Wednesday 6 March 2019

Bloomberg's army

Last year, Mike Bloomberg gave $20 million to the Bath University's Tobacco Control Research Group (TCRG) to create 'a brand new global tobacco industry watchdog called Stopping Tobacco Organizations and Products, or STOP.' It was a tit for tat move after Philip Morris gave $1 billion (over 12 years) to the Foundation for a Smokefree World.

The TCRG is run by comedy legend Anna Gilmore. It is one of the UK's last hold-outs against vaping and is best known for creating a low quality pseudo-wiki which smears anyone with whom they disagree as as an ally of the tobacco industry. Their newfound wealth will allow them to finally employ some fact checkers, and there will be plenty left over to spend on other projects.

What will they do with the cash? Bath University is an academic institution. The TCRG sits within the university's Department of Health and has the word 'research' in its title. An organisation called Stopping Tobacco Organizations and Products doesn't sound like an academic group. It sounds like a campaign group - and so it is - therefore the challenge for Gilmore et al. will be for them to portray their crusade against vaping and tobacco harm reduction as (a) educational, and (b) pro-health.

It will be interesting to see how they square that circle, but you can expect to hear a lot from in the next couple of years because they are splashing some of the cash on a big recruitment drive.

The Bloomberg funding over three years is huge news and is going to grow the Tobacco Research Group from a team of nine to around 35, it’s amazing. 

So said Jo Cranwell in a recent interview. You may recall Cranwell from Monday's post in which she described the reality TV show Geordie Shore as a 'risk factor' for binge-drinking. An avid television viewer, she has published numerous studies complaining about smoking and drinking in TV programmes. She has found smoking in Love Island, 'inferred alcohol use' in Geordie Shore and has complained about tobacco use in films, alcohol consumption in music videos, and alcohol and tobacco content in music videos. Gilmore has managed to snap up this talent before she wins her first Nobel Prize.

Fromher  interview, we learn that Cranwell worked as a reflexologist before running her own flooring business and then doing a PhD in whatever subject you have to do to call yourself a professor of public health these days. When asked which superpower she would like to have, she replies...

I’m really nosey and interfere with people’s business all the time, so probably invisibility so I could listen in on everyone’s conversations.

This makes her ideally qualified for a job in tobacco control where most of the work involves going through the Twitter feed of people you don't like and reading decades-old industry memos.

I’ve just taken my research on tobacco marketing, and that of colleagues around the world, to report on tobacco in entertainment media to World Health Organisation.

She's never published anything about tobacco marketing. She means people using tobacco on television and in films. She often gets these two mixed up.

I want them to sign up to a revised section of the Framework Convention for Tobacco Control that puts measures in place to limit the exposure of children to tobacco advertising.

The Framework Convention for Tobacco Control already includes a full ban on tobacco advertising. Again, she means people smoking on TV and in films.

In Western countries we may well focus on social media and how vaping is being promoted and used as a marketing tool by the big tobacco companies.

Presumably she means 'how big tobacco companies market and promote vaping'. Vaping being 'used as a marketing tool' makes no sense, unless she thinks that vaping is being used to market tobacco which, come to think of it, is probably exactly what her 'research' will conclude.

My work also includes alcohol and I’d like to develop this area of research further too, perhaps setting up my own related research group.  

Very wise. It's unlikely that the anti-vaping money will dry up any time soon but it makes sense to cover as many bases as possible to be on the safe side.

Speaking of which, another gravy train is rolling into the city of Bath on tomorrow...

The University of Bath Postgraduate Group Bath Science in Policy is very pleased to co-host a lunchtime seminar with The University of Bath’s Tobacco Control Research Group. Our visiting speaker, Dr. Mélissa Mialon from the University of Sao Paulo, will present her research on The influence of the ultra-processed food and beverage industries on public policies and public opinion.

Speaker profile: Dr Mélissa Mialon is a food engineer with training in public health nutrition. She is currently a research fellow at the University of Sao Paulo in Brazil. In her research, she has adapted methods used in the field of tobacco control research to identify and monitor the influence of the ultra-processed food and beverage industry on public policies and public opinion.

I'm calling it now: the Tobacco Control Research Group will be called the Tobacco, Alcohol and Obesity Control Research Group within five years.

Now that these people have a billionaire sugar daddy, can we taxpayers stop funding them please?

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