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Smart Meters: Medscape Removes Courses Funded by Philip Morris, Time for Utility Commissions and Legislatures to Bow Too

by Patricia Burke of Safe Tech International   Source of top image: Smoking adverts and the ‘outrageous’ cigarette promotions of the past – BBC News

Medscape recently removed physician education courses funded by tobacco giant Philip Morris…because it was “a perversion of ethics.

A deep dark secret of the clean energy /smart grid movement? Justification for the supposed safety of wireless smart utility meters came from product defense ‘experts’ who work for the tobacco industry, including Philip Morris.

Utility commissions, policy makers, and clean energy groups were not concerned. 

This will not end well.

The Story of Medscape’s Ethical Course Correction Regarding Compromised Expertise

A recent headline by Medical Express reported, Medscape removes education courses for doctors funded by tobacco giant “Medical education provider Medscape has bowed to pressure and agreed to permanently remove a series of accredited medical education courses on smoking cessation funded by the tobacco industry giant Philip Morris International (PMI), The BMJ and The Examination have found.

The global company has acknowledged its “misjudgment” in a letter to complainants and says it will not accept funding from any organization affiliated with the tobacco industry in the future. [] The move comes after an investigation by The BMJ revealed the PMI deal and the widespread protests among doctors and academics in reaction to the partnership. [] Tim McAfee at the University of California, San Francisco and former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Office on Smoking and Health, called PMI’s partnership with Medscape, “the ultimate example of the fox not only signing up to guard the hen house but offering to sit on the eggs. “It is a perversion of ethics surrounding continuing medical education to allow the very companies that caused and profit from the continuing epidemic of tobacco-related death and disease to be involved in any way,” he says.”The tobacco industry cannot be allowed to influence medical education, health practitioners, or patient care in this way as it desperately seeks to secure its future profits,”- Professor Ruth Malone at the University of California San Francisco,.”Source

The British Medical Journal Investigation of Infiltration by Tobacco Science

On April 28, The British Medical Journal published its investigation, Medscape caves in on courses funded by tobacco giant Philip Morris, while medics fear global push into medical education“The move comes after a BMJ investigation revealed the PMI deal and widespread protests among doctors and academics in reaction to the partnership. Critics had said that the content tended to portray non-cigarette nicotine products as relatively harmless, therefore aligning with the commercial interests of PMI, which also sells e-cigarettes, nicotine pouches, and snus.

Hristio Boytchev reveals how an ambitious deal between a leading medical education provider and the tobacco industry collapsed this week. The medical education provider Medscape has bowed to pressure and agreed to permanently remove a series of accredited medical education courses on smoking cessation funded by the tobacco industry giant Philip Morris International (PMI), The BMJ and The Examination have found. Medscape has acknowledged its “misjudgment” in a letter to complainants and says that it will not accept funding from any organisation affiliated with the tobacco industry in the future.

The move comes after a BMJ investigation revealed the PMI deal and widespread protests among doctors and academics in reaction to the partnership. Critics had said that the content tended to portray non-cigarette nicotine products as relatively harmless, therefore aligning with the commercial interests of PMI, which also sells e-cigarettes, nicotine pouches, and snus.1

An internal Medscape document seen by The BMJ and The Examination also hints at the true scale of the multimillion-dollar deal between PMI and Medscape.

Other PMI funded programmes with different continuing medical education (CME) providers have also emerged, including in Saudi Arabia and South Africa []. This apparent global push by the tobacco giant into certified medical education has been met with alarm and calls for certification bodies to issue a ban. Pamela Ling, director of the Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education at the University of California, San Francisco, applauded Medscape for its U turn, adding that tobacco companies had a long history of using social scientists and other expert voices to normalise tobacco and nicotine use and to downplay the harms.3 “However, the entry into the world of medical education is particularly audacious,” said Ling. “In the past, medical education sponsored by the manufacturers of the leading preventable cause of death would have been ridiculous. As tobacco companies remake their image into pharmaceutical-like nicotine purveyors, it appears they have been emboldened to enter this arena.”45

Nick Hopkinson, professor of respiratory medicine at Imperial College London, commented, “It’s astonishing, given the strict ethical codes that exist to exclude the tobacco industry, that Medscape thought that it would go unnoticed or be tolerated. They will need to undertake a thorough assessment as to how this appalling decision was made and ensure that policies and processes are in place to ensure that it cannot happen again.”

Call for Global Ban Medscape’s backpedalling was welcomed, but critics demanded that tobacco industry funded medical education should not be accredited by the responsible bodies in the first place. “I am very pleased that Medscape is doing the right thing,” Anthony Gerber, director of pulmonary research at National Jewish Health, told The BMJ. But he added that there remained a significant problem with accreditation bodies allowing programmes to be sponsored by tobacco, “and the medical community needs to exert pressure to reverse this policy. If PMI and others really want to help undo the incomprehensible damage they have done and continue to do, there are ways to acceptably donate money—but sponsoring CME with your name attached as a ‘whitewashing’ effort is not one of them.” Source

See Also:  BMJ Investigation Exclusive: Outcry as Philip Morris International funds smoking cessation courses on Medscape: Anna Gilmore, professor of public health and director of the Tobacco Control Research Group at the University of Bath, UK, said that Medscape had “now lost all credibility and has some serious questions to answer. PMI (Philip Morris International) lost all credibility decades ago, despite its ceaseless and highly misleading attempts to rehabilitate its image. It has now sunk to a new low.” Nicholas Hopkinson, professor of respiratory medicine at Imperial College London, said, “The idea that lethal and immoral tobacco industry has a role in medical education is absurd.”

See Also: Medscape severs ties with tobacco industry after backlash over $3M Philip Morris International deal  “As a pulmonologist, I find it just simply outrageous that Medscape is laundering Philip Morris’ propaganda with this CME,” said Nick Mark, a doctor in the Seattle area.  Mark also noted that the slide decks for the courses did not include disclosure of Philip Morris International’s involvement. Medscape’s choice of speakers, or ‘faculties’, for the courses has also caused consternation internally due to their links to the tobacco and vaping industries.

See Also:  Industry-funded medical education is always promotion—an essay by Adriane Fugh-Berman “But perhaps the most damaging effect is the omission or minimisation of product harms.”

The Cigarette Century Launched the Mercenary Product Defense Industry

In 2009, Fast Company reported, What is the product-defense industry? How does it work, and who’s behind it? We asked David Michaels, author of the exposé Doubt Is Their Product. “FC: What exactly do product-defense companies do? They combine science with public relations to help clients avoid regulation and litigation. I have yet to see a study published by a product-defense firm that conflicts with the needs of the study’s sponsors. The intent is to cast doubt on real science. The industry has deep roots in the fight over tobacco.” [] “Some of the big ones are Exponent, Gradient, ChemRisk, and the Weinberg Group.” – https://www.fastcompany.com/1139299/manufacturing-doubt-product-defense

World Health Organization re: Tobacco Science

In Nov. 2023, the World Health Organization announced New WHO campaign highlights tobacco industry tactics to influence public health policies. “WHO supports countries in defending evidenced based tobacco control measures in the face of industry interference. The tobacco industry continues to lie to the public, using different ways to spread misinformation, including through: Front groups and third parties, [], Funding scientists and biased research. [] The tobacco industry has a long history of lying to the public, even insisting that smoking does not cause lung cancer.”

Smart Meter Expert: Tobacco Scientist for Phillip Morris

The Truth Tobacco Industry Documents archive (formerly known as the Legacy Tobacco Documents Library) at UCSF reports 199 documents for Peter Valberg under the category Philip Morris. (He is also listed under R.J. Reynolds)

The same week that Valberg testified on behalf of the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities to override citizen and expert health testimony regarding smart meters, his testimony was used in Ohio to deny a plaintiff’s eligibility in a class action lawsuit against Philip Morris. 

Phillips vs. Philip Morris Companies (truthinadvertising.org)

Tobacco Wasn’t the Only Beneficiary of Valberg’s Expertise

In 2016, the Center for Public Integrity published its investigative series Science for Sale. “Science and opinion have become increasingly conflated, in large part because of corporate influence. As we explain in “Science for Sale,” an investigative series by the Center for Public Integrity and co-published with Vice.com, industry-backed research has exploded — often with the aim of obscuring the truth — as government-funded science dwindles.” Valberg’s work is featured here Meet the ‘rented white coats’ who defend toxic chemicals, and here Making a cancer cluster disappear.

Re: Vinyl Chloride: “Eventually, 33 people around McCullom Lake developed brain tumors. [] The current owner of the plant, Dow Chemical, denies that people in the community were exposed to vinyl chloride, though it settled the case with the brain cancer victims about a year ago. During the litigation, the company hired expert witnesses who cited the Mundt study to prove that the brain tumors couldn’t have been caused by vinyl chloride. One such expert, Peter Valberg of Gradient Corp., wrote that the families in McCullom Lake were citing early studies linking vinyl chloride to brain cancer but failed to cite more recent reviews. “These in-depth summaries and updates of worker cohorts do not support a causal link between VC exposure and brain cancer,” Valberg wrote. Aaron Freiwald, the lawyer for the McCullom Lake families, said the scientific consensus today doesn’t account for the fact that workers were excluded from industry brain cancer studies. “We established that even one accounted-for brain cancer would completely shift the data,” Freiwald said. “If there are at least three additional cases, it seems pretty clear that the literature on vinyl chloride and brain cancer as it is has to be rewritten.”

Scientists who misrepresented the safety of cigarettes and deadly chemicals need not be worried about job security.

They found plenty of work crisscrossing the country to talk about wireless smart meters.

Smart Meter Fall from Grace: Employing Mercenary Scientists and Product Defense Experts

The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), established in 1975, is a “nonpartisan public officials’ association’ composed of 7,000 state legislators. In 2012, the National Conference of State Legislators distributed a document created by the Telecom Utilities Council in 2012 to address smart meter health concerns.

The original link https://www.ncsl.org/documents/energy/Oldak_PPT.pdf and the page are no longer available on the NCSL website. The powerpoint can be accessed via web archive here https://web.archive.org/web/20130609063217/http://www.ncsl.org/documents/energy/Oldak_PPT.pdf.

The presentation is dated August.

In May, the IARC classified RF exposure as a class 2B possible human carcinogen, negating Valberg’s earlier testimony in Maryland. The NCSL was either itself misinformed or colluding with the industry. The error has never been addressed.

Tobacco Science Representing Industry in Utility Proceedings

Valberg of Gradient in Maryland, Vermont, Michigan, Massachusetts – and many other proceedings: “Creating research to fit one’s needs, concealing unwelcomed information, assembling an expert group to advance a favored outcome – blue ribbon panel, manipulating public perception about credible science.” Other states including Nevada, and Canada, relied on Exponent.

Iowa, 2018

Valberg testified before the Iowa Utility Board Court Case on behalf of Alliant Energy. Proceeding Filed with the Iowa Utilities Board on August 31, 2018, SPU-2018-0007: “Because the RF cannot damage biological molecules or biological structures, it is not a threat to health.” [] “No public health agency has identified the RF from smart meters as hazardous to health. In fact, a large number of scientific groups have reviewed research findings on potential health effects of RF waves.” Do FCC guidelines only address the thermal effects of “smart meters” and neglect “non-thermal” effects that may be dangerous? “No. RF exposure limits were developed by the FCC specifically to protect against all known hazards of RF energy. The limits were established after a thorough review and evaluation of the scientific literature and ample opportunity for comment by all interested parties.”

Judges overruled requests to impeach Valberg as a witness based on his history and reputation as a White Coat, it because Valberg was their only expert witness.”

The testimony regarding non-thermal effects is inaccurate. FCC guidelines do not protect against non-thermal effects.

Utility commissions across the country should have clarified this distinction with the FCC, rather than providing a platform for mercenary science to prevail. This was a grave error by state regulators authorizing the deployment of meters and imposing exposures on communities and households, in association with access to essential services of electricity and heat.

Mercenary Science for Smart Meters in Public Relations and Industry Front Groups

1. Field Testing Itron Smart Meters in an empty field – for signals only, based only on guidelines for thermal effects, 2. Florida Power and Light (Valberg) 3. Baltimore Gas and Electric 4 Industry Group IHS (Valberg) 5. Industry Front Group Smart Meters (Valberg) 6. Oncor Texas (Valberg)s 7. Industry Front Group SGCC (Valberg) 8. Utilities Telecom Council (Valberg) 9. Arizona APS (Valberg)

One industry front group for smart meters was the 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization Smart Grid Consumer Collaborative, (now renamed the Smart Energy Consumer Collaborative) which included no consumers. Valberg’s work is here: Testimony of Dr. Peter A. Valberg | Smart Energy Consumer Collaborative (smartenergycc.org)

Ethical Decision Making; Refusing Tobacco Scientists as Providers of Health Education vs. Smart Meters

Each sentence can be re-written, substituting the term smart meters for tobacco; and the name of each state’s utilities and utility commission for Medscape’s ethical lapse.

Sunshine and Sand

In a presentation given in Eugene, Oregon a decade ago, Peter Valberg attempted to downplay the scope of the IARC classification of RF as a Class 2B possible human carcinogen:

See the 49-slide pro-smart meter presentation here: The Smart Grid Landscape: What about RF Health Effects ? (smartgridawareness.org)

Climate scientists have been quick to point to the fossil fuel industry’s adoption of the tobacco industry playbook. But the clean/green energy/environmental justice movement has been unwilling to address the tobacco experts shoveling the smart meter safety stories, despite profound suffering and direct harm to human health.

Missing in the smart meter debate is the contribution of citizen science, and real-world reports of harm that should, by now, have evolved our scientific understanding of the non-thermal effects of non-ionizing radiofrequency radiation and the impact of dirty electricity.

Also missing is the expertise of the independent scientists, researchers, and health professionals documenting damage.

For example, Comment of Beatrice A. Golomb, MD, PhD in opposition to MA DPU 20-69: “I am opposed to the MA DPU conducting a targeted smart meter/time of use billing pilot for EV customers. According to a survey we conducted, smart meters were the single most common “trigger” for people newly developing intolerance to nonionizing radiation (i.e., for developing “electrosensitivity”). These findings comport with findings by others. See also the Australian study by Lamech on health problems arising with smart meter use 1 . Sincerely, Beatrice A. Golomb, MD, PhD Professor of Medicine UC San Diego School of Medicine 1. Lamech F. Self-reporting of symptom development from exposure to radiofrequency fields of wireless smart meters in Victoria, Australia: A case series. Altern Ther Health Med 2014;20:28-39. – 12640308 (comacloud.net

The light of day needs to shine on the history of smart meter deployment authorizations across the country, and the role that mercenary science is playing in the clean/green energy economy, because regarding health and safety, the foundation is built on sand.

“The idea that lethal and immoral tobacco product defense industry has a role in medical education utility regulation is absurd.”

“Perhaps the most damaging effect is the omission or minimisation of product harms.”

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