Have you stopped beating your wife?

So, how to write this without excessive swearing? I’ll have a go but be warned some profanity may follow.

At the moment the Public Health Committee is hearing presentations from relevant parties on the proposed legislation to further regulate E-Cigarettes. This proposed legislation, the General Scheme of the Public Health (Tobacco and Nicotine Inhaling Products) Bill 2019 is something everyone supports without much reservation. It’s proposed to add an over 18 mandate to purchase or sell vaping products, ban sales of tobacco products including e-cigs from vending machines and temporary facilities, and a licensing system for the sale of e-cigs. No one thinks any of this is a bad thing. In fact, the loudest calls for an under 18 prohibition have been the vaping retailers themselves.

If only someone could have done this before now, someone like say, the government that contributed to the TPD at the time, the government that transposed the TPD into Irish law and amended it twice since then. If they had thought this was so important, why didn’t they do it at any of those opportunities?

We have had three debates by the committee so far, the first introducing the bill and answering questions on its measures and implementation. https://www.oireachtas.ie/en/debates/debate/joint_committee_on_health/2021-11-03/3/

Clair Gordon of the Dep of Health clearly explained the current legislation covering e-cigs, including the stipulations implemented under the TPD and what the new proposals would mean. She explained the thinking behind these and why a flavor ban hadn’t been included. She needn’t have bothered as none of the TD on the committee listened to her. They insisted on asking the same already answered questions and one, in particular, took the opportunity to display his barstool wisdom, including a long, drawn-out anecdote about his TV viewing habits.

The next session gave the Irish Heart Foundation and the Irish Cancer Society their day in the sun.

This is where the shitshow starts. https://www.oireachtas.ie/en/debates/debate/joint_committee_on_health/2021-11-17/3/

I didn’t expect the IHF or CS to embrace e-cigs but I was somewhat shocked at the outright hostility they showed, especially Avril Power who seems particularly exercised by flavors and attractive products. What surprised me was how selective the evidence they presented was, even going so far as to call the 95% less harmful figure from PHE ‘tosh’. OK, in fairness it was Senator Annie Hoey of the labor party who use that term but she was parsing what the IHF and the CS gave in answer to her question as to how much less harmful e-cigs were. They didn’t correct her. It was also noticeable that they kept insisting that the BMJ and Lancet were reputable journals as if they were trying to convince themselves. Funnily enough they never once mentioned the gold standard of reputable science, Cochran.

I’m going to put a few quotes here from the discussion as they will be pertinent when I get to the meat of this. Bear with me gentle reader, I am trying to keep the adult content out of sight of the casual viewer.

Avril stated, “Let us not forget that all the major e-cigarette companies are owned by big tobacco.”

This is false and she should know better, maybe they only count gas station sales, which due to the distribution model convenience stores mostly stock the product from the tobacco co’s. Far larger companies are holding substantial market share, Smok, Aspire, etc all have a much larger presence and sales than the tobacco brands but are not sold by convenience stores.

Dr. Chris Macy; “We spend between €11 million and €12 million a year on helping smokers to quit.” We will come back to this later.

Mr. Paul Gordon of the Cancer Society “The cost for people who are not on a medical card is about €36 per week for patches or about €26 per week for gum. People are not necessarily moving to e-cigarettes because they find them more effective.”

Apart from the fact they do find them more effective. Twice as effective in fact. https://evidence.nihr.ac.uk/alert/e-cigarettes-helped-more-smokers-quit-than-nicotine-replacement-therapy/

Monkeys flinging feces

Oh, dear, brace yourselves;

The third session was held last Tuesday and the transcript isn’t online yet but you can view the whole thing here on the Houses of the Oireachtas Twitter account. On a positive note, the fact they put their work in public view so efficiently is something we should praise. https://twitter.com/i/broadcasts/1vOGwyRZgMLxB

The naked, aggressive, hostility shown to the representatives of the independent vaping industry was sickening to watch. Grilling them as to the veracity of their facts is one thing but this was a relentless barrage of ‘have you stopped beating your wife?‘ style questions.

David Cullinane can be a good interrogator when he knows what he is talking about, he is assertive and relentless.

When he is clueless and working from his personal opinion, his style comes across as disrespectful, ignorant, and badgering. His questioning of the IVVA reps fell firmly into the latter camp. He should apologize to them without reservation. He started by asking if we accepted that the Heart Foundation and Cancer Society’s primary purpose was the promotion of public health. Oddly enough the Cancer Society doesn’t make this claim. https://www.cancer.ie/about-us/about-the-irish-cancer-society/our-mission-and-vision Neither does the Heart Foundation. But he was looking for a ‘gotcha’.

Remember when Chris Macy told us the cost to the exchequer for stop smoking interventions was 11 to 12 million? Well, Declan Connelly told the committee that independent vape shops helped people to quit smoking while also providing revenue to the exchequer. David chose to compare this to the tobacco industry tactic of emphasizing the tax losses if smoking was reduced. Realy David? You would prefer if people didn’t quit unless it was at a cost to the exchequer? He also countered Declan’s statement that vape shops help people quit smoking on a daily basis with what he claimed was a report. He presented the results of an opinion poll. Ahem, an opinion poll is not a scientific report, the clue is in the name, it’s an opinion. God, he must have been struggling to find anything to create the impression that the people who successfully quit using e-cigs don’t exist.

The next villain in this fiasco is Róisín Shortall, usually a well-informed and articulate speaker who again chose to badger people, refused to listen to the answers, and engaged in more ‘gotch’ type questions. She interrogated the speakers about how they implemented their own voluntary ban on selling to under 18. Remember this is voluntary and not a legal requirement. If she had asked in the context of how best to make the proposed ban work for online sales, I would have said “there’s someone who understands the difficulties implicit in the law we are proposing, but no, Róisín instead sought to find a moment where she could shout Gotcha! Ha! So much so that Alex Pescar had to point out she was asking him to do something which the government didn’t do.

I’m not sure exactly why e-cigs should be subjected to any more cumbersome restrictions for online sales than any other adult-oriented product, whether that’s alcohol or over 18’s movies on Netflix. It was encouraging that the IVVA were the ones to make suggestions as to how this could be improved, though Róisín wasn’t interested apart from finding flaws in the voluntary system that exists now.

Neasa Hourigan of the Green Party didn’t exactly cover herself in glory either. When the opportunity arose to engage on something firmly in the bailiwick of the Green Party, the excess waste and landfill created by limits on container size and the disposal of disposable vaping devices, (brought up by the IVVA btw) she ignored this and instead continued to focused on flavors, She couldn’t understand why any grown adult would like or want flavors. She can’t understand how something being ‘nice’ (her word) had anything to do with smoking cessation. The sheer ignorance of thinking that unless it’s unpleasant, it cant be ‘good for you’ The Green Party is really leaning into their image of the Killjoy Party.

I won’t bother with the low-grade idiots who kept asking questions previously answered, told stories like your auld uncle, which you heard the last time you met them and demonstrated that they never listen to anything but instead prefer the sound of their own voices.

The obvious bias based on ignorance and refusal to hear any argument other than the one they want to hear, even when that comes from the Department of Health was shocking.

Fuck them and the fucking donkey they rode in on.

There’s another session scheduled for the first of March when the section of the vaping business concentrated in convenience stores will make their submission. I’m not sure there’s any point in watching it. It’s just outside lent so you won’t even gain an indulgence for subjecting yourself. Watching political grandstanding is not enjoyable and when it’s something that has the potential to save people from smoking being used as a stick to beat ‘industry’ with, well count me out.

Thank god NPHET had the reins during the pandemic, if we were depending on the elected reps to get even close to the right strategy we would all be dead now.

Conspicuous by their absence at this meeting to discuss tobacco legislation was https://ash.ie/ ASH Ireland.

Do you know who else was absent from any of the presentations? Consumers; The people most affected by this legislation. Why this is I don’t know. The NNA Ireland made a written submission but didn’t get invited to make an in-person presentation. I guess the legislators don’t give a flying **** what the people who use the products want or know unless it’s an IMRI poll that vaguely supports their prior position.

The NNA Irelands submission is published on its website, worth a read as it makes a sound case for the place of vaping in reducing the health toll of smoking and suggests some ways to maximize this without encouraging non-users. https://nnai510701598.wordpress.com/2022/02/18/submission-to-the-public-health-committee-on-behalf-of-the-new-nicotine-alliance-ireland/

3 thoughts on “Have you stopped beating your wife?

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