02 Jul British Lung Foundation Fails To Back Up Its Cannabis And Lung Cancer Scare

Just over three weeks ago the British Lung Foundation (BLF) published “The impact of cannabis on your lungs”, a glossy report which used cherry-picked evidence to weave a false and misleading picture about the dangers of using cannabis.

It was launched with a massive PR campaign with Dame Helena Shovelton, the chief executive, claiming that smoking cannabis was “20 times” more likely to cause cancer than smoking cigarettes. Very swiftly the report was widely.condemned. Professor David Nutt accused the BLF of scaremongering and countless well-researched articles were published exposing the monstrous deception that Dame Helena and her team were trying to achieve.

I wrote to Dame Helena asking her to publish details of the “external independent peer review” which she claimed ensured the report “reflects the current evidence in as accurate and balanced way as possible”.

I haven’t had a reply.

I chased up Alistair Martin, the BLF’s press and campaigns manager, for an answer and this is what I received:

Hi Peter,

Sorry for the delay in getting back to you – I was out of the office earlier in the week.

I’ve passed your letter on to Dame Helena. In terms of our peer review process, our report was passed to three independent senior researchers and respiratory physicians, two based in the UK and one abroad. All three reviewers are themselves authors of papers published in respected peer-reviewed journals. Two of the reviewers provided feedback at two stages of the draft, and all three reviewed the final report before publication.

Best wishes,

Alistair

Now that’s just not good enough. The whole point of peer review is that your peers put their name to what you’ve written. That’s what gives it the status and credibility that the BLF were claiming. So where are the names?

Incidentally, Dame Helena hasn’t bothered to reply at all.

Of course, we all know that the report was about as far away as it could be from reflecting “the current evidence in as accurate and balanced way as possible”. It was grossly misleading and sensationalised propaganda, a disgraceful attempt to perpetrate a massive confidence trick on the British people. In fact, if Dame Helena was hoping to drum up extra donations from it, it could be described as “obtaining a pecuniary advantage by deception”, which is no laughing matter. It’s what the conmen at Barclays Bank have been caught doing by telling lies about interest rates. It’s the same as the conman who knocks on an old lady’s door and tells her the roof needs fixing at huge expense. Not good company for a Dame of the British Empire to be keeping.

We want to know the names. Who are the “three independent senior researchers and respiratory physicians, two based in the UK and one abroad.”? We want them to confirm or deny the BLF’s claims.

I have written to Dame Helena again:

Dear Dame Helena,

Both I and the whole country are still waiting to hear details of the “external, independent review” that you say was carried out on your report.

Your colleague, Alistair Martin, told me that there were “three independent senior researchers and respiratory physicians”, who ensured the report “reflects the current evidence in as accurate and balanced way as possible”.

We want to know who they are.

That is the whole point of “peer review”, that your peers are sufficiently impressed by your work that they are prepared to put their names to it.

We want your reviewers to confirm or deny your claims because, frankly, the idea that the report is “accurate and balanced” is preposterous. It is so unbalanced and misses out so much important evidence as to be absurd.

I’m sorry you didn’t reply to my letter of 8th June 2012 (copy attached) but I would be grateful if you could respond to this email.

Kind regards,

Peter Reynolds