When all else fails, lets try smear and innuendo
I was very disappointed to see a non-story presented as a biased smear and innuendo attack in the Fairfax press and online today (Exposed: big tobacco’s behind-the-scenes ‘astroturf’ campaign to change vaping laws, 12 July 2017, The Age).
The story is that cigarette manufacturer Philip Morris has encouraged people with an interest in e-cigarettes to make honest, personal submissions to the Parliamentary Inquiry on e-cigarettes, as have other organisations with an interest in this Inquiry. So, what is the problem?
This argument implies that it is only evil tobacco companies who want these products legalised. The implication is that the personal stories of vapers are only being made on behalf of Big Tobacco and are somehow of less genuine.
It is beyond doubt that the tobacco industry has behaved appallingly in the past and their behaviour needs to be closely monitored. However, this doesn’t mean that everything they do is automatically evil. Encouraging individuals to tell the Committee how they have quit smoking with vaping is appropriate and helpful.
The focus of this campaign should be on the growing independent evidence that e-cigarettes are a much less harmful alternative for smokers who are unwilling or unable to quit with other methods. E-cigarettes deliver the nicotine and behavioural ritual that smokers are addicted to without the smoke that causes almost all the harm to health.
Millions of smokers have switched to vaping, with substantial health benefits. Why should Australian smokers be denied this huge public health opportunity?
This emotive appeal around the involvement of the despised tobacco industry is an unhelpful distraction. Big Tobacco did not invent e-cigarettes, but have been forced to compete in this market to avoid becoming redundant from this new technology. The tobacco industry may be part of the solution if it is encouraged to move out of selling tobacco cigarettes and into less harmful alternatives. Indeed, this is already happening.
The focus of public health should be on reducing death and illness. Up to two in three long-term smokers will die from a smoking-related disease. Does it matter who makes money from these products if they are saving lives?
Further commentary on this story: Opinion piece in the Spectator Australia, by Terry Barnes
Vaping, Big Public Health and the new McCarthyism