university of bath

Consumer groups slam Bath study for ignoring evidence

Jagannath Sarangapani

J. Sarangapani

Consumer groups have criticized a study produced by researchers from the University of Bath in the UK for ignoring scientific evidence in its methodology and for resorting to discriminatory labeling that undermines the efforts of tobacco harm reduction organisations.

The Association of Vapers India (AVI), which pushes for less harmful alternatives to combustible cigarettes, protested the tactic employed by researchers from University of Bath’s Tobacco Control Research Group (TCRG) and sent a formal letter to the journal that published the study about the Twitter activity around the eighth meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the World Health Organisation (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.

“We have written to the journal raising objections over casting us as a tobacco industry front group without any evidence and by drawing unfair inferences from our membership of International Network of Nicotine Consumer Organisations (INCCO),” AVI director Jagannath Sarangapani said.

AVI clarified that it was formed in 2016 when vapers began protesting the vape bans spreading across Indian states, which were being pushed for by the Bloomberg Philanthropies network. “AVI is an independent, consumer-run organisation with no financial ties to INNCO, the Foundation for Smoke-free World (FSFW) or the tobacco industry,” Sarangapani said.

“Such accusations are hence blatant attempts to rob consumers of their voice so that the Bloomberg network, which the authors belong to, can keep influencing governments to impose bans on lower-risk alternatives which could have helped address the tobacco-related health crisis, especially in low-income countries where people cannot afford medical treatments to deal with the consequences of tobacco use and hence harm prevention is a key measure,” Sarangapani said.

Nancy Loucas

N. Loucas

Nancy Loucas, Executive Coordinator of the Coalition of Asia Pacific Tobacco Harm Reduction Advocates (CAPHRA) and co-director of AVCA New Zealand, said the Bath researchers did not offer to provide evidence, nor tried to substantiate their allegations when they labeled tobacco harm reduction advocates as pro-tobacco based merely on Twitter messages.

She said it was unfortunate that the Bath researchers did not go to the extent of perusing the websites of the organisations or applying any scientific method in their assumptions or insinuations.

“When doing research, following the scientific method, you have a hypothesis (question) that you are going to investigate—in this case:  Does the group have any financial connection to funds from big tobacco?  The next step in the process is to develop a method to test your hypothesis—in this case, either looking at its financials which are publicly available on the charities commission website or asking someone directly about it,” she said.

“After you have chosen your method, you gather evidence, make an objective analysis and state your findings to make a conclusion. Your method should be thorough and your research should be objective in order to maintain the integrity of your research (and yourself). The evidence will either prove/disprove your original hypothesis. Obviously that didn’t happen,” Loucas said.

Loucas said the speculative method employed by Bath researchers has no place in any scientific study, which should make readers question any of the findings that are produced by those who choose to play such games.

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