Friday, 11 March 2011

Is that a slippery slope I see before me?

How many times have smokers warned drinkers that the neo-prohibitionists will not stop with tobacco? I suggested a few ago that non-smokers should actively oppose the anti-smoking crusade if only because smoking provided a buffer between the puritans and other pleasures. So long as that buffer remained it place, they could not get their teeth into drinking, food, driving, meat eating and the rest. Back then, the popular view was that smoking was a unique case. That particular piece of self-delusion is pretty hard to maintain today.

If there's one industry that should understand the threat of prohibition it's the drinks industry. Just as the moral entrepreneurs moved from alcohol to tobacco without missing a beat when Prohibition was enacted in America, history is repeating itself with the twist being that the move is now from tobacco to alcohol.

Did the drinks industry really believe that people who use a junk science estimate of 54 hospitality workers dying each year to bring about a total smoking ban in every pub in the land were going to think twice about using the same tactics on an industry they blame for 40,000 deaths each year?

The drinks company Diageo seems to have finally woken up to this inevitable mission creep. Lord knows, the neo-prohibitionists could hardly have made it more obvious for them when they arranged a get together (at the taxpayer's expense, natch) to discuss how to use anti-smoking methods against drinkers. They then took another leaf out of the tobacco control manual by banning the drinks industry from the event.

Finally taking this a subtle hint that alcohol is next, Diageo have kicked off. From the Scotsman:

Drinks giant Diageo has cut its ties with Scotland's most prominent alcohol awareness charity over controversial moves by the campaigning group to link the impact of alcohol to that of smoking.

The company, which makes Johnnie Walker, Bell's, Guinness and Smirnoff, has retaliated against Alcohol Focus Scotland after being frozen out of a conference next week which the group is co-hosting with anti-smoking lobbyist ASH.

Quite right too. Banning the drinks industry from a discussion about 'alcohol control' (expect to hear that phrase more and more) is a good indication that the neo-pros don't so much want to work with industry as go to war with it. What do they have to fear from having people who understand the drinks industry attend their cosy little shindig? Do they really feel they have nothing to learn or are they worried that a bit of real-world knowledge might make their carefully prepared Powerpoint presentations look a tad naive?

Banning stake-holders from industry from attending meetings is a policy that started when the EU banned all tobacco industry delegates from attending tobacco control meetings. When they first did this, there were warnings that it would lead to representatives from oil companies, drinks companies, car manufacturers etc. being similarly banned. No, no, said the neo-pros. Tobacco was a special case. There's no slippery slope here, don't be silly.

Edinburgh-based Diageo has written to AFS, arguing it is "misleading and unjustified" to suggest smoking and drinking should be tackled in the same way when there is evidence that responsible drinking causes no harm.

They're still not quite getting it, are they? There are important differences between smoking and drinking, but, to the neo-pros, they differ only by degrees. Alcohol Focus, like David Nutt, see no fundamental distinction between tobacco and alcohol. They never have. Smoking just happened to be an easier target, just as alcohol was an easier target in 1920. Diageo are complaining because they resent having their products grouped in with cigarettes, but what they want is of minimal importance. The fact is that moralists and puritans have always grouped smoking and drinking together.

Having given Alcohol Focus £140,000 in recent years, it has also decided to redirect funding to other alcohol education programmes.

Talk about making a rod for your own back. Now, a little too late, Diageo have started to realise that these people can't be bought off or compromised with.

AFS claim the drinks and tobacco industries regularly share tactics on how best to counter public health arguments and that new research suggests even small amounts of drink could be harmful.

No safe level of alcohol. As I said the other day, this is true prohibitionist rhetoric.

Mark Baird, head of corporate social responsibility, said: "We believe it is misleading and unjustified to suggest alcohol and tobacco should be treated the same way with regard to public health policies and we strongly believe the recent moves by AFS to associate the two are a serious mistake which cannot go unchallenged."

It's too late for that, sunshine. You are now the evil 'liquor trade'. You had every chance to take a principled stand on personal liberty but ignored your allies and funded your enemies. If you're going to sup with the devil, bring a long spoon. It's not as if these people haven't shown you time and again that they are not your friends.

AFS said it had decided not to invite drinks firms to the summit because organisers did not want "vested interests" involved in a discussion on possible public health reforms.

A brave and principled stand, and one that I'm sure Alcohol Focus Scotland's new partners at ASH will support 100% because if there's one thing they hate, it's having vested interests at their events.




Day One: Monday 14th June 2010

Room 1
How to interpret a scientific paper and make your own conclusions
Craig Beck and Imran Khan, Medical and Scientific Relations, Pfizer Ltd, Tadworth, UK

Room 2
Lose the Smoker in You: A community approach to quitting in New Parks, Leicester
Louise Ross, Tobacco Control Delivery Manager, NHS Leicester City, UK and Kay Harris, Head of Local Marketing, Pfizer Ltd, Tadworth, UK


14 comments:

JJ said...

When Andrew Lansley was interviewed recently he addmitted that he's refusing to talk to the Tobacco Industry. I wonder where he got that from. Here is a man with vision.

Can you see the WHOs strings above his head?

Anonymous said...

But the drinks industry still dont get it do they, its all dont attack us attack those dirty smokers instead, they should have stood side by side with the smokers in the first place, these putitans can never and i repeat never be appeased, the drinks industry will learn this at their cost.

Anonymous said...

It’s wonderful, truly heart-warming, to see the noble brigade, the selfless benefactors of society – ASH – making time to further address the “twin” evils of tobacco and alcohol. And they’re helping those other pillars of society (and industrial partners) – WHO, McNeil, Pfizer, Novartis, GSK – to take up their rightful place as global rulers (We have a pill for everybody!).

Although there is an ₤80 registration fee (taxpayer funded), attendees will have to endure the meager accommodations of the Hilton Grosvenor Hotel. Hopefully it won’t rain or the poor sods will have water dripping on their really important notes.

The “moral” nobility want to ensure that tobacco (alcohol) control becomes even more socially entrenched. There is “accreditation” for the controllers – “to enhance the professional standing of the smoking cessation specialism, through developing validation and accreditation systems”. Smoking cessation specialism (gasp!!).

And do we have experts for you. It’s the neo-eugenics lot: The Royal College of Physicians & Sticky-Beaks, Director of Public Health Science [Annihilation], Global [Sticky-Beaks] Public Health [Socialist Control] Unit, Director of the Institute for Social[ist] Marketing [Propaganda] & Sticky-Beaking.

A cross-section of politicians will also be in attendance. They will surely sit back, wide-eyed and wide-mouthed, entranced by the statistical shenanigans and salesmens’ “moral” patter, imbuing every last bit of expert drivel, ever ready to inflict it on the public at large.

Slippery slope? Let’s enjoy the wind through our hair as we slide towards the abyss.

Ian B said...

My own perception on this is that there is still a woeful- almost universal- lack of understanding of what is going on. The reframing of these issues as "public health" rather than "prohibitionism" or "temperance" is enormously effective in sidetracking people into compliance.

But I think the big problem for the drinkers is that there is still this residual view from the relatively "liberal" phase from about 1965-1980 that "Prohibition" was such a disaster that it would never be done again. Drinkers and the drinks industry seem to just be incredibly naive in not understanding organised puritanism's capacity to frame discussions, revise history and so on. On the latter for instance, I've seen people saying, "oh, that stuff about Prohibition is exaggerated, it had lots of good effects" etc). It will be easy to reframe the last Prohibition as "a good idea, badly implemented" and "but we'll get it right this time, we are much more wise, better science, better social policy, blah de blah".

Michael J. McFadden said...

Ian, the problem is that they've studied the model of the antismoking industry so that they WILL avoid the biggest mistakes that brought down the last Prohibition. The old Prohibitionists didn't understand that you couldn't simply sweep in a mandate without adequate population brainwashing. Today they know better, PLUS they've got far more sophisticated media tools to bring that brainwashing about.

The last Appendix in Brains was titled "Beyond Tobacco..." and I specifically pointed to where they were going to head with regard to alcohol. You can get a feel for what I argued by reading the document I used as a base for most of that chapter:

http://www.icyte.com/saved/replay.waybackmachine.org/455388?key=160adade83c2e5ef288f1311b8a44e6fbedb7c96

"Would you like a nice Dom Perignon with your meal? Yes? Ahhh, fine. Enjoy it. Please remember to take it out back by the dumpsters before opening and chugging it though. Have a nice dinner."

- MJM

Anonymous said...

The most hypocritical, in my opinion, are many of the high priced cigar smokers. Take a look through Cigar Aficionado magazine some time to get a sense of true delusion. It's frightening to discover the level of contempt many cigar smokers have for cigarette smoking. While there's something to be said for the difference in risk between direct smoking of cigars and that of cigarettes, the difference in terms of secondhand smoke is a distinction without a difference. Unless one factors in elitism, of course.

Anyone with a nose can tell that cigar smoke is more pungent than cigarette smoke. Unless, of course, you're the person smoking a $100 cigar. Then the smell is an "aroma", and this entirely subjective distinction is viewed as justification for tossing cigarette smokers under the bus.

I think that hardly anyone is done any real harm by secondhand smoke, whether from a cigar or a cigarette. But once the idea of secondhand smoke risk is introduced regarding cigarettes, it's utterly laughable to witness the special treatment that is afforded to cigar smoking.

Basically, the message is that while cigarette smokers are viewed as drudging proles, cigar smokers are VIPs. So the rules only apply to cigarette smokers, because morons like us supposedly don't know what the Hell we're doing to begin with.

Don't even get me started on marijuana smokers.

Cigar Smokers have "Cigar Aficionado". Pot smokers have "High Times".

It's interesting that non-cigar tobacco users have no magazine. Only the internet. That's probably not such a bad thing these days, though.

-WS

nisakiman said...

"Would you like a nice Dom Perignon with your meal? Yes? Ahhh, fine. Enjoy it. Please remember to take it out back by the dumpsters before opening and chugging it though. Have a nice dinner."

Brilliant! And so depressingly prescient.

Chris Oakley said...

It is correct that the prohibitionists, puritans and those simply looking for a free ride at the taxpayers’ expense have re-invented themselves as “public health” so we need to take a look at the current concept of public health and question the totalitarian notion that the selective use of macro statistics is the most important measure of the health of the nation. It is this obsession with statistics, the ease with which they can be manipulated and the fact that they are valued more highly than individual freedom of choice that is the basis for the tyranny that public health has become.

Given the truth about the “benefits” of health initiatives to the individual it would be interesting to see what choices people would make. Would I go for the 5 extra years of life in a care home suffering from dementia and thereby contribute to an abstract statistical “success” or would I choose the extra glass of delicious single malt of an evening and possibly risk dying at a younger age? A no brainer really but we are denied such choices by a political elite more interested in appeasing unelected lobbyists and meddlesome medics than representing the majority of the people.

On a practical note, I believe that peaceful protest is still just about legal in the UK and the location of this waste of our money to support the work shy is now well publicised.

Chris Oakley said...

The prohibitionists, puritans and those simply looking for a free ride at the taxpayers’ expense have re-invented themselves as “public health” so we need to take a look at the current concept of public health and question the totalitarian notion that the selective use of macro statistics is the most important measure of the health of the nation. It is this obsession with statistics, the ease with which they can be manipulated and the fact that they are valued more highly than people that is the basis for the slippery slope and the tyranny that public health has become.

Given the truth about the “benefits” of health initiatives to the individual it would be interesting to see what choices people would make. Would I go for the 5 extra years of life in a care home suffering from dementia and thereby contribute to an abstract statistical “success” or would I choose the extra glass of delicious single malt of an evening and possibly risk dying at a younger age? A no brainer really but we are denied such choices by a political elite more interested in appeasing unelected lobbyists and meddlesome medics than representing the majority of the people.

Blazeaway said...

SmokeFreeNorthWest is circulating this 'survey'. I tried it and found that it was impossible to give an answer that couldn't be interpreted as a 'no'.
Sems prety bent to me.
Still, I wonder if people would be so kind as to complete it:

www.mypointofview.co.uk/sfnw

Purely in the nterest of helping them ;

JJ said...

I would love to complete it...if it wasn't closed.

Blazeaway said...

Thanks JJ for trying.

You are right. I had an email from SFNW saying it was due to remain open to 21 March.

I replied, asking if it was only being circulated to public sector 'partners' - as it appeared was the case - or whether it would go further.

I did not get a reply and now it has been pulled early.

I think I'll get on to the DoH saying that the 'consultation results' from the NW came only from 'partner organisations' and that the questions were loaded!

Anonymous said...

I always thought that once they go for the drinks industry they jumped the shark.
I hardly know any, and I mean any adult that does not enjoy even a wee glass o wine.
Drinkers, even moderate one's, are not a minority.

Michael J. McFadden said...

Blaze, if you have a copy of the survey I'd like it for my files. Showing how the Antis rig things like this through the clever use of structure and language can be valuable to us.

Keep trying to dig out a response/excuse from them as to the poll closing early as well.

Contact me via "Contact The Author" at www.Antibrains.com

Nisakiman, thank you! :) You can even see the ultimate "Second hand alcohol" argument they might use to get to that point in "Secondary Smoke, Alcohol, and Deaths" at:

http://www.bmj.com/content/330/7495/812/reply#bmj_el_105082?sid=4d13cb10-f0da-4c71-9d7b-6facf89545d8

When I wrote that about five years ago it was WAYYYY beyond the pale that the Antis would ever go there, but today it's practically just beyond the next door.

- MJM