Sunday 14 December 2014

Tobacco Control Dinosaurs vs Cornwall Waitress

On Saturday mornings, Radio 5 Live carry a sports humour show called Fighting Talk which features a round entitled "defend the indefensible". If I were ever allowed to choose four contestants who would be most suited to such a test, they would be Martin McKee, Simon Chapman, Mike Daube and Stanton Glantz for their stunning ability to be able to talk utter bollocks in the face of adversity.

Because it was with astonishment that I read on Friday that these global tobacco industry heavyweights had conspired to produce an attack piece over a Lancet article written by ... a housewife and part-time waitress from Cornwall.
We were surprised to read in The Lancet (Nov 1, p 1576), Lorien Jollye's criticisms of the public health community for, as she alleges, insulting and ignoring the supporters of electronic cigarettes
Now, for anyone who has followed the shenanigans of public health on social media, this isn't even debatable! As we saw from the John Ashton affair, it's part of these charlatans' routine to block social media comments from anyone who disagrees with them - often preemptively to avoid viewpoints which differ from their own - but continue to fire off insults anyway. McKee, Chapman and Glantz all do exactly the same, the only exception of the four is Daube ... because he's not on Twitter. But he was, as I understand it, responsible for calling authorities and getting a small business e-cig seller prosecuted in Western Australia.

In fact, they even block the opinions of those in their own tobacco control industry if they dare to say that e-cigs are a good idea. At least one of the four has, for example, even blocked arch anti-smoking activist Linda Bauld for that very reason.

As the Redhead says (do go read the whole thing), this more than adequately exceeds their own "scream test" criterion.
I’m sure you know what the tobacco control scream test is.
One of the measures used by anti tobacco campaigners to determine the effectiveness of an innovation, action, legislation or reform is how loudly the tobacco industry “screams”.
How wonderful it is then, that a brief article written by a lady who is a perfectly ordinary member of the public, and the activities of countless other people just like her, should elicit this plaintive cry for help from four of the most prominent figures in tobacco control…
However, the very effective campaign waged by their [e-cigarettes’] supporters has ensured that other measures of known effectiveness have almost disappeared from the debate on tobacco control.
They’re losing, and they know it. They know it, and it hurts. It hurts because very real and coherent challenges have come from entirely unexpected directions.
What is even more jaw-dropping is the justification given for the politically-juvenile Lancet tirade. You see, apparently they have given vapers plenty of options for engaging with them. No, really!
A recent Lancet–London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine Global Health Lab (held in London, on Nov 4, 2014) debating the tobacco endgame, that was widely advertised, was an opportunity to engage on this issue. Yet rather than put forward their arguments, advocates of e-cigarettes instead chose to remain silent in the lecture theatre while insulting the participants on twitter.
Oops, one of those spare time 'advocates' was me, as I described last month. One of the others there on the night has given a more accurate interpretation of the event.
McKee’s assertion that this was an opportunity for us to engage on the subject of e-cigarettes is absurd. The subject of the seminar was “Can the War on Tobacco be Won” and the presentations were almost entirely oriented around the ways in which the tobacco industry can be put out of business. E-cigarettes received no more than passing references, and then only in a derogatory context. The event itself was so utterly one sided and farcical that it was obvious that it was completely pointless to participate. Even in the Q&A session at the end McKee was taking questions from the audience then rewording them as he put them to the speakers as if for some reason the speakers themselves couldn't hear or understand the originators. Needless to say McKee’s translations of the questions suited his own agenda and barely reflected the original question where that question was a bit too liberal for his liking.
Indeed, the very reason we attended was to hear what part McKee and his colleagues considered that e-cigs would play in their fantasy "endgame" scenario. But it just didn't feature. Instead we heard fairy stories, cod psychology, primary school economic nonsense about tobacco industry share prices and how brilliant the FCTC has been in scaring the tobacco industry witless since 2007 ... as you can see from the graph below.

It is also laughable that the four screaming dummy-throwers can claim that event to have been the ideal place for the issue to be discussed. The blurb vaguely mentioned harm reduction so was hardly worth part-time waitressing housewives travelling over 200 miles to sit in the audience on a Tuesday night for an hour, now was it? That's even if they had noticed it at all. Back to the Redhead for an explanation.
Except it wasn't widely advertized. Now, given the track record of these people and their understanding of advertizing, I can kind of see where the confusion stems from. The event in question was, in fact, publicized in the LHSTM in-house newsletter. Hands up who subscribes to that? Anybody? No? I thought as much.
Of course, McKee and his pals were quite at liberty - if they truly wanted amateur and unpaid vapers to offer their opinions - to invite them along. But they didn't (perhaps because they'd blocked them all). By contrast, McKee was invited to the E-Cig Summit in London last year as a speaker but reportedly declined because he was "not interested". I suspect he was also invited to the Global Nicotine Forum in Warsaw on similar terms but didn't materialise there either. Vapers took annual leave and self-financed their attendance at both these events.

Now, forgive me for being cynical, but if McKee wants to declare himself an 'expert' on e-cigs, why on Earth is he not interested in a whole day summit - while being paid a salary and on expenses - which discusses them unless he has a pre-conceived agenda?

To accuse people who have to sort out their own travel and expenses of being indolent and scared of debate for not turning up to a barely noticeable event - as members of an audience with the off-chance that they might get a word in with a highly biased chairman - is truly astonishing when McKee and his co-authors refuse to engage even when they will be given a platform as {cough} 'experts'.

As to Lorien Jollye's claims of marginalisation and bullying by the four crusty authors of this Lancet tripe, it is backed up by testimony from tobacco industry commentator Jon Fell after he had the temerity to post a contrary response on a BMJ article by Simon Chapman (you can read his fully referenced Storify piece here).
As the tweets show, I was blocked by @SimonChapman6 soon after my BMJ blog response was published. It's interesting too that his first instinct seemed to be to 'play the man' as much as react to the arguments put forward; in addition to apparently querying my integrity by questioning the company @Clive_Bates was keeping, in digging out some remarks I had made about plain packaging in 2008 @SimonChapman6 also seemed to query my professional competence, notwithstanding that he had asked me for data for his book on a previous occasion. 
Though I had never previously had any interaction with him, 'Mike Daube' - who I assume to be the same Professor Mike Daube who also signed this week's Lancet letter - weighed in with a BMJ blog comment too. Professor Daube's remarks were also direct and relatively aggressive. 
After nearly twenty years working as an equity analyst at an investment bank I've developed a relatively thick skin when it comes to criticism of my views or analysis. The tone of the responses to me made by @SimonChapman6 and Professor Daube, either on Twitter or the BMJ blog, does not bother me particularly. But I can imagine that someone without my background - say, a vaping member of public - might have found their approach intimidating, verging on bullying. Here is a distinguished academic - who has posted an article in a public forum that he knows enables others to respond - saying, in effect, "how dare you question me?", while his academic friend sidles up behind to put the boot in too. 
I have never had any direct social media interaction with @martinmckee. I followed him on Twitter for a while, then one day found myself blocked - I do not know why.
All of which very closely resembles the content of Lorien's article which McKee, Chapman, Glantz and Daube somehow found so objectionable.
We are normal people trying to dispel fears and misconceptions with experience and knowledge. We have struggled to get the ear of the very people who are advising the Government, WHO, and the public. We have been insulted or ignored, often both, in a shockingly aggressive way. Why? 
The sense of frustration is palpable among us. No matter how polite or constructive we are, some of the most influential and media savvy in public health will instantly bemoan the so-called trolling they are having to endure, which closes doors to people we have never even spoken to.
If, like me, you didn't find what Lorien had to say controversial or untrue, that'll because it quite plainly isn't.

As I mentioned the other day, all four of them are being exposed daily as being incapable of debate and their reputations being shot to pieces by emerging evidence on e-cigs. The Lancet article is yet more proof that they have been backed into a corner by their stubborn adherence to fantasy scenarios, have nothing useful left to say and so are thrashing around in a vain effort to pretend they are still relevant.

Still, I'm sure the four highly-paid tobacco control industry has-beens felt immense gratification in beating up on an unpaid housewife and waitress from Cornwall. So that's all right then.


nisakiman said...

I think I detect a whiff of desperation creeping in.

The advent of e-cigs has really rattled their comfort zone, and they're thrashing wildly in their efforts to reconcile this new kid on the block with their bigoted agenda. And failing abysmally, by the look of things.

No more than they deserve, though. Considering the amount of misery they've caused for hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of people, I find myself hoping that eternal hell really does exist. It would be a bonus if the Devil is a smoker, too. :))

TomO said...

What is truly exasperating about these goons is that their outpourings are repeated unquestioningly by the MSM - esp BBC .... and they are regularly provided with platforms by the UK medical establishment who seem to have entirely abandoned their critical faculties.

Dick_Puddlecote said...

Quite. The BBC often describe McKee as an 'expert' on e-cigs even though he doesn't bother turning up to e-cig conferences.

They could ask real experts but perhaps McKee and his far left mindset just suits them better, I dunno.

TomO said...


There’s a review of “Merchants of Doubt” on the BBC’s very popular Mark Kermode and Simon Mayo Film Reviews podcast
12 December, 89 minutes in

Kermode: The way in which scientific consensus can be made to disappear by conjuring up consensus… Media snake oil salesmen perform sleight of hand … tobacco industry …
This documentary argues … there IS consensus … It’s about the creation of the appearance of doubt … about Science being undermined by people saying there is no consensus… Often the principal players is the same as with the tobacco industry - people whose occupation is to manufacture doubt… It’s like flat earthing… They are paid large amounts of money.

What the.... said...

Maybe a stint at the San Quentin “Hilton” might get some perspective into their thinking.

castello said...

I've probably only seen the good side of the BBC here in the states as they published a pretty good article referring to Robert West's study and a couple other balanced ones. They were pretty anti ecig for a long time or silent. From my view it's way better than what we usually get over here from the big US media. I do see they have lost any impartiality they had in the 90's but they seem to be opening a bit to e-cigs. I keep my tin hat near at all times :)
I use a couple pro e-cig links from bbc handy if you'd like.

castello said...

I have to try to apologize for the anti smoke vapers. We have been beaten into submission for so long we believed all the lies. It takes a long time to realize we were the stooges and we're trying hard to slow the anti smoking rhetoric amongst us. It is so easy to use some of the lies against PH/TC that ......well.. sorry.

castello said...

I'm having trouble figuring out the chart. Short explanation please. thanks

Dick_Puddlecote said...

It's BAT's share price for the past 20 years.

TomO said...

Interesting... the configuration of the BBC's web site alters depending on the incoming IP address - mostly for advertising purposes - I do wonder if they are leveraging this to be even more two faced than usual - how far that goes is worth some investigation I suspect.....

castello said...

Thanks! Now it makes sense.

TomO said...

The formulaic nature of bansturbator advocacy - arguments from authority, fraudulent data, cherry picking and full on invention which are tobacco control stock in trade are being recognized across different subject areas - Bishop Hill the "global luke warmer" climate blog has an interesting post up - which is well worth a look - since it's largely about the prancing Public 'Elf brigade... see HERE

DP said...

Dear Mr Puddlecote

The four signatories to the response to Ms Jollye's letter merely demonstrates their own insecurities in the face of criticism.

It is hardly the response of genuine expertise in their chosen profession. I presume the thought of losing substantial incomes is a tad worrying for them.