Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Humorous magazine celebrates 20th anniversary

The Tobacco Control journal—soft, strong and thoroughly absorbent—is celebrating its 20th anniversary, although Anna Gilmore has been working on a computer model which claims it's actually been around for 1,000 years once you make adjustments. To commemorate this occasion, the organ has produced a free issue with a whole section on 'Endgame Visions'. 'Endgame' is the codeword for prohibition and will be featuring in the forthcoming 15th World Conference on Tobacco or [sic] Health. Book early to ensure disappointment, for it has such sessions as:

09:00 – 10:30 - Endgame ideas: Dangerously radical, visionary leadership or both?

15:45 – 17:45 - Planning for a tobacco endgame

Whilst e-cigarettes spread around the world entirely by word of mouth and Sweden enjoys its snus-driven record low lung cancer rate, our prohibitionist friends will be sleepily contemplating such questions as...

11:00 – 12:20 - Harm reduction: Are there "safer products"?

I'm guessing their answer will be: "Yes, but only the stuff made by Pfizer and Johnston & Johnston."

Back at Tobacco Control, we have the same over-optimistic 'endgame' rhetoric, with articles entitled 'What are the elements of the tobacco endgame?' and 'How smoking became history: looking back to 2012'. Would it be impolite to mention that there are more people smoking today than ever before, or that there will be more people smoking tomorrow than today?

It just seems kind of weird to be talking about eliminating smoking when global consumption hits a new peak every day. And even if it wasn't, it's very brave of Stanton Glantz—a man renowned for being economical with the truth—to pen an article entitled 'Pinocchio shows how to end the tobacco epidemic' (I kid you not.)

This rich seam can wait till another day to be mined. For now, let's raise a glass and celebrate what Tobacco Control has been doing better than any other journal for two decades: publishing unspoofable, illiterate, policy-driven garbage under the mantle of science. You may have seen headlines like this yesterday:

Scientists call for smoke-free areas outside pubs

Scientists, cool! I wonder if they are this sort of scientist?

Or this sort of scientist?

Let's examine the credentials of our lead researcher:

Janet Hoek joined University of Otago Marketing Department in 2009; she was formerly a Professor of Marketing at Massey University. Her first degrees were in English Literature, with minors in Botany and Zoology, and her Masterate examined irony in Beowulf, a very early medieval poem. The weak employment market for medievalists prompted her move from the Dark Ages to the Dark Side, and she subsequently completed a post-graduate diploma in marketing and a PhD.

This lady sounds, if anything, rather overqualified for Tobacco Control and, unusually for that journal, her study didn't involve typing in key phrases into Google. Instead, she interviewed real people. And not just people—actual smokers! Well, not actual smokers (you can't risk the thirdhand smoke), but social smokers.

Any fool can survey a dozen people to get the answer they want, but Professor Hoek didn't do that. She surveyed thirteen people to got the answer she wanted. Now, there are some people—cynics, sceptics, party-poopers and so on—who would say that if your sample group is in danger of being outnumbered by your research team, then perhaps you should have broadened the survey. Janet didn't feel the need to do that. She and her colleagues conducted "13 in-depth interviews with young adult social smokers aged between 19 and 25 years and used thematic analysis to interpret the transcripts."

The nay-sayers might tell you that the bit about "thematic analysis" is just a bit of guff to quell suspicions that this was a chat with a handful of impressionable young people who had been given $25 (New Zealand dollars) to talk to some anti-smoking folk. Nothing could be further from the truth. This is science. The woman has been trained in marketing, for flip's sake. She would never tried to manipulate anyone.

The subjects were all nonsmokers who had the occasional tab when they were on a night out. We all know people like this. They are the scourge of our city centres on a Friday and Saturday night. They are the people who have successfully given up buying cigarettes. As one respondent said:

“so yeah, that’s part of my rationalizing, if I’m not buying them, I’m not a smoker. If I’m only getting them off people, then it’s not an issue. Because I’m not wasting my money.”

Temperance campaigners will be pleased to hear that alcohol gets a fair bit of the blame, as this fantastically eloquent participant explains:

“Um, you’re more relaxed so you don’t really mind smoking. I dunno, somehow it makes it ... how do you say that, makes it easier to smoke somehow, I’m not sure how, yeah.”

Another scrounging wretch is quoted as saying:

“well everyone else will be out smoking. You don’t want to sit inside on your own and just drink so you’re like ok, I’ll jump up and have a ciggie with you.”

This phenomenon mentioned in that last comment is, of course, an unintended consequence of smoking bans, which helps explain why smoking bans do bugger all to reduce the smoking rate (as Spain has just found). In so far as we should change policy to accommodate these whiny misfits, it should be to relax smoking bans (as Hawaii has just done). This being Tobacco Control, however, that option is not just off the table, but has been knocked off the table, set on fire, stamped on and swept under the carpet. Instead...

Because alcohol plays such a pivotal role in facilitating social smoking, extending smoke-free areas to the outside of bars would decouple drinking from smoking in this environment... Introducing smoke-free outdoor bars could reduce social smoking by removing cues that stimulate this behaviour and changing the environment that facilitates it. Such a policy would eliminate the current intersection between smoke-free and smoking spaces and create a physical barrier that, for some, would make accessing the smoking zone too difficult.

Funnily enough, banning smoking outdoors just happens to be the 'next logical step' for the readers of Tobacco Control! What extraordinary serendipity that this piece of 'science' appears in 2012 just when it was needed for worldwide press release, despite being a dog's breakfast of half-witted statements of the obvious from New Zealand youth.

A moment's thought tells you that if smoking is banned outside pubs then the dwindling number of smokers who still go to pubs will stop altogether, and where will that leave their social smoking friends? Back home with the smokers drinking cheap beer and smoking endless cigarettes, that's where.

But that's just common sense and real-life understanding and, as such, has no place in the world's leading anti-tobacco comic. So, with its survey of thirteen inarticulate morons to guide policy, let's hear it for Tobacco Control as it moves into its third decade of lowering the intellectual standards of the Western world. Cheers!


themanwithmanychins said...

A superb filleting of the latest TC nonsense Mr Snowdon :-)

David C said...

Great post, thanks!

Anonymous said...

I couldn't help but notice that on the registration application form for the conference the following question pops up: Do you and your spouse have any actual,
potential personal financial and/or other interests
ENTITY within the past 3 years? Presumably this means that anyone (including their spouse) who has shopped at a local tobacconist within this period might have to answer yes!

Frank J said...

Excellent piece in true, old fashioned, sarcastic, humour.

The problem, unfortunately, is that it's very likely that our MP's, being the astute, intelligent, experienced, worldly wise and caring bunch they are, will believe every bloody word of this so called 'research'. Peer reviewed, too, eh? can't get better.

And who, exactly, pays for these turds to produce this low level, amateur, garbage? Guess. Still, keeps 'em off the dole, I suppose

Jonathan Bagley said...

Bit O/T. One of the topics to be discussed in the 9.00pm Tues R4 medical programme next week is the safety of ecigs. Mark Porter, the presenter is unquestioningly anti tobacco. Yesterday ASH news helpfully linked to a story that the exploding ecig was actually one that the smoker had modified: so panic over.

Malenfant said...

They were discussing plain packaging on the Call Kaye show on Radio Scotland this morning. The antis were getting quite upset and strident - 'twas funny.

That's the second show in a row where they've been spanked by callers (aka members of the public).

Johnathan, Kaye Adams is an anti, but generally tries to be fair. One anti caller (very possibly an anti stooge) had to be faded out because of her ranting lunacy - and I mean that as an accurate description, not as a gratuitous insult. So it's not a done deal that they'll get an easy ride.

Worth a listen on iPlayer

Junican said...


I have just listened to that program. I got a completely different impression. The one serious bit which Kaye bought up (the 'anti-smoking reading book') was ignored by the Holy Zealots in favour of the hysterical propaganda lies. I was astonished that there was a procession of doctors and spokespersons who were allowed free rein. BBC bias, I suppose. The guy who was against standardised packaging was sensible and reasonable, but his was the only voice permitted - all the rest were zealots in one way or another.

What seems so hard to get across is that ASH ET AL continuously move from the particular to the general. To 'persuade' a few youths not to begin smoking, ALL smokers must be inconvenienced and stigmatised.

Blue'n'Bramble said...

malenfant, the first 45 minutes is nothing of the sort, just a parade of antis with the same old myths and propaganda. It does get more balanced from thereon in though, just a tip for anyone else tempted to listen.

JJ said...

BNB - It's for this very reason that I don't listen to any of these discussions. Free rein is always given to the antis and is therefore stacked against us...a lot like question time.

Anonymous said...

I submitted the following:

More JUNK SCIENCE on the BMJ, Tobacco control quality control
Smokers rights advocate
It amazes me that 13 interviews with some folks is considered science. Whats even more amazing is that this qualifies as science based research by the BMJ and even more amazing is that its CALLED PEER REVIEWED!

But then this is what tobacco control does. Creating Junk studies and calling it science when its not even suitable to be a dear abby letter.

Conflict of Interest:
None declared

Published 22 February 2012

karagiannis_dim said...

Just wondering if they reach the 'endgame' ,
who on earth is going to feed them since effectively smokers pay for those useless parasites

Anonymous said...

Chris are you sure the puppy scientist isnt a tobacco control PEER REVIEWER! When quality is job 1000 TC has some dandees.

Anonymous said...

Is "endgame" another way of saying "final solution"?

Michael J. McFadden said...

I think I'm the scientist pictured in the top picture. I always wear a cute little bow tie and a tux when I do scientifical stuffs cuz it makes me look schmarter.


Anonymous said...

Junican: I think it's the other way around. The goal IS to inconvenience/ stigmatize all smokers; the "youth prevention" shtik is just the excuse.

What struck me about this "study", apart from the obvious, is that it proved (to the marketer) how successful the marketing of "smoker as undesirable" has actually been as shown by the "what, me, smoker? God no." OTOH, in spite of this successful marketing ... the kids still smoke.

Minor and stupidly pedantic PS. On the off chance it wasn't just a typo, the company;s name is Johnson and Johnson (no "t's).


Anonymous said...

"Let's hear it for Tobacco Control as it moves into its third decade of lowering the intellectual standards of the Western world."

If you take the words "tobacco control" in their normal context rather than as the title of a journal, that sentence has quite literal meaning.

If you historically traced how tobacco control was used as justification for other government schemes, and the subsequent effect such schemes have had upon individual liberty, it would probably make for a book length analysis.

Of course, such a book would probably sell about 11 copies, but I feel pretty certain that there's a book there, nonetheless.