Wednesday 18 November 2015

Bravo Mr McKee ... Erm

It's very rare that I agree with Martin McKee, as you may have noticed, but I cannot fault him for this excellent tweet from Sunday.

He is absolutely correct. Exploiting tragedies to promote personal or political views is quite wrong.

For example, a latent anti-capitalist sympathiser with left of centre environmental views seemed to suggest at the weekend that the Paris attacks might justify restrictions on oil commodity traders.
The individual response is clear, to apprehend and convict in the courts those who seek to commit these atrocities. The population level response recognises the role that our dependence on oil plays in the crisis in the Middle East, targeting for action those commodity dealers in the west who help groups like Daesh to launder the funds from the oil under their control and those who are profiting by supplying weapons to all the warring parties.
The same commentator - an avowed opponent of smoking and e-cigs - also once employed the Anders Breivik massacre to bizarrely promote a ban on nicotine.
In early 2011, Anders Behring Breivik, a Norwegian right-wing extremist, began to research a means of creating poisoned bullets. In his ‘manifesto’ subsequently published online, he noted that ‘A relatively simple process will convert hollow point and even standard ammunition – lead or other alloy bullets into hollow bullets. These hollow projectiles are then injected with a biological or chemical toxin. … [converting] your projectile weapon into a chemical or biological weapon’. His criteria for selecting the poison were ease of obtaining it and lethality (measured as the LD50, or dose required to kill 50% of 75 kg adults). After careful consideration of alternatives, including heroin, various insecticides and cyanide, he concludes that the ideal is nicotine. He notes that while pure nicotine has a slightly higher LD50 than cyanide, unlike almost all of the other substances he considered, it can be purchased without restriction. Indeed, he helpfully supplies a draft letter than can be used to order it from chemical suppliers, ostensibly for use in electronic cigarettes. He even provides addresses of such suppliers, indicating that he ‘received the 50 ml of 99% pure liquid nicotine shipment from China’, and was ‘relieved to see that there were no complications whatsoever’. At the time of writing it is still not clear whether Breivik did inject his bullets with nicotine and, even if he had, it is likely that the temperature achieved by a bullet being fired would have degraded much of it, but it is inevitable that his words will attract others considering similar actions and who will devise alternative, and more reliable means of delivery. 
It is unimaginable that governments would have failed to restrict access to any other poison that had been used, or was threatened to be used, in such circumstances. Yet nicotine retains its privileged position as an active pharmacological agent that is largely exempt from regulation (except paradoxically, when being sold as a means to assist quitting smoking). There were already strong arguments for regulating the sale of nicotine, most obviously by licensing it as a drug, as has been proposed in Iceland. The tragic events in Oslo make the argument overwhelming. Otherwise, we will be forced to conclude that, once again, the tobacco industry is exempt from the laws to which everyone else is subject.
So I am extremely glad to congratulate Martin McKee for coming out and saying publicly that exploiting terrorism for personal or political hobby horses is despicable. I'm sure he would join with us in condemning the behaviour of the above author. 

Oh, hold on ...

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