08 Jun Dear Dame Helena, Chief Executive Of The British Lung Foundation

Dame Helena Shovelton DBE, MBA, CInstM
Chief Executive
British Lung Foundation
73-75 Goswell Road
EC1V 7ER 8th June 2012

Dear Dame Helena,

“The impact of cannabis on your lungs”

This is an open letter to you in your capacity as chief executive of the British Lung Foundation. It is also published on the CLEAR website and released to the media.

Your report, published two days ago, is an object lesson in how to create and promote misleading propaganda.

It is predicated on a fundamental prejudice against cannabis and cannabis users. It seeks to promote the lie that cannabis is dangerous – government sponsored misinformation that has only arisen in the past century and flies in the face of more than 5000 years of human experience and countless scientific studies demonstrating the efficacy of cannabis as medicine and its relative safety.

Your report constructs an entirely false and unbalanced argument citing evidence to suit itself but skating over and dismissing evidence that doesn’t suit its predetermined conclusion. This is not a work of science. It is a work of propaganda. It is scaremongering, exaggeration and calculated deception.

In particular, you claim that:

“Young people in particular are smoking cannabis unaware that, for instance, each cannabis cigarette they smoke could increase their chances of developing lung cancer by as much as an entire packet of 20 tobacco cigarettes.”

This is sensationalist and misleading, based on cherry picked evidence. A single study in New Zealand in 2008 (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18238947) looked at fewer than 80 lung cancer patients and used “logistic regression” to calculate the ratio on which you base your preposterous claim.

The European Respiratory Journal condemned the New Zealand study just six months after it was published (http://erj.ersjournals.com/content/32/3/815.long), yet you make this the headline statement of your report?

It is scandalous that a charitable institution such as yours should be using tabloid newspaper techniques of disinformation and deceit to mislead the public.

Today, in a letter to the Metro about your report, Professor David Nutt says “…some prefer to cherry-pick evidence to support their prejudices”. He says that the public may well be right in believing that cannabis is less of a cancer risk than tobacco and supports the CLEAR Tokepure campaign that says the most dangerous thing about cannabis is smoking it with tobacco.

It is self-evident that the entire purpose of your report is to demonise cannabis. It is not a genuine attempt to assess the evidence. The evidence referenced is just thrown in, in great quantity, and in many instances does not support the claims made. Your press and campaigns manager, Alistair Martin, claims that your report has been subject to “…external, independent peer review, in order to ensure that it reflects the current evidence in as accurate and balanced way as possible.” I suggest you publish details of this review. Let’s see whether any credible scientist is prepared to put their name to such nonsense?

What really exposes the motivation behind your report is when it strays into mental health issues, motor vehicle accidents and dismisses the now overwhelming evidence for medicinal cannabis in a couple of sentences. This reveals the dishonesty, preconceived agenda and bias that it is based on. It is a disgrace and shames you, the trustees of the British Lung Foundation and everyone involved in its publication.

It is clear that you have been extremely badly advised in publishing this report and in the way you have promoted it. It will have caused severe and lasting damage to your charity. May I suggest that if you have genuine concern about the lung health of the millions who use cannabis in Britain, you should join with us in promoting our campaign TokePure (http://clear-uk.org/tokepure/) which advises against the use of tobacco? This way you could perhaps restore some credibility and do some real good.

Yours sincerely,

Peter Reynolds