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« A new era | Main | Billion Lives team "very proud" to be part of the "anti-smoking movement" »
Saturday
May122018

Director of A Billion Lives replies

Aaron Biebert, director of A Billion Lives, has replied to my previous post.

You can read his response in the comments here, but what astounded me was his claim that:

The movement to help people who want to quit smoking switch to something safer is called the Anti-Smoking movement.

That was news to me. As Paul McNamara commented:

No it is not, Aaron, it is called Tobacco Harm Reduction (THR). I have never in my life associated any anti-smoking movement that was anything other than hostile to smokers.

"I respect smokers and their choice."

Then please respect the feelings of smokers when they tell you that anti-smoking is not an appropriate name.

Exactly right, Paul.

To be fair to Aaron, at least he’s prepared to engage with us (and always has been), unlike many others I could mention. I respect him for that, so here’s my own response to his comment:

Aaron, I have never heard the term ‘anti-smoking movement’ used in the context you describe. As Paul says, what you are talking about is tobacco harm reduction.

You may think that THR and anti-smoking are the same thing but they are very different, or should be. THR informs, educates and encourages smokers to switch. It doesn’t (or shouldn’t) seek to coerce smokers to switch or quit or denormalise a substantial part of the population.

Like most readers of this blog I support tobacco harm reduction but I’m not anti-smoking (or anti-smoker). THR is about choice - “extending choice” as British American Tobacco rightly puts it. The anti-smoking movement, in contrast, doesn’t believe in choice.

Anti-smoking campaigners want to restrict and ultimately ban the sale of combustible tobacco and smoking accessories. They support discrimination, regressive taxation, creeping prohibition and other policies designed to force smokers to give up.

The anti-smoking movement is in denial about the pleasure many smokers get from smoking. I suspect many anti-smokers are also in denial about the pleasure of vaping. In their eyes it's a smoking cessation tool not a device for the long-term recreational consumption of nicotine.

As far as the anti-smoking movement is concerned most smokers (and even vapers) are addicts, victims of Big Tobacco. The anti-smoking industry exaggerates and distorts scientific evidence (on secondhand smoke, for example) with no thought for the negative impact that has had on the lives of smokers, their families and even their non-smoking peers.

THR has belatedly been embraced by anti-smoking campaigners, which may explain your confusion. That's no excuse though for allying yourself with the the "anti-smoking movement", parts of which you yourself attempted to expose as “corrupt” in A Billion Lives.

Wearing both my personal and Forest hats I will happily work with and support those who promote THR but as soon as THR advocates cross the line and embrace the language and endgame of the anti-smoking industry (a 'smoke free' world run by serial prohibitionists), they become our enemy. Anyone who promotes an anti-smoking agenda will be called to account because the war on smoking - and those who enjoy smoking and don’t want to quit - is unacceptable in a free and tolerant society.

As I have written several times on this blog, I respected the hard work and commitment with which you promoted A Billion Lives. In the UK I was one of your most active cheerleaders, even though I had reservations about the film that were partly confirmed when I saw it. I did so on the grounds that, tendentious title aside, it was an honest if laboured attempt to promote tobacco harm reduction and expose corruption within government and NGOs.

Now you have declared yourself “very proud” to be part of the “anti-smoking movement” you have crossed the line I referred to above. You may have done it in ignorance of what “anti-smoking” truly means, but I find that hard to believe.

When you started on your 'journey' I considered you slightly naive and gave you the benefit of the doubt. I can no longer do that. Anti-smoking is the antithesis of individual choice and personal responsibility. The “anti-smoking movement”, like the temperance movement before it, is puritanical and illiberal.

Some anti-smoking campaigners may be well-meaning but the outcome of their fanaticism is ultimately detrimental to society because it breeds intolerance.

To say you are part of the “anti-smoking movement” because “pro-choice movement” was already taken is a pathetic cop-out. The “anti-smoking movement” has existed for centuries. In its more organised public health form it's been with us for decades, if not the best part of a century, far longer than the “pro-choice movement”.

As I've explained, the pro-choice movement includes support for tobacco harm reduction but you've chosen to be part of the anti-smoking movement whose endgame is a ‘smoke free’ and probably nicotine-free world.

If you are now “proud” to be part of a movement that includes many of the NGOs and governments you previously sought to condemn as corrupt, good luck to you, but it strikes me as a betrayal of the message you were trying to communicate in your film.

You’re not the first and you won’t be the last THR evangelist to nail their colours to the anti-smoking mast but don’t insult our intelligence by reinventing the meaning of “anti-smoking movement” after we've called you out.

You may be a little ingenuous but you're not stupid, and nor are we.

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Reader Comments (10)

THR is just another (more benign sounding) BS term used to harass smokers. Pro choice (you're free to make your own choice between cigarettes, cigars, pipes, vaping devices and so on) is one thing and I totally stand by it. THR on the other hand would want the cigarette/cigar/pipe smoker to feel that he's harming himself compared to the vaper. Who in turn is also harming himself compared to the person who doesn't vape. All this harm being derived from poor epidemiology (which at best can only show association, not causation between habit X and disease D). The kind of epidemiology that has been used in the nutrition field as well and demonized traditional foods (meat, dairy, eggs) due to their fat content, leading to the present day high levels of obesity, diabetes and other problems. Just as tobacco companies used THR to make more profits with filter cigarettes, reduced tar/nicotine cigarettes (which required less tobacco) and now IQOS, food companies have been profiting by selling low fat foods, cereals and so on which have a higher margin than traditional, whole, unprocessed food.

Saturday, May 12, 2018 at 16:19 | Unregistered CommenterVlad

Antismoking equals the persecution of smokers. Embracing that term shows intent despite feeble claims otherwise. Claiming 'pro-choice' was taken and therefore 'antismoking' was the only choice is like some Austrian saying 'nationalist' and 'socialist' was taken so let's go with 'national socialist'. The 'Billion Lives' meme is propaganda that furthers the persecution of smokers, The persecution that underlies the antismoking movement says it all.

Saturday, May 12, 2018 at 21:52 | Unregistered CommenterVinny Gracchus

Simon, sir, I feel like you are speaking before listening.

Our original post was this:

"A new era of the anti-smoking movement begins today in the US. We're a small (but very proud) part of it.

Check this out!"

The "This" I referred to is an article with former traditional "Anti-Smoking" leaders talking about how important freedom, information, and tobacco harm reduction is for adults. More of that is on the way.

The "it" I'm referring to is the "new era".

At first it was funny that you were blogging about our tweet. I was amused to see your generally well-written thoughts pointed at me again, a bit of nostalgia. But now that I'm hearing more about it from friends, I am starting to get irritated.

I don't like our words/intents twisted.

What is wrong with starting a new era of the Anti-Smoking Movement? Do you like the current one? Is it bad that we are proud to be a part of getting people to stop being jackasses to smokers?

Should I be ashamed?

Anyone who thinks that Tobacco Harm Reduction is a substantial public-facing movement like the Anti-Smoking folks is either drunk, stupid, proud, or ignorant. Where are the walks for "Tobacco Harm Reduction Research"? Where are the massive NGOs shouting from the rooftops? Why am I not seeing ads on TV?

Most users of tobacco harm reduction products (vapor, snus, heat-not-burn, etc.) are quiet, private, or ashamed (mostly from years of abuse caused by the Anti-Smoking movement you don't want me to help change). They are not part of a movement. They simply made a choice.

However, many who have lost loved ones to smoking-related illnesses are passionately engaged in massive fundraising or disseminating messaging campaigns aimed at saving lives. That is the true Anti-Smoking movement with millions of followers. Most of the members of that movement are in principle, Anti-Death.

Many of these grieving (or sometimes just self-righteous) people have been led by those telling half-truths and worrying more about funding/pride/careers than the lives they claim to care about.

It is a shame.

The tagline for A Billion Lives is "A billion people projected to die, you'll be surprised who's keeping it that way."

Why should people be surprised? Because it's the anti-smoking movement who is maintaining the status quo with their anti-choice, half-truth, self-righteous messaging.

If we can change that, if we can create a new era funneling the emotions of people grieving from loss towards more positive things...would that be bad?

Would that be worthy of two blog posts criticizing me? Was it blinding that I used the four letter word "Anti"? Shouldn't we be seeking to understand, before speaking? Do the proponents of informed choice (me, and hopefully your readers) need more divisions? More weakness?

Please help me understand.

Saturday, May 12, 2018 at 22:36 | Unregistered CommenterAaron Biebert

Aaron, everybody dies. Even non-smokers and anti-smokers, though the way they, and you, speak, one would think they didn't believe it. Being anti-death? Kind of pointless. We're all going to end up in the ground, and most causes of death are highly unpleasant.

What you are is anti-choice. You seem to believe smokers should be harassed and persecuted so they'll live longer, or at least that's what you're saying. I can't even start with the bad there. Just admit you hate us, and be done with it. At least that's honest, but, I admit, honesty is not something tobacco control is known for.

I've seen the lies about second-hand smoke Derek Yach has been pushing recently on twitter, as well as his full support of higher taxation and smoking bans as being 'good' for smokers. Same old, same old. PMIs Smokefree is spewing propaganda designed to inflame fear and hatred, but then again. It's a well paying job, I guess, so who cares about how many people you hurt doing it?

Do you care about how many people you hurt by doing this? Have you ever thought how ghastly a tobacco-free world might be? The social cost already of denormalisation, turning people into anti-smoker fanatics, haters, is this the world you want to live in?

I guess it must be.

Sunday, May 13, 2018 at 0:01 | Unregistered CommenterChanah See

In the US millions of people have been encouraged to not smoke over decades and lung cancer death rates have gone down.

The problem is that in other countries where people were not discouraged from smoking and carried on with very high smoking prevlance, also saw their lung cancer rates fall in parallel with the US. Here is a graph from the IARC showing this and for good measure I have chucked in Ukraine too. This is billions of subject years of data that shows that making millions of people stop smoking over decades makes no difference to lung cancer death rates.

This is the worlds biggest and longest experiment in to smoking and lung cancer. And it tells us that as reducing the number of smokers has no impact on lung cancer rates so it is highly unlikely switching them to any alternative products is going to.

And in fact we can say that we have billions of subject years to show us reducing smoking rates has no affect on lung cancer rates but with vaping for example we have few million subject years and many decades to come. I doubt that vaping does cause lung cancer but I thought you might find it interesting!

Sunday, May 13, 2018 at 0:11 | Unregistered CommenterFredrik Eich

Chanah, I get it.

You guys are mad that the evil empire is trying to take away or tax or demonize your cigarettes. You and the rebels have been fighting them forever, and you're happy to fight their perceived allies too any time you get the chance.

I realize that few people on this forum are actually listening to me when I say that I don't mind if you want to smoke. I never have. I smoke cigars from time to time and understand the pleasure/ritual/rights. Our movie A Billion Lives at NO point attacked smokers. It was about information and corruption. We definitely got some stuff wrong along the way, but I am not interested in fighting/demonizing smokers who want to smoke.

If we absolutely had to force this into a black/white issue, then I'd probably have to choose your side (personal choice/freedom).

HOWEVER, as much as you'd like to believe that every smoker made an informed decision to smoke, still wants to smoke, can quit whenever they want, and couldn't care less if they get COPD, emphysema, lung cancer, etc, it just isn't true. The fact remains that some smokers would like to quit, and they need help.

For the past decades, that help typically came from the "Anti-Smoking" folks (and their army of grieving/self-righteous people). Unfortunately, most of them have been completely inconsiderate to those smokers who want to keep smoking.

That makes this a grey (or gray for those who want to nitpick every word I say) issue. It's not a simple situation.

I live in the grey area.

There are many smokers who do not want to die early, leave their kids behind, fail their partner, live in pain, or spend 10 years drowning from COPD.

I'm happy to help those folks by giving them information and supporting choices that are restricted all over the world.

Feel free to bash me, lump me in with PMI and Anti-Smoking leaders (quite confusing), and use ad hominem attacks claiming I'm hurting people.

Just realize that it doesn't help you one bit.

Sunday, May 13, 2018 at 3:13 | Unregistered CommenterAaron Biebert

The cognitive dissonance (if not outright lying) of vapists and THRists is extraordinary.

Anti-smoking. ANTI. "Anti" refers to an extremist position. What part of "anti" does Aaron not understand? ANTI means "opposed to", "against". That's a dictionary definition. Surely Aaron has heard of a dictionary? When you put "anti" in front of "smoking", guess what? It means opposed to or against smoking. Is it really that difficult? It's not rocket science!

As long as any person or group begins with the premise that people shouldn't be smoking, they are ANTI-smoking, from which follows that smokers need to be "saved/helped/encouraged/cajoled/educated" from smoking - even against their will. Anti-smokers want the eradication of tobacco-use, most notably smoking. For the usual anti-smoker, smokers must go from smoking to not smoking (abstinence) with nothing in between. THRists are also anti-smokers but they're OK with smokers switching to something else, e.g., vaping, of "less harm", if abstinence is not possible. Some THRists claim that they don't approve of draconian measures directed at smokers, but that doesn't alter the fact that they are anti-smoking.

So there's now a tension between the abstinence anti-smokers who are the majority that has ruled the madness thus far and the alternatives anti-smokers. They are both anti-smokers. If the latter were not anti-smokers, they would be referring to alternatives in a "pro-choice" framework, including smoking.

Aaron is an anti-smoker. He can wabble and bobble and obfuscate all he wants. He's an anti-smoker. He's aligned himself with a group that refers to itself as anti-smoking - seeking the eradication of smoking - for heaven's sake. Aaron can crap on about how his brand of anti-smoking is "nicer" than the current version, but that's the typical condescension of anti-smokers: Aaron thinks smokers should be elated that he wants to promote a less mad variant of anti-smoking. Well, thanks but no thanks. Anti-smokers' haughtiness, pomposity, and sanctimony knows no bounds. "We believe you/anyone shouldn't be smoking. But if you don't want to quit, we're not going to force you to [yet*]", is just more patronizing, anti-smoking crap. Smokers who don't want to quit don't want any brand of anti-smoking in their face. They don't want to be the object of anti-smokers' "concerns" at all. There's been more than enough of this anti-smoking insanity already.

For Aaron, go find out what misocapny/capnophobia refer to. He'll understand a bit more about the [deranged] anti-smoking mentality.

* In addition to being entirely unfamiliar with the 400+ year history of anti-smoking, Aaron is probably also unfamiliar with the "slippery slope".

Sunday, May 13, 2018 at 11:07 | Unregistered CommenterHowsey

There are many smokers who do not want to die early, leave their kids behind, fail their partner, live in pain, or spend 10 years drowning from COPD.
I'm happy to help those folks by giving them information and supporting choices that are restricted all over the world.

So, Aaron, you're going to use the standard anti-smoking "information". Puhhh-leeeeeezzzz!

Sunday, May 13, 2018 at 11:11 | Unregistered CommenterHowsey

"There are many smokers who do not want to die early, leave their kids behind, fail their partner, live in pain, or spend 10 years drowning from COPD."

Aaron,
My mother has COPD despite quitting smoking 25 years before her diagnosis. I blame the anti-smoking industry for labelling it a smokers disease. It is a disease that suffers from under investment, despite killing never smokers too and as a consequence the day that it is properly treatable is further away than it should be. Who knows, if it was not for that activities of the anti-smoking industry millions of lives could have been saved already.
One day someone will calculate how many millions of people have been killed by the tobacco control industry either directly or indirectly.
The truth will out it always does in the end.

Sunday, May 13, 2018 at 13:11 | Unregistered CommenterFredrik Eich

I intensely dislike being dictated to by self-appointed prohibitionist. You get nowhere you do-gooder.

Sunday, May 13, 2018 at 13:36 | Unregistered Commentergray cooper

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