Where will the money come from to cover the lavish lifestyles of the important people in the Tobacco Control Industry?
I suspect the corporate pharmaceutical partners are disappointed with sales of their nicotine products in Ireland and are beginning to look at expenditure on marketing in this area. A lot of their big money spinners are now out of patents and the counterfeiters are cranking out similar drugs at a fraction of the cost. This must mean their generous sponsorship of, ahem, ‘charities´ is coming under some pressure.
Of course, for a pharmaceutical giant, marketing is done slightly differently than for conventional companies. Political lobbying and paid-for research results are their tools of advertising. They have a web of sponsorships on medical campuses around the world's universities, churning out highbrow justifications for why everybody should be hooked on their lotions and potions. Golf junkets for GP's in every country ensure compliant prescribers of their medicines, and pressurised politicians roll out legislation that suits their bottom line purposes.
Smokers are being coerced and herded towards a plethora of nicotine gums and patches by bad laws and restrictions, lobbied for by state sponsored charities. Endgame is the €1.5bn that smokers spend every year on tobacco and has nothing at all to do with health. Indeed, good health would put the pharmaceutical industry out of business.
Never mind that these replacement products don't work - that is beside the point. The task the charities have is to convince the government, Stubbs Reilly in particular, to put replacement products on the medical card and get the state to pay for them. This has already happened in the UK. You will know from past blogs here that Professor 'Looney Luke Clancy is being paid by Pfizer to help develop these products for them, while simultaneously advising the Irish Government on tobacco control. Now there is a man who could make the case to Stubbs.
But the portly Reilly has problems of his own. The HSE is €400m over budget this year, the consultants have effectively told him where to go on their salaries, and he had to resort to squeezing a reduced deal from the pharmas on the state's drug bill. As a result, advertising for replacement products has dropped off dramatically. Our new Government Troika has now told Stubbs to cut €800m off his annual health budget, so it's hard to see how Nicotette is going to find its way onto the medical card anytime soon.
This will be bad news for the ICS, the IHF and ASH Ireland, who must have been expected to achieve this goal by now. Reilly too may be hinting to them that they can expect far less from him next year as well. The war on smoking may be running out of its fuel, that of hard cash.
It would explain their latest moves, though. The 'charities' are back to Reilly with a proposal for a cost free initiative that will pay them their millions, without costing the state a penny. All he'll have to do is to get his sick Government to pass a law appointing a new tobacco industry regulator, preferably from their own ranks no doubt.
This 'Dirty Doctor' would be tasked with dipping into the profits of the tobacco companies for the funds needed to close them down. You certainly can't fault these bold boys for their route one approach. Dr Chris Macey (IHF) reckons they could get their eager mitts on up to €150m that doesn't belong to them and you could buy a lot of our politicians with dough like that. You could buy media opinion as well and think of all the researchers queuing up for their grants to prove anything the charities tell them to prove. Serious Irish medicos could continue to jet around the World first class, to enjoy the gravy train lecture circuit of International Tobacco Control. Stints at the World Health Racket beckon for the laziest of them too. Their self-importance would know no bounds.
There is a small problem, though, that the 'charities' may not have considered. Setting the precedent of stealing private corporate profits, regardless of the justification offered, will make every other corporate in the country very nervous indeed. The big IT companies, the pharmas themselves, and all of the other foreign multi-nationals will be very uneasy in a country where the government empowers itself to steal their money on a whim.
Low corporate tax rates on profits and light regulation attracted these big boys here in the first place. A move that sees intrusive legislation that permits the stealing of their profits would have all of them making provision for an orderly departure. These guys are not sentimental about ‘the 'ol sod’. Rather, Ireland Inc can sod off if it thinks it can just write laws for its home grown extremists. That is the kind of carry-on in places like Iran, and there aren't too many of the big boys working out of that hellhole. A lot of hot air about smoking deaths just won't cut it with these guys. Obama already wants them all to come home and he's going to make it worth their while too.
In its panic Tobacco Control (Ireland) Ltd may be biting off more than it can chew!