World No Tobacco Day
Here’s a remarkable piece of news that came my way today about the war on tobacco. It’s a report of recent activities of an organisation called the Framework Convention Alliance (FCA).
In case you’ve never heard of this, I’m sure you’ll be interested to know that it ‘works on the development, ratification and implementation’ of an international treaty under the auspices of WHO called the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC).
Having got that essential information out of the way, let’s take a look at the FCA’s latest wheeze.
Advocating for effective policies
Every year on 31st May, in partnership with other bodies, the FCA marks what it calls World No Tobacco Day. And the purpose of this august event is:
To highlight the health and other risks associated with tobacco use and advocate for effective policies to reduce tobacco consumption.
Now hang on a minute. Apart from the fact that they wouldn’t advocate for ineffective policies, so the word ‘effective’ is redundant, why are they only interested in reducing tobacco consumption rather than eliminating it? This implies that some degree of risk associated with tobacco use is acceptable or unavoidable. And how much, I wonder, would that be?
I think most smokers are by now well aware, from the horrible pictures on cigarette packs and other activities of the nanny state, that tobacco is bad for health. Very bad. It may even kill you.
So what is the FCA trying to achieve by underlining the obvious? Getting people to quit tobacco through fear?
They issued a press release that modestly states:
The  campaign will increase awareness on the:
- link between tobacco and heart and other cardiovascular diseases, including stroke, which combined are the world’s leading causes of death;
- feasible actions and measures that key audiences, including governments and the public, can take to reduce the risks to heart health posed by tobacco.
Since ‘cardiovascular’ by definition includes the heart they don’t need to say ‘heart and other cardiovascular diseases’. They could just say strokes and heart attacks, or diseases of the heart and blood vessels.
Then, since they presumably don’t mean unfeasible actions, ‘feasible’ is redundant. By the way, what’s the difference between actions and measures? And if they talk about ‘including governments and the public’, since governments and the public comprise pretty well everybody, who else do they have in mind who might be included among the key audiences?
Now we come to the noble goals themselves of World No Tobacco Day for 2018. There’s a list of four but I’ll focus just on the third, which is to:
Provide opportunities for the public, governments and others to make commitments to promote heart health by protecting people from use of tobacco products.
I can’t help wondering if this was written by a robot.
Apart from the curious business, again, of who the ‘others’ are who are not covered under the public and governments, let’s try to make sense of the rest of it.
For this purpose we’ll consider a member of the public, Mr Joe Bloggs, who is concerned, as he ought to be, about heart health. Indeed, he is so concerned that he wants to promote it, and is ready to make commitments (not just one, mind you, but commitments in the plural) to do so.
Commitments are all very well, but to whom will Joe Bloggs make them? To himself, the country at large, or God?
Anyway, our good Mr Bloggs is concerned – he might even be passionate – about heart health, and wants to make his commitments. But where, oh where, are the opportunities? It seems in order to learn the answer to this question he will have to wait until the above-mentioned goal is achieved. Let’s hope this won’t be too long in case his enthusiasm dries up in the meantime.
In any case, the way in which heart health is to be promoted is of very specific kind. It’s not merely by encouraging people to follow the well known recommendations to take exercise, eat a healthy diet, and avoid excess alcohol – apart, obviously, from not smoking. In the eyes of the FCA, heart health is to be promoted – provided the opportunities are available for people to make commitments to do so – by protecting people from use of tobacco products!
Of course, if you care about the health of your heart or, indeed, the health of any part of your body, you shouldn’t smoke. However, in this case, it’s not just cigarettes from the use of which people should be protected but, it seems, from the whole range of tobacco products.
This includes not only cigarettes, cigars, water-pipes, chewing tobacco, Snus, snuff, the new-fangled ‘heat-not-burn’ products such as iQOS, glo, Ploom and the like, but in addition, I am sorry to inform those readers for whom it will be a surprise, e-cigarettes and all varieties thereof including the Juul device. This is because the nicotine in all these products is derived from tobacco plants.
So what the FCA seems to be saying is that if you’re going to promote heart health, people will need to be protected from use (was this sentence written by a Yorkshire man or woman who have the charming habit in their speech of dropping the definite article?) or the use of any and all tobacco products.
Unfortunately they omit to say how they envisage this might be done.
Text © Gabriel Symonds