Tag Archives: EU

Anti-THR liars of the year #6, #5, and #4: Minnesota, NYC, and the EU

The countdown continues with:

  • Anti-THR liar #6: Minnesota: politicians, the University of Minnesota, and Kelvin Choi
  • Anti-THR liar #5: New York City politicians and activists
  • Anti-THR liar #4: European Union politicians and civil servants masters

No, we are not calling particular land areas liars. Instead, today’s “winners” in the liar derby represent the rhetoric surrounding these places’ THR policies. These three cases share the characteristic that the lying has been more the outgrowth of a particular policy goal than the cause of it.  That is, the anti-THR policies were not motivated by factual claims, whether true or false.  The lying followed the policy process rather than leading it, and served merely to try to win over a few more votes and rationalize the policy to the masses.  Unfortunately, it also spills over into influencing policy decisions in other jurisdictions where the facts (and thus the lies) are considered by the decision-makers.

As with most entries in this list, they are standing in for other similar examples (or at least Minnesota and New York are — there is nothing in the world quite like the EU).  So if you think Oklahoma should be there along with Minnesota, or any number of cities alongside New York, please consider them included by reference.  And for the majority of humanity that does not share CASAA’s geographic focus, I invite you to expand that to other places in the world (though we do mention both Europe and Canada today — and the rest of the world is represented tomorrow — because our analysis is not so USA-centric as our political activity necessarily is).

But though there are other candidate examples, there is something quite interesting about these that make for an interesting tale of three place.  The lies coming out of these places run the usual full spectrum of what is covered in this blog, and each represents a classic case of throwing every possible claim against the wall to see what sticks.  When the lying is an ex post rationalization rather than actual reasoning, those uttering the lies tend to be quite promiscuous.  Thus, today’s entry does not delve into the specific lies, but on the stories of how they happened.  The tales start out quite differently.

Minnesota is a small state that in many ways is pro-freedom.  But it is also the most Canadian part of America, meaning that it shares Canada’s unfortunate problem of having a relatively efficient bureaucracy and a communitarian-tending population that puts up with that.  It is also insular in a million little ways, thus not liking things that “ain’t from ’round here”.  When most people think of aggressive “public health” measures by US states, they tend to think of Massachusetts and California, but this stereotype overlooks the fact that Minnesota is similar in attitude, but often is much “better” at implementation.  So, like Canada, Minnesota moved to hurt the market for e-cigarettes long before any pro-THR opposition organized.  Specifically, Minnesota imposed a huge tax on e-cigarette products coming into the state (which due to its specifics creates some interesting distortions in the market that tend to favor mods over disposables, but that is beyond the present scope).  More recently, one Minnesota city after another has pursued usage restrictions on e-cigarettes.  This resulted in a deluge of lies by the anti-THR activists to try to trick lawmakers who had not (unlike the activists) already made up their minds before seeking information.

Kelvin Choi is just a bit player, but happens to be the only Minnesotan noted in the blog by name this year (though some other Minnesotans contributed to the upcoming first and second place awards).  Choi seems to be actively trying to set himself up as an Ellen Hahn or Stanton Glantz-like figure — doing pretend science with preordained conclusions for purposes of becoming an activist spokesman — though it seems unlikely he will succeed at this because he lacks the Barnum-like showmanship the other two have.  But though he will probably remain just a minor annoyance, his institution, the University of Minnesota, is among the most anti-THR organizations historically, playing a substantial role in anti-THR in the pre-ecig era.  His activism suggests it might regain some of that role.  That this university includes anti-THR activists seems to be coincidental with the state’s tendencies, but it does make this inward-looking state much more likely to be anti-THR.

New York City politicians and activists (is there even a difference there?) deployed the full armada of anti-THR lies in their move to treat e-cigarettes as if they were cigarettes in terms of onerous place restrictions.  Once again, the policy seemed to have little to do with the facts.  Indeed, given how lopsided and inevitable the vote was, there was not really even a reason to lie to win votes.  Instead, it is more a case of the local extremist activists (Bloomberg, et al.) creating policy as an effort to promote the lies.  In almost diametric contrast with Minnesota, New York is the meeting place of the world and thus has a lot of influence.  It was not local insularity as with Minnesota or Canada; it was local politicians trying to affect the policies of the entire world.  Still, the lies that came out of each (some of which were recognized here yesterday) looked pretty much the same.

The European Union is responsible for the worst anti-THR regulation in the world, the ban on snus (outside of Sweden) which has kept Sweden’s great THR success from spreading to most of its nearest cultural and geographic neighbors (in contrast with its impressive spread into non-EU Norway).  But they largely do not even bother to lie about it anymore — they just keep the policy without trying to justify it.  This says a lot about their motives as they deliberate how to regulate e-cigarettes (if what they are doing could be called deliberation).

Whatever the European Union ends up doing with e-cigarette regulation is, of course, huge.  It could still be anything between a de facto ban and minimal intervention and it forcibly affects hundreds of millions of people; thus what is in play is as momentous as anything happening in THR today (the only competing candidate being what the US FDA decides to do with e-cigarettes and its MRTP process).  But the EU does not top the list of liars because there has been remarkably little effort to aggressively lie.  The proposed bad policies are largely not influenced by the anti-THR lies.  Instead, the roots largely trace to simple officiousness.  Unlike the American system where “allowed unless specifically prohibited” is the legal and moral norm, nations that still put the pictures of hereditary monarchs on their money have found it all too easy to create an institution that defaults to “banned unless specifically permitted by the royal court”.

Interestingly, one corner of America that does use a banned-by-default rule is the FDA.  And what the EU started with (though it now appears to be off the table) is very similar to what FDA tried to do in 2009, which is to effectively ban the products as unapproved drug delivery devices.  In both cases, this seemed to have little to do with intentional policy making (and thus had nothing to do with the lies) and everything to do with just blindly following onerous rules according to the worst stereotypes of government bureaucrats.  In fairness, it is not entirely clear that the rule-makers should be included with the liars in this case, since it is usually the UK government sock-puppets that dominate the anglophone anti-THR lying related to the EU process.  But the lies are, again, following the policy.

In some sense, these top liars of the year blur the lines between speech and action.  In this case, the policy making — by communicating the message that these bad policies have some legitimate justification — is in itself the lie.

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CASAA’s take on the recent move by MHRA

For those who read this blog but not the main CASAA blog, you might be interested in our assessment of the UK MHRA’s move to require that e-cigarettes be approved as medicines.  You may find our analysis of what regulation by MHRA would look like to be somewhat more optimistic than what you might have read elsewhere.  However, we are rather more concerned than some other commentators about its implications for the EU.

Big government lies, EU-style

Outsourcing today, to Clive Bates’s blog.  He, in turn, was outsourcing to an investigation by a Swedish newspaper that discovered the European Commission (basically, the executive bureaucracy of the European Union) altered a consultant’s 2003 report about the minimal risks from smokeless tobacco, which recommended lifting the ban that prevented Swedish smokeless tobacco product sales elsewhere in Europe.  This was clearly done for political reasons, because the EU was committed to the ban and did not want any inconvenient facts about saving lives via THR to get in the way of their neat little plans.

(For those who may not know, this is pretty clearly a salvo in the simmering fight between Sweden and the rest of the EU, with the former wanting to promote THR — or at least their smokeless tobacco industry — and the latter seeking to renege on the promise that Swedes could continue to sell snus even though it is moronically banned elsewhere.)

The grossest bits of this became apparent because they literally used “Tipp-Ex” (which goes by the much more intuitive name, “Whiteout”, over here).  The original report suggested minimal risk from snuff/snus use, whereas the altered version claimed otherwise.  The key bit (translated from the Swedish):

If one holds up the document to a source of light, it’s easy to read the original line:

“An increased frequency of cancer in the oral cavity has been seen among snuff users in North America, but not unequivocally in Sweden.”

After being painted with Tipp-ex, the sentence reads: “An increased frequency of cancer in the oral cavity has been seen among snuff users.”

It is worth noting that even the original claim is wrong, though whether that was the original author falling victim to a common misconception or lying is difficult to determine.  It was clear in 2003, and still is, that the evidence does not support the claim there is a measurable difference in risk between popular American smokeless tobacco products compared to Swedish products.  (The details are a topic for another day.)

The main point for today is that the EU government is not far behind the US government in lying about THR.  They are, however, arguably solidly ahead in terms of the deaths they have caused by doing so, with their ban Swedish-style products.  There is little doubt that the ban and associated lying is responsible for millions more Europeans smoking today than otherwise would.