[UPDATE 28 Apr 2021: the 3 authors of the paper discussed below have agreed to amend their response to reflect issues I raised with them in the email posted below. When this happens on the Addiction website, I will edit the blog below to reflect that.]
Earlier this year, Professor Virginia Berridge, a significant historian from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and four Australian authors from the University of Queensland published a paper in the international journal Addiction. The paper which can be read here looked at “understanding why Australia and England have such different policies towards electronic nicotine delivery systems.”
My colleague Mike Daube, an emeritus professor from Curtin University, and I were both named in the paper. We found several erroneous statements in the paper and so we wrote this response, setting out our concerns. This has now been published together with Berridge and two of her co-authors’ reply to our response.
In their reply they set out some corrections they agree needed to be made, but they have not corrected their comments on my involvement with BUGA UP, doubling down on them.
In their original paper, they wrote: ‘Chapman is an Emeritus Professor of public health who also has a long history as an anti-smoking activist, including as a proud founding member of BUGA UP in Australia, which spray-painted anti-smoking graffiti on cigarette advertising billboards ’.
That is simply wrong, and is not supported by the reference they provided. In our response we wrote that “Simon Chapman was not a member (let alone a ‘proud founding member’) of Billboard Utilising Graffitists Against Unhealthy Promotions (BUGA UP), and has indeed at various times paid credit to its founders and members”, providing two references here and here.
Prior to our response being published by Addiction today (26 April, 2021) I noticed that Berridge and colleagues reply had been published on the journal’s website. I read that they were “puzzled” that I had stated that I was not a founding member or even a member of BUGA UP.
So on 20 April, 2021 I sent the email below to Virginia Berridge, Wayne Hall and Coral Gartner, commenting on each of four new cited references which they seem to believe provide evidence that I indeed was a founding member/member of BUGA UP.
In the following days, I noticed that their response had been taken down from the Addiction website. I hoped that, now having been given explanations of their further errors, that they would have requested the take-down and edited it accordingly. But apparently not. They appear confident in their conviction that I was indeed a founding member/member of BUGA UP. I received no reply from them and their original reply has been published with its incorrect information intact.
To set the record straight, I publish my email to them.
20 April, 2021
“Dear Virginia (cc: Coral & Wayne)
I’ve seen your Addiction letter. Let me try to clear up your puzzlement about my status with BUGA UP, and whether I was a “proud founding member”.
I’ll start by saying emphatically that I know I was not a “member” of BUGA UP, let alone a “proud founding member”. So when you seek to assemble what you believe is evidence that I was a member or founding member, you’ll appreciate that this is somewhere between galling and amusing.
Let me take the sources used in your edited revision in the order you presented them in your letter, and then add an additional one – the archival mothership of evidence about BUGA UP that may have eluded you.
- My statement early in my 2008 book “At our first meeting [of MOPUP] BUGA‐UP… was born… My modest involvement was to take ongoing responsibility for the billboard on a shop directly opposite the entrance to News Ltd… We held a 20‐year reunion in October 2003.” [in fact it was October 2002 .. my error]
Response: It is clear from the unedited quote and the reference supplied in my book (your reference #10) that I was in MOP UP, not BUGA UP when the original MOP UP launch meeting took place at the Sydney morgue. Several people who I had never met who attended were already graffitiing billboards before that meeting took place. So I could hardly have been a “founding member” of BUGA UP.
I lived near the News Limited building and I graffitied a small framed, perspex covered shopfront tobacco ad that was at street level on a tiny general store/sandwich shop directly opposite the News Limited entrance. I used a marking pen and always just wrote “cancer” across the covering perspex, which I imagine was quickly erased by with a rag and methylated spirit soon afterwards. I doubt if I did this more than five times. I never signed these “BUGA UP”, which was considered indicative of membership (“The principle was that if you did a billboard on your own you could sign it BUGA-UP and that meant you were part of BUGA-UP.”)
So this is quite a long way from the elaborate, marathon and years-long efforts of those who were BUGA UP mainstays, which is why I described my billboard graffiti career as “modest”. I graffitied a few times but I was not a member of BUGA UP, although I admired their efforts immensely. That is an important difference.
The 20 year reunion held, as this Sydney Morning Herald piece makes clear, was attended by those involved in MOP UP and BUGA UP. The photo shows seven people. L-R, numbers 1,3, 4 and 5 were in MOP UP, the others in BUGA UP. I have a very large number of news clips, newsletters and correspondence showing that I was one of the founding members of MOP UP.
- “Simon Chapman was also a prominent spokesperson for Billboard Utilising Graffitists Against Unhealthy Promotions (BUGA UP)” your reference #4 (the BBC QED documentary in 1984)
Response: The event shown in the QED program was organized by BUGA UP. They tried to get a large crowd there to witness their civil disobedience knowing that the TV crew would be there to record it. There were lots of medical students and doctors who came along to support BUGA UP, as I did. I can identify several of them. To my knowledge, few if any of them other than those shown painting the billboard were people who were active in BUGA UP. I was there as a supporter too (the billboard was in Moore Park Rd near the (then) Sydney Sportsground, and I lived about 300m away in Selwyn St Paddington). I was interviewed not as a spokesperson for BUGA UP, but as someone who was prominent in tobacco control who had views about BUGA UP.
Similarly, in the ABC Today Tonight segment (hardly a “documentary”), I was not speaking as a BUGA UP member, but again as someone prominent in tobacco control. Nowhere am I described as being from BUGA UP. At one point, in recounting how the two groups emerged I said of the BUGA UP people who attended MOP UP’s launch “they said ‘you’re MOP UP, we’re BUGA UP”.
- The on-line article by Dietz: “Founding BUGA UP member, Dr. Simon Chapman”
Response: I have never seen this article before you cited it. It was published in Autumn 2014. I notice in the reference list that the author says she had a personal communication with me in September 2003. So this is a longer gestation period than even Tolkein took to write Lord of the Rings. I have no recollection of speaking with the author, but I gave many, many interviews across the years and do not doubt that I did speak with her. But I certainly was never contacted by her to check or approve her attributions to me. Had I been, I would have corrected the following:
- I was never “Professor of Community Medicine at Sydney University” (it’s public health).
- She says I “hosted the reunion” (of BUGA UP). As mentioned above, it was a reunion of MOP UP and BUGA UP. The reunion was not held on “23 Aug 2003” but on 11 October 2002.
- I was not a “founding member” of BUGA UP, nor a “member”.
BUGA UP’s archival website has a page where many press items have been posted. Please look through that page and on any of the other pages on the site and try to find any reference that says I was a member or founding member of BUGA UP. You won’t find any because I wasn’t.
So your letter in Addiction, despite being a correction of your original article, still contains errors. You could have very easily checked your assertions out with me prior to publication. I would have been very happy to assist you.
You also say that we provided no evidence that ATHRA took funding from KAC. But you could have checked that in a few seconds by googling [ATHRA + “Knowledge Action Change”] which would have taken you immediately to this Sydney Morning Herald item. You might also like to read this about the tobacco industry’s digital fingerprints on ATHRA’s website.”