Browse > Home /

| Subcribe via RSS

BMA: it it moves tax it, if it still moves ban it

By Angela Harbutt
July 13th, 2015 at 3:30 pm | 3 Comments | Posted in Uncategorized

In its latest attempt at extreme social engineering, the increasingly preposterous British Medical Association (the trade union for doctors and medical students) is today demanding a 20% tax on sugary drinks “to subsidise the cost of fruit and vegetables”.

What they don’t mention, but what Christopher Snowdon points out, is that:

“The BMA don’t mention that their soda tax will cost the public £1 billion a year, nor do they acknowledge that it would be deeply regressive. Indeed, they want to make it more even more regressive by taxing fizzy drinks (which are disproportionately purchased by people on low incomes) and use the money to subsidise fruit and vegetables (which are disproportionately purchased by people on high incomes). Nice.”

You may be surprised at that. Particularly when you consider that the BMA rejected a fat tax back in the summer of 2012 because:

“The idea of a fat tax on unhealthy food was rejected because it would have an unfair impact on people from a disadvantaged background.”

How is a tax on sugary drinks any different from a tax on fat? [Joined up  thinking ? I don’t think so]. But then again we should not be surprised at the lack of consistency in BMA proposals, or the absence of science-based thinking when it comes to its policies. This publicity-hungry, industry-hating trade union seems to have a policy of acting first and thinking afterwards.

This, after all, is the body that secretly awards its senior staff pay hikes of up to 137% – without bothering to inform its members. And a body that seems to have scant regard for the truth – with BMA spokespeople taking to the air to spout downright lies in support of their extreme views on ecigs and smoking.

That particular trait, of “massaging the facts” to suit the narrative, is displayed yet again today with its claims on sugar. As reported by Mr Snowdon:

“In the pages of The Guardian, their spokeswoman, Sheila Hollins, resorts to flat out lying…

“We know from experiences in other countries that taxation on unhealthy food and drinks can improve health outcomes, and the strongest evidence of effectiveness is for a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages.”

…..”[Mr Snowdon writes] the evidence on sugary drinks, in particular, is consistent in finding little, if any, change in patterns of consumption and no change at all in ‘health outcomes’, including obesity (see here and here for a summary).”

It is also the body that has consistently promoted a whole raft of policies which are potty at best and downright dangerous at worst. Here is a taster of some of its recent ludicrous proposals:

Ecigs – In December 2013 the BMA wrote to a number of football clubs urging them to end sponsorship deals with e-cigarette companies “smoking products” and to ban the use of e-cigarettes at their football grounds. [Err no e-cigs are not a “smoking product” – do at least get your facts right].

ECigs – The BMA has also been at the forefront of those demanding that all e-cigarettes are forced to be licensed medicinal product, and in the BMA’s 2014 annual meeting, it’s members called on governments to prohibit ‘vaping’ on e-cigarettes in public places where smoking is prohibited. [Hmm send them outside to smoke real cigarettes rather than vaping indoors – that will improve health [not].

Alcohol – In Jan 2015 the BMA demanded that politicians introduce a minimum unit price for alcohol. [Errm thought you were against regressive taxes? So middle classes can drink their French Chardonnay, but those on low incomes should be priced out of the market. This is prohibition for the working classes.]

Alcohol – In June 2015 the BMA called on all UK governments to introduce “clear and unambiguous” health warnings on alcohol. It also called on additional measures that “limit the affordability, availability and promotion of alcohol”. [Just to be clear will you restrict when I buy my alcohol from Ocado, or when they deliver it? Oh I forgot, you only wish to restrict those on low incomes from buying alcohol, not the middle classes with a credit card and an au pair at home to take delivery].

Alcohol – In June 1025 the Scottish BMA called on a ban on all alcohol advertising on television before 9pm “watershed”. [That might have worked in the 1970’s – but honestly.. in 2015?].

Alcohol – In July 2014 BMA in Northern Ireland called for a reduced hours of sale for alcohol. [Yep, let’s drive consumption out of pubs with responsible landlords and towards drinking in the home, because that is bound to work [not].

Smoking – In June 2015 – rather than vote FOR the legalisation of cannabis, the trade union voted for a BAN on the sale of all cigarettes to those born after 2000. Yes really, by 2030 you would” need ID to prove you were 31, not 30, to buy cigarettes”. [Well it was only a matter of time before they called for prohibition… Because that obviously works [not].

… that is to list but a few of BMA’s proposals. There are many more.

The BMA demand for a tax on sugar is yet another head-line grabbing, ill-thought through, plan, all too similar to those above: demonise industry; hit those on low incomes; tax where you can and ban where you can’t.  It is an archaic approach not fit for the 21st century.

It claims to want a comprehensive approach to “tackling obesity” and, it says, it sees  its role as “supporting the government and other stakeholders in taking action“. Sorry, but that claim rings hollow. You only have to read the foreword of the latest booklet to see the BMA’s primary objective – to end the relationship between Government and [one of the key stakeholders] industry.

“Addressing the commercial influences that have such a strong impact on diet will be key.”

“These range from the way unhealthy food and drink products are promoted and made widely available and affordable, to industry influence on the development of food and nutrition policies.”

“Without a stronger regulatory framework, commercial interests will continue to overshadow public health interests.”

“Many of these [measures] will not sit comfortably with the government’s approach to partnership working with industry.”

“My belief is that it is commercial interests that are excessively influencing people’s decisions about their diet.”

“How can we expect a child to develop normative behaviours about eating healthily when so many of the messages they are exposed to promote the opposite?

I don’t know which supermarket BMA bigwigs shop in, but when I go into a supermarket my problem is choice, not lack of it. Alongside normal coke I am offered Diet Coke [No sugar] “Coca Cola Zero” [No sugar] “Coca Cola Life” [Lower calorie sweetened using natural sources].. oh and “Caffeine Free” [also “lower calorie”]… and all with calorie content clearly shown on the tin.. if I care to look. I can also buy in a range of sizes from 150ml mini-cans, all the way up to 1.75 litre bottles, if I wish to limit portion size at any point.

And just in case that is not enough for you Coca Cola has, since 2012, reduced the average calories per litre in its sparkling drinks by 5.3% ; reduced the calorie and sugar content of Sprite, Dr Pepper, Fanta Fruit Twist and Glaceau Vitaminwater by more than 30% ; and increased its marketing budget in zero calorie colas by 52%. All as part of its “responsibility deal” with Government. I can also go to the Coca Cola calorie counter, where I see what exercise I can do to work of the calories in one can (11 minutes of squash or 32 minutes of pilates, (or if you prefer 19 minutes of stair climbing or 70 minutes of ironing) to work off 139 calorie can of normal Coca Cola.

Where is the praise from the BMA about how much has been achieved? How much of that would have been achieved if Government had opted to demonise the industry rather than working with it?

Moving away from all things fizzy, how much more could be achieved if this Government-industry relationship was extended to e-cigs and tobacco? Think of the public health advances that could be achieved if  Government worked with the tobacco industry on reduced risk products [such as PMI’s “heat not burn” products] rather than absurdly excluding them from an increasing number of conversations?

It is time for doctors to take back the BMA, sacking the self-serving fat cats at the top of this body, banging on like an old record about taxes and bans and little else. Surely they can see that the BMA is a fast-fossilizing dinosaur, desperately determined to remove all voices from the health debate except its own, regardless of the consequences. If they can’t see it, or won’t do anything about it, then public health is truly not safe in their hands.

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Govt proposals written on a back of a fag packet..

By Angela Harbutt
February 1st, 2010 at 7:26 pm | 5 Comments | Posted in UK Politics

fag-packet-initiativesAndy Burnham today announced his plan to cut the number of smokers from 21% of the population to 10% in the next decade. This seems to be at the cost of intellectual property rights and freedom of trade of tobacco companies; will result in a huge increase in counterfeiting, causing pain for legitimate companies and consumers; put money into the pockets of organised crime, whilst reducing government tax revenue; and will impinge on our rights as European citizens to move goods and trade freely around the EU. How many lawsuits will follow? Plenty I reckon.

 To be specific. Todays illiberal plans announced by Oberführer Burnham include…

*A review of the law to consider if areas like entrances to buildings should be included in the smoking ban as part of further measures to protect children which would include the promotion of smoke-free homes and cars.

Yes folks they really are thinking of banning people from using a perfectly legal product within their own homes. If Government had its own way we would have neighbour spying on and reporting neightbour. Remind you of anything? Mr Burnham has said that he thinks that banning smoking in ones own home may be a step to far against freedom of choice – ha! – but you can tell he would do it if he could. More likely this will involve a ban on smoking within say 10 (20?) yards or so of any entrance to a public building. Assuming that is in anyway enforcable, non-smokers entering a pub may not have to walk past a dozen cold and wet individuals puffing on their smokes – but where does anyone expect smokers to go. You may say glibly “into the side alley”. But if you are really proposing that young women are forced to stand in dimly lit side alleys to indulge in a perfectly legal activity – then be prepared to see a increase in assaults, rapes and goodness knows what else as a result. Expect a further reduction in smokers visiting pubs – and therefore another swathe of pub closures – as people choose to stay at home.

* Stopping the sale of tobacco from vending machines, considered a significant source of tobacco for young people.

The argument is that this is to stop easy access of cigarettes to children. Never mind that solutions such as machines requiring a token to be handed from the owner of the vending machine for the machine to work would solve this problem. And if kids want to smoke – trust me they will find a way – they always do.

* Immediate investment in extra overseas officers to stop 200 million illicit cigarettes entering the UK every year.

I dont have a problem with this – except I can think of ooh about a hundred ways to spend the money on things that actually matter. And by the way has no one told Mr Burnham we know , even if he doesnt,  that we dont have the money for this sort of frivolity. And if this becomes an excuse to stop the ordinary consumer from purchasing large quantitities of cigarettes for their own consumption from countries within the EU then I do have a problem – you cant pick and choose which bits of free trade within the EU you are going to allow and which bits you are not.

* NHS support for every smoker who wants to give up, at times and in places that suit them.

Did no one tell this Govt that we are teetering on the brink of bankruptcy – yet here we have a government spending money like a man with no arms. This is because, we are told, that the NHS bill of smokers is £2.7 billion a year. Whats the Government income from excise and VAT from tobacco companies? About £10 billion? What is the government doing with the other £7billion that’s what I want to know?

* Government consideration of the case for plain packaging for cigarettes.

The most obvious result of such a move will be mass counterfeiting – mainly from organised crime I imagine, and it will impinge on intellectual property rights and freedom of trade of the legitimate tax-paying companies.  This will surely be vigorously challenged in courts of law -and rightly. I wonder how much tax revenue the Government will actually lose as  result? Consumers will no longer know if they are buying authentic or phoney products. Lawsuits aplenty will follow. I also fail to see what real EVIDENCE there is that branding on cigarette packets is causing people to take up smoking. Sure, without branding people may SWITCH from an expensive brand to a cheaper one – but that is about market share, not the size of the market. Cigarettes are sexy to kids because they are not allowed them – not because Marlboro or Silk Cut have marketing skills on a par with Derren Brown.


I am . The Health Bill 2009 was introduced to Parliament on 15 January 2010. It already includes proposals to tackle smoking. Specifically it proposes to remove tobacco displays in shops and to restrict the sale of cigarettes from vending machines. So why are the government proposing a DOUBLE ban on the sale of cigarettes from vending machines or is Andy Burnham and this decaying Government up to their old tricks – cobbling together new iniatives that are not throught-through and rehash old initiatives ( just not THAT old on this occassion)to make it look more impressive than it is. Why introduce a HEALTH BILL dealing with tobacco on January 15th, then introduce FURTHER regulation on smoking a couple of weeks later.? I will tell you why. Because this sad and sorry Government has announced yet another set of “initiatives” cobbled together on the back of a FAG packet to grab a few cheap headlines.

So muggers, rapists, crime lords, counterfeiters and lawyers rejoice.This charter is for you. Liberals, law-abiding citizens, young women, pub-goers, parents, taxpayers, publicans and newsagents, be afraid because its you they are out to make your life a whole lot harder if not down-right dangerous.

Tags: , ,

Chavez: all that fun stuff is “hell”

By Julian Harris
January 20th, 2010 at 9:58 am | 4 Comments | Posted in Culture, International Politics

cigsandboozeFresh from his latest efforts to ruin everything, Hugo Rafael Chavez has launched a scathing tirade on lots of fun stuff.

The Venezuelan despotic nut-job said in his Weekly Address to the Proletariat:

“[Capitalist countries] promote the need for cigarettes, drugs and alcohol so they can sell them.”

Having displayed this unparalleled ability to unravel the evils of ‘the West’, the Dear Leader concluded:

“That’s capitalism, the road to hell.”

Which is funny, because usually when I peer lovingly at a seemingly-perspiring chilled glass of gin & tonic I think: “Bejesus, this is the road from hell. Deliver me to happiness, my sparkling transparent friend!”

It turns out, strangely enough, that the real source of Mr Chavez’s ire is a piss-take of himself–in the form of a video game. So he explained, to gasps (or giggles) of his people:

“Those games they call ‘PlayStation’ are poison. Some games teach you to kill. They once put my face on a game; ‘you’ve got to find Chávez to kill him.'”

Find Chavez? Kill him?

It’s poison, readers, poison.  Vive la revolution.

Tags: , , , ,