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!