Still Screaming

Still Screaming

It’s been about a month since the announcement of a lot of cash being spent (transparently mind, unlike tobacco control) to further support research into harm reduction products which caused quite a stir within the tobacco control industry. Much to mine, and several others, delight.

As far as it is understood, Phillip Morris - who right now is trying to cosy up to public health (and failing miserably - take note vapers) - are going to be shovelling a rather large amount of cash into this initiative. Rather large equating to approximately 80M US Greenback.

One thing that irritates me no end is the fact that large amounts of taxpayer cash - amounts in excess of the $80M being spunked by PMI - is being used to generate absolute drivel that tries to pass itself off as science. It fails dismally, natch, because the authors generally have an idea of what they want to say, then go ahead and create an “experiment” to prove it. I’ve written about several of these attempts on these humble pages over the last three years (yes, it really has been three years. I know, colour me surprised). Each one has been ridiculously easy for a non-sciencey type person, such as myself, to read, laugh at, then subsequently dissect (and you folks keep coming back for more, bless you!).

Let’s take a moment to reflect on some significant words uttered by, no less, the redoubtable dreadful Simon Chapman:

When it comes to tobacco control, you can determine the most effective policies by using the litmus test of how the tobacco industry reacts. This has long been called the “scream test”.

So when they cry blue murder about the civilisation-ending potential of a policy, it’s not rocket science that they appreciate its threat to their bottom-line.

As the illustrious Puddlecote points out, we can only assume from the bleating of various tobacco control troughers worldwide, that they must be absolutely shitting themselves about this new initiative and - by extension - the threat to the taxpayer trough that they have so welded their snouts into.

The political activist masquerading as an eminent tobacco controller, Stanton Glantz, has called this a “journey to the Dark Side”, and has also (very kindly) posted all the screaming on his rather illiterate blog pages.

An open letter from 123 tax-sponging puritans earlier this month called on PMI to basically shut up shop completely.

Cigarettes cannot be “re-engineered” to make them acceptable in global commerce; they are inherently defective. There is no safe level of consumption, and they provide no necessary benefit to their consumers.

So they say. Thing is, PMI isn’t funding this initiative to “re-engineer” combustible tobacco. PMI is on record saying they want to see the end of cigarettes. However, anyone with an ounce of common sense (which these 123 orgs don’t have, natch) would recognize that if PMI did as the authoritarian scum demanded, then that still leaves JTI, BAT, and RJR in the market. Naturally, these muppets assume that if PMI just stopped, all those that smoked PMI brands would also just stop smoking.

That’s not how it works dummies.

No, if PMI did as they were bid by these hysterical puritans, PMI’s customers would simply switch brands, thereby swelling the profits of one (or more) of the other tobacco companies.

Interestingly enough, PMI elected to respond to this open letter. They didn’t have to, they could have kept their mouth shut. It’s fair to say, that reading the PMI letter, they come across as appreciably more reasoned than their tobacco control counterparts.

In the interest of open discussion, I’ll take the letter’s demand at face value and assume that I could simply order PMI to stop its cigarette sales. What would that accomplish from the perspective of public health? Would smoking prevalence change?

I think we all know the answer there, don’t we? If PMI upped sticks, then there would be little, if any, public health benefit as most of their customers would flock to other brands. Smoking prevalence, naturally, wouldn’t budge a point.

As if to make the point:

PMI has a market share of approximately 15%, which represents about 150 million men and women who smoke our cigarette brands. If those brands are suddenly unavailable, our competitors — both the lawful and the illicit ones — would quickly step in to meet demand.

This is an actual, legitimate business that knows its market. It’s pie-in-the-sky thinking from the 123 organisations to think that by shutting down one tobacco company, that the act would have significant positive benefits. It won’t.

To make it even clearer, PMI then go on with:

A key point, which underlies the entire spectrum of tobacco control policies, is that we’re talking about smokers’ behavior. Neither we nor NGOs nor governments can dictate peoples’ decisions or actions. No company or regulator has the power to make people switch to better alternatives or to quit smoking. No matter how compelling a business strategy or a public policy, there’s no magic wand at hand. Success takes persistence, imagination, and hard work.

Which, if tobacco controllers had any humanity - which I highly doubt, should be self-explanatory. As I noted on the anniversary of the UK smoking ban, all the policies implemented achieved very little in terms of reducing the prevalence of smoking in the UK.

Therefore, if none of the vaunted tobacco control diktats achieved success, why then is the UK smoking rate falling faster now, then it did when the smoking ban was first introduced.

That’s an easy one. Ridiculously easy in fact.


First on the scene was the humble e-cigarette which had a remarkable effect. Folk took to them in droves. All of a sudden, tobacco control and public health were faced with something completely unexpected. The free market had come up with a “solution” to their “problem”.

Instead of embracing it, as some are now tentatively doing, they sought to ban it. They’re still trying to ban it through various methods.

Next up, the tobacco industry came up with Heat-not-Burn. An in-between product that is neither a cigarette or a vapour product. Yet still, public health and tobacco control wanted to control that too.

It’s almost like public health and tobacco control aren’t fans of choice, isn’t it?

I’m no fan of the tobacco industry, despite giving them a lot of my hard earned cash for twenty years, but if folk want to smoke (or vape, or use snus, or use heat-not-burn or do none of them) then that’s fine and dandy with me.

I’ve said before that I abhor what is being done to smokers, in the name of “public health”, and I will definitely be speaking up more often (as time permits) when e-cigs, or heat-not-burn, or anything other product is used as nothing more than a tool by public health to beat on smokers.

What PMI, via Derek Yach, are doing is admirable. It is the very thing tobacco control and public health should have already been doing, instead of lumping more stigma on smokers, and now they’re doing the same to vapers with ridiculous legislation and bans.

I just wish PMI hadn’t swallowed the tobacco control soundbite pill in the process.