Opinionated journalism

Opinionated journalism

All of the posts on this blog contain an opinion, mostly my opinion which usually differs greatly from the article or study that I’m picking apart. This post is no different except in this case, my opinion likely differs from everybody elses’ opinion too.

Everybody has opinions them and I am thankful that many of you regularly stop by to read my opinions. Whether you take them to heart or not is entirely up to you.

Last week a piece of opinionated journalistic bullshit appeared in The BMJ. I read it first thing on the following day thanks to it being published long after I went to bed. Let’s face it, it was and is a truly terrible piece and it set the tone for the rest of my day.

The tobacco industry used to be seen as the enemy of public health, but the move into e-cigarettes and harm reduction has seen some experts shift their views. Are they right or does industry have more cynical motives?

To be fair, it is a perfectly valid question. Does the tobacco industry have ulterior motives for moving into the e-cigarette space? Probably. After all, they must have seen some impact on their incomes thanks to the millions of switchers. To be frank, I couldn’t give a flying rats ass if tobacco companies made e-cigarettes or not. I’m probably one of a tiny minority in that respect. Let’s face it, the tobacco companies are years behind the rest of the market; most users are on 3rd or 4th generation devices whilst they are still making 1st gen. Have at it I say, it is a steppingstone for the initial switchers to more advanced and effective devices.

For some, such an apparent convergence of views is a sign that the industry’s enthusiastic—and, critics maintain, cynical—embrace of the controversial concept of “harm reduction” in tobacco control is paying dividends.

The subject of harm reduction crops up frequently within public health circles, and has falsely been used in the past by the tobacco industry, but the idea behind it is entirely valid. If you smoke, you are doing harm to yourself, everybody knows this. What the tobacco companies tried was the “light” cigarette, which we all know were just as “harmful” as regular cigarettes with the exception of misleading propaganda (now why does that sound familiar). The truth behind the “lights” was simply a means of getting smokers to smoke more. The light cigarettes did actually “feel” weaker than the regular smokes, I experienced this personally with Marlboro and Mayfair Lights, as a result I actually smoked twice as much when smoking the ’light’ cigarettes than I did when I smoked Marlboro Red or Mayfair Superking. If I had smoked the same amount, then I technically would have been “reducing the harm”. Therein lies the massive disagreement about e-cigarettes from a public health perspective.

“If the tobacco industry is busy arguing for deregulation and a number of our colleagues in public health find themselves arguing in the same direction as the industry then, with respect, we think that’s time to pause,” said Simon Capewell, professor of public health and policy at Liverpool university’s Institute of Psychology, Health and Society.

So basically, if aspects of public health and the tobacco industry agree it’s time to stop collaborating. How short-sighted.

“It’s really regrettable,” says Capewell, who supports the Faculty of Public Health position that e-cigarettes should be “subject to the same controls as tobacco” and that the benefits of fewer people smoking must be weighed against “the risk of electronic cigarettes leading to more people starting to smoke, particularly children.”

If two opposing parties are working together for mutual benefit in normal terms is a good thing, but when it comes to working with “Big Tobacco” all of a sudden it becomes a heinous crime. I’m getting fed up of saying it, e-cigarettes do not contain tobacco so how the flying fuckity fuck can you subject them to the same fucking regulations!

Another phrase I’m getting tired of repeating ad infinitum, you don’t smoke e-cigarettes! Yet Simon bloody Capewell, the ever-present fuckwit from the irritating charity FPH seems to think you do.

In usual style, the journo turns to ASH for commentary; I dare say he was expecting full-fledged support on Capewell’s stance from Debs and Co. sadly for him, and much to the delight of many, Debs thoroughly disappointed him.

Over at ASH, however, Arnott summarily dismisses such fears. “There are people in the public health community who are obsessed by e-cigarettes,” she says. “This idea that it renormalises smoking is absolute bullshit.” Furthermore, she insists, “There is no evidence so far that it is a gateway into smoking for young people.”

This is one of those rare times when I might actually have a smidgen of respect for Debs. It is just a smidge though, just for once I’d dearly love Debs to publically condemn the bullshit bans and exaggerated news stories. I’m no fan of ASH and Debs in particular, I make no secret of that. Perhaps in time my opinion will change, but for now I remain firmly on the side of “get in the fucking sea”.

Unable to find supportive commentary from ASH, he decides to cosy on up to the WHO to take aim at the professionals that heavily criticised the report ahead of the debacle that was COP6.

In 2014 the tension boiled over into a pitched battle of words, fought in public in the run-up to the sixth conference of the parties to the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.

The first salvo was fired in May 2014, when 56 “specialists in nicotine science and public health policy” wrote to Margaret Chan, director general of WHO, to complain that the “critical strategy” of harm reduction had been “overlooked or even purposefully marginalised” in preparations for the conference. Harm reduction, they insisted, was “part of the solution, not part of the problem.”

There was a swift retaliation from the other side of the debate, signed by 129 public opposing experts organised by Stanton Glantz, director of the WHO Collaborating Centre on Tobacco Control and American Legacy Foundation distinguished professor of tobacco control at the University of California.

Oddly enough, there’s more on the “swift retaliation” then there is on the criticism. Although considering the past articles this guy has written, it isn’t particularly surprising. So far, this journo has extolled the virtues of Simon Flakewell, sought support from ASH only to get burned, rhapsodised about Frampton A Blands and his bunch of moronic cronies, who’s next on his list?

Only one of the big tobacco companies of course.

To those suspicious of the concept of harm reduction, this was breathtaking. The industry that had been killing so many people for so long was now planning to profit by offering a solution to the very problem it had created—if only all those obstructive scientists and governments would just get on board.

Yes of course, blame the tobacco company for the current state of cynicism surrounding this issue. Don’t bother looking beyond the so-called “peer-reviewed” journals to seek real evidence from both sides of the debate, it’s just so much easier to take those you hold in such high esteem at their word isn’t it? It’s almost as if this guy was deliberately dismissing any potential benefits from harm reduction isn’t it?

Agreeing with anyone from the tobacco industry automatically taints anything you say, and anyone you work with doesn’t it? If the tobacco industry wants to pay for my firms christmas party, I’ll damn well drink that bar dry on their coin and still take shots at them. Does that mean I’m a tobacco shill? According to his moron, yes it does.

Here is one of the brighter spots of this dire article:

But nowadays, there is a target conflict. For some, it’s more about getting rid of the tobacco industry rather than helping the poor smokers or to-be smokers.

The trouble with the majority of public health and tobacco control, the enemy as far as they are concerned is the tobacco industry so they have to do everything in their power to destroy them in any way they can. Trouble is, with that approach there is a whole fuck-tonne of casualties. Namely the smokers. The most vocal aspects against the tobacco industry make all the right noises about being on their side, but in reality they are not. You only have to look at any article that mentions smoking or vaping to see their work. In their eyes, smokers are devil spawn and the general feeling I get from them is that they really don’t give a shit.

Evidence of this, he said, could be found in the way the attitude towards e-cigarettes altered among the public health community after the tobacco industry took over most of the small, independent pioneers in the field.

Pure misinformation here, attitudes towards e-cigarettes as a harm reduction method were being altered by us vapers before the tobacco companies got to grips with the market. Even now, the tobacco companies still don’t get it. Yes the industry bought some of the manufacturers, but only because they themselves were getting it horribly wrong. Stop conflating the two.

Now it’s ‘The tobacco industry is getting into this, the tobacco industry is evil, therefore as a policy this is a bad idea, and anybody who argues otherwise is either an idiot or a tobacco industry poodle

Wise words and it underlines the pure bias of the article and many others like it. Yet another phrase I’m sick of hearing and having to defend against vaping is NOT owned by “Big Tobacco”. Ask any vape store owner or vaper, no-one likes the tobacco industry. They hate the fact that ‘Big Tobacco’ are making vapor products, from the point of view of differentiating I agree with that, but having competition from major players means that ‘Big Vaping’ is doing something right. It’s making the long-standing tobacco industry look foolish, here we have a product that mimics the typical smoking behaviour but with ~96% less harm. Shove that in your pipe and fucking smoke it.

Public health experts who have grown up thinking of the industry as the evil opposition “find it very difficult when the tobacco industry, whether you trust it or believe it, starts to look as if it is coming up with a product that is actually a solution to some people’s dependence on smoking tobacco.”

For some, accepting this meant “softening a position that many have built careers on, and that’s quite difficult.”

Of course, the stalwarts of tobacco control and some in public health won’t soften, and to be honest I can’t blame them. The tobacco industry has consistently lied and bent the rules to suit them, but it also means that these same stalwarts aren’t bending when it comes to a consumer driven alternative. As the tobacco industry is now in the same market as the small vendors, many immediately assume it’s all the same thing. Damned if you do and damned if you don’t.

For Martin McKee, professor of European public health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine there is no doubt that tobacco companies are entering the e-cigarette market “solely so they can say they are part of the solution.”

McKee freely admits he is “an e-cigarettes cynic.” He has also been an active supporter of ASH and says he has been “greatly dismayed” by its support for e-cigarettes. But there was, said McKee, still no evidence that e-cigarettes were effective in helping people to quit smoking, with recent studies indicating that smokers who used them might even be less likely to quit than those who did not.

Nanny McPhee isn’t just a cynic, he’s an outright tool. If he actually bothered to read the information ASH has been putting out, or even conducting some research of his own, he’d come to the same conclusions that ASH have. But no, Bobblegom is quite happy playing at mouthpiece in his ivory tower with his fingers in his ears singing “la la la”. One glorious day he’ll wake up to find he’s been put out to pasture. Until then, he’ll just spout whatever rubbish comes into his head about bubblegum.

McKee says the debate about harm reduction has been invaded and clouded by personal attacks on social media launched by “vapers” (as those who use e-cigarettes describe themselves) and others. After he wrote an article for The BMJ in 2013, “sceptical and raising a number of questions, I got attacked beyond belief.”

To be fair, McPhee practically asked for it for being a complete dunderhead. Instead of actually trying to engage with people on social media he chooses to stick his virtual fingers into his virtual ears and start his “la la-ing” all over again. Countless times McPhee has been asked to engage, not just by us vapers but by other people promoting harm reduction and he has completely ignored each and every one.

“It has been seriously unpleasant,” says McKee. “But when you’re getting that sort of treatment you realise you’re on to something.”

No. It means you’ve been caught being a total spunktrumpet, it’s about time you learned the difference.

The debate on harm reduction with the inclusion of the tobacco industry will no doubt rage on for some time with many on both sides being rightly sceptical, the divide is huge. Right now, proponents of harm reduction like us vapers who simply want to engage with those like McKee are being tarnished with a very dirty brush because the tobacco industry is in the game. There is nothing in the rulebook that says they can’t be, unless you count the liability that is the FCTC Article 5.3 which ultimately excludes the tobacco industry from anything to do with the debate, although it was also used to exclude the press and public from the Moscow debacle.

But regardless of their true value in the battle against tobacco harm, and the ferocious row they have triggered in the public health community, are all such products anything other than a mere sideshow, designed to make the tobacco industry look good as cigarettes continue to kill up to half of the people who use them?

The vapour products that actually work are more than just a side-show you fucking moron, given the right support from public health and tobacco control they will vastly accelerate the decline in smoking prevalence, but none of the stalwarts can fucking see it. Instead, these mighty vocal stalwarts are spending their time and our damned money in regulating all vapour products out of existence because “Big Tobacco” wanted to play. Grow the fuck up.

I really wasn’t going to cover this article, but so much in it pissed me off mightily. It really is a pathetic attempt to ‘join the dots’ with minimal evidence to go on, and maybe I shouldn’t have let it get to me, but whatever. It’s cropped up via numerous tweets over the last week, and unlike many I would just like to see the article die a long overdue virtual death.