Sunday 24 April 2016

Chapman: Accidental Or Deliberate Stupidity?

On Wednesday I wrote about how Australia has appointed a cabal of closed-minded prohibitionist nut jobs to assess the future of e-cigs in their Godawful nanny state nation.

I suggested that the outcome may already be pre-determined.
The fix is in the bag in Australia, isn't it? Tobacco controllers have taken hold of the levers and will no doubt produce a load of bullshit junk to ensure e-cigs are permanently demonised Down Under. Who needs the public and due process when you have vile public-hating prohibitionists like Chappers pulling the strings, eh?
Well, Simple Simon Chapman - the calm, objective soul that he is in advance of his conducting a scientifically-astute assessment of e-cigs and vaping - exhibited his {cough} impartiality recently on Twitter.

This is quite incredible for someone who the Aussie government relies upon for its info, for the simple reason that he completely misunderstands the basic premise of the stats he is tweeting about.

The 16k to 22k figure of those who quit using e-cigs is only those who - crucially - would not have quit at all if e-cigs had not been available, as explained in this article by someone who is not paid for their time, unlike Simple Simon.
891K people used ecigs in their quit attempt in 2014. There aren't enough good data to tell us directly how many of these would have been successful long term (12 months) quitters. We do know (from other studies) that the long term quit rates for both over the counter (OTC) NRT and cold turkey (CT) are 5%, and that ecigs increase the success rate over these for any quit attempt by 50%. So 5% of our 891K ecig quitters would likely quit with OTC NRT or CT if e-cigarettes weren't available and 2.5% would not. 2.5% of 891K is 22K. These are the people who would not have quit if they had bought OTC NRT or gone cold turkey but did so with ecigs. 
In 2014 the medicinal methods 'lost' 330K quit attempts, 250K of which are attributed to people choosing ecigs instead rather than just rejecting the med options. So to account for those we have to deduct them from our 891K ecig quit attempters (because they would have gone the meds route if ecigs were unavailable). So now our starting number is 641K. 2.5% of 641K is 16K. These are the people who would not have quit in 2014 if ecigs were not available.
It's obviously too complicated for a Professor of 'public health' at Sydney University to understand but to condense it for him you, it doesn't mean that "878,000-884,000/900,000 smokers" didn't quit at all using e-cigs - in fact many or even all of them might have done - it just means that 16k to 22k of them would not have done so (or even attempted to) if e-cigs weren't around.

I'd say I'm surprised that someone who is tasked with guiding Australian policy in this area can be so thick as to not understand this but then Simon can't even be trusted to count exclamation marks with any degree of accuracy.

But it kinda brings up a point about Chappers' suitability for the job. You see, he was exposed in FOI responses published here in January to be in cahoots with people who are determined to extinguish the potential of vaping by any means fair or foul. He was also prominent in writing an attack piece in the Lancet (the favoured journal of e-cig denialists) expressing surprise that a part-time waitress from Cornwall should have the temerity to speak the truth.
We were surprised to read in The Lancet (Nov 1, p 1576), Lorien Jollye's criticisms of the public health community for, as she alleges, insulting and ignoring the supporters of electronic cigarettes
Well, considering Simon tends to enjoy describing vapers as "vapid" and routinely blocks anyone who has an opinion on vaping that differs from his own, I'd say that's fair comment.

All in all, the above would probably show that he's hardly going to be the best person to impartially inspect the evidence surrounding e-cigs in Australia, which poses a bit of a problem.

You see, as I've mentioned before, a chronic and publicly exhibited distaste for a subject matter is a conflict of interest which should exclude that person from having any role in decision-making or research.
Non-financial interests can take many different forms, including personal or professional relations with organisations and individuals. We would also want to know about strongly held beliefs where they are relevant to the task in hand.
This is quite important, because the tender document which Chapman would have responded to in order to get the gig asked specifically for such conflicts to be declared.
The Tenderer must disclose in the Tender any actual or potential conflict of interest, any risk of a conflict of interest and any apparent conflict of interest arising through the Tenderer or any member of the Tenderer’s organisation engaging in any activity or obtaining any interest that is likely to conflict with or restrict the performance of the project fairly and independently. As part of this, the Tenderer must disclose whether the Tenderer or any member of the Tenderer’s organisation has ever: 
• publicly advocated for or against, or conducted research and/or published research  and/or opinion pieces on tobacco harm reduction. 
Where a Tenderer has disclosed, under paragraph 35.1 of this RFT, the Tenderer must also propose mechanisms for managing any conflicts of interest if the Tenderer were awarded a contract to provide services under this RFT. 
If at any time prior to entering into a contract for the Services, an actual or potential conflict of interest arises or may arise for any Tenderer, other than that already disclosed, that Tenderer should immediately notify the Department in writing. 
If any actual or potential conflict is notified, or the Department becomes aware of any actual or potential conflict, the Department may, in its absolute discretion: 
• disregard the Tender submitted by such a Tenderer;
• enter into discussions to seek to resolve such conflict of interest; or
• take any other action it considers appropriate.
Now, I believe Simon's latest laughable failure at understanding maths and stats is bad, but we have to assume it's just the usual problem of him being a cretin. For the simple reason that if we attribute him with any intelligence on the matter then clearly he is disseminating false information deliberately. No?

So I suppose you pays your money and makes your choice. Is he really so stupid as to not understand data properly meaning he shouldn't be awarded a contract to study e-cigs because he's a mathematically-challenged idiot? Or is he spreading a pack of lies which means he carries a huge and burdensome conflict of interest which means he should be disqualified from being awarded a contract to study e-cigs because it "is likely to conflict with or restrict the performance of the project fairly and independently"?

Either way, he shouldn't be doing it especially since it is to be held behind closed doors.

Then again, maybe he did disclose this whopper of a conflict of interest and the Aussie government just ignored it, which would be a much bigger story. Is there anyone out there in Oz who fancies putting in a freedom of information request to ask?

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