Monday, 26 May 2014

Authors Note

The author in this case is not me, it's Philip K Dick. It was written about drug use & when I read this at 12 or 13 years old it had a profound impact on me. I'm not saying it mirrors what's going on, but I can't help but feel there are some similarities. Take from it what you will.


Author's Note

This has been a novel about some people who were punished entirely too much for what they did. They wanted to have a good time, but they were like children playing in the street; they could see one after another of them being killed -- run over, maimed, destroyed -- but they continued to play anyhow. We really all were very happy for a while, sitting around not toiling but just bullshitting and playing, but it was for such a terrible brief time, and then the punishment was beyond belief: even when we could see it, we could not believe it. For example, while I was writing this I learned that the person on whom the character Jerry Fabin is based killed himself. My friend on whom I based the character Ernie Luckman died before I began the novel. For a while I myself was one of these children playing in the street; I was, like the rest of them, trying to play instead of being grown up, and I was punished. I am on the list below, which is a list of those to whom this novel is dedicated, and what became of each.

Drug misuse is not a disease, it is a decision, like the decision to step out in front of a moving car. You would call that not a disease but an error in judgment. When a bunch of people begin to do it, it is a social error, a life-style. In this particular life-style the motto is "Be happy now because tomorrow you are dying," but the dying begins almost at once, and the happiness is a memory. It is, then, only a speeding up, an intensifying, of the ordinary human existence. It is not different from your life-style, it is only faster. It all takes place in days or weeks or months instead of years. "Take the cash and let the credit go," as Villon said in 1460. But that is a mistake if the cash is a penny and the credit a whole lifetime.

There is no moral in this novel; it is not bourgeois; it does not say they were wrong to play when they should have toiled; it just tells what the consequences were. In Greek drama they were beginning, as a society, to discover science, which means causal law. Here in this novel there is Nemesis: not fate, because anyone of us could have chosen to stop playing in the street, but, as I narrate from the deepest part of my life and heart, a dreadful Nemesis for those who kept on playing. I myself, I am not a character in this novel; I am the novel. So, though, was our entire nation at this time. This novel is about more people than I knew personally. Some we all read about in the newspapers. It was, this sitting around with our buddies and bullshitting while making tape recordings, the bad decision of the decade, the sixties, both in and out of the establishment. And nature cracked down on us. We were forced to stop by things dreadful.

If there was any "sin," it was that these people wanted to keep on having a good time forever, and were punished for that, but, as I say, I feel that, if so, the punishment was far too great, and I prefer to think of it only in a Greek or morally neutral way, as mere science, as deterministic impartial cause-and-effect. I loved them all.

Here is the list, to whom I dedicate my love:

To Gaylene - deceased
To Ray - deceased
To Francy - permanent psychosis
To Kathy - permanent brain damage
To Jim - deceased
To Val - massive permanent brain damage
To Nancy - permanent psychosis
To Joanne - permanent brain damage
To Maren - deceased
To Nick - deceased
To Terry - deceased
To Dennis - deceased
To Phil - permanent pancreatic damage
To Sue - permanent vascular damage
To Jerri - permanent psychosis and vascular
...and so forth.

In Memoriam.

These were comrades whom I had; there are no better. They remain in my mind, and the enemy will never be forgiven. The "enemy" was their mistake in playing. Let them all play again, in some other way, and let them be happy.

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

The War with the Fnools PT 2

Thank you for joining me for the 2nd part of this bi-blog special. Part one is underneath this post.

Funnily enough, I am writing this part not long after Robert West's data appeared and the media went into meltdown. Most notably The Guardian. If you haven't already, read it now. That is not a request!

Back to the PHE meeting.....

We already have an idea of what The Chief Medical Officer, Special Scientific Advisor to the Governement, Dame Sally Davies, thinks of vaping thanks to this article in the New Scientist. However, I was not prepared for what I had to endure for her presentation. 

She is still having some aversion issues with using the word Vaping. It upsets her that word. So does 'vaping lounges' apparently. Sorry about that Sally (I'm not, 'grow up' springs to mind!). Her entire sermon seemed based on her power and influence which she was at pains to remind us about...over and over...

As CMO she 'is protecting the population',

She has 'written to all ministers as Senior Medical Advisor' (She verbally underlined that),

She is 'worried, and I tell you this as the head of this profession'.

There were a few more of these, but frankly I got bored of writing down her attempts to continually remind everyone that she is their Boss, that there is None Higher and because she is worried, we should all be worried. Cos she told us to be.

God Complex anyone?

A few other telling nuggets were;

'Horrified' that ecig packets could be emptied out and tobacco cigarettes could be put in.

Normalisation and Glamourisation were proved conclusively by her daughter (of undisclosed age) 'dragging' her to an e-cig display to show her 'how beautiful they were'. STOP PRESS! In light of this new evidence, I feel the only appropriate thing to do would be to redesign all e-cigarettes to look like turds. 

I think it is only reasonable, after all, smokers to do not deserve beautiful things. Aesthetically pleasing and tactile devices they might WANT to use. No no no, you must feel the shame of being medicated.
mmmmmm tempting
Then we got the classic,

'Willfully aimed at children, who wants flavours?'

Well actually, now that you mention it...

This was the sweet table at my wedding. Do you know who had the biggest bags of sugary loveliness? The adults. They stripped that table. (Yes, that is Hubba Bubba)

Bought these on Saturday - cos I like Sherbert & Liquorice.

I figured I might as well ask Twitter too...

Yeah so quite clearly, no one likes flavours.... Oh and do checkout and have a little looksie at all the product reviews. If you have time, you can message all those adults and tell them that they do not like flavoursome things after all and that maybe they would like some of those Dog Breath crisps that are so popular.

There is one thing that was said during her diatribe though. One thing that should define this woman as the menace to public health that she is. In her position as absolute authority for Public Health in this country, what do you think her message is to smokers? All 9 million smokers. For whom she does not want to allow the option of harm reduction, but also admits that NRT fails.

Her message?

'Smokers should just grow a backbone'.

And there it is. Quit Or Die in the starkest way I can possibly imagine. If you are not disgusted, you damn well should be. THIS is the callousness we knew existed, but did we realise that it sat RIGHT AT THE TOP? Advising government? Influencing the opinions of Public Health? It is repugnant. This woman cannot protect public health when as far as she is concerned 20% of the population can just die due to her unfathomable ignorance.

I have nothing further to say on this woman. Nothing.

So instead, lets touch briefly on McKee. 

'Cherry crush candy leads to smoking'

He does 'not even know why were are having this discussion'

'We WILL catch up' with the forward thinking of New York and Australia. This is the future (and it really is not bright).

He was perplexed as to why a symposium on e-cigs was not covering Plain Packaging.

And then. Oh yes and then...what could Martin Mckee possibly say? What could a Professor in Public Health have to say when it is clear he has nothing? When the subject of nicotine use in pregnant women was raised, after it was made clear that NRT is of no use and nicotine of no real concern (by actual experts), what is the most inappropriate and desperate comment that could be made?

'That's what was said about Thalidomide'

The response to this was immediate, and unsurprisingly it was not good! People were heard to say 'disgusting'. This was boo'd, and rightly bloody so. 

For the record, Martin Mckee, you should be ashamed.

As such, I would like to present to you, ladies and gentlemen of the audience, The Fnools. Definitely not a typo, but a race of aliens in a short story I read many years ago by the genius Philip K Dick. The Fnools are 2ft high aliens hell bent on destroying humanity and taking earth for themselves. But thanks to their piddling height, were easy to spot and so were usurped at every corner. Their mistake was a simple one, they looked exactly like us, but had got the height wrong. Ironically, in the story, their undoing comes at the hand of Tobacco, Alcohol and Sex. One of these vices is discovered by them and immediately, they grow 2ft, to a still paltry 4ft, but nevertheless rather unnerving. The second vice adds another 2ft and so now they stand at 6ft and are perfectly hidden among us mere humans. Alas, with victory within reach, they encounter their 3rd vice, and unable to resist, find themselves standing at 8ft tall. Clear for all to see. The proverbial thumb. There is no hiding and they are clearly visible for what they are. Inhuman. Now easily targeted and destroyed.

The Fnools thought they were winning. and they went too far and exposed themselves. 

This is what we just witnessed. It is what every member of public health and tobacco control with a conscience and a genuine desire to do good (whether we agree on the methods or not) has just seen. Trust me, it is not just our stomachs that were turned. I would not be surprised if this behaviour was what broke the camel's back for Robert West. 

So maybe, we should say Thank You To Mckee, Davies and their ilk. They just did us a great favour.

The War with the Fnools pt 1

So, I was debating on how to go about this blog, after all,  there is rather a lot to say. So it is a two parter.

Oh, and no, it is not a typo, 'Fnools' will be explained in part 2.

Let me start by saying a Thank you to Public Health England. Whatever we might think or have thought about them, they did not have to to invite us into their space. Yes of course they should do, there are lots of things that should have happened, but that does not mean they have or will. I am genuinely grateful that we were given a seat and a voice. The agenda for the day, including speakers can be found here. Probably worth a quick look before starting this.

The best summary of the Public Health England Symposium, from our perspective, is this video here. Dave Dorn and myself were both present for the entire day, Oliver Kershaw was a guest panelist in the afternoon session. The link will take you to the VTtalk show we did together with Sav, on Sunday 18th May. I highly suggest you watch it if you have not already.

All in all, this was positive stuff. Very positive. Given the similarities between the pro-ecig, pro-harm reduction people speaking, I will give an overview.


Tobacco control have made NO effort to utilise Harm Reduction. They are failing smokers; specifically smokers in manual professions and those suffering with mental illness.

Slide from Anne McNeill presentation.
The reduction in smoking rates are just not reflected in these groups, they remain largely unaffected by all that TC has done.

However, the impact that e-cigs are having are unprecedented. In 30 years, Anne McNeill had seen nothing like this happen. This year we have seen a leveling out of e-cigarette use in ALL socioeconomic groups.

This might be stuff that we realise, but from a PH perspective, this is dreams coming true! Slide from McNeill presentation.

Allowing NRT to be sold Over The Counter without the behavioural support offered by cessation services was a mistake. A mistake that cost lives.

Disallowing Europeans the option of Snus as Harm Reduction was a mistake. A mistake that cost lives. The success of snus in Sweden comes from the easy availability. Smokers are making a choice at the point of sale.
Snus in action. From John Britton presentation.

Tobacco Control and Public Health are being misinformed and misled by poor peer review and Press releases of studies that do not reflect the data contained within the study itself.

E-cigs are being subjected to unjustified panic led scrutiny. If this same scrutiny were to be applied to Plain Packaging, it would not be going ahead!

If the entire population used Nicotine the health impacts would be negligible. The health implications of nicotine use in pregnant women is of 'no significant concern'. NRT has had NO impact in this area (Most recently shown here).

'These things need to be available anywhere tobacco is', in fact, they need to be everywhere. Marketing needs to be clever, aimed at adults and promoting vaping. 'Social media marketing is essential'. It is entirely possible that Public Health have scored an own goal by allowing advertising to be solely from a lifestyle product perspective.

The media coverage has been hysterical and disproportionate. 'Diabetics and suffers of Heart Disease are now too frightened to use e-cigs'.

'Peoples lives are at stake.'

'No renormalisation of smoking, only normalisation of vaping.'

'The evidence is going the opposite way to what PH and TC are saying.'

'E-cigs are already having the desired effect.'

And finally, this point was made by Martin Dockrell, with passion and very pointedly at every individual present in the room. It was an instruction.

'Talk to vapers!'

All of the above may look like common sense to us. This is what we have been shouting about for all this time. We know all this. But, NONE of this was said by us. This came from Robert West, Anne McNeill, Martin Dockrell and John Britton. The frustration was palpable. The irritation at the risk aversion coming from within their own field. The above might not look all that significant, or unusual, because it's what we already know. But it is! Yes, they have safety concerns. Yes, they want to understand what is causing toxins; is it the fluid or the heating? Yes, they are concerned about poor nicotine delivery from substandard devices putting people off.

Aren't we concerned about these things too?

Are these concerns enough to stop this in it's tracks?

Our answer? No!
Their answer? No!

But, my favourite picture from the entire day. The moment that made me say 'Shit - they've got it! They've finally got it!' and grab Dave Dorn's arm, was this from John Britton, and the caption is his, not mine.

NRT does not do this.

A happy smiling smoker. An attractive, normal woman. Smoking. They admitted that NRT just is not going to cut it. It has an image problem. He looks at us with our vibrant and strong community and then states 'There is no NRT community' to the room - and the room laughed!

Now this is all very positive, and a mere shapshot of the great bits from the day. There is more, of course there is more, but I am going to put it into part 2. It is a bit more...uh...ranty...

I will close this part with this...WE were a part of this change. Our persistence, our knowledge and our passion. We have not shut up and it looks like it is finally working. If for even a single second you think that it has all been for nothing, you are wrong. It has taken a long time, we are exhausted and the battle is still not over, but I think we all deserve a MASSIVE pat on the back. A year ago we were staring defeat in the face. The obliteration of all of this. I have lost count of the amount of times I have found somewhere quiet in my house to sit and cry where my children can't hear me. The sheer overwhelming frustration that They are just not getting it, they are not listening and are ignoring the impact of what they are trying to do.

Well that might be changing and we have played a huge part in that. Now the data is showing that we were right and they want to listen.

Congratulations :)

Part two coming shortly - and it is cross.