Since, presumably, precious few here can be arsed to keep an eye out for the right-on rag's progressive wibblings (it's not just the content, their website is tediously slow and bug-ridden too), pictorial evidence is below courtesy of Joshua Lachkovic.
It would appear that their ire has been piqued by the outrageous behaviour - outrageous, so it is - of Philip Morris in asking for information to which they are perfectly entitled under the FOIA. In fact, not only do PMI believe they are legally entitled to it, so does the Information Commissioner.
DECISIONWow! Now, I'd say that looks pretty emphatic. Yet Stirling University seem to think that the law doesn't apply to them.
The Commissioner finds that the University of Stirling (the University) failed to comply with Part 1 (and in particular section 1(1)) of FOISA) in refusing to comply with Philip Morris International’s request for information under section 14(1) of FOISA.
The Commissioner also found that the University’s request for clarification under section 1(3) of FOISA was unnecessary and unreasonable and that, given this fact, the University breached section 10(1) of FOISA in responding to the request.
The Commissioner also found that the University did not fulfil its duty under section 15 of FOISA in relation to providing advice and assistance to Philip Morris International.
The Commissioner therefore requires the University of Stirling to respond to Philip Morris International’s request for information in terms of Part 1 of FOISA, other than in terms of section 14(1) by 5 September 2011.
"Most fundamentally this information was given to us by young people in complete confidence," [Prof Gerard Hastings, of the university's Centre for Tobacco Control Research] said. "We assured them we would treat it with absolute confidence and that it would be restricted to the research."You may remember Hastings, I've mentioned before how he is running around Scotland and Wales advising the anti-alcohol lobby how to demonise booze in the same way as his publicly-funded lot have done with tobacco.
'Publicly-funded' being the operative word(s) here, because Hastings seems to think that he is allowed to take our taxes for studies, but keep the results hidden from those who ask to see them.
His assurance that the information would definitely be kept solely for his team's eyes only is either 1) woefully naïve 2) irresponsibly misleading, or 3) jaw-droppingly dismissive of the law and its powers. Whichever option you choose, reality dictates that it wasn't his place to make such a promise, and that using his own inadequacy as an excuse for not satisfying the request is laughable and irrelevant.
There must be some right damning stuff in there to prompt such a dogged defence. I mean, there they were expecting to be given carte blanche to issue some of their usual dodgy science by press release direct to the Beeb, and next thing you know they're being asked to reveal their pre-determined methodology for proper scrutiny. It's just not fair, is it?
The Independent's Steve Connor was tasked with ramping up the threat of this innocuous request to the level of world-shattering alarm. Not that he would have taken much persuading considering his past record of pliant anti-tobacco advocacy. But even by his own standards - he has attracted the attention of Bad Science and others in the past for nonsense science reporting - his desperate padding out of a non-story with cherry-picked bullshit is quite hilarious.
Beginning with bang up-to-date documents from 1953, he takes us through more vitally relevant 1960s and 1970s writings from people probably long dead, before alighting on the 1992 EPA report which was rubbished in a US Court, and the 1998 SCOTH study compiled by a panel riddled with those with a vested interest in NRT. And all this under a headline hinting at dirty tricks and misinformation from the other side. Yet if a reciprocal article had been written quoting Enstrom & Kabat - the largest study of its kind - or the most comprehensive study to date on heart attacks and passive smoking, Connor would have no doubt cried foul and complained of cherry-picking himself.
And as for this ...
Their fight against these proposals is again based on undermining the scientific evidence that plain packaging can reduce the number of children and young adults who take up smoking.... I'd love to know how someone who has been vocal in his condemnation of those accusing him of promoting junk science can possibly square such an assertion when there is simply no science available on the matter. How can there be when it hasn't been attempted yet?
The Indy carries on with a generic contribution from CRUK's Jean King - a co-funder of Stirling University's *cough* science - who is doubtless equally as pissed off as Hastings at having to comply with the law.
How dare those who pay taxes ask to see the results they have paid for, eh? Such insolence!
Finally, the whole sorry episode is topped off with a sob story from that
University researchers have been sent hate emails and some have even received anonymous phone calls, which usually come after a series of blogs posted on pro-smoking websites, including at least one which is linked to the tobacco industry.Listen, love. While I agree that threats are totally unacceptable, if you will insist on talking bollocks in pursuit of derogating the lives of others, what else did you expect? Cry your crocodile tears if you like, but console yourself by wiping your nose on the Department of Health cheques you are happy to cash. OK?
Linda Bauld, professor of socio-management at Stirling University's Institute for Social Marketing, says she was unprepared for the scale of the personal attacks aimed at discrediting her work on smoking behaviour and anti-smoking legislation.
I don't know if Philip Morris people read here but, if they do, well done for putting the wind up these pompous, self-righteous arseholes. If the study is above board and run for the purposes of truth rather than propaganda, they have absolutely nothing to fear. There is no threat to privacy of kids - as hinted at by these charlatans - because it would have been identified by the ICO.
It's clear that the only possible threat is to the integrity of publicly-funded operations such as Stirling University if it is revealed more widely that they have been playing fast and loose with evidence to the detriment of people's lives.
Congrats, Philip Morris, you've highlighted the self-serving arrogance of anti-tobacco along with the lax standards of left-leaning media in one simple - but effective - Freedom of Information request.
No wonder Tony Blair spoke in his autobiography of his biggest mistake being the FOIA 2000. It's a right bugger for control freaks everywhere, ain't it?
UPDATE: Via Belinda, even the BMJ have come out in favour of Philip Morris and scoffed at the stance taken by Stirling University and The Independent.
Steve Connor is isolated as a science correspondent, and the University are not only wrong to resist, but also have no backing from those they might have relied upon. Glorious own goal, doncha think?