Wednesday, 5 October 2011

While I was out

Back from Manchester now and what good fun it was. If you've e-mailed me or ordered a book while I was away I will catch up today. In the meantime, a few links that have caught my eye in the last few days.

More blatant temperance propaganda from Auntie Beeb

Full link here. It's woefully unbalanced. Amongst the lowlights is this attempt to make people believe there is "no safe level of alcohol consumption" (a message you will be hearing very often in the years ahead).

Katherine Brown, head of research at the Institute of Alcohol Studies, says the current guidelines and how they are communicated may be giving the public misleading information.

"We need to be very careful when suggesting there is a 'safe' level of drinking for the population. Rather, we need to explain that there are risks associated with alcohol consumption, and that the less you drink the lower your risk is of developing health problems.

"We hope the government use this as an opportunity to help change perceptions about regular drinking being a normal, risk-free practice."

No mention of the Institute of Alcohol Studies being almost entirely funded by the Alliance House Foundation. Nothing special about that, you may think, except that the Alliance House Foundation used to be called the United Kingdom Alliance for the Suppression of the Traffic of all Intoxicating Liquors. As readers of The Art of Suppression will know, they led the charge to bring Prohibition to Britain in the nineteenth century. Don't you think that BBC readers would be interested to know that the oh-so impartial sounding Institute of Alcohol Studies is the modern incarnation of the Quaker teetotal movement?

If in doubt, blame it on smoking

As I write this, the big health story on the BBC is a rewritten British Medical Journal editorial. Rather unusually, it deals with a genuine public health issue: Tuberculosis. Rather less unusually, it finds a familiar culprit.

TB smoking toll 'could reach 40m'

A lung charity said global efforts to fight TB are being undermined by the tobacco industry's "aggressive promotion" of smoking in some places.

TB is an infectious disease which has a cheap and effective vaccine. Far be it from me to suggest that 'public health professionals' are too lazy, thick and/or incompetent to use medicine to prevent epidemic diseases, but...

He said: "It is nearly 20 years since the World Health Organization declared tuberculosis to be a 'global health emergency'.

"Since that time rates have risen rather than fallen, and smoking increases the risk of getting - and dying from - TB..."

What a pathetic indictment of the WHO and all the other vastly funded international 'public health' organisations this is. But don't blame them, blame BIG TOBACCO.

"...and smoking increases the risk of getting - and dying from - TB. Concerted international efforts are now under way to try and turn the tide of TB, but this important research shows that all these efforts may be undermined by the tobacco industry's continuing aggressive promotion of smoking in many parts of the world."

The NHS and the Center for Disease Control both have webpages listing risk factors for TB and neither of them mention smoking at all, so I wonder how big a factor it is. Whatever the case, TB remains an entirely preventable disease brought about by infection. If 'public health' spent as much time dishing out TB jabs to the poor of the world as it does fretting about secondhand smoke and alcohol units, the epidemic would be under control by now.

Alcohol Research UK

The newly founded Alcohol Research UK (formerly the Alcohol Education and Research Council) has a different funding issue and has just set out what seems to be a clear stance on taking money from industry.

Receiving Funds from the Alcohol Industry

Alcohol Research UK will not accept funds, in cash or in kind, from the alcohol industry

Really? That would represent a bit of a change on AERC's last year in operation when it was heavily funded by Drinkaware...

The Drinkaware Trust is entirely funded by drinks industry, so are we to assume that AERC will be rejecting these donations under its new name of Alcohol Research UK? A little clarification is in order...

Seems unambiguous to me. Leaving aside the baffling question of why the drinks industry is funding the temperance lobby, why is Alcohol Research UK denying that such funding takes place?


Thirdhand woo continues to be used to hassle smokers in the USA

Christus St. Frances Cabrini Hospital in Alexandria will implement an anti-tobacco policy for its entire campus starting July 1 of next year, expanding the policy put in place two years ago for employees of the women's and children's areas. The policy will prohibit the use of tobacco products by employees while on their shifts, including when they are on breaks. It also will not allow employees to work if their clothing smells like smoke. "About a month or two ago we sent a letter to all of our associates to their homes," hospital administrator Lisa R. Lauve said. "We sent a letter notifying them that they had a year to make whatever adjustments they needed to make to be able to comply with the policy that would not allow them to smoke during the hours that they work." Hospital officials are aiming to reduce patients' and employees' exposure to toxins that linger in fabrics from a recently burned cigarette, also known as third-hand smoke, Lauve said. Such toxins present a special danger for the developing brains of infants and small children.

It's like the Enlightenment never happened. If the intellectual climate continues to decline at the current rate we'll be building wicker men and having dung for dinner by 2020.

And finally, a glimmer of sanity

...from a surprising quarter. Dr Harry Burns is Scotland's Chief Medical Officer. It turns out there's one issue on which we see eye-to-eye (from obscure committee hearing)...

Dr Burns: I feel very strongly about this. Over the past year or two, since a number of us who have been carrying out research internationally in this area pretty much agreed the fundamental psychosocial drivers of health inequalities, I have been looking quite closely at the kinds of interventions that seem to correct some of that imbalance. At this point, I should say in response to Mike Brown's point that this is all down to inequality in society, that that is not the case. That fallacy comes from a epidemiologically very flawed book called "The Spirit Level", but that is another point.

Good for him.

More later.


Bill Gibson said...

I think that the £13 million endowment to Alcohol Research UK needs further investigation even if it has been inherited from AERC. It is also interesting to note that The Edrington Group (Famouse Grouse) continue to be Trustees of the new organisation.

I may check out the relationships with Sir Ian Good, Chairman of The Edrington Group ... in the interest of total transparacy.

Leg-iron said...

It would be interesting to see the alcohol bill for the three party conferences.

'No safe level'? They take doublethink into dimensions physics haven't yet thought of.

Christopher Snowdon said...


I've been told that at the Lib Dem conference the bar is ten deep, the Tories drink all night long, but Labour are lightweights. Sounds about right.


Belinda said...

WHO calculates the death toll that smoking adds to tuberculosis

Ivan D said...

I have tried to stop reading the BBC health news in the interests of preserving my own health and sanity. The BBC has sunk well below the standards of the Daily Mail and even The Sun would be embarrassed by the appalling magazine piece on alcohol apparently written by Philippa Roxby. I have two daughters and would myself be ashamed had either of them put their name to an article so partial, so uncritical so devoid of intellectual content and, at times so incomprehensible. My youngest is 15 but I would expect her to be capable of much better than this dross. I can only assume that the neo-prohibitionist lobby are a bit worried about the review of alcohol consumption guidelines so have chatted up some tame journalist in order to mislead the public again. The BBC it seems is always happy to help the mendacious provided that they are “on message”.

I would have preferred not to read the piece on TB and smoking but made the mistake of logging into the BBC news to find this non-news junk science on the front page. I have always harboured some respect for the BBC but am now completely disillusioned. It is obvious that someone senior has an agenda and that the BBC is not remotely impartial on the subject of public health. Stanton Glantz is on record as being prepared to sacrifice any vestige of integrity and honesty in pursuit of his obsession so I wonder why any publicly funded body would find anything he had to say worthy of front page news. But we are talking about an organisation that regularly features The World Cancer Research Fund in its output.

The BBC is currently implementing 20% cuts. What is the betting that Philippa Roxby, the editor responsible for front paging Glantz and Fergus Walsh get to keep their jobs? No doubt, more useful, more talented and more honest people will lose theirs.

In a recent interview Lord Patten said the trust was in talks with senior executives about how they could "accommodate the BBC" to the new budget.

"But, for heaven's sake, we're talking about the BBC running for the next five years on £3.5bn a year. Plus the income it can raise from its commercial activities," he said.

"Now we should be able to run a damn good public broadcaster on three-and-a-half billion a year."
He said the BBC would focus on its "core and most valuable services" such as children, drama, news and factual programmes.

Would “news” include the utter garbage that spews from the health team on a weekly basis I wonder?

Pass me the huge brandy and the razor blade. I am losing the will to live.

Anonymous said...

Save the razor blade for one of those wankers, and savour your large brandy, whilst we can..