Friday, 19 December 2014

£3 billion of savings, right there

From the BBC:

A £2.7bn fund to improve public health in England is not always being spent where most needed, a watchdog says.

'Public health' budgets are, by definition, not being spent where they are most needed. The money would be better spent on education, medical treatment, rubbish collection, libraries, pothole repairs—almost anything other than a left-wing social engineering movement; a movement that would cost, not save, the treasury money if it did what it claimed to do.

Funding for public health went up by 5.5% in 2013/14...

When will this lunacy end? Virtually every area of government is seeing real term cuts or freezes and yet these pointless parasites enjoy a real term increase in their already inexplicably large budget.

Of course the money isn't being spent properly. Local councils couldn't spend it properly if they wanted to. There are hardly any genuine public health problems to the deal with and the few which exist are dealt with by the NHS (eg. with vaccinations). In the absence of any epidemics, it should not be surprising that the money is squandered on front groups, expensive political advertising and tickets to see fat socialists talk about Twitter (you don't think a member of the public would pay £250 for that, do you?) Not to mention the untold millions that go into the pockets of academics to produce the usual 'evidence' for the usual illiberal policies, and the thousands of seat-filling, expense-claiming, pencil-pushing bureaucrats who could disappear from the face of the earth without anybody noticing.

Meanwhile, Public Health England itself gets through tens of millions of pounds holding lavish conferences, deceiving the public, issuing stupefyingly inane advice and lobbying the government (oh, and being chastised by Labour politicians for not lobbying them hard enough). 

For a Conservative-led government, supposedly committed to cutting the deficit, to pour taxpayers' money on these ineffective, ball-juggling, authoritarian, anti-Tory leeches defies belief. Having rejected minimum pricing, soda taxes and many other pet projects of the 'public health' establishment, how can the government possibly justify funding organisations and individuals who will spend every waking hour working towards them?

Even from the perspective of the Conservative party's narrow political self-interest, how can they justify supporting the overwhelmingly left-wing 'public health' movement ("Public health doctors have unanimously hated Thatcher and her legacy," according to former BMJ editor Richard Smith)? It is political and economic insanity.

There are £3 billion of savings right there for the taking. Even if you set aside money for the handful of worthwhile projects that fall under the public health umbrella (alcohol and drug treatment, condoms, immunisation etc.—all of which should be provided by the NHS directly and usually are), you would still be able to save a ten figure sum and make some of the worst people in the land redundant at the same time.

Politicians are fond of saying that cutting the deficit requires tough decisions. This is not one of them. It is a no-brainer.

Thursday, 18 December 2014

Mythical beasts

9 February 2014: The British Lung Foundation publishes an article entitled 'The Top Ten Myths About the Ban on Smoking in Cars Carrying Children'. Coming in at number 7 is this nugget:

7. "This ban will lead to bans in all cars, in people's homes and then everywhere"

Smoking in cars results in concentrations of toxins much higher than are normally found elsewhere - for instance, up to 11 times higher than you used to find in the average smoky pub. Children are much more vulnerable to these toxins than adults, and are also less able to choose alternative modes of travel or speak up if they don't like someone smoking. That's why parliament is only considering a ban on smoking in cars carrying children. Suggesting that other bans will inevitably follow insults the intelligence of the public to make up their minds on each law on a case-by-case basis.

17 December 2014: The government announces that smoking in cars that carry children will be a criminal offence. Action on Smoking and Health respond by saying:

"We are delighted that the Government is to press ahead with regulations to prohibit smoking in cars containing children. As with the smoke-free public places law, this is a popular measure that will largely be self-enforcing. However, secondhand smoke is just as harmful to adults as children and it makes it more difficult to enforce if it only applies to some cars, not all. Seatbelt laws don't just apply to children, why should smoke-free car laws?"

See how it works yet?

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

A foot in the door

From the politicians who said this...

"The era of big, bossy, state interference, top-down lever pulling is coming to an end."

David Cameron, Prime Minister, 2008

"We’ll get rid of the unnecessary laws – and once they’re gone, they won’t come back."

Nick Clegg, Deputy Prime Minister, 2010

Comes this...

Smoking in cars carrying children set to become illegal in England next year

Anyone who is familiar with the pathology of these ghastly little fascists knows that this is not the end, nor is it even the beginning of the end. What the British Medical Association really wants is a ban on smoking in all cars regardless of whether children are present or not. We know this because they demanded exactly that in 2011 and they used their usual lies and quackery about secondhand smoke to back it up.

Cowardly little Gollums that they are, they retreated in the face of public opposition and came back with a temporary compromise, but you can be sure that they will return in short order demanding that (a) all smoking in cars be banned, and (b) vaping be banned as well. Their justification for this will be that a total ban will (a) make enforcement easier, and (b) create a 'level playing field'.

It is only a matter of time. Just watch.


As spotted by Nisakamin in the comments, ASH have wasted no time...


100 years of the Harrison Narcotics Tax Act

There are a few important 100th anniversaries in the world of drug and alcohol prohibition coming up over the next few years. I've written about one today in City AM:

One hundred years ago today, President Woodrow Wilson approved the Harrison Narcotics Tax Act, the US’s first national legislation designed to control the manufacture, import and supply of opium and cocaine. Francis Burton Harrison, a Democrat representative, did little more than give his name to the law. The heavy lifting was done by Dr Hamilton Wright, a zealous public health specialist who believed that opium was “the greatest curse which humanity has ever known”. After wildly exaggerating the scale of drug addiction in the US, with particular reference to alleged drug-induced depravity among certain ethnic groups, Wright drew up a Bill that effectively banned the sale of narcotics for recreational use. It sowed the seeds for the war on drugs as we know it today.

History almost demands that a law as portentous as the Harrison Act should have been the subject of anguished discussion and national controversy. In fact, the Congressional debate lasted only a few minutes and was not even mentioned in that day’s New York Times. The American public was more interested in arguing about the other great Progressive cause of the era - alcohol prohibition - than defending non-medical drug use, which almost everybody agreed was immoral.

The Harrison Act gave the medical establishment a monopoly over the supply of drugs. For a few years under the new regime, physicians made handsome profits selling opiates to addicts until the Supreme Court ruled, in March 1919, that addiction was not a legitimate medical problem. Almost overnight, 200,000 opiate habitués were deprived of a legal source of supply and, by 1930, a third of America’s prison population had been incarcerated for drug violations.

Do read the rest.

Cochrane review confirms that e-cigarettes help smokers quit

The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews brings bad tidings for the anti-vaping clowns of the public health racket:

New Cochrane review finds emerging evidence that smokers who use electronic cigarettes can stop or reduce their smoking.

The first Cochrane review on this subject published today in the Cochrane Library gives some early insights in to electronic cigarettes as an aid to stopping smoking and reducing consumption... The team of researchers from the UK and New Zealand found two randomised trials that had analysed data from 662 current smokers. The researchers looked at the effects of electronic cigarettes on quit rates and the number of people who were able to reduce the number of cigarettes they smoked by at least 50%. They also looked at any adverse effects reported by electronic cigarette users. The team also considered evidence from 11 observational studies.

The results show beneficial effects of electronic cigarettes, but are limited by the small number of trials and limited sample of people who were analysed in the studies. About 9% of smokers who used electronic cigarettes were able to stop smoking at up to one year. This compared with around 4% of smokers who used the nicotine-free electronic cigarettes.

... Author, Jamie Hartmann-Boyce said, “electronic cigarettes have become popular with smokers who want to reduce the risk of smoking. None of the studies in this review found that smokers who used electronic cigarettes short-term (2 years or less) had an increased health risk compared to smokers who did not use electronic cigarettes. We did not find any evidence from observational studies that people who used electronic cigarettes at the same time as using regular cigarettes were less likely to quit smoking. Findings suggest electronic cigarettes with nicotine help people stop or reduce smoking when compared to electronic cigarettes without nicotine, but more studies are needed.”

This being a review of the evidence, all the studies in it have been published before and anyone who claims to be an authority on the subject should be aware of them. The endlessly repeated claim that "we just don't know" whether e-cigarettes help people quit is a delaying tactic. We are about to head into 2015 and plenty of research has been done. If you still "just don't know" then you are a liar or a knave. Either way, you're not qualified to talk about the subject.

See the BBC and Guardian.

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Soft drink tax won't save £39 million, it will cost £2,561 million

The Children's Food Campaign has relaunched its campaign for a 20 per cent sin tax on sugary drinks. The pressure group, which is part of Sustain, claims that the tax will save the NHS in London £39 million.

This figure comes from some research that has not been published and is based on a theoretical model which cannot be checked. Regardless of the reliability of the source, £39 million a year isn't very much. The NHS budget is over £100 billion a year.

But it's not £39 million a year, it's £39 million over the course of twenty years! This is less than £2 million a year in a city of over 8 million people—a saving of less than 25p per resident.

It gets worse. The Children's Food Campaign/Sustain have not offset the alleged saving to the taxpayer with the very real cost of the tax. Fortunately, we know that they have previously estimated that a 20 per cent tax on sugary drinks will take an extra £1 billion a year from UK taxpayers. As London is home to 13% of the British population, this means a cost to Londoners of around £130 million a year, or £2.6 billion over twenty years.

The net cost to London taxpayers would therefore be £2,561,000,000 over twenty years, or £128 million a year. To put it another way, taxpayers would have to spend £67 to save £1.

It is easy to make back-of-an-envelope calculations about how much money will be saved by a particular policy, but it is meaningless unless you look also at the cost. You don’t reduce the burden on taxpayers by raising taxes and you can’t make policy by looking at putative benefits while ignoring real costs.

If the aim is to save taxpayers money, the government should stop using our taxes to fund private pressure groups. Sustain's latest accounts show that it received £755,428 from the UK and EU governments in 2012/13, in addition to £400,984 from the lottery. As with so many illiberal, tax-raising campaign groups, these sources accounted for the majority of the charity's income.

Saturday, 13 December 2014