Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Seeking assistance from the devil?

This has gone to all members of the Public Petitions Committee, for their information:
Dear [Public Petitions Committee Clerk]

I refer to the Note by the Clerk (http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/S4_PublicPetitionsCommittee/Meeting%20Papers/Papers_20121127.pdf) in respect of my petition, 01451.

You point out that the Scottish Government does not seem prepared to consider reviewing the smoking ban, partly in the light of its adherence to the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. You may not be familiar with Article 5.3 of this convention, which is set out briefly at http://www.who.int/fctc/guidelines/article_5_3.pdf. As follows: 
"in setting and implementing their public health policies with respect to tobacco control, Parties shall act to protect these policies from commercial and other vested interests of the tobacco industry in accordance with national law”.  
In other words, groups associated with the tobacco industry are considered to be unreliable, constituting an automatic conflict of interest. For background notes describing opposition to smoking ban, however, your note relies almost exclusively upon sources funded by the tobacco industry (the TMA and Forest). You also suggest that TMA and Forest are suitable bodies that the committee could approach for their view of the petition.

I would suggest that the Scottish Government's commitment to the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control would predispose it to distrusting and failing to take seriously any views presented by either the TMA or Forest. Is it possible to seek views that the Scottish Government would be forced to consider seriously on their merits and without prejudice? 

For example, you refer to a report by the University of Glamorgan (this may not be the same one but it is on a similar theme by the same author), in other words by an authority outside the normal range of those consulted by Scottish Government but one relevant to this issue as the paper is published within Building Services Engineering Research & Technology. 

Seeking views in support of the petition only from sources that the Government inherently rejects as untrustworthy is unfair to the petitioners. I would urge you to seek views from sources that are not associated with the tobacco industry as outlined above.
The clerk's note claims in a note to paragraph 19 that they have 'not been able to access' the research from the University of Glamorgan on the efficacy of ventilation, even though we supplied it to the Public Petitions Committee on disc. It seems they will do anything rather than ask us for information! – even admit that the Scottish Parliamentary Information Centre (SPICe) researchers can't find something.

The Public Petitions Committee meets at 10 am, Committee Room 1.

1 comment:

Michael J. McFadden said...

The most incredible and sad thing about this whole approach is the way such bodies both accept and encourage participation and sculpting by highly concerned special interests that are VERY invested in having the "correct" outcomes in rulemaking and decisions: i.e. participants funded by pharmaceutical and governmental interests dependent upon cigarette taxes and Nicotine Replacement Therapy sales.

To be TRULY fair, no researchers with economic interests that could be harmed by expressing and pushing the "wrong" opinions should be allowed to participate. Yes, this would greatly narrow the field of candidates, possibly even excluding doctors and professors whose institutions would not want to be seen as having "pro-smoking" staff members, but it would ensure a far more fair and rational approach.

And, if necessary, just as "antismoker protection provisions" have been enacted with smoking ban laws (i.e. provisions protecting the jobs of those who complain about violations or make themselves unpleasant to fellow workers/associates who smoke) similar guarantees could be provided to those who agree to serve on these bodies.

The true lack of financial/career concerns coupled with that sort of protection would lead to a more balanced decision-making.

Michael J. McFadden
Author of "Dissecting Antismokers' Brains"