Gerard Hastings Flops

Gerard Hastings is a con-man of the highest skill. He should be, since he is a professor of media studies or something similar. He specialises in the use of verbiage to make statements which are as near absolute lies as can possibly be, without quite actually lying himself. His trick is to quote other people inaccurately. His latest venture has been to argue in the BMJ that e-cigs are worse than useless in that they perpetuate the use of nicotine. He said that nicotine patches and gums are designed to be short term, to tide a smoker, who wishes to quit, over the initial withdrawal symptoms. He blasts at “The Industry” for advertising e-cigs.

The BMJ hosted a discussion between two parties on the question: “Should smokers be advised to cut down as well as quit?” One party (of two people collaborating) was in favour. Hastings and another person formed the party against. I don’t intend to go into detail here since the whole discussion is outlined with great clarity at:

Do go read it since the redhead quotes lots of detail from the discussion, illustrating the thought processes of Hastings. It seems that he is not much interested in health really, but rather more interested in using public health as bludgeon against Big-Industry-For-Profit (except for Big Pharma, of course).

I tried to read the whole discussion by using the BMJ 14 day trial, but even though I received an acceptance email, I still could not get to read it. But it does not matter since the redhead has quoted the important bits. However, I noticed that the BMJ was running a poll on the question and so I voted ‘for’ advising to cut down as well as advising to quit. I was quite amazed at the result. The vote ‘for’ (and thus against Hastings) was 94.7% and 5.3% against. Admittedly, the number of votes was only 151 at the time. but even so …… damn it! who reads the BMJ anyway? Almost certainly, Hastings would claim that it is Big Tobacco shills who have voted against him, and that may be true, but what is more important is that almost no one has voted for him.

In this instance, Hastings has been a complete and utter flop. But this reminds us of another hopeless flop for Hastings, which was the McTear case. (My summary of that case is here):

In that case, Hastings gave evidence about the addictiveness of tobacco and claimed that Imperial Tobacco deliberately exploited this addictiveness in its advertising. This is what the Judge had to say about Hastings’s evidence:

(6.208) The evidence of Professor Hastings appears to me to add nothing for present
purposes. The fact that individuals may be exposed to advertising, and even
influenced by it, does not mean that they are precluded from exercising a free choice.
Advertising simply adds to the complexity of the individual’s decision-making
process. People are well-accustomed to weighing up mixed messages, and to making
their own decisions and choices. In any event Professor Hastings himself disclaimed
any such mechanistic account of the influences to which an individual such as
Mr McTear might be exposed. For an individual to say that he has found difficulty in
altering or giving up a habit, as Mr McTear did of his smoking, because he is
“addicted”, appears to me to be little more than an attempt to absolve himself of
individual responsibility for his own decisions and choices. In my view a smoker such
as Mr McTear makes a deliberate choice as to whether to start smoking, whether to
continue smoking or to stop smoking, and indeed whether or not to smoke a cigarette
on any particular occasion. The fact that smokers such as Mr McTear may find it
difficult to give up does not appear to me to deprive them of the element of free will
which is fundamental to the individualist philosophy of the common law.


Is it not weird how people like Hastings continue to be ‘highly regarded’ when their activities are a continuous series of flops? How do they do it? The same applies to Nathanson, who claimed that smoke in cars is 23 times worse than ‘a smoky pub’. Somehow, these people survive, and, indeed, are applauded no matter what cock-ups they make. That can only be because they got away with making the lying statements on, say, the BBC, in the first place. I’m surprised that the manufacturers of clothing for the obese do not employ her as a model on TV. The same could be said of Glantz in the USA and Chapman in Australia. These people call themselves ‘professor’ and ‘doctor’, but neither of them strike me as particularly ‘learned’. What they seem to have is ‘cunning’ – the sort of ability which enables some people, who can barely read and write, to make vast fortunes.


But I have a serious point. What the arguments against e-cigs of the likes of Glantz, Chapman and Hastings have in common is the exploitation of tiny differences. For example, they try to claim that patches and gums are as good as e-cigs, and therefore, because they are ‘official’, and regulated, they are better. They also exploit the fact that tiny, tiny, tiny amounts of ‘toxins’ exist in e-cig vapour (while ignoring the fact that similar amounts exist in gums and patches). They also ignore the fact that tiny, tiny amounts of toxins like arsenic appear in the water that we drink. What we have been seeing, ever since the idea of a smoking ban was originated, has been draconian action based upon paper-thin evidence. The attempts of Hastings to justify NOT advising people to cut down on smoking, in any way they can, is proof of my contention.


And there is another point worth making regarding e-cigs.

We know that the Zealots regard smokers as hopeless addicts. They say that tobacco is as addictive as heroin. What they think is that they have is a population (smokers) which they own. That population is theirs to play with. Because that population is hopelessly addicted, it can be exploited. What the Zealots do not want is that population to be eroded by ‘actors’ outside the tobacco control industry. Remember that the tobacco control industry includes Big Pharma, which is a ‘stakeholder’ in the WHO. Thus, ‘actors’ like private e-cig companies are encroaching on their territory, and must be eradicated. It comes down to ‘the cunning’ losing the intellectual debate by a mile, but still having control of the ‘cunning’ organisations which they set up. For example, a basic ‘cunning’ is “protect the children at all costs”. But no one ever asks the question: “While you tobacco controllers are dictating whether or not I smoke in the presence of my children, will you also take control of paying for their clothes, food, entertainment, etc?” In other words, the Zealots claim to possess OUR children and grandchildren as their own only to the extent that suits them. It would be lovely for parents to be able to hand over the cost and time of feeding, clothing, bedding, washing, etc, to the Zealots while, surreptitiously, allowing them to have a sip of wine.

The control of children seems to be what Cameron, Clegg and Milliband want. OK. Let them have it. Let them feed and clothe them, and then we can talk about behaviour.





2 Responses to “Gerard Hastings Flops”

  1. J Brown Says:

    Do they not have ‘child benefit allowance’ in the UK?? Coming to this discussion as an American where there is no such thing as state support of your children – unless you are on welfare or similar – it would appear that the UK system already does contribute to the cost of feeding, clothing, bedding, washing, etc., no?? Just a thought…..

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