Tuesday 17 February 2015

Please Forget Australia Exists, Says BBC

So the big 'public health' news today - according to the BBC and just about no-one else - was about plain packaging saving imaginary lives.
All the evidence suggests standardised cigarette packs would save lives by reducing the number of people who start smoking, the journal Addiction reports. 
Its summary of the scientific evidence suggests stopping one in 20 people from taking up the habit would save 2,000 lives in the UK each year.
"All the evidence"? Well not really, no. And to say this is 'scientific' evidence is a bit of an overstatement considering none of it has been produced by anyone who could remotely be called a scientist.

Sociologist, perhaps. Lobbyist, maybe, but no. The studies referred to are, of course, solely produced by people whose job it is to produce studies to support tobacco control legislation.

You see, a real scientist would occasionally produce a study which didn't agree with whatever the political anti-smoking lobby was, err, lobbying government for at any particular time. But in the world of tobacco control 'science', this never happens (because when it does the researcher is bullied, vilified, and drummed out of their profession).

Incredibly, though, today's BBC article was prompted not by a scientific survey of all available evidence (there is plenty that would not even have been considered, as is the usual case), but rather by an opinion piece written by plain packs advocate Ann McNeil and promoted by Robert West, another committed pro-plain packaging advocate. We have become accustomed to the grubby tactic of 'science by press release' from the tobacco control industry, but now it seems we are seeing the introduction of 'pretend science by opinion by press release'.

What's more, West should know better than to descend to this level - he is an admirably staunch advocate of e-cigs so would have no doubt been appalled when the Daily Mail did the same thing with vaping. He was pretty pissed off with the WHO promoting their own brand of selective science too, recently.

As always, the shifty, morally-bankrupt purpose is to get a headline published somewhere prominent, knowing that the vast majority of people read no further than that, and certainly never investigate what lies behind it. But for the record, what does lie behind it is this opinion piece in Addiction.

It references 10 studies exclusively written by tobacco control industry activists including arguably the policy creator Simon Chapman, Simon Chapman's right hand girl, long-standing anti-tobacco professional Crawford Moodie (referenced 80 times in the UK's rigged systematic review), plus a stellar cast of other highly partial dedicated anything-for-a-headline career prohibitionists.

Included in the list is a laughable study I commented on this time last week, one by someone using eye-tracking technology which was criticised by a proper eye-tracking scientist, and one which even argued the tobacco industry's case for them. All researchers, as usual, disingenuously claimed they had no conflict of interests {pfft}, handily forgetting the salary they derive from being paid by our taxes to produce anti-tobacco studies.

But the commentary behind all this chicanery was more laughable still!
Arguably, for an addictive product that kills so many of its users, the tobacco industry should consider itself fortunate that, purely through historical precedent, it is allowed to sell its toxic products at all, let alone try to make them attractive through the packaging.
No, it's not arguable at all. If tobacco was banned, government tax receipts would plummet, the FTSE100 would nosedive, pension funds would be decimated, tens of thousands of jobs would be lost, criminal enterprises would blossom and 'arguably' more kids would smoke because control on who buys tobacco would cease to exist. Anyone who seriously believes differently should probably go and live with these guys.

And as for this ...
As a population level intervention, it is clearly not possible, nor ethical, to mount large scale experiments to assess effect on smoking prevalence.
Of course it's possible and ethical to mount a large scale experiment on the effect of plain packaging on smoking prevalence. It's called Australia.

The best evidence to prove that it quite simply isn't working down under is the fact that people like West keep talking about daft and biased concocted science instead of being able to point out how 'successful' it has been at stopping kids smoking in a country which is running a live, real life trial. In fact, he admits as much in the BBC article.
However, he admitted that it was not possible to know if plain packaging had reduced the number of young smokers in Australia.
Which is kinda - no, actually, it is the entire - point.

Well here's a hint, Robert.

Hmm, I wonder why he didn't mention this?


JLTrader said...

The mistake made by Big Tobacco was to let the governments around the world (with US I think being a notable exception) introduce big text warnings and pictures in the first place. That goes on to so called plain packaging it's just a natural progression. Some small text on the side of the pack as it was originally introduced it's a win-win for both public health (warns consumers) and especially Big Tobacco (helps them in court when being sued by ill smokers for compensation). All this fight against 'plain packaging' when half of more of the pack is already disfigured..seems futile to me. I got cigarette cases because I can't handle the cig packs since they put the big text and pictures in 2008. I remember how shocked I was then that they could disfigure the packs like this. Big Tobacco, and Coke (because they're next) should go back to the root of the problem, otherwise I don't think they have a chance.

Jack Listerio said...

World Atlas: More People Smoking Cigarettes than Ever

There are more people smoking now than ever before, despite health warnings and the rising price of cigarettes. In 1980, 4,453 billion cigarettes went up in smoke, which increased to 6,319 billion in 2010. By 2020, you can expect to find nearly seven billion cigarette ends littering the world.

Top of the charts in terms of nicotine addiction are Asia and Australia, which is where 57 percent of cigarettes are smoked today.

Thomas Hobbes said...

Evening DP. Thought you might be interested in the 'E cigarettes
Communications Lead' post that just popped up in my jobs feed

link is https://www.civilservicejobs.service.gov.uk/csr/jobs.cgi?jcode=1444058 but if you cant access and have any interest drop me an email and I'll send you the accompanying blurb.

Dick_Puddlecote said...

Wow! Hell of a catch, thanks for sharing :)

What the.... said...

Crawford Moodie (known as “Craw” to his friends….. not “Craw”, “Craw”!), another “intellectual dynamo” [giggle] of Tobacco Control.

[The photo is original. No "touch up"]

Jack Listerio said...

'Nanny' Bloomberg Fail: Smoking Rises in NYC
Nagged by Bloomberg, the city forced bar and restaurant owners to ban smoking in their premises and prohibited smoking in public parks. Smoking rates have risen by 18% according to recent Health Dept polling. But then 80% of NYC tobacco sales are Black Market.

Vinny Gracchus said...

No surprise that the increase in youth smokers in Australia after the introduction of plain packs is ignored. Tobacco control has suppressed several studies on second hand smoke that negate their arguments too!

Norbert Zillatron said...

So the MHRA has noticed that mean Mr. Mean has fail dismally at glamourising their attempts against ecigs.

Now they a looking for a professional propaganda pooper.

truckerlyn said...

I find, JL Trader, that the more prevalent these pictures and words are, be it on cigarette packs or posters, I really just don't see them at all!

I was asked once if I had seen the No Smoking signs - I said I hadn't because, candidly they are so common nowadays that people just don't see them anymore!

It didn't go down well, but what can I say? If I do see them, they just no longer register!

truckerlyn said...

The more people are prevented from smoking anywhere but their own homes, the more people will smoke! They are not, therefore, spending money in pubs, bars, cafes, restaurants, malls, etc, so the increased price of cigs is more than covered, plus it usually cheaper to drink and eat at home! Win Win for the smokers!

JLTrader said...

I don't look closely at them, so instead of text or grisly images all that registers with me is an insult from someone to whom I pay roughly 70% percent of the pack price. That insult as far as I'm concerned is the same whether the pack has branding or is olive green.

nisakiman said...

If I was able to upvote you more than once for that comment, I would have done.

Yes, it is an insult. The photos and the messages are appalling, and nobody should be forced to accept their (very expensive) purchases in packaging like that.

It is merely yet more spite masquerading as 'concern' from those who hate us.

JonathanBagley said...

Yes, para 89

"This conclusion is however consistent with standardised packaging having had an important impact, for it might be that the introduction of standardised packaging was necessary in order to sustain the historic downward trend. (Considering prevalence against the “current downward trend” implicitly assumes that without intervention prevalence would continue to fall linearly, which is considered highly unlikely)."

I bet whoever wrote that was laughing.

Dick_Puddlecote said...

Incredible, isn't it?

With the increase in kids smoking, if the swing had been the other way - under the same methodology and with the same sample size - they'd be screaming it from the rooftops. By the same token, thousands of people stop smoking and switch to e-cigs but they're called anecdotes and ignored, while unnoticeable changes in heart attack data are trumpeted as success and considered unimpeachable.

And as for the downward trend, are they saying that all their other efforts will have no ongoing effect and that they were one-offs which will lead to a flatline without plain packs? That's laughable logic and only serves to state that their big ideas are all total failures.

These people are so staggeringly corrupt.

jude said...

Its also a form of blackmail, as the only way to fight this is for tobacco companies to sue the government in the courts. This means that taxpayer monies will be used to fund these legal battles. So the government ministers that bring in this propaganda packaging nonsense, will not be out of pocket themselves, neither will the lobbyists and fake charities, (they don't pay taxes).

Smokers will yet again be forced to pay for their own persecution, one way or another.

truckerlyn said...

I agree with you both, however the fact that after a while most people don't actually see/notice the ugliness and absolutely misleadingly erroneous messages, means that they are totally ineffective!

I sure as hell don't support 'plain' packaging, but for me it is one of the least harmful stunts the TC movement and government have pulled!

George said...

Losing their the marketing and advertising costs while maintaining a well established dominant market share and (what looks like) a c30% increase in new consumers... The Big Tobacco companies have had a blinder getting this lobbied past the UK govt

John_R said...

Australian Government is apparently doing a post implementation review on "plain" packs. Survey here: http://sigginsmiller.com/plainpackaging/

Jade Graham said...

which shows early plans are being made to add excise duty - otherwise known as sin taxes - to e-cigs.
full article