1. There are still a lot of bullet and shrapnel scars in walls here. I met someone today who works to help sex workers and sexual minorities in Zimbabwe. Kind of puts all my personal complaints in perspective.
2. Many of the more influential people at the conference (government/quasi-governmental officials, leaders of the host organization) are, at best, ambivalent about tobacco harm reduction. Tobacco (also alcohol) was not even mentioned in the opening addresses even though we have a large presence at this meeting. They seem to be worried about politics/image/etc. in a political world where it is fashionable to worry about some minorities, even though their behaviors are controversial, but a litmus test of Seriousness that you condemn certain others. But I hardly meet anyone else here who does not immediately embrace the idea of THR, either as a good idea for themselves and their friends, or as something to encourage as a public health intervention. The latter is not surprising, given the population, but is still quite gratifying. I have already discussed ideas for a couple of possible projects.
But the continuing limited institutional support for a billion smokers and the way to reduce their risks by 99% is still disappointing.
3. An official from the WHO spoke in the opening plenary session. He spoke in Arabic and so I am basing this only on what the translator said that he said, and then what my colleagues told me the translator said (I was being lazy and did not listen to the translation headphones – turns out to have been a big mistake). So this is a “third hand” statement about smoking, and thus I suggest you consider it only an unconfirmed paraphrase, and I will see if I can come up with a better confirmation: He declared that smoking is the cause of drug use, and that drug users are victims while smokers should be punished as criminals. (Background: This is a conference that focuses on hard drug users, so this was partially a way of sucking up to the majority of delegates who are advocates for that population.)
Whatever the exact statements really were in the original, this seems kind of similar to WHO policy: Try to improve people’s health, unless they are doing something they do not approve of (especially using nicotine in any form), in which case let them die. It took quite a bit of campaigning to change this for other behaviors. Hallways-of-power master-of-the-universe-type politicians like WHO officials do not say things because they believe they are true, but because they are institutional policy. Thus, whatever he said was undoubtedly a message from WHO about their policy not one man’s opinion.
4. There is something very strange about the fact that almost everything written on a tin of Camel Snus, by either the manufacturer or the regulators, is an imperative or a threat. “Break free with premium Camel Snus.” (free of what? – I know what they mean, but do most people?) “This product can cause gum disease and tooth loss.” (maybe, but there is no evidence to support the claim) “Simply place a pouch under your lip and savor the rich and complex flavor….” (Bill Godshall tells me that he urged them to say “upper lip” which makes it cleaner to use, but for some reason they did not.) “This product can cause mouth cancer.” (clearly contrary to the evidence) “Grin with confidence when you feel the tingle.” (weird, and a bit creepy, especially if the previous claim was right and you have no teeth left) “Do not litter.” (always good advice) “Underage sale prohibited.” (if you are underage and you can read this, then you better have stolen it)
The only other words, beyond the contents and other fine print on the side are the product name and “Refrigeration not required after opening” and “Best before date….” At least these are merely suggestions and not demands. I think this is a very good product, but I really don’t like inanimate objects being quite so bossy.
5. As a complete aside, off of my usual topics (thought it is news and has a lot of effect on some people’s health): I noticed with horror that there have been deadly riots as well as focused killings in Afghanistan due to rage about some nutcase “christian” cleric in Florida, USA publicly burning a Koran. A lot has been said about this, but I have one thing to add: If you are going to try to function in a global communications network, you have to learn to deal with stupid trolls. If you let people figure out that if they type something or commit some other easy act, like burning a book, that this will cause you to off the rails, then you can assume that someone will write/do it. It is not a good idea to give everyone in the world that much power over you; one of them will exercise that power just because his mother did not show him enough affection or his girlfriend just dumped him.