Tuesday 13 November 2012

Illicit tobacco to be eliminated

In any group of enthusiasts, there is always one who goes too far. The schoolgirl who is just a little too keen on the latest boyband, the football fan who gets a little too caught up in his team. It is only by being around normal people that fanatics are forced to acknowledge their peculiarities and moderate their behaviour. But if they surround themselves only with those of like mind, they spiral further towards extremism, with each member of the group set on proving that they are the most committed to the cause. Isolated from normality, it is only a matter of time before one of them gets a facial tattoo.

This unfortunate state of affairs is very common in the "public health community" for two reasons. Firstly, since funding comes from the state to meet perceived health crises, there is an incentive to be hysterical. Secondly, fanaticism breeds fanaticism. When reasonable objectives have been achieved, reasonable people leave the movement. This leaves the fanatics to pursue more fanatical objectives which, in turn, attract new fanatics to the movement.

With life expectancy soaring, infectious diseases plummetting and people enjoying better health, working conditions and diets than ever before, you might expect the health lobby's wailing to subside somewhat. This has not happened, of course, least of all in tobacco control—a faction of public health which has won victory after victory for decades and yet only gets more anguished and hyperbolic. Take this comment about smoking from one Dr Seffrin who, according to the Independent, "leads the US national society dedicated to eliminating [!] cancer".

"It killed 100 million in the last century and we thought that was outrageous, but this will be the biggest public health disaster in the history of the world, bar none. It all could be avoided if we could prevent the terroristic tactics of the tobacco industry in marketing its products to children."

There are a number of things to be said about this statement. One might, for example, cite malaria, smallpox and bubonic plague as just three diseases which have been greater public health disasters than cigarette smoking, not least because they killed people at a much younger age and were not the result of taking a risky, but freely made, decision. One might also ask exactly in what ways the tobacco industry markets its products to children in 2012. Is this the "glitzy pack" argument? If so, does Dr Seffrin seriously believe that "the biggest public health disaster in the history of the world ... all could be avoided" by changing a red pack into a green pack?

But never mind all that. What is this stuff about terrorism? Even to a man who thinks he can eliminate cancer, that is a stupid thing to say. Alas, the fanatics are in too deep to understand why such a comment is risible and offensive. Let us remember that ASH (New Zealand) thought nothing of issuing this advert a few years ago...

This is what comes from spending years in the tobacco control bubble. One's sense of proportion goes out of the window. Flying an aeroplane full of innocent people into a building full of innocent people starts to seem commensurate with selling a legal product covered with health warnings which, if consumed many times a day for decades, increases the risk of developing a potentially deadly disease in old age. What next? Are they going to compare the tobacco industry with paedophiles? Oh no, they already did that...

I have described this phenomenon of escalating hyperbole as "bullshit inflation" (one of the leading causes of "bullshit fatigue"). You can expect to hear a lot of it this week because yet another anti-smoking conference is taking place. This time it's in South Korea ("Join tobacco control—See the world!"). It's the Fifth session of the Conference of the Parties to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control which means that it has some legislative muscle (you can read the agenda here). It kicked off with Margaret Chan, director general of the WHO, coming up with another silly simile...

Tobacco use is the epidemiological equivalent of a drive-by shooting – it hurts the innocent bystanders, as well as those held captive by an addiction that damages their health.

Chan played to the gallery by using military metaphors about the tobacco industry. "This is how we hem in the enemy," she said. "It is a ruthless industry that quite literally cannot afford to lose. It behaves like a corrosive substance that can eat and slip through any cracks or fissures in the armour of our defences." She was using similar rhetoric earlier in the year when she said: "We have an enemy, a ruthless and devious enemy, to unite us... The enemy, the tobacco industry, has changed its face and its tactics. The wolf is no longer in sheep's clothing, and its teeth are bared." Etc., etc.

This kind of banter is all well and good for the average street preacher, but it's a little sad to see the head of a once-distinguished UN body resort to tub-thumping. It really is reminiscent of the rants against the 'liquor trust' which prohibitionists like Richmond P. Hobson delivered in the early part of the twentieth century. I guess it's more comforting to think that you're at war with an industry than it is to admit you're demonising, impoverishing and harassing hundreds of millions of ordinary people who happen to enjoy tobacco. Better to imagine yourself at war with terrorists and drive-by shooters.

I can see the appeal of the us-versus-them conceit. If you're a government pencil-pusher it must feel very exciting to think you're at war. I don't care if people want to talk like this, I just don't think we should have to pay for it with our taxes (and, as Dick Puddlecote recently reported, delegates at this WHO meeting are discussing levying an international tax on tobacco to fund—guess WHO?) And yet, Chan constantly talks about the anti-tobacco industry as if it were "civil society". For example...

Members of civil society,

We need you, now more than ever.

Experience has shown that, when government political resolve falters or weakens under industry pressure, coalitions of civil society can take up the slack and carry the day. We need this kind of outcry, this kind of rage.

I'm all in favour of civil society and voluntary action. All I ask is that it be genuinely voluntary. Get rid of the taxpayer funding for these groups and let's see how many of these people are prepared to "take up the slack" and attend week long conferences in South Korea.

Here's an interesting fact about these 'Conference of the Parties (COP)' shindigs. It won't surprise you to hear that the tobacco industry is not invited to participate, but they are apparently not even allowed to observe proceedings from the spectator's gallery. These are—I say again—publicly funded conferences. Refusing to allow the relevant industry to even hear what is being said strikes me as peculiarly paranoid—as if tobacco execs are so powerful that they can transmit pro-tobacco messages by just being in the same room.

Predictably enough, the (taxpayer funded) anti-booze brigade wants the alcohol industry excluded from (taxpayer funded) discussions about alcohol.

Eurocare strongly recommended exclusion of the alcohol industry as a stakeholder, similarly as it is being done with the tobacco industry.

Of course prohibitionists want their "enemy" excluded from the discussion. If they let their opponents speak, they might undermine their paper-thin arguments. But it gets worse. As if it wasn't crazy enough not to allow the industry to see what goes on in these meetings, the fanatics have now banned Interpol (yes, that Interpol) from attending. Why? Because the tobacco company Philip Morris recently gave Interpol 15 million euros "to support the agency’s global initiative to combat trans-border crime involving illicit goods, including tobacco products".

This is madness. Is there any organisation these maniacs do not suspect are 'front groups' for Big Backy? The real issue here is not allowing the industry—or Interpol—to engage, it is that no opposing views are allowed whatsoever. I don't imagine that the industry necessarily represents the views of its customers, but they represent them better than the people who hate the customers, hate the industry and hate the product. Ideally, I'd like to see the tobacco control "community" invite smokers to their conferences and ask them how they feel about higher taxes and outdoor smoking bans, but they never do. I can't think why.

The result of excluding everybody except fellow fanatics is that you end up with retarded and delusional policies which only make sense at two in the morning when they are being discussed by monomaniacs in the hotel bar. It seems obvious, for example, that the tobacco industry could make common cause with the anti-tobacco industry—not to mention Interpol—on the issue of counterfeit cigarettes where both parties stand to lose. No dice, say the anti-smokers. Instead, we get a pompous announcement of monumental hubris...

The Protocol to Eliminate Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products

That's right, folks. They're going to eliminate illicit tobacco. Just like they eliminated illicit drugs.

"The elimination of all forms of illicit trade in tobacco products, including smuggling and illegal manufacturing, is an essential component of tobacco control," says Ambassador Ricardo Varela, President of the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the WHO FCTC.

If winning an unwinnable war is an essential part of your plan, it's time to rethink the plan. The tragedy is that it really is essential to their plan. It won't happen—prohibition never works—but they won't let anyone into the circle of trust to bring them to their senses.

To read about what the WHO should be talking about this week—if the 'H' in it still meant anything—read Clive Bates' open letter to COP-5.


Reading the full text of Chan's speech, it looks like the knives are out for snus and e-cigarettes:

You have before you state-of-the art reports on recommended responses to smokeless tobacco products and electronic nicotine delivery systems. Again, industry is seeping through the cracks.

Sounds like these "state-of-the-art reports" have been written by the usual quit-or-die merchants.


Jay said...

Quite amazing that these nutters keep ramping up the rhetoric to absurd extremes. And these are their leaders? Jesus.

Just for a giggle: https://twitter.com/NannyingTyrants/status/267973686240354305

Spoofed image of the COP5. :)

DaveA said...

A timely piece indeed.

Seffrin has enjoyed a particularly lush salary and benefits at the ACS.

"The American Cancer Society’s CEO, Dr. John Seffrin, received total compensation of $764,135 in fiscal year 2011 that included his base salary, deferred compensation and benefits not paid until retirement. He declined an incentive for fiscal 2009 performance and voluntarily decreased his base salary by 6.4 percent the previous period. In fiscal 2010, his total compensation was $2.4 million. Of that, $1.62 million included benefits not paid until retirement and a one-time supplemental benefit that related to retention. Revenues were $953.57 million in fiscal 2011, compared to $956.159 million in fiscal 2010."

Also Seffrin was one of the co signatories with Dr. Thun of a letter to the Dean of UCLA trying to get Dr. James Enstrom fired. I have a copy.

Nice people.

DP said...

Dear Mr Snowdon

It seems that the anti-tobacco campaign has been hijacked by organised criminals who have latched on to one of the multiple tax-payer funded teats to supply their lifestyle of both professional nannying, wealth beyond that which they could earn by doing an honest job and a periodic round of conferences in exotic places to meet their fellow criminals from all parts of the world.

Continuing the criminal meme, there could be scope to prosecute those responsible for the EU snus ban on the basis that the bureaucrats and politicians who proposed, supported and passed the ban are criminally liable for the damage inflicted on those who were legally prevented from using a harm reduction product.

An interesting twist on the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement.

Somehow I suspect that the politicos and bureaucrats will feel themselves to be exempt from any such action: after all it is the government’s job to punish the public.


Anonymous said...

Chris youve made it abundantly clear the Prohibitionists are losing face with the people and the governments. They appear to think theres a tobacco monster behind every chair,wall and face. This is a good sign as they limit their audience to just fellow Insanity patients. It seems a new book is in order ''How to keep the lie alive 20 years on''.

Anonymous said...

Additional thought here,the WHO has been trying to find a source of funding for quite some time. Financial transaction tax is one and theres a few other examples of attempts over the last 3 years.....Of course none of those flew either.

JohnB said...

Wow, Chris, that’s a loaded piece you’ve provided.

I’m not sure why greater use isn’t made of the Godber/WHO Blueprint. For example [slight digression], Simon Clark today notes that the father of the modern cigarette has been branded as a “merchant of death”. The highly inflammatory term “merchants of death” was supposedly introduced into the current antismoking crusade by the rabid antismoking fanatic (i.e., one of the merchants of insanity), Georgie Godber, way back in, at least, the 70s:

So finally, where do we go from here? I believe we go to war . We recognise quite clearly that this is a war with a determined enemy and with unsuspecting casualties . The tobacco industry has demonstrated in every continent that it has forfeited any right to be regarded as anything other than the opposition . Our enemy is not the smoker; indeed we know that most smokers want to give up smoking and get on to health . Our enemy is the manufacturer who exploits our youth and spreads this modern plague in the third world. Unless we act now there will indeed be something like a modern slaughter of the innocents ……..So let us end where we began : Prof. Hillerdal talked of smoking as the captain of the men of death . The merchants of death - and I assume that phrase was thought up by Sir George Godber because he thought up most of the good phrases we use, - the merchants of death are the tobacco manufacturers and we must confront them with every battle field, whether it is health, political, social, environmental or economic or any other . The case for action is overwhelming . We ourselves cannot take the political action but we can make life so uncomfortable for the politicians that they feel compelled to act. (p.11)

I am of course delighted to see so many participants, but the warmest welcome of all I can extend on behalf of you to the representatives of the tobacco industry . I have been delighted to see tobacco representatives taking careful notes - even taking recordings of the proceedings . I hope that their masters will listen very carefully to the words of Dr . Mahler and Sir George Godber . Twelve years ago in New York Senator Robert Kennedy said that the cigarette manufacturers were peddling a deadly weapon : they are dealing in people's lives for financial gain . The peddlers of death here, so far as I can see - and my apologies ..to those I have omitted – include representatives of the Canadian Tobacco Manufacturers' Council, the British Tobacco Advisory Council, British-American Tobacco, the Philip Morris Company, the U .S . Tobacco Institute and, I suspect, a few more who forgot to mention on their registration forms where they came from . (p.6)

This statement was made in 1979 at the 4th World Conference on Smoking & Health by none other than Mike Daube.

JohnB said...

Other comments made at the same conference are also telling:
Mahler emphasized the importance of making smoking socially unacceptable. He said that for millions of people it is now embarrassing to smoke and that the social pressure must be on the side of the nonsmoker . According to Mahler, it is now the smokers who have begun to apologize for smoking . However, he warned about the danger of the anti-smoking movement becoming an exclusive group i.e .,that the participants at the conference be viewed as fanatic anti-smokers . (p.8 )

According to Mahler, there is very little political support for fighting the tobacco industry because politicians fear the loss of revenue and upsetting the economy. Moreover, politicians smoke . He suggested that the basic reason there is such little political support for nonsmokers is that their constituents, i.e, the people, don’t care. The key to reversing this trend is to change the social norm . Nonsmoking should be regarded as normal social behavior . Only when people see smoking as socially abnormal will political pressure be felt . (p.10)

In the General Session entitled Smoking and Society, M .A .H . Russell of the U .K . presented a paper entitled Smoking as a Dependency Disorder . Attached hereto is abstract of his paper . According to Russell, smoking is a dependency disorder and, therefore, the reason many smokers can't quit is not because they are weak willed but because they are dependent. Russell claimed that 75% of smokers are motivated to quit smoking but that 25% don't wish to quit . According to Russell, the 25% who do not want to quit are not convinced of the health risks, while the 75% who want to quit can't because they are blocked by dependency. According to Russell, nicotine is the key to the smoker's dependency. He likened the problem of quitting smoking to alcoholism and heroine addiction .

Departing from his prepared text, Califano referred to research findings in smoking control . He said that
1 . Where smoking is prohibited in the workplace, there is a decrease in the number of people who smoke and an increase in those who
quit ; and 2. Schools that have good smoking programs have fewer smokers in future years. (p.27)


JohnB said...

From these statements, it’s clear that this antismoking crusade, like most before it, is an exterminatory crusade. For those that still claim that antismoking measures were enacted only to protect nonsmokers from secondhand smoke “danger”, they are lying. SHS “danger” is a contrivance….. a deranged means to a deranged end. By the 1970s, smokers had already been reduced to just “addicts” (years before other antismoking buddies “redefined” smoking as an “addiction” through the Office of the Surgeon-General), and SHS “danger” was already being touted years before the first [wobbly] study on SHS.

Just like in America early last century, the fanatical goal is to destroy the tobacco industry….. the “merchants of death”. War was already declared in the 70s: Whoever wasn’t one of “us” was one of “them”….. the “enemy”. Chan is simply embellishing with further inflammatory rhetoric an eradication framework already set decades ago. It is hate-filled rambling cheered by fanatics suffering a similar “god complex”…. amongst other mental disorders. The antismoking framework is a typical “us/them” framework. And then along came Chapman at the 5th World Conference (1983) suggesting a further refinement - a “good vs evil” framework in which the fanatics, of course, cast themselves in the role of the “mythological good” battling the “mythological evil” tobacco industry. It’s all contrived. Over the last three decades, these fanatics/zealots/extremists/nut cases have been allowed, without question, to “define” all the terms – addiction, “death toll”, war, good vs evil, “saving lives” – to fit their deranged framework. It’s all made up….. the product of disturbed minds! Worse still is that they’re still peddling this trash without question and with increasing influence.

JohnB said...

The Protocol to Eliminate Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products

The antismoking nut cases were warned over and over again that extortionate taxes will foster a contraband market. When a contraband market begins to flourish, it signals that taxes have gone too far. But logic and nut cases don’t mix. The nut cases keep calling for higher extortionate taxes and are then shocked that a contraband market flourishes. “It’s not our doing”, declare the fanatics: “The contraband market just popped up out of thin air to foil our good work”.

The fools.... first-class morons... of Public Health that created the problem now want to “fix” it with more of their inimitable stupidity. God help us!

Anonymous said...

So the WHO wants a global tobacco tax on all of us along with everything else!

World Health Organization Moving Ahead on Billions in Internet and Other Taxes

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/world/2010/05/10/world-health-organization-moving-ahead-billion-dollar-internet-tax/#ixzz2C6x3xSS9

JohnB said...

No experience or competence – in anything – necessary.
Come all ye neurotics, bigots, cheats, liars, thieves. WE WANT YOU. Come battle the evil tobacco empire.

See the world. We have frequent conferences and award weekends in exotic locations….. five-star, of course….. and, best of all, at tax-payer expense. Make friends of the like-mentally-disturbed. JOIN NOW!

JohnB said...

See, too, Siegel’s blog and comments:

Anonymous said...

We have a mental disorder on hold to be issued with every new ban movement:

Nord Med. 1994;109(4):121-5.
[Environmental somatization syndrome. How to deal with the external milieu syndrome?].
[Article in Swedish]
Nilsson CG, Göthe CJ, Molin C.
SourceMed Rehabiliteringskliniken, Huddinge Sjukhus.

Somatization is a tendency to experience and communicate psychogenic distress in the form of somatic symptoms and to seek medical help for them. Patients suffering from environmental somatization syndrome (ESS) consider their symptoms to be caused by exposure to chemical or physical components of the external environment or by ergonomic stress at work. ESS is distinguished by mental contagiousness and a tendency to cluster. Sometimes it explodes in wide-spread epidemics that may be escalated by mass-media campaigns. Extensive ESS epidemics have been connected to, i.a., arsenic, carbon monoxide ("generator gas poisoning"), mercury ("oral galvanism"), carbon-free copy papers, electromagnetic fields ("electric allergy") and repetitive movements ("repetition strain injury", RSI). The typical patient directs the interest on the external environment, refuses alternative explanations of his symptoms and abhors any suggestion of a psychogenic etiology.

The community is often placed in difficult positions by lobby groups calling for drastic measures to eliminate alleged disease-inducing exposures. When hygienic evils occur simultaneously with an ESS epidemic, it is essential to strictly differ the hygienic problems from the ESS problems. If mismanaged, measures aimed at reducing hygienic inconveniences may aggravate the complex of ESS problems.


Come help us spread the fear!

JohnB said...

Isolated from normality, it is only a matter of time before one of them gets a facial tattoo.

Chris, if this was the endpoint of extremism, I would say tattoo away. Unfortunately, the extremism is wreaking utter havoc (psychologically, socially, morally, economically, ideo-politically) around the world, and particularly in the one-time relatively-free English-speaking West. There is a serious, despicable messing with people’s minds on a mass scale. It is a constant fear and hate-mongering that has unquestioned access to lawmakers. The absurd demands do not seem absurd to the gullible that have lapped up the propaganda from the early days. It is bringing out the worst in people…… again.

Mac the Knife said...

Thanks for linking to the full text of Chan's speech Chris, it's very thoughtful of you.

Unfortunately, I am in the terminal phase of Bullshit Fatigue© (C. Snowdon 2012), and on medical advice; I have decided not to read it.

Anonymous said...

The illicit trade protocol has been adopted in Seoul without calls for a ban on duty-free tobacco sales
Duty-free tobacco sales were given a boost today (November 13) with the adoption of the illicit trade protocol at the Conference of the Parties of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) in Seoul as its text does not include a ban on duty-free tobacco, although it does subject the channel to further scrutiny in the future.

Following the adoption of the protocol, it needs to be ratified by individual states. Once the protocol has been ratified by at least 40 countries, it will come into effect and become binding on signatory parties.

Earlier this year, at the fifth meeting of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Body (INB5) in Geneva the parties involved agreed a way forward to tackle the illicit trade of tobacco, marking the end of a process spanning five years to defend duty-free tobacco sales from claims that they contributed to illicit trade.

European Travel Retail Confederation secretary general Keith Spinks told DFNIonline: “As per the original agreement they would not go back to review what had been decided at the INB5, so it was reasonably straightforward. What it means now is that it will open for signature next year, and once 40 countries sign up it becomes binding on the parties that ratified it. What happens then depends on how fast countries sign up to it, and then we can start looking at all the rules and provisions of the protocol.

He added: “We are now back where we were at INB5, when the parties agreed that within five years of the adoption of the protocol an investigation into duty-free would take place [to ascertain the extent of any link between duty-free sales and illicit trade]. We are happy with that.”


Anonymous said...

Researchers Debate a License to Smoke Cigarettes

Simple Simon’s at it again
They do it for coal-burning power plants. So how about something for what many consider to be a walking smokestack — the cigarette smoker?

Yes, a license to smoke. Simon Chapman, a professor of public health at the University of Sydney in Australia, offers this radical proposal to help reduce the damaging health effects of tobacco, both for the user and the recipient of second-hand smoke.

You may think this is brilliant … or crazy … or both. Chapman’s proposal appears today (Nov. 13) in the online journal PLoS Medicine, accompanied by an opposing view put forth by Jeff Collin, a professor of global health policy from the University of Edinburgh in Scotland.

Anonymous said...

1. The Activists meeting in Seoul have no authority whatsoever.
2. The Framework Convention is a con. It is a Treaty, which only has effect between nations. It has no effect within a nation. It has no legal authority within any given country whatsoever. It only means anything for as long as a nation wishes to continue to abide by it.

Remember Milton MP? Her wot thought that the UK was 'legally bound' by the FCTC? No wonder that she was sacked - why was she ever appointed in the first place? The sooner these people are stripped of funds, the better. Let then raise their money from voluntary subscriptions.

But always remember that they are only advertisers! Their contributions to society are no better than 'three shades of white better'.


Weekend Yachtsman said...

"It killed 100 million people in the last century"

Oh, smoking!

Silly me, I thought he was talking about socialism.