumer Choice Centre: neutrale verpakkingen dienen geen enkel doel

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

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

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About Bill Wirtz

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

Invoering neutrale sigarettenverpakkingen zal geen effect hebben op publieke gezondheid

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

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

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

Rookgedrag

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

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

Neutrale verpakking

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

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About Bill Wirtz

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

Advocacy group criticises Canadian cannabis plain-packaging regime

WORLD TRADEMARK REVIEW: Advocacy group criticises Canadian cannabis plain-packaging regime – The Consumer Choice Center (CCC), a global advocacy group focused on consumer choice and market access, has issued a strongly-worded press release on plain packaging in Canada. In it, the group criticises the Canadian government for its strict branding and packaging restrictions on the legal cannabis market. A key contention is that the government has applied its tobacco plain-packaging regime and applied it to cannabis products. At a news conference, David Clement, North American affairs manager for the CCC, claimed the Canadian government “seems committed to treating adult consumers like children”, adding: “What we’ve seen is that Health Canada and our federal government are regulating products with complete disregard for consumers, and complete disregard for a continuum of risk. Our worry now is what started with tobacco has moved to cannabis, and now will move to other products, such as soft drinks, alcohol and various other food items.” The suggestion of a plain packaging ‘domino effect’ has been warned about since Australia introduced the world’s first such regime. It appears these concerns continue. (TJL)

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About David Clement

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

Federal Government Plain Packaging Regulations Completely Disregard Consumers and Limit Product Choice

The Federal Government of Canada is enacting strict branding and packaging restrictions on the legal cannabis market. More specifically, Health Canada has taken the framework of plain packaging tobacco products including cigarettes and cigars, and applied many aspects of that legislation to how legal cannabis products must appear. This mandate from Health Canada limits consumer choice, according to the Consumer Choice Center, and more importantly, prevents consumers from selecting products based on their personal choice.

Speaking at news conference yesterday held in the Centre Block on Parliament Hill, David Clement, North American Affairs Manager for the Consumer Choice Center (CCC) said the Federal Government seems committed to treating adult consumers like children. The branding restrictions placed on tobacco products, and now cannabis products, shows a disturbing trend of paternalism creeping further into the lives of adult consumers. It’s a dangerous precedent and raises the question of what products will be targeted next.

“What we’ve seen is that Health Canada and our federal government are regulating products with complete disregard for consumers, and complete disregard for a continuum of risk. Our worry now is what started with tobacco has moved to cannabis, and now will move to other products, such as soft drinks, alcohol and various other food items,” said David ClementToronto-based North American Affairs Manager for the Consumer Choice Center (CCC).

CCC has launched the Smokers Vote initiative where consumers of cannabis, tobacco products and cigars can raise their concerns about plain packaging regulations directly with their elected representatives and engage in direct democracy.

About the Consumer Choice Center

The Consumer Choice Center is a global advocacy group focused on consumer choice and market access. The CCC monitors regulatory trends around the world, works with consumers in over 100 countries, and engages with policy makers to highlight how certain regulations impact consumer choice.

For more information: http://www.smokersvote.org

Originally published at http://www.tacticsmagazine.com/landingpages/cnw-global-retail-news/?rkey=20181012C2227&filter=5491

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About David Clement

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

The President’s promise to cut FDA red tape – a moment of truth

Technological advances touch every aspect of our lives, often in ways we rarely think about. Today, we live longer, healthier, and better lives because of our access to innovative products that were unimaginable in the recent past.

That’s why it’s critical for regulators to make timely and common-sense decisions. Yet excessive risk-aversion is endemic at federal agencies.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is one of the worst offenders. The agency regulates products that account for more than a trillion dollars annually. The FDA’s obsessive dislike for taking on reasonable risk often comes at the cost of creating unreasonable harm. But the agency is rarely held to account for its inaction.

Following the Obama administration’s record-setting number of regulations, there was hope that the new administration would keep its promise to unshackle businesses, large and small, to develop life-improving products and create American jobs.

In addition to enacting new regulations, the agency frequently stymies progress under existing rules.

Under President Obama, the FDA refused to grant pre-market review to a direct to consumer suite of tests by 23andMe, which would have allowed consumers to test whether they were at increased risk of being diagnosed with diseases such as Parkinson’s and Celiac. In doing so, it denied affordable access to information that, in the case of Parkinson’s, could have led those who were genetically predisposed to seek medical advice in the critical early stages of disease, when treatment could slow the progression of the disease.

In the case of Celiac, patients commonly suffer from crippling symptoms for months or years before making difficult but important dietary changes.

Fortunately, Commissioner Scott Gottlieb’s FDA slightly loosened the rules on genetic testing, but testing companies are still unable to warn patients of the vast majority of diseases out there.

Tobacco Harm Reduction

The agency’s track record is even more troubling when it comes to approving beneficial innovations that could help cigarette smokers quit. The FDA must quickly keep its more than year-old promise “to issue foundational rules to make the product review process more efficient, predictable, and transparent for manufacturers while upholding the agency’s public health mission.” 

Earlier this month, Commissioner Gottlieb reiterated the need to minimize, “addiction to the most harmful products while encouraging innovation in those products that could provide adult smokers access to nicotine without the harmful consequences of combustion.”

Innovative alternatives are critical to public health, especially given that FDA approved nicotine replacement therapies and other currently available medications haven’t done the trick for the approximately 15 percent of American adults who still smoke.

Missed Deadlines

In March of 2017, Philip Morris International (PMI) submitted a pre-marketing tobacco application (PMTA) to the FDA for IQOS, which heats rather than burns tobacco.

Agency-watchers expected the FDA to approve the PMTA by this February, consistent with both the Tobacco Control Act and the agency’s own guidelines. Yet to this day, PMI’s PMTA is gathering dust and seems lost in the process. The approval process for other reduced-risk tobacco product applications drags on with little outward signs of movement.

In Japan, one of a number of countries where IQOS is sold, the non-combustible tobacco product quickly captured 10 percent of the tobacco market, according to the Washington Post.  IQOS seems to deliver exactly what many current smokers want (satisfaction and potentially less harm), and what the FDA has already been calling for (nicotine without combustion).

So, why the delays? FDA, in response to our written query, says it does not comment on pending applications, but that generally, the agency reviews an application as required by law.

An FDA spokesman also told us that, “In the meantime, for smokers who do want to quit, there are proven, FDA-approved smoking cessation prescription medicines, as well as over-the-counter nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) products, such as skin patches, lozenges and gum, to help in the quitting process.”

In other words, despite the agency’s lofty comments about the need for innovation to help smokers who haven’t been able to quit with the help of currently-available FDA-approved medicinal products, there are always FDA-approved medicinal products. As the saying goes, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.”

In his 100-day action plan, President Trump singled out the slow-moving FDA, promising reforms that “will also include cutting the red tape at the FDA.” The administration must now decide whether to continue to embrace innovation or return to the slow “business-as-usual” model stymieing scientific advances that can save countless lives.

Jeff Stier is a Senior Fellow at the Taxpayers Protection Alliance. Ross Marchand is TPA’s Director of Policy. Ross Marchand is TPA’s Director of Policy.

Originally published at http://dailycaller.com/2018/08/18/presidents-promise-fda-red-tape/

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About Jeff Stier

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

France’s tobacco branding ban fails to deliver: An alternative approach is needed

CONTACT:

Luca Bertoletti

European Affairs Manager

Consumer Choice Center

 

France’s tobacco branding ban fails to deliver: An alternative approach is needed

Brussels, BE – After more than a year with a branding ban on tobacco products, new numbers published by the French Observatory for Drugs and Addiction reveal that cigarette sales have been cut by less than 0.7 percent.

Luca Bertoletti, European Affairs Manager for the Consumer Choice Center (CCC), said this represents a failure on the part of the French government and should prompt them to turn course.

“After more than a year of plain packaging for tobacco products in France, the policy has failed to significantly reduce smoking rates,” said Luca Bertoletti, European Affairs Manager for the Consumer Choice Center (CCC).

“Removing brands from the packs doesn’t change the behavior of the consumers, but instead promotes sales on the black market. That is troubling for public health advocates and consumers alike.

“If the French government wants to reduce the numbers of smokers it should embrace the use of harm-reducing nicotine products such as e-cigarettes and not ban brands. Brands are a powerful source of information for consumers that help them navigate among different levels of quality and price. Other countries should learn from the failure of plain packaging in France and drop this misguided policy,” said Bertoletti.

***CCC European Affairs Manager Luca Bertoletti is available to speak with accredited media on consumer regulations and consumer choice issues. Please send media inquiries HERE.***

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

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About Luca Bertoletti

Luca graduated with a degree in Political Science from the University of Milan in December 2014. He worked as a Business Economics Analyst for the Italian magazine TheFielder in Milan and as Think Thank Coordinator for the Austrian Economics Center in Vienna. He is a fellow of Competere Institute in Rome, a columnist for Atlantico Quotidiano, and he sits on the scientific board of New Direction Italia. He has been featured in the New York Times, Radio RAI, RAI 1, El Economista, The National and many other newspapers.

Schluss mit der Bevormundung!

DIE WELT: Wir sind Erwachsene, und ja, manchmal treffen wir Entscheidungen, die ungesund sind: Wir trinken Alkohol, essen Tiefkühlpizza, rauchen Zigaretten. Die Antwort kann aber nicht sein, den Verbrauch zu verbieten. Solche Regulierungen widersprechen nicht nur der persönlichen Freiheit.”

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About Bill Wirtz

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

Schluss mit der Bevormundung!

DIE WELT: Wir sind Erwachsene, und ja, manchmal treffen wir Entscheidungen, die ungesund sind: Wir trinken Alkohol, essen Tiefkühlpizza, rauchen Zigaretten. Die Antwort kann aber nicht sein, den Verbrauch zu verbieten. Solche Regulierungen widersprechen nicht nur der persönlichen Freiheit.”

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About Bill Wirtz

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