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When someone tells you something ‘can’t be done’, do not believe them. DO IT.

Consider:

Who would have thought that a former pro basketball player and a real estate mogul could do this?

Of course, it’s a work in progress:

Yet, it has moved forward from a meeting of two leaders to this:

Please join me in praying for success and peace.

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My thanks to reader Magnetic01 who sent me a link last week about Tobacco Control’s plans for Singapore.

The March 2012 article from Tobacco-free Singapore concerns what seems to be an Asia-Pacific proposal for the moment:

The proposal to create a tobacco-free generation, by denying access to tobacco to those born from 2000 onwards, received strong support when it was presented at a meeting of the Human Rights and Tobacco Control Network (HRTCN) as part of the pre-conference activities associated with the World Conference on Tobacco Or Health (WCTOH) taking place here in Singapore.

It also gave me this week’s names to follow up on in Tobacco Control. Some I have researched. Others are connected with those who are mentioned in the Singaporean article.

Interestingly, the same news about banning tobacco to those born in 2000 and after later appeared in July 2012 in an Australian newspaper The Age. (H/T: Angry Exile at Orphans of Liberty.) In the article, Cameron Nolan, the winner of the 2012 Australian Fabians Young Writers Competition, proposes the same for Australia. (I have purposely underscored one important word in the preceding sentence.) However, from this, we can see that Nolan’s idea is not an original one.

Professor Ruth Malone is one of the people mentioned in the Tobacco-free Singapore article. Dr Malone works with a lady named Lisa Bero at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), where Tobacco Control’s Stanton Glantz also works.

Lisa Bero

In addition to Malone’s and Glantz’s, Bero’s name will be one to watch out for as we move forward in the war against personal choice.

A fulsome article by David Holmes dated May 19, 2012, in The Lancet, introduces us to Bero (emphases mine):

Ruth Malone, one of Bero’s colleagues at the University of California at San Francisco (UCSF) and Editor of Tobacco Control, describes Bero as a “real pioneer in terms of studying the things that influence science outside the ‘science’ itself, and particularly the role of industry in shaping it”. But Bero’s exploration of the seamier side of science has attracted some unwelcome attention. “A few death threat letters from individuals who were smokers or maybe libertarians”, Bero recalls, “to stop me interfering with people’s lives. I don’t really take these seriously”. Thankfully her University does, as do the police, who once carted off a package that turned out to be from a PhD student in South Africa who sent Bero a homemade device for delivering inhaled medicines. Cue Bero’s raucous laughter.

Since completing her Pew Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship at the Institute for Health Policy Studies at UCSF in 1990 Bero has been a constant thorn in the side of tobacco companies, most recently in a review with Malone which suggests that measures to “denormalise” the tobacco industry, such as advertising bans and plain packaging, are an effective way to control tobacco use. But her eclectic research interests also extend to examining the influence of corporate sponsorship and researcher conflicts of interest on efficacy and adverse event data from drug trials. The goal of all this investigation of bias “is to design effective ways to facilitate the translation of the best available research into policy”.

As a member of the Cochrane Collaboration, Bero takes a keen interest in how meta-analyses are conducted and influenced …

Originally hailing from New Orleans, Bero’s laid back manner belies the rigour and the passion with which she deals with her work. From the very start of her career she has specialised in taking the path of most resistance. Having quit after 1 year of graduate school to go backpacking with her future husband, Bero went back to finish a PhD in pharmacology in 1987, and had worked for only a year on a National Institute on Drug Abuse postdoc on the molecular basis of opiate addiction when she decided to transfer to the Pew programme to follow her passion for health policy. Some colleagues counselled Bero against “throwing away her promising career”, but in the end she became the first ever basic scientist to get in the programme, “and that really just changed my life”, she says …

“I’ve been actively discouraged from doing what I do, and I’ve had people who are my peers who say they would never do what I do because they would be afraid for their career advancement”, says Bero. This is one reason why she is so devoted to mentoring junior researchers, especially when they “go against the grain”. For Bero, the work trumps ambition every time. “It hasn’t made me popular, but I don’t really want to be popular. I think it has some impact, and if I’m not getting any response then well, jeez, nobody noticed what I’m doing”. Thankfully, Bero is impossible to ignore.

Fret not, Lisa, we’ll be keeping an eye out for you in future Tobacco Control news.

The Cochrane Collaboration

As stated above, Bero is a member of The Cochrane Collaboration:

…  an international network of more than 28,000 dedicated people from over 100 countries. We work together to help healthcare providers, policy-makers, patients, their advocates and carers, make well-informed decisions about health care, by preparing, updating, and promoting the accessibility of Cochrane Reviews – over 5,000 so far, published online in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, part of The Cochrane Library. We also prepare the largest collection of records of randomised controlled trials in the world, called CENTRAL, published as part of The Cochrane Library.

Our work is internationally recognised as the benchmark for high quality information about the effectiveness of health care.

The Collaboration believes that effective health care is created through equal partnerships between researcher, provider, practitioner and patient

The Cochrane Collaboration’s contributors are a mix of volunteers and paid staff who are affiliated to the organisation through Cochrane entities: healthcare subject-related review groups, thematic networks – called ‘fields’ -, groups concerned with the methodology of systematic reviews, and regional centres. 

Many are world leaders in their field of medicine, health policy, research methodology or consumer advocacy, and our entities are situated in some of the world’s finest academic and medical institutions.

There is no one place or office that is ‘The Cochrane Collaboration’. Our contributors and entities are based all around the world and the majority of our work is carried out online …

The Cochrane Collaboration is named after Archie Cochrane (1909-1988), a British epidemiologist, who advocated the use of randomised controlled trials as a means of reliably informing healthcare practice. We are an independent, not-for-profit organisation, funded by a variety of sources including governments, universities, hospital trusts, charities and personal donations.

Their headquarters and Tobacco Addiction Group are based in Oxford. The Cochrane Collaboration issues their Chris Silagy Award annually for outstanding work in a particular field. In 2009, the award went to an English Lit major, Kate Cahill (BA), a member of the Tobacco Addiction Group, who –much like Stanton Glantz transferring mysteriously from Engineering and Applied Mechanics to Cardiology within two yearsmade the move from a publishing career to the University of Oxford’s Department of Primary Health Care Services as a data manager and clinical trials administrator.

Where is the transparency here? How do these people in completely unrelated fields move into such prominent positions in Tobacco Control — under the guise of ‘health’ — to denormalise smokers? And what is an English major doing campaigning against smoking, when some of the world’s best writers partook of the plant in creating their best work?

Essentially, we taxpayers fund Cochrane’s work, smokers even more so. This international list of contributors shows that the majority are public or state-operated institutions.

The Cochrane Collaboration attempts to address a myriad of health-related issues, some more useful than others. They are not solely about Tobacco Control, although they make it clear that they intend to influence health policy around the world through their various entities.

It will be interesting to see what we hear from the Cochrane Collaboration going forward, especially with regard to lifestyle choices.

Archie Cochrane, by the way, was a Scot who was a member of the British Battalion of the International Brigades during the Spanish Civil War. Hmm. ‘Nuff said.

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