The wilful ignorance of tobacco control McCarthyites


Just when you thought public health could sink no lower, it pulls it off again! This time, a couple of “tobacco control” organisations, CTFK and ENSP, have been writing to several participants in a conference (GTNF 2016) to be held next week. The letters tell them they must be mistaken, that they can’t possibly have realised tobacco companies were involved and that they should pull out before it is too late.  All backed with a threat of reputational damage if they don’t. I find this deeply depressing and disturbing. Let’s take a look at:

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Do not read this or discuss it and in no circumstances should you comment

Australian Council on Smoking & Health Parody of the 1953 meeting between Big Tobacco and PR company Hill & Knowlton
Warning: misleading people about the benefits of e-cigarettes is logically and morally equivalent to misleading people about the harms of smoking

A new discussion paper on e-cigarettes has come out in Australia. “Options to minimise the risks associated with the marketing and use of electronic nicotine delivery systems [ENDS] in Australia” by Professor Chapman and some of his following at the University of Sydney. [PDF – 8.5Mb or via Scribd as embedded below or linked here]. Continue reading “Do not read this or discuss it and in no circumstances should you comment”

The tobacco endgame – a critical review of the policy ideas

Tobacco Control Endgame cover

[Read this posting as a formatted PDF]

Introduction. This is the second of two pieces on the ‘tobacco endgame’.  In the first, (Are we in the endgame for smoking?I presented some data on global cigarette use to show that we are not in an endgame, at least in an endgame defined as “the late or final stages of any activity”.  This is important because if policy-makers believe cigarette use is shortly to disappear, there is a danger they will be indifferent to or impatient with policies designed to mitigate the harm caused by ongoing use.

In this posting I would like to review the policy proposals that some tobacco control activists and academics believe could accelerate the rate of progress towards the end of smoking / tobacco / nicotine / disease (or whatever it is that is to be ended). This post focuses on the set of policy proposals set out in the May 2013 supplement of the journal Tobacco Control. It’s a long post in response to a lengthy supplement, so here is a table of contents:

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Are we in the endgame for smoking?

Now what?

Endgame: noun
1. Chess. the final stage of a game, usually following the exchange of queens and the serious reduction of forces.
2. the late or final stages of any activity: the end game of the negotiations.

There is a thread of discussion in the world of tobacco control devoted to what is known as the ‘endgame’… it is a kind of blue sky thinking about end of tobacco use and the policies needed to bring it about.  It includes a set of policy proposals set out in the May 2013 supplement of the journal Tobacco Control and has become the subject of conferences, journal papers, presentationsop-eds and thought pieces by leading academics and speeches by the Director General of WHO (which actually has some good advice in parts).  But what does the data tell us?

Continue reading “Are we in the endgame for smoking?”

More baseless propaganda from the Faculty of Public Health

Michael Ventura
Does the Faculty of Public Health now resemble its enemy?

Yet another vacuous comment on e-cigarettes has just appeared from the Faculty of Public Health.  This time in response to the publication of the credible and cautiously optimistic Cochrane Review [press release / review] on e-cigarettes and quitting smoking. In The Times article on it, E-cigarettes double chance of quitting (£), there was a quote from this increasingly weird organisation, apparently desperate to find some bad news to offset the good… Continue reading “More baseless propaganda from the Faculty of Public Health”

A critical commentary on the Glantz and UCSF e-cigarette submissions to the FDA

Screen shot FDA deeming regs page
Click to access the FDA page


It was a dire (though mercifully short) experience: I decided to provide a brief response to each of the many submissions to FDA issuing from UCSF under the direction of Professor Stanton Glantz.  Here is my contribution to FDA deliberations in PDF form: Critical commentary on the comments on the FDA deeming rule submitted by UCSF faculty and fellows (PDF)  The text and links are set out below.  I summarised it in the comment section of the FDA web site as follows:

The UCSF submissions show multiple failures of fact and interpretation; inappropriate framing; and dramatic systematic biases – emphasising minor or implausible risks while diminishing or ignoring entirely very significant potential benefits.

I might have added that the cigarette based business model of the tobacco industry could not ask for better allies.  Almost everything coming from UCSF on e-cigarettes will, if regulators acted on it, protect cigarette sales from competition, support a diminished market for e-cigarettes best suited to tobacco industry dominance, increase avoidable smoking and lead to more death and disease. Nice work! Continue reading “A critical commentary on the Glantz and UCSF e-cigarette submissions to the FDA”

Nothing about us without us


I want to give over a guest post to Gerry Stimson, David Dorn and Rick Lines to reproduce their excellent rejoinder to Professor Martin McKee. This is far more than a richly deserved put-down to the casual arrogance of McKee.  It includes a quite fundamental challenge to the health, medical and campaigning organisations that work on ‘tobacco control’.  Why are they so far apart from the people they are supposedly trying to save or help? I like the slogan adopted by people with HIV/AIDS as they dealt with the huge interests chasing funding,  with some bringing abstinence-only or other ideologically driven programmes into the field: nothing about us, without us.

The response is published on the BMJ website, but you can also read it here and comment freely. Let us know what you think in the comments. But please keep it polite!

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Reasonable people saying sensible things about low-risk alternatives to smoking (update)

Nicotine molecule
Warning: nicotine may induce authoritarian urges, warped judgements and loss of purpose

Updated 24 July 2013. Smokeless tobacco products, e-cigarettes and novel nicotine products have astonishing potential to reduce the expected one billion premature deaths from tobacco in the 21st Century.   Yet some health organisations are spreading misinformation, stoking up unwarranted fears and pretending there is much more risk and uncertainty than there really is.  So to provide some balance here is a collection of on-the-record quotes from researchers, experts and others who have grasped the important and disruptive significance of these developments. Enjoy!   Continue reading “Reasonable people saying sensible things about low-risk alternatives to smoking (update)”

Replace religious education

I was pleased to see the schools inspector Ofsted weighing in on religious education (RE) in schools. The report Making sense of religion: a report on religious education in schools and the impact of locally agreed syllabuses [release / report] is interesting – though stops short of a full broadside on the very idea of RE. Ofsted summarises:

The report argues that RE should not ignore controversy or the changes in the role and significance of religion in the modern world. Pupils should be taught that religion is complex, that its impact is ambiguous and should be given the opportunity to explore that ambiguity.

Amen to that! Continue reading “Replace religious education”

Thai restauranteur overcoming Act of God

I visited Nim’s Kitchen on Saturday evening, a splendid Thai restaurant in Norwood near Crystal Palace – very tasty food, good ambience and buzz, with excellent attentive service.

Nim’s Kitchen is a very good dining experience, but the truly remarkable thing about Nim’s Kitchen is the eponymous Nim herself -what she’s been though is shocking.  But not as shocking as what religious commentators have to say about it. Continue reading “Thai restauranteur overcoming Act of God”