Monday 16 March 2015

An Honest Tobacco Controller?

Steady yourself. Because you're about to read something very rare ... a tobacco controller being vaguely honest.

It comes from Olivia Maynard - one of the 'scientists' behind 'evidence' for plain packaging (criticised by a real scientist here) - who has written in the Guardian this afternoon.
Just hours after MPs in the UK voted in favour of standardised (or plain) packaging for tobacco products, with a clear majority of 367 to 113, an Independent Online article appeared with the headline “Plain cigarette packaging: One in four MPs who opposed measures have declared links to tobacco industry.”
The clear implication is that these “links” may have influenced the way in which MPs voted on this important piece of tobacco control legislation. However, without a comparator group (that is, knowing how many of the MPs who voted in favour of standardised packaging had these same links), this ‘one in four’ statistic is problematic. 
Well yes, because 22% is not one in four for a start, but the honesty I'm referring to comes from Maynard's unusual (for a tobacco controller) scepticism towards a tired and fraudulent anti-smoking tactic.
[I]t’s clear that a higher percentage of those MPs who voted against standardised packaging had received hospitality from the tobacco industry as compared with those who either voted in favour of it or abstained from the vote. 
What can we conclude from this difference? Perhaps not as much as it might first appear, as these data cannot tell us anything about the direction of causality. We don’t know whether MPs’ voting behaviour was influenced by the hospitality they received from the tobacco industry, or whether those MPs who were already inclined to vote against tobacco control policies were also more likely to accept tobacco industry hospitality. Establishing whether observed associations such as these are causal is notoriously difficult. In addition, we can’t tell from these data whether those MPs who accept hospitality from the tobacco industry are just more likely to accept hospitality from any source.
Quite. You'd think, wouldn't you, that the massed ranks of acclaimed 'scientific' 'experts' in the tobacco control industry, with their superhuman grasp of epidemiology and statistics, would be clever enough to work this out too. Instead, to a man and woman, they leapt to spread this article last week in order to deliberately insinuate that MPs who voted against plain packaging had obviously been bought.

Of course, in reality, the idea that a £1,600 trip to the Chelsea Flower Show is enough to buy politicians' votes in perpetuity can only really be believed by those blessed with the intellect of a chimp, as Kristian Niemitz observed back in 2012.
Sure, there are advantages in convincing yourself that your opponents are effectively bribed liars. It absolves you of the need to engage in substantive debates.
There's a perfect recent example of this on Twitter.
Why try to rebut what your opponent is saying, when you know for sure that he does not even believe it himself? It is not just convenient, but also irrefutable. Of course Monbiot cannot provide the slightest evidence to back up his accusations, but then, why should he? Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. You can sometimes prove that somebody has fudged their arguments (through hacked e-mails, for example), but there is no way you could prove that somebody has not fudged their arguments. That’s what makes good conspiracy theories. Try to prove that the world is not controlled by super-intelligent space lizards
The space lizard hypothesis and George Monbiot’s corporate mouthpiece hypothesis have two things in common. Firstly, neither is falsifiable. But secondly, while many real-world observations are fully compatible with them, they are equally compatible with much more mundane explanations. For example, rather than the donors determining the contents of think tank publications, the contents of think tank publications could determine the donors. But that would be boring, wouldn't it?
Yes it would. But that's the difference between a scientist and a campaigner. The former wants to look into the intricacies of the human condition and the latter will just spout any old crap if it sways public opinion.

Even worse than being boring, though, is that - as anyone who has ever challenged 'public health' orthodoxy will have experience of - in the absence of slinging mud, issuing baseless smears, and ignoring inconvenient research, those proposing policies such as plain packaging, banning e-cigs, minimum alcohol pricing, fat taxes, sugar taxes etc etc ad infinitum, would have to actually debate the facts in front of them. And that just wouldn't do.

So well done to Maynard for criticising the Indy's lazy journalism. Her calm analysis of fairly irrelevant statistic is a small spark of integrity in an ocean of swill from other morons in her industry.


JLTrader said...

I don't get this 'Big Tobacco ties' thing. It also surfaced in that recent BBC video of Simon Clark with Deborah Arnott from ASH where she was quick to point out from the start that FOREST has Big Tobacco funding. But who funds the other side ? It's made out to look as if all these professional anti-smokers are paid directly by God.This is just another smoke-screen type strategy to deflect discussion of real issues.

Dick_Puddlecote said...

Yes, that's exactly what it is, a way to ignore anyone who doesn't agree with you, and a way to indulge in ideology without facing facts. The Twitter link is a perfect example of a politician doing just that.

Sam Duncan said...

Every single one of the MPs who voted to extend government control over tobacco sales has ties to big government.

Dick_Puddlecote said...

Aye, should be imprisonable.

Peem Birrell said...

I'd be even more impressed if she admitted that there's absolutely no evidence for plain packs putting kids off.

Bandit 1 said...

I dread to think what the next logical step from Tobacco Control is going to be. These fuckers have to come up with something, after all.

Dick_Puddlecote said...

Licences for selling tobacco or consuming it would be my guess. Though there does seem to be more movement about banning smoking in private homes. Whatever it is, you can guarantee there won't be any meaningful democracy in action.

Chris Oakley said...

Even when they win they are incapable of grace and common decency. Rarely in recent times has there ever been a movement more divisive and socially destructive,more vile and more dishonest than that created by these modern puritans Yet our pathetic cowardly wretch of a Prime Minister backs them to the hilt. I can neither like or respect a man who not only fails to question, but who actively supports such people. He is contemptible.

jude said...

Its pretty much the same tactic as calling anyone who smokes, or vapes, a nicotine "addict", and dismissing anything they say as "the addiction talking". They do this regardless of whether the person actually has any sort of dependence on nicotine.

Its a lazy tactic, used by those who finding thinking beyond ideology difficult, or in the case of ANTZ, almost impossible, but so common among ANTZ that it is unremarkable. Much like the view that if someone at sometime in their lives, had some (however tenuous), relationship with a tobacco company, that anything they say, on any subject, is influenced by this relationship. Its simply a slightly different, but equally lazy tactic.

Its also a common tactic used to divide people along political lines, lines that are so blurred that division is always messy and unhelpful. For example: I am a member of a trade union, and also believe in caring for the aged, the sick, the unemployed, by providing welfare from the taxes I and other pay. I also believe in personal responsibility, and the right of adults to choose how they live their lives.

Given my views, I have variously, (depending on who is doing the labeling), been accused of being a communist or right wing neoconservative, when in fact both labels are extreme, and more importantly, simply wrong.

Plain packaging, is a symptom of fascist totalitarianism, as is most of the "tobacco control" agenda, not confined to either the left or right of politics, (again a very wide and blurry line).

Angus said...

In order of sooner to later:

State/province-wide smoking bans in apartment buildings.
State/province-wide smoking bans in private homes with children.
The above, but for all private dwellings.
Age limits (anyone born after 20xx cannot purchase tobacco, ever).
Flat-out prohibition.
Death penalty for tobacco smuggling (this one's a joke… well, sort of.)

What the.... said...

Moralizing zealots always view themselves as “superior”, way above the
riff-raff of usual folk and their inflammatory rhetoric typically polarizes. We
should be thankful to the Australian antismoking nut case, Simon Crapman, for committing to words how the antismoking movement should proceed in the (their) war against the tobacco empire and tobacco users. It was part of his presentation at the 1983 [antismoking] World Conference on Smoking & Health taken from his manual on how to do propaganda, “The Lung

“Such a list could be added to considerably, but most entries would be characterized by being somehow cast in a mythological good versus evil battle in an arena observed by mass numbers of people. The good (health/clean air/children) versus evil (cancer/uncaring, callous industry) dimension is the ineluctable bottom line in the whole issue and a rich reservoir for spawning a great deal of useful social drama, metaphor, and symbolic politics that is the stuff of ‘news value’ and which is almost
always to the detriment of the industry.” p.11
(see Godber Blueprint)

Having cast themselves in the role of the “mythological good” [natch], the
zealots are always right. Anyone who dares disagree with them is always wrong and part of some “evil” tobacco industry “conspiracy”. It’s all for
manipulative, “theatrical” effect – although there are plenty in the antismoking movement that do have a “god complex” - and has been quite
successfully used for the last three decades on an essentially superficial/gullible political class, media, and public. Extremists force this dichotomy: There are only two choices – Us, the “mythological good”, and Them, the “mythological evil”. If you’re not in agreement with Us, then you must be one of Them. Disagree with the fanatics and you’ll be accused of being an emissary of the “evil” tobacco industry, a promoter of cancer, and a child corrupter/killer. The zealots and their financial partners (government and Pharma) must have regular belly laughs
at how all too easy the brainwashing has been.

Important to note is that the zealot prohibitionists will reframe any circumstance into the “Us vs Them” dichotomy, typically with the intent of smearing any opposition to Tobacco Control, painted with the “poison brush” of the “evil” tobacco industry. It’s been the modus operandus” in demonizing the Tobacco Industry and avoiding questioning. Connect anyone, however duplicitously, with the “evil” Tobacco Industry and it’s been tantamount – without necessarily having to say so directly - to having their reputation sullied and their comments dismissed as bought and corrupt. And after all this time, they’re still getting away with the con job.

What the.... said...

The Tobacco Industry has been depicted as the “Merchants of Death” and the “Merchants of Doubt”. It’s time to put the spotlight of the “Merchants of Fake Certainty”. The fake certainty promotes a plethora of fraudulent claims as “scientific and scholarly”. The “Merchants of Fake Certainty” are also the
“Merchants of Deception”. And the deception promotes irrational fear and hate, and social division. It also provides corrupt government with a pretext for
extortionate taxes. So the “benevolent ones” are also the “Merchants of Fear,
Smear, Hate, and Fleecing”.

The “mythological good” aren’t good at all. They’re the proverbial “wolves in sheep’s clothing”. They are utterly deluded, corrupt, self-serving, and malevolent.

What the.... said...

We need to understand the variations of how these sanctimonious nitwits use the “con”. For example, a number of Tobacco Controllers were recently asked about particular patterns in overall cancer mortality between smokers/nonsmokers that didn’t fit the antismoking agenda. It’s doubted whether the TCers even understood the question. All they seemed to understand was that antismoking was being questioned. The TCers response was “that
was an argument used by the tobacco industry years ago”. As far as I’m aware, the tobacco industry has never highlighted this pattern; it’s a pattern that’s only recently been noticed. The TC intent was to connect the question to the “evil” tobacco industry, reducing it to “not worth considering”….. a “deceptive, tobacco industry nonsense”. Whatever the TCers don’t like, they’ll
attempt to contort the circumstance as somehow connected to “evil” big tobacco.

Further, it wouldn’t take much to put these prohibitionist miscreants on their heels. As soon as they reach for the “tobacco industry” smear in interviews, the interviewer can respond with – “I’m not talking about the tobacco industry. I’m talking about the conduct of Tobacco Control”.

When confronted with the “tobacco industry” smear on comments boards, use the “Lung Goodbye” reference above, that the smear routine is an antismoking concoction.

Dick_Puddlecote said...

I don't think you'll be far out with those. The good thing is that they're onto the fantasy scrag end of diminishing returns. Everything from here is nigh on impossible to enforce.

Dick_Puddlecote said...

Agreed that their behaviour is revolting, but it's to be expected. I've often said they are the most rancid and anti-social members of our society, hence why we are on the side of the angels here. ;)

Bandit 1 said...

Nigh on impossible to enforce in a semi-free country; not so hard in a police state.

It's the headlong rush towards such a place that depresses/frightens me. That and the blindness of people to the trojan horse nature of Tobacco Control and the state in general.

Here's hoping the trend of decades is somehow reversed and charlatans like Simon Chapman are thrown out on their asses.

truckerlyn said...

Probably to Big Pharma too!

emma2000 said...

I would bet the pharmaceutical industry has killed or damaged far more than tobacco ever did. Nearly killed me with a drug when I was 19. What I don't understand is why the Tobacco companies never seemed to fight back before it all got out of hand.

Chris Price said...

Because they cut a deal. Immortality in return for acting as the scapegoat. Guaranteed trade, guaranteed profits, guaranteed high share price in return for being the whipping boy. Not a bad deal at all.
They are only fighting against standardised packaging as it isn't part of the deal; it pits one cigarette firm against another; and it risks increased smuggling and therefore a shift from legal sales to black market sales. It can't possibly reduce smoking as it falls under the 20% Prevalence Rule.