Wednesday, 28 September 2016

The lies of Margaret Chan

Every two years, the WHO holds a 'Conference of the Parties' to wibble on about the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. The next one is coming up in a month or two. The last one was held at the height of the Ebola epidemic which killed 11,000 people and the WHO was rightly criticised for its inept response. Tackling contagious diseases isn't high on the WHO's list of priorities these days, and why should it be when there are people in the world drinking fizzy drinks and using e-cigarettes?

On 13 October 2014, while Ebola raged in Africa, a spokesman delivered a short speech on Margaret Chan’s behalf. He began with an apology...

The Director-General sends you her best wishes for a productive session. She is fully occupied with coordinating the international response to what is unquestionably the most severe acute public health emergency in modern times.

Few would have known that she was actually attending a tobacco control meeting in Moscow from which all observers were banned.

I reported this at the time. Since then the text of her speech on October 13th has been published and it makes for interesting reason. It puts the lie to the claim that she was 'fully occupied' doing anything other than sucking up to Vladamir Putin and attacking e-cigarettes.

First, allow me to thank the Government of the Russian Federation for hosting this sixth session of the COP. I have to say, personally, I have witnessed the commitment of this government, led by President Putin himself and of course you, sister Veronika, for overcoming very tough challenges to push through a very comprehensive law to control tobacco.

The law came into full force on the 1st of June this year. I want to thank you for your leadership. Many people told me years ago this will never happen in the Russian Federation. Thank you for proving them wrong.

Speculation is a very interesting hobby for many people. Some people speculated that I would not attend this meeting because I am so busy with so many other outbreaks of communicable diseases.

No. No. No. I will not cancel my attendance at this meeting because it is too important.

I think we can put down that claim that she was "fully occupied" dealing with Ebola as a bare-faced lie, can we not?

I wonder how more lies will be told when they meet again in India in a few weeks. As journalists are banned from attending, we'll just have to wait for the transcripts to come out. 

Tuesday, 27 September 2016

We will fight them on the beaches and in the zoos

Yesterday the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health, in cahoots with a mendacious director of 'public health', called for an extensive outdoor smoking ban. Their ostensible justification for this - that chiiiiildren shouldn't have to see people smoking was bad enough but the true intention - forcing adults not to smoke because the killjoy puritans don't like it - was even worse.

The 'public health' director in question, Jim McManus, fancies himself as a bit of a friend of the vapers so it was pleasing to see so many vapers smack him down. Here are some of the highlights from the blogosphere, not all of which are SFW...

Fergus Mason:

And if it isn’t up to the government to decide what’s normal or not, it certainly isn’t up to some gang of unelected busybodies like the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health. It’s time the whole tribe of parasitic pressure groups, fake charities and other slime of the “Third Sector” were reined in, before their arrogance turns the UK into a sort of organic Airstrip One, a North Korea with kale smoothies. These shitpuffins have far too much influence over government policy and, by extension, our lives. Look at the absurd sugar tax, a useless and regressive measure that’s only being introduced because a handful of screaming morons demanded it. Look at how the execrable harridan Deborah Arnott of ASH is writing the UK’s official policy at the World Health Organisation.

Enough. We didn’t vote for these people and, barring measures that are very illegal indeed, we can’t get rid of them. Why should we continue to fund them with our taxes and get nothing in exchange but their shrill, joyless hectoring? It’s time for CIEH, ASH, CASH, EPHA and all the other alphabet associations to STFU.

 Dick Puddlecote:

That such stomach-churning cunts live amongst us and are paid a fat salary to come up with perverted and totalitarian shit like this should be a national disgrace. But then, if you've spent your life brutalising smokers so much that you find statements like this acceptable, you're probably so mired in the sewer that you and your colleagues have created that you can't see the decent people you are vilely harming through the effluence you spend your time wallowing in.
The New Nicotine Alliance:

The most worrying aspect of this is that voluntary bans rarely stay voluntary and their application never stops at the 'problem' initially identified. There is always another publicly funded health 'charity' who thinks that their particular cause deserves similar treatment, and once you assert that denormalisation works for one there is no argument against it working for them all. How far are we going to let our freedoms be eroded in pursuit of what is a health utopia for some, but a bland, grey-painted hell for the rest of us? How will you feel when you can't eat an ice cream in a park for fear of making someone else's child fat?

The solution to these problems, assuming they exist, is education. Teach people about safer, healthier options and support parents to parent. Don't teach and empower people to hate.

 Dave Dorn:

An otherwise seemingly sensible director of Public Health who has very loudly professed and confessed his support for ecigs also supports this anti-smoker notion. His idea (well, probably not his, but it's one he espouses) is that putting these bans (voluntary or otherwise) in place will force people onto ecigs. There are two major errors in this thinking.

First, anyone who thinks they won't go after a public vaping ban once they've got the smoker numbers down is living in cloud cuckoo land. Of course they will - what used to be anti-tobacco is rapidly moving towards anti-nicotine, largely fuelled, in this humble writer's opinion, by the Pharmaceutical Companies having realised that it's an effective palliative (if not a cure) for a number of debilitating afflictions. And they want the patents on the remedies. 

The second is thinking that smokers will respond to this pressure in the way he - and other tobacco controlllers - thinks they will. And, of course, they won't. For many years, the smoking prevalence in the UK was stuck at around the 20% mark. Yes, it edged downwards, but, until ecigs came along, resolutely refused to drop below it. Now, roughly five years after ecigs hit mainstream, we're at 16.8% prevalence. Anyone, ANYONE, who refuses to see the root cause of this drop is either, again, deluded, or is an inveterate liar. 

In other words, all the sticks they used to beat smokers with failed miserably. The major success came because of the carrot that ecigs represent. The Pleasure Principle kicked in and lo and behold, what TC had been trying for and failing at suddenly happens.

Facts Do Matter:

Capitulating to the insane demands of the CIEH and imposing bans (voluntary or otherwise) will give these folks free rein to harass smokers (and vapers ‘cos it looks like smoking). That’s a marvelous unintended consequence right there.

This “pronouncement” from the Ministry of Truth is nothing more than an attempt to add more stigma to an already heavily ostracized group of society and it needs to bloody stop. One day, the Proles will revolt.

That went down well, then.

Every time some weasel raises his head above the parapet to demand blatantly paternalistic, disgracefully illiberal outdoor smoking bans, it is the duty of decent people to slam them down. We did it five years ago when some idiot councillor tried to make Stony Stratford 'smoke-free', and we did it again when the vile Lord Darzi tried to ban smoking in London parks; it took only a few hours before Boris Johnson rejected the idea. They will keep coming back on this issue because they are prohibitionists. I dare say outdoor smoking bans will feature in the next Tobacco Control Plan in some form whenever ASH get round to writing it (did I say ASH? I meant the Department of Health, wink, wink.)

According to Simon Clark who, as ever, has been standing up for smokers' rights, the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health were in no mood to defend their proposal and weren't even answering the phone when the media tried to get hold of them. Good.

Monday, 26 September 2016

Outdoor smoking bans

Doesn't these people ever get tired of exploiting children? From the Guardian...

Environmental health officers call for smoking ban in playgrounds

Smoking should be banned in all parks and playgrounds to reduce the chances of children growing up thinking that using cigarettes is normal, environmental health officers have told ministers.

Zoos, theme parks and anywhere else children play should also become no-smoking zones, in a significant proposed expansion of the outdoor areas in which smokers cannot light up.

Is there a health hazard from people smoking outdoors? No, and the Chartered Institute for Environmental Health - for it is they - do not claim there is. So what has it got to do with them?

“This would not only include children’s playgrounds but could see no-smoking zones extended to public parks, zoos and theme parks. Children should be able to have fun and enjoy themselves without seeing someone smoking and thinking this is normal behaviour,” she added.

No. No. No. Absolutely not. This is 21st century Britain, not 17th century New England. We do not use the criminal law to prevent people seeing things just because they might offend moral puritans.

This has obviously got nothing to do with children. As usual, it is really about making it as hard as possible for people to smoke. Nor has it got anything to do with playgrounds. As the article makes clear, these bastards want to ban smoking anywhere children ever go. In case you haven't noticed, society isn't segregated into adult spaces and children's spaces. Having banned smoking in every indoor public place they want to ban it in every outdoor space. The only government in the world that currently has such a policy is ISIS.

Unsurprisingly, 'public health' fat cat (and vapers' "friend") Jim McManus who relieves the taxpayer of £130,000 a year is lobbying for this disgusting idea. McManus is one of the country's army of 'public health directors', all of whom should be made redundant.

"You might feel like this is the nanny state – you’d be wrong,” McManus added.

Thanks Socrates, I can't argue that kind of watertight argument. Crawl back under your rock and take the Chartered Institute for Environmental Health with you.

Not news

The lead story on the BBC Health website as I write this is headlined '"Lifestyle illnesses'" cost NHS £11bn'.

Health problems related to poor diet, drinking and smoking are costing the NHS in England more than £11bn each year, officials say. 

Public Health England (PHE) says that unless they are tackled more effectively the NHS will become unaffordable.

It warns conditions such as diabetes and smoking-related bronchitis are a new and untreatable epidemic.

The £11 billion figure is cobbled together from the £2.7 billion alcohol is said to cost the NHS, plus £3.5 billion attributed to smoking and £5.1 billion attributed to obesity. All of these are gross costs and do not include savings to the NHS from not having to treat people who died prematurely. Nor do they take into account the cost of substitute diseases in a counterfactual, ie. how much would be spent on a person who died from lifestyle-related Disease X if they had lived to die from non-lifestyle-related Disease Y.

Even as a gross cost, the figure for alcohol is an overestimate. Moreover, tobacco and alcohol duty bring in around £25 billion a year which covers the alleged gross cost of all lifestyle diseases twice over and covers the real net cost many times over. For some strange reason, the BBC neglects to mention this.

But why is any of this news? Public Health England announced the £11 billion in March this year and the BBC covered it at the time. The actual news content of today's story is astonishingly thin. It continues...

But the town of Fleetwood, Lancashire, plans to tackle these problems head on.

OK. So this is a local news story. And how does it plan to tackle them?

Local GP Dr Mark Spencer is leading an effort to change that picture. He has forged a coalition of local people and health workers to break a damaging cycle of sickness.

 Good for him. So what?

The BBC has been offered the chance to follow this ambitious project over the next year, which will attempt to help people change the behaviour that is damaging their health.

It involves a broad range of different approaches, from educating children in primary schools about food and diet, working with local sports clubs to encourage people to get active, and creating more open green spaces in the town.

That doesn't sound particularly ambitious. It sounds like the bog standard stuff that the 'public health' industry uses billions of pounds of our money for every year.

There's no point me quoting any more of this. There is no news to be found. A bloke in Fleetwood wants people to live healthier lifestyles and the BBC is going to keep reporting on this non-story because it has been 'offered the chance' to do so. I suspect the real reason for the prominence of the article - which has been repeatedly tweeted by the Beeb - lies in the headline. They want to the hammer this Trojan number into people's heads.

Friday, 23 September 2016

David Nutt's designer drug

The Adam Smith Institute have got a nice little report out about the future of 'vice', featuring e-cigarettes, gambling, legal high and 'synthetic alcohol'.

As I have said before, David Nutt's 'synthetic alcohol' seems to be no more than a legal high with a novel marketing plan. Nutt portrays alcohol as being so extraordinarily dangerous that almost any drug looks like a harm reduction device by comparison. The question is whether his drug is a closer substitute to alcohol than other drugs. It seems to me that most of his sales pitch could be applied to marijuana, cocaine and opium.

A new type of synthetic alcohol has been discovered which could allow people to enjoy the sociable effects of a few pints, but skip the hangover that usually follows.

Yep, what's what drugs do, and since the government has banned all legal highs with its appalling Psychoactive Substances Act, the chances of bringing a new recreational drug to market are not good, but you have to applaud Nutt's ingenuity. He's worked out that the only way you can get a designer drug on the market is by invoking the all-powerful concept of 'public health'. However, he's laying on the sales patter a bit thick by saying things like this...

"People want healthier drinks," said Professor Nutt. “The drinks industry knows that by 2050 alcohol will be gone." "They know that and have been planning for this for at least 10 years. But they don't want to rush into it, because they're making so much money from conventional alcohol."

I'll be on a panel with him at the Conservative party conference on October 4th. I hope he brings some product with him.

Read the ASI report here.

Thursday, 22 September 2016

The truth continues to emerge about smoking ban miracles

Via Michael Siegel, I see that another large study has concluded that smoking bans do not have an effect on the rate of heart attacks. I have written so much about the junk claims about smoking ban miracles that I won't go through the whole story here.

The claim is that you get a notable drop in heart attack admissions to hospital as soon as a smoking ban is introduced.

Check the archive for the extensive background but the basic facts are these: heart attack miracles are mathematically impossible and the claims of smoking ban advocates are based on blatant cherry-picking and bent modelling that bears no relation to the data recorded by hospitals - with a bit of publication bias thrown in for good measure.

The new study is different from those conjured up by 'public health' charlatans in that it applies proper statistical methods, such as using controls. It also doesn't cherry-pick. Its authors have a subtle dig at those who produced previous efforts in the text...

Our study possesses three important strengths. Unlike most previous studies of smoking bans, we measure the association between the implementation of smoking bans and hospitalization rates for hundreds of U.S. counties, rather than one or two areas, or a handful of regions. We employ an extensive set of covariates including cigarette tax rates, along with time and county fixed effects to control for factors that could confound the observed relationship between smoking bans and hospitalizations. This is the only study in the smoking bans literature that includes county-specific time trends, even though this approach has become the standard of practice for health economics studies over the past 15 years.

And by looking at a large number of communities rather than retrospectively selecting one which had an unusually sharp decline in heart attacks, the authors found that...

Contrary to most previous studies, we found no evidence that comprehensive public place smoking bans lowered hospitalization rates in the short-term for AMI or heart failure.

This is in line with a previous study that looked across the whole of the USA and included two million heart attacks. Like this new study and others that have come to the same conclusion, that research made absolutely no impression on the media whereas the ridiculous miracle of Helena, Montana (population: 29,000) was broadcast around the world. The lie has won the day.

I have been beating this drum for years, as has Michael Blastland (the creator of the BBC's excellent More or Less series). For his trouble, Blastland was described as a 'denialist' by Martin McKee and Martin Dockrell.

Spare a thought also for Michael Siegel who, despite being an anti-smoking activist and a supporter of smoking bans, found the heart miracle scam to be one lie too many. He has been going on about this issue longer than anybody and his blog post is worth reading if you want to see what happens when you expose fraud in the tobacco control cult...

It is interesting to note that it was my expression of the above opinions about these studies back in the mid-2000's that led to my "expulsion" from the tobacco control movement, including being thrown off several list-serves, ostracized by many of my colleagues, accused of being a "tobacco mole," being characterized by my hero and mentor - Stan Glantz - as being "a tragic figure," [to be fair, if Glantz is your hero, you are kind of a tragic figure - CJS] having copyright to one of my articles violated by an anti-smoking organization, no longer being invited to speak at tobacco conferences, not being able to present at tobacco control conferences anymore, not being able to obtain further research grants, and having colleagues refuse to appear with me at conferences to discuss these or any other scientific issues. In fact, it was this censorship that led to the creation of the Rest of the Story in the first place.

Nearly three million page views later, perhaps these groups knew what they were doing because it appears that I may have been right all along. By silencing me, these groups were able to disseminate their pre-determined conclusions widely to the public through the media long enough for the conclusions to be generally accepted. Now, it is too late to undo the damage. The media and the public have already made up their minds, and one article noting the results of this new study is not going to correct or undo 10 years of dissemination of unsupported and errant scientific conclusions.

For me, the appearance of smoking ban miracles was the point at which it became obvious that the modern anti-smoking movement was incorrigibly dishonest. Nothing I have seen in the years since has given me the slightest reason to change my mind about that.

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

The victory of vaping

I wrote about the recent sharp fall in the smoking rate and ASH's attempt to steal the credit from vapers. It's at Spectator Health. Here's a sample...

What’s going on? Deborah Arnott of the anti-smoking quango Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) attributed the fall in smoking, in part, to the government’s ban on ‘glitzy tobacco packaging’. She means plain packaging. Ms Arnott has spent the last five years of her life furiously lobbying for this silly piece of virtue signalling so it is no surprise that it is at the forefront of her mind, but the smoking prevalence figures were collected in 2015, whereas plain packaging was only introduced in May 2016, and hardly anybody has seen a plain pack yet because retailers are still selling old stock. Doubtless ASH are already thinking of ways to put lipstick on this pig of a policy, but they could at least wait for it to come into effect before they start making their ridiculous claims.

What Arnott cannot quite bring herself to say is that it is the e-cigarette, not big government interference, that has been the game-changer. As Public Health England has acknowledged, e-cigarettes are the most popular stop-smoking aid. Correlation doesn’t equal causation, but vaping is a much better explanation for the sudden downturn in smoking rates than brown cigarette packs that no one has seen.

It is easy to assume that smoking rates have been dropping like a stone in the nine years since the smoking ban was introduced, but this is to mistake action for results. In reality, the smoking ban marked the point at which the long-term decline in smoking pretty much came to a halt.

Do read it all.

Regulator Watch: Puritans and Prohibitionists

I did an interview with Brent Stafford for Regulator Watch recently. We talked about vaping, the 'public health' movement and the history of anti-smoking. Here it is...

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

More on that sugar conspiracy

Further to my post about Stanton Glantz's ridiculous sugar conspiracy, I'm pleased to see other people critiquing this nonsense. The two articles below are both excellent and well worth reading if you interested in how activist-researchers create media narratives...

Sugar and Spite: Mark Hegsted and the Great Sugar Conspiracy

Rewriting history to expose a non-existent conspiracy
And don't forget this post from Nutrevolve.

Not for the first time, the blogosphere has been quicker to get to grips with peer-revieed drivel than the mainstream media. Take this from the Financial Review, for instance...

The food and artificial sweetener industry, which have previously opposed the tax, have been making global headlines with academics alleging the business is skewing health research.

An academic at the University of California published a paper arguing five decades of research responsible for shaping dietary recommendations was likely sculpted by the sugar industry.


Monday, 19 September 2016

"Calories are the new tobacco"

Yes, Simon "Caps Lock" Capewell actually says those words in this Radio 4 interview. I don't know what's more worrying: that he said it or that it went completely unchallenged in a supposed head-to-head debate.

It's only a few minutes long so listen to it if you want to have peek into the mind of a 'public health' fanatic.

Sunday, 18 September 2016

Day of the jackass

I've been away for a few days hopping around the English Channel. While I was out of the country, the Royal College of Medicine gave the British public a unique chance to see some of the worst people in the world for one night only.

At a self-congratulatory event with the delusional title 'Winning the end-game against tobacco', the Royal College hosted not only the thick-as-two-short-planks junk scientist Anna Gilmore and the obese nonentity Martin McKee, but also the champagne socialist Gabriel Scally and lemon-sucking prohibitionist Deborah Arnott. As if that weren't enough - and, let's face it, it isn't - it also featured drunken social media casualty John Ashton and - all the way from Australia! - dense sociologist Simon Chapman.

Chapman brought the curtain down on this intellectual feast with a talk entitled 'Years well spent. A reflection on a professional lifetime spent in public health advocacy'. That's 'advocacy', you will notice, not 'scholarship', 'academia', or even 'magazine editing'. The 'years well spent' were largely dedicated to vandalising advertising billboards, burning taxpayers' money and demonising anybody who uses nicotine.

Having travelled so far, Chapman was disappointed to find that none of his many antagonists fancied paying good money to see him toot his own horn.

Alas, it seems that almost everybody else in Britain made the same inexplicable decision to stay away, as one of the event's seven speakers confirmed.

Ouch! Let's hope the Royal College of Medicine made Simple Simon pay his own way.


I see that Mr Puddlecote has also noticed that the 'public health' crusade is not exactly a mass movement. 

I've also managed to track down one of the audience members and he is - surprise, surprise - a anti-vaping tax-sponger who works at a sock puppet NGO....


Thursday, 15 September 2016

Glantz's sugar conspiracy

Stanton Glantz seems to have decided that he can recreate the Big Tobacco revelations of the 1990s with Big Sugar in the 2010s. You can't repeat the past? Why of course you can! His latest effort was published in JAMA Internal Medicine and led to headlines like this...

These headlines are a significant over-reaction to a mildly interesting story about a fairly obscure evidence review published fifty years ago. There seems to have been a lack of transparency in the study's funding, but I have been unable to ascertain whether the study's findings were correct or not. Glantz's study does mentions this salient fact, however...

Although the contribution of dietary sugars to CHD is still debated, what is clear is that the sugar industry, led by the Sugar Association, the sucrose industry’s Washington, DC–based trade association, steadfastly denies that there is a relationship between added sugar consumption and CVD risk.

So we are dealing with a scientific debate that is unresolved even today. And the narrative of industry-funded corruption doesn't look very strong if Walter Willett is to be believed...

Dr. Walter Willett, who knew Hegsted and now runs the nutrition department at Harvard’s public health school, defended him as a principled scientist.

“He was a very hard nosed, data driven person, who had a record for standing up to industry interests,” including losing a job at the USDA for standing up to the beef industry, Willett wrote in an email. “I very much doubt that he changed what he believed or would conclude based on industry funding.”

Willett said today, research has become more clear, showing that refined carbohydrates and especially sugar-sweetened beverages “are risk factors for cardiovascular disease,” while “the type of dietary fat is also very important.” But he said that at the time Hegsted and colleagues were writing, evidence for fat as a risk factor for coronary heart disease was “considerably stronger” than for sugar, and he would agree with “most of the interpretations” the researchers made.

“However, by taking industry funding for the review, and having regular communications during the review with the sugar industry,” Willett acknowledged, it “put him [Hegsted] in a position where his conclusions could be questioned.”

“It is also possible that these relationships could induce some subtle bias, even if unconscious,” he added.

Possible unconscious bias doesn't quite sound like being 'bribed by Big Sugar to demonise fat' to me, but I get the impression that the veracity of his research isn't of interest of Glantz, who also prefers to play the man rather than the ball. In his mind, the vexed question of whether sugar independently causes heart disease is answered by the fact that a nutritional scientist didn't disclose a conflict of interest to the NEJM decades ago when the NEJM didn't require conflict of interest statements. The fact that the meat industry, egg industry, olive oil industry and many other parts of the food sector fund scientific research seems to have passed him by.

If I understand Glantz's hypothesis correctly, he seems to think that selectively quoting some 1960s correspondence proves that the sugar industry created the scientific consensus on saturated fat. This is such an outlandish conspiracy theory that only Glantz could attempt it. Up until now, Ancel Keys has been the anti-sugar fanatics' chief villain. Will we gradually see him written out of history to make way for a classic Big Industry morality play?

I only mention all of this to point you in the direction of an excellent blog post by somebody who knows much more about this subject than I do. It seems that Glantz's study is seriously lacking in context and is ignorant of the science. What a surprise that is.

Do read it.

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

Oxfam's inequality fabrications

Every once in a while, Oxfam likes to talk about inequality in the UK, though God knows what that has to do with famine relief. They invariably twist the facts and they've been doing it again today.

Oxfam have realised that journalists are not familiar with the inequality data and don't know the difference between wealth inequality and income inequality. They have realised that if they write a press release that is merely misleading, over-worked hacks will turn it into a convenient lie.

The reality is that the level of income inequality in Britain is average by European standards and lower than average by global standards. Feel free to check this by looking at data from the World Bank and the Office for National Statistics. The first graph is based on the former and the second graph comes from the latter. Both graphs use the standard Gini coefficient (lower numbers = a more equal distribution of income after taxes and benefits).

As the ONS says:

‘Before any taxes and benefits, the UK had one of the highest levels of income inequality in the EU. However, the UK’s tax and benefits system appears to be more redistributive than that of many other countries with relatively high pre-tax and benefits inequality, bringing the UK close to the overall EU average for inequality of disposable income.’

The least equal nations are mostly in Central and South America where the Gini coefficient frequently exceeds 50, as compared with 32 in the UK and 26 in the rich world’s most equal country, Slovenia. Some ex-Soviet states have lower levels of income inequality than Britain but nearly every African country is less equal than Britain. So too is Russia, Turkey, China and the United States.

Nor is wealth inequality high by international standards. The graph below is based on data from the Credit Suisse report that Oxfam claims to base its figures on.

The Credit Suisse report explicitly says that...

...the pattern of wealth distribution in the United Kingdom is very typical for a developed economy.

All of this might comes as a surprise is you read the BBC's report today which begins as follows:

UK one of the most unequal countries, says Oxfam

The richest 1% of the UK population owns more than 20 times the wealth of the poorest fifth, according to Oxfam.

That made Britain one of the most unequal countries in the developed world and contributed to the vote for Brexit, the charity said.

This is bad journalism but when you look at Oxfam's literature, you can see how the BBC hack got confused. The first line of Oxfam's wafer-thin briefing note says:

The UK is one of the most unequal developed countries in the world

There is a citation for this claim but instead of being a reference to the raw data, it is a reference to an OECD report which has a graph showing the UK with a higher-than-average level of income inequality, though lower than Turkey, Chile, the USA, Mexico and Israel. The OECD report does not claim to a study of 'the developed world'. It is a study of its 35 member states. And its figure for the UK is wrong, presumably because it is old. It gives the UK a Gini of 36 when the real figure is 32. If it was shown correctly, the UK would be bang in the middle.

In any case, the OECD report is about income inequality whereas Oxfam's report is supposedly about wealth inequality. Oxfam get around this by moving seamlessly from talking about income inequality to making some fairly meaningless claims about wealth inequality, like this:

...the richest one percent of the population now owns more than 20 times more wealth than the poorest 20 percent of the population

This is not necessarily untrue, it just doesn't tell you anything useful. The poorest 20 per cent of the population don't own very much. Most people's household wealth is dominated by the value of their house. If you live in a house owned by the government, you are unlikely to have much wealth and if you are in debt you will own no net wealth at all (note that you can be in debt with credit cards, student loans etc. without being poor in any meaningful sense).

The use of the word 'now' in the sentence above implies that the poorest 20 per cent previously had more wealth than they do today, but Oxfam do not provide any evidence for this because there is none. Nor do they compare the UK's wealth distribution with from that of other countries, presumably because - as shown above - there is less inequality of wealth than in many countries, including the sainted social democracies of Scandinavia.

In a blog post written to coincide with Oxfam's press release, one of the charity's numerous policy advisors drops the word 'developed' and explicitly says:

The UK is one of the most unequal nations in the world.

This is a flat out lie. Under no measure is the UK anywhere near being the most unequal nation in the world.

There is currently a debate about 'post-truth politics' in Britain. People rightly get annoyed by fabrications like the £350 million Vote Leave claimed Britain sent the EU every week, but this claim was widely challenged in the media at the time. If you look at the BBC's inequality report you will find no challenge, no rebuttal and no response from anybody who disagrees with Oxfam's warped interpretation of the data. Whether it knows it or not, the BBC is complicit in the fabrication.

Thursday, 8 September 2016

The WHO position on e-cigarettes

In advance of its secret meeting in India in November, the WHO has published its thoughts on e-cigarettes. I was surprised to see my name in the references but even more surprised to see people on social media describing the WHO's position as 'supportive' of vaping yesterday. That's not how I read it.

Their main statement is below. Note that they have decided that calling e-cigarettes 'electronic nicotine delivery systems' is not clumsy enough so they have added 'electronic non-nicotine delivery systems'.

If the great majority of tobacco smokers who are unable or unwilling to quit would switch without delay to using an alternative source of nicotine with lower health risks, and eventually stop using it, this would represent a significant contemporary public health achievement.

This would only be the case if the recruitment of minors and non-smokers into the nicotine-dependent population is no higher than it is for smoking, and eventually decreases to zero. Whether ENDS/ENNDS can do this job is still a subject of debate between those who want their use to be swiftly encouraged and endorsed on the basis of available evidence, and others who urge caution given the existing scientific uncertainties as well as the performance variability of products and the diversity of user behaviour.

That's about a supportive as it gets and most of it isn't actually true. In reality, it would be a 'significant contemporary public health achievement' if a lot of smokers switched to e-cigarettes even if they didn't 'eventually stop using' them and even if the number of non-smokers who took up vaping did not 'decrease to zero'. Nor would the 'the recruitment of minors and non-smokers into the nicotine-dependent population' have to be below the current smoking rate, which is an entirely arbitrary benchmark. See Carl Phillips's recent paper on tobacco harm reduction if a more detailed explanation is needed.

So the FIFA of health don't really get it from the outset and it's not the business of an elected UN agency if people smoke or vape anyway. Nevertheless, they have a raft of policies they want implemented. Here's what the 'supportive' WHO wants governments to do:

Parties that have not banned the importation, sale, and distribution of ENDS/ENNDS may consider the following options:

a. Banning the sale and distribution of ENDS/ENNDS to minors;

b. Banning the possession of ENDS/ENNDS by minors;

c. Banning or restricting advertising, promotion and sponsorship of ENDS/ENNDS (see FCTC/COP/6/10 Rev.1);

d. Taxing ENDS/ENNDS at a level that makes the devices and e-liquids unaffordable to minors in order to deter its use in this age group. In parallel, combustible tobacco products should be taxed at a higher level than ENDS/ENNDS to deter initiation and reduce regression to smoking;

e. Banning or restricting the use of flavours that appeal to minors;

f. Regulating places, density and channels of sales; and

g. Taking measures to combat illicit trade in ENDS/ENNDS

Banning the sale to minors is fairly uncontroversial but banning possession by minors is a bit extreme. We don't ban possession of tobacco or alcohol by minors.

Banning advertising is ridiculous, unjustified and an infringement on free speech. Wasn't the ban on tobacco advertising supposed to be a one-off response to a 'unique' health threat?

Taxing e-cigarettes in order to stop young people buying them is disgusting and absurd. It is the same thing as taxing them to stop people on low incomes buying them. Elsewhere in the document says: 'ENDS/ENNDS and cigarettes are substitutes, with higher cigarette prices being associated with increased ENDS/ENNDS sales.' They don't join the dots and conclude that this also means that higher e-cigarette prices are associated with increased cigarette sales. These people really are dangerous idiots.

There is no such thing as flavours that exclusively appeal to adults or minors. Everyone likes sweet flavours (which is presumably what they are getting at).

I don't know what (f) means and (g) is a tacit acknowledgement that their dreadful policies are going to create yet another black market.

Note also that the WHO doesn't tell countries which have 'banned the importation, sale, and distribution of ENDS/ENNDS' to legalise them. Nor do they acknowledge that snus is a 'an alternative source of nicotine with lower health risks' and should be legalised in the EU.

They also say this:

Prohibiting by law the use of ENDS/ENNDS in indoor spaces or at least where smoking is not permitted

Why? There is zero evidence that passive vapour causes the slightest harm and it wouldn't be the WHO's business to tell government's how to address it even if it did.

I see nothing in this document to suggest that the WHO has moved away from its essentially prohibitionist vision of a zero-nicotine future.

Back on the crack

I wrote about the so-called 'crack cocaine of gambling' and the evidence-free campaign against it back in 2013. I've revisited the subject for a new IEA briefing paper with some updated stats.

I've also written about it for ConHome...

People who work for think tanks want to change the world one step at a time, but we are generally realistic. Those of us in favour of individual responsibility and free markets realise that a single piece of research is not going to change the climate of opinion overnight. We know that there are stubborn and persistent myths that need to be debunked over a long period of time.

And so, when I wrote a short discussion paper about the relatively niche subject of fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs) three years ago I didn’t expect to change the minds of people who hate gambling. I wasn’t expecting to link arms with the Salvation Army or find common cause with the lads at Stop the FOBTs. But I did hope that, in its own small way, it might make people think twice before describing these machines as the ‘crack cocaine of gambling’. As I showed in that paper, the term was coined in the 1980s by Donald Trump (whatever happened to him?) to describe a video bingo game that he saw as a threat to his casino business.

Since then, virtually every form of gambling has been compared to crack cocaine by people who don’t like gambling. Scratch cards, horse-racing, casinos, lotteries, online gambling, slot machines, pokies – all of them have been described as the ‘crack cocaine of gambling’ at one time or another, and now it is the turn of FOBTs. The claim has never had any evidence to support it. It is nothing more than an overwrought campaigner’s slogan and yet no newspaper story about FOBTs is complete without it, usually featuring in the headline.

Returning to the subject for an updated briefing paper, I see that nothing has changed. Evidence that FOBTs are more addictive than other forms of gambling is still conspicuous by its absence, and the ‘crack cocaine’ meme continues to be casually inserted into every article that mentions them.

You can rest the rest here and download the paper here.

Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Burning our money to ASH

Via Philip Davies, Dick Puddlecote has confirmed that ASH have got their wedge of cash from the unwitting taxpayer again. This is the 44th year that the pressure group has been funded by the government in its 44 year existence. This year they got £160,000.

This hand out comes with the usual hollow claim that it will not be used for lobbying. ASH no longer say that they will use the money for lobbying in their grant application (as they did in 2008, see point 2 below), but the Department of Health has a pretty narrow view of lobbying and allows ASH to get away with all sorts of campaigning activities without punishment.

A ban on lobbying is a bit awkward for a group whose whole purpose is changing the law. The DH money used to be for the 'Tobacco Control Plan for England' but nobody really knew what that was. Now it is just for 'Support for Tobacco Control' which is even vaguer.

Are ASH lobbying with public money? You be the judge. Here is last year's grant application to DH which includes specific deliverables. All of the projects listed below are funded by the government. The contract explicitly says:

‘This award has been made under the provisions of Section 64 and may not be used for lobbying or to fund original research and consultancy services must not be offered under this grant. ASH has confirmed that the grant will only ever be used for tobacco control delivery activity and not for any activity that could be considered to be lobbying, nor will it be used to fund research or provide consultancy services.’

So they can't fund original research and they can't do anything that could be considered lobbying. Bearing that in mind, here's what they spent our cash on in 2015/16...

'Health Inequalities Launch'
Details of the January 2016 launch are not available but this initiative - which involved original research being conducted by a consultancy (Landman Economics) - centred on the Local Poverty Calculator and was launched to the media in October 2015. It takes some nerve for ASH to blame smoking on poverty when 80 per cent of the price of a pack of fags is tax, but they nevertheless used this PR stunt as a way to lobby for more ‘investment in services’, ie. more money for their partners at FRESH, Public Health Action, and themselves (see, for example, here).

'Mental health and smoking report'
This is quite clearly original research and can definitely be ‘considered to be lobbying' since it calls for a total ban on smoking in mental health services. The report came out last month and was called Stolen Years. It calls for specific policy actions, including:

‘All providers should implement a process of moving to a fully smokefree service by 2018’

‘In all environments in which care and support is provided to people with a mental health condition there should be a dedicated senior staff member who is the ‘stop smoking champion’, supported by a cross-disciplinary committee where appropriate. They should have responsibility for ensuring smoking is being addressed among service users.’

‘Local Authority commissioned stop smoking services should be funded to support community and in- house mental health staff with appropriate training and mentoring to deliver to the necessary levels of intervention, as detailed above.’
Incidentally, on pages 12 and 33, ASH explicitly say that they used PHE money for original research (‘ASH, with funding from Public Health England also commissioned new research looking at the relationship between poverty and smoking in this population.’) I don't know if PHE have the same terms as DH, though they should, but this indicates another route to the taxpayers' pockets for ASH.

'Promoting smoking cessation in secondary care'
ASH’s own statement of intent makes it clear that this involves lobbying. They say in the grant agreement that they ‘will further be developing materials in partnership with leading organisations to help make the case for further activity to help people to quit…’ How will they help people quit? By passing laws and raising taxes, of course. They will ‘continue to support the roll out of the NHS Statement of Support for Tobacco Control (which is endorsed by the Public Health Minister) to CCGs and Trusts.’ This involves lobbying at  every level, including the pledge to ‘Support Government action at national level’ and ‘participate in local and regional networks for support’.

'Smoking in prisons'
Blatant lobbying for a change in the law. They say: ‘We continue to support the implementation of smokefree prisons through our role as an observer to the NOMS Smokefree Prisons Project Board’.

'Local authority resource pack on implementing Article 5.3'
This is ASH’s effort to get local authorities to gold plate Article 5.3 of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. Article 5.3 says the tobacco industry shouldn't be involved in forming health policy, but ASH pretends it says that anyone who works for the government can never speak to anyone who has anything to do with tobacco. This, I would suggest, is lobbying. See Harry Phibbs on this as well and my own comments.

'Monitoring public attitudes to tobacco control issues'
This refers to the Smokefree GB and Smokefree Youth surveys. This is clearly original research (incidentally done through YouGov, a company founded by ASH board member Peter Kellner).

'Bringing together a network of organisations with an interest in tobacco control that DH can make us of to improve communication with stakeholders in tobacco control; the Tobacco Control Plan for England, and the upcoming implementation of tobacco control regulations in 2015-16'
Nobody knows what the Tobacco Control Plan for England is/was. It seems to be code for whatever policy ASH feel like lobbying for at any given time. The ‘network of organisations’ is the Smokefree Coalition which includes most county councils. This organisation says it ‘came together initially to lobby for smokefree workplaces and are now committed to reducing the harm caused by tobacco more generally’. This organisation is about nothing but lobbying as far as I can see. See its plan for 2016-20 to get a flavour of its political demands.

'Encouraging local areas to prioritise tobacco… Local Government Declaration on Tobacco Control'
The Local Government Declaration is a political document which includes councils signing up to ‘join the smokefree action coalition’ (which is a lobby group, see above).

How do they keep getting away with it?

Monday, 5 September 2016

Plain packaging for soft drinks

Ontario Medical Association (2012)

As predicted by everybody apart from the con artists of tobacco control, the campaign to extend plain packaging and graphic warnings to other products marches on. A new study in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity appeared last week...

Effects of plain packaging, warning labels, and taxes on young people’s predicted sugar-sweetened beverage preferences: an experimental study


Consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) is associated with increased risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and dental caries. Our aim was to assess the effects of plain packaging, warning labels, and a 20 % tax on predicted SSB preferences, beliefs and purchase probabilities amongst young people.


A 2 × 3 × 2 between-group experimental study was conducted over a one-week period in August 2014. Intervention scenarios were delivered, and outcome data collected, via an anonymous online survey [the gold standard of scientific research! - CJS]. Participants were 604 New Zealand young people aged 13–24 years who consumed soft drinks regularly. Participants were randomly allocated using a computer-generated algorithm to view one of 12 experimental conditions, specifically images of branded versus plain packaged SSBs, with either no warning, a text warning, or a graphic warning, and with or without a 20 % tax. Participant perceptions of the allocated SSB product and of those who might consume the product were measured using seven-point Likert scales. Purchase probabilities were measured using 11-point Juster scales.


Six hundred and four young people completed the survey (51 % female, mean age 18 (SD 3.4) years). All three intervention scenarios had a significant negative effect on preferences for SSBs (plain packaging: F (6, 587) = 54.4, p < 0.001; warning label: F (6, 588) = 19.8, p < 0.001; 20 % tax: F (6, 587) = 11.3, p < 0.001). Plain packaging and warning labels also had a significant negative impact on reported likelihood of purchasing SSB’s (p = < 0.001). A 20 % tax reduced participants’ purchase probability but the difference was not statistically significant (p = 0.2).


Plain packaging and warning labels significantly reduce young people’s predicted preferences for, and reported probability of purchasing, SSBs.

As usual, tobacco was the test case but once plain packaging was introduced in Australia it didn't take long for the 'public health' racket to start applying it to food and drink. A small body of junk science based on surveys in which people offer their stated preferences to biased researchers has been built up in the last few years (see here and here, for example). They will keep producing these efforts until they can claim to have 'overwhelming evidence' that plain packaging will reduce obesity. Then it will just be a matter of finding a health minister somewhere in the world who is gullible enough to give it the green light.

The authors write:

Of the experimental conditions examined, plain packaging had the most significant negative impact on predicted product preferences, and was associated with less positive perceptions of those who might consume the product. These results align with findings from studies of plain packaging for tobacco products.

What a surprise.

Although graphic warning labels have not yet been proposed for SSBs [oh yes they have; see pic at the top of this post - CJS], this research suggests they would be more effective than text warning labels. Furthermore, warning labels had a greater effect when placed on beverages with plain packaging compared with branded packaging, suggesting that attractive branding and colours on SSBs may reduce effectiveness of warning labels. These results are again consistent with tobacco research.

It's safe to say that all slippery slope propaganda is going to be 'consistent with tobacco research'. That's the point.

It's all so tediously predictable.

Saturday, 3 September 2016

The NHS as a tool of social control

'Hospital leaders in North Yorkshire' have decided that the NHS doesn't need to bother carrying out operations on the 40 per cent of the population who are smokers and/or obese. This is healthcare they have already paid for, of course, but it goes without saying that they won't be getting any of their taxes back.

Long time readers may recall the classic quote from Jane DeVille-Almond, a nurse who thinks smokers should pay privately for their healthcare (in addition to paying £14 billion a year in tobacco duty). When asked (by Nicky Campbell) what would happen if they couldn't afford it, she said:

"Well then, they'll just have to die."

Fun fact: DeVille-Almond is now the chair of the British Obesity Society.

North Yorkshire's health leaders haven't gone quite as far as her. They have said that they are prepared to continue giving smokers and fat people life-saving operations, but not other operations. That's nice of them, isn't it? They're happy to let them live in pain so long as their condition is not fatal.

Rationing healthcare on the basis of lifestyle was never part of the NHS's plan in 1948. It it had been, there would have been even more resistance to the nationalisation of the industry than there was. But after years of wrongly scapegoating smokers and fat people for the NHS's spiralling budget, it's no surprise to find the service being turned from a free-at-the-point-of-need Ponzi scheme into a tool of outright coercion and punishment.

What once seemed unthinkable has come to pass. It is fitting, then, that today saw the publication of this modest proposal in the Guardian. 

The NHS has banned cigarettes and should ban meat too – both cause cancer

The article is such a flawless example of the slippery slope in action that it could easily have been written by a libertarian making the opposite point. You should read it all, but here is the, er, meat of it...

Meat eaters who enjoy a relaxing cigarette after dinner are prevented from doing so, apparently in their own and others’ best interests, thanks to a blanket ban on smoking.

But how can the NHS sensibly ban cigarettes as a known health hazard while simultaneously promoting meat? To endorse one known danger while completely banning a similar one makes no sense. Either it’s OK to allow free choice or it’s OK to prevent “unhealthy behaviours”, but you can’t have it both ways. If you ban smoking you have to ban meat, which causes considerably more damage to animals, the environment and individuals than smoking. If you don’t ban meat, then you can’t ban smoking.

Nobody is going to be banning meat in the near future, but that is for political reasons. There are simply too many meat eaters and not enough fanatical vegetarians. It is a question of power, not ethics, and the author of this article - vile authoritarian though he may be - inadvertently makes the libertarian argument very well. If it is the government's business to prevent people taking voluntary, informed risks about one lifestyle choice, there is no reason to stop at smoking.

He asks whether it's "OK to allow free choice" or "OK to prevent 'unhealthy behaviour'". In my view, the only moral answer is that it's OK to allow free choice. It is not the government's business. The author obviously disagrees, but I bet it wouldn't take long to find something he likes doing that has been linked to cancer. At least his argument makes more sense than the scatter-gun bigotry of people who argue for state force to be used against activities they don't like while demanding protection for those they do.

We are plagued by doublethink because we habitually separate the world into unrelated packets. Smoking is a health issue. Meat is normal. Alcohol is bad. Not allowing tobacco products to be displayed is health promotion. Allowing body parts of slaughtered animals on public view in supermarkets is wholesome. Illogical beliefs appear compatible if their true connections are disguised. Smoking is tightly wrapped in a packet labelled “Very bad for your health”, whereas eating meat is in a quite different packet called “a balanced diet” or “you need your protein”. So long as we see the world in disconnected chunks, we can avoid serious thought, and preserve the status quo.

Quite so. Freedom is indivisible. Stand up for it.

Friday, 2 September 2016

Bad Habits, Hard Choices by David Fell: a review

David Fell, a self-described 'recovering economist', has written a blueprint for government control of food prices called Bad Habits, Hard Choices. I was sent a copy of it before it was published and debated with the author at an event that was - slightly strangely - arranged by DEFRA a couple of months ago.

Fell wants to tax some foods and subsidise others because he thinks that people's eating habits and weight are the government's business. I don't agree on principle but I also think his idea is completely unworkable in practice.

I've explained why in a book review for Spiked. Here's a sample...

There are several problems with this, none of which is trivial. Contrary to what you may have heard from quack nutritionists and certain celebrity chefs, food cannot be neatly divided into ‘healthy’ and ‘unhealthy’ categories. Fell acknowledges that defining food as good, bad or indifferent is a challenging prospect, but believes it could be done by creating a citizens’ jury of ‘many hundreds of people, perhaps even thousands’ at a cost of ‘many millions of pounds’. Throwing money at the problem will not solve it, however.

When he talks about ‘unhealthy’ food, he really means ‘fattening’ food – he lives in terror of the obesity ‘epidemic’ – but that is more a question of quantity than intrinsic qualities. Nuts and cheese are high in calories, but are not generally considered to be unhealthy. Orange juice is full of vitamin C, but has more sugar than a coke. Potatoes are not unhealthy, but what if the consumer takes them home and turns them into chips? Is butter better than margarine? Is a bag of salt – which contains no calories but will kill you if you eat it all at once – healthy or unhealthy?

These examples could be multiplied many times over and raise problems that are not going to be resolved by the wisdom of crowds. As registered dieticians tire of having to explain, it is the diet that matters, not individual products.

Do read it all if you're interested.

Thursday, 1 September 2016

Private Eye gets it badly wrong

On the handful of occasions when I've been familiar with a story in Private Eye I have noticed that they always get it completely wrong (see, for example, this). Having read the magazine every fortnight since I was twelve years old, that is not a comforting thought. Still, the cartoons are good.

Yours truly makes an appearance in the latest issue in the context of People Against Sugar Tax. I wrote about this only last week in response to a Corbynista wack-job who had written a factually inaccurate blog post about it. Perhaps this is where Private Eye are getting their news these days?

To recap, PAST is a small, grassroots organisation run by a guy called Brook Whelan that exists on a shoestring. From the outset, Brook said that he wouldn't take any money from business because he wanted to avoid the kind of ad hominem attacks that result from doing so. As we shall see, that is turning out to be quite ironic. I explained in a comment to the aforementioned wack-job that there is nothing to see here...

When he set it up, Brook asked some people who knew about campaigning (eg. Alex [Deane]) and some people who knew about the evidence (eg. me) to act as advisors. A reasonable thing to do, n'est pas? We agreed to do so, unpaid, because we agreed with his aims but after a while I realised that I was unable to dedicate sufficient extra-curricular time to the project and reluctantly dropped out.

Even if I had still been involved I fail to see how it would validate your libellous claim that the group is "corporate astroturf". Brook has been clear from day one that he would not accept a penny from industry or government. Indeed, he has sunk a considerable sum of his own money into the group. You owe him an apology.

And now Private Eye owes him an apology as well because they've printed this...

Just who are People against Sugar Tax (PAST), the self-styled "grassroots campaign" opposing the government's planned soft drinks levy?

The group has provided folksy cheerleading for the pro-sugar campaign, its social media accounts plugging press appearances by industry spokespeople and devout free-marketeers such as the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA). Members of PAST's executive board include the noted grassroots figure of, er, Annunziata Rees-Mogg, as well as Alex Deane, a former chief of staff to David Cameron and Bell Pottinger lobbyist who has written Telegraph pieces bashing the tax.

Someone who opposes the sugar tax writing articles against it! Whatever next?

Another asset is Chris Snowdon, the IEA's abrasive director of lifestyle economics, a reliable purveyor of anti-tax copy for Spectator Health and rent-a-quotes for the Sun.

Hey, that abrasive guy is me! (I'm not actually on the board, but I was until a few months ago.)

Many of these sugar-loving folk have a background in political lobbying and PR...

That's why Brook got them on board as unpaid board members to offer advice. Not a bad idea.

Eye 1416 reported Snowdon's outrage at so-called 'sock-puppets'—pseudo-campaigning charities that receive public cash.

Indeed. And guess which charity has just been short-listed for the Campaigning Team of the Year Award 'for its work on the sugary drinks tax'. Step forward Sustain, which gets around half of its income from—you guessed it—the government.

That kind of scandalous waste of taxpayers' money wouldn't interest Private Eye these days, though. Not when it can speculate about who People Against Sugar Tax got a few tenners from.

While PAST's chief executive, former Tory councillor Brook Whelan, maintains it is funded by public donations and his own pocket, critics wonder if the "People" might serve the same purpose for the soft drinks industry.

Who are these critics? Isn't there a [citation required]? And isn't the fact that Brook has explicitly told you where his organisation gets its money from enough to satisfy your curiosity? Unless you are going to call him a liar, it's time to close the file on that little mystery.

Certainly public generosity won't get them far: although PAST boasts a 650 percent increase in donations between the first and second quarters of 2016, all this means is a grand total of £10 up to March, followed by £65 up to the end of June.

Alright, it's a tiny, impecunious group raising the odd fiver from its Twitter followers. Don't rub it in.

Private Eye are so busy scoffing at PAST's modest means that they don't notice that this ruins their whole conspiracy theory. If, as the Eye is not-so-subtly implying, the group was being bankrolled by sugar barons and Big Pop it would have some real money in the bank. But it hasn't because it isn't.

Still, it is surely mere coincidence that its promotional material bears more than a passing resemblance to that from the British Soft Drinks Association (BDSA)—and that PAST's own website and that of the BSDA campaign against the tax both happen to be registered with the same private domains service in Arizona.

A quick check on shows that and were registered more than a year apart by GoDaddy. According to its website, GoDaddy has registered over 63 million domain names. It is 'the world's largest domain name registrar'. So yeah, it probably is a coincidence, but not a very impressive one. I bet they both use Google too.

As for the promotional material being similar, click on the two websites above and see if you can see any similarities. I can't.

And that's it. The article ends there.

Seriously, that's it. That is the extent of their exposé—two organisations both used the world's biggest domain name registrar to register their domain names. Wake up sheeple!

Still, the cartoons are good.