Sens. Markey, Blumenthal receive Consumer Choice Center BAN Award for trying to make flying more expensive

U.S. Senators Edward Markey (D-Mass.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) receive the September 2018 BAN Award for proposing to make flying more expensive by re-regulating the airline industry and forbidding certain fees for better service and options on flights.

The U.S. Senate’s version of the FAA reauthorization bill includes a provision authored by U.S. Senators Markey and Blumenthal that would regulate airline pricing. The provision, already rejected by the Dept. of Transportation, is known as the Forbidding Airlines from Imposing Ridiculous (FAIR) Fees Act.

The Consumer Choice Center’s Deputy Director Yaël Ossowski said: “supporters contend the FAIR Fees Act will benefit consumers, but the reality is it would force airlines to abandon the successful business model that has made commercial air travel the most affordable it has been in over 20 years.”

The award is given to highlight the Consumer Choice Center’s new#FreeSkiesAreFAIR campaign to try to protect affordable ticket prices for flyers.

“The range of new flight options, cheaper regional air carriers, and no-frills flights are making travel cheaper and better for consumers. Bringing the federal government in to set prices will only end up hurting the very consumers and constituents politicians seek to help,” said Ossowski.

“Eliminating or dramatically altering the current change fee structure would take the power of choice away from the consumer and allow the federal government to implement a one-size-fits-all approach to airline pricing. Given that consumers have very different preferences when they fly, whether with flexibility or upgrades, a uniform solution to airfare pricing does not meet the reality of what consumers demand.

Every month the Consumer Choice Center awards an institution, person, or organization with the Bureau of Nannyism or short BAN Award. The BAN Awards recognize the work of an individual or organization that has made major contributions to advocating limits on consumer choice. This award serves to recognize extraordinary abilities in disregarding consumers and evidence-based public policy. The award was created by the Consumer Choice Center to draw attention to the important role politicians, lobbies, and advocates play in limiting consumers’ choice and ignoring them in the policymaking process.

Selection criteria: The Bureau of Nannyism (BAN) is a group of consumer choice advocates that discuss nominations on a monthly base and award the nominee with the most innovative or most blunt actions against consumer choice with the BAN award.

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 Yaël Ossowski

Yaël Ossowski is a journalist, activist, and writer. He's currently deputy director at the Consumer Choice Center, and senior development officer for Students For Liberty. He was previously a national investigative reporter and chief Spanish translator at Watchdog.org, and worked at newspapers and television stations across the country. He received a Master’s Degree in Philosophy, Politics, Economics (PPE) at the CEVRO Institute in Prague. Born in Québec and raised in the southern United States, he currently lives in Vienna, Austria.

Minor changes could have a major positive impact on Ontario’s cannabis plan

On Aug. 13, Ontario Finance Minister Vic Fideli announced the government’s plan for cannabis legalization. The keystone of the Progressive Conservatives’ policy is a reversal of the public retail monopoly model proposed by the former Liberal government, to instead opt for private retail provincewide. Although cannabis will be legal in October this year, storefronts won’t be available for consumers until at least April 1, 2019, after the government has gone through a public consultation period. In the meantime, Ontario cannabis consumers will only be able to order legal cannabis through an online outlet created by the Ontario Cannabis Store (OCS).

Along with the private retail announcement, the government stated that municipalities would be able to “opt out” from cannabis activity, meaning that cities and towns will have the opportunity to prohibit cannabis retail outlets from being established within their municipal boundaries.

Lastly, in addition to strict age-of-purchase and impaired-driving restrictions, the PCs will enact a complete public consumption ban, similar to how alcohol is treated provincewide. This means all cannabis consumption will have to take place either in one’s home or on one’s private property.

Mr. Ford should be applauded for embracing private retail, but there are some key missteps with the plan as described. Luckily, these flaws can be easily remedied with simple policy alterations.

The move toward private retail is definitely a win for consumers, given that private retail enhances access, which helps stamp out the black market. That said, not having storefronts available on legalization day all but guarantees consumers will continue to purchase cannabis illegally until storefronts are available. Hundreds of thousands of Ontarians consume cannabis recreationally and all of them currently purchase it via illicit dealers. The thought that a government-run online outlet will be more accessible than how consumers currently purchase the product is optimistic at best, but unrealistic and destined to fail. Instead of delaying, Mr. Ford’s government should fast-track the retail permit process so that storefronts are available on Oct. 17.

Not having storefronts is just one of the major flaws with the government’s cannabis announcement. The second is the opt-out provision allowing communities to ban retail outlets within their municipal boundaries. While the desire to decentralize decision-making to local governments is understandable, all the Ford government is doing is giving cities and towns permission to recreate prohibition at the local level. This is exactly what is currently happening in California, where local retail bans are creating pockets of prohibition. Banning cannabis retail at the local level isn’t going to stop consumers from buying the product. It’s just going to prevent them from purchasing it legally, which ends up lining the pockets of organized crime.

The last significant issue with Ontario’s cannabis plan is the complete ban on public consumption. At first glance, the restriction may seem reasonable. Cannabis is an intoxicant and can be consumed in an obnoxious manner that bothers others. Despite this, banning public consumption for cannabis is heavily regressive and unfairly targets the poor. For Ontarians who rent, a growing group in today’s housing market, smoking indoors is almost always prohibited. Now, for those renters, outdoor consumption is prohibited as well. Both of those restrictions are worsened by the fact that the province currently doesn’t have any plans for indoor consumption in commercial settings. Without legal cannabis lounges, Ontarians who rent are almost entirely excluded from legal consumption, which is particularly unfortunate and cruel given that low-income neighbourhoods have historically been the ones most terrorized by the government’s faulty war on cannabis. To solve this, Mr. Ford could backpedal on the ban or simply legalize regulated consumption lounges. Mr. Ford has already shown willingness to halt the status quo with his move to suspend the progression of the Smoke Free Ontario Act. Allowing for cannabis consumption lounges would let people consume cannabis in licensed and controlled settings, where they aren’t bothering the public at large.

Even these slight changes could help ensure Ontario makes serious progress toward stamping out the black market while creating a legal cannabis market that is more equitable, just and consumer-friendly.

David Clement is the North American affairs manager at the Consumer Choice Center. Follow him on Twitter: @ClementLiberty

Original link: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/business/commentary/article-minor-changes-could-have-a-major-positive-impact-on-ontarios-cannabis/

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About Yaël Ossowski

Yaël Ossowski is a journalist, activist, and writer. He's currently deputy director at the Consumer Choice Center, and senior development officer for Students For Liberty. He was previously a national investigative reporter and chief Spanish translator at Watchdog.org, and worked at newspapers and television stations across the country. He received a Master’s Degree in Philosophy, Politics, Economics (PPE) at the CEVRO Institute in Prague. Born in Québec and raised in the southern United States, he currently lives in Vienna, Austria.

Cherry-picking is reality of the single market

TIMES OF LONDON: As Frederik Roeder of the free-market think tank Centre for Consumer Choice told me, the national governments are busy “cherry-picking” the proposals. Nobody is claiming that this is outrageous behaviour.

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About Fred Roeder

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

City of Seattle receives BAN Award for banning plastic straws

The city of Seattle receives the August 2018 BAN Award for being the first major U.S. city to ban the use of plastic straws, threatening businesses who offer them with a fine of $250.

The Consumer Choice Center’s Deputy Director Yaël Ossowski remarked that Seattle’s efforts are no doubt well-intentioned, but they effectively punish consumers who would otherwise need them and force a change for consumers that ultimately doesn’t have any real alternatives.

“Using the full force of municipal law to ban plastic straws is a well-intentioned move that actually has negative consequences,” said Ossowski.

“To begin, many people with disabilities rely on flexible plastic straws in order to sip their drinks or eat particular meals. Paper or metal straws are not yet efficient enough and indeed are harder to use. What’s more, there aren’t yet any real alternatives that promise to reduce waste or pollution. Paper straws, for instance, use more energy in total, resulting in more trees being cut down and more pollution overall.

“Concern about plastic pollution in our oceans is indeed important for consumers and citizens, but municipal and state governments cannot ban and penalize consumers and restaurant owners on their way to a solution. We must look to innovation and the marketplace to help find the next usable product,” said Ossowski.

“By awarding Seattle with the tongue-in-cheek BAN Award we want to highlight how much the plastic straw bans are an infringement on consumer choice.”

Every month the Consumer Choice Center awards an institution, person, or organization with the Bureau of Nannyism or short BAN Award. The BAN Awards recognize the work of an individual or organization that has made major contributions to advocating limits on consumer choice. This award serves to recognize extraordinary abilities in disregarding consumers and evidence-based public policy. The award was created by the Consumer Choice Center to draw attention to the important role politicians, lobbies, and advocates play in limiting consumers’ choice and ignoring them in the policymaking process.

Selection criteria: The Bureau of Nannyism (BAN) is a group of consumer choice advocates that discuss nominations on a monthly base and award the nominee with the most innovative or most blunt actions against consumer choice with the BAN award.

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 Yaël Ossowski

Yaël Ossowski is a journalist, activist, and writer. He's currently deputy director at the Consumer Choice Center, and senior development officer for Students For Liberty. He was previously a national investigative reporter and chief Spanish translator at Watchdog.org, and worked at newspapers and television stations across the country. He received a Master’s Degree in Philosophy, Politics, Economics (PPE) at the CEVRO Institute in Prague. Born in Québec and raised in the southern United States, he currently lives in Vienna, Austria.

Canada’s Transport Minister: Expanded Egypt and UAE air agreement a win for consumers

ETN: David Clement, Toronto based North American Affairs Manager of the Consumer Choice Center (CCC), said that “The expanded agreement is a step in the right direction regarding air transport liberalization. That said, the next step here has to be further liberalization.”

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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.

‘It’s embarrassing’: Advocates say we’ve waited long enough for ride-hailing

NEWS 1130: David Clement with the Consumer Choice Center says he suspects ride-hailing hasn’t already been approved in B.C. because the government is under pressure to protect the status quo.

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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 case for defunding the WHO

COMMENT CENTRAL: Bill Wirtz believes there is no need for taxpayers to be continuously patronised by WHO health experts. It’s time to defund the WHO.

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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.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. Ban

NATIONAL REVIEW: A New York City ban on styrofoam for food service is a costly and wasteful way to soothe wealthy liberals’ consciences.

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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.

CCC Comments to FDA on Tobacco Product Standard for Nicotine Level of Combusted Cigarettes

Jeff Stier

Senior Fellow

Consumer Choice Center

New York, NY

July 10, 2018

Submission to the Food & Drug Administration

Submit your own comments:  https://www.regulations.gov/document?D=FDA-2017-N-6189-0001

 

The FDA’s consideration of a product standard to set a maximum nicotine level for cigarettes is a dangerous experiment justified only by good intentions and faulty research. Further, even if the FDA’s scant research were validated with the substantial research that is necessary to implement such a risky proposal, especially at a time when smoking rates continue to decline at an an unprecedented rate, implementation would not be appropriate until a robust array of satisfying lower-risk products were available to adult smokers who understood the differences in risk.

Good intentions, Unintended Consequences:

A ban on today’s cigarettes could have significant unintended consequence, leading to compensatory smoking, where smokers inhale more dangerous chemicals in an effort to get the nicotine they crave. The agency’s only science to support this risky policy is based on unvalidated modeling.

The agency also fails to address the obvious risk that this potential change would cause an explosion in the already-significant illicit trade in cigarettes. Because nicotine is so addictive, especially in cigarettes, smokers would find a way to get the cigarettes they prefer, even if it requires going to the black market.

Although the FDA is, as required by law, seeking comments on these issues, the agency’s haste in advancing this plan before the science exists to validate it, is troubling.

The FDA was in such a rush to move forward with the announcement of this ANPR, that my meeting with the Office of Management and Budget’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, which was confirmed in writing on February 21st, was cancelled just in time for the FDA’s announcement that the ANPR was moving forward.

Contrast this hastiness with the FDA’s ongoing failure to keep its promise to develop product standards for ENDS, to fully and in a timely way grant PMTA and MRTP to snus and to heated tobacco. Without transparent rules which would make it easier to bring lower-risk non-combustible nicotine products such as e-cigarettes and heat-not-burn tobacco to market, adult smokers faced with a dramatic reduction will have only the black market to turn to.

The agency must also do a better job making sure consumers are fully informed about the differing risks of an emerging and diverse range of lower-risk nicotine products. In order for that to happen, the FDA, the Centers for Disease Control, local governments and leading public health organizations will have to correct the widespread misperceptions they have created about lower-risk “tobacco” products.

Scant and Faulty Research: 

On June 18th, 2018, Commissioner Gottlieb stated, “As we evaluate the best ways to regulate tobacco products, based on scientific evidence as well as the law, we depend on rigorous science to inform our policies and save lives.”

Yet to date, the preliminary science behind a nicotine rule is anything but rigorous. It relies on assumptions plugged into simulation models that are not based on real-world evidence of how smokers would respond to dramatic reductions in cigarettes- because no such evidence exists at this point in time.

It appears that the FDA is pushing a policy agenda and looking for the science to support it. Shouldn’t it be the other way around?

Premature:

On July 28, 2017, the FDA extended timelines for premarket tobacco applications for non-combustible products, such as e-cigarettes, until August 8, 2022. The agency did so “In order to allow the FDA to encourage innovation that has the potential to make a notable public health difference—and to inform future policies and efforts that will protect kids and help smokers quit cigarettes.”

The FDA stated at the time, nearly one year ago, that it plans to issue “foundational rules to make the product review process more efficient, predictable, and transparent for manufacturers, while (emphasis added) upholding the agency’s public health mission.”

The use of the word “while” suggests that issuing those rules could somehow undermine the agency’s public health mission. Yet in fact, it is the lack of such rules that are inconsistent with the agency’s public health mission. A robust market of lower risk-recreational nicotine products that have completed the PMTA process must be in place before the FDA implements a nicotine rule for combustible cigarettes.

Furthermore, the agency must take proactive steps to increase awareness of the promise of tobacco harm reduction. Studies have found an increase in the proportion of U.S. adults who incorrectly believe e-cigarettes to be as harmful as combustible cigarettes.

The agency promise that,  “Among other things, the FDA intends to issue regulations outlining what information the agency expects to be included in Premarket Tobacco Applications (PMTAs), Modified Risk Tobacco Product (MRTP) applications and reports to demonstrate Substantial Equivalence (SE). The FDA also plans to finalize guidance on how it intends to review PMTAs for ENDS.”

But to date, it has not issued anything along these lines, while at the same time it has rushed forward the nicotine rule.

On March 15, 2018, Commissioner Gottlieb stated that “We said from the outset that ours was a comprehensive approach that requires us to pursue all of its parts in tandem.” Yet the agency’s actions belie this commitment.

The FDA is correct that in order for a nicotine rule to potentially be effective, if backed up by rigorous science, there must be a range of lower-risk nicotine products available under PMTA and MRTP. However, the reverse is not true. In order for a tobacco harm reduction strategy to advance public health, it is not necessary to reduce nicotine in combustible cigarettes. I concede, that if unintended consequences of such a rule can be eliminated, it is clear how both prongs can work together to accelerate smoking cessation, with a two-pronged approach. But if the science, when it is complete, not support the dramatic reduction of nicotine in cigarettes, tobacco harm reduction is still absolutely in the interest of public health. While an incentive (non-satisfying cigarettes) would be eliminated, the most powerful incentive for most people is the will to live and to minimize harm to their own health. In order to reduce smoking rates, it is critical that the FDA fosters innovation through the PMTA and MRTP as required by Congress.

Congress did not authorize the FDA to properly implement PMTA and MRTP only if it is able to dramatically reduce nicotine in cigarettes. In fact, Congress required FDA to implement PMTA and MRTP. It only authorized FDA to reduce nicotine in cigarettes. The idea that “you can’t have one without the other” is a gross misrepresentation of the Tobacco Control Act.

Recommendations:

The agency should prioritize the development of a product review process for lower-risk products to be more efficient, predictable, and transparent for manufacturers, in order to truly advance the agency’s public health mission.

This part of the comprehensive plan needs to be in place first, giving time for investors to invest, allowing innovators to innovate, manufacturers to comply with the regulatory process, and the agency and public health groups to undo misperceptions about nicotine, before nicotine levels in cigarettes might be lowered.  Doing so is essential in order to minimize a black market for full nicotine cigarettes. The agency should look to Public Health England for guidance on how this can be done effectively, given the UK’s recent unprecedented successes in reducing smoking rates by embracing tobacco harm reduction.

At the same time, the agency should begin to develop rigorous, comprehensive and unbiased science that either supports, or doesn’t support, the policy put forth in the ANPR. Because the agency’s apparent intent to advance the rule even before a scientific basis exists, the agency will have to take extraordinary steps to insulate the entire research effort is free of confirmation bias.

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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.

State of California receives BAN Award for plastic bans, coffee cancer warnings

The state of California receives the July 2018 BAN Award for being a pioneer in the limiting of consumer freedom and choice, from the banning of plastic bags to foie gras to the Prop 65 requirements that slapped cancer warning labels on coffee. The Consumer Choice Center’s Deputy Director Yaël Ossowski remarked that California is unique in how it has been able to advance the nanny state.
“More than almost any other state in the union, California holds its own as a top restrictor of consumer choice,” said Ossowski.

“When we look at the expansiveness of the Proposition 65 regulations that have mandated cancer warnings on coffee cups, plus the statewide ban on plastic bags, the politicians and government officials have made it clear that they do not trust consumers and citizens to make their own decisions.

“By awarding California with the tongue-in-cheek BAN Award we want to highlight how much the plastic bans and Prop 65 cancer warning labels are an infringement on consumer choice.”

About the BAN Award:

Every month the Consumer Choice Center awards an institution, person, or organization with the Bureau of Nannyism or short BAN Award. The BAN Awards recognize the work of an individual or organization that has made major contributions to advocating limits on consumer choice. This award serves to recognize extraordinary abilities in disregarding consumers and evidence-based public policy. The award was created by the Consumer Choice Center to draw attention to the important role politicians, lobbies, and advocates play in limiting consumers’ choice and ignoring them in the policymaking process.

Selection criteria: The Bureau of Nannyism (BAN) is a group of consumer choice advocates that discuss nominations on a monthly base and award the nominee with the most innovative or most blunt actions against consumer choice with the BAN award.

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 Yaël Ossowski

Yaël Ossowski is a journalist, activist, and writer. He's currently deputy director at the Consumer Choice Center, and senior development officer for Students For Liberty. He was previously a national investigative reporter and chief Spanish translator at Watchdog.org, and worked at newspapers and television stations across the country. He received a Master’s Degree in Philosophy, Politics, Economics (PPE) at the CEVRO Institute in Prague. Born in Québec and raised in the southern United States, he currently lives in Vienna, Austria.