Tuesday, 13 December 2016

TPD and plain packaging passed in Norwegian Parliament

On Friday, December 9th, the Norwegian government published a press release stating that the proposed changes in the tobacco act will pass in Parliament. The proposed changes are, as I've written before on several occasions, the EU TPD and plain packaging for both cigarettes and snus. I recommend reading my previous articles on what this proposal actually means, and what lies our politicians use to justify this, either consciously or due to severe lack of knowledge and willingness to learn. I also submitted an answer to the public consultation on this case. The exact time the new tobacco act will be effective is not yet set, but it will happen some time during spring 2017.

I've been watching the speeches made by representatives from all parties when this case was processed in Parliament on Friday. A lot of the representatives have developed a remarkable resistance to facts, seeming almost immune to the realities of the case. I guess most of my readers don't understand Norwegian, so I'll sum up the arguments used in short: The gateway theory and nicotine in e-cigarettes will harm both the user and innocent bystanders (mainly children of course). Yeah... that's right. Norwegian government still believes that e-cigarettes will increase recruitment of smokers among young people, even if it has been shown over and over again that this is not the case at all. They are very concerned with the increase in snus use and e-cigarettes, and fails completely to see that this coincides with an accelerating decrease in young smokers. Karl Erik Lund's excellent article on the role of e-cigarettes in the tobacco endgame have bypassed them completely. Not that I expected them to read it anyway, but it seems very unlikely to me that no-one in the government or members of the parliament have seen these statistics and been wondering if there might be a connection. To me it is pretty obvious that they don't want to see the connection.

It doesn't help that our department of health refuses to retract or correct their report that falsely stated that nicotine in vapor can be harmful to bystanders. Hell, they even refuse to comment on Dr. Farsalinos last critique, and it's pretty obvious why. Farsalinos shows above all doubt that they are wrong, they stand no chance of making any reasonable argument to why they should not correct this in the report. This would also force them to rewrite the conclusion of the report stating that there is really no harm from so-called second hand vaping. So they just shut up and hope this thing goes on unnoticed by most people, including policy makers. Cause without any harm from passive vaping, their house of cards is starting to fall apart. Same thing goes for the harm from, and addictive properties of nicotine alone. Take that myth away and you'll rip away the whole foundation for their regulation. The sad part is that their strategy of complete silence and just ignoring evidence seems to have succeeded.

An argument that is presented several times in the debate about plain packaging is that this has been so successful in Australia. First of all, this is simply not true. It hasn't been a success in Australia, it's just the Australian government that have twisted some statistics in an effort to hide their failure from the world. I pointed this out in my consultation answer (first point, and also pointed out by Dick Puddlecote among others) so there is actually no excuse for this other than "not bothering to even read the consultation answers". Secondly, let's say plain packaging actually did work, just imagine that the Australian government did not lie about this. How can you argue that even though snus is a lot less harmful than smoking, we should introduce plain packaging for this product as well, making it less attractive compared to smoking. Makes absolutely no sense at all if you ask me. So not only do they base their policy on a lie, but they've created a policy that makes even less sense if the lie wasn't a lie but rather reality. Now that's just priceless.

Minister of Health, Bent Høie, showing his
useless plain packages.
Again... the Norwegian government shows clearly that they are really not that concerned with public health. What their motives really are seems a bit unclear to me. In one way, money is the obvious answer. Handling this in the right way, to promote public health, will cost money in the short run, mainly due to lower income from sin taxes. It's a long term investment in public health that will pay off economically as well, as I've explained before. The problem is that we won't see the effects while this government is in power. It will take some time before we start seeing how much less we need to spend on health care for smokers and the benefits of a healthier population in general. A more healthy population is a more productive one. In a way this government would pay the price while the next once will see the profit. But money is not the only answer here. In my opinion we have a minister of health, Bent Høie, that uses most of his time and energy trying to make it look like he is doing a good job, or at least like he is doing something. He has gotten a lot of press on the plain packaging case and clings on to the Australian lie so he won't have to admit that he's wrong. He is too weak to stand up to the EU and use our right to reserve ourselves from stupid regulations, so he sticks to the lies in this case as well, showing up everywhere with a worried look on his face... "Think about the children! We need to protect the children!". Last time I saw him on TV he was after sugar, and now plans to implement rules that forces food manufacturers to reduce the amount of sugar in their products gradually and grocery stores to move their candy out of sight so we won't be tempted to buy it. In other words... force or trick the public to reduce their sugar intake rather than using the money on education and measures that encourage people to make these choices themselves. Of course he gets to go on national TV to tell everyone that he'll make sure we don't need to worry about our sugar intake any more... he'll just be a hero and fix it for us. Just sit back and relax and let me handle this...

I'm not going to compare raising a dog to altering the behaviour of a population... oh wait, I just did. Kind of a weird comparison maybe, but anyone who have (successfully I might add) raised a dog will know giving the dog a treat every time it does something right works a hell of a lot better than yelling at it for doing it wrong. Now here in Norway it seems like they decided to try out the same thing to get people to switch to electric cars. Give them treats that is. They removed almost all taxes, let them use the bus lanes and even gave them free parking with free charging included. Guess what... it worked. It worked almost too well. When I drove to work today I noticed that the bus lane was just as congested as the other lanes. Now, instead of giving out treats to people for switching to electric cars, the government could have taxed all other cars heavier. It most certainly would also have worked... but not nearly as well or fast. It seems to me that the politicians are surprised how well it worked and now they're scratching their heads wondering how they can justify taking some of the treats away again to put on the breaks to be able to handle the new situation. Where am I going with all this talk about electric cars you ask? Well, the strategy that the government have chosen to fight the tobacco epidemic is quite the opposite to their electric car strategy. I guess this goes for the whole world, not just the Norwegian government. For decades they have tried to scare, force and bully people to stop smoking. And it has worked.... but very, very slowly. E-cigarettes (and I guess also snus) have proven to be much more effective than any other effort to get people to stop smoking, or even better, not to start in the first place. Why do you think this is the case? It's because they are treats in themselves. They give the smoker something more than the cigarettes gave them. So you see... raising a population isn't really that different from raising a dog. The EU and the wimps in the Norwegian government sadly fails to see this, even if they've got good documentation at hand that shows how well it works, and have now decided to keep beating the poor puppy until it gives in and obeys. Sad ... just sad ... cause you know what, they will never reach their goal of a tobacco free population this way. Maybe we should try buying Høie a dog... no wait... that would be animal cruelty.



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