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Wednesday 25 July 2012

Reflections of Evil

OK, so the anti-smoker quiz is now closed.

I apologise for using Google Docs to make the quiz, which meant that your results couldn't be displayed on the blog page, and also meant that everyone could see your results on the spreadsheet.  I had tried a number of free quiz-making web sites first, but they either didn't work particularly well for me or (despite being touted as "free") they required some kind of payment to use some or all of the features.  So I opted to use Google Docs, which is now called Google Drive apparently.

I'm not going to go through all of the questions and answers, but I did want to cover the first question in a little detail because I learnt something from all of you by your answers to it.  The first question was:

The correct answer for this question was "Simon Chapman," which is how I refer to him on this blog.  But as you can see from the following graph, the majority of you answered "The World Health Organisation (WHO)".

Upon much consideration and deep reflection, I would think those of you who answered this question with the WHO as the Root of All Evil are also correct.  Perhaps I should have phrased the question a little differently to make it clear that I meant "who gets called the Root of All Evil on this blog."  But I think many of you answered with your opinion as to who or what the Root of All Evil was, and I really cannot argue that you're wrong.  The WHO, in my mind, is the Source of All Evil, much like the dark side of the Force.  The WHO's tentacles slither and spread out into the world, corrupting all of those it touches if people let it.  So it's a minor semantic difference.  Root.  Source.  They mean more or less the same thing. 

Going back to the Star Wars analogy, in my opinion the WHO is more like the intangible dark side of the Force, whereas Simon Chapman is more like Emperor Palpatine, the master of the Force's dark side, a master of evil.

Is this Simon Chapman or Emperor Palpatine?  Click to see the resemblance.
Curiously, Wikipedia's description of Palpatine is not a million miles away from how one might view Chapman.
In the films and the Expanded Universe, Palpatine is portrayed as cunning and deceptive in manipulating people and events to achieve his goals. [...] Palpatine presents himself in public to others as a modest, polite, and harmless person. However behind this public persona, in reality he is a ruthless megalomaniac.
That does sound just like the Root of All Evil to me.  What do you think?

Anyway, fellow rebels, the results of the anti-smoker quiz will remain available indefinitely here. If you answered question one with The WHO being the Root of All Evil, consider your answer to be correct as well.

Tuesday 24 July 2012

Great Weather - So Not Blogging

As the weather is so nice, I thought I'd enjoy Britain's all-too-brief summer interlude and avoid blogging.

Well ... just a brief message I suppose.

The anti-smoker quiz will continue to accept submissions until tomorrow - Wednesday 12 p.m. GMT.  If you haven't already taken the quiz, please do so before tomorrow.  Or you can take it again and try to improve on your score.  Up to you.  I hope you enjoyed it.  Who doesn't love a quiz?  Once it's closed, I'll post a brief comment or two about what I have learnt from it.

Sunday 22 July 2012

Take the Nannying Tyrants Anti-Smoker Quiz

Because we cannot be serious all of the time, I've made up this little quiz for you to take just for fun. It's been created in Google Docs using Forms, so it should be fairly robust. However, if you experience any problems with the quiz or getting your results after it is completed, leave a comment or contact me by e-mail and I'll investigate.  Hopefully I haven't ballsed this up too much by posting it in a blog post.

Before you take the quiz, note the introductory text in the quiz marked IMPORTANT, particularly that everyone's results will be visible to anyone who completes the quiz.  Don't let that put you off. Just use a fake name and get on with it.

UPDATE: Please note that the quiz is closed and will not accept further submissions.  You may view the final results and answers to the quiz here. Thanks!

Answer the questions below!

There is only one correct answer per question. Remember to click submit when you are finished answering all questions.

Thursday 19 July 2012

Peddling That Third-Hand Smoke Fairy Tale

You might remember Craig Dalton.  I wrote about him a short while ago and questioned if he is affiliated with tobacco control.  I also mentioned that he wants to ban the sale of tobacco in New Zealand. Even if you don't remember him, perhaps you will now.  Why?

Because in this radio interview with Jill Emberson of ABC Newcastle (Australia), the exchange around the 3:54 mark went like this (emphasis added):

Dalton: "The World Health Organisation is saying, 'You know, there's this thing called third-hand smoke -- uh, that is a building that has been contaminated probably forever if smokers have been in it because of the cancer-causing chemicals that are there that children may touch and ingest.'"

Emberson: "Are you serious? There's third-hand smoke?"

Dalton: "There is. Second-hand smoke is where you are, uh, are in the same room in proximity to a smoker and you inhale their, uh, sidestream smoke. But third-hand they're saying 'You know we've got contaminated buildings now with carcinogens in them.' So if that's the way health is going, if we're going to say this is so dangerous that's we're contaminating buildings, then logically, we're going to be banning this at some point."

Well, fuck me sideways in a hazmat suit.  Now smokers are contaminating buildings forever, according to both the WHO and Craig Dalton.  Indeed, "if that's the way health is going," then you know they're all a bunch of shysters. Never heard of soap and water? Some other industrial cleaner perhaps?  I can't wait until the guys who do asbestos removal work out they can moonlight decontaminating buildings where someone once smoked.

Look.  If smoking a bit of leaf in a paper tube (as Leg-Iron will put it to you) permanently contaminates a building, then so must any fireplace in a home do so, and anyone who cooks food in their home or restaurants are also evil and dangerous contaminators.  I do wonder if Mr Dalton considered those sources of smoke while he gnoshed on an overpriced smoked salmon bagel with cream cheese. Yes, that's right, smoked salmon or any smoked food, by his logic are permanently contaminated too. Because the same chemical composition of wood smoke is the same chemical composition that you find in cigarette smoke.

If you're worried about being contaminated by smoke, then anything cooked over an open fire, or anything that produced any kind smoke while cooking will fucking kill you.

And courtesy of Wikipedia here's a list:

Fruit and vegetables
Are we all permanently contaminated by our food?  If it's on Wikipedia, it must be true... indeed, here's what The National Cancer Institute said:
"population studies have not established a definitive link between ... cooked meats and cancer in humans," but suggests individuals reduce their exposure to PAHs (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons).
The rest of the Dr Dalton's interview, which is about 17 minutes long, carries on the same way -- if you can bear to listen to it without laughing yourself to death.  He even said that retailers are equally to blame for selling cigarettes as tobacco companies are for making them. Retailers are killing you simply for allowing you to buy cigarettes. They have a choice not to give you a choice. What a humanitarian, eh?

I had a little trouble playing the interview with the audio player embedded into the article.  If you have trouble too then you can download it here.

Does Craig Dalton believe in fairy tales, or does he just want you to believe them?
Image via

I need a drink.

Wednesday 18 July 2012

Plain Packs: It's Really Not About Children

We've been saying all along that plain packaging for tobacco has nothing to do with protecting children.  But you don't need to take my word for it.  Instead, let me tease you by showing you two slides from a tobacco control industry presentation and afterwards I will reveal whose presentation it was.  Ready?  OK, let's go.

Right. These slides were taken from Anna Gilmore's presentation "Tactics of the Tobacco Industry" at the 2011 UK National Smoking Cessation Conference.  I found the slides and the accompanying audio of her presentation when researching Gilmore for our Super Twat of the Month and decided it was worthy of its own post. 

But what to make of these two slides?  Well, they indicate that the purpose of plain packs is not to protect children, but to hurt the profits of tobacco companies, something very dear and near to Gilmore's heart.  The pack designs not only helps distinguish your products from your competitors' products, but they are also used to indicate "premium brands."  So, the idea behind plain packs is to abolish the premium brands, and by doing that you hurt Big T's profit margins.  That's all it is about.  In order to shore up public support for their plans, they have simply "re-framed" the plain packs proposal as something to protect the kids.

But it's not about kids.

Listen and view the slides to Anna Gilmore's presentation here (it's about 33 minutes long).  If you are short on time, then some interesting highlights are:

(about 7:20 mark):
"[A]nd then brand value. So their ability to make these profits really depends on the selling the high-end brands. And how do they do that? Basically through communicating brand value to consumers. And nowadays that's largely through the packet, and through product innovation, because we've closed off most other routes of advertising.  And this of course is why plain packaging or generic packaging is being and will continue to be so heavily contested by the tobacco industry -- I mean, it's my prediction that of all the policies we've tried to get through, this will be the hardest."

(about 9:45 mark)
"But of course the pack is also important in profit, because this is what communicates that this brand is more valuable, if you like, than others."

(about 28:50 mark)
"We need a ban on price-based marketing and price discounting. The tobacco industry should not be able to sell two packs for six quid.  Price cap regulation, which is something we've suggested in a different (unintelligble), would be an alternative. 

"We need to monitor cigarette prices far more closely than we have been doing. Just using these average prices is not adequate. [...] To do this we need industry data. The commercially-available data is incredibly expensive. So I think the industry should be required to provide data on its brand-specific prices to government, and in turn the government [laughs] can let us have it."

And for the bloggers and libertarians, you were not left out:

(about 16:40 mark)
"Every time I publish a paper, it gets slated by a whole lot of industry-friendly bloggers.  And this guy, here's he's saying  "Anna Gilmore adds junk economics to her junk epidemiology portfolio." And this is just one of many that I get every time, and I like to take it as a badge of honour.  But this guy is actually quite interesting, Carl Philips.  Because if you read his CV he claims to be an epidemiologist, and he runs this web site and he also publishes a journal called Harm Reduction. So you know we have to be very careful about who are the people setting up these websites and writing these things and publishing journals and which interests do they represent."

(about 32:12 mark)
"And increasingly I think we're seeing the use of libertarian groups and arguments about the nanny state, and the use of bloggers, and what I -- what's termed "astroturfing", which is basically fake grass-roots. So we're seeing these organisations appear, that you know, or bloggers appear you know blogging from their heart, but actually our suspicions are that some of them are being paid by the tobacco industry."

There you have it. It's all about attacking the industry's profits. By making the packs the same, tobacco companies can no longer distinguish between competitors' products nor can they distinguish between the ranges of their own products. 

It's not about children at all. Never was. Never will be.

Tuesday 17 July 2012

Super Twat of the Month - July 2012 (Part 2)

This is the second part of our Super Twat of the Month for July post covering Dr Anna Gilmore.  Part 1 is here if you haven't read it already.

Super Twat of the Month - July 2012

July's Super Twat is Dr Anna B. Gilmore, MBBS, DTM&H, MSc, MFPHM - Professor of Public Health & Director of the Tobacco Control Research Group at the University of Bath.

War of the Wikis

On 1st June 2012, the Tobacco Control Research Group (TCRG) at the University of Bath launched their Tobacco Tactics wiki. The head of TCRG is of course Anna Gilmore. The purpose of the wiki, they claim, is "to provide up-to-date information on the Tobacco Industry, its allies or those promoting a pro-tobacco agenda."  (We have written about the wiki previously here.)

As one casually peruses the wiki, it is evident that almost any person, business or organisation that has publicly disagreed with tobacco control legislation is included on the "naughty list" located under the Organisations and People heading.

While some of the categories are certainly suspect and overreaching, it is the inclusion of bloggers and libertarians to the naughty list that is particularly irksome to us.  What purpose, exactly, do these two entries serve if not as an attempt to publicly malign private individuals as paid stooges for Big Tobacco?

Discontented with attacking tobacco companies and the people who work for them, it seems that the tobacco control industry has now chosen to smear anyone at all who disagrees with their views.  But what it really looks like to us is that Gilmore is upset that there are bloggers out there who don't agree with her, so they too must be added to the wiki in some sort of personal vendetta against them, possibly.

Whatever her reasons for including bloggers and libertarians, it is simultaneously laughable and concerning that those entries indicate money was spent on researching Companies House for information about the bloggers' business activities.  For instance:
Puddlecote says he runs his own transport business, yet there is no "Puddlecote" listed as a Director at Companies House.
The obvious fact that Dick Puddlecote writes using a pseudonym is apparently lost on the researchers.  Moreover, that statement makes it clear that Dick does not work for tobacco companies, so he was added due to his opinions about the people who work in the tobacco control industry and seemingly because he's also a libertarian. 

Another thing we take issue with is the total lack of transparency of edits on the Tobacco Tactics wiki.  Why for instance are the edit summaries hidden and the edit histories scrubbed?

If this is genuine research by academic researchers, then why are the majority of editors on the wiki anonymous?

(Of the few names that are not anonymised, we wonder if the user account "Sally Chesworth" is for the same person who is a BBC radio producer.  And if so, why would a person in the media need a user account for the wiki?)

We cannot help but wonder why the Tobacco Tactics wiki is so secretive in its edits.  Is it to protect the various editors from direct legal action, perhaps?  We don't know.  Nevertheless, we remain highly suspect of Gilmore's intentions for this site.  Indeed, the entries are often biased, sometimes whimsical in its presentation of certain individuals, and sometimes inaccurate or misleading when attributing what they deem as threats by certain bloggers like Frank Davis.

Amusingly, the creation of Gilmore's wiki of shame had yet another unintended effect. To borrow the phrase from Newton's third law of motion, "To every action there is always an equal and opposite reaction," the reaction to Gilmore's wiki was the creation of another wiki site called Tobacco Control Tactics*.  The opposing wiki describes its purpose as follows:
TCTactics aims to provide up-to-date information on the Tobacco Control Industry, its allies and those promoting the extremist anti-tobacco agenda that no longer targets just tobacco but ordinary adult consumers who use it. 
[*Full disclosure:  We have been granted a user account at the TCTactics wiki, however we have yet to add any content to the wiki, for which we also apologise.]

The TCTactics wiki was not funded by any tobacco companies or "pro-tobacco" organisations or "front groups" and it certainly received no money from the taxpayer.  The wiki was created by ordinary citizens all over the world who are weary of the tobacco control industry distorting the debate about public health whilst continually harassing adult smokers.

Gilmore's wiki, on the other hand, was part-funded by Smokefree South West (a group funded by several NHS trusts), which means you the British taxpayer paid for some of it.

And while the disclaimer on Gilmore's wiki says Smokefree South West "had no input into the research reported on this website or its conclusions," we have to wonder if that statement is factual.

Steering in the Right Wrong Direction

We mentioned in part 1 of this post that getting funding for your research is paramount.  So how did Smokefree South West come to fund the Tobacco Tactics wiki?  To be absolutely honest, we really do not know.  But we find it most curious that one of Dr Anna Gilmore's "on-going roles" is being a member of SmokeFree South West's Steering Committee and Programme Board, a position perhaps she inherited from Linda Bauld after she left Bath.

Click to Enlarge
What's a steering committee and what do they typically do?  From (emphasis added):
An advisory committee usually made up of high level stakeholders and/or experts who provide guidance on key issues such as company policy and objectives, budgetary control, marketing strategy, resource allocation, and decisions involving large expenditures.
Well, this all seems a bit incestuous to us.  Gilmore sits on the steering committee which quite possibly determines who gets funding for research projects and campaigns like plain packs.  We have had difficulty locating any information on-line about this particular steering committee, e.g. all who sit on it, but perhaps we missed it -- we could find nothing on its website or via Google searches. To learn more, perhaps we'll need yet another freedom of information request to see if it's really some kind of star chamber-like committee operating under the auspices of Big Pharma and its own devious plan to force nicotine replacement therapy on every smoker out there.

We note that the Tobacco Tactics wiki lists both Eveline Lubbers and Andrew Rowell as managing editors, but we think it unlikely that Gilmore has no editorial influence whatsoever on the wiki.  So is it accurate to say that Smokefree South West has no input on the wiki when in fact a member of the NHS's organisation is responsible for the creation of the wiki?

We admit we do not have the answer. But it looks all kinds of dodgy to us.

The Star Chamber
Image via Watching The Detectives

Those Non-Existent Slippery Slopes Exist

As we come to the end of this epic post about Dr Anna Gilmore, we feel obligated to point out again that all of the tactics and techniques she learnt from doing her tobacco control work are now being used for alcohol control too.  Go on and download the conference programme and see for yourself.  All of the items that were discussed at the conference are illuminating, but we liked this one the best:
Should we consider managing the retail environment and product marketing as ways of combating tobacco and/or alcohol use? What effect do restrictions on product displays, product content disclosure, or tighter packaging and labelling rules have on consumption?
Naturally, this blows ASH's Myth #7 right out of the water:

Dr Anna Gilmore is of course moving into alcohol control because ... well, we think Dick Puddlecote said it best here last January:
Having just about squeezed UK and EU tobacco control budgets dry with her trademark 'torturing of statistics for hire' consultancy provision (motto: no job too small, no untruth too big), she is now offering her services as an expert in other areas.

The demonisation of alcohol companies, to be precise.
Do we really need to say any more about those non-existent slippery slopes?  We think you get the picture just fine.  Anna Gilmore apparently gets it.

In Closing

Because this post is long enough, there are a number of things about Dr Gilmore we didn't cover.  Like her role as European Editor for Tobacco Control magazine, the very same journal where all of the so-called peer-reviewed research ends up.  Nor did we mention her role with RedPharma as a member of the Trial Steering Group.  We didn't even mention that Pfizer and Novartis seem to sponsor many if not all of the tobacco and alcohol control conventions -- and of course they have absolutely no vested interests in ensuring their products are used and promoted by tobacco control and the NHS. Right?

Despite our omissions, we feel we've said enough for now. So we offer our congrats to Dr Anna B. Gilmore for obtaining the dubious honour of Super Twat of the Month. Congratulations, madam. You've earned it in spades.

Sunday 15 July 2012

Super Twat of the Month - July 2012 (Part 1)


Each month this blog will choose one person or an organisation to be our Super Twat of the Month.  Our STOTM will normally be a public figure who is an anti-smoker activist and/or someone who is trashing (or attempting to trash) our civil liberties in support of a Nanny or Surveillance State.  If this blog had to have only one motto, it would be "Educate, Don't Legislate."  STOTMs want to legislate your lifestyles away. The people we choose to be STOTMs often claim to be in support of civil liberties, but in reality they only want liberties to be applied to the causes or groups of people they identify with.  Here we call them out for their hypocrisy.  We are not so naive that we believe this blog will have any impact on their decisions, but we can hope.

(Due to length, we have decided to publish this month's STOTM article in two parts.)

Super Twat of the Month - July 2012

July's Super Twat is Dr Anna B. Gilmore, MBBS, DTM&H, MSc, MFPHM - Professor of Public Health & Director of the Tobacco Control Research Group at the University of Bath.

Dr Anna Gilmore

To be honest, we never wanted to write anything about Dr Gilmore.  We believed others were doing a brilliant job at exposing any flaws in her research and publications, and countering her statements for and on behalf of the tobacco control industry, so we saw little point in covering it ourselves.  But there is another reason we didn't want to write about Gilmore that is much more selfish:  self-preservation. Simply seeing her name in print is usually enough to start us on a month-long binge drinking affair reminiscent of Nicolas Cage's character in "Leaving Las Vegas."  For the sake of our livers, sanity and happiness, we've avoided Gilmore these last few months. 

But when Gilmore launched her Tobacco Tactics wiki designed not only to attack Big Tobacco but also to intimidate and silence bloggers, libertarians or anyone who disagrees with the parasitical tobacco control industry, we could no longer avoid her.  So risking our very lives, we begin:

The Good

  • Dr Gilmore's early research into meningococcal disease is impressive and cited often.
  • Gilmore also worked in a refugee camp in Nepal and a community hospital in India

At the beginning of Gilmore's career she did extensive research and published several papers about meningococcal disease, which causes life-threatening meningitis and sepsis (blood poisoning) conditions.  This is a disease that truly kills hundreds of thousands of people each year, mainly children and the elderly, particularly in developing countries.  If one were genuinely interested in "protecting the children," any research into this field is worthwhile. Gilmore's research papers about the disease have been cited numerously in subsequent publications and studies.  The work she did in this field of medicine should be considered laudable, especially if it helped to save any lives.

A press release from the University of Bath indicates that Dr Gilmore also had "stints" in a Nepali refugee camp and a community hospital in India.  We don't know what sort of work she did; we can find nothing on-line about her work at these places.  Nevertheless, we assume that helping refugees in any kind of medical capacity is definitely a good thing.  We suppose that we'll have to wait until she publishes her auto-biography to learn about what she did at the beginning of her career.

The Bad

  • The vast majority of Dr Gilmore's work since 2001 has been in tobacco control
  • Her research to shore up public support for tobacco control is often criticised as "junk science"
  • Gilmore is now actively merging tobacco control with alcohol control polices
  • European editor of Tobacco Control magazine
  • Council Member of Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) England (former Board Member)
  • Member of Smokefree South West's steering committee (the organisation runs the Plain Packs campaign)
  • Created the Tobacco Tactics wiki, which was part-funded by Smokefree South West
  • Has helped to shape numerous legislative policies against smokers that have hurt communities
  • Her claims of being denigrated and harassed look like propaganda

Research Ain't Cheap

While working on staff at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, sometime around 2001 Dr Gilmore apparently abandoned her research about meningococcal disease and switched to tobacco control.  It is unclear whether this was a personal choice or perhaps influenced by her colleague Dr Martin McKee (who co-authored many tobacco control industry research papers with Gilmore).

In an issue of the University of Bath's The Insider published in October 2007 (page 11), Gilmore explains her reasons for beginning her crusade against Big Tobacco:
"I qualified as a doctor but I realised that if I really wanted to make an impact on public health I needed to get behind the root causes, rather than just treating the symptoms. Tobacco kills more people than anything else, so that was the area I wanted to have an impact. It’s an exciting time to be involved in tobacco research – it’s high on the agenda of governments around the world, which means there is more money for research than ever before."
Make of that quote what you will, but our opinion is that it provides true insights into the world of career academics and researchers. We can only suppose that perhaps meningococcal disease studies and treating sick people are not nearly as glamorous, politically-influential or academically grant-worthy as it may be working in tobacco control.

For all career academics, the need to secure funding for your research is paramount. Influences and pressure from commercial or government sources of funding could bring a lack of objectivity in the research.  In this Guardian article, Charles Ferguson writes:
Over the past couple of decades medical professionals have amply demonstrated the influence money can have in a supposedly objective, scientific field. 
In another Guardian article, Simon Jenkins bemoans how universities have seemingly entered a Faustian pact and have become dependent on government subsidies for funding:
British universities have become spineless lackeys of central government, lickspittles at the trough of subsidy. They plead they are a "golden investment" in the nation's future, yet they cry "higher purpose" when this claim is challenged. Those who went to university, including captains of industry, go along with this confidence trick to justify the advantage they gained from the experience, and hope their children can benefit too.
The bottom line is that research is not cheap and universities and researchers need lots of funding to survive. Securing funding from private or government institutions can be difficult even in the best of times. With a near-broken peer-review system, it is not hard to imagine that in some circumstances objectivity and integrity can go right out of the window when it comes to research paid for by industry that seeks a particular result.

Indeed, the tobacco control industry tirelessly claim that any research paid for or on behalf of tobacco companies must be viewed as suspect research, biased in favour of the industry, and therefore automatically discredited and invalid. The hypocrisy of these statements seems lost on tobacco control researchers, whose funding is often secured through pressure charities like ASH or other dedicated organisations (private charities or governmental) with a clear tobacco-control agenda.  By hiding behind a university's academic credentials, by using private charities, and by waving their banners of "public health" and "protect the children," the tobacco control industry makes dubious claims that its research is unbiased and therefore the only research that matters in the debate. We truly doubt it.

Regardless of the rhetoric about who funds the research, the take-home lesson is that researchers need constant funding for current and future projects.  So we wonder:  How better to ensure said funding than to sit on committees that are likely to fund your research?  As we will see in part 2 of this post, Anna Gilmore has seemingly positioned herself to do exactly that.

Queen of Junk Science?

We see little need to challenge the quality or accuracy of Dr Gilmore's tobacco control research here since others have done so repeatedly and far better than we can.  Suffice it to say that it does seem as though Gilmore and former research partner Linda Bauld are a bit thin-skinned and clearly resent having their work labelled as a "junk science" as evidenced by the number of articles on the Tobacco Tactics wiki complaining about it.  (ed note: we found the Tobacco Tactics wiki quite helpful in listing articles that debunked Gilmore's work -- we doubt that was her intention.)

Gilmore apparently believes she has been denigrated by libertarians and bloggers, but name-calling aside, is it really denigration of one's work when someone actually proves the claims you have made were distorted in pursuit of a particular agenda?  Ironically, by complaining about denigration rather than standing by her work and/or backing up her work with further evidence, Gilmore has succeeded in lending further credence to her detractors' claims of junk science as well as helping them attain a wider audience than they already had. In our view, it is an own goal.

Furthermore, if the following claims of denigration had not been made in the press (see Daily Mail article here), it is unlikely we would have ever chosen Anna Gilmore as Super Twat of the Month.  Gilmore said:
We've had abuse before, over the debate about banning smoking in public places, and I get some of this every time I publish a paper, but it's increasing...This is part of a deliberate attempt to misinform the public and politicians, denigrate our research and to harass, denigrate and undermine us as researchers."
She gets abuse every time she publishes a paper? Really? And it's increasing?  If true, is it perhaps because people are angry and feel that Gilmore is deliberately misleading the public to support tobacco control legislation? We don't know, and it would not be an excuse for harassment if it is the case. Regardless, for some reason Gilmore seems to believe that no one is allowed to disagree with her studies.  Indeed, the entire tobacco control industry acts this way.  If proving Gilmore wrong time and time again is denigration, then perhaps we need to add a new definition to that word.

I'm Not a Nazi! I'm Not a Nazi!

That latest whinge about denigration does not seem to be the first time Anna Gilmore has taken umbrage to people challenging her work or calling her names. Perhaps weary of being compared to or called a anti-smoking Nazi, she and two other researchers (Martin McKee and Eleonore Bachinger) published a study  in a clear attempt to disassociate the modern tobacco control movement with the anti-smoking movement in Nazi Germany, arguing that things were "complex."  It was a weak attempt at re-framing the Nazi debate in respect of current German reluctance to implement strict smoking ban polices for fear of having it associated with Hitler's anti-smoking policies.  It had the opposite effect, however.

Again, by bringing even more attention to being compared to Nazis, they have only succeeded in more closely associating themselves with it. Even more concerning, it appears to us as if they learnt some tactics from their research of Nazi Germany policies and tactics. Here, for example, is a short [fair use] excerpt from their study (Public Health Volume 122, Issue 5 , Pages 497-505, May 2008):

"Insights can be gained"?  What kind of insights?  Perhaps this insight: "As tobacco is the most dangerous toxin for the circulatory system, it is avoided by all athletes’, and would be altogether ‘unmanly’"  Now compare that particular insight to this Gilmore quote in a Brighton Wired article a few years later about Wayne Rooney and other athletes smoking:
Anna Gilmore, professor of public health at the University of Bath, agreed that athletes have a responsibility to their fan base to be 'responsible role modes'. (sic)  


But she said athletes should also be thinking of the effect that the nicotine is having on their own health and performance.

"Smoking has a very detrimental effect on health and would affect one's ability to function as an athlete," she said.

"It has significant impacts on the cardiovascular and respiratory systems, which are essential to athletic performance." 
So, in our opinion, there are some obvious parallels with the Nazi anti-smoking movement and today's anti-smoker movement.  The tactics to denormalise smokers and further an anti-smoking agenda between the two eras are clearly similar in many respects. It's impossible not to draw comparisons. But is it really any of Gilmore's business that Wayne Rooney or any other athlete was having a fag?  Is it anyone's business but the athletes'?  No, it isn't.  Naturally, like any totalitarian movement designed to control behaviour, those in tobacco control like Anna Gilmore with the help of the media have made it their business.

Classic Nazi-era Anti-smoking Propaganda
Source: Reine Luft 1941;23:117)

Forget the Children, I'm the Victim!

Despite the claims of denigration against Gilmore personally and professionally, it was playing the victim card in the press that we believe deserves closer scrutiny.  Was security really stepped up at Bath?  If telephonic threats were made as often as they claim (seven phone calls per day for months), were these reported to the police?  Why haven't any arrests been made?

We're not saying that Gilmore and her team wasn't harassed, and we certainly do not condone threats or harassment of any kind, but we have to wonder if perhaps there was some embellishment about what actually happened and what, if any, the real threat may have been.

Certainly the press used blog quotes out of context in an attempt to legitimise the tobacco control industry's story.  In addition, Linda Bauld, Deborah Arnott and Stephen Williams also claimed they were harassed, or threatened or abused in some fashion.  If any of this is true, surely the police would have acted on it and arrested someone?

Stephen Williams's tweet
(A few weeks prior to that tweet by Williams, he attended a public debate over plain packs.  He was not threatened or harmed by anyone, nor did he receive any homophobic abuse at the debate. By all accounts, the debate was civil. If there really is an angry mob of bloggers and libertarians out to harass tobacco control advocates, they apparently missed their chance to do so at this debate. We also could find no evidence of homophobic abuse on his blog, although if there was any we suppose it must have been deleted.)

In our opinion, the timing of the story in the press is highly suspect. It came out only a day after the WHO announced its campaign to expose pro-tobacco advocates. If there were actual threats (and not just angry rants) made to Gilmore's team six months earlier and which carried on for several months as she claims, then we would have expected a story to come out sooner than 1st June 2012. But there were no stories. Why hold it back?  And no one was arrested.  Why not? We wonder if the police, assuming they were contacted, decided these alleged threats were not credible. Regardless, we are expected to take Gilmore at her word that she was in fear for her life.  The media certainly did.

Of course no mention was made in those articles about how Gilmore's tobacco control advocacy has genuinely harmed smokers or put publicans out of business. The tobacco control industry consistently denies that their policies have harmed anyone including businesses, but this does not appear to be the case at all.  This Daily Mail article explains how tobacco control policies have turned smokers into filthy lepers:
Anti-smoking campaigns and laws have turned smokers into a despised underclass, a study by a Department of Health adviser warned [...]

The history of public health is scarred by policies which, pursued in the name of health protection and promotion, have served to intensify public vilification and state-sanctioned discrimination against already disadvantaged groups
But what should we make of Gilmore's own study which indicates that Somali women in London are at genuine risk of being harmed?  Pat Nurse wrote about it here and said:
While she trumpeted what a great success the ban had been and misled the public about how it had reduced heart attacks which has since been exaggerated by the press, she kept strangely quiet about the fact that it humiliated and socially isolated older people - women especially - and created dangerous situations for Somali women who now have to take to the streets in hoodies to hide from male violence in a culture where women are second class citizens. 

We cannot help but feel that Gilmore's claims of being threatened have been exaggerated and embellished in pursuit of their agenda for plain packs, but of course we cannot know what actually happened.  Furthermore, we can find no evidence that any tobacco control advocate has ever been physically harmed by pro-tobacco advocates nor by any bloggers who despise the tobacco control industry.  Are we really supposed to believe their stories just because they said it happened? 

Gilmore's and the others' claims in the press certainly appear to us as a deceitful propaganda stunt designed to tar anyone who disagrees with tobacco control as deranged lunatics in line with the latest WHO propaganda. It also served to advertise the launch of Gilmore's Tobacco Tactics wiki.  Coincidence?  We do not believe so, but that is just our speculative opinion.

We're only half done here.  Click here for part 2 of this post.

[end of part 1]

Friday 13 July 2012

End of the Week Roundup

With apologies, blogging has been light this week due to researching this month's Super Twat. As always, the hardest part is finding something good to say about them.  That post will be forthcoming in a few days.  But while I've been quiet, there have been others who have been posting up some fantastic blogs.

Lying, Cheating Ratbags Busted

Dick Puddlecote and Chris Snowdon exposed Smokefree South West's plain packs website for what it is: a huge pack of lies designed to deceive the public by listing Mr "open-minded" Andrew Lansley as a supporter. Oops.

Simon Clark of Forest also covered it here on his blog and wondered if Plain Packs Protects is merely stupid or arrogant.  I would say yes they are both of those, and also suggest "incompetent" -- is that being harsh?  Perhaps not.

After being exposed, Smokefree South West then quietly removed Lansley from their supporters page today, which makes them look guilty as hell, and also added this disclaimer: "These comments have been taken from the public domain and do not necessarily represent an endorsement of the Plain Packs Protect campaign."  Yeah, right. 

Here's a Google-cache image of their site before the change (note the lack of disclaimer):

They're Coming for the Outdoors Too

Over at The Moose, Bucko blogged about New Zealand's latest insane study on outdoor smoking, which boldly claims:
Smoking significantly raises the level of dangerous air pollution in city streets, according to new research that has reignited the debate about banning cigarettes in public places.
As it happens, the study was commissioned, designed, and funded by the tobacco control industry.

So no bias there, right? Remember when the tobacco control industry Nazis said everyone would be safe if smokers were forced outside?  They lied.  This was always part of the plan. 

Quit or Die  Get Beaten to Death (possibly)

Last but not least comes this fantastic exposé by Pat Nurse on how smokefree legislation is actually harming women in ethnic communities right here in the UK and the tobacco control industry has merely shrugged its shoulders about the problem.  Pat writes:

Indeed, they appear to see making women targets for cultural male violence as some sort of benefit in helping them to enforce their political ideology to rid the world of smokers.

Here's an interesting (and truly saddening) slide from the study:

Not only is the tobacco control industry denormalising and shaming human beings, they're also making them targets for abuse in their communities.

Wow.  Just wow.  The tobacco control industry likes to believe it is helping people, but all it has really done is ripped communities apart, isolated the elderly, and destroyed any chance of smokers having a healthy social life.  Tobacco control is a plague on society.  They are all villains.

Monday 9 July 2012

The Indoors Is Not Enough

Is there a perpetual full moon hanging over Australia?  Because the raging anti-smoker lunacy there is fucking phenomenal.  Not contented with banishing smokers outdoors or calling for outright prohibition, a group calling itself the WSCAN Parramatta Cancer Action Network* has started a petition to banish smoking outdoors at alfresco dining areas in central Sydney.  [*This group has no on-line presence it seems; none that I can see anyway.]

It's worth reprinting their petition in full (emphasis in original):

Most people in the community want to be able to enjoy a meal outdoors without breathing in other people’s smoke.

As a group who either have been affected by cancer or who have loved ones who have, we care about our health and want to be able to dine outdoors free of smoke. Some of us are affected by asthma, some of us have children working in hospitality and we all want to take our children and grandchildren out to eat in a safe environment.

Parramatta Council  has recently brought in a policy for smoke-free alfresco dining on land leased from council such as footpaths. We’ve also seen NSW Government legislation, introduced to Parliament that will hopefully protect the community from second hand smoke across the state, but the detail is not yet finalised.

Yet a few restaurants in Parramatta continue to oppose the Council smoke-free policy. According to the local press these restaurants are Armani, Kouzina Greco, The Chocolate Room, Saute Thai, Black Angus, Thai in a Box, Café Lime, City Extra and Harry’s Café de Wheels. More recently, the Parramatta Business Freedom Association and Armani restaurant, according to court documentation, challenged the policy through the Land and Environment Court. Last week the court handed down a decision that confirmed Council has the power to ban smoking in footway restaurants.

At the state level, the hospitality industry has a long record of resisting public health initiatives that reduce the harms from smoking. Years ago, pubs and clubs were exempted from indoor smoke-free laws, then they lobbied the State Government for smoking to be allowed to continue in ‘pseudo-outdoor areas’. Over the past few years, hospitality groups have been arguing against  smoke-free legislation covering places where people gather to eat and drink. The current action by a small number of restaurants is just one local example of the industry’s continued opposition to measures that protect public health that the community itself has been asking for.

Our fear is that the hospitality bodies and tobacco industry will continue to find ways around new public health measures at local, state, national and even international levels – and we need to tell them that enough is enough! Lots of individual restaurants and cafes are keen to go smoke-free and have adapted as new measures are introduced. Why let a small number of venues dictate the public discussion about this issue?

Parramatta Council went through an exhaustive process over 2 years of community surveys and consultations before introducing this policy. A 2009 survey found 87% of residents supporting alfresco dining areas being smoke-free. In 2011, a survey showed non-smokers spend more than smokers at each visit to a restaurant.
Smoke-free dining protects those who work in restaurants from regular exposure to dangerous second-hand smoke. Smoke-free dining means families can safely enjoy eating out and walk along footpaths adjacent to restaurants without breathing toxic smoke.

We need to send a message to restaurant operators, particularly those in Parramatta, that resistance to smoke-free outdoor dining at a local or state level is futile and goes against community expectations. The vast majority of the community (their customers) want smoke-free dining, to protect public health and enhance the enjoyment of dining out.
Wow.  Look at the emotive language and other utter bullshit used in that petition. A stunning, classic piece of anti-smoker propaganda.  Notice the tell-tale signs of the propaganda:  There are children at risk.  Oh, the poor, vulnerable children!  No, wait!  In this case, there are entire fucking families at risk!  Jesus.  I mean, never mind the pollution caused by vehicles... it's just has to be the second-hand smoke that's giving the little squirts asthma attacks. 

I wonder if Australian smokers remember how they felt when they were finally forced to relinquish their last remaining indoor smoking areas to the hateful fuckwit anti-smokers, who said then that everyone would be protected so long as smokers were kept outside.  I bet the smokers thought, "Well, at least we have the outdoor areas to smoke in."  If you thought that, I'm sorry, but you would be wrong. The indoors is not enough for these people.  They want it all. Indoors, outdoors, in your homes, in your cars.  They will not stop because they hate you. It's a hate campaign designed to get rid of you, to isolate you from society, to make you total social pariahs. If you give these nannying tyrants an inch, they will take a light year.  Every time.  Count on it.

So. What to do? At a minimum, I would suggest the following:

The petitioners very kindly included a list of restaurants and businesses that are against this outdoor dining area smoking ban. If you are a smoker, please go visit these establishments.  They deserve a little of your money if you can spare it.  Better yet, get all the smokers you can find and go as a group and try to take up all of the outdoor tables. Sure, it's wintertime in Oz, but fuck it.  You're Australians! You can handle it!

Maybe you could start a Facebook group and organise something, like a flash mob thing -- a smoking mob. Yeah, that's cool. A smoking mob.  You could even print up group T-shirts or buttons that read: "Down with Nanny State!"  (I was going to suggest "Simon Chapman is a Fuckwit" for your buttons but I don't know if that would be legal in Oz, so it could be a really bad idea... you guys have almost no free speech protections any longer, and I would hate to see anyone arrested for it. Might want to avoid mentioning the Root of All Evil.)

Or you could do nothing and continue to be denormalised by the neo-puritan Nazis taking over Australia. 

Arrrrrggghhh! There are people smoking outside!  I'm so angry!
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