Time and time again, Big Tech’s attempts to block misinformation have prevented the public from having access to accurate or at least plausible viewpoints and theories. … Given their past failures, it is clear that these tech companies cannot serve as the arbiters of scientific truth. When new research comes out every day, social media platforms shouldn’t ‘impose consequences’ on users simply because they have a different point of view. — Samuel Kim, Washington Examiner
Why? Because doing so “makes an ass out of you and me”.
There is both stark humor and truth to the stand-up comedian’s take on the matter.
Quite ironically and outrageously, pristine, helpful facts are hard to come by nowadays in the Information Age and the Knowledge Economy.
Plain propaganda, over-the-top marketing, and far-out conspiracy theories are the regular fare of social media.
But people lap them up like popcorn at the movies.
Can’t blame them, really. The wilder they are presented, the more interesting – but potentially dangerous — they become.
Let us not forget: Curiosity killed the cat.
So, what should be our safety seal in dealing with facts?
Simple: That it should be science-based. Make that sound science.
For example, vaccination is still our best defense against Covid-19 and its latest (Delta) variant.
But medical and health professionals still insist on masking and physical distancing.
Why? Because vaccinated people, while acquiring protection, can still act as “vectors” or carriers of the virus who can infect the unvaccinated.
People create “breath clouds” and emit projectile saliva mist when they cough or sneeze. Also, a classic symptom of the infected is high fever, the equivalent of a “heat plume: from a restless volcano.
So, the test question should be: Where is the science here?
Let science guide our health options and lifestyle choices.
Indeed, misinformation, lack of government support, and attacks from well-funded international non-government organizations are among the key obstacles to the adoption of tobacco-harm reduction and mitigation of deaths from smoking in low- and middle-income countries, according to health policy experts.
LMICs, including the Philippines, are drafting policies to regulate smoke-free products which are considered much less harmful than conventional cigarettes. The country now has one million vapers and users of HTPs, following the introduction of IQOs last year. Other LMICs, however, prohibit the use of these products.
Dr. Sree Sucharitha, a public health researcher and medical doctor from India, noted a lack of political will to help 300 million smokers in her country and make available THR products such as electronic cigarettes, heated tobacco strips, and Swedish snus.
“In articulating tobacco harm reduction in other national policies and realizing the potential of tobacco-harm reduction in a country like India with almost 300 million tobacco users of various smoking forms, that would be the top-most barrier or challenge and followed by other challenges like medical professionals’ lack of awareness about tobacco harm reduction and the application of tobacco harm reduction as a main strategy in clinical practice,” said Sucharitha, founding director of Association for Harm Reduction Education and Research.
She said the third challenge is the unavailability of THR products in the market.
“With the lack of availment, the opportunity is lost in educating other folks about the opportunities and options available to them,” she added.
Sucharitha is one of the panelists who participated in the panel discussion on Obstacles to Tobacco Harm Reduction in LMICs during the Global Forum on Nicotine held virtually from Liverpool on June 17 to 18, 2021.
She noted that philanthropic colonialism was also evident in India, with money from NGOs being infused into health and tobacco policies. She said while THR products are accepted in developed countries, they are being discredited in LMICs.
“So, if the landscape of tobacco-harm reduction in the developed world is offering electronic cigarettes, Swedish snus, and heated tobacco products, it should also be widely available for low- and middle-income country population. So, my first belief is harm reduction for all,” the lady doctor said.
Nataliia Toropova, an international health expert from Ukraine, and former World Health Organization tobacco-control program coordinator, said about 220,000 people in the Russian Federation die annually of smoking-related diseases.
“Yet, the harm-reduction strategy in the region is absolutely missing.. The biggest obstacle to a harm- reduction strategy I would say is the lack of objective solid information, evidence-based on the risk-reduction products. There is simply no data, no information available to policy makers and the general public,” said Toropova, who now runs international think tank Healthy Initiatives to promote and strengthen public health and well-being in the former Soviet Union.
Toropova also slammed the recent attacks on THR advocates perpetuated by well-funded organizations like BI.
“That’s a very huge issue for the APAC [Asia-Pacific] region. The BI attack is very, very obvious, and it has very negative impacts in our countries in terms of harm-reduction products. It’s basically about massive lies about harm-reduction products,” she said.
Toropova said e-cigs and other safer nicotine products have the potential to substantially reduce the deaths from smoking.
“If the doctors are willing to take up this very tool and actually tied to cessation the way it should be, then this is something that we should encourage,” she said.
She said the role of the tobacco industry in the APAC region is also quite crucial in promoting HTPs.
“One of the things the industry can actually do would be not to create obstacles in promoting tobacco tax increase in terms of conventional cigarettes. Because once the tobacco tax increase takes place for conventional cigarettes, that gives a great chance actually to promote harm reduction products,” she said.
Joseph Magero, an avid THR advocate from Kenya, said the first challenge in his country is the affordability of safer nicotine products.
“The second challenge we have is inadequate policy support, which is driven by misinformation and also lack of research. The third challenge we’re facing is a lack of support from WHO and FCTC. And then the last one is, of course, the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and what they’re doing here,” he said, referring to a well-funded organization that vehemently opposes the use of safer nicotine products.
Magero is the former director of the Africa Tobacco-Free Initiative, but he is now the chairman of Campaign for Safer Alternatives, a regional organization that advocates for the adoption of THR policies in Africa.
He said the investments by the industry in harm reduction would be a win for public health because they’re not obligated by anyone. “So I think it’s a movement that they should look into,” he said.
Meanwhile, Tomás O’Gorman, a Mexican lawyer, said another challenge is the ideological position being forced by international NGOs like Bloomberg Initiative and Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.
O’Gorman noted that e-cigs have been banned in Mexico for more than 10 years.
“So, during these 10 years, we have been, as population, receiving a lot of misinformation regarding safer alternatives. The principal effect is that people don’t believe that e-cigarettes are much safer alternative for nicotine consumption. That’s the main effect and that’s an obstacle that we should overcome because misinformation also affects legislators and other authorities and maybe even doctors,” hr said O’Gorman.
“Another challenge I think we must overcome is the lack of information. There is no research in Mexico regarding safer alternatives. So, there is some misinformation and ignorance,” said the co-founder of Pro-Vapeo Mexico, a Mexican consumer association that advocates for THR and non-combustible alternatives.
Behold God’s glory and seek His mercy.
Pause and pray, people.