Sunday, 13 April 2014

Real Science Is Unwelcome

Now you're finally finished playing in the sunshine, I can heartily recommend a rather fine piece at TVFC comparing Victorian Puritans with the modern day religion of 'public health' which you can read here.

One particular observation is very well drawn.
Since our health is placed on the highest pinnacle in this new religion, those charged with care for that health are not to be challenged even when they step beyond their knowledge. Thus, a doctor's opinion on the packaging of cigarettes is granted more value - because he is a 'priest' - than the opinion of those who understand the role of packaging or have studied its actual effect. 
Those who contest these ideas, who challenge the New Puritians are condemned as the followers of Satan - in thrall to Big Tobacco, The Drinks Industry or Big Sugar.
Indeed they are, as has been illustrated in another article I read this week.

You see, back in August 2012, a real scientist - as opposed to the tobacco control pretend ones - wrote about a study he had conducted into how people view health messages on various tobacco packets. As Snowdon reported at the time, his conclusions were somewhat different to those of faux expert Linda Bauld.
For the record, Dr Tim Holmes, of Royal Holloway (University of London) happens to be an expert in eye-tracking experiments and has no ties to either the tobacco industry or the anti-tobacco industry. When he conducted a similar experiment, his research found...
...the non-smokers looked at the warning messages much less than the other participants, and there was no difference between plain and branded package designs in the amount of time spent looking at the warning message. 
Now, it’s great that the right people are looking more at the warning message, but if this doesn’t result in an increased risk perception then surely the messages aren’t doing their job! Moreover, if removing the brand identity doesn’t change the way people look at the packets then maybe plain packaging, which will be costly to implement, isn’t the best of ideas.
As far as I know, Dr Holmes has yet to publish his research and one can hardly blame him from wanting to avoid the smears and slurs that will inevitably come his way if he does.
Snowdon's suspicions were proven correct, as Dr Holmes has written again about that experiment, along with his future research plans in this area.
When I posted that first blog piece about the student project I’d supervised, I was immediately contacted, and even harassed, for being a scientist and daring to question the efficacy of plain packaging in the war on cigarette consumption.
Sigh, it's so predictable, isn't it?
Anyone who cared to read the blog with an open mind would have seen that my stance was that of a vision scientist who can see that simply removing the branding from a tobacco package will not automatically result in increased attention to the health warnings
Quite. But the tobacco control industry never reads anything with an open mind because if they did they'd have to accept evidence which disagrees with their policy-based orthodoxy, and that just won't do. Hence why they usually get their own non-experts to do the research lest a real scientist comes up with something which might be off-message.

Dr Holmes goes on to explain that he is looking deeper into the subject and has - shock, horror! - accepted funding from Philip Morris to do so.
Now, if you’re a proponent of plain packaging, you have probably already decided what the outcome of that study was, and you have probably dismissed my scientific credibility for even talking to Big Tobacco. If so, Big Tobacco was right, because they warned me that would happen if I decided to accept their offer.  But I wanted to understand the genuine effects of plain packaging on visual attention and as a scientist I do not believe that there has to be a necessary correlation between funding source and research outcome.
Well, there shouldn't be, no. But, of course, when even the BMJ has abandoned its integrity in favour of anti-scientific censorship and an admittance that the peer review process is broken, it's a depressingly common method of avoiding debate.

Dr Holmes finishes with a statement which shouldn't need to be made.
I am not a policy maker, I am a scientist!
Sadly, this is why he will be demonised, smeared and ignored if his research comes up with the 'wrong' results. Real science is unwelcome in the message-correct echo chamber of tobacco control and must be avoided at all costs, it's just too uncontrollable and inconvenient.

You can read Dr Holmes' article in full here.

1 comment:

RooBeeDoo said...

Dr Holmes will crack the case. He's Sherlock and Watson in one. I hope he comes by to read this piece. We love 'Sherlock' in our house.