Look, it's good that he spoke to this Canadian journalist at all, but TimT - what on earth is wrong with a journo pressing Sinclair on the matter of whether tobacco company money is behind his appearances at such meetings? I don't think her questions were disrespectful in tone at all, and if a journalist wants to put challenges to his research for comment, what's wrong with that? If anything, I wish she had been more aggressive.
Because, let's face it, Sinclair shows a distinct lack of curiosity as to whether tobacco funding is involved, indirectly:
J: Was the tobacco industry involved in the visit in any way?
SD: Not to my knowledge.
J: The Atlantic Institute for Market Studies said that their event was held in partnership with Crestview Strategy, a lobbying firm that represents one of Canada’s biggest tobacco companies, so I would like to have some clarity around the involvement of the tobacco industry.
SD: I can’t help you there – I hadn’t heard of the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies before I spoke there, nor have I heard of them since. I also spoke at the Economic Club of Canada meeting in Toronto and Convenience Store meetings in Montreal, Winnipeg, and Vancouver. I have no knowledge as to how the meetings were organised. Beyond ensuring that each venue had a powerpoint projector I had no interest in the organisation of the meetings.
....I have had contact with people in Canada (obviously – at the talks I gave), the UK, and parts of Europe opposed to plain packaging. These people work in media, think tanks, and consumer rights organisations.
J: Can you confirm whether the institute currently receives any funding?Here's the question that she should have asked as a follow up:
SD: I don’t know if the IPA currently receives funding from the tobacco industry – I have never been told that it does.
"Would it bother you if you knew that tobacco industry funding was behind the meetings you addressed, or, for that matter, part funding the IPA and its long campaign again plain packaging?"
Now, I presume his answer would be "no, not particularly. I oppose plain packaging on libertarian grounds, and as such it matters little to me who funds the message."
And I can think of a couple of follow up questions from that.
But why does Sinclair even seemingly reject this proposition (in italics, which are mine)?:
As it turns out I had a long discussion with Garfield Mahood in Toronto during the Q&A session of my talk at the Economic Club and also again after the session. He put to me the same questions with the same underlying premise that somehow I am corrupt, or on the take, or that my motives are base, or that I am inadvertently benefiting the tobacco industry, etc. etc. that you have put to me. Mind you, he was very quick to back away from stating that premise when I asked him if that is what he was implying. In the end he seemed happy to accept that I am an academic doing research and publishing results, and my motive to come to Canada was to visit my relatives.Oh come on. How could he plausibly not be at least inadvertently benefiting the tobacco industry by not only doing this research, but going to meetings where they want to hear his "plain packaging hasn't worked" message? Especially if he shows no interest in knowing whether there is tobacco funding in the background?
Seems to be an obvious over-reach there.