Wednesday 9 September 2015

Pulling The CMO's Strings

It seems I may have been a trifle harsh on our Chief Medical Officer Sally Davies.

You see, in the past I've questioned her fitness for the job due to her stunning ignorance when it comes to e-cigs. However, my thanks must go to fellow jewel robber AT - someone who has shared FOI requests with me in the past - for shedding some light on why Sally might have been making such absurd and evidence-free pronouncements.

You see, when asked by AT for correspondence between Sally and Martin McKee about e-cigs and vaping from January 2014 till the present, the Department of Health rejected the request on the following grounds.

3,000?!? 3,000 records over 19 months and there could be more? Crikey O'Reilly, they've chattering away on a daily, maybe even hourly, basis! There are married couples who don't converse as much as that!

It puts a new slant on Sally's silliness now, doesn't it? McKee is an ideological buffoon who has never had a positive word to say about e-cigs or the concept of tobacco harm reduction, is widely suspected to be co-author of the laughable Lancet smear job on Public Health England's recent supportive report on vaping, and enjoys stifling debate by beating up on part-time waitresses from Cornwall.

So when Sally said vapers should "grow a backbone" and quit smoking instead of using an e-cig at the Public Health England forum on e-cigs in early 2014, she was just parrotting McKee's garbage.

When Sally said this ...
"We do not yet know the harm that e-cigarettes can cause to adults, let alone to children, but we do know they are not risk free," Prof Dame Sally Davies, England's chief medical officer, said. 
"E-cigarettes can produce toxic chemicals and the amount of nicotine and other chemical constituents and contaminants, including vaporised flavourings, varies between products - meaning they could be extremely damaging to young people's health."
... she was merely repeating zombie arguments from McKee without checking they were actually valid.

When she declined to comment on this Guardian article on the subject, it was probably because McKee had already accepted the invitation so she would only be saying the same as him.

And when she said this ...
Why are you against increased use of e-cigarettes?
If they were properly regulated as a medicine and we knew what was in them and the dose of nicotine, then they might play a useful role in stopping smoking. But they aren't, so at the moment we don't know their safety or the dose they deliver. They are often aimed at children with their flavourings – not only menthol but cookies and cream and bubblegum. They are sold rather cheaply and many of them are made in China, so I worry about what is in them. We have even got a verb for e-cigarette use: to vape. I am worried about normalising once again the activity of smoking. This matters particularly with children and adolescents. 
So you are worried this could be a rerun of socially acceptable smoking?
Yes. Have you seen the adverts for e-cigarettes? They make them look cool and chic. In the Metrocentre in Newcastle they have a vaping boutique, which looks like a perfume boutique.
... it was just McKee's constant rabbit getting in her ear and pulling her strings. How did we miss such a big clue as 'bubblegum', eh?

All of which suggests that I may have judged Sally harshly. There I was thinking she was not fit for the job and should be sacked for not looking at the evidence or hearing what experts have to say, but she was. It's just that she chose to listen - up to 5 or 6 records per day(!) - to an evidence-avoiding, self-proclaimed 'expert' who only turned up in late 2013 and "is much less interested in 'public health' than he is about fighting a private war against industry".

As you were then, it's not her calm assessment of the evidence which is lacking, just her judgement.

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