Sunday, May 07, 2006

Letter Published

Well well! Wonders never cease! I have had a letter published in BMA News Review. This is a newspaper style organ delivered with the BMJ. For doctor's eyes only! Here I append the original letter with the printed version in white and the edited out bits in yellow. Bits they have added or altered are in brackets. It gives us all some ideas about what will get printed and what won't. I think that the published letter does represent my views to a point, but you can see I tried from the outset to say things to optimise the chances of getting into print.

Dear Editor

At last the voice of common sense has been printed in a BMA publication instead of the sometimes over zealous "health mongerers" view. This term was used in a conference in Newcastle, Australia where David Henry and Ray Moynihan were conference organisers and was excellently reported by our own Owen Dyer. The BMA's stance on smoking is perfectly correct, doctors must be seen to be aggressively behind the undeniable facts (of its effects). The harm tobacco inhalation does to the smoker must be clearly publicised by the (association)BMA enabling and encouraging patients to make informed decisions.

(However) the observed effects of the DOH policy of making all hospitals "smoke free" this year are all too plain to see. (I refer in part to) They are the groups of smokers who will not or cannot give up gathering in the path of everyone entering or leaving the hospital. This occurs at the main entrance or at the site boundary depending on the smokers' determination or need to smoke. The determination is itself fostered by the hateful place where smokers have been positioned by the active promotion of "Passive Smoking" as a proven scientific phenomenon despite dubious evidence. This promotion is allegedly sponsored directly by the Government, Charitable Organisations such as the BHF and pharmaceutical companies who make nicotine replacement products. Big Pharma has taken the tactics of Big Tobacco and are scandalously promoting their products with unscientific claims.

All this means that
More people will be exposed to the sight of people smoking and the smell and irritation of high concentrations of tobacco smoke. It also means that people will be exposed to the inappropriate and costly effects of nicotine replacement without there being any real hope of it assisting them to stop smoking.

The methods by which we attempt to reduce the incidence of smoking are failing in Ireland where there has been an increase since the country's ban came into place. We need to reassess our tactics in promoting the smoking message as at the moment current policy and existing and future law are only alienating a quarter of the population and forcing them to stand up for their freedoms. Look what's happening around us in The House of Lords where 90 amendments are proposed to The Health Bill and on the internet where publicans, smokers and non-smokers, and tobacco control experts such as Dr Michael Seigel are outraged by the actions of the anti-smoking lobby.

How does a policy which herds smok(ers)ing out into the open to be seen in high concentrations outside hospitals do anyone any good at all? The correct way forward is segregation and better ventilation. We should be improv(e)ing accommodation for smokers as that will improve conditions for non-smokers. In that way Instead of being seen as locations where smokers collect, hospitals sh(c)ould tolerate peoples' choices and get smokers back inside with ventilated facilities where smoking cessation material would be best placed to assist (them) smoker's to quit.

Dr Phil Button BM DA(UK) DRCOG
Associate Specialist in Anaesthesia & Pain Relief