I was never very keen on meetings as an attendee. Invariably it meant going somewhere like Head Office, regional offices or some hotel and that meant either a long trip by car, so an early start and late return, or - in the case of Head Office - a 12 hour flight and hotel for several days.
I'd come back to face a pile of work and the sure knowledge that every other person was in the same position. It's a tremendous waste of resources, so when it came my turn to organise meetings myself I made certain they were absolutely essential, kept real small, started at a reasonable hour, ran to schedule and involved each and every participant. No way was anyone going to sit looking bored for half a day. And I always followed up, got feedback and learned myself.
Trouble is these things bring out something in a small minority that I don't much like. Sorting out hotel bills after a meeting I duly noted the people who used the opportunity to ram suitcases of suits, dresses and so on through their hotel dry cleaners. Then there were the room service bills, where it was obvious we were being hit for everything that was expensive - and far too frequently for more than one person. Not clever as they discovered when their claims were rejected and the amounts recovered from their next salary, together with a few home truths.
Hotels love meetings and conferences. Lots of high income earners, many without spouse and with seemingly open expense accounts. It's extremely big business that's worth billions.
Our political party conferences are a good example of what can happen in seaside resort towns. They literally suck up all available accommodation for miles with their delegates and speakers, as well as the press and media crews. That screws it for ordinary tourists and it got to be such a bind that this year the big ones, Labour, Tory and TUC have all chosen large Midlands towns (1). UKIP on the other hand has chosen Doncaster as it's venue for 2014, a town that hasn't been used for party conferences for ages, if at all, but happens to be on the doorstep of Mr. Miliband's North Doncaster constituency. I note they're held in early autumn because room rates are cheaper and hotels far more amenable to hosting the circus.
There's one benefit I will concede of these conferences, meetings and such and that's the face to face contact. Exchange business cards, have a good natter, get on the same page and follow up with a call a couple of days later on first name terms.
With politics it's an opportunity for even the most humble grass-roots activist to rub shoulders with their heroes as well as get their face on television, even if that's just being part of the respectful audience.
Tobacco Control is primarily concerned with initiating policies that they then present to decision makers in politics - and they have the contacts as well as the funding to be able to make these things happen. And they have conferences; they have stacks of them and they're growing in number and size.
One took place in London on the 12th and 13th of June, so no hassles about them blocking hotel rooms at the height of the tourist season. Nope, they can afford premium rates with ease (2) and their "supporting organisations" include:
Action on Smoking and Health (ASH); ASH Northern Ireland; ASH Wales; Association for the Treatment of Tobacco Use and Dependence (ATTUD); British Association of Stop Smoking Practitioners (BASSP); British Heart Foundation; British Medical Association (BMA); British Lung Foundation; Cancer Research UK; Cardio Wellness; Journal of Smoking Cessation; Pharmacy Health Link; QUIT; Royal College of Nursing; Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH); Smoking Cessation Service Research Network (SCSRN); Society for the Study of Addiction; The Stroke Association.
So 18 government funded clones and fake charities. Cardio Wellness included (3). Lots of mutual back scratching and - most important - comparisons of salaries, perks, terms and conditions. Oh, and a great deal of networking because you never know, funding may dry up one day, so always good to keep your options open!
In the Marriot hotel, Warsaw, Poland on the 27th and 28th June they held the first ever Global Forum on Nicotine and amongst the august speakers (duly paid to do so) were Deborah Arnott of ASH as well as Professor Linda Bauld, all the way from Stirling University (4). Dick Puddlecote attended that one and tells us a bit about it (5), same with Clive Bates, who includes a video (6).
From the 18th to the 20th September they hold the 15th Society for Research on Nicotine and Tobacco meeting at the School of Medicine in Santiago de Compostela, Spain (7). This isn't really a grandstand event, more a local ritual.
But the big one is the 6th session of the "Conference of the Parties to the WHO FCTC". That'll be held in Moscow from the 13th to the 18th October, so a perfect excuse to get all your dry cleaning done, seriously rack up your room service tab, fly first class and hob-nob with the crème de la crème of Tobacco Control. Five days luxuriating in a mire of like minded individuals with lots of time to check out the sights offered by one of the most beautiful capitals in the world (8).
In Paris they're holding their 8th Congress on Tobacco (Société Française de Tabacologie (SFT)) from the 6th to the 7th November. This one's big with some heavy hitters from France and the EU in attendance. Must speak French however (9).
But first to kick off in Europe this year was the European Conference on Tobacco or Health (ECToH). That was held in Istanbul over four days from Wednesday 26th to Saturday 29th March. And we have a full report of the highlights (10).
The UK given first prize by the delegates for "doing a terrific job in implementing tobacco control policies and campaigns".
Our very own Linda McAvan MEP (Labour) claims to have been largely instrumental in forcing through the the EU Tobacco Products Directive (11), while Anca Toma Friedlaender, who's employed by the Smoke Free Partnership (that's financed by our much reviled Cancer Research UK as well as ASH and the European Heart Network (12)), did her bit to push for the EU style of plain pack. That's slightly different to the UK intended; 75% of the front and rear of each pack will consist of warnings, but the tobacco companies can keep their brands and logos.
Tobacco Control has always sought to ban all forms of tobacco products, but felt it imperative to extend their brief (on account of vaping devices) to stop our dependence on nicotine. However they're very concerned about how these aims should be described. It seems they're terribly sensitive to anything that might remind people of the similarities between themselves and the Nazis, so politically correct tobacco control professionals will no longer refer to "an endgame", henceforth they'll adopt the cuddly catch-phrase "making smoking history".
On the other hand nothing they say will change the way they're seen by others. Frank Davis has always called them Nazis (13) and with very good reason; smoking bans were invented by the Nazi party and tobacco control are using exactly the same techniques to justify their final solution. That's not the eradication of tobacco and nicotine, that was the Trojan for a step by step process that will result in financial, then political control. Country by country.
The World Health Organization is infested with people installed by Michael Bloomberg, Ted Turner and Bill Gates and, as they did prior to the last FCTC conference held in Korea in 2012 (14), they're once again floating the concept of a "global cigarette tax" (15). On a more sinister note, they'd like to see that tacked on to the FCTC treaty, meaning some flunky like Andrew Black of the Department of Health has the authority to sign us up for this. That's a terrifying prospect, handing over vast sums of money to individuals who have no accountability whatsoever to us or our legislators, to spend as they see fit in less developed countries, some of which are actively working to harm us and our economy. But that's the beauty of FCTC, the vast majority of our legislators didn't have a clue what they were agreeing to when they ratified the treaty. Maybe they will when they're de-selected to make way for a candidate financed by tobacco control. FCTC is an evolving treaty that can be amended without the need to refer to any parliament! Duplicitous doesn't begin to do it justice.
In a similar vein Mr. Glantz in California is not at all chuffed that his Proposition 29 (essentially the same concept, except money obtained will be controlled out of San Francisco) was voted down in 2012. His minions have since received funding to find out how to do it better next time (16).
Here in Britain it seems they're no longer content with with turning gullible politicians, Lords and Ladies. Now they want their own people at the seat of government with whispers of Deborah Arnott being put forward to be bestowed a life peerage and given a seat in the House of Lords
Back to Turkey. Sylviane Ratte of France (17) is another who abhors freedom of speech and insists that article 5.3 of FCTC (18) is in place to protect TC professionals from having "to fight the tobacco industry over and over again when implementing policies". Interestingly, another advantage she claims is the ability to counter tobacco industry and other opposition.
TC (England) has attempted to counter blog based opposition through the medium of Tobacco Tactics (19). This is funded by Cancer Research UK, Smokefree South West and an award from the ESRC Knowledge Exchange Opportunities scheme. The ESRC is funded by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) (20). BIS is taxpayer funded and has a mission statement that reads:
"The department invests in skills and education to promote trade, boost innovation and help people to start and grow a business. BIS also protects consumers and reduces the impact of regulation" (21). (Nope, can't suss how TT fits their criteria either).
So Tobacco Tactics purloins money from Cancer Research UK, a charity that's cavalier with donor money, as well as the domestic and business rate payers of South West England (Smokefree SW - that was outed by Simon Clark at Forest (22)) plus the offshoot of a government department that's gone feral (ESCR).
Via this incestuous cabal emerges a page that lists some of the better known bloggers, with a section devoted to anonymous tobacco trolls (23). They accuse several individuals as well as their commentators of various misdeeds whilst covering themselves with a lengthy General Disclaimer that reads:
"None of the authors, contributors, sponsors, administrators, system operators, or anyone else connected with TobaccoTactics.org or the University of Bath will be responsible for the appearance of any material considered defamatory, offensive, inaccurate, unlawful or misleading, nor will they be responsible for your use of the information contained in these web pages, or the pages TobaccoTactics links to" (24).
But it doesn't end there. Searching under "authors" includes several individuals whose only crime it seems has been to criticise TC; ditto under the search term "scientists". Some very nasty stuff in there, and they've even compiled a list of offensive politicians (25). Included is a certain Priti Patel MP who, it seems, is not complying with the diktats of TC. They have a phrase for her - she's an "ethically compromised lawmaker". Ms Patel was of course promoted in Mr. Cameron's 2014 cabinet reshuffle - and to the Treasury no less. Interestingly Ms Patel is on record as voting to allow smoking in pubs and clubs and is against plain packs (26). We can only hope she can use her new found influence to de-fund many of the state funded TC clones.
Tobacco Tactics is little more than a very badly presented and difficult to navigate vanity blog conceived and written by Anna Gilmore (27) and the disclaimer is there to cover her. Anna feels she can post any old thing or lie through her teeth and thinks herself immune from prosecution. While true that article 5.3 of FCTC does allow Tobacco Control to counter industry and other opposition, there are still checks and balances - and that's enshrined in UK law. Funny thing about the law, you cannot hide behind anything. You set it up, you authorise the post, you carry the can. And there will never be a time when she, her flunkies, the University of Bath, nor Cancer Research UK can ever be immune from her posting something that's unlawful.
Back to Turkey. They were blessed with speakers from Australia. Mr. Simon Chapman turned up (because he was paid to do so), accompanied by Dr. Becky Freeman, who's spent the last 14 years in Tobacco Control (28) and she wants TC people to use social media to push the message. She has her own Facebook page with a fine list of activities, like monitoring tobacco advertising. However I must point out that she's really not that active on Facebook, so another case of do as I say, not as I do (29).
However the underlying message from Turkey is to ensure they coordinate their activities to "keep tobacco in the news all year round". I had an inkling they were making every effort to do that with their adverts, "Stoptober", their Christmas blitz of fake studies (30) (31) and their cut off date for Millenia Children (no one allowed to buy tobacco if born after 1 Jan 2000). What I hadn't quite grasped is the network that provides a regular drip feed of tobacco news produced elsewhere. That's why we find nuggets like 3rd hand smoke coming out of California, taxing rolling tobacco as an equivalent to cigarettes (from NZ) and of course the plain packs fiasco that was initiated in Australia.
And their adverts and informercials are to become ever more disgusting. TC really enjoy shocking people, they think it's wonderful when regular stiffs get upset because even negative publicity is good for them. The more they provoke people, the greater the likelihood one or more of their number can spin it on TV and radio. And the Daily Mail, well they're always grateful for anything that'll help fill a page.
Little wonder that so many pressure groups are mad keen to adopt the "tobacco template". You get to live the high life on the backs of taxpayers, ratepayers, end of life philanthropists, humble charity donors and even lottery players, whilst being paid to reduce choice, dummy the populous, engineer commercial sabotage, destroy entire leisure sectors, encourage discrimination, seed social tension and interfere in the parent/child relationship. Oh and make a mockery of "science" and "research".
And politicians as well as the establishment venerate you and heap large gifts of our cash upon you. How cool is that!!??
Not very. Most ratepayers would prefer to see weekly rubbish collections, fewer potholes and level pavements, while many patients might prefer to see access to drugs, deemed by NICE to be too expensive. It's these little things that many of us would rather see than have our money wasted on extravaganzas designed to try to make sociopathic megalomaniacs appear important.