Tag Archives: FCTC

Sweden pulls up the drawbridge behind them (outsource)

by Carl V Phillips

Sorry for the blog silence. Busy. It will continue for a few days. In the meantime, I recommend reading this post by Erik (Atakan) Befrits about Sweden caving to WHO pressure to try to use warning labels to try to scare people away from THR. It contains some important perspective that many of my readers my not normally get. (Obvious disclaimer: I don’t necessarily agree with every word of the post.)

The crux:

Make no mistake about this: This new law on snus will have exactly ZERO effect here in Sweden where ZERO people die from using snus. It will however have devastating effects for the health of smokers and users of toxic smokeless formulations in THE 193 OTHER recognized countries in the world.

Glantz takes a vacuous swing at Bates; Pruen eviscerates Glantz

by Carl V Phillips

I was not planning to comment on the recent mass-signed letter that was sent to the WHO, telling them how they should think about e-cigarettes.  But then Tom Pruen wrote this gem of an analysis responding to Glantz’s ignorant response to the letter, and I had to post simply to link to that.  It is an insightful and very informative analysis (obvious caveat: that is not an endorsement of every word of it). Continue reading

Anti-THR liar of the year #3: The World Health Organization (and a Dishonorable Mention for the Continuumistas)

Continuing the countdown of 2013’s top anti-THR liars, we should not forget that THR is not just about e-cigarettes or people who are rich enough to afford them.  Smokeless tobacco is still the leading method for THR in terms of number of users and proven efficacy and effectiveness.  The World Health [sic] Organization (WHO) — including its International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) and Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) units — has long been one of the leading liars about smokeless tobacco.  While their lying is not as aggressive as it once was (and thus they rank only third this year in spite of their enormous reach), it is still going strong.

This matters because the lies have some influence on the knowledge of people in rich countries — for example, IARC played an important role in tricking people into believing that snus causes cancer to a measurable degree despite the lack of any such evidence.  But it matters much more because many poor countries simply take their public health marching orders from the WHO.

Among such countries are India and its neighbors, where there is great potential for tobacco harm reduction of a different kind.  Millions of people in South Asia use the dip product gutka and others that are similar to it, and these appear to create so much risk of cancer and other oral diseases that their health impact may be up with smoking.  The potential harm reduction that would come from persuading people to switch to smokeless tobacco — an obvious substitute that is low-risk and can be affordably manufactured locally — is enormous.  The number of users of those products is in the order of a tenth the number of smokers in the world.  Enter the WHO, which erroneously claims that these products are smokeless tobacco (tobacco is one of the ingredients, but clearly not the one that is causing the large health impacts).

Not only does this basically guarantee that there will be no attempt at harm reduction in South Asia, but it then carries back to the rest of the world that is tricked into believing that smokeless tobacco causes risks similar to gutka.  This leads to harmful lies like this, where the claim is that smokeless tobacco is 17% as risky as smoking (the absurdity of making a claim that precise, even beyond the fact that it is wrong by an order of magnitude, is a topic for another day).  This tends to discourage smokers from switching to this proven low-risk alternative.

The WHO has not spared e-cigarettes from its anti-THR lies, though they are a relatively minor player there, in contrast with being singularly devastating in their history of lies about smokeless tobacco.  Hat tip to Clive Bates for compiling this list of tweets, which speaks for itself:

WHO lies about e-cigarettes

Dishonorable Mention:  the Continuumistas

Another tribe of semi-liars are the “continuumistas” (not the best neologism meme ever, but useful), those who persist in mistakenly claiming that there is a “continuum of risk” among tobacco products.  This relates closely to the above points about different products and comparative risks.  The “continuum” claim may have been made more times in 2013 than in all previous history.  However, we did not rank the continuumistas on this list because it not really the same as the other lies:  While this is often an anti-THR tactic, in many cases it is not intentional and, indeed, many pro-THR commentators make this error.  Still, it is important and harmful, so deserves a mention.

Some of us have been pointing out for years why this claim is wrong and harmful.  For more details, read this, but to summarize the key point:  Claiming there is a continuum of risk suggests that tobacco products are spread out across the spectrum from zero up to the risk of cigarettes.  If someone believes that is true, they try to fill in the space, and so they dramatically elevate the claimed risk from some products, as with that 17%.  The reality is that there are basically just two relevant points: cigarettes and “about zero”.  The latter includes smokeless tobacco, NRT, and e-cigarettes, as well as abstinence.  The risks from all of these are so close that we cannot measure any differences, and so if you were to graph these risks versus smoking, they would all occupy the same dot on the graph.

So what explains the continuumistas in light of that distribution being about as far from continuous as is possible?  Some of them are out-and-out anti-THR liars, who are trying to suggest that no one should use the effective and satisfying THR products — or even that such products should be banned — because there is something else that is even lower risk.  Historically it was smokeless tobacco that was inaccurately moved into the empty zone between cigarettes and zero, but increasingly it has been e-cigarettes.  In many cases this involves absurd made-up numbers (e.g., “smokeless tobacco poses 10% the risk of smoking” or “why reduce your risk by half by switching to vaping when you can eliminate it entirely”), though sometimes it is similarly misleading graphical representations.

The claim is also actively perpetuated by industry in an attempt to muddy the waters and distract from the simple message: “combustion = bad for you; all else that currently exists and matters in the marketplace = no measurable risk”.  (In fairness, industry is trying to develop some smoking-like products that might occupy that middle space, with much less risk than smoking but more appeal to many smokers who do not like the smoke-free options; still, this does not make the continuum message accurate.)  Regulators also tend to like the notion because they like complication, and it keeps them from having to admit that the best choices — which they are often not making — are quite obvious and simple.  Finally, many THR supporters who are trying to position themselves as “moderates” seem to like the concept because it lets them avoid stating the highly confrontational implications of the simple message (“we can all agree there is a continuum of risk, right?… aah, good, so we are all on the same page”).

But whether used as intentional manipulation, a highly-toxic compromise between the truth and politics, or mere thoughtless repetition, the continuumista message is harmful for THR as a classic case of “the perfect is the enemy of the good”.  By suggesting that abstinence is perfect and thus “merely” good alternatives are too far away from it, many people are discouraged from taking the good options that are so close to perfect that the difference does not matter.

Press Release: FCTC demands governments, researchers avoid talking to automotive industry


Geneva, Switzerland

1 April 2013

At the eighth meeting of the delegates to the World Health Organization’s (WHO’s) Framework Convention on Traffic Control (FCTC), delegates adopted Article 5.3, which forbids signatory governments from consultation and engagement with Big Auto and other parts of the automotive industry.  Governments are also to act to ensure that independent researchers are also prevented from such engagement, using such mechanisms as political imprisonment, press censorship, and blacklisting.

The FCTC is devoted to ridding the world of the use of passenger cars by 2050 as part of WHO’s Social Programming to Eliminate Non-communicable Disease initiative.  Automobiles are the leading cause of death in age groups from 4 to 50 years, and the second leading preventable cause of death in the world today.  They are also the leading cause of obesity, exposure to second-hand smoke, and death and injuries among pedestrians and cyclists.  In addition to their immediate health effects, automobiles are the leading contributor to global warming.

The automobile industry has a long-standing practice of influencing governments and manipulating consumers, including encouraging youth uptake, advertising in youth-targeted media such as television and magazines, selling vehicles that can achieve speeds far in excess of any legal speed limit, shutting down government-approved alternative transport, and covering up newly-discovered health threats.  Indeed, the influence of the industry is so pervasive that one corrupted government recently provided a 13.6 billion euro ($17.4 billion) bailout of its domestic industry, rather than letting it fail as it should have done.

Article 5.3 also requires that all future automotive research on such topics and safety engineering should be entirely controlled by governments and FCTC’s approved list of public health researchers.  Industry and those willing to constructively engage with them will be forbidden from conducting such research.  Only by excluding the world’s best automotive engineers from the research process, replacing them with second-rate sociologists and medics, can public health’s goals be achieved.

The new rules are urgently needed due to the industry’s initiatives to substitute new “reduced risk” products, an attempt to attract new customers that can only be explained by our successful denormalization of driving.  Recent attempts by automobile manufacturers to encourage “harm reduction” represent a blatant effort to make driving appear more acceptable.  Industry wants consumers to continue to be addicted to these new products, rather than sticking with government-approved driving cessation methods like buses, trains, and reclusion, which are clinically proven to be successful for almost 5% of the population.

Despite the industry’s marketing claims, no randomized clinical trials have demonstrated that their new products are lower risk.  Instead, these efforts recall the industry’s infamous “seat belt” fraud from the 1960s and 1970s, where they claimed that the installation of these features would reduce risk.  In fact, subsequent research found that deaths and injuries from automobiles continued to increase worldwide, and are now skyrocketing.  In recent testimony in Washington, former U.S. Surgeon General Richard Carmona reported, “No matter what you may hear today or read in press reports later, I cannot conclude that driving a new Subaru Forester, with all-wheel drive and computerized traction control, eight airbags, and a roll-cage-like reinforced chassis, is a safer alternative to a rusted-out 1971 Pinto.”

The new rule will bring all governments into alignment with FCTC policy.  FCTC has always had a policy of forbidding involvement by the industry or automotive consumers, having recognized that perfect policy can only be made if interference by all the real stakeholders is avoided.  Delegates are encouraged to never so much as converse with to anyone who considers motorized transport to be beneficial to people’s welfare, except in the context of clinical interventions.

FCTC recognizes that the industry will probably mobilize their front-groups to protest these rules, using their usual misleading language about “free choice” and “honest science”.  The industry has a long history of creating fake grassroots support to claim that people simply prefer to drive in spite of the risks.  But secret industry documents have revealed that every single person who expresses interest in cars is secretly in the pay of the industry.

Delegate, Michael Myers, CEO of the Campaign for Travel-Forbidden Kids, responded to these claims by industry-funded critics:  “Individuals are persuaded by paid industry shills like Bruce Springsteen to consider cars to be cool or a way to look grown up.  People who start driving as children become slaves to the industry.  Almost none of them ever again go without owning a car after they become addicted.  Motorized transport is far more addictive than heroin or even smoking.  The only way to keep people from driving is to stop the industry from enticing them to start.”

This move by the FCTC follows on important anti-traffic efforts in several member states.  The proposed Traffic Products Directive in the European Union would prevent any personal vehicle (PV) from traveling at faster than 30 kph (equivalent to 18.6 mph or 4 mg/ml).  The US Department of Transportation requires that any automotive products either be “substantially equivalent” to technology that existed in 1980 and that any innovative products cannot be sold until 20 years of real-world data that proves their safety is accumulated.

The adoption of the new rule follows yesterday’s FCTC resolution to demand that governments devote all taxes collected on automobiles and gasoline, and other traffic-related taxes to anti-traffic efforts.  Only 0.000185% of such taxes are given to anti-traffic QUANGOs, which drastically reduces the potential income of FCTC delegates.  Indeed, the vast majority of the collections are devoted to maintaining roads and other actions that encourage driving, further evidence that governments are too heavily influenced by Big Auto.  A related proposal, to demand the elimination of all depictions of automobiles in movies and television, based on the claim that it causes 483,921.4 children to start driving each year, was rejected as being too wackadoodle for even the FCTC.

The FCTC is an international treaty, with 183 signatory countries (which include 22 who actively wanted to sign, in addition to those who were blackmailed into it with threats of losing WHO funding).  They are currently meeting in a 5-star resort hotel, thanks to revenue generated from a collection of extremely regressive taxes.

 Press Contact: FCTC Secretariat, fax (yes, we really still do have a fax machine): +41 22 791 5830, or for those living in this century:  fctcsecretariat@who.int