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Triple Whammy for Tobacco Control

Roy Harrold
12th October 2007

Good news indeed from Canada. Here's something to brighten your day and warm your heart. It’s a report from our correspondent Roy Harrold on the protest against the Canadian national anti-smokers’ conference held in Edmonton last week. Anti-smoking "dignitaries" from all around Canada, and from around the world, met with richly deserved ridicule.

Edmonton, October 12

It was billed as an opportunity to "raise the level of importance of tobacco control among health professionals and the community," but it turned into a bad dream in which the cowardly, mean-spirited and clownish nature of the tobacco control cabal was laid bare for all to see.

The Canadian Council for Tobacco Control's Fifth National Conference on Tobacco or Health, held in Edmonton, Alberta from October 1-3, 2007 , must have been one of the most demoralizing events for anti-smoking fanatics yet to have occurred. Anti-smoking suffered a triple whammy with surely more whammies to come.

Whammy #1

Before the conference had even begun it became the focus of a national news story. Tobacco control’s characteristic refusal to debate their critics, and their habit of running away when their scientific and professional integrity is challenged, was highlighted.

Carl Phillips, a Harvard Ph.D. doing research on smokeless tobacco as a "harm reduction" alternative to cigarettes, has been viciously targeted by anti-tobacco crusaders since he accepted a post at the University of Alberta's School of Public Health.

Phillips received a grant of over one million dollars from the smokeless tobacco industry to conduct his research, and although the university's ethics board declared themselves satisfied that the funds had "no strings attached," he was publicly vilified as a Big Tobacco stooge by local and national anti-tobacco activists. Phillips has been personally and professionally harassed. He was determined to call his blacklisters onto the carpet. As the National Post reports:

So, he and a handful of sympathetic colleagues arranged to air the issue of exactly how much freedom scientists have on campus these days. The conference would feature several professors who had faced similar problems. And it was planned for the Edmonton conference centre, at the same time and just down the hall from an international anti-tobacco conference "so that we could have sessions where we invited people from that conference over to make case for their attempts to suppress academic freedom," Prof. Phillips explains. But organizers of the National Conference on Tobacco or Health, he says, threatened to break their contract with the centre after they caught wind of his plan.

"The conference facility came to me and begged us to let them out of their contract because they were being put in the middle and they were convinced that this obviously much larger, much richer conference was going to pull out if they hosted us." Since not having the anti-tobacco attendees nearby defeated the purpose anyway, Prof. Phillips regretfully obliged.

The bad press for anti-tobacco stung, however, and more trouble remained in store for the prohibitionist conferees.

Whammy #2

On Sunday, September 30th, delegates to this national conference were registering themselves at the (proudly smoker-free) Westin Hotel in downtown Edmonton. Shortly after the registrations began at four in the afternoon, a spirited group of picketers appeared outside the hotel and began marching back and forth, chanting, "Tobacco control is out of control!" and waving placards bearing slogans such as "No Nanny State", "Tobacco Control extorts funding thru fearmongering", and "Tobacco Control scapegoats the poor, elderly & disabled". These protestors, members of an informal group calling themselves "Nanny State Fighters," marched and chanted, soliciting approving honks from passing motorists, while convention delegates watched through the hotel lobby windows for over two hours before melting away into the night.

Whammy #3

On Monday, October 1st, the convention got underway at the Shaw Centre in downtown Edmonton. The day's schedule included a film highlighting tobacco control successes in Canada, in the morning, an address by the Provincial Health Minister (author of the most repressive tobacco legislation in Alberta history) Dave Hancock, over lunch, and various workshops throughout the day. Surely, the conferees must have felt that the embarrassments and public humiliations they had suffered so far could be forgotten, as they settled into a long day of celebrating their own smoker-free wonderfulness, in peace ... but it was not to be ...

Early on Monday morning, an oddly costumed street theatre protestor set up a home-made podium outside the front doors of the convention centre, positioned so that anyone going into or coming out of the building could not help but be confronted by his presence. This was "Doctor Mephistopheles," a tobacco control snake-oil salesman, dressed in black with a flowing cape and an oversized carnival barker's top hat. His podium was emblazoned, in enormous lettering, with: "Get your TOBACCO CONTROL SNAKE-OIL here".

"Come one, come all - get your snake-oil right here!", he jeered at the delegates and dignitaries as they passed through the doors throughout that day. For over six hours, he mocked and taunted tobacco control as a medical and scientific fraud, staying long enough to ensure that he was seen by every member of the anti-smoking leadership at some point. Even the Minister of Health had to pass by Doctor Mephistopheles on the way to his deferentially reserved parking space: "Care for some snake-oil, Minister...or do you prefer your personal brand?" Oh, yes!

To delegates he could dupe into conversation, and there were over a dozen of those, Doctor Mephistopheles would offer a choice of snake-oil "flavors," featuring "If You Never Smoke, You Will Never Die" and "When There Are No More Smokers, Health Costs Will Plummet" among others reflecting similar fraudulent concepts and false hopes. He would tell a delegate that the cost of the snake oil was to give over one’s body, mind, and soul to Tobacco Control. Then he would pull out a contract to be signed and remove his hat revealing the devil horns on his head. The last paragraph of the contract, the crux of the document, read:

"You agree to give Tobacco Control your soul. You agree to persecute and scapegoat whomever we instruct you to persecute or scapegoat -- including poor, elderly, disabled, or otherwise disadvantaged persons. You will burn in Hell for doing this, of course, but then ... that's inherent to any deal with the devil -- isn't it?"

More Whammies to Come

Carl Phillips is still getting press. Read more about Doctor Phillips and academic blacklisting at the link below. Phillips is not going away. Neither are all the smokers in society. They are fighting back against the pogrom. Join in and help keep the whammies coming for the anti-tobacco hatemongers. Man have they got them coming.


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