The Ministry of Health and the Health Research Council of New Zealand are seeking tenders, with full project costs of up to $5 million, for proposals that would reduce smoking by 50% by 2020.
Outcome: 50% reduction in the number of smokers in New Zealand by 2020I don't apply for these sorts of things: that's why I'm not in their system. But odds are that a team consisting of some mix of Edwards, Thompson, Wilson and their various coauthors at Otago's school of public health at Wellington will get thrown another pot of money for some proposal involving a combination of tax increases, cigarette packs in plain brown wrappers with no identifying information about branding, banning of any kind of advertising, and possibly a move to make tobacco available only by prescription under doctor's supervision in the final years.
The research will inform strategies and facilitate efforts for achieving a drastic reduction in the numbers of smokers by 2020. The RTRHRP Steering Committee has identified a 50% reduction in the number of smokers in NZ by 2020 as a high-level health outcome for New Zealand. In order to achieve this outcome, the Tūranga will be required to develop evidence to support a suite of innovative mechanisms whereby large numbers of New Zealand smokers can be effectively supported to stop smoking in a relatively short period of time.
Now, if I had a million a year for five years, and if I reckoned the ends justified the means, I'm pretty sure I could come up with a proposal that would fully implement the protocols first outlined in Stephen King's short story Quitters, Inc. He claimed a 98% success rate. Now, some folks might reckon that the measures there proposed infringe on personal liberties too much. They might even wave their fingers and say nanny state. Pshaw. If we've already decided that folks can't be trusted to make their own decisions about smoking, why should we rule out more aggressive measures to force people to do what's best for them?
More seriously: the Ministry of Health, under National, will pay $5 million for proposals on how to reduce smoking prevalence by half by 2020. They're clearly seeking proposals from folks active in anti-tobacco scholarship. Would anybody who'd previously done work suggesting that third-hand smoke is a load of made up nonsense, or that the social costs of smoking are highly over-rated, ever be considered? My guess would be no. From the RFP:
A broad range of factors will need to be considered and addressed in order to achieve a significant reduction in tobacco-related harm. Therefore, a well-coordinated and adequately resourced approach is required. The purpose of this RFP is to establish a research Tūranga comprising a group of leading tobacco control researchers who will be charged with developing such an approach. The Tūranga will necessarily be multi-institutional and multi-disciplinary and will be charged with developing a cohesive, collaborative and dynamic programme of research to develop innovative strategies in reducing tobacco-related harm. Key research priorities have been identified in the New Zealand Tobacco Control Research Strategy 2009-2012 which may provide a focus for the development of this approach5. This fund is overseen by the Reducing Tobacco-related Harm Research Partnership Steering Committee with members representing the MoH, HRC, Māori, and health researchers.Is there any way that anything worth $5 million can be produced from this?
Nanny just changed her skirt colour in 2008. Red to blue.
Update: here's the steering committee membership. But I'm sure that anybody who needs to will recuse himself when the relevant decisions are made. The grants will go to whoever is best for the job, regardless of the number of coauthorships anybody on the board might have with potential applicants. These sorts of problems are inevitable in small countries and I'm sure things wouldn't be rigged to give the grants out inappropriately in this the best of all possible worlds.