Sunday, 5 February 2012

Consulting mosquitos

Yet again the Dutch come under fire for their lax attitude to tobacco control, because they have rolled back the tobacco campaign and withdrawn the funding for smoking cessation campaigns.

Chief among the complaints of the anti-smoking campaigners is the attitude of Anne Mulder, Public Health spokesman for the Liberal Party. He admits that the health department 'does hold meetings with the tobacco lobby':
'It's a legal product, I think it's right I speak to everyone and that's what I'm doing. I don't have any problem speaking to the lobbyists. If you want to make policy you have to speak to people on all sides then make your own decision.'
The inevitable objection (see earlier example):
'If you want to control malaria you don't invite the mosquitoes to negotiate with you on these issues. This is so illogical. It is absolutely irresponsible what they're doing, it's not a health policy not at all.'
The mosquito is a very poor example to illustrate why relevant interests should not be consulted over policy. Politicians don't control malaria, nor do they prevent disease. They legislate on policy. If you want to control malaria as a medic, you go to war with the mosquito and if you need the support of the law then other considerations might become relevant. The fact that mosquitos cannot speak for themselves has absolutely no bearing on the propriety of consulting all relevant parties to issues on which laws are being passed. (Sheila Duffy also had a go a few months ago when she blogged,
 'Malaria kills people, but mosquitoes don’t have PR agencies and expensive promotions budgets,' a consideration that is absurd as well as irrelevant.)

In consulting with tobacco companies the Dutch are flouting Article 5.3 of the WHO's Framework Convention for Tobacco Control. This measure seeks to 'protect' health policy from tobacco industry influence – because the FCTC is the first global multilateral treaty of the World Health Organisation. It should worry people that the WHO believes tobacco should be the subject of its first multilateral treaty, or that the tobacco industry is the only one supposed to be a threat to national public health policies, and whose influence must be resisted.  (More here.)

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