I'm used to tobacco control commissioning research papers to suit their purposes. They get tame professors in universities to do the dirty work and, by using their name, add credibility for what is always a foregone conclusion - for a fee, usually a substantial one.
I can understand the dynamics behind this sort of relationship. Academia's a tough one and for bottom feeders with little or no ambition, it makes sense to boost your finances by accepting a tobacco control grant to produce what's required, even if you've got to forgo scruples, professionalism and integrity
However there were a couple of howlers made by so called academics that I feel deserve closer inspection.
Why does the human race have grandparents (or more specifically Grandmothers)?
Here we have a lecturer at Edinburgh University who manages to put together a research team to investigate why no one has been able to give a definitive answer to why we seem to be genetically programmed to live past our reproductive years. And discovered... they still can't answer their own question (01)!
Men are still reproductive until very late on in age, but they don't seem to matter that much to the research team; it's women that baffle them.
I'd love to give them a hint. All he and his team needs do is walk round to any zoo and they'll see stacks of animals that live well past their reproductive years. Give them shelter, freedom from predation, a balanced diet that they don't have to work for, medical intervention where appropriate - and they'll find virtually every species of mammal lives well on into old age. And they too suffer from the same ailments as humans do; knackered joints, dicky hearts, blindness, cancers and so on.
Take any one aspect of that away, such as you might find after a flood or war and the older animals are unable to compete or fend for themselves. Same with us humans - and those who need regular medication are the first to die.
Many of us know of dogs, cats and other domestic pets that carry on well past any age their wild counterparts might hope to achieve (and way past their reproductive years) so perhaps the author, Dr Jacob Moorad, has no experience of this.
It ain't rocket science. We have grandparents because we're prepared to provide these things for them. And we've done this from antiquity, as a team of archaeologists discovered when excavating prehistoric burials. The team found the skull of an old female who had lost her teeth many years before she died. The archaeologists concluded she'd been able to live because someone had gone to the trouble of pre-chewing her food. Not as odd as one might imagine; even to this day in some primitive societies, mothers pre-chew solid food for their infants.
So it's really down to compassion for grandparents as well as our wish to have them around and an understanding that age is a fate that will befall all of us that's led to so many humans living well past their reproductive years. It's got sod-all to do with genes.
Unfortunately compassion's not a word used a lot in our increasingly agenda driven society, as we saw when it came to Anna Raccoon (02) where they denied a dying old lady a vaping device.
So the message is you'll be cared for only if you stick to very close relatives. To health care professionals you're just another number and to Dr. Moorad you're a means to get a research paper published.
Grandparents pose a serious health risk to grandchildren.
Once again it's a Scottish "study", carried out by the University of Glasgow's Public Health Sciences Unit.
What they did was look at 56 studies carried out in 18 countries and from these came to the conclusion that grandparents are a last resort for people who cannot afford child care, or whose employers do not provide these facilities (Glasgow University offers a tax efficient system of childcare vouchers (03) for their staff by the way).
Far from being kindly, generous and tolerant toward their charges, the authors claim grandparents "are a potential health hazard for children and may even increase their risk of cancer" because "they spoil their grandchildren with sweet "treats" and big helpings of fattening food, and expose their young lungs to second hand tobacco smoke". So what the "researchers" want is "currently grandparents are not the focus of public health messaging targeted at parents and in light of the evidence from this study, perhaps this is something that needs to change". In plain English they want to broaden the scope of their messages - and that'll take time, staff and lots more money.
As contrived studies go, this one's just plain infantile. Ignore the so called lead author (Dr. Stephanie Chambers), she's just a tool. The whole shebang's "part funded" by Cancer Research UK and the real power's vested in Professor Linda Bauld who's paid by Cancer Research UK. She's also Deputy Director of the UK Centre for Tobacco and Alcohol Studies at Stirling University (04) and is due to receive just over £74,000 to evaluate "the implementation of indoor smoke free prison facilities in Scotland" (05).
What's ironic about this farce is Cancer Research UK depends heavily on older people to volunteer in running their shops - and many are grandparents. And their pathetic adverts to donate or bequest money to CRUK are aimed directly at old and retired people.
So grandparents are a toxic liability who need to be targeted in future health related adverts, but they're fair game when it comes to doing free stuff for CRUK. And they're wonderful, thoughtful, considerate people when they leave money in their Will. That helps guarantee future funding for CRUK and for paying their index linked pensions!
Talk about biting the hand that feeds you! Let's hope a few of those virtuous old farts who help out in their shops and pop cash in their charity cans wake up to the fact they're gullible fools who are being shafted something awful (like publicans who had or still have CRUK charity cans on their counters: masochists the lot).
Collateral damage - grandchildren.
It's surprising how health messages can be interpreted by people. One message they ran a few years back told that pregnant women could damage their unborn child if they binge drank. Ergo that resulted several women - with wanted pregnancies - demanding an abortion because they'd got tipsy or drunk a couple of times during their pregnancy (06).
And so it is with the politically correct in the adoption agencies. For years adoption agencies and social services have been blocking grandparents - who are ready and willing to so - from adopting their grandchildren for any number of trivial reasons. Ageism is one as well as smoking. It matters not one jot that smokers' will have raised the child who then gave life to their grandchild. Now it's just a black mark that's resulted in kids being raised by complete strangers, leaving maternal grandparents with only minimal contact with their grandchild.
It's got to the stage where the whole subject of discrimination against grandparents was raised in parliament, and about time too (07)!
So hopefully Elsie Scully-Hicks death was not in vain (08).