Leave smokers alone
The real tragedy here is smokers that have been beaten down for the sole reason of being smokers, thanks to a top-down campaign to cast them aside for the crime of enjoying something some people object to
When George Godber spoke at the 3rd World Conference on Smoking and Health in 1975, he gave his vision of the future: “our target must be, in the long-term, the elimination of cigarette smoking…”, he said.
“We may not have eliminated cigarette smoking completely by the end of this century, but we ought to have reached a position where a relatively few addicts still use cigarettes, but only in private at most in the company of consenting adults... The practice ought to be an enclosed one, not to be endured by the non-smoker in ordinary social intercourse; and no one should be allowed to use advertisement or any indirect means to suggest otherwise.”
In 1975, the general public would have scoffed at such a notion, but it was the apparent threat of secondhand smoke to non-smokers that gave anti-smokers the golden key to legislation restricting smoking from any indoor area.
It didn’t matter that the 1992 EPA report first demonstrating harm only managed to do so by cherry-picking studies and lowering the confidence interval – and even then, finding that for every 40,000 worker-years of exposure to omnipresent smoke as in the 1960s, there would be approximately one extra instance of lung cancer – nor that only 15 percent of the studies done on secondhand smoke and lung cancer managed to find any scientifically significant result at all – and even then the results were less “deadly” than wearing a bra.
With the 2007 blanket smoking ban in the UK, anti-smokers have become ever bolder – pushing for smoking bans in cars, hospital grounds, care homes, even talking about private homes.
All of this is based on the harm posed from passive smoking, despite the statistically insignificant relative risk only existing for those living or working with smokers for hours on end, day after day, for decades.
The mantra that secondhand smoke kills thousands a year has continued even though the large prospective studies show otherwise – Enstrom and Kabat found no risk, the WHO found no risk, and now, a new study examined in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute has found no risk, despite the researchers expecting to find one.
Within the study article, though, comes the admission of its roots in Godber’s 1975 comments – Jyoti Patel, MD, explained that there is only a borderline risk of lung cancer from secondhand smoke, but that “[t]he strongest reason to avoid passive cigarette smoke is to change societal behavior: to not live in a society where smoking is a norm”.
And therein lies a chilling message: puritans, with the full backing of the medical establishment, will fabricate health risks to make sure we aren’t doing what they don’t think we should be doing – regardless of the consequences for families and businesses.
It was a given that smoking bans would not pass on that basis, though – health needed to be put at risk to get people to listen. The fabrication is based on distorting science and using weak study models that produce biased results.
Case-control studies depend on people’s recall of smoking exposure 30 or 40 years in the past and are so unreliable they were rejected in the original 1964 Surgeon General’s Report. To lift an excerpt from my own book: “remembering how many cigarettes someone smoked thirty years ago is not an easy task and there is no way the response can be accurate.
In fact, in the 1964 Surgeon General’s Report the authors rejected the retrospective studies and focused on the remaining studies; it speaks volumes that forty years on the medical establishment now accepts flawed methodologies that were rejected in the past for being unreliable.”
Knowing that the real purpose of showing harm from secondhand smoke was to push forward an agenda to marginalise smoking, it stands to reason that retrospective studies were so fervently conducted – while prospective studies take many years to do, retrospective studies can be conducted quickly, frequently and show anything the researchers want them to.
In no time at all, then, a large body of so-called evidence can be amassed, before the first prospective study comes in – so by the time the first, second and third turn up to show the risk of harm has been blown up out of all proportion, anti-smokers are popping the corks in their (presumably non-alcoholic) champagne in celebration of the bans they’ve succeeded in passing.
Yet amidst all this, no one bothered to ask what secondhand smoke actually is. Sure, the smoke on one end is the same as the smoke on the other, but dilution was never considered.
We know that ‘the poison makes the dose’ and that’s why there are safe limits to anything (including water, as anyone who has observed the amusing Dihydrogen Monoxide satire can attest, as even something as necessary as water can be painted to be a societal burden and mass killer), but few cared about the effects of dilution on smoke.
It’s a crucial point though, not least because a non-smoker with long-term exposure to a smoker’s passive smoke will consume only in the region of five cigarettes per year.
Michael McFadden devoted his attention to the properties of secondhand smoke in his book Dissecting Antismokers’ Brains: “about 90 percent of secondary smoke is composed of water and ordinary air with a slight excess of carbon dioxide.
Another 4 perecent is carbon monoxide, a gas that can act as a poison when in sufficient quantity by reducing the amount of oxygen your red blood cells can carry. The last 6 percent contains the rest of the 4,000 or so chemicals supposedly to be found in smoke… but found, obviously, in very small quantities.
“Most of these chemicals can only be found in quantities measured in nanograms, picograms and femtograms. Many cannot even be detected in these amounts: their presence is simply theorized rather than measured. To bring those quantities into a real world perspective, take a saltshaker and shake out a few grains of salt. A single grain of that salt will weigh in the ballpark of 100 million picograms!”
Had the public (or politicians, perhaps) known such information it is doubtful that smoking bans would have passed on the basis of risk to health – after all, if a spouse living with a smoker is consuming five cigarettes in an entire year, how many are (or in the British case, were) being consumed by a person sitting in a bar for a few hours?
It’s the families that have suffered huge rifts through fear, the businesses that have shut down, the elderly and terminally ill pushed outside in the depth of winter.
All of which happened while we were watching X-Factor and celebrating what a civilised country we live in.
Maybe – just maybe – this study, combined with those before it, and the justified attention on the issue, can mark the start of the tide turning to an inclusive society, where we don’t bully and ostracise people for not behaving exactly how we want them to.
The real tragedy here is smokers that have been beaten down for the sole reason of being smokers, thanks to a top-down campaign to cast them aside for the crime of enjoying something some people object to.
Richard White is the author of Smoke Screens: The Truth About Tobacco and owner of Word Edit: Professional Literary Services
Read more on: anti-smoking lobby, Action on Smoking and Health, and denormalisation of smokers and smoking
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