The Lebanese Ban on Smoking in Hospitality Venues (Cafes, etc.)

US Interventionism and Prohibition in the Name of the FCTC (Framework Convention on Tobacco Control)

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Beirut: “A smoking ban in public places is expected to take effect within a year, George Saadeh, head of the National Tobacco Control Program announced at a debate on tobacco control held at American University Beirut (AUB) Tuesday” [1] .

It was

a great showindeed, reminiscent of crowds acclaiming other assaults on liberties during World War II: “AUB students, gathered to hear the keynote speaker, greeted the announcement [i.e. the Prohibition of smoking (cigarettes and narghile) in cafes, restaurants, fines for whom break the law] with overriding support”.

The Daily Star article does not mention the existence of a

study behind the show at the US-American University of Beirut.It was recently published in the antismoking Tobacco Control journal andits authors are Georges Saade, Andrew Seidenberg, Vaughan Rees, Zaher Otrock and Gregory N Connolly. Its is titled“Indoor secondhand tobacco smoke emission levels in six Lebanese cities”and obviously aims to be the main “scientific evidence” to justify tobacco smoking Prohibition in Lebanon, in a scenario very similar to neighbouring Syria (see related Knol on Smoking Prohibition in Syria ). Interestingly, the latter, as a model, is cited by the authors… [2]

George Saade is presented in the Daily Star article as the Head of the Lebanon National Tobacco Control Program. As the main author of the study, he, and Zaher Otrock, are in fact affiliated with the US-American University of Beirut funded up to $ 3 million (by, among others, the US National Cancer Institute) for antismoking studies against ““waterpipe”” narghile smoking only.

This is the

first aspect of US interventionismas it is also amazing that in a country where up to 60% of the population smoke cigarettes, such amount of money is dedicated to “exclusive research” on narghile.

The other co-authors of the study (Andrew Seidenberg, Vaughan Rees, Zaher Otrock and Gregory N Connolly) are affiliated with the Harvard School of Public Health (USA). This is the

second aspect of US interventionismas one may ask why US antismoking experts are so concerned with rebellious smoking crowds in Lebanon…

Of course, the authors of the study and/or their direct collaborators are members of Globalink (Gregory Connolly in particular), the network of some 6000 antismoking experts/organisations across the world sponsored by the pharmaceutical industry (Pfizer laboratories among others). For those who may not know, the pharmaceutical industry promotes and sells nicotine “replacement” products such as nicotine inhalers, gums, patches and medicines such as Chantix.


Funding of the US-AUB study by Georges Saade and his colleagues

The study was funded by the WHO (World Health Organisation) through George Saade (who has been working for its Lebanon bureau] and by the United States FAMRI (US Flight Attendant Medical Research Institute) to Gregory Connolly. FAMRI officially funds research on diseases caused by ETS (Environmental Tobacco Smoke) [3][4] There is obviously an undeclared conflict of interest as in another study on narghile smoking in the USA co-authored by Katherine Hammond [5] , [6][7] a member of WHO TobReg (the WHO study group for the regulation of tobacco products), collective author of the WHO flawed report on “”waterpipe”” smoking [8] .

The study was also funded by

Action on Smoking and Health Internationaland theFramework Convention Alliancethrough Gregory Connolly. Action on Smoking and Health is already appreciated by Middle Easterners for its warm concern over the health of their sisters and brothers outside the region. In 2007, this organisation published an article based on an interview with Wasim Maziak, director of the US funded Syrian Centre for Tobacco Studies (behind the similar ban in Syria : see related Knol ) and Alan Shihadeh, a colleague of George Saade at the US-American University of Beirut . The ASH article warned that excluding “shisha bars” when England goes smokefree on July 1 []2007 could worsen the grave inequalities in health that already affect ethnic minorities”… [9]

Gregory Connolly, the co-author of the study, is an advocate of the pharmaceutical industry (nicotine “replacement” tools and products). At the last World Conference on Tobacco or Health in Bombay (March 2009), he warned that “qualifying SLT [smokeless tobacco] as reduced harm agent may […]

drive the pharmaceutical industry out of the cessation marketand send the wrong message to hundreds of millions of SLT users in developing countries” [10][11] .

One comment to be found on an independent tobacco control site, states the folllowing: “Dr. Greg Connolly, a former Director of Tobacco Control for the state of Massachusetts, has long been among the most active and ardent of the Anti-Smoking advocates in the history of such advocacy. In his official capacity, and with taxpayer money, he has denigrated, banned and “denormalized” smokers, and — speaking of formulating safer cigarettes– has dismissed as irrelevant his own study’s findings that the government-mandated “fire safe cigarettes” have increased levels of toxins. Further, according to Dr. Elizabeth Whelan, president of the American Council on Science and Health, /”Connolly is the most extreme anti-harm reduction person I’ve ever heard of” [12]

The Framework Convention Alliance , which is believed to fund him, works “to rid this world from the death and disease caused by tobacco. With a membership of more than 350 non-government organisations from over 100 countries, it is clear that civil society now occupies a position of strength in the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) negotiations”.

According to its designers, the WHO FCTC (Framework Convention on Tobacco Control) is: “the first treaty negotiated under the auspices of the World Health Organization. The WHO FCTC is an evidence-based treaty that reaffirms the right of all people to the highest standard of health. The WHO FCTC represents a paradigm shift in developing a regulatory strategy to address addictive substances; in contrast to previous drug control treaties, the WHO FCTC asserts the importance of demand reduction strategies as well as supply issues”.

In a recent speech (see related Knol ), we point out that Globalink is like a world octopus promoting prohibition measures by reminding States of the world that they are bound with obligations related to their ratification of the WHO FCTC (Framework Convention for Tobacco Control) [13] .

The images on cigarette packs and those prepared for hookah are an example as the recent sex warnings for Egyptians and Lebanese people show [14][15] .

Given the extent of the frauds and the commercial imperialist interests at stake behind the tobacco global prohibition project, we called States to collectively withdraw from the FCTC (see related Knol).

We particularly addressed those States whose main religion commands that

good sound science should be sought “from the cradle to the grave”(“Utlubu-l-‘ilm min al-mahd ila-l-lahd” [pbuh]. In other words, if tobacco may be seen as illicit for Judaism (“Treif”) and Islam (“Haram”), then “public health” interventions based on shoddy science are even more illicit and should not only be rejected but accountability should also be demanded [13] .


The FCTC Diktat as a Blatant Example of US Interference in Lebanese Home Social and Cultural Affairs

The study reads from the onset:

“To date, Lebanon has failed to enact comprehensive clean indoor air laws despite ratification of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC),which calls for the protection of non-smokers from exposure to secondhand tobacco smoke (SHS). Complicating the problem of SHS exposure in Lebanon is the widespread use of the tobacco water-pipe. While most research on SHS has involved cigarette smoking as a source of emissions, other sources, including tobacco water-pipes, may be an important contributor. […]” [2]

Its “conclusions” are not less violent: “Despite ratification of the FCTC in 2005, both cigarette and water-pipe smoking are commonly practised in enclosed public places throughout Lebanon, leading to unsafe levels of indoor particulate pollution. Smoke-free policies are needed in Lebanon to protect the public’s health, and should apply to all forms of tobacco smoking” [2] .

“The data suggest that water-pipe smoke emissions are an important source of indoor particulate pollution in public venues.

Enforcement mechanisms are needed to ensure that ratifying nations conform to Article 8 of the FCTC”[2].


Nepotism and Conflicts of Interest

In their study, Georges Saade and his colleagues thanks Ghazi Zaatari for his logistic support. The latter is a colleague of him from the US-American University of Beirut. He is also a member of WHO TobReg . In his dual capacity, he has personally selected the experts to be appointed for the task of preparing the WHO flawed report on “”waterpipe”” smoking [8] . The first “selected” expert for this task was Alan Shihadeh from the same the US-American University of Beirut… The other was Thomas Eissenberg from the US funded Syrian Centre for Tobacco Studies… [16] .

Interestingly, Ghazi Zaatari, together with Jack Henningfield, has published in the April issue of the antismoking Tobacco Control journal, a paper calling for procrastination regarding the regulation of an efficient novel

harm reduction option: electronic cigarettes.This implies that a ban on them in Lebanon is expected [17] . This also highlight a great bias because the prevalence of cigarette smoking in Lebanon would reach 60% of the total population. Consequently,the Lebanese smokers represent a great market segment for the US/European pharmaceutical industry vs. the E-cigarette produced by Chinese companies.Finally, there is another bias because Jack Henningfield is, according to a commentator, known for being a “paid consultant for GlaxoSmithKlein” who “additionally owns the patent on a proprietary nicotine replacement product” [12] . Jack Henningfield is also a distinguished member of WHO TobReg . Important biases in the study.Saade and colleagues state: “The number of cigarette smokers in each of the smoking permitted venues ranged from 0 to 175, while the number of water-pipe smokers ranged from 0 to 72[2] . These huge figures are due to the fact that….“The holiday of Ramadan occurred during the timeframe of the current investigation. During this holy month it is customary for many families to eat in the evenings in large enclosed ‘Ramadan tents’, where water-pipe smoking is common. Particulate pollution levels averaged 538 mg/m3 within the four venues hosting Ramadan events[2] . Strange phrasing indeed ? Should not we say instead: “The current investigation occurred during the timeframe of the holiday of Ramadan” and this was the objective because of the extraordinary density of smoke during this period”… This is the first trick.Another trickused to mislead Lebanese people and fool biomedical reesearchers across the world is thatSaade and his colleagues do not state that a narghile does emit almost no side-stream smoke

and that the main element is made up of exhaled mainstream smoke, that is a smoke that has been filtered twice by the narghile systems and the smoker’s lungs [18] . This amounts to comparing oranges with apples, as in the case of narghile tar when compared to that of of cigarettes. We believe Lebanese people are not stupid and will soon react to this fraud.