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« That GFN vaping policy – the mystery deepens | Main | The healthiest option »

Compassion in public health is rare - ain't that the truth

I shouldn't be surprised but I am, which is shocking in itself.

Commenting on the news that a council in New Zealand is looking to extend an outdoor smoking ban from playgrounds to other outdoor areas, Dr Marewa Glover, associate professor at Massey University's School of Public Health, said:

Extending smokefree areas is becoming a new form of segregation, and may do more harm than good to smokers.

Marewa Glover says our heaviest smokers are among sections of the community who already feel "marginalised and discriminated against" - Maori, Pacific Islanders, solo mums, those with mental illnesses.

"These groups are already feeling hard done by and punished by society. Then you bring in a campaign that hopes by further shaming them for smoking, it's going to get them to quit.

"But it's just heaping more punishment on them. The cumulative effect of all that excluding and marginalising is to increase their stress, their depression, their anger - and all that drives smoking."

I can't remember hearing another health professional talk about smokers in this way, treating them like human beings and expressing concern about "segregation", "shaming", marginalisation and so forth.

So last night I tweeted Dr Glover, thanking her for her comments. Compassion for smokers who don't want to quit is unusual. Among public health professionals it's almost non-existent.

Dr Glover 'liked' my tweet and in response I also got a tweet from a leading member of the New Nicotine Alliance who pointed out that Dr Glover is a "keynote" speaker at the Global Forum on Nicotine in Warsaw next month. For good measure she added the hashtag, #justsayin.

Thank you. I know who Dr Glover is (she was in the UK recently speaking at Durham University). I know she's speaking at GFN16. I also know that she spoke at last year's event.

In fact, as I write, I'm watching her on Periscope. (She's attending the world premiere of A Billion Lives in Wellington, New Zealand, because she features in the film.)

Unfortunately one swallow doesn't make a summer and I would be amazed if her fellow health professionals at GFN followed her example and spoke in similar terms.

In fact, I don't think I have EVER heard another health professional or smoking cessation expert criticise ANY smoking ban.

Compassion for smokers who don't want to quit isn't part of their DNA. Every smoking cessation policy is designed to coerce or cajole them to quit.

Policies ranging from smoking bans to punitive taxation to "shaming" smokers for their habit – not to mention the segregation and discrimination Dr Glover refers to – all receive unconditional support.

The same is true of almost all "pro-vaping" public health advocates.

There's never any mention or acknowledgement of the negative impact these policies may have on ordinary people.

And it's not just health professionals and anti-smoking campaigners. The New Nicotine Alliance itself is noticeably silent whenever there's talk of extending smoking bans to outdoor areas.

"Nothing to do with us, guv," is their habitual response.

So forgive me if I don't fall for the fallacy that just because Dr Glover is speaking at GFN that somehow makes the entire conference smoker-friendly and compassionate to those who don't want to quit.

GFN isn't even vaper-friendly!!!

PS. If her compassion for smokers wasn't unusual enough, Dr Glover added:

"We're moving beyond the reason for banning smoking indoors, which was ... protecting the health of by-standers from secondhand smoke.

"Now what we're doing [banning smoking in outdoor open areas] has no scientific evidence of health reasons."

Perhaps Dr Glover and fellow health professionals at GFN could issue a joint statement to that effect. Sadly I don't think many (if any) of them would sign it, do you?

See Public health professor warns Wellington smokefree moves will cause harm (Dominion Post).

Significantly Dr Glover later tweeted: "How shameful it's come to this: compassion in Public Health rare." Ain't that the truth.

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Reader Comments (1)

If you see Dr glover please tell her this lifelong smoker says thank you and if she can hold conferences educating her public health colleagues on the meaning of compassion, liberty, and equality, that would be fantastic. I fear the public health industry doesn't know the meaning of those words instead only understanding fear, loathing, hate, exclusion and discrimination

Wednesday, May 11, 2016 at 11:20 | Unregistered Commenterpat nurse

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