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Tuesday, 20 September 2011

YOU CAN RUN BUT YOU CANNOT HIDE

As much as they would like everyone to believe that ‘’the debate is over’’ and the only entity fighting against tobacco control activity is the tobacco industry itself, many members of the public, a swarm, as blogger Frank Davis described them in one of his recent blogposts, smokers and nons alike are regularly exposing the shenanigans and the shoddy science behind anti-smoking and demand answers from the professional anti-smokers who very seldom make themselves available to the public. If the journalists won’t challenge even their more absurd studies and contentions, somebody has to do it. Ordinary citizens have taken the task into their own hands.

One of the few exceptions to their rule of deafening silence was a facebook group they created to plead their case and gain sympathy on a FOI request from Philip Morris pertaining to the underlying data Stirling University anti-tobacco researchers have collected for a study on young people and smoking. A study that could lead to policy for mandatory plain packaging in the UK. The story has even reached the Canadian media. You can hear it here: Freedom of Information on Kids and Smoking


Because the opportunities to get to question these tobacco control activists and researchers are rare, a few ordinary citizens joined the facebook group that members of the Globalink community created, casted their vote on the poll available to all that asked whether or not one agreed with the university’s stand of refusing to produce the data to Philip Morris regardless of the FOI Act regulations, and engaged in a civil discussion with anti-smoker activists willing to participate in the debate such as Simon Chapman well known Australian tobacco control activist and Rory Morrison from ASH Scotland, both members of Globalink. Not only  were they asked pointy questions, these ordinary citizens (including the writer of this blogpost) clearly and firmly expressed to them that they no longer had trust in the integrity of anti-smoker activists and studies and gave numerous examples of shoddy anti-tobacco science to prove their point.


Not only were the questions not answered, and no attempts to defend the shoddy/fraudulent science behind already published studies were offered, when the heat became too unbearable for this tobacco control community to take, they made the facebook group vanish with no trace of any of the discussions to be found anywhere.


Why? The answer is more than obvious. They had no answers or defense in the face of such public humiliation from ordinary citizens. They ran scared and hid behind private groups such as a newly created Globalink facebook goup that invites tobacco control activists to join upon invitation and/or approval.


’ Today, Simon Chapman and I are pleased to announce the launch of a new Facebook closed discussion group, information and strategy exchange site, the Global Tobacco Control Network.
By a “closed” Facebook group, we mean that all members need to be approved and all material posted to the group will not be visible to non‐members nor searchable by outsiders. ‘’


Such lack of transparency and willingness to debate when they are against informed opponents instead of complacent lazy journalists and politicians, is plenty proof that Philip Morris has legitimate reasons to doubt the integrity of the Stirling University researchers’ data, and therefore their FOI request should be respected and obeyed without any further delays. Moreover, it should be made mandatory that the underlying data of any and every publicly funded study that affects public policy, be open and available to everyone to examine. It has become more than obvious that the public cannot rely on neither politicians nor overworked and/or lazy journalists to examine the integrity of the anti-tobacco science before policy that affects numerous societies is enacted.


Let the tobacco control activists be warned: They can continue to try to hide behind anonymous posters planted in different newspaper and other forums, we have learnt to recognize their style and they will be constantly tracked down and asked the same types of questions and explanations as they were asked during this brief encounter between identified anti-tobacco and pro-truth activists. And this until they are forced to resign or become accountable, honest and human.


Some background to our story :


Globalink is a network for international tobacco control activists making use of the internet to communicate ideas and strategies against the use of tobacco. It is part of the Global Control Movement lead by the American Cancer Society and the UICC. Although Globalink don't declare in their webiste that Big Pharma is funding them, here's what we can read in bold on page 34 of the Strategy Planning for Tobacco Control Movement Building at http://www.paho.org/English/AD/SDE/RA/Guide2_MovementBuilding.pdf


Links to Drug Companies That Have Funded Tobacco Control Action


GlaxoSmithKline (GSK)


Pharmacia Corporation (now owned by Pfizer)


In a June/11 blog posting, Dr. Michael Siegel exposed how the groupthink mentality runs rampant in the globalink network. A few excerpts from his blogpost :


‘’It (Globalink) is a mechanism for preventing critical discussion of research, science, and policy issues in tobacco control. It serves to stifle thoughtful discussion of ideas, suppresses dissenting opinions, and plays out as a forum for malicious individual attacks against researchers, advocates, or citizens who dare to go against the mainstream opinions within the tobacco control movement.’’


Another former Globalink member – Dr. Kamal Chaouachi – had this to say:


‘’I was banished (from Globalink) several times and eventually expelled once and for all. Over the years, I have also been amazed by the extent of endorsed intolerance. For instance, there have been, believe it or not, “debates” on whether it is ethical or not to give a last cigarette to a person confined to bed and doomed to death… Then, one discovers the pharmaceutical industry connections (Pfizer in particular)(WCTOH, 2009 ; Mesbah 2009) and how Globalink’s policy has been drawn with “a velvet glove” pulled on an iron fist named Simon Chapman, ex Editor in Chief of the world famous antismoking Tobacco Control Journal’’.

7 comments:

Belinda said...

I've just been reading about collaborations between the business and the public sector (for example universities). The book said that usually there is a clash of cultures in collaborations of this kind because researchers hold themselves accountable and wish information to be public, whereas businesses require to keep matters private for the sake of commercial confidentiality.

Doesn't apply here!

Belinda said...

'Moreover, it should be made mandatory that the underlying data of any and every publicly funded study that affects public policy, be open and available to everyone to examine.'

I would go further and say that transparency should apply to _any_ study affecting public policy, whoever funds it.

C.A.G.E. said...

It certainly doesn't apply here Belinda. I keep asking what have they got to hide? Their poor excuse that PM will use it for commercial purposes is exactly that: a poor excuse. As I have pointed out to Mr. Chapman who labeled me naïve, I think it is much more naïve to think that Big Tobacco with their experience, fancy marketing departments and psychologists, needs a Stirling Univ study to get enlightened on what attracts children.
Iro

Belinda said...

further update

http://f2cscotland.blogspot.com/2011/09/where-did-our-page-go-answer.html

Rory Morrison said...

Hi Mr/Ms Cage blogger

As I’ve been name checked explicitly here, I thought I’d exercise my right of reply. :)

First point would be that I was posting on the Stirling page in my own free time, as an individual, because I’m genuinely interested in the(in my view, complicated and quite interesting) legal and ethical arguments involved in the FOI case. I wasn’t doing so out of an organised move by my employer, the University, Globalink, international tobacco control central high command, or any other person or organisation. I was speaking only for myself and I was open about where I worked because a) in the interests of fair disclosure some people would consider it to be deceptive (or more likely, me to be hideously compromised) if I didn’t and b) the information would be available anyway in the public domain were anybody to google.

Second point would be that I had no role in the setting up, running, or removing of the Stirling facebook page. At all. I don’t even know who the page admin is. Suggestions that, because the discussion wasn’t going the ‘intended’ way, I (working with the shadowy tobacco controllers) had some undefined role in shutting it down are, while exciting sounding, sadly untrue. I hadn’t yet read any of the responses to my last post before I was made aware of the page being taken down (actually by another poster there, Bill Gibson, who was on ‘your’ side of the discussion!)

C.A.G.E. said...

Hello Rory,
As a strong individual rights proponent, I appreciate that you took the time to defend your personal involvement in this issue. Open discussion is exactly what we need. Unfortunately the lack of willingness to debate in the tobacco control movement in general, is making it next to impossible. Again thanks and if you ever want to openly debate any of the tobacco issues and express your personal or your network's point of view, you're welcome to our ''open to all'' facebook group at http://www.facebook.com/groups/122064207817330/
Iro Cyr

Ashley Williams said...

I appreciate the content here !!Yes you were asking a valuable question. We cannot say that govt. is banning all the dangerous items,if so they would have been banned the complete alchahole and tobacco products!! they are not successful in that, so cannot support this to a certain extent!!