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In praise of Dr Marewa Glover

Postscript to my previous post which included a tweet that described me as a "a smug apologist for deadly cigarettes".

Two people ‘liked’ the tweet and one of them was Martin Dockrell.

Dockrell is the Tobacco Control Programme Lead for Public Health England. He joined PHE in 2016 after seven years working for ASH.

I’m flattered he found a moment to 'like' a tweet calling me ‘smug’. Pot. Kettle. Black.

More revealing perhaps was the fact that an employee of Public Health England endorsed a tweet that accused me (falsely) of being an ‘advocate of deadly cigarettes’.

Advocate of choice and personal responsibility, yes. Advocate of deadly cigarettes (or smoking generally), never.

Instead of wasting any more words on Dockrell, however, I want to praise a public health campaigner I actually respect.

New Zealand's Dr Marewa Glover is a tobacco harm reduction advocate. I admire her because she has qualities that are missing in most tobacco control campaigners - empathy and compassion.

Unlike many of her colleagues - who justify every tobacco control policy on the grounds that it may ‘help’ smokers quit even if it means shaming and marginalising them or forcing them further into poverty - Dr Glover sees the bigger picture.

In 2016, after she spoke out against proposals to extend smoking bans to outdoor areas, I wrote:

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.

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

She has also questioned tobacco tax increases pointing out that "It’s just punishing, taking more and more in tax from people who smoke when current stop smoking help doesn’t work for them."

Let's be clear, Dr Glover is a smoking cessation campaigner so we will have our differences but unlike most of her peers she seems willing to listen to and respect all positions, including that of people who enjoy smoking and don't want to stop.

It didn't surprise me then that she gave me a name-check at the Global Forum on Nicotine in Warsaw on Saturday.

Speaking from the floor of a session chaired by the former director of ASH Clive Bates and entitled ‘If it’s time to talk about nicotine, what have we missed?’, she stood up and mentioned my claim that GFN is an ‘echo chamber’ that excludes smokers who don’t want to quit or switch to vaping.

She could have ignored it (like every other delegate and speaker!) but the fact that she raised it highlighted once again how fearless and open-minded she is.

As I say, I’m sure there are things we would disagree on but I like the fact that she is clearly driven not by commercial interests or some puritanical anti-smoking ideology but by a genuine desire to help not punish people if they choose a legal but less orthodox lifestyle.

Earlier this year Dr Glover was one of three finalists nominated for the New Zealander of the Year award and from what I know of her it was well deserved.

Read her profile and she sounds like any other public health campaigner. The reality is rather different and although the jury may be out on her association with the PMI-backed Foundation for a Smoke-Free World, I am keeping my fingers crossed that she will bring some common sense and humanity to the global campaign to ‘eradicate’ smoking.

That means helping those who want to quit but respecting those who choose to smoke even when offered the option of alternative nicotine products.

It also means speaking out, as Dr Glover has done, against measures designed to marginalise and punish smokers.

Unfortunately, in tobacco control circles, she's pretty much on her own in that regard. But credit to her for being a rare voice of reason.

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Reader Comments (3)

Wow. Compassion is so rare among the vast number of bullies working in the public health industry.

Like you, I tire of people claiming I advocate or seek to encourage people to smoke simply because I promote my right as a legitimate adult consumer of a legal product to be left alone without harrassment, intimdation or bullying.

Smokerphobic thugs in public health won't see it any differently because they need villains to measure themselves against as heroes who are trying to save the world a few thousands smokers at a time.

Like anyone supporting Brexit is clearly, to a certain mindset, a fascist, Nazi, racist, thicko "gammon" who hates foreigners, so the likes of Dockrell and Bates see anyone standing up for the rights of smokers to be treated fairly without abuse or intimdation as someone standing at the nursery gates trying to sell fags to toddlers.

The antismoker industry has lost the plot but we are still expected to pay these bullies' salaries with our taxes.

As a smoker, someone I believe has a right to an opinion on what is good for smokers more than someone who has never smoked or has a rabid unnatural hatred for smokers, I feel qualified in saying thank God for you Simon. The antis aim to belittle and slander you simply because you are all we have fighting our corner.

As Forest approaches 40, long may it continue. It is the only organisation speaking up for the most marginalised and discriminated against minority in Britain today.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019 at 10:40 | Unregistered CommenterPat Nurse

Marewa is the best! We knew years ago when Dave Dorn interviewed her on Vapourtrails, that she deserved all the respect she has received. Some or her compassion may come from her homeland where the indigenous Maori women and men smoke at a much higher rate than the rest of the world.

She is a large influence for opening the doors to safer alternatives for the whole southern hemisphere as I see it. Marewa knows that offending and taxing smokers is a terrible way to try to help them. I have felt the same way about GFN, seemingly not welcoming groups like Forest to their annual meeting.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019 at 17:28 | Unregistered Commentercastello

Smoking is a choice and anyone who wants to quit can do so easily and knows exactly where to go to get support to stop smokng if they make that choice.

It is the patronising use of that word "help," even if used with good intentions, that I find utterly offensive because of how it victimises smokers and promotes the idea that we need to be "saved" for our own good whether we like it or not.

Until that patronising tone comes out of the debate, I cannot see that lifelong smokers like me are ever going to want to accept that enforced "help" from those who clearly look down on us as a subspecies, not with compassion but with pity.

Leave us alone and go and save people who really need it.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019 at 9:50 | Unregistered Commenterpat nurse

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