Among the goals of the conference are the following:
- Provide relevant new data on addiction, cessation, public policy, second-hand smoke, smokeless tobacco and other tobacco products, and various epidemiologic issues.
- Examine the impact of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.
- Review the status and impact of new tobacco marketing efforts.
- Facilitate the sharing of successful tobacco control efforts, best practices, and effective intervention techniques from around the world.
- Strengthen and expand global leadership and increase the number of organizations and individuals engaged in the fight against tobacco.
- Promote ideas and strategies to create societal, political, and economic change that will help reduce tobacco use and exposure throughout the world.
- Promote the importance and strengthen the understanding of tobacco policy changes, and share strategies to promote such change.
One symposium session is entitled "Population Impact of NRT Use." A workshop session will be held on "Effective National Strategies for Tobacco Use Cessation." Another major topic of discussion will be tobacco product regulation. Another presentation will be entitled "Tobacco Industry Sponsored Research: The Fox in the Hen House."
The Rest of the Story
There's just one problem with the conference, and you won't notice it unless you examine the list of sponsors.
Two of the lead sponsors are Pfizer and GlaxoSmithKline.
In and of itself, that is not a problem.
But consider that Pfizer:
- is the manufacturer of Nicotrol, a nicotine patch being promoted by the company as a smoking cessation aid;
- apparently funds research on the use of chest CT screening to scare smokers into quitting smoking (and thus increasing the pool of potential nicotine patch users); and
- has an FDA application in regarding a new smoking cessation medication;
- is the distributor of Nicoderm CQ, a nicotine patch;
- is the distributor of Nicorette gum;
- produces Wellbutrin, which is used in smoking cessation; and
- apparently is researching new potential smoking cessation pharmaceutical aids.
How can you objectively discuss the population impact of NRT (nicotine replacement therapy) use at a conference sponsored by two of the leading nicotine replacement therapy drug companies?
How can you objectively discuss effective national strategies for smoking cessation at a conference sponsored by two of the leading nicotine replacement therapy drug companies?
How can you objectively discuss tobacco product regulation (which has major implications for the way in which nicotine replacement therapy products are marketed) at a conference sponsored by two of the leading nicotine replacement therapy drug companies?
How can you objectively discuss all aspects of individual and population-based approaches to helping people quit smoking at a conference sponsored by two of the leading nicotine replacement therapy drug companies?
The answer, in my opinion, is that you can't.
You can't objectively discuss the appropriate role, if any, of nicotine replacement products in a global smoking cessation strategy when the very conference you are attending is being sponsored by perhaps the two leading companies that have a great financial interest in the results of that discussion.
So the upshot is that the World Conference on Tobacco or Health will not offer an objective consideration of the potential role of nicotine replacement products in a national and global smoking cessation strategy.
This is particularly unfortunate given the problems that the tobacco control movement seems to be having these days with its scientific integrity.
And it is at least slightly ironic, I think, given that one of the topics to be discussed at the conference is research sponsored by the tobacco industry and how the fox was apparently guarding the hen house. In some ways, having Pfizer and GlaxoSmithKline sponsor this conference is kind of like inviting the fox into the hen house.
One thing is for sure. A truly objective consideration of the appropriate role of nicotine replacement therapy in a national and global smoking cessation strategy is desperately needed. But such an objective review cannot and will not come out of the 2006 World Conference on Tobacco or Health, specifically because the chief sponsors of the conference are none other than the foxes themselves.