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Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Planet of the Prohibitionists

Let's begin this blog post with a new, short video of The Root of All Evil in deep contemplation:

Any questions?  Yeah, I thought as much.

So, as we've learnt in the above vid, Simon Chapman is all about smear tactics and petty insults. This is unsurprising.  True to form, The Root of All Evil pens yet another puerile opinion piece in the Sydney Morning Herald to simultaneously gloat over Australia's successful hate campaign (i.e. its plain packaging law) and to denigrate and smear a guy who is just trying to make an Australian buck:
A small businessman from Queensland got his 15 minutes of fame by announcing that smokers could now buy stickers to cover the front and back of the new pack. [...]

New titles planned are rumoured to include ''I'm an adult, but like a child I hide my eyes from scary things''; ''I have an IQ 1 point higher than it takes to grunt''; ''Please buy me: no one else is"; ''I choose to hide from the truth''.

Since launching his stickers in early December, he's been deluged with a whole 386 Facebook "likes", and 1319 views of his YouTube promotion. A whole 24 people have followed him on Twitter, 21 of whom live outside Australia [...]. Like all the opportunists who did their dough with previous cover gimmicks for the older health warnings, our Queensland entrepreneur looks like an early candidate for the 2013 Darwin award for business acumen.
There is a great deal to glean from the above.  First, he doesn't mention the company or the businessman by name, which is cowardly (he would argue that he didn't want to advertise it, but that's bollocks).  If you're going to attack someone, then have the fucking balls to name them, Professor Chapman.  Second, it's clear that the Root of All Evil is not going to win any awards for comedy -- those examples of rumoured new titles are lame. The only people who would appreciate them are the sad, despicable prohibitionists that lap up anything Chapman says.  And third, it is evident that The Root of All Evil has a unhealthy obsession over how many Twitter followers he has or others have. Like it matters. He should really consider getting some kind of professional help to deal with that pathological obsession. It's enormously sad.

Speaking of pathology, one wonders if The Root of All Evil is suffering from dementia or is simply making shit up.  This bit from the opinion piece is something he repeats often:
The International Tobacco Survey that gathers data from dozens of nations to compare progress in tobacco control, has found that 95 per cent of smokers regret having started. About a quarter make a serious quit attempt each year.
Or here in this vid, where Chapman attacks James Paterson, he says:
"Look, 95% of people who smoke regret having ever started, and then we have 40% of them try to quit each year ..."
So, I looked up this "International Tobacco Survey" to see how accurate that 95% regret statement is.  It turns out the International Tobacco Survey didn't exist under that particular name, and what Chapman meant was the surveys done for the The International Tobacco Control Policy Evaluation Project (ITC), in particular the 4-Country ITC survey of Australia, Canada, America and the UK (which I will come to momentarily).

But he didn't say that.

What he said was the "survey that gathers data from dozens of nations ... has found that 95 percent of smokers regret having started."  This is wrong on all counts.

According to the ITC project's site, the survey covers 22 nations so far.  That's not dozens. It's not even two-dozen.  That's one bald-faced lie, then.  In Public Health, it's perfectly acceptable to make shit up or exaggerate, and so they do it all the time.  Of course, the trouble with habitual lying is that it's so terribly difficult to remember what lies you've told, or when you've told the truth, so you end up contradicting yourself, or perhaps your forgot what is true, or you start to believe your own oft-repeated lies. Indeed, see this comment from July 2012 where the Root of All Evil explains the source of that 95% regret statement:

"The reality is of course rather more banal with national data from 4 nations showing that some 95% of smokers regret ever taking it up and around 40% making serious attempts to quit each year."  (emphasis added)

So a little bit of truth there, but still making shit up.

Because it's not 95% of smokers that regret having started.  It seems that Professor Chapman has decided to add 5% to Dr Geoffrey T. Fong's* paper in 2004  (PDF 256kb), which shows the regret percentage at 90% according to survey data taken in 2002:
The proportion of smokers who agreed or agreed strongly with the statement ‘‘If you had to do it over again, you would not have started smoking’’ was extremely high—about 90%—and nearly identical across the four countries.
(*If the name Fong sounds familiar to you, it's because we pillaged his photo album for this post, and this one.  He is also responsible for the ITC project.)

That 90% was derived from a simple averaging of the following percentages:

Canada 91.3%
America 91.2%,
UK 89.2%
Australia 89.6%.

90.325% regret, then.  In 2002 or something.

However, the ITC survey is a continuous monster. Like all things prohibition and public health, it never ends, and so it is replenished with new data every so often, as well as including new countries.  I don't have access to the raw data, but I did briefly scan a few of the frequency tables and/or the reports for a few countries -- but not all, because I got practically bored to death doing so and decided I really didn't give all that much of a fuck about it, and some reports neglect to mention the info anyway (see China, for instance, which is the great bane of tobacco control zealots everywhere).  From what little I did look at, another picture of this regret percentage emerges (links provided, but some of these reports are a bit large):

Bangladesh 88%
France 87.7%
Germany  77.5%
Korea 88%
Netherlands 75%
Thailand 92.6%

Looks like Germany and the Dutch kind of fucked things up there, eh?  Best not to mention that and be selective over which data you decide to include and propagandise.  But since we're being selective, what if we averaged those two countries in with the 4-Country data?  What do we get?  About 85.6%.  If we averaged them all...

You know what... who cares?  85% versus 90% versus 95%.  It's all pointless statistics that say nothing at all.  I do think if one is going to endlessly cite the same pointless percentage, then one ought to cite the correct pointless percentage rather than inflating it, because that goes towards one's credibility, one's integrity and honesty.  But whatever, we're used to a lack of integrity in Public Health. No lie too great nor small to further an agenda of hate.  Besides, regret is an intangible emotion based on subjectivity.  One's level of regret for anything can change depending on the time of day.  The reasons for regret are varied and one question in survey doesn't adequately explain why some people regret having started smoking  -- perhaps it's the constant badgering by public health zealots and governments. I could understand that. Regret should not be the basis for legislative policy formulation, for banning things, unless you're in the public health racket. Then it's worth a research paper or two.

I suppose after answering a couple of hundred questions (see survey, pg 85 -- this question comes in at number 252 out of well over 300 questions), that anyone would have regrets ... for simply existing on this Planet of the Prohibitionists.  Of course, the reward bribe for doing the survey is a $20 gift voucher (see pg 2 of the survey) which they are quite happy to dangle in front of you when you don't want to play along.  Question 6 on pg 5:
This is an important survey because it is being conducted among smokers as well as non-smokers throughout the world. It is important to obtain a good representative sample. In appreciation of your involvement in our study, we will send you [payment].
So I hope that $20 voucher was worth it, smokers. My advice is to STOP participating in these zealot's surveys, focus groups, experiments and all of it.  Because everything you say can and will be used against all of us to force us to adhere to their evil plans under threat of gross penalties or jail.  Hmm. Perhaps we need to develop a Smoker's Covenant. You know, include things like, "Thou shalt not answer surveys."  "Thou shall kick survey takers in the scrotum."  I'll give it some thought, maybe run it by a few folk.

In any event, STOP playing their game. OK?  Sorry, you get the point.

So, that company that the ever-deceptive Root of All Evil wouldn't mention?  It's called Boxwrap.  And the way capitalism works, that is when the government doesn't deliberately interfere with free enterprise, is that if people want a product a company sells, it will survive.  Its survival won't depend on the opinions of lying, deceptive, socialists and prohibitionists like The Root of All Evil.  No matter how many Twitter followers they have.

Boxwrap can be found on Twitter here:

And I close this post with another short video.  Because I can. Loving the dub-step music at the end.