One of my favourite Woody Allen quotes come from his film Stardust Memories which goes, “intellectuals are like the Mafia. They only kill their own.” Fortunately, within the conflicted world of tobacco control and tobacco harm reduction, there are relatively few albeit influential sabre-rattlers. But this area of public and scientific discourse is relatively new, so plenty of time for the dogs of war to be let loose. I’m sure the hurricanes of hate blow through the climate change community and there is this salutary tale about Amy Cuddy, a social psychologist. She built a career on research around power posing, the idea that briefly adopting assertive, open poses can improve one’s performance in various social settings (in part because doing so cues certain hormonal changes).
She was accused of exaggerating the results because study replication failed to show the same effects. Whatever the veracity of her research, the fall-out has been appalling as these links demonstrate.
On a much more positive note, Scott Ballin is a tobacco and health policy consultant with a long track record of creating space for rational engagement between opposing viewpoints on controversial issues. Scott has been involved in various forums and dialogues over the years including the University of Virginia 'Morven' Dialogues and recently for the last couple of years, the Food and Drug Law Institute (FDLI) tobacco and nicotine conferences. Readers might be interested to read the Core Principles Statement of the Morven Dialogues http://MorvenCorePrinciples.net. Particularly relevant in the context of meaningful dialogue is Principle 9 which expands on my point in the previous blog about ‘safe spaces’. Actually, as applied these days at least in UK universities, I am no fan of the current trend of ‘safe space’ (and its sibling, ‘No Platform’) which purports to protect poor fragile students from hearing any speaker they might find ‘offensive’. However, I digress….
ENGAGEMENT AND DIALOGUE: ENCOURAGE CIVIL DIALOGUES WITH BROAD STAKEHOLDER INVOLVEMENT
Reducing disease and deaths (morbidity and mortality) will depend on developing new relationships among all of the relevant stakeholders. Words do matter, and if collaboration is to be fostered, then it is important that stakeholders avoid portraying these difficult issues in an ‘us versus them’ manner. In this 'New Era' and rapidly changing environment there is an ongoing need to engage in more dialogues with broad representation of stakeholders at multiple levels and in multiple venues both in the public and private sectors. This will require that:
- All stakeholders and other experts (including, but not limited to, governmental agencies; public health organizations; tobacco, nicotine, and alternative product manufacturers; researchers; scientists; consumers; laboratory testing facilities; and tobacco agricultural interests) should be encouraged to engage in civil dialogues on a spectrum of tobacco, nicotine and alternative products harm reduction topics;
- Where adversarial situations exist, such engagement should be held in venues that are considered ‘safe havens’ for discussion and where transparency and civil dialogue can be applied with the assistance of independent facilitators.
- These venues may include both the public and private sectors, including regulatory agencies such as the US Food and Drug Administration, academic institutions, public health and scientific conferences, and trade association meetings.
In an ideal world, scientists, clinicians, public health and legal experts and government officials would sit down with their opposite numbers from the tobacco industry, debate the key issues, where necessary respectfully challenge industry science to seek common ground. Except of course, the WHO doesn’t want that to happen. It doesn’t want differences to be ironed out, doesn’t want to turn harm into harmony. Just like some universities, it is determined that vulnerable and presumably easily corruptible member state representatives will be protected from the communicable disease of Big Tobacco by issuing Article 5.3.
Your must-view of the week, a stinging attack in the Australian parliament on Simon Chapman and the ‘Health Nannies’ (good name for a band?) and their demonstrably false claims about e cigarettes. This comes at the same time as Buzzfeed called Stan Glantz an anti-tobacco ‘crusader’, not scientist or expert. Proof if proof were needed that you shouldn’t let the evidence get in the way of a moral/religious campaign
As you probably know, American tobacco companies have been ordered to conduct a ‘mea culpa’ media campaign to announce the shock news that for decades they have been making and selling a product that kills people. Click here for a nice comment suggesting that while the tobacco world is in confessional mode, the US government should similarly don sack cloth and ashes and tell the American public that it has been somewhat economical with the truth about safer nicotine products
Revealing Italian study by Professor Riccardo Polosa and his team who looked at e-cigarette users over a 3-5 year period and could find no observable adverse health impacts. “We report health outcomes (blood pressure, heart rate, body weight, lung function, respiratory symptoms, exhaled breath nitric oxide [eNO], exhaled carbon monoxide [eCO], and high-resolution computed tomography [HRCT] of the lungs) from a prospective 3.5-year observational study of a cohort of nine daily EC users (mean age 29.7 (±6.1) years) who have never smoked and a reference group of twelve never smokers. No significant changes could be detected over the observation period from baseline in the EC users or between EC users and control subjects in any of the health outcomes investigated”
Comment piece by Dr Neil McKeganey calling for the promotion of safer nicotine products as a valid step in the direction of smoking cessation. He says too that an important point is lost in the hoo-ha about flavours attracting young non-smokers. Current smokers might favour the tobacco e-liquid when they first switch in order to continue to experience tobacco, but many will move onto the flavoured liquids precisely to distance themselves from cigarettes
And finally this from Maria Papaioannoy who co-owns three vape shops
“Ontario's Liberal government is attempting to sneak through legislation that will lead to death and disease, destroy small businesses, ignore the rights of consumers and protect the cigarette business. It is time to put complacency aside and scream”..
“I proudly own a vape shop. I get called a lot of things as a strong-minded woman willing to speak my mind in a misunderstood industry. But one thing that I hate being called is "vaping enthusiast." Seriously, folks? It's no longer a fad. It's a growing industry that contributes to economic growth in our communities through an estimated 1000 small businesses. According to the Canadian Vaping Association, these small businesses support more than 900,000 Ontarians who current use vapour products — all over the age of 19 — as a means to quit smoking cigarettes”.