Tuesday 14 August 2018

The #COP8 Stitch-Up Is Afoot

Here we go. Strap yourselves in for the latest biennial anti-truth tobacco conference otherwise known as the FCTC's 'Conference of the Parties' (COP).

You can read about the previous two such as Moscow 2014 where the FCTC's Margaret Chan had tea with Putin instead of tackling Ebola, while thugs manhandled journalists out of the event at the COP6 tag here. You can also read articles on the 2016 shebang in New Delhi where - coincidentally - journalists were also manhandled out of the event, while Indian farmers were hounded away from the venue for the sin of holding a peaceful protest which may have upset the sensibilities of COP delegates intent on the serious of business of banning e-cigs, during a lethal smog cloud hanging over the city at the COP7 tag here.

Regular readers will know that I attended the event in India and I have flights booked for Geneva where COP8 will take place in October, so I was interested to see that the FCTC finally released their guidance - late - to the parties (member nations) on how to handle e-cigs.

You can read it here and, at first, it seems pretty unremarkable. However, it features a major dog whistle by describing the results of a survey conducted on the regulatory policies of countries that have ratified the FCTC and agreed to abide by its recommendations. Instead of listing the policies of all parties, it merely points out the ones which have banned e-cigs, subtlely signalling what the FCTC's particular preference is. On the plus side, it does highlight how low Australia has sunk to be classified in the same category as some of the worst abusers of human rights in the world.

The Aussie government must be so proud.

Further down the document, though, we come to the truly sinister part, as I also tweeted this week.

It's not just the sickening nepotism of a UN body asking for "independent" advice from another UN body, but also that the IARC's reputation as a serious purveyor of balanced research is widely questioned, as described by risk expert Geoffrey Kabat in June (do go read the whole article here).
[W]hen IARC’s assessments have been criticized by researchers on substantive grounds, rather than addressing the issues in question, the Agency has typically responded by dismissing the criticisms by 1) pointing to alleged conflicts-of-interest of its critics and 2) making sweeping assertions regarding the transparency and scientific rigor of its evaluation process and the monographs themselves. In other words, the Agency has shown no willingness to examine, and possibly learn from, the identification of serious errors and improprieties in IARC’s evaluations pointed out by respected scientists.
So it appears that the UN's IARC is equally as resistant to external scrutiny from those who disagree with its pre-conceived plans as its sister organisation, the FCTC. A good fit, don't you think?

The FCTC seems to want to find out if e-cigs cause cancer, so they have chosen a fellow unelected organisation which they can fully trust to come out with the result they seek. This is because the IARC is set up so it, quite literally, can find cancer in just about everything.
According to IARC “a cancer ‘hazard’ is an agent that is capable of causing cancer under some circumstances [emphasis added], while a cancer ‘risk’ is an estimate of the carcinogenic effects expected from exposure to a cancer hazard.” Here, “exposure” refers to actual human exposure levels. The Agency justifies the focus on hazard by arguing that, “even when risks are very low at current exposure levels, […] new uses or unforeseen exposures could engender risks that are significantly higher.” IARC’s focus on “hazard” opens a gaping loophole, which has given IARC carte blanche to highlight results that bear little relation to exposure or risk operative in the real world. To add to the confusion, even though IARC focuses on “hazard,” the title of the Monographs refers “Carcinogenic Risk to Humans.” 
IARC’s adoption of the very elastic concept of hazard is in line with the weight given to the precautionary principle in the EU Charter. The precautionary principle states that, when the effects of a policy or an exposure are unknown, steps should be taken to mitigate any potential adverse effects. While this sounds reasonable, in practice, the precautionary principle is often invoked by people who have no interest or ability to assess the relevant scientific evidence. 
There are many instances in recent IARC assessments of giving weight to positive results, even when these are questionable. At the same time, often higher-quality evidence that does not support an association is ignored. You can see how this penchant aligns with IARC’s invocation of “hazard” and the precautionary principle. 
IARC has long been concerned to guard against conflicts-of-interest, but as in the points discussed above, there is an asymmetry in its policy. IARC’s concern with potential conflicts-of-interest appears limited to those involving industry. The Agency shows little awareness of, or concern about, biases and conflicts-of-interest among academic or government researchers.
Again, it is a perfect fit, isn't it? An organisation which selects evidence to fit with its biased world view and ignores huge conflicts of interest in those who agree with it is cut from the same cloth as the blinkered and science-phobic FCTC.

The FCTC is riddled with a cancer known as Corporate Accountability, a subset of its membership which is not remotely concerned with health, only destroying businesses. All businesses. The IARC is also more interested in attacking industry rather than doing what's right.

As for the IARC's calm, objective view on what is carcinogenic, it doesn't have one.
Of the over 500 substances IARC has assessed over the years (i.e. those not in Group 3), only one has been deemed “probably not carcinogenic” and placed in Group 4. Thus, it appears that in practice IARC’s scheme disposes against declaring that an agent is unlikely to be a carcinogenic hazard.
This is an organisation solely set up to find cancer in literally everything. And the FCTC thinks this is a perfectly independent (which it's not) and dispassionate (which it's not) body to impartially assess the harms of e-cigarettes (which it won't). In fact, it has been gagging to re-categorise nicotine as cancer-causing since 2014.

An "adequate data set" along with funding that the WHO's pharma-friendly FCTC mentions as being desirable. I'm sure that - stung by the smoking cessation market running away from them - there will be pharmaceutical companies queueing up to provide as much as IARC demands, don't you? 

Do you think, maybe, that the FCTC is handing this task to an equally morally bankrupt and unelected UN organisation simply to get an answer to all those mischievous nations which see benefits in reduced risk nicotine rather than negatives? You know, the developed, educated ones that don't include basket case nations, banana republics, oppressive theocracies, murderous dictatorships, elitist inegalitarian kingdoms and Australia?

Because I do.

COP8 in Geneva will be an exercise in anti-vaping sophistry from people who are so self-absorbed and addicted to hoovering up your taxes to fund their lavish lifestyles - the UK funds the FCTC to the tune of millions - that they should not be trusted to run a whelk stall.

COP8 runs from 1st to 6th October this year. Watch this space in coming weeks for more updates about the most anti-human supranational meeting on the planet. Needless to say, this year's offering will have as little to do with health as the seven that preceded it. 

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