Monday 23 April 2012

Comment from Clive Bates

A comment from former ASH director Clive Bates in a recent post deserves wider attention so I reproduce it here in full. Please click on the links.

I write as former director of ASH (the one based in London: I was director from 1997-2003. I am now no longer involved in public health and these are my personal views.

The public health community does know about smokeless tobacco and harm reduction, or it should know as it is their responsibility to understand what they are doing. There is plenty of evidence and sources available to those prepared to approach the issue with an open mind. In fact a debate has raged on this subject for some time and continues to this day - with many protagonists on both sides. The denial of evidence, warped logic, weird ethics and rejection of common sense has been extraordinary to behold. My concern now is that the EU is considering a new tobacco directive to replace the one that bans oral tobacco in the EU outside Sweden. Despite the reality that illiberal, self-defeating measure is deeply harming to health and civil liberties, as far as I can see no-one is lifting a finger to do anything about it. There is now the opportunity of the new directive to replace the ban with a regulated market in reduced-risk smokeless tobacco. 

Just so you can see that the public health community has never been united in its view on this, here are a few posts from me on smokeless tobacco and harm reduction:

Killing by the million: and that's just the health campaigners "If there is a reason to be a Euro-sceptic, then this is one of the strongest – deliberate denial of access to products that are much lower risk to people that are addicted to nicotine."

Saying stupid things with fake sophistication - a critique of ASH Scotland's position statement on smokeless tobacco: "jaw-dropping in its idiocy".

Mass killing machine making lots of money "One danger is that fussy, insular and instinctively authoritarian public health people will continue down the evidence-free path of blocking these developments and insist that for smokers it has to be ‘quit or die’. On the other hand, and more positively, tobacco companies may see smokeless products as a way of doing business with less death and disease and persuade regulators that they needs some regulatory tweaks to make it work – for example it is still impossible to tell smokers the truth about relative risks, and much public effort go in to obscuring it."

Useless scientific advice from the EU including a submission to the committee evaluating smokeless tobacco, and a more complete critique of what they were doing and how they were going about their work. 

The European Commission continues to rely on the work of this committee to justify its stance in favour of banning lower risk products, yet the terms of reference, the assessment and its interpretation were all thoroughly flawed and easily discredited.


JJ said...

I would like to hear his views on deaths by so called 'passive smoking' and shoddy epidemiological studies, throw in various conflicts of interest with regard to YouGov polls as well as the sham they called 'Public Consultations', which never involved jo-public or any type of consultation.

timbone said...

Clive Bates strikes me as being to ASH what John Reid was to Labour, sensible, hence their demise.

Anonymous said...

@JJ He'll probably have been sworn to secrecy about the SHS crap.

dearieme said...

What's "SHS"?

Anonymous said...


You might very well think that, but I couldn't possibly comment.

I did that at Dave Atherton's.
At length.


Anonymous said...

SHS = Second hand smoke....

David said...

Clive was always one of the most insightful and rigorously evidence driven people in the tobacco control community; he expressed these views regularly and forcefully during his time at ASH; there are others who think similarly in the tobacco control world; it is easy to dismiss them all as having one view, this is far from the truth. However the practicalities of creating a regulatory framework for potentially reduced exposure products (PREPs as the tobacco manufacturers call them) have stymied progress.

David C