Fearing the end of a lucrative career, a bunch of disgruntled academics from the UK Centre for Tobacco Control Studies have written to the Lancet, complaining that the Coalition Government has frozen 'all mass media health campaigns, including those aimed at encouraging smokers to quit', is reducing the manpower at the Department of Health, and reconsidering the wisdom of implementing the tobacco display ban. If this is the line the Coalition Government is taking, it is a logical step considering that cuts are inevitable: tobacco control must be the most un-useful department of them all.
But what's this they say at the end of the letter ... 'We declare that we have no conflicts of interest'?
Well that's an interesting claim, considering that some of these characters feature on their own website's page entitled Competing Interests. Peter Hajek, Paul Aveyard, Timothy Coleman and Robert West all have declared commercial interests in smoking cessation medication, an interest that is central to their letter to the Lancet. What can these people mean? Do they imagine that by declaring their interest, that it is nullified?
In addition, Linda Bauld has connections with Cancer Research UK Tobacco Advisory Group, and John Britton with Action on Smoking on Health. 'No conflicts of interest'?
I sought a definition here: 'A competing interest exists when the interpretation or presentation of information may be influenced by the personal or financial relationship with other people or organizations.' How the work of these people could be construed not to constitute a conflict of interest beats me!