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Simon Chapman defends disruptive new technology

30 November 2017

7:23 AM

30 November 2017

7:23 AM

In Wednesday’s Australian Financial Review, public health academic and media commentator Simon Chapman came out in strong support of a new, disruptive technology.

Talking to AFR journalist Jill Margo, Chapman was eager to debunk theories about this technology and claims that it leads to a ‘syndrome’, and condemned those who stood against it.

‘In a career in public health of some 40 years, I have rarely encountered the virulence and sheer nastiness that I have experienced since becoming involved in this issue,’ Chapman told Margo.

Margo’s piece goes on to say: ‘Just as health fears related to train travel and electric light faded with time, so will the fear… Chapman believes the process is already underway.’

Those with an interest in evidence-based public health commentary will be delighted with Simon Chapman’s enlightened attitude, and his keenness to embrace innovative new technologies that will improve people’s lives.  His message is this particular disruption is not only necessary, but vital.


Chapman is talking about wind turbines and wind farms.  He certainly wasn’t talking about his best-known field of tobacco control, and potential benefits that may come from the disruptive new technology of vaping.

Adopting Chapman’s words, when it comes to vaping, in my career in politics and public policy of some 30 years, I have never encountered the virulence and sheer nastiness that I have experienced since becoming involved in this issue.

It exceeds even the ugly furore over the GP co-payment, in which I was at the centre of sustained attacks from the Medicare establishment and their politician disciples like the Greens’ Richard di Natale.

And just as health fears related to train travel and electric light diminished with time, and daylight saving doesn’t fade the curtains, the growing weight of peer-reviewed research evidence indicates that, eventually, so will the fear of vaping.

Indeed, overnight the powerful British Medical Association released a position statement that shifts its policy to being cautiously positive about vaping as a smoking cessation aid and a way of smokers accessing nicotine more safely than through deadly cigarettes.

If the public health establishment is prepared to be as open-minded and objective in considering changes in tobacco control and harm reduction thinking to reduce people’s grave health risks in smoking to get their nicotine fix, in the same way as Simon Chapman advocates and defends, reasonably, wind power generation, it would be a big step forward in an important but much-maligned, public health and policy debate.

Terry Barnes is a fellow of UK free market think tank, the Institute of Economic Affairs.

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