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The enemy of my enemy is not my friend

It's difficult to know whether to laugh or cry.

For the past few days I've had the vicarious pleasure of following the 17th World Conference on Tobacco or Health in Cape Town, mostly via Twitter.

As I mentioned in my previous post there were at least 35 tobacco control activists from the UK in South Africa for the three-day event.

The total could have been higher because several more names appeared, giving presentations, during the week.

As you would expect at an event like this there was a huge amount of mutual backslapping, with delegates falling over one another to congratulate themselves on their 'achievements'.

The uninvited 'evil enemy' was of course the tobacco industry but consumer representatives were also noticeable by their absence.

A handful of vaping advocates were present and were suitably aggrieved that e-cigarettes and other non-combustible products like snus were not given the prominence they thought they deserved for reducing smoking rates in the UK, USA, Japan and the Nordic countries (Sweden and Norway).

It was hard to have much sympathy though because it's difficult at times to distinguish between a tobacco harm reduction campaigner and an anti-smoking activist.

I had to mute one THR advocate whose gushing praise for Deborah Arnott, CEO of ASH, proved too much even for my constitution.

But what really had me torn between laughter and tears was the reaction of some vaping advocates to the fact that Derek Yach, founder of the Foundation for a Smoke-Free World, had been refused entry to the conference.

You'll recall that the FSFW was launched last year with the support of Philip Morris International (PMI) which has committed to donate a handsome $1bn to Yach's organisation over the next twelve years.

At the same time PMI has set 2030 as a reasonable date by which it hopes to stop selling cigarettes in the UK, if not elsewhere.

Despite their commitment to a Utopian 'smoke-free' future, neither PMI nor FSFW were welcome at WCTOH2018. Worse, there was an entire session devoted to excoriating the entire project.

THR advocates were furious, which points to a serious problem. Morally and ethically some are getting in a terrible tangle.

Quite rightly they want to discredit the World Health Organisation and any government or NGO that wants to restrict or prohibit access to non-combustible products.

That’s an honourable objective but to achieve it you shouldn’t have to get into bed with those whose goal is a ‘smoke-free’ world in which smokers have been denormalised and discriminated against to the nth degree and smoking has been taxed or prohibited out of existence.

‘The enemy of my enemy is my friend’ is an ancient proverb that ‘suggests that two opposing parties can or should work together against a common enemy’.

The problem for smokers and anyone of a genuinely liberal persuasion is that, in this instance, the enemy of my enemy is NOT my friend. He’s my enemy too.

Instead of supporting, unequivocally, choice for all consumers (while opposing punitive anti-smoking policies designed to force smokers to switch or quit), far too many THR campaigners are playing a dangerous political game.

Effectively they are endorsing the creeping prohibition of smoking. At the same time they are helping to create a template for the prohibition of non-combustible nicotine products.

In his former role with the WHO, Derek Yach – as he likes to remind us – was one of the architects of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. That alone should set off alarm bells.

Despite being refused admission to the World Conference on Tobacco or Health and criticised by many of his fellow tobacco control campaigners, Yach remains committed to the goal of a 'smoke-free' world.

Anyone with an ounce of support for smokers' rights should take note. Instead some people are so blinded by the glow from Yach’s THR halo - and the fact that he has been ostracised by the enemy - that they are desperate to embrace him as their friend.

Part of me does of course enjoy seeing Yach disrupt the tobacco control industry. The more divisions the better, as far as I'm concerned.

Like Yach I also support tobacco harm reduction but the movement away from smoking has to be on consumers' terms not those of Big Government, Big NGO, Big Pharma or even Big Tobacco.

Where I draw the line is treating him as some sort of benevolent god or hero. Some of the sycophantic comments I’ve seen this week must be seen to be believed. Nauseating doesn't even begin to cover it.

The reality is, no-one who supports unconditionally the Foundation for a Smoke-Free World is a friend of the right to smoke (aka freedom of choice).

Given the FSFW’s enthusiastic promotion of WHO propaganda about the alleged threat of secondhand smoke, it suggests they’re no friend of science either.

Something else the FSFW’s apologists, many of whom loathe and detest the WHO, should take note of is this.

If you read the FSFW’s tweets and statements it’s clear they are desperate to ingratiate themselves with the WHO and the rest of the tobacco control industry.

Bizarrely even Michael Bloomberg was quoted this week as saying, "I've always supported the right to use tobacco. I think you're making a mistake, but you have the right."

Admittedly he then added, "But you don't have the right to expose others to second-hand smoke." But at least he recognised smoking as a legitimate 'right'.

Has Derek Yach ever made a similar concession about smoking? I don’t know. Perhaps someone could tell me.

Ironically, while Yach is now regarded by the tobacco control industry as their enemy (a fact that has won him support from THR campaigners), Yach himself wants to be their friend.

Meanwhile the tweeter who was praising Deborah Arnott and ASH for their allegedly ‘pro-vaping’ stance in the UK is also a keen supporter of Derek Yach’s new foundation, which Arnott is opposed to.


Another thing. I know many THR advocates argue that they too are fighting for choice – or the 'right to good health' as they rather nauseatingly put it.

The reality is rather different. With a few honourable exceptions (I won’t list the ones I know but they know who they are and I respect them for it) the overwhelming majority of THR campaigners have never fought for smokers’ rights.

When smoking bans and other anti-smoking policies are proposed and enforced the only sound to be heard is silence. Their ‘fight for choice’ is strictly limited to non-combustible products.

I've said this so many times I'm beginning to bore myself but it needs to be said, again and again.

The enemy is anyone who aspires to a 'smoke free' world because, once that’s achieved, the goalposts will move and the new target will be a 'nicotine free' world.

Meanwhile, what about alcohol? I've been writing about this for almost a decade (see 'The bully state moves in on alcohol' and 'Alcohol and tobacco, two peas in a pod') but the message that came back from anti-smoking campaigners was always, 'Tobacco is a special case.'

In Cape Town this week that response was completely blown out of the water. Appeasement of those working towards a ‘smoke-free’ world will almost certainly end in tears because the prohibitionist mindset won’t end with smoking.

Alcohol, sugary drinks, non-combustible tobacco and e-cigarettes ... the die is cast.

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Reader Comments (7)

THR on its own is fine. When you combine it with false science, and the persecution of smokers it is just another tool toward prohibition and the denial of liberty. The battle between the various factions of 'tobacco control' is one for power and profit. Health isn't a real consideration for many (it certainly is for some). The false data on second hand smoke used to impose smoking bans is an example of totalitarian social control.

Both the no smoking/no THR and THR factions share the desire for rigid social control. Both must be stopped and both are no friends of smokers. The proof is seen in the relentless antismoker hate speech used by both factions.

Saturday, March 10, 2018 at 18:50 | Unregistered CommenterVinny Gracchus

Anyone who thinks "smoke free" is in line with harm reduction policies isn't paying attention. What this signals is just prohibition plain & simple. Prohibition for all of us. Personally I want smoking for those who choose to smoke, vaping for those who vape and everything in between for all. There is no need to prohibit any product because the cult of prohibition demands it.

Saturday, March 10, 2018 at 19:55 | Unregistered CommenterCigarbabe

Speaking of beginning to bore myself: Anyone who supports punitive anti-smoking measures is not supportive of harm reduction. They may defend the right to use low-risk alternatives and such, but that is not sufficient for being a THR advocate.

Beyond that proposed edit (and I know you know this, Simon, but you what you wrote incorrectly conceded the mantle of THR to people who are not pro-THR)....

This addresses some thoughts I am struggling with. It offers some clarity for some of the ethical issues, but I remain struggling.

I think the slam-dunk point here is that any effort to empower the prohibitionists puts them in a better position to attack vaping, snus, etc. (as they already do, of course, and will continue to ramp up their focus on). Even if someone has no other motivation but to protect their product of choice, they should avoid doing this. Yes, they would prefer to steer Big TC away from attacking low-risk tobacco products, but there is not the slightest reason to believe that is possible.

Saturday, March 10, 2018 at 21:10 | Unregistered CommenterCarl V Phillips

Whenever you invite PH into your home it usually doesn't take long before it gets infested with ANTZ. Those parasites who seem to follow PH everywhere are probably the result of a serious lack of personal hygiène (scientific rigor).

As long as THR is an 'everything about you without you' event, as long as it strives for prohibition, as long as it falsifies scientific results about smoking it will be a Mickey Mouse harm reduction, just trying to keep up appearances in order to become the teachers pet in the WHO-FCTC classroom and it will be infested by vape-ANTZ.

Such THR has turned the vaping scene into the church of vapology full of 'switch or die' fanatics hysterically shouting 'saving lives' mantras, not much different as your regular ANTZ. More then 10 years of battle to find out the biggest enemy of vaping are vapers.


Sunday, March 11, 2018 at 12:46 | Unregistered CommenterLVD

I fully agree: THR is more than just product substitution. It involves ethical and moral aspects that run against the authoritarian approach to smoking, a lot of it grounded on vastly exaggerating harms from second hand smoke. In fact, junk science against THR products is the continuation of junk science on second hand smoke (Helena miracles and a lot of similar junk). Anti-vaping “science” involves the same activists-disguised-as-scientists that we all know. This deformed science is not only attacking tobacco harm reduction, it is (ironically) impeding the development of better science on tobacco harms and usage.

One case in point: it would be very useful to study smokers (even heavy smokers) who do not suffer chronic "smoking related" diseases, just to find out why some smokers resist much better the effects of smoke inhalation than others. We have all heard the mantra that "cigarettes are the only product that kills 50% of its users when used as intended". Fine, but what happens to the other 50%? what makes them different? Knowing this would be important, just to understand better human physiology.

Yet, there seems to (as far as I know) little interest in understanding why smoking "does not kill" all smokers, as most controllers believe this would inhibit the massive effort spent in eradicating it. However, no subject can be really understood (and addressed efficiently) if there is so much disgust against it. Excessive heavy handed activism, as well intended as it may be, is lethal to science. Therefore, those promoting THR must bear in mind that junk science against THR is more likely to be defeated when science on TH (tobacco harms) becomes free from this type of eugenic activism.

Sunday, March 11, 2018 at 15:48 | Unregistered CommenterRoberto

They make it up as they go along. They began by saying tobacco kills half of its "users" (a word deliberately used to support the lie that tobacco consumers are pathetic addicts in need of saving) but then began hyping it up more to say smoking kills 2 in 3 smokers, and now they seem to have dumped that lie and gone back to the original one in two will die untruth.

The problem with antismokers, vapers, and those who describe themselves as THR advocates, is that they think their view of THR should be forced on smokers.

I say this is my body and after 50 years of smoking I know how to reduce possible harm caused to me which doesn't involve quitting so butt out and stop using smokers as an excuse to push your own choices or to virtue signal.

Why can't they do what suits them and leave smokers to do what suits them. I am so sick of these people always screeching about saving smokers. When I see that sort of save lives crap whether from antismokers, vapers or those in public health, my response is just f#*k off, my life is not yours to mould, or to shove it or push it into the kind of shape you would prefer.

What kind of "free" country lays claim not only to the lives of its citizens but their bodies as well.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018 at 16:07 | Unregistered Commenterpat nurse

Both this conference and the WHO conference which is set to take place later in 2018 have what other people do as their subject!

Wednesday, March 14, 2018 at 12:11 | Unregistered CommenterCostas Kitis

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