Tobacco Control: Confusion and Naïvety
…to study the nature and consequences of…efforts to prevent and control the global tobacco epidemic…
This is confused. The tobacco epidemic, as it’s called, is all too obviously in full swing. Therefore it is too late to prevent it. What about controlling it then? This, as the very name attests, is the editors’ policy. But to talk of controlling tobacco implies that there are some circumstances where, or degrees to which, its use is legitimate or acceptable. Would the editors be so kind, then, as to explain to me what these circumstances or degrees are.
In the November 2017 edition of the aforementioned learned journal, there is an editorial to which fourteen people put their names. It is a satirical critique of the announcement by Philip Morris International that they are going to donate $1billion over twelve years to a newly-established organisation called ‘Foundation for a Smoke-free World’.
The multi-author editorship easily sees through this blatant hypocrisy by Phillip Morris International and comments:
There are many great ‘endgame’-furthering ideas now being actively debated, studied, and tried out: the primary obstacle to implementing them is the tobacco industry.
They are perfectly correct. If only the tobacco industry would do the decent thing (don’t laugh) and simply put itself out of business the problem would be solved, right? But maybe they don’t quite mean that. Maybe what the tobacco controllers want is for Big Tobacco to cooperate with them (I told you not to laugh!) to implement all the ‘effective policy measures set out in the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) to build public support for ending the epidemic.’ (Slightly paraphrased.)
At least they are now talking of ending the epidemic rather than merely controlling it, whatever that may mean.
But now more confusion, not to say illiteracy, sets in. The fourteen editors go on to say:
What is required is leaders (of whom or what is unclear) who have the humility to work with the [tobacco control] movement and policy makers with the backbones of steel (‘backbones’ would suffice; they don’t need to say ‘of steel’ as well) needed to stand up to the industry to enable and enact strong tobacco control measures, including high taxes…to make these deadly products less ubiquitous. (Emphasis added except for ‘with’.)
Ubiquitous means present, appearing, or found everywhere; omnipresent (Oxford English Dictionary). This is an example of qualifying the absolutes: you can’t have degrees of ubiquity. What they appear to mean is that they want cigarettes to be restricted somehow. But do they mean the sale of cigarettes or the prevalence of smoking? What we can salvage from this muddled statement is that the tobacco controllers, it appears, do not want to abolish tobacco but make it ‘less ubiquitous’, as they put it. They really should make up their minds what they want to do.
But there is another problem, and this is where naïvety comes in. It’s all very well for the tobacco controllers to rail at Big Tobacco and the loathsome Philip Morris International company in particular. They will never get any cooperation out of that lot.
What needs to done, in my view, is that governments should be taken to task for allowing the deplorable situation to exist where it is perfectly legal for cigarettes to be sold in every corner-shop and supermarket.
Text © Gabriel Symonds