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Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Global Hate

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Global Hate


Virginia Day
Article Published: 2009/05/13

A 75 year old American woman stood in a parking lot enjoying a cigarette, because the new anti-smoker laws banished her not only from the restaurant, but from anywhere near the doors.


Before this law, the restaurant owner had no objection to a paying customer’s enjoyment of the cigarette inside. Likewise, her dinner companions had no objection. The restaurant employees had no objection; after all, they chose to work there. And finally, the patrons had no objection, thus their choice to visit a smoke-friendly restaurant.

Despite the lack of objection to the cigarette by any actually involved in the matter, the woman stood quarantined in the parking lot, as mandated by law. A younger woman emerged from a nearby store and headed toward her own car. Spotting the older woman alone from some distance, she changed course and headed in that direction. To ask to share a light, perhaps? But no, when she reached a distance of about 10 feet away, she sneered at the woman holding the cigarette. “You are disgusting”, she said. The older woman, who prides herself on being gracious and refined, however also knows that you must stand up to bullies. She replied with a remark that I will not repeat here. With that, the younger woman, turned and proceeded to her car, revved it, and drove out of the parking lot. The older woman was left to ponder the changes in today’s society.

In a seemingly unrelated event, the 14th World Conference on Tobacco or Health, sponsored in part by the pharmaceutical corporation funded American Cancer Society (ACS), and also by pharmaceutical giants Glaxo-Smith-Kline and Pfizer, was held March, 2009, in Mumbai, India: a seemingly unrelated event because a conference held in India, and a confrontation between two women in a parking lot in a small town in the United States would certainly seem unrelated. But to believe that they are unrelated would be a mistake. In fact, these events have everything to do with each other. What follows is an attempt to explain the connection between these two events.

A recent AFP news release about the Mumbai Conference reported:
"We all realise that it's now time for the focus of tobacco control to shift to developing countries," conference president Prakash C. Gupta told a news conference in the city Tuesday… The Indian government -- which has ratified the World Health Organisation (WHO) Framework on Tobacco Control -- imposed a new ban on smoking in public places like bars, restaurants and railway stations last October. An earlier ban four years earlier was largely ignored and enforcement of the latest measure has been patchy. Gupta, officials from anti-tobacco groups and cancer specialists said they hoped the event -- backed by WHO and involving 2,000 delegates -- would help increase public awareness of the problem and lead to tighter legislation. 1

So what does this mean? The phrase, “Time now for the focus of tobacco control to shift to developing countries” simply means that it is the intent of the conference sponsors that the men and women of India, like the men and women of the United States, Canada and Europe before them, will make fewer voluntary choices about how, where and when to smoke tobacco. It means that the pharmaceutical corporation backed WHO, the pharmaceutical backed ACS2 and the giant multi-national pharmaceutical corporations which fund those international organizations intend to work harder to impose new legislation on the people of India, and to convince the people, by enforcement of this legislation, that it is in their own best interest to accept this new order. With complete disregard for the social harmony, custom, tradition, the sovereignty and independence of the country of India, and a complete disregard for the desires of the people, (who made their desires known by ignoring a previous ban) it is they, the pharmaceutical interests, the makers of alternative nicotine and smoking cessation products, who will continue to define “the problem”. In typical corporate style, they expect that the people will believe, (if they care what we believe at all) that it is only a coincidence that they sell the proposed solution to the “problem” of tobacco smoking.

The press release states that a smoking ban that was already “imposed” in India four years ago was “largely ignored”, and enforcement “patchy”. Ignored by whom? The ban was ignored by the people, of course. Ignored by the people, and ignored even by local enforcement, who only four years ago must still have believed that they knew better how to run their own lives and their own country. However, the press release makes clear that the people must not be allowed to ignore the pronouncements of the for-profit pharmaceutical interests. The freedom of the people of India to make their own decisions about health, safety and social accommodation, must not be respected. Instead, the pharmaceutical interests (through their front groups, the WHO and the so-called charitable organizations) must simply work harder to define the problem (that is, they must “increase public awareness of the problem”). This re-education of the public is the accomplishment that these special interests have every confidence will lead to “tighter legislation”, i.e., greater social control. Greater social control means fewer opportunities for people to smoke tobacco, as well as greater social pressure to give up smoking tobacco, which provides the huge market for sales of alternative nicotine products.

It isn’t difficult to connect the dots between the pharmaceutical interest in anti-smoking legislation and pharmaceutical profit. It is also not difficult to understand why India is one of the prime new targets. For example, according to a recent smoking cessation product market report:
In 2008, total sales of prescription and OTC smoking cessation products amounted to over $3bn worldwide ... During the next 15 years, overall growth in the world smoking cessation market will be increasingly contributed by the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) group of countries. Nearly half of the world’s smokers live in BRIC areas, yet those country markets yielded low per capita smoking cessation revenues in 2008.3

Or, as the Wall Street Journal recently reported:
Glaxo Plans Expansion in India and China

GlaxoSmithKline PLC is preparing to launch its smoking-cessation products in as many as 20 new emerging markets, another sign of the British drug maker's desire to build sales in the developing world.

Glaxo is planning a big marketing push in new countries including China, India and Russia, where the company doesn't yet sell its smoking-cessation lozenges and patches.

The products sell under various brand names, including NicoDerm CQ, Commit, NiQuitin and Nicabate.

Glaxo aims to make its products available to 85% of the world's smokers within five years, up from about 20% today, Clive Addison, vice president of smoking-control products, said in an interview. The global market for smoking-cessation gums and patches today is about $2 billion, he said. Glaxo currently has about one-third of the market and is aiming to boost its share to about 42% within five years, he said.

Most of the world's smokers live in emerging markets, but those countries haven't been a focus for Glaxo in the past because they haven't previously embraced antismoking campaigns, Mr. Addison said. That is now beginning to change. India recently passed a ban on smoking in enclosed public spaces, and other countries such as Brazil are opening new clinics to help people quit smoking. These new efforts make it a good time to launch Glaxo's products, he said.

Glaxo also plans to offer consumers in new markets the same "behavioral support" programs it does in developed markets such as the U.S. and Europe.

Glaxo's smoking-cessation products had global sales of about $700 million last year. Mr. Addison declined to say how much the new marketing push would cost.4

And let’s not neglect Pfizer. As reported in an April, 2008 press release:
Kewal Handa, managing director of Pfizer India, said,“Champix is the most innovative and effective oral smoking cessation product to be approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the last 10 years. It has benefited over 5.7 million people since its worldwide launch in mid-2006. We are confident that Champix will provide the same level of benefits to smokers in India and contribute to a healthier world.”5

Unfortunately for Pfizer, 3 months prior to the above press release (Feb 1, 2008), the FDA had also released a statement:
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) today issued a Public Health Advisory to alert health care providers, patients, and caregivers to new safety warnings concerning Chantix (varenicline), a prescription medication used to help patients stop smoking.

…As the agency's review of the adverse event reports proceeds, it appears increasingly likely that there may be an association between Chantix and serious neuropsychiatric symptoms….6

The implication is that these (BRIC) countries have not yielded enough revenue for the pharmaceutical markets. That is, the people of India have been slow to cooperate and hand over their hard-earned money for the pharmaceutical corporations’ dubious alternative nicotine products, and dangerous pills. Apparently the people of India prefer to use tobacco in traditional ways. Fortunately for the pharmaceutical industry, if the people will not cooperate on their own, the industry has been perfecting the means to bring about their coercion. The industry recognizes that the force of law imposed to make smoking as difficult and uncomfortable as possible, is their best marketing strategy. It is no coincidence that the recent international conference calling for “tighter regulations” was held in Mumbai, India, as India has been identified as one of the premier new smoking cessation product markets. The industry will take every opportunity to promote the laws and restrictions that will sell their products.

Of course this is the same strategy that the pharmaceutical-led anti-smoking movement has employed in the U.S., in Canada and in Europe. It is important to understand that the smoking prohibitions under which so many of us live derive from neither local nor grassroots movements. Nor do they derive from a concern for health or safety. They have been imposed as a result of the same top-down international, purposeful, for-profit strategy. This is a strategy that is all about profit, not about health. Time and again, in one locality after another, we have witnessed the strategy as it plays out. The pharmaceuticals fund any so-called (junk) research that promises to cast smoking or people who smoke in a negative light, and castigate any researcher who finds otherwise. They propagandize the public with the lie that people who smoke are harming others. They make every effort to denormalize people who smoke, and encourage others to discriminate against and disparage people who smoke. Meanwhile, they engage in increasing rounds of important sounding conferences, make ever more important sounding pronouncements, and they fund organizations that lobby and agitate for ever more stringent regulations, bans and laws. The loss of basic freedoms? The loss of self-determination? The loss of property rights? We, the people, are supposed to ignore all of that.

One day soon, a woman (or a man) in India will be standing in a parking lot smoking a cigarette – wondering just how this change in the once-familiar social and political fabric came about. Perhaps she will be thinking that in some way that she doesn’t understand, it was the will of the people that she should be ostracized from polite society. It is likely she will note a vague feeling that it doesn’t seem to have happened that way – after all, none of her friends seemed to care about tobacco smoke, and people who smoke and those who don’t once seemed to be able to accommodate each other quite well. And perhaps another woman in India will approach the first – likely not even knowing why she has recently begun to dislike people who smoke. It may even occur to her that just a few years ago that she really had no opinion on the matter. But now that her “awareness” has been raised she believes that the woman smoking the cigarette is harming her. The woman with the cigarette is “a problem”. The younger woman will find herself approaching the woman holding the cigarette, and even find herself sneering at a total stranger who was minding her own business in a parking lot. “You are disgusting”, she might say.

We all see our little, local, parts of the world. We wrongly believe that events that happen to us are understandable on that level. We wrongly believe that there are just some crazy anti-smokers out there, the kind of people who accost innocent people in parking lots, and we wonder how these nuts seem to have amassed so much power (and funding). Sometimes we even wrongly believe that they will stop at simply banning smoking; that they will not continue to market their pharmaceutical solutions to the “problems” of food, alcohol, even personality, through corporate interest backed regulation and legislation. We wrongly believe we can fight these nuts on a local level. But really we can’t. Until we understand who the enemy is, how to expose them, in which direction it all flows, and ultimately how to fight them, our efforts are misdirected. The powerful interests that recently gathered in Mumbai, India now have more effect on your life and mine than the people and events in our own home towns, cities, states or countries. Make no mistake; they are the real threats to our freedom.

1. AFP http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5hKSIBeAHrsJaZ4jSbJSyiJcqXNQw
2. HSCNews 2005 review of health campaigners’ Annual Reports ”, in HSCNews, issue 15, February 2005, pages 6-27; plus 62-page Appendix. (Press Release) The latest monthly briefing of HSCNews International analysed the annual reports of 125 health campaigners worldwide. Combined revenues were over US$ 8 billion. Findings included: ”Pharma donations to health charities are mostly market-driven. The survey looked at the top 12 pharma donors to health-based charities (Pfizer; GSK;AstraZeneca; Johnson & Johnson; Merck; Novartis; Aventis; Roche; Eli Lilly; Bristol-Myers Squibb; Wyeth; and Abbott), plus the types of health-based charities to which these companies gave their money. In almost 100% of cases, pharmaceutical companies sought associations with patient organisations that specialise in the therapeutic areas in which the drug companies research, develop or market products…High-profile health charities get much of the available money. The top ten health-based charities (as ranked by revenue) that accept money from pharmaceutical companies include the American Cancer Society; the American Heart Association; the American Diabetes Association; Marie Curie Cancer Care [UK]; Help the Aged [UK]; the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada; the Arthritis Foundation [US]; the Canadian Cancer Society; Rethink [UK]; and the Canadian Diabetes Association. http://express-press release.net/11/A%20new%20survey%20on%20pharmaceutical%20funding.php
3. http://www.bioportfolio.com/cgi-bin/acatalog/Smoking_Cessation_Report__2009-2024.html#a481
4. Glaxo Plans Expansion in India and China, Jeanne Whalen. WSJ, March 10, 2009. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123663993183877143.html
5. http://www.dancewithshadows.com/business/pharma/champix-smoking-india.asp
6. http://www.fda.gov/bbs/topics/NEWS/2008/NEW01788.html

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