Monday 25 February 2019

10 Questions, 9 Of Them Stupid

Forgive me Father, I have sinned. It has been three weeks since my last article, hand me the hair shirt and beads.

Real life has been getting in the way like a mofo recently, I'm afraid. Business, family and personal pressures have conspired in such a way that I've had little time to even catch up with what's going on let alone write anything. If you follow me on Twitter too, you may have noticed.

But prior to a busy week, I've a window to have a go at some recreational writing and what better to comment on than an unintentionally funny article from Sydney pensioner Simon Chapman on his blog last week. I do feel for the guy, he's getting old, the dementia might be kicking in and he is still desperately clinging to tried-and-trusted smears against industry which don't hold up in the modern world. You know, like your grandparents who get shouty when you say they should have data on their phone and they reply that "I just want to ring someone on it!".

One of my obstructions recently has been that I've had a lot of building work on my house done, and I mean tons. The team doing it are incredibly experienced (for that, read old) and brilliant at what they do, but the moment the idea of smart bulbs which can be operated by an app came up, their hackles raised and I was told "a light should have a switch, you turn it on and off, that stuff is just nonsense". It's the old dog and new trick mindset, and one which is amusingly illustrated by Chapman in this article entitled "10 questions for Philip Morris International on their “transformation”".

Its basis is this tweet from Moira Gilchrist of Philip Morris.

Now, the impertinence of a tobacco company exec invading the crusty guy's decades long smear-led safe space is red rag to a bull for Chappers, so he leapt into action ... by reproducing correspondence he had with a former PMI exec in 2005, before today's alternative products were available and about a completely different subject.

Anyone with elderly parents will recognise this harking back to the old times as if they were just yesterday. The modern world can be so confusing, can't it?

But anyway, that's not the point of my article. I don't know if Gilchrist will take up his offer of publishing a blog on his site of up to 2000 words, but his 10 questions are so inane and rooted in the past that they're well worth fisking. Corporate reticence, a fiduciary duty to shareholders, along with a legal department shitting bricks and a reluctance to give away info to business competitors might prevent her from replying in depth, but I can have a go.
1) You say you want smokers to switch to IQOS, but Philip Morris USA (a separate company to Philip Morris International which just happens to share the words “Philip Morris” in its title) is on record recently as saying on its website that cigarettes are “our core product” and that they are working hard to keep their smokers happy with “best quality” cigarette products. Are cigarettes also PMI’s “core product’? Or asking another way, how much global revenue does PMI make from tobacco today, and how much from IQOS and what are your forecasts for these numbers in the next 10 years? Are your shareholders happy with you purposefully trying to drive south (by far) your biggest income stream?
The original draft described Philip Morris USA as an "affiliate" of PMI, which is 100% wrong. It is a separate company as he has had to correct but it kinda hurts his line of smear, so he did so in a snarky way. But this is just the start of his quaint misunderstanding of the modern world.

He knows that cigarettes are PMI's core product because, ahem, there are a lot of smokers in the world. So obviously PMI makes a lot more revenue from smoking than it does from nascent products. Chappers, who seems to revel in the fact that new products are just a fraction of 'Big Tobacco's' main offering, went a bit silent when the question of global revenue was answered quite emphatically on Twitter.

So what of his concern for shareholders? That's a first for a guy who is so right-on he's been hating big business of every stripe since he was at university and vandalising bus shelters. They may well be unhappy with a company declaring they are changing their "core product" over time but here's the thing Simon - you cretin - if they are doing that they are doing exactly what tobacco controllers say that they want, reducing the number of cigarettes they sell.

You'd think a rampant lefty who hates smoking would be happy with this double whammy - shareholders losing out and percentage of combustible tobacco declining - but his sympathy for shareholders is just a pubescent debating tactic as we shall see further down.
2) What are the KPIs (key performance indicators) for the sales, marketing and public affairs staff in your cigarette division today? Are they being asked to try and sell less cigarettes or to keep on trying to sell more? Could we all see copies of some of those please?
Fewer cigarettes, Simon, fewer.

In the pensioner's tiny little mind, this is a very simple equation for a multinational company. There is only one policy and it is global. Erm, but it depends on jurisdictions and what the legal framework is, doesn't it. Let's take, for example a random country. Say, I dunno, Australia. How does PMI sell e-cigs containing nicotine in that country when they are banned? How do they transition smokers away from tobacco when they can't sell iQos? I wonder who is behind that kind of retarded policy? Wouldn't it be pretty brazen if someone who had a hand in it then accused a company of being disingenuous by not selling enough products which they had done their damnedest to ensure remain illegal?

Every country is different. Simon only sees a homogenous blob of countries with fully-aligned legislative and trading criteria, or pretends to. Either he is woefully stupid or he is preaching to the unthinking. You decide.
3) In Indonesia, Philip Morris International owns the Sampoerna tobacco company. In 2016, Reuters reported that you were trying to get “wider reach” there via “stronger cigarettes” What do you say to those who say you are being duplicitous with all this reduced harm talk when this is what you are doing when you calculate that people in the west might not notice? Similarly, when the city of Balanga, Luzon in the Philippines wanted to implement a smokefree campus and surrounding environs, you supported the Philippine Tobacco Institute in its (successful) legal case against the proposal. So you say you want people to quit smoking, but only if they switch to IQoS, is that it? And if not you will continue fight effective tobacco control as usual?
Similarly to the bollocks he spouts in question 2, what chance when Indonesia bans e-cigs and any other alternative products?
Indonesia's trade minister Enggartiasto Lukita set off a backlash from anti-smoking groups in November when he suggested tobacco farmers would be hurt by the fledgling industry, and that those turning to e-cigarettes -- also known as vaping -- should smoke regular cigarettes instead. 
"We should turn vapers into conventional cigarette smokers," he said at the time.
And do you know what? I think the old coot knows this.
4) In recent years, your company has aggressively opposed tobacco control policies like graphic health warnings, plain packs, and increasing tobacco tax, all known to reduce smoking. When you do this, can you understand that many people think you are flagrantly lying when you say you want to help tobacco control?
See what he did there?

Plain packs has had no effect on reducing smoking in Australia except in his increasingly senile mind. Nor has it in France or in the UK. There has never been any significant evaluation of graphic warnings either, with many studies showing that smokers just ignore them. But Simon skips past all that controversy and states a bald fact which is debatable at best and simply not true at worst.

Vaping, however, has had a dramatic effect wherever it has been allowed to flourish, which doesn't include Australia.

And, erm, when did PMI ever say they want to "help tobacco control"? Considering how shockingly poor their results have been recently - and the abject misinformation they have been peddling on alternative products - tobacco control is the very last industry producers should be helping. Harm reduction talks directly to consumers and cuts out the parasitical tax-funded leeches of which Chapman is a prominent reactionary in a self-enriching cohort more interested in delaying their obsolescence than any concern for health.
5)  What do you say to critics who say that your business model is surely all about smoking AND vaping, not smoking OR vaping?
There is only one of those, and it's Chapman. Considering all tobacco companies have said that their risk reduced products are more profitable than conventional tobacco, a 5 year old should be able to see that's a nonsense conspiracy theory.
6) I don’t think I’ve ever met a smoker who wanted their kids to grow up and start smoking. Do you feel the same way? Would you also hope that children would not take up vaping? If you really believe ecigs are of minimal risk, why not openly encourage kids to vape?
No-one has ever said that kids should be encouraged to vape, but the old duffer knows this, he's just using an old argument about how even smoking parents don't want their kids to smoke. But it is exactly that, a decades old argument and this particular old dog is still doing old tricks and wondering why he's not getting the same biscuits.

I know Gilchrist wouldn't be able to reply as I do, but I personally couldn't give a toss if my kids took up vaping. And it doesn't seem to have crossed Chapper's increasingly-shrinking mind that if a kid smokes already vaping is a better option for his side, and that if they vape instead of starting smoking, that's something he should be celebrating. I know it's tough for an imbecile to imagine multi-factorial outcomes such as that, but you'd think with more time to feed his carp since retiring he'd have thought a bit more deeply.
7) Smoking by Australian teens is at a record low (1.9% of 15-17 year olds currently smoke) I find it hard to believe if your company had not modeled the impact of such a dire situation on your bottom line into the future if this was to continue. So what does that modelling show? And am I wrong in thinking that if your IQOS product does not attract a significant number of kids into regularly using it, then your company will wither and die within a few decades because if only smokers switch, many of those will quit and die, with no cohort of young people moving through to replace them.
This is the only decent question he asked, and it's a very good one. He could have saved a lot of words and just restricted his article to this one valid point. I remember that this question was asked of PMI's Mark McGregor at a fringe event organised by Forest at Tory Party Conference in October, but it's sadly not made the cut in the highlights (Updated to add the transcribed exchange, scroll to the end of the article).
8) The  parent company of Philip Morris USA, Altria, just invested $US12.8billon in Juul, the vaping product that has spearheaded 20% of US teens using ecigs in the last 30 days.  Are you going to tell me that this teen use of ecigs “concerns” you or that there were a lot of champagne corks popping at work when you all saw that data?
Yawn. Just a rehash of his 'think of the children' scare story from question 6. He knows very well that everuse in past 30 days is experimenting, but he and similarly ideological denialists use this as a dog whistle to scare the living shit out of unwitting parents.

And now for the highlight. You're gonna absolutely love this. If he'd wanted to illustrate to the world that he has not a clue about how e-cigs work and should probably just pick up his pension and go feed the ducks when he is tempted to comment on harm reduction, he couldn't have done it better than this.
9) The average daily vaper inhales 200 times a day and up to 600. The average daily smoker inhales about 95 times a day. Does that comparison suggest that nicotine delivered via vaping might be very, very addictive? Does that bother you?
Stop sniggering at the back, he's an elder statesman don't you know, and degenerative mental health is not a laughing matter.

Does this erstwhile antipodean anti-smoking colossus really not understand that nicotine delivery is vastly different between combustible products and non-combustible products? Here is a graph to illustrate what I mean, courtesy of Lynne Dawkins of South Bank University.

Clive Bates explains further here:
“My wife/boss/friend/agony aunt/dog etc. uses it constantly. S/he must be getting more nicotine”. 
Myth: This is a commonly expressed view that we hear from those whose partners/ friends/ family members have switched to vaping (and retarded Australian blowhards - DP). Given that vaping results in less efficient nicotine delivery to the blood than tobacco smoking, those switching to e-cigarettes need to vape more than they used to smoke (vapers commonly refer to this as ‘grazing’). Concerns over ‘excessive vaping’ can be reduced by switching to a higher nicotine-containing e-liquid.
Now, Chapman likes to tell the world he is an 'expert' on such matters, so why is it that he is so woefully ignorant on something that is central to the debate? I mean, this is a fundamentally basic error. He is arguing on the same level as a Daily Mail reader with not even  basic understanding of the product.

Far from suggesting "that nicotine delivered via vaping might be very, very addictive", it shows the polar opposite. That vapers take or leave their nicotine habit and just top up here and there, never reaching the levels of the big instant hit that smoking delivers.

Is this wilful or is he really that fucking stupid? Can't lie, but it could be either couldn't it?

And now for his jovial "and finally" moment.
10) I’ve heard people very unkindly quip that it would be a good idea if all tobacco company employees were obliged to smoke or vape (in the obverse way that no cancer control agency would hire a smoker). It would be hard to imagine a senior executive in a car company who chose to not drive or own a car, but to always cycle or walk and openly declare that; or the head of a meat marketing board who was an open vegetarian, or a skin cancer prevention advocate who was deeply tanned. So why do you think your company is comfortable with some of its employees choosing not to smoke or vape? Do you smoke or vape yourself?
I'm sure people work for meat companies who are vegan, and I'm sure people who work for car manufacturers only cycle. Classic bait and switch from the old fool to conflate "some of its employees" with upper management to con the gullible with a trite argument.

Irrelevant anyway, as he could have found out if he ever accepted any of the many invitations he has been offered for conferences on harm reduction. Because if he had not been so cowardly, he would have seen that Moira Gilchrist uses an iQos. Relentlessly.

So anyway, 1 hit out of 10 ain't bad for a pensioner. I'm sure there are more brain-addled Australians around, but not many who are still convinced they are sages in a field of which they have very little understanding outside of the funny farm.

You can read his blog unfiltered here, it's great fun.

UPDATE: Relating to Chapman's question 7, thanks to Simon Clark, who has sent me a transcription of the exchange between Chris Snowdon and Mark MacGregor at the Tory Party Conference fringe event.
CS: You don't recommend IQOS for anybody other than existing smokers ... 
MM: No, no. 
CS: ... and you want to reach a point as soon as possible where there are no smokers, so what is the long-term prospects for PMI? Within 70 years there's no smokers to convert to IQOS and all the IQOS smokers are getting older and dying, so within a century, outside, you're finished, aren't you? 
MM: Well, I guess we've quite a big challenge with those billion, or 1.1 billion, smokers so if we could get 300, 400 million of those to convert to IQOS I think that's a big enough challenge for now. What you do in the longer term feels more like a debate for somebody else.
Make of that what you will. 

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