We’ve come a long way bullies

During her keynote address to the 15th World Conference on Tobacco Or Health, WHO head Margaret Chan put her own spin on the classic Virginia slims campaign, “you’ve come a long way, baby” – reminding the tobacco industry that “we’ve come a long way, bullies” since the iconic ad campaign to hook women on cigarettes. Chan also rallied the large crowd of 2600 delegates, urging them to not take bullying from the industry lying down. The scene has been set for a conference with a strong theme of pulling together to battle tobacco industry interference in implementing effective tobacco control.

This is the first world conference where delegates will be Tweeting their impressions and thoughts on the proceedings #wctoh12. I will be highlighting a selection of these tweets on the blog daily. Social media has been getting a lot of attention so far at the conference, this is a hugely positive change from India three years ago, where my presentation on new media had to be included as part of a session on sport sponsorship as it didn’t fit elsewhere.

Tell us about your goal for the conference -what do you hope to achieve? Some initial thoughts from other delegates:


  • DaveAtherton20

    Ruth, I hope you are well. Let me give you a second scenario, one I am sure you will not like.

    When I was interviewed on Chinese TV the Australian reporter told me that in China you cannot say what you like, but you can do what you like. Tobacco in Asia will not be gone by 2030 for sure. Prohibition in the USA of alcohol was a complete disaster by any metric, as is the war on class A drugs is now. When even in a western liberal countries, smoking rates are 20% that is a lot of crime the government will have to deal with. 

    As someone who keeps an eye on the latest developments in smoker’s diseases Pfizer have a new drug out called: “..Xalkori (crizotinib) to treat certain patients with late-stage (locally advanced or metastatic), non-small cell lung cancers (NSCLC) who express the abnormal anaplastic lymphoma kinase (ALK) gene.” If this proves successful and accurate then this may pave the way for a complete cure for lung cancer. I am also aware of a new drug coming onto the market for emphysema. Heart disease is extremely treatable and the drugs, operations and therapies are some of the reasons the relative early mortality of men vs women has declined significantly. Effectively the diseases caused by smoking will close the 7 years early mortality, like men and women and potentially may not exist. 

    One accurate message which is resonating with the public is that ‘your pleasure is next.’ In the UK drinkers and the overweight are having the same messages, we now have considerable public sympathy.  By 2030 I am tempted to think that we will look back at the late 1990s, 2000s and 2010s as a warning from history how unelected, self appointed, rent seeking academics undermined medical and scientific integrity, abused personal and private property rights. How tobacco control engineered a discriminatory campaign, sometimes bordering on hate and how in a western liberal democracy we tolerated it. History tells me empires rise and fall.

    That, or a new Dark Age will be upon us.