Saturday, 19 August 2017

Farewell Anna Raccoon

Last week I wrote about Anna Raccoon and how she had been badly treated recently while receiving palliative care in a Norwich hospice.

She had been fighting a nasty form of cancer for six years despite doctors saying she would succumb in less than one, but sadly that last fight that she would undertake in her illustrious life ended yesterday morning in the early hours. She passed away peacefully in the beautiful riverside cottage on the Norfolk Broads that she and hubby Mr G had returned to from their previous home in France once the cancer was diagnosed.

Ironically, I heard the sad news just as I was about to set off to the same area in France for a family holiday, but after the long drive the first thing we did on arrival was to raise a toast to her and the marvellous Mr G.

The Blocked Dwarf (aka Jack Ketch) has spoken with Mr G and he is heartbroken but cheered to hear that his wife had so many online friends and admirers. Jack has agreed to pass on any kind messages so do feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments here. 

Anna was most recently in the news bedbound, but I prefer this fantastic picture which is one of two on the wall of the annex G built with great views of the Norfolk wildlife and river boats especially for her. Taken in 1973, it is of a 25 year old Anna smoking Camels with a cup of tea and a slice of Battenberg cake. Beautiful, carefree, and with a world to take on in her future. I think she did exactly that, with integrity and skill.


RIP Anna, it was wonderful knowing you. 



Monday, 14 August 2017

Cruel But Sadly Not Unusual

Last week I mentioned having been gadding about Britain for a few days, including a day trip to Norwich. I had driven up there on August 2nd to see fellow blogger Anna Raccoon, about whom I wrote this last year.
Her content has been quite simply awesome. Astute and incredibly rigorous, she has attracted the respect and admiration of journalistic commentators, and regularly put many in the news profession to shame with her attention to detail and almost bloodhound-like determination to verify sources and evidence. 
Although long time readers here will mostly remember her partnering up with Old Holborn to spring Nick Hogan from prison, her articles have often been electric and searing on extremely spiky subjects. Tackling stories such as Savile from a position of accuracy rather than hysteria is not an easy thing to do, and her weaving of personal accounts into her writing - as she has done brutally in recent days - is as brave as it is hypnotically compelling.
Well, as many of you will know from reading her blog, she has been suffering from a rare but virulent form of cancer which has attacked her spine and left her paralysed and bed-bound (though still passionate and determined enough to fight the general election in June).

The Blocked Dwarf at Grandad's place explains this in detail.
Anna’s spine is what doctors refer to as ‘oh dear, not good’. Even without the BIG RED ARROW I put on [the scan picture]; even without being able to identify what is bone, what is muscle and what is nerves you can see that there is something amiss. If not, go to Specsavers. 
The Raccoon explained it thus: her doctors and carers have been puzzled why hoisting her onto the commode had been causing her ‘some discomfort’ (doctor speak for ‘PAIN’). The MRI shows that something has dissolved the ‘knobbly bits’ (doctor speak for, I assume, ‘transverse process’ and ‘arches’) of her verterbrae (T1/T2 I think but I still count on my fingers). Those boney knobbly bits protect the spinal chord which now lies open. Do I need to tell anyone that exposed spinal chord is not a good thing? Long and short the doctors are now puzzled how she has managed to live so long with being turned, manhandled and hoisted daily. 
The slightest movement of her body below the shoulders could kill her.
So at the moment they are giving her doses of an anaesthetic to paralyse her in her sleep at night so she doesn’t toss and turn and wake up dead. She can’t be hoisted on to the commode, nor even have a bed pan shoved under her and so: 
“I literally have to crap in the bed” [sic] 
Don’t forget she is still perfectly lucid, her head is clear and so she can fully enjoy the utter loss of every last scrap of dignity every single time the team of nurses have to come and roll her onto her side, keeping her in position, then clean her down. Of course the fact that the meds and the drugs haven’t destroyed her mind is a good thing but….
Worse still the exposed spinal chord also means she probably won’t be going home anytime too soon, which she desperately wants to do. 
And today G had to bring in the right tools to cut her wedding ring off her finger. The steroids have caused her fingers to swell. Yes it is only a piece of metal,’rose gold’ actually, but that bit of metal means something to her and G, they’re a bit old fashioned.
As you can see, she has already been suffering immensely with her dignity being stripped away by disease, and - since she is, to be blunt, very close to dying - had been confined to a bed in Norwich's Priscilla Bacon Lodge which is where I went to meet her. We had a good chinwag for a few hours, during which she described truly astonishing behaviour by the staff which not only compounded the indignity, but was also unbelievably cruel!

You see, she switched from smoking to vaping three years ago, and had a small Ego CE4 type device. For those who don't know what that is, it looks something like this.


It is not very powerful and gives out a tiny amount of vapour. But - and I think you can guess what is coming next - the hospice told her she couldn't use it. More than that, though, they did it in a way that was condescending and offensive. Here is how she described it by email.
What happened I found out in stages - apparently someone saw me at the week-end refilling the vape from the 'sipped case' - and told them. This evening a nurse walked over to me me and said, 'what a sweet little teddy' and proceeded to play with him - 'Oh do you keep your pen in there, good heavens no its a vape'. It was so odd that I didn't twig at first. Well, I got the rules and regulations read to me in such a patronising tone of voice.  
But it was just the way it was done, pretending to 'find' the vapeur like that, it just added to all the electricians checking plugs, and signing disclaimers for sandwiches, and everything else, I'm not a bloody child, I'm a grown woman whose been more independent than most of them can begin to imagine, and now suddenly I've lost the use of my legs and I'm treated like I'm 3 years old. 
This is apparently how staff at a hospice (run by MacMillan, according to Anna) treat someone in her dying days. Someone who worked at a high level at the Court of Protection for years as a Lord Chancellor's Visitor; has a double first class honours degree in law; is respected by top journalists for her striking writing and attention to detail; and is a Medical Claims Lawyer who has spent the last couple of months appearing regularly in the media using her impending death to campaign for more funding for the NHS.

They even said that they would (taking advantage of her paralysis) put it just out of her reach. How caring, huh? The senior doctor was called, Dr Wilkins, who explained that as there wasn't evidence to prove that e-cigs were safe or unsafe, they were banned on health grounds. On health grounds! For a woman who is days from dying in excruciating pain from cancer.

She is on a regime of intravenous Ketamine - the drug designed to stun a rampaging elephant - and Oxycodeine, but apparently nicotine is not to be tolerated.

Because, you see, they have a policy.


Now, I made enquiries and found out that they also have a dignity policy which should be adhered to in situations like this. Here is part of what it says on the one for Norfolk Community Health and Care NHS Trust.
- Support people with the same respect you would want for yourself or a member of your family
- Enable people to maintain the maximum possible level of independence, choice and control
I'll leave you to make your minds up as to whether they have followed the dignity policy in this case, but considering the government's Tobacco Control Plan - released last month - stated that "e-cigarette use is not covered by smokefree legislation and should not routinely be included in the requirements of an organisation’s smokefree policy", you'd have thought that in these circumstances their ideological and ignorant smokefree rules could, and should, have been relaxed in favour of preserving Anna's dignity.

It seems a Director of Public Health agreed, and offered to speak to Dr Wilkins to "advise" him seeing as he is woefully ignorant on the subject. So I left that Wednesday having given Anna the DPH's number to pass on - along with a load of Nicoccino and some of my stash of Zyn - safe in the knowledge that some sense would prevail.

Not so though. I visited her again this weekend and she told me that the next day they had dismantled another vape pen that her husband - the awesome Mr G - had brought in for her. They unscrewed the top so she couldn't possibly use it and took it to the property office in this envelope.


Now, either Dr Wilkins didn't bother to ring the DPH - someone who vastly outranks him - or he did ring but decided to completely disregard the advice. You have to both marvel, and be disgusted, at the astonishing arrogance behind that.

Either way, it illustrates the disgraceful nature of the fanatical zealotry that tobacco control has fostered in the war against smoking nicotine. The 'smokefree' mantra has become a shibboleth that drives a coach and horses through tolerance, compassion and common decency.

I often remind you that we are on the side of the angels here and the nanny statists deserve a demonic eternity or even prison time, but when 'caring' professionals think this is the decent way to treat someone with possibly days left to live, they make my argument for me.

I left Anna on Saturday - after sharing glasses of pink champagne sent by one of the many admirers of her work - as the sun sank over the river Yarm and boats sailed past the riverside window of the annex her true hero of a husband had built for her last days. She is as comfortable as it is possible to be in her situation, and at least is now able to vape while she waits for the inevitable. I find it quite incredible that anyone would think it compassionate to deny her that tiny pleasure for the sake of an ignorant and arguably indefensible policy. 



Friday, 11 August 2017

The 11 Day Reprieve

Well, I knew I'd be revisiting this at some point, I just didn't expect it so very soon! Let's pop over the Atlantic again, shall we?

On July 28th, the newly-installed chief of the Federal Drug Administration (FDA), Scott Gottlieb, "announced a new comprehensive plan for tobacco and nicotine regulation that will serve as a multi-year roadmap to better protect kids and significantly reduce tobacco-related disease and death". He mentioned freezing regulations on e-cigs and the vaping world went into meltdown.

This was a "huge" announcement apparently, it was described as "momentous" and a "reprieve", some even went as far as to say they had "every confidence" in Gottlieb. I was sceptical to say the least.
The FDA's announcement relents on some e-cig rules but only on the proviso that it might make vaping more attractive to smokers who will be deprived, by force, of nicotine from their combustible cigarettes. That is nothing more than vile coercion and should have no place in a land that claims to be free. 
I cannot possibly cheer the FDA's overall plan and I don't think there is anything particularly concrete to be happy about yet anyway. Smokers are being thrown under a bus but apart from that everything else is up in the air and subject to change.
The critical point for me was that Gottlieb also announced they would be pursuing the criminally insane policy of reducing nicotine in cigarettes to "non-addictive levels" (VLNCs), thereby - simply as a numbers game - creating far more harm than they would foster by embracing e-cigs as a harm reduction tool.

I was kinda dismissed about this point. In all the excitement, this sinister and vile idea was wished away as something which wouldn't actually happen; it was just inserted as a sop to tobacco controllers, apparently. I was told VLNCs was a sideshow, an irrelevance. In the period of the delay to vaping regulations, some advanced the idea that the predicate date would surely be moved and smoking might become a niche habit! Some even said I was so heretical in my view that I surely hadn't even read the statement at all (I did. Every word. Twice)!

Then this happened on Tuesday.
Today, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced it would pursue a strategic, new public health education campaign aimed at discouraging the use of e-cigarettes and other electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS) by kids. The agency plans to expand its “The Real Cost” public education campaign to include messaging to teens about the dangers of using these products this fall while developing a full-scale campaign to launch in 2018.
Think of the children, as per usual, but there was more.
The FDA’s recently announced plan puts nicotine and the issue of addiction at the center of the agency’s efforts.
Yes, "nicotine" addiction, not smoking.
The FDA also intends to seek public comment on the role that flavors in tobacco products play in attracting youth. 
Considering that kids and adults tend to like the same kinds of flavours, that applies to just about all of them.
Additionally, the agency plans to explore additional restrictions on the sale and promotion of ENDS, including restrictions on how products may be sold and advertised, to further reduce youth exposure and access to these products.
Advertising bans, in other words. Most significantly, however, was this ...
But, importantly, the approach also continues to focus on the need to reduce the access and appeal of all tobacco products to youth, including e-cigarettes and other ENDS, and maintains all of the existing regulations that currently apply to these products.
So nothing will change, apart from one minor detail. Instead of just destroying e-cigs as before, the FDA is now planning to use children to destroy e-cigs. As someone said on Twitter, that is one hell of a short honeymoon!

I'm not writing this to say 'I told you so', but instead to highlight it was fully expected, and for two reasons.

Firstly, the US tobacco control industry would have been ringing FDA phones off the hook squealing about the very idea of e-cigs being embraced. An inglorious backtrack like this was always on the cards and instead of thinking victory was just on the horizon, vapers should have realised a highly-funded lobby was only going to redouble or retreble its efforts to kill the future threat in its infancy. Tobacco controllers don't get any income from a vaping-based approach to tobacco and nicotine, it doesn't pay salaries you see; mortgages get in arrears; and redundancies due to funding cuts tend to ensue.

Secondly, the dismissal of VLNCs as a policy ignores how very seriously the US tobacco control movement takes the idea. For them, this is not only a game-changer but a chance to lead the world. The US hasn't even got graphic health warnings on tobacco yet due to their constitution, and American anti-smokers are constantly embarrassed by that, plain packs are a distant pipe dream for them just now. They look on with suppressed gloom as other countries (which have ratified the FCTC, unlike the US) forge ahead with prohibitionist rent-seeking, while they are left as the poor relations, the tutting of their fellow joyless brethren ringing in their ears.

But this is their real chance to be the first off the rank; to shine in front of their similarly hideous international colleagues and prove that they, too, can come up with something to bully (and kill) smokers which will spread internationally. Articles like this will only boost their resolve to work every waking hour to drive it through.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s proposal to strip cigarettes of their addictive properties has opened a new front in the international campaign to reduce smoking, with health authorities in at least four other countries studying the idea. 
After FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb suggested mandating drastic cuts in nicotine levels, public-health experts in New Zealand last week published an action plan recommending such reductions within five years. Canada and Finland say they’re looking into regulating amounts of the drug in tobacco products, while officials in the U.K.’s Department of Health have discussed the U.S. proposal with FDA representatives, according to a person familiar with the matter.
The sideshow in Gottlieb's announcement wasn't VLNCs, it was his weak 'rind and a promise' blathering about vaping and harm reduction. It was never going to last. I did think it would last longer than 11 days though, I have to admit.

Sorry, America, but you look like you're screwed as far as e-cigs are concerned. As in many other areas, US regulators seem to be shooting off at a tangent to the rest of the world and it would appear that the unique way that tobacco control is funded over there could be leading policy-making.

Make no mistake. If you want to see a relaxation of rules on vaping, the dragon that needs to be slayed is VLNCs and the vile ideology that promotes it. The proposal is far from being a benign threat, and most certainly not something that anyone in the US is driving in order to make e-cigs seem more attractive. 



Wednesday, 9 August 2017

'Passive Vaping' Bullshit In The Daily Mail

While I've been busy lately, there was an astonishingly shit article popped up in the Daily Mail last week which is a classic of the junk science clickbait genre so beloved of tobacco control.
Scientists have issued a warning on passive vaping because of toxic chemicals in e-cigarette vapour. 
People in bars where vaping is allowed are exposed to unhealthy levels of formaldehyde, which causes cancer, and acrolein, a toxin which irritates the eyes and skin.  
That is the finding of a study based on as few as three people an hour using the devices in a bar.
The word 'scientists', in this context, is used in the very loosest sense, since we are talking about Berkeley University in California. For the uninitiated, they are the same bunch of lunatics who are promoting the ridiculous quackery of 'thirdhand smoke" using grant money from the Tobacco-Related Disease Research Program (TRDRP). For an example of how that route is simply a way of creating lies with public money, do read this audit trail of how the scam works that I wrote a few years ago.

So, now we know how disingenuous they are, how did they persuade the Mail to publish such a load of nonsense?

Well, it's quite easy really. The study is here and you can see just from the abstract the problems with it.
Contributions from vaping to air pollutant concentrations in the home did not exceed the California OEHHA 8-h reference exposure levels (RELs), except when a high emitting device was used at 4.8 V. In that extreme scenario, the contributions from vaping amounted to as much as 12 μg m–3 formaldehyde and 2.6 μg m–3 acrolein.
Yes, it's the old crank-it-up-to-11-and-measure-the-bad-stuff approach again. Junk scientists cling to this method to produce their lies, even though they know very well that in real life conditions no vaper would ever push their equipment to such absurd extremes. But then, tobacco controllers are not interested in proper science, just convincing vacant journalists to produce a fraudulent headline.

If you want to read more how the power an e-cig to destruction scam works, see this review by Clive Bates including a letter to some of the researchers who were referenced in this latest piss poor study. The research cited by the Daily Mail's 'scientists' has been debunked over and over again, but they keep referring back to it because - despite their knowing it is plain wrong scientifically, so therefore fraudulent- it fits the conclusion they wish to press release to the media.

However, it's even worse than that. For a start, there were no real measurements taken for the study, it was all 'modelled' on data they extracted from elsewhere. So when the Mail article talks about "people in bars where vaping is allowed are exposed" you may be fooled into thinking that this scenario was thoroughly tested in real life by these 'scientists'. Not so, because not a single wisp of vapour was produced during the study, it was just a computer program predicting what might happen under certain scenarios.

So, of course, the frauds who produced this research entered a whole load of garbage into the computer to produce the result that they wanted to come to. Therefore, they predicted extreme e-cig emissions from a high-powered device - which most e-cigs aren't - and ignored the fact that people using those which are would instantly taste the disgusting bad chemicals and stop vaping.
These emission rates were used as inputs to calculate indoor air pollutant concentrations using home and bar scenarios as described in the Supplementary Information.
But ... it's even worse than even that! Their central assumption was that 20-40% of the vapour comes out of a user's mouth without being inhaled and do you know where they got that from?  Well, a study of how much "sidestream" smoke is emitted by smokers when smoking tobacco, naturally. The amount of vapour which escapes before being inhaled has never actually been studied, and these 'scientists' certainly didn't want to be the first ones to do so because it would have fucked up their pre-determined plan. They even admit that it's a shoddy way of doing things themselves in the study text.
It should be noted that puff duration and other topography parameters are different for conventional and electronic cigarettes, and for that reason using [mouth spill] derived from tobacco cigarettes may be a source of bias.
Ya don't say!

Because who uses high-powered e-cig devices? Well, sub-ohmers do, and anyone who knows how sub-ohming works knows that it is a vaping activity that means taking the vapour directly into the lung so - surprise, surprise - results in no vapour at all accidentally spilling out of the mouth before it is inhaled, let alone 30% of the vapour produced by the device.

If you take pretend vapour from a pretend model using a device running at unrealistic levels, and then assume 30% is spilt from the mouth and not inhaled - which is bullshit and never happens - it's very easy to then create a scenario whereby you can get a computer to measure high levels of chemicals which would never occur in the real world.

This, in tobacco control circles, is what they call "science". In all other areas, it is described as "Garbage in, Garbage Out" which - oddly enough - is a fine description of the tobacco control profession as a whole. 



Monday, 7 August 2017

Slow Handclap For The TPD

It's been another hectic week for your humble host. Quite apart from business pressures, I've found myself variously in Norwich, Brighton, rural Essex and Shrewsbury in the past few days. I will write about the Norwich leg later in the week but the Shrewsbury jaunt was for a weekend at Vapefest 2017.

It's kinda like this at Vapefest (photo from here)
I stayed in a marvellous three-bedroom house with some friends who will be known to you if you follow on Twitter, and a good time was had by all. But I think it's worth commenting on the remarkable difference between previous events (this was my third) and the 2017 version.

On the journey up the M1, my travelling companion and I had discussed how this year's Vapefest might handle the imposition of the TPD on May 20th this year. When we arrived, it instantly became very clear because it has fundamentally changed the nature of the place.

Previously, vendors would be giving out small free samplers - mostly with no nicotine although sometimes with - but these were noticeably absent this year. The TPD has put paid to that little avenue of pleasure.

There was also very little buzz around stalls selling new hardware. There were mods and new batteries but why would anyone wish to purchase a new piece of kit now the ignorant hysterical fuckspanners in tobacco control have persuaded the EU to demand limiting tank size to a risible 2ml? A lot of focus at Vapefest is sub-ohm devices running at high wattage to maximise flavour at a low nicotine level, which means that 2ml will last about the time it takes to read the stories of any interest in your free local newspaper; you'd be filling the thing every half hour or so.

However, what was most striking is that the stall-holders had almost abandoned selling pre-mixed nicotine-containing e-liquid altogether! Yes, you could buy 10ml TPD-compliant bottles but I didn't see many people doing that. In previous years 30ml, 60ml, and even 100ml bottles of ready-to-vape liquids were available at advantageous festival prices, but - of course - the TPD has ensured that those size bottles are now banned.

So the upshot is that the industry has moved to selling the concentrates (flavours) instead, to be mixed by vapers themselves. Just think about that for a moment. By observing their absurd 'precautionary principle' to supposedly protect vapers and children from the overblown dangers of nicotine in e-liquid, tedious shroud-waving tobacco controllers and their dim weasel-headed EU pals have created a situation whereby liquids are not mixed in a clean environment by professionals, but instead in kitchens up and down the country by vapers buying illicit nicotine base from China ... because you can't get that in anything over 10ml bottles either.


Instead of pharma-grade nicotine being mixed in sterile conditions with professional equipment, it is now being mixed in houses and flats using a Kenwood Chef and nicotine stored in domestic freezers, in whatever bottles are available, by people with varying levels of competence at mixing DIY juice.

Still, regulation is always a good thing, some would say. It's for safety, innit.

The government is looking for easy 'wins' following Brexit, there's one for them, right there in the TPD. What a clusterfuck.