It is worth remembering that as well as sponsoring the disinformation attack dog at Bath, Bloomberg Philanthropies also contributed part of the $1.7M seed funding [link] for Hava Health’s Hale product [link] as an angel investor, via a consortium called The Network.
The articles published by VPRO (Dutch public broadcaster, forming a part of the Dutch public broadcasting system) and Le Monde (French national newspaper) were written by Stéphane Horel, Ties Keyzer, Eva Schram and Harry Karanikas of The Investigative Desk.
The authors write about, “a network of scientists and lobbyists who evangelize the benefits of nicotine… Research by The Investigative Desk and Le Monde shows that some of them have indirect and direct links with the industry.”
The gist of the articles is to silence debate on the apparent link between nicotine use and a lower admission rate to hospital with severe coronavirus symptoms.
They state: “The idea that nicotine can serve as a shield against Covid-19, whether or not in vaporized form, has not been proven at all.”
The idea that these four journalists are more qualified to make this statement than anything published by Dr Farsalinos is laughable.
“Behind the series of pre-prints are always the same names, such as those of the Greek cardiologist Konstantinos Farsalinos. He is one of the best-known and most cited tobacco harm-reduction scientists - a fact he proudly states on his own Facebook page. Within the online very active vape community he is also called Dr. Called F.”
Then they launch into the world of Bloomberg playbook fantasy: “E-cigarettes (especially with flavours) can actually tempt young people to vape and then even to smoke, and the health effects of the vapor are also more serious than expected. Instead of stopping, many switchers continue to vaporise - and some also smoke - while little can be said about the harmfulness in the long term.”
Announcing the issuing of legal letters, Dr Farsalinos tweeted: “Bloomberg disgrace. They hate studying nicotine (NRTs!!!) for COVID, so they hire ‘journalists’ (who hide their sponsoring) for ad hominem attacks with LIES against me, Changeux and other researchers! Mafia-like tactics! Science is NOTHING to them!
“Investigative desk, paid by Univ of Bath (Bloomberg). Undeclared payment by Bloomberg to ‘journalists’ for ad hominem attacks with LIES. My response. They did NOT declare who was funding them. Corrupted tactics, but I thank them for the free promotion!
The legal letters state: “The content of the article concerning myself is clearly and intentionally defamatory, damaging for my reputation and insulting for my scientific integrity and ethics. Furthermore, some of the authors failed to present their own conflicts of interest relevant to their funding source, which creates a serious transparency issue.”
Farsalinos says that the journalists have failed to include key facts he gave them and misrepresented his funding sources on multiple occasions. He makes the following points:
- It falsely presents myself and my work in an article discussing about tobacco industry tactics while none of my research work was ever funded by the tobacco industry.
- It falsely presents me as being remunerated for meetings with US regulators and as representing others in these meetings.
- It falsely presents me as a consultant and activist for the e-cigarette industry.
- It falsely presents my scientific work and my science-based letters and arguments towards regulators as being motivated by incentives from the tobacco or e-cigarette industry.
- It falsely presents conflicts relevant to the Laboratory at the University of Patras which do not exist because I have not received any salary, other remuneration or any material from the laboratory.
- It falsely suggests that I should have presented different conflicts of interests in my studies, a clearly defamatory suggestion.
- It falsely suggests that my studies concerning nicotine and COVID-19 are linked to tobacco products or e-cigarettes, while all my studies refer to pharmaceutical products only.
- It falsely presents me as having links with the Patras Science Park and having plans to create a center of excellence funded by the Foundation for a Smoke-Free World.
- The authors of the article have hidden their own conflicts of interest and have not declared their funding from well-known anti-nicotine crusaders, whose work involves ad hominem attacks against scientists without having any objections or presenting a critical judgment for the content of their research.
- The immediate removal of all statements referring to my name from the article. All of them are defamatory.
- The issue of an apology for all the inaccurate statements made for me, through a retraction note that will be clearly visible to all readers.
- The clear presentation of the conflicts of interest for all authors of the Le Monde article.
He adds: “I reserve the right to seek legal advice and initiate legal action against Le Monde and each author separately for this article, which is intentionally defamatory, false, misleading, and has caused damage to my reputation and my personal and scientific integrity.”
To support his letter, Dr Farsalinos adds a copy of the email he sent to The Investigative Desk’s Eva Schram.
We wish Dr Farsalinos the very best with his fight for justice and hope that more academics and advocates adopt this approach in 2021. Time has to be called on the continual lies and slurs propagating from various arms of the Bloomberg machine – lives are on the line.