Saturday 22 November 2014

Isn't it time you got over it? Adults like flavours. End of.

Its often claimed in the media by "certain" Public Health professionals who really should know better that the fact that e-cigs are available in a range of flavours that include candy, fruit and even bubblegum proves beyond shadow of a doubt that they are being deliberately targeted at children.

The underlying assumption here is that no adults like these flavours, which is obviously false. Adults like all sorts of different flavours, and yes, this does include candy, fruit and bubblegum. Yep, even popcorn, Professor Ashton. The fact that these flavours are amongst the top selling flavours of e-liquid to adult consumers shows this conclusively.

And yet its still repeated loudly, publicly and often, and the media for some reason still invites these stuffed shirts to speak, and uncritically publishes ever word that dribbles out of their demented mouths.

So lets settle this once and for all. If all "child friendly" flavours are intended to induce youth to purchase products, what exactly is the intention behind these??

Okay? Point made? Do I need to say anything else? 


I have one final product to show you, if you still haven't accepted the fact and wish to continue using this in interviews:

Tuesday 7 October 2014

A musical interlude.

Snus was a triumph. 
I'm writing a note here: 'HUGE SUCCESS'.
It's hard to calculate my compensation. 
Public Health 'science'
We do what we like because we can. 
Even if folk sometimes die.

But there's no sense crying over every mistake. 
We'll just keep on meddling while there's money to take,
And if people should die that's the sacrifice we make,
When we're living off government grants.

I'm not even angry. 
I'm being so sincere right now. 
Even though you disobeyed
With ecigs.
Tore my studies to pieces,
Abusing me, calling me a liar. 
But the media still loves me.
I have more access than you!

Now these points of data make a beautiful line,
When we exclude data showing ecigs are fine. 
So we'll schmooze up to the man
And vaping will be banned,
And we'll get some more government grants!

Go ahead abuse me. 
I'll just call you stooges 'till you do. 
Maybe you'll find someone else to help you. 
Maybe Big Pharma? 
That was a joke. Ha ha. Fat chance. 
Oh my god this grant is huge! 
We've so much money to waste!

Look at me still talking when there's lying to do.
Going to fudge some science, got some data to screw.
And when vaping is banned we'll still be coming for you,
On the back of those government grants.

And we will get those government grants.
Doing junk science on government grants. 
We'll ban your ecigs on government grants.
And then your sugar, on government grants.
And when you're dead there'll be government grants. 
Lovely grants.
Lovely grants.

Wednesday 10 September 2014

Its time to go to the mattresses...

The fall of Professor Ashton, detailed here amongst several other blogs, has struck a blow into the very heart of the establishment. Whilst its true that he more jumped than was pushed, either way its hard to see him keeping his position as President of the Faculty of Public Health. And whether we were responsible for it or not (clue: not), we are going to take the brunt of the retaliations and finger pointing from academia and the public health industry.

Dont ever doubt that his loss* is a massive one for the triumvirate forces arrayed against us. This is a man at the very apex of the public health world, to borrow a term from Clive Bates. They're angry, they're shocked, and they're even a little scared. This is not how things work. The twittering classes do not get to rock the boat. Ever.

So the gloves are off. They may be angry and scared, but they also smell blood. They can get a lot of mileage out of portraying us as threatening louts, as bullies and as trolls. Especially as trolls. They will attempt to use whatever leverage they can get from this to take the conversation away from us, to remove whatever hard-won sympathy we have garnered, and break the few links we have with the powers that be.

Their tactic will be to troll. They will play the victim, as the ever suffering Martin McKee has already done in the Times article, the man who includes long sections in his speeches about how horrible we all are to him, and introduces himself at conferences as "I'm Martin McKee, and vapers hate me".


We must rise above it and let it burn itself out. Make no mistake, we are being tested, and this may be the harshest test we have ever faced. The one thing we have always done is to speak out - and that is what we cannot afford to do now. With no reaction from us, they cannot maintain the illusion that we are constantly attacking them whenever they speak out.

If you do see a highly provocative post, it will have been put there for the express reason of provoking us into saying something stupid. Stop. Think. Dont let your anger sway you. If you are in any doubt whatsoever, leave the post alone and dont respond to it.

Stand firm and ride it out folks. If we use our heads now more than ever, we will prevail.

PS. I have removed a couple of the more hard-hitting posts from here which, whilst cathartic for me and written with a humourous intent, I am aware could be used against us. Did someone say "chilling effect"?

* I speak about him like hes dead, dont I? He's not dead. He's just 'taking a break from Twitter'

Edit: Okay, it seems some clarification is in order. Professor Ashton hasnt officially "fallen". He is facing several official complaints which, according to the FPH complaints procedure will be forwarded on to the relevant authority, either the GMC or the UKPHR - the UK Public Health Registrar. This body will decide whether the complaint is upheld. Should this be the case, Ashton may have his membership of the FPH revoked, and may face further sanctions from the UKPHR's independent Fitness to Practice panel, including the setting of conditions, suspension or indeed erasure. It also ensures that a permanent record of complaints is kept. The operative word in all this is "may", however this has given us enormous leverage over Ashtons influence in the debate, and in this sense I maintain he has as far as the purposes of this post require, "fallen".

Tuesday 2 September 2014

E-cig charging, and why USB aint so universal

We've all seen the news articles about exploding e-cigs. Its published so often you'd think you were taking your life in your hands every time you  hit the go button on your eGo. Of course, we all know that isnt true, but fires and explosions do happen. And they happen for a variety of reasons.

There are three parts to your eGo e-cig system, all of which are required to charge it, and any of which may fail and/or cause fires. They're electrical devices. They can fail.

1. The battery

The standard eGo style battery contains a small circuit board which may or may not contain a battery charging circuit, depending on the manufacturer. It has no vent holes to exhaust the hot gases should the internal battery go into thermal runaway - a process where a stressed battery heats up, which further stresses the battery leading to more heat in a feedback cycle that leads to catastrophic failure of the battery. The principle method of protection should this happen is by the base cap, the metal or plastic end of the tube at the bottom of the device which is press fitted into the tube, and is designed to pop off under pressure to relieve the build up of gases contained in the tube.

As this relies on the correct manufacture of the press fit, and as some manufacturers are better than others (never buy cheap, people!) this can sometimes fail to pop out, leading to a build up of pressure in the tube which can eventually fail, exploding outwards quite dramatically.

2. The charger 

There are 3 types of charger generally used for this sort of e-cig. Firstly, you get the small type that plug directly into your USB port, which are typically designed and supplied for charging cigalikes. The next two look virtually identical, with a USB plug, a length of wire, and the small charger box on the end onto which you screw your device. The difference is in the current rating of the devices - one type will supply typically 120mA, the other will supply typically 420mA. The lower current rated charger is intended for charging cigalikes and very low capacity eGo batteries. The higher is for your everyday >600mAh type eGo. Some may have charging circuits in them, intended for batteries that do not, others may not have those circuits and rely on the battery to regulate the charge.

3. The supply

The chargers have a USB plug, and connect to a suitable USB port. Normally this would be a "wall wart" type power supply which plugs directly into your mains socket, however you can also connect them to anything with a USB socket.

So what can go wrong?

Oooh, lots of things. Firstly, you need to understand how a lithium battery charger works. Unlike standard NiMH or NICAD battery chargers, they dont simply pump voltage into the battery until you unhook it. They typically charge the battery in 4 stages, as shown below:

As your battery and components have a certain resistance, varying the input voltage will change the supply current, and this is what is provided to the battery at stage 1. The charger varies the voltage to maintain its rated supply current.

Once the charge in the battery reaches a certain level (determined by the charger), it switches from constant current mode to constant voltage, so now the charger is supplying a fixed voltage to the battery with a varying current. It will monitor the current drawn by the battery until it reaches a set level, typically 0.1C or 10% of the capacity of the battery, at which point the battery is fully charged and the charger circuit will cut off (stage 3). 

If left connected to the charger, it will periodically give the battery a small top up charge to keep it up to spec (stage 4).

Bearing this in mind, consider our system. 

If you have a 180mAh cigalike, and you screw it in to a charger that is going to supply a constant current of 420mA, the chances are high that your battery will fail and/or explode as the charger will be supplying a higher current than your device can handle. The little cigalike batteries typically don't have a charge control circuit, and would be unable to regulate the supply down to  a safe level.

If you plug a battery that has no charge circuit into a charger that also has no charge circuit, you're going to be applying an unregulated voltage to your battery, which may cause it to fail catastrophically.

If you plug a charger with a circuit into a battery with a circuit, well, you're probably going to be okay, but I still wouldn't advise it unless that was the charger the manufacturer specified!

Now this is where most people stop. They dont consider the third variable in the system, the supply. The power supply is just as capable of failing catastrophically as either the battery or the charger, and for the same reasons. Overloading a power supply by attempting to draw more power from it that it is rated to supply will cause the unit to heat up and can cause melt downs and fires, the same as any other piece of overloaded electrical circuitry.

USB is a set standard that includes not just the shape and pinout of the connector, but also the current demanded from the devices that will be connected to it. It has also gone through several revisions, each of which has increased the current rating of the port.

Great, right? Unless you happen to have a supply that is specified to the lower standard, and are expecting it to be able to safely supply a much greater current than that for which it is designed. The unit will overheat, and eventually fail, potentially in flames.

USB 1, the original standard, set a maximum unit load of just 150mA - just 0.75W.
USB 2 raised it to 100mA per load, with up to 5 connected loads, giving a maximum supply current of 500mA.
USB 3 raised it again to 150mA per load, with 6 loads, giving a maximum of 900mA.

Connecting a charger that is designed to give a constant current output of 420mA to a supply socket that is designed to deliver a maximum of 150mA would overload the supply port causing overheating, and may lead to, you guessed it, an eventual failure and/or fire.


Your charging system is just that - a system. If one part of your system is stressed or over loaded, the entire system is likely to fail, and the stressed part of it may fail catastrophically. You need to ensure that your eGo battery is connected to the correct type of charger and that the charger is connected to the correct power supply unit. If you mix and match without knowing the exact specifications of each part, you are taking a risk, and that is something you do NOT want to do with lithium batteries.

And eventually I come to the point of this article. USB may be a convenient and common connection standard, but when you are connecting devices to it that may far exceed the specifications to which your supply was built, you are playing - literally - with fire. And that is why I dont think the USB connector is a suitable standard for this application. If a dedicated connector was designed for each class of device, then only those devices that required that type of charger/supply would be able to connect to them. This would massively reduce the risk associated with e-cig charging, and might even get the press off our backs for 5 minutes.


Whilst I have made every effort to ensure that the information contained in this post is accurate, it is your responsibility to ensure that the equipment you use is safe, and is operating within its specifications. If in doubt, contact the manufacturers. Do not sue me if your house catches fire. I'm broke, you wont get anything anyway.

Sunday 6 July 2014

Holy orders - the religion of tobacco control

I like logic. Logic floats my boat. I like knowing that if all A's are B's and all C's are A's, then it follows logically that all C's are also B's. I like evidence too. I like being able to examine it and draw conclusions from it, rather than just take it on faith. It just does it for me.

And that's why I'm an atheist. I'm not claiming to be any kind of expert, however there isn't a single argument for the existence of a deity that I've seen that doesn't have a logical fallacy wallowing around at its core. Not a one. And I've looked, believe me. With this new fangled interweb thing, its only too easy to find a place where evangelists come clashing head on with atheists, and I've spent a considerable amount of time listening to every argument they could come up with. They just don't hold water. Your mileage may vary of course - if you believe in god, good for you, but like nudism and chickenpox, keep it in your own home and try not to inflict it on other people.

Since I switched from my 26 year pack a day smoking habit to vaping, I have come across another set of evangelists, and that's who I'd like to talk about today. As you're reading this blog, I'm sure you'll know who I'm talking about. Tobacco Control, and its fundamentalist sect - the anti-nicotine zealot.

You wont be surprised to learn that they share many traits with their ecclesiastic brethren, and share many of the same faults as well. Lets run down a few shall we, just for fun? Faults that is, not tobacco controllers, no matter how much fun that might be. Keep an eye out for the logical fallacies I've cunningly hidden in the text too. Its like a spotter guide to TC bullshit.

The Book of Public Health
Chapter 1, verse 1.
And it came to pass that the Lord created a garden, and he looked upon that garden and saw that it was good. Into that garden he placed the public, that they may be fruitful and multiply, and live long with health equality and a low sugar diet. But in that garden was a snake, and that snake was called Big Tobacco. Its teeth were cigarettes, and its venom was cancer. And the Lord saw the snake, and despised it. But the Lord could not rid the garden of the snake, as the Lord needed to pay his rent, and smacking the snake around a bit paid very well. Very well indeed. And the Lord saw that it was good.
Can I get an amen, brothers and sisters? Thought I might.

Here we see the first similarity. The existence of a powerful and evil enemy, who must be defeated at all costs. Christians get Satan, tobacco control gets Big Tobacco (which sounds of so much scarier when you give it capitals). The enemy is the father of lies, its actions are of the purest evil intent. If you question whether the enemy might actually not be so bad after all, you are a witch and must be burned at the stake. Literally for Christians in the not so distant past, and professionally for tobacco control - our second similarity. Take money from a tobacco company and you can effectively kiss your career goodbye. Its over. So long. Bye bye. Theres no examination of evidence, theres no critical thinking regarding the claims made, its simply dismissed due to its source. You are a heretic, and you must be made to pay the price.

Christianity, and indeed most other religions, rely upon the teachings of the wise, be they Popes or Parsons. These people are the ones who know the Truth, and interpret it for their acolytes and followers. Our third similarity. Tobacco control has its luminaries, whose word is taken as gospel. Its taken as a article of faith that they are correct, that their conclusions are informed by a rigorous and dispassionate examination of the evidence. When one of those pillars of faith is removed, the whole house of cards comes tumbling down, just as it does when arguments for the existence of god are critically examined.

What remains is an unsupported assertion. As the late Christopher Hitchens said "What can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence." Tobacco Controls demands that vaping be proved safe are the same as religions demands that atheists prove the non-existence of god - our fourth similarity. If you cannot prove vaping is safe, then it must be regulated and restricted. This is obviously not true, assumes a binary on/off position of safe or unsafe, and takes no account of the scale of risk.

There is evidence, plenty of it, so the reliance on the word of a luminary such as Stanton Glantz rather than critically examining the evidence is lazy and insipid. A modicum of examination can easily dispense with claims such as "we just dont know whats in them", or "theres no proof that they're safe", or "they're a gateway to smoking", or that old favourite "protecting the children", yet TC blithely accept them as gospel.

Similarity number five comes straight from the blind eyed, closed minds of Creationists, and their willingness to interpret evidence in whatever way is necessary to support their presupposed conclusion. These are the people who tell us that the reason fossils lie in strata is due to their differing ability to swim during the great flood.

When the evidence is weak, sex it up. When its non-existent, make it up. We can see this amply demonstrated by Simon Chapman, who can spin data so hard it develops its own gravity field. For the Christians, I give you Ray Comfort describing the "atheists nightmare". Watch it, its hilarious.

One wonders how the same man can be so homophobic, when the human penis is also made perfectly for the hand and is just the right shape to fit easily into a mans mouth. Surely then, god intended man to suck cock? No? Oh right. Maybe its because the contents may squirt in your face. Who knows, other than Ray 'Bananaman' Comfort, and the big guy in the sky.

But I digress.

What is their motivation?

Money and power, which are essentially the same thing. A rich church is a powerful church, and a well funded TC lobby is a powerful lobby. Similarity number six. This keeps a lot of people in jobs, in research grants, in overseas speaking engagements and in all the other fineries and fripperies their position can gather. They get to tell people how to behave, and are paid to do so, a combination which is highly attractive to a certain type of person, who can be found in both academia and religion.

So we have two systems with identical hierarchical systems of authority, a reliance of faith rather than evidence, an all-powerful enemy, who regularly shift the burden of proof rather than providing their own evidence, and where they do use evidence have a tendency to distort it or even outright lie to support their preferred conclusion, to establish and protect a position of power and influence based on ideology.

This concludes this evenings sermon. The ushers will now pass amongst you with the collection plate. Please give generously.

Tuesday 15 April 2014

The Curious Story of Emily's Coat

There once was a young lady. We shall call her Emily.

Emily was young, looking to enjoy herself. Some might describe ber as being rather "easily led". She enjoyed being a bit rebellious, as do most young ladies, but not to any great extent. Just sometimes she would do things that she knew were wrong, and she enjoyed the slight squirm of excitement she got whenever she tried one of these things. She enjoyed being "one of the gang" too, so when her friends discovered something new and a bit rebellious, Emily wanted to try it too.

One day, Emily ran into one of her friends, who was wearing a mink coat. Emily looked at the mink, and could see that it was made from the skins of dead animals. But then she looked into her friends eyes, and she saw that her friend knew it too, and that was why she was wearing it. Her friend knew it was wrong, but she was so busy enjoying that squirmy feeling that she didnt stop to think about the mink that suffered and died to make her coat. It felt so good, she just didnt care.

Emily ran her fingers across the mink, and her eyes lit up as she felt how soft it was, how warm it was, how naughty it was. Her friend let her try it on, and Emily happily strutted up and down, enjoying her reflection in the shop windows, wearing her friends lovely soft, warm, fur coat.

The next week Emily bought her own fur coat, and she and her friend would walk down the street wearing them, feeling the eyes of the shoppers on them, knowing that they disapproved but enjoying not caring. They were rebels, and this was their statement to the world. Fur was cool, and they were cool wearing it.

After a few weeks, the fur started getting dirty. The eyes of the shoppers were still on her, but now Emily could hear what they were saying more clearly. "Cruel" said one. "Murderer" said another. Emily looked down at her fur coat, which wasnt quite so soft or quite so warm as she had first thought, and the words of the shoppers rang in her ears.

This didnt stop Emily however. By now, Emily would only wear her fur coat, and the shoppers around her were no longer just whispering behind her back. Now they would stand in her way as she walked, and call her names straight to her face. "Cruel" they'd say. "Killer". "Murderer". Emily's head dropped, and she started trying to hide her fur coat, scurrying quickly between shops rather than proudly strutting for the whole world to see. She wasnt proud of her coat any more. The taunts of the shoppers were louder, and Emily was starting to feel ashamed.

One day, as she was scurrying along, trying to avoid the accusation in the eyes of the shoppers, she happened to glance into the window of a shop. There, in the window, was a glorious coat of silver fur, shiny and sleek, and everything that her coat had ever been. Emily looked with interest, but knew it was wrong. But there was something different about this coat. Around the shoulder of the coat was a sash, bearing the words "100% Man Made" and "Fake Fur".

Emily stopped in her tracks.

Slowly, she turned, and looked through the window. Could it be real? This was a beautiful silver fur coat. It was sleek and soft and warm, and everything that Emily's coat had been originally... but it wasnt real fur?

She looked down at her own coat, and could see how matted and dirty the fur was, could smell how damp and musty it was, and could feel the angry eyes of the shoppers on her back as she wore it. She realised she wasnt enjoying wearing her coat any more, and that the shoppers were right - it was cruel, it was murder. And suddenly Emily didnt want her fur coat any more. She wanted the one in the shop window. She wanted one that gave her all the things that she had ever enjoyed about fur coats, but without the guilt, without the accusatory glances of the shoppers, without the knowledge of what it really meant to wear a fur coat.

So Emily bought the silver fur coat, and dropped her old, musty fur on the floor of the shop. She pulled it on, and brushed her face against the collar, relishing the softness, the sleekness, the warmth. It really was everything she had hoped. It was just like the real thing, but without the burden of knowledge. She could wear this coat in public. She could enjoy this coat. She could go wherever she wanted with this coat, and the shoppers couldnt accuse her any more, as its 100% Man Made, its fake fur!

So Emily strutted again. She looked at herself happily in the shop windows, and whenever a shopper stopped her she would happily explain that it was not a fur coat, that it was man made, that it was fake fur, and that nothing had suffered and nothing had died to make it. Most of the public were satisfied, and left her to enjoy her new fake fur coat. Some muttered behind her back, but this was nothing to Emily who was so happy at having left her old fur coat behind that she didnt care what they said. They were wrong, she wasnt harming anyone, so she was happy.

For many months, Emily happily wore her new, beautiful, warm, silver fake fur coat. It brought her happiness, and she knew that it was a guilt free happiness. A lot of the shoppers also knew that it wasnt a real fur coat now, and waved happily to Emily as she passed, beaming, on her way.

Then one day, someone stopped Emily. Emily halted in her tracks, and looked at the person who had stopped her. What could they want? They couldnt accuse her of cruelty, as this wasnt a real fur coat. This was a fake fur coat. 100% Man Made.

"Thats disgusting." the person said. "You shouldnt be allowed to wear that."

"Why?" asked Emily. "Its not a real fur coat".

"Yes..." said the stranger. "BUT IT LOOKS LIKE ONE."

Emily was confused. What does it matter if it looks like a real one, if its not? Its a fake fur. Nothing suffered. Nothing died. No harm was done.

"If you keep wearing that, other people will think its okay to wear real fur. So take it off. Now. And never wear it again. We havent spent all this time telling the other shoppers to hate you for you to just bypass all our hard work and wear a fake fur!"

Emily thought that was a stupid argument. "But if its so wrong, why dont you stop people buying real fur, instead of stopping me wearing my fake fur that has hurt nothing?"

"No, no, cant do that. But we can stop you!" and with that the stranger ripped the beautiful sleek, warm, silver fake fur coat from Emily's back and threw it into the gutter.

Time passed.

Emily was cold without a coat. She missed her warm fake fur coat, but by now there were signs up in all the shops saying "No fake fur allowed". So she did the only thing she could do. She went back to the shop. She picked up her old, matted, musty fur coat and put it on again, feeling ashamed of herself.

And Emily cried all the way home.

Saturday 5 April 2014

Standing on the shoulders of drowning men.

There was a time of political checks and balances. There was a time when whatever Labour did when in power, Tories undid when they took office, and Labour duly returned the favour in their turn. There was a time when the Government stood firm, and little changed one way or another without a damned good reason for it to happen. The NHS was a product of such times.

And then came New Labour, and the wholesale shift to the right of British politics. Tony Blair, the promised one, the man who could make a difference. And what a difference he made.

When Labour took power under Blair, this was a new kind of politics. It was progressive. Its MPs were younger, prettier, less battle scarred and more idealistic. Its policies were new, brave, fresh (and mostly stolen).

The whole position changed. New Labour took over the traditional political position of the Tories after their inevitable implosion and slow resurrection in the even-further-right. Lib Dems did what Lib Dems do - they wallowed around without any clear idea of what they were trying to achieve, but did it somewhere between the right and the even-further-right of the other two parties.

Except now, all three parties were trying to out-progressive the other two, because thats what the public want to see, right? Progressive politics worked for Blair, so we need to be doing some of that, got it? Good. And how do you out-progressive the other two? By basing your policies on even less reliable information, and even more marginal, progressive science.

The upshot of all this new-fangled politicking and progressiveness was that they had to develop new policies (when policies werent conveniently placed to steal), and that meant new sources of information and accepting more marginal viewpoints than the mainstream scientific views you would expect from a Government responsible for the welfare of 60 million people.

It led to the rise of the Health and Safety Man, the public health "expert". You know the type. In school they were the ones who couldn't play football, had a hard time making friends, but weren't smart enough or talented enough to be nerds. Nowadays you will most likely find them bathed in the light of important looking databases, surrounded by important looking box files, and sporting engagingly colourful ties. And they still have no friends. Its their purpose to tell you to tie your shoe laces, to not run with scissors, and that breathing a few particles of second hand smoke will permanently damage your child.

These "experts" in public health base their opinions on a rigid, evidence based, scientific approach. No, stop laughing, they do. The quality of the science involved is however open to question. When each successive government, whether national or local, is pressing you for more progressive ideas to safeguard our nations kiddiwinks, you may find yourself... ahh... blue sky thinking*. You need to keep coming up with new ideas and new approaches based on the latest science.

Now, sure, fine, if that science is real and accurate then there's not going to be a problem - whatever policy you put in place, if its grounded in a solid basis of evidence, is likely to be successful and any consequences will be foreseen and mitigated. But as Charles Fort** said:
I conceive of nothing, in religion, science, or philosophy, that is more than the proper thing to wear, for a while.
Science changes. Thats the basis, and the strength, of the entire scientific establishment. Knowledge isnt finite, at least not yet. We build upon a reliable footing of evidence to take the next logical, rational step, and that becomes the new status quo. What happens then when your evidential basis is shaky? Where does that leave you, when those policies are enacted? As Charles Fort also said:
The outrageous is the reasonable, if introduced politely.
You take a marginal viewpoint, without either solid evidence or scientific consensus, and add to that a pathological need to be progressive, to come up with new issues that simply must be addressed, and new braver ways of dealing with old issues. You base your policies upon the views of the people who can most successfully and reliably give you these things. And you keep going. You want newer, braver, ways of impacting the new issues-that-were-never-issues-before, of making more headway against whatever drivel the red top press is having palpitations about this week. The new feeds upon the old. Science is driven forward at disproportionate rates without stopping to properly evaluate the effects of the previous steps. The feedback loop is broken, and like a microphone in front of an amplifier you feed output directly to input until...

Well, until all you can hear is an incoherent scream.

* Less charitable authors than myself may class this as "making shit up".
** Not that Charles Fort should be held up as a paragon of scientific virtue - far from it - but he does provide good quotes.

Thursday 20 February 2014

The Shame of the Shameless

This will be a short post. I don't need much space to put across my reaction to today's news.

Today, one single man, Martin Schultz, decided that our democratically elected MEP's should not have the right to vote on the individual provisions of the EU's proposed Tobacco Products Directive which includes a de facto ban of every single refillable e-cigarette on the market. They will now be given a single yes/no vote on the directive as a whole, virtually guaranteeing that it will be passed into law.

That laws can be devised in late night session behind closed doors that affect the health of over 7 million European ex-smokers, with NO regard for scientific evidence, with NO consultation with the user's they seek to regulate, and with no oversight by national governments is scandalous.

That the law may well drive hundreds of thousands, maybe into the millions of voting citizens who have chosen to leave smoking behind them back into the deadly clutches of tobacco, a substance that will kill one in two of them, is criminal.

That the public has been largely kept in the dark throughout the entire process due to a lack of media coverage of what has been called the most important public health debate in history is a feat of negligence and dereliction of journalistic duty that is impossible to comprehend.

That this is done in the name of "public health" is nothing more than a sick joke.

I have NEVER in my LIFE felt more victimised, isolated and excluded than since I took the simple decision to stop smoking tobacco and switch to  e-cigarettes. I will not return to smoking. I will do whatever it takes, even if that means breaking the law by buying on the black market or by illegally importing from overseas, to protect my health and my family's health from tobacco smoke.

And god help you if you try and stop me.

Monday 27 January 2014

The Hidden Menace

Whilst this post is obviously satire, the arguments I use and the points made are all commonly levelled at e-cigarettes. I hope that by turning these same arguments against something so totally innocuous as a nice cuppa tea to highlight to the uninitiated just how weak the arguments really are.

Dear Sir/Madam 
I would like to draw your attention to a situation that has gone under the radar for too long. Businesses up and down the country are, to this day, allowing this situation to continue, and are in many cases misguidedly encouraging it by providing and in some cases even allowing its consumption at the heart of the workplace, potentially risking the health not only of the person consuming it, but of those innocent people who have its effects forced upon them. 
I am of course talking about tea. 
It has often been seen as a traditional and welcome part of our country's heritage, something that we look forward to using, and something that we regard as being inherently British. But is it all that it seems? 
We think not. 
Tea is an infusion of the dried leaves of the plant Camellia Sinensis, a plant originating in China but now to be found growing in many countries around the world such as the poorer parts of India. Its production is entirely unregulated. No license is required to grow the plants, no regulation governs what chemical treatments are added to the plants during their growth, no regulatory inspection mechanisms protect us from any diseases in the organic matter harvested from them, and no legal framework is in place to prevent contamination during manufacture and transportation. This is an immediate cause for concern, as it cannot be guaranteed that the product users are buying is free from harmful, and potentially carcinogenic contaminants. We believe that this constitutes an immediate and very worrying threat to our health. 
The dried leaves are powdered, and contained in what its users call a "tea bag", which is then placed in a "tea pot" or sometimes directly into a drinking vessel, where scalding hot water is poured over it. The tea is then left for several minutes to "steep", a process by which a chemical cocktail is drawn from the "tea bag" and into the water. This cocktail is known to contain tannin, a bitter, astringent biomolecule, the stimulants theobromine and theophylline, the amino acid L-theanine which modulates caffeine's psychoactive effect as well as the drug caffeine itself, which can constitute up to 3% of the plant material. 
Caffeine is a bitter, white crystalline xanthine alkaloid and a stimulant drug. Due to its effects as a central nervous system stimulant, it raises heart rate and blood pressure, and can cause muscle spasms and sleep disorders. In doses over 1 gram, it can be fatal to adults. Much research is now showing a link with certain types of cancer, and to its addictive nature leading to substance dependence in its users. Withdrawal symptoms include headaches, irritability, inability to concentrate, drowsiness, insomnia, and pain in the stomach, upper body, and joints as well as increased depression and anxiety, nausea and vomiting. 
The resulting liquid is then commonly mixed with milk and sugar. We are concerned that the inclusion of sugar will increase its attraction to children, and that the usage of such items as soft toy monkeys in the tea industries advertisements and marketing is directly targeting children. A strong regulatory approach is required to stop this practice. 
Unbelievably, this toxic broth is then given to children as young as 12 - sometimes by the childs own parents. 
Tea is a hot beverage, and as such emits a strongly odoured vapour from its surface. There have been no long-term studies to suggest that the vapour is safe, and we are concerned that continuing to allow its use in the workplace and public places may cause second-hand drinking effects - innocent people who have never used tea in their lives are being unwillingly exposed to its vapour, and the unknown risks that may incur. We strongly urge for more studies to be performed in this area. 
We are also concerned that drinking this substance in public and in the workplace may renormalise alcoholic beverage usage, due to its resemblance to drinking spirits. Concerns have been raised that this has lead to tea becoming a gateway to alcohol abuse, with several studies showing that a majority of alcohol users started drinking tea before moving to beer and in many cases substances like whisky and brandy. The Governments Office for National Statistics found that alcohol was responsible for the deaths of 8,748 people in the UK in 2011 alone. It is vital that the successful process of denormalising alcohol consumption continues, and tea usage may be extremely harmful to those efforts. 
Currently, tea is unregulated. We consider this drug riddled infusion to be extremely harmful and urge you to contact your MP and demand its immediate classification as a pharmaceutical product, and its regulation as a medicine. We would also urge you to disallow its use on your companies premises until such time as it has been proven to be safe. 
Above all else, we must protect children from it. Your letters and emails may save a child's life. Please help us. 
On behalf of the National Union of Tea Studies Organisations (N.U.T.S.O)

First published on, 12/11/13