Thursday, 5 May 2016

Petty regulators

I did a few interviews about the EU e-cig regulations yesterday. TRT World managed to get someone from the European Commission for Health - one Enrico Brivio - to defend the Tobacco Products Directive. You can see the video below. 

One thing that stood out for me was Brivio's claim that the e-cig regulations are a compromise between those who want a ban and those who a free market. The problem with this argument is that the EU is not forcing the countries that have banned e-cigarettes to legalise them, but it is forcing the countries that want a free market to bring in neo-prohibitionist measures.

As I said at the end, I don't think the EU should force the likes of Finland to repeal their ban. That should be a matter for the Finns. But either we have a common market or we don't. The current situation allows countries to be less liberal than the TPD requires but does not allow them to be more liberal.

The table is slanted. But let's face it, it's never really been about market harmonisation.

Interview with Atlantic Insight

I did an interview with Atlantic Insight yesterday about the Nanny State Index and various other aspects of lifestyle regulation. You can listen to it (or read the transcript) here.

Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Christopher Snowdon's summary of e-cigarettes and the Tobacco Products Directive (TPD)

A few people have asked me where they can find my Epicenter briefing paper about e-cigarettes and the Tobacco Products Directive. Apparently it's not too easy to find on Google so I'll just leave it here on a blog post with a search engine friendly title.

Christopher Snowdon's e-cigarette/TPD briefing paper.

While I'm at it, here's a quick article by me about the meddlesome despots of Brussels.

And here's a reminder that we'll be discussing what the TPD means for vapers and the e-cigarette industry at the IEA on May 25th. All welcome.

Legal challenges to EU Tobacco Products Directive fail

Unfortunately, though not unexpectedly given the Advocate General's opinion before Christmas, Totally Wicked's legal challenge to Article 20 of the Tobacco Products Directive, has been rejected.

Here's the press release from TW...

Today the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) has given its judgment on the legal challenge to Article 20 of the Tobacco Products Directive. This challenge was brought by UK independent e-cigarette manufacturer Totally Wicked.

The judgment can be read in full on the CJEU website.

Totally Wicked was the only independent electronic cigarette manufacturer to win the right to challenge this Directive which sought to bring e-cigarettes and e-liquid within its regulatory scope as "tobacco related products" – despite not containing tobacco - and subject e-cigarettes to more stringent regulation than some conventional tobacco products.

Electronic cigarettes are a revolutionary product. They are at least 95 per cent less harmful than tobacco products and are recognised as the number one tool used by smokers to quit smoking. Left to develop under proportionate consumer regulation, e-cigarettes have the potential to render tobacco cigarettes obsolete and prevent millions of deaths from smoking.

Totally Wicked believes that the TPD will adversely impact the availability of good quality, electronic cigarettes and e-liquids, and jeopardise the life-changing potential of vaping, resulting in a major detrimental impact on the public health of millions of people across the EU.

Specifically, Totally Wicked’s challenge was based on its view that Article 20 of the TPD represents a disproportionate impediment to the free movement of goods and the free provision of services, places electronic cigarettes at an unjustified competitive disadvantage to tobacco products, fails to comply with the general EU principle of equality, and breaches the fundamental rights of electronic cigarette manufacturers.

Totally Wicked’s challenge was supported by nearly 100,000 vapers from across the EU who signed a petition that was delivered to the UK Department of Health.

Fraser Cropper, Managing Director of Totally Wicked said:

“Today is a bitterly disappointing end to a battle that has lasted more than two years. At its heart, was a fundamental dispute between those who recognise the public health potential vaping offers and therefore wish to see these products and their use flourish under a robust yet proportionate consumer regulatory regime, and those who either do not understand vaping or see it as a threat to established interests and therefore wish to see e-cigarettes subjected to a disproportionate and inappropriate regulatory regime.

Article 20 of the TPD will result in electronic cigarettes being subjected to a stricter regulatory regime than some tobacco products. Not only is Article 20 disproportionate, I believe, irrespective of this judgment, it is also contrary to established EU law. I am therefore disappointed, yet unsurprised, given the level of misinformation and vested interest at the heart of this Directive’s drafting, that the EU Court of Justice has ruled against our legal challenge. The judges have fundamentally failed to hold the European Parliament to account. Our case provided the court an opportunity to consider in the fullest of time they had, all evidence on the significant benefits vaping is bringing to the lives of millions of smokers across the European Union. They choose however to ignore this welter of evidence. The practical consequences of this abysmal regulation is now being manifest across Europe. Rather than bring harmonised rules it has allowed for 28 discordant and disharmonised national regulatory regimes to be adopted. Most of these interpretations will either destroy the nascent vaping industries across Europe or significantly hinder legitimate business and impact potentially catastrophically, access to vaping products that European smokers should have been allowed access to.

For the sake of e-cigarette users and potential users, it is vital that our industry is allowed to mature within a proportionate regulatory framework, which supports appropriate controls and safety requirements, and necessary social responsibility and continues to provide consumer choice to maximise the enormous potential of these products. Article 20 of this Directive patently will not deliver this environment. Those who wish for vaping to be consigned to the annuls of history, will judge today a success. They will use the ruling as further evidence of the righteousness of their position, they will expose again the misinformation, in easily digestible bites, that has been used so often to malign our products and sector whilst laying claim to the moral high ground. In time I firmly believe that the European Commission and others who support the TPD will come to realise the terrible mistake they have made or eventually be shown to have used the power of the European legislature for vested and craven self-interest. Our business and informed and justifiably angry vapers across Europe will continue to attempt to hold these organisations and individuals to account”

Susan Garrett, the Partner leading the team at Addleshaw Goddard LLP mounting the challenge said:

"Totally Wicked believed that the Tobacco Products Directive was a misconceived and disproportionate attempt to regulate electronic cigarettes. Today's decision is clearly disappointing for our client; given the impact it believes the Directive will have in stifling this emerging market.

We were pleased to support Totally Wicked in pursuing this landmark challenge to the lawfulness of the Directive, and we are as disappointed as our client that the EU Court of Justice did not rule in their favour.”

The legal challenge to the tobacco regulations, such as the ban on menthol, has also failed.


Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Last Orders: Episode 2

The new episode of Spiked's monthly round up of meddlesome ratbags is out now. This month's guest is Sam Bowman. We discuss tap water, Dolmio, the Nanny State Index and more.

Listen here.

Friday, 29 April 2016

Meanwhile in Brussels...

So the Royal College of Physicians have put out a non-prohibitionist report on e-cigarettes, which was nice. It would have been nicer if they'd said something along the same lines when the EU was plotting the destruction of the vaping industry, but it's better than nothing.

And yet the fact remains that the EU's regulations on e-cigarettes (and tobacco) will come into force in three weeks time and there's nothing anybody can do about it. Nor is there much anybody can do to stop the European Commission meddling in our private lives in other ways. Events of the last fortnight have demonstrated once again that the EU has an unquenchable thirst for lifestyle regulation. 

Last week, I mentioned that the EU's latest Health Commissioner, Vytenis Andriukaitis, has decided it is his job to make people drink less, whether they want to or not.

'I am in favor of reducing the use of alcohol in the EU; not only alcohol-related harm, but also use.'

This week, Andriukaitis upped the ante on his control freakery when he expressed his desire to stamp out e-cigarettes...

'I personally believe that electronic cigarettes must be regulated as strong as possible because from my point of view it is a danger for public health.' 

And then on Wednesday, he attended an EU debate on tobacco lobbying at which nobody from the tobacco industry - nor any of its customers - were invited to speak. Politico's report gives a good flavour of the censorious paranoia of the public health racket in Brussels.  There is a full video of the 'debate' online which is pretty hard to stomach since it involves tax-sponging prohibitionists taking soft ball questions from puppet NGOs like the European Public Health Alliance, but it is a valuable reminder of the cult-like echo chamber in which these people live.

The topic under discussion was Article 5.3 of the WHO's Framework Convention on Tobacco Control which 'public health' scoundrels like to pretend prohibits tobacco industry employees from talking to politicians. They want this extended and strengthened so that the only voices heard in the debate are their own.

I've said before that I would prefer politicians to listen to consumers than to lobbyists, but that idea never seems to occur to EU officials, let alone to anti-smoking fanatics. Lobbying is nevertheless a necessary evil and if you are obsessed with using the law to stop one side sharing their evidence and opinions it strongly suggests that you are not very confident in your own evidence and opinions.

Furthermore, if you are a special interest group with an extreme agenda - in this instance, ending all tobacco use on planet Earth - it is important for democracy that other perspectives to be heard, even if they are financially motivated.

The anti-tobacco elite does not see it this way, of course. They do not see themselves as a special interest group at all. At one point during the debate Pascal Diethelm made an unintentionally amusing attempt to distinguish 'bad' lobbyists from (his own) 'good' lobbyists, saying...

'If you defend the public interest, you are not a lobbyist. You are someone who defends the public interest.'

No, Pascal. You are someone lobbying for a special interest, like every other lobbyist.

Students of the slippery slope will not be surprised to hear that the 'public health' racket wants the principle of Article 5.3 extended to everybody who disagrees with them. At 1 hour 17 minutes, Roberto Bertollini says...

'The FCTC is a sort of model, in my view, for other areas where we do not have an international treaty of the same value but we have interference of vested interests in "public health" policies. I'm thinking about sugar and nutrition and alcohol and other areas. [The FCTC is] a model - a first case - which could become, hopefully, a practice more extensively used for all the other issues of concern for "public health".

So there you have it. Silencing your opponents, crushing e-cigarettes and forcing down alcohol consumption. All in a day's work for the lifestyle regulators. And with unelected bodies like the WHO and the European Commission onside, they've found just the way to do it without having to bother with all that pesky democracy stuff.

Monday, 25 April 2016

On processed foods

I've been waiting for someone to write a post like this about 'processed' food and the Angry Chef has stepped up to the plate in style. Read it. Read it all.

On convenience foods and pasta sauces in particular...

I am not going to defend every aspect of food manufacturing and I fully admit that there are many manufactured products that are nutritionally poor, but I will staunchly defend jars of tomato based pasta sauce. They are cooked in pretty much the same way a decent cook would make a tomato sauce at home, with pretty much the same ingredients. They are simple, convenient, have loads of tomatoes in them and are a really useful in helping a lot of people make a decent, cheap and balanced meal for their family. They are packed full of nutrients. They have no need for preservatives, no need for artificial colours, no need for artificial flavourings. The tomatoes, garlic, onions, olive oil and herbs have plenty of flavour already and the heat processing preserves them perfectly. That ‘processing’ is simply the addition of heat. This is a process, but if you did it at home, you would call it cooking. You do not say ‘I’m just processing this chicken for dinner', you say that you are cooking it.

I would challenge anyone who advocates with the demonization of processed foods to argue with me over this. There is nothing wrong with manufactured pasta sauce. There is also nothing wrong with a tin of soup. It is made, filled into a can and heated. Homemade soup may be nicer, but tinned soups are not bad for you because they are processed. The process they undergo is heating, or to use another term, cooking. Just because something comes out of a factory does not make it bad. And just because something is homemade does not sprinkle it with some magic fairy dust that makes it good for you.

On food snobs...

People need convenience food. People need shortcuts that can get a satisfying meal on the table when they are so tired and stressed they can’t think. We do not all live in middle class Nigella-land where the most you have to worry about is putting together a vegetarian gluten free spread when friends drop round unannounced. Real people worry about not having enough for rent, electric and food this month. Tell them that they will save money if they buy real ingredients from their local farmers’ market and they will rightly tell you to fuck off because it isn’t true. Telling people that if they cook with real ingredients they will save enough to buy organic if absurd, unrealistic and stupid. People need cheap simple stuff they know the kids will eat. They buy brands because they know that they will not be wasting money and they do not have the time or energy to experiment. Real people do not want to be lectured about your fucking food philosophy. They do not give two shits about farm to fork. They do not need to be brought in touch with the land to develop a good relationship with produce. They do not want to be publically shamed into rejecting the convenience products they love. They do not care how quinoa is pronounced because they are never going to buy it.

Obesity happens because people make poor food choices. If you took away convenience foods, they would still make poor food choices. People would make chips from scratch or buy them from the chippy and that would be a lot less healthy than the oven chips they use today. They would also be pissed off, because you would have taken away the time they saved using the convenient option and even more pissed off because they would have to think about cooking tonight when they are tired and the kids want some attention.

Bravo. Do read the whole thing.