Margaret Chan introduces the Fifteenth World Conference on Tobacco and Health.
This conference is being held at a time when we are at a crossroads in our efforts to rid the world of a killing addiction. In principle, the balance is entirely in our favour. In a perfectly sane, reasonable, and rational world, with a level playing field, the anti-tobacco community would surely speak with the loudest voice and carry the biggest stick.In her world the only thing that holds back a victory of civil society over tobacco, which has unique killing properties, is the persuasiveness, power and wealth of evil tobacco companies. Nowhere does she mention that some of what she terms 'civil society' does not support the global anti-tobacco project. Perhaps most disingenuous is her 'David and Goliath' depiction of civil society, representing the poor people against the filthy rich tobacco companies. Her humble tobacco fighters are in Singapore for a four-day conference at a very humble venue, with the option of a pre-conference preparation period and includes the option of a Bloomberg award for promoting tobacco control through the arts. Scholarships are available for this heroic yet humble effort, from the Bill and Melinda Foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies, and three other bodies (these are available for the youth sections too).
So if her side won it would be because of integrity and sound scientific reasoning, but if the other side won it would be down to the depth of their pockets.
Experience has shown that, when government political resolve falters or weakens under industry pressure, coalitions of civil society can take up the slack and carry the day. We need this kind of outcry, this kind of rage.This organisation wishes to elevate the threats of tobacco above any other priorities of national governments. She wants an army of activists orchestrated by the Framework Convention Alliance to raise objections if governments get it wrong. Her closing comments are also instructive:
We can, and must, stop this industry’s massive contribution to sickness and death, dead in its tracks.Even if she kills off an industry with a 'massive contribution to sickness and death', she will not do away with sickness and death, and seems quite unconcerned with the complex pattern of events that make the poor particularly vulnerable. The anti-tobacco project is run by fanatics who think in terms of black and white ('civil society' good, tobacco bad), even though conditions on the ground are rarely so straightforward.
The latest report from the Framework Convention Alliance admits the movement is in trouble, but does not acknowledge that its simplistic outlook and goals might be responsible. For example it criticises those Parties to the Framework Convention Alliance that have partnerships with tobacco companies, without being at all concerned with the terms of such partnerships. Such countries are Breaking the Rules and get a Bad Mark, regardless. It is the kind of non-negotiable approach you expect from tyrants.