Thursday 23 February 2012

Backing the USSR

Chris Oakley has written a very interesting article at Liberal Vision about politically motivated doctors' groups attempting to emulate Soviet temperance campaigns.

In an academically inept, blatantly political piece published in The Lancet, a group of liver doctors who in their conceit, believe themselves experts on the causes of alcohol abuse rather than its consequences, propose Gorbachev’s 1985 crackdown on alcohol in the Soviet Union as a template for alcohol control in the UK.

Go have a read. Fascinating history and a sound analysis.

On a barely related note, you can listen to me arguing with a plain pack proponent on BBC Radio Humberside earlier today (23 minutes in). Barely related because I mention the USSR right at the end. Hear here.


Ann W. said...

so the take away from all these interviews is that if you speak out against the plain packaging, they must be on the right path?

Jean said...

The destruction of vineyards in Armenia by Gorbatchev's government was also a factor in the Nagorny-Karabach conflict that started in the 90's.
Prohibition does not only boost criminality, it sometimes starts wars too, and trying to ban alcohol in Russia is a funny idea.

dearieme said...

In spite of your urging, I can't bring myself to read a post that begins "As someone familiar with cutting edge science and those who work at the frontiers of medical research, ...".

Jay said...

Interesting piece on the radio, Chris. These antis are so far up on their own asses, so blindly bent on punishing tobacco companies and smokers, that they can only trot out the "protect the children" argument in support of their crusade. I do not know of any smoker who took up smoking because of the pack. Not one. I've even begun to ask strangers on the street. No one started due to a pack design.

Regardless, it's incredibly easy to foretell what will happen: The UK will implement plain packs (mainly because Australia has already set the precedent), and the resulting increase in dodgy, counterfeit cigarettes and rolling tobacco will injure or kill smokers.

That is, of course, what ASH and other antis want to happen. Which they will use to create further bans. Which will create more crime, more dodgy goods, and kill more people.

But that's all right. You know, it's perfect acceptable to harm and kill adults in order to protect some mythical 12-year-old child out there who saw a cigarette pack and instantly started smoking 50 cigs a day.

Why is no one upset about this? More importantly, why are non-tobacco companies not fighting this? Do they really think it won't happen to them?

timbone said...

I have said it before, and I will say it again, it is always women (referring to plain packaging link). It is also always women who either sound like a dominatrix (Arnott) or a woman who loves firemen and gynaecologists and is most probably a vegetarian. Like yesterday on BBC Breakfast News. The subject was research into the fact that women do not feel the same chest pains as men when they are having a heart attack, so maybe miss it. Valid research. Then suddenly, there is someone on the couch talking about smoking causing heart attacks in young women, totally off topic. Yes, it was a woman...the dominatrix variety.

Chris Oakley said...

Many thanks for the kind words Chris. I don’t post all that often but thought it worth at least trying to draw attention to people claiming to want just a few teeny weensy changes that will affect almost nobody whilst actually supporting a Soviet style agenda. People who smoke and know ASH will be familiar with the tactic of course.

I hope it was only Deareime who was put off by my opening line. I admit to knowing people with degrees in hard science subjects like Biochemistry, Genetics etc. who work in medical research. Much of the pseudo scientific junk that is used to justify public health extremism comes not from these scientists but from MDs. Anna Gilmore and Jill Pell for example are medics.

I just feel sorry for people like the brainwashed lady you were up against on the radio. They must lead really sad lives in order to seek satisfaction by campaigning for smokefree houses in Lincolnshire.

dearieme said...

"I admit to knowing people with ...": it's not your circle of acquaintance that put me off, it was your hackneyed language.

Anonymous said...

@ dearime.

How did you know that the language was hackneyed if you couldn't bring yourself to read the article?

dearieme said...

The opening sentence.

Anonymous said...


I know that it is extremely difficult to argue against this so-called 'plain' packaging. ASH ET AL have 'framed the debate'. I admire your tenacity.

What has struck me, again and again, whether it be Arnott or Duggan or whoever, is that
they are all women who employ dulcet, maternal, sweet, caring voices as they demand persecution and stigmatisation. Also, they 'read' from a prepared script - certainly, in the beginning. I do not trust the BBC not to be complicit (witness the length of time that X was allowed to propagandise their plans for exerting influence on MPs).

It strikes me that the Holy Zealots cannot be reasoned with on any rational basis. Their answer to enquiries is 'we have evidence' (whether they have or not).

It seems to me that neither the Zealots nor the BBC should be allowed to 'frame the debate'.

It is hard to see what the answer is. I suspect that there are only two possibilities, which can both be employed:

1. Call them out on the numbers.
2. Ridicule them and accuse them of lying (seriously! They are ACTUALLY lying!)Do not be pleasant - that plays into their hands. Be rational and hard and nasty. Accuse them of lying since they have no proof.

But what do I know.

Frank J said...

I can't remember any anti spokesperson being asked to produce any form of evidence. All they do is appeal to authority. They state 'peer reviewed studies around the world' but never, on any occasion, can I remember them being requested to, specifically, quote or produce one. They avoid it like the plague.

Therein lies their obvious weak point and one that should be hammered home ruthlessly whatever any interviewer may think. I feel that anyone being interviewed by phone should have this information to hand and push relentlessly. Embarrass the bastards.

Ann W. said...

Frank J, I came across such a passage many years ago when one expert claimed that smoking was linked to diabetes. This is how it went.

Senator Cochrane: How did you come up with the research on diabetes being caused by smoking?

Dr. Ferrence: This is based not on my own research but on research that has been carried out in North America and in other countries. Smoking is not the only cause of these diseases, but it is a contributing factor to a number of conditions, including diabetes. It is a likely contributing factor at this point. We do know that people with diabetes have much higher rates of heart disease and all kinds of other circulatory problems, and the smoking exacerbates that and makes all the associated conditions much worse. I did not bring all that research with me tonight, but there is documented evidence based on various medical studies that have been done for this.

Chris Oakley said...

@Junican @Frank

The problem is that the political activists have now stolen the trappings of those who work at the cutting edge of science so people like Arnott can often get away with making outrageous claims about peer reviewed papers without actually lying.

Peer review is important to scientists working at the frontiers of medical research because science like law and politics tends to work best when adversarial. If you are at said frontiers studying something unknown like the cause of Alzheimer’s, the chances are that you think X but many of your peers think Y or Z. So when your paper goes to review, it is being scored objectively by people who don’t necessarily agree with you. This process tends to keep everyone honest so is considered important.

Peer review in tobacco control is a parody of the process I have outlined above partly because public health is a doctrinarian and tolerates no deviation from accepted dogma. Imagine trying to publish a paper that suggests the impact of passive smoking has been overestimated. Peer review becomes a joke when all of your peers are pretty much forced to agree with you provided that you are on message.

In addition, there are many ways to cheat and still claim a peer reviewed paper. Jill Pell did it by cherry picking her data and then simply going to ground when she was shown to be wrong about smoking bans and heart attacks in Scotland. Anna Gilmore did it by publishing in the BMJ rather than a science journal. The BMJ is not big on people being transparent about their results so she was able to make a peer reviewed claim without explaining how she did it.

Arnott still quotes this type of dishonest junk as though peer review somehow makes it OK and despite severe doubts being raised by more objective voices. That is a trick she uses to ensure that she only occasionally has to actually lie. The problem Chris faces on the radio is that it is pretty hard to try to argue this in a limited time and it is especially difficult if your interviewer knows nothing about science or the public health industry.

Anonymous said...

Smoking link to diabetes.

"Quitters face an almost doubled risk of developing diabetes in their first three smoke-free years.
Researchers from Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, studied 10,892 adult smokers, none of whom had diabetes at the start of the study.

The participants were studied for nine years during which time, 1,254 developed type-2 diabetes.

In the first three years after giving up, new quitters were 91 per cent more likely to develop diabetes. This decreased over time and after 12 years quitters had no excess risk.

What is behind the raised risk?
Extra weight put on by new quitters explains around a third of the increased risk, the researchers said. A further third of the excess risk is accounted for by systemic inflammation, as assessed by increased leukocyte counts.

However, after adjusting for this weight gain and inflammation, new quitters were still at higher risk compared with participants who continued smoking. This risk may be a result of differences in the two groups that the study was not designed to detect, say the researchers"

Frank J said...

My point is that I have never heard anybody be forced to, actually, quote or produce any of these 'studies'. All I hear is WHO, UN, Public Health Bodies, Universities and 'from around the world', and they're never asked about them! There has to be a reason for this reluctance and I don't believe it is time.

We would prepare for an exam, wouldn't we? I'm no author or 'journalist' and I'm not attempting to be critical in particular but if we had the time we would surely prepare for an interview of this nature by having the specifics to hand. Surely the point of this is to make us look knowledgeable and the opponents useless by showing that we know the contents of these studies and they don't.

If that's all that's shown in these time limited situations it's massive success and it stands out to me as a major weak point on their side. An interviewer will obviously not allow an 'in depth' discussion but the point will have been made.

Frank J said...

Anne W: Thank you, that is precisely my point. If I had been the opponent I would have hammered home that this so called 'medical evidence' cannot be produced, not even named.