Professor Linda Bauld is Professor of Health Policy and Director of the Institute for Social Marketing at the University of Stirling. She is also Deputy Director of the UK Centre for Tobacco and Alcohol Studies, a Centre for Public Health Excellence covering 13 universities.
Bauld’s research profile provides details of her work as follows:
- "She has conducted studies on drug and alcohol use, inequalities in health and, most notably, on smoking cessation and tobacco control. She undertook the first study of the UK’s unique national (NHS) stop smoking services when they were established in 1999. She has also played a significant role in the monitoring and evaluation of a range of tobacco control policies, and served as the UK government's scientific adviser on tobacco control from 2006 to 2010. Examples of recent work include: authoring the 3 year review of smokefree legislation in England (published by the Department of Health in 2011); playing a key role in developing smoking cessation in pregnancy guidance in England (2010) and for the World Health Organisation (2013-14);coordinating the development of an independent alcohol strategy for the UK ('Health First', published in March 2013); leading a national review of smoking cessation services for the Scottish government (2013-2014); and chairing the NICE programme development group on tobacco harm reduction (2011-2013)."
Work Attacked by Imperial Tobacco and Pro-Smoking Blogosphere
Bauld had been targeted by the pro-smoking lobby before, but never as seriously as in the summer of 2011. It started with a report commissioned by the Department of Health in which Bauld summarised the impact of England’s 2007 smoke-free legislation. Bauld concluded that the legislation had positive benefits for health, with no evidence of any obvious negative impacts on the hospitality industry, as the tobacco industry had predicted. The government published Bauld's report alongside its Tobacco Control Plan in March that year. Bauld was subjected to a campaign of criticism. Attacks came from tobacco companies and pro-smoking bloggers, most of whom claimed to be entirely independent from the tobacco industry.
In June 2011 Imperial Tobacco released a reply entitled "The Bauld Truth - The Impact of Smokefree Legislation in England: A critique of the evidence review using publicly available information". The report, written over a few weeks, called Bauld's three-year review "lazy and deliberately selective" and accused her of having a conflict of interest due to her links to the charity Action for Smoking and Health (ASH).
That same month, Simon Clark of tobacco industry funded pro-smoking rights' group Forest repeatedly called Bauld and others working in tobacco control "anti-smoking zealots". His opinions were endorsed and echoed by other like-minded pro-smoking bloggers. Phil Johnson at Freedom2Choose, for instance, called the report "an ill-prepared document" and a truly "shoddy production worthy of any fumbling 16-year-old medical student learning their craft." Without providing any evidence to support his opinions, he claimed that Bauld’s review was "riddled with basic errors."
In an article published in retail magazine The Grocer titled "Tobacco research by ASH board member has Imperial fuming", Imperial Tobacco claimed that "Professor Bauld's clear vested interests and links to government-funded anti-tobacco lobby groups call into question the neutrality of the review". Colin Wragg from Imperial is quoted as describing Bauld's research as "narrow and selective, ignoring much of the evidence base and failing to acknowledge anything that does not support her position."
In February of that year, Wragg was appointed as Imperial's senior UK corporate and legal affairs manager, with a remit to lead the company's fight against the display ban, or as he described it: "The regulatory environment is both fast-moving and extremely challenging, so a vital element of my remit is to ensure Imperial maintains open channels of communication between ourselves and key stakeholders."
Wragg accused Bauld of using "hand-picked evidence" in her review criticising her links to ASH and the fact that her research was funded by the Government, stating "We need to raise awareness of this so next time more people might question Government-funded research".
The Attacks Become Personal and Vitriolic
In September 2011, Bauld went public about the internet hate campaign against her, telling The Independent that academics studying smoking behaviour had been sent hate emails. Some had also received anonymous phone calls, usually after a series of blogs posted on pro-smoking websites. There is no evidence to suggest that tobacco companies are directly responsible for the anonymous phone calls. However, The Independent wrote that Professor Bauld was identified as a legitimate target for criticism by Big Tobacco following her high-profile work on cigarettes and the impact of smoking bans.
- For more information, see FOI: Stirling University.
Bauld told the newspaper she had been unprepared for the scale of personal attacks aimed at discrediting her work on smoking behaviour and tobacco control legislation:
- "I’ve had a series of anonymous calls starting about a year ago. These are phone calls in the evening when I’m at home with my children. It’s an unpleasant experience. It’s happened six or seven times and it’s always an unknown number. It’s usually after stuff has been posted on one of the main smokers’ websites. They don’t leave their name, they just say things like ‘Keep taking the money’, and ‘Who are you to try to intervene in other peoples’ lives’, using a couple of profanities."
By way of reply, self-proclaimed pro-smoking blogger Frank Davis wrote an open letter to Bauld. The letter seemed to be carefully written so as not to contain direct threats, but the language is suggestive and includes rather warnings directed at Bauld. The letter was also delivered to Bauld's house, which was reported to the Police.
Part of the text read:
- "... So sit down, Linda, and listen very carefully.
- Firstly, there is no organised campaign...that’s what just happens in the big swirling conversation that is the blogosphere.
- And secondly, this swarm is growing.
- And a lot of these people are very angry.
- And thirdly, there are a hell of a lot of them...all gradually getting angrier.
- You think your enemy is Big Tobacco. But those days are over. Your enemy now is the ever-growing swarm of angry smokers from all over the world, gradually coalescing into a super-swarm.
- And they all hate you. And people like you. They hate your guts. They really do.
- Those nasty emails and phone calls you’ve been getting... they’re not going to stop. They’re going to become more and more frequent. You should start worrying when bricks start getting thrown through your window, or messages daubed on your door. They won’t be planned or organised either. They’ll just happen.
- You look worried. You should be. Not now, but soon. For it’s not too late to do something about it, to keep the growing swarm from your doorstep.
- Here’s my suggestion. Announce that you’ve had a change of heart about smoking and smokers.
- That way – and that way only – you’ll maybe calm the angry swarm.
- And if that doesn’t work, then resign from your job, and do something different. I’m sure you’d make a great check-out girl.
- Better still would be to leave the country, and go somewhere where anti-smokers are admired – like Bhutan. Or maybe Nepal. That way, you’ll be out of the country and maybe even living under a new name when your old university department gets torched, and your old colleagues are strung up from lamp posts.
- Think of it as a kind of voodoo warning.
- if you don’t take steps ... that swarm of angry smokers is just going to get bigger and bigger, and more and more menacing...It’ll become an unstoppable, elemental force.
- So think it over. You’ve still got time."
- To see the full text verbatim, see Letter to Linda.
- "F2C are a respected and credible campaigning group who are feared and respected by ASH and the Global Tobacco Link, which include junk scientists such as Professor Linda Bauld and Dr Anna Gilmore."
Backlash Over “Smoking Cessation in Pregnancy: A Call to Action”
In 2013, Bauld presented a report published by the Smoking in Pregnancy Challenge Group led by The Lullaby Trust and the then UK Centre for Tobacco Control Studies (UKCTCS) and supported by ASH. When the report was published a coalition of baby charities, campaigners, leading academics and health experts called for a national Carbon Monoxide (CO) screening programme for mums-to-be.
A raised CO reading can be caused by second-hand smoke exposure, the inhalation of fumes from faulty exhausts, or poorly ventilated cooking or heating appliances. “Offering every pregnant woman in the country a simple breath test to identify her level of exposure to CO, will allow smokers to consider quitting, and non-smokers to identify whether they have had any involuntary exposure from other sources such as faulty appliances.”
Bauld was quoted in the press release for the report saying: “Smoking in the UK kills one baby every day. That’s why this Government’s ambition is so important.” She also said: “Unfortunately, unless we take urgent additional action this target will not be met. This report is a call to action to the government, health professionals, baby charities and researchers, but most of all it’s a call to action to mothers: understand the harm, protect your baby.”
Once again, head of Forest Simon Clark took to his blog to suggest that Bauld was manipulating the facts and spinning a story:
- “For an academic, Prof Bauld certainly has a way with soundbites.”
- “I'm less impressed by her casual attitude to detail. Note how she says, 'Smoking in the UK kills one baby every day', not 'Smoking during pregnancy kills one baby every day.'”
- “Instead, like all tobacco control campaigners, Bauld wants to implicate all smokers. The aim, conscious or otherwise, is to make all smokers feel guilty.”
Clark issued a press release before he had actually seen the report, stating that the research finding “sounds like a headline grabbing estimate rather than an undisputed fact based on scientific evidence.”
Both Clark and pro-smoking activist Pat Nurse were invited to discuss the report on broadcast media shows including BBC’s Five Live Breakfast and BBC Three Counties radio. Nurse referred to the tobacco control community as the “anti-smoker industry” on the Free Society blog:
- “Pregnant women are to be treated like criminals and liars if the anti-smoker industry gets its way and forced into taking carbon monoxide tests to make them feel bad about themselves.”
- “This segregation of mums-to-be into ‘good’ or ‘bad’ parents based solely on whether they smoke or not is frankly insulting and ignores the fact that motherhood is for life and not just for pregnancy.”
Nurse referred to Bauld as a “highly paid anti-smoker activist” and questioned her academic credentials:
- “People should remember that this woman is no scientist. She is a sociologist – or someone trained in the art of manipulation of behaviour to alienate people who don’t live the kind of lifestyle demanded by her own ideological beliefs and those she is paid to push.”
- “Nowhere in the report – which seeks to lay the blame for just about every childhood disease and even other people’s obesity on smokers – is it explained how Bauld reached her conclusions or what methodology was used. I guess she knows that the pretentious middle class presenters in the media are largely happy to be fed this kind of rubbish without scrutinising it. After all, claiming a smoker kills a baby every day is a headline grabbing gift.”
Finally, Nurse portrayed Bauld as a danger to society:
- “Maybe, like Scotland, society will regress backwards. Up in Bauld’s heartland there is a move to break up loving and caring families by prosecuting adult tobacco consumers who smoke during parenthood and calling for their well nurtured happy children to be taken into care.”
- Professor Linda Bauld, University of Stirling people profile, accessed March 2015
- L. Bauld, Impact of smokefree legislation: evidence review, Department of Health, March 2011, accessed January 2012
- Imperial Tobacco,The Bauld truth - The Impact of Smokefree Legislation in England: A critique of the evidence review using publicly available information, June 2011, accessed January 2012
- S. Clark, ASH's credibility goes up in smoke, Taking Liberties blog, 24 June 2011, accessed October 2011
- P. Johnson, "Evidence Review": without evidence!, freedom2choose blog, 11 May 2011, accessed January 2012
- R. Hegarty, Tobacco research by ASH board member has Imperial fuming, The Grocer, 2 July 2011
- The Grocer, Wragg to forefront of Imperial's display ban fight, 26 February 2011, accessed January 2012
- Retail Newsagent, Industry Profile - Imperial Tobacco, 9 September 2011, p19
- S. Connor, Exclusive: Smoked out: tobacco giant's war on science. Philip Morris seeks to force university to hand over confidential health research into teenage smokers, The Independent, 1 September 2011, accessed January 2012
- F. Davis, Letter To Linda, 3 September 2011, accessed January 2012
- S. Clark, Hold the front page!, 3 September 2011 (link at page bottom), accessed January 2012
- D.Atherton, Incoming Chairman’s Message, Freedom2choose Newsletter, October Part 1, 11 October 2011, accessed January 2012
- C.Lowry, K. Scammell, Smoking Cessation in Pregnancy: A Call to Action, A report for Action for Smoking and Health, 2013, accessed February 2015
- The report is also partnered by the Royal College of Midwives, Tommy’s and the Royal College of Nursing
- S. Clark, Linda Bauld: “Smoking in the UK kills one baby every day”, Taking Liberties blog, 28 June 2013, accessed February 2015
- P. Nurse, Alienating and criminalising pregnant women, Free society blog, 28 June 2013, accessed February 2015