Researchers

John Luik

John LuikJohn Luik was educated on a Rhodes Scholarship at the University of Oxford where he obtained degrees in philosophy and Politics (BA,MA,D Phil.). He has taught philosophy and politics at several universities, been a Senior Associate of the Niagara Institute with responsibility for its work in public policy and its Values and Organizational Development programmes, and worked as a consultant for a number of governmental institutions, professional organizations and corporations.
 
Aside from the nature of public policy, his academic interests include the ethics of advertising, business ethics, the process of organizational change, medical ethics, political philosophy, philosophy of religion, and the philosophy of Kant. He has written on a number of philosophical problems including the process of legitimate public policy in a democracy, the place of a university in a liberal society, the ethics of euthanasia, Marxism and Christianity, humanism and the ethics of health promotion.

Both his 'Government Paternalism and Citizen Rationality' (1991) and his 'Tobacco Advertising and the Dark Face of Government Paternalism' (1993) have been used in business ethics case study texts.

July 25, 2007Regulation Redux: Still a bad prescription for smoker's health - There's a great deal wrong with the latest moves in the US to have cigarettes regulated by the FDA, as a recent analysis by John Luik in the Tobacco Reporter demonstrates. As he traces the history of the efforts to obtain government regulation of tobacco by health authorities, and how such efforts seem designed around a sort of "prohibition by stealth" strategy rather than any honest agenda to reduce harm for the consumer, Luik pulls up some intriguing bits of information form the tobacco wars.

Films - 'One of the "nice" things about the advocacy of the anti-tobacco lobby is how consistently silly, not to say nonsensical, its claims are. Unencumbered with the responsibilities of reputable research and rigorous analysis of whether their purported solutions really work, the anti-tobacco zealots are able to continue on year after year re-cycling to a lazy media their same sound-bite claims as the novel product of serious thinking on the hard problem of preventing smoking.'

Separating trans fat from fiction - It’s clear that the trans fat prohibitionists haven’t at all established their case that trans fat is dangerous. So why the ban? Is it then merely a politically opportunistic response to public pressure? Not at all. Most people apparently don’t give a damn.  So if neither public health concerns nor political pressures provide a reason for the ban movement, why is there a ban movement? The next couple of items may yield some clues.

Four big, fat myths - "Obesity worse than drinking or smoking". "Obesity is a greater threat than weapons of mass destruction". "Obesity is the most serious threat to the future health of our nation". These are just a few examples of how "health advocate" doctors (or so they call them) shoot their mouths with the well-tested alarmist tactics used for smoking and for the passive smoke fraud. Even here these people are conning the public, of course - but governments respond to their misrepresentation of evidence far more than they respond to the truth. A government that forbids, taxes and surveys in the name of health is a "responsible" one.

Here is an example of the results: "Big Brother has an ambition: to become Big Nanny. The Government wants to introduce a £224 million 'Children's Index', a massive database of every child in the country, charting progress from birth to adulthood and flagging up 'concerns' about each child's development. Two 'flags' on a child's record would trigger an official investigation into his or her family." This essay by John Luik and Patrick Basham, published by The Telegraph take us through this journey of thorough fact analysis and considerations on what may be destined to dwarf smoking as the greatest social fraud ever conceived. Yet - as it has happened for smoking - the truth is ignored when the fraud is drummed endlessly into the head of people with state propaganda and with the collaboration of prostituted medical figures. To stop health authorities' corruption and power one first and essential step is needed: people have to stop believing them.

Judge Kessler’s new history of the tobacco wars - Perhaps the strangest thing about Judge Kessler’s recent decision in the US Department of Justice’s case against the tobacco industry, and there is, as we shall see, an awfully lot that is strange about it, has been the reaction of investment analysts, a considerable portion of the media and many in the public health and anti-tobacco communities who have characterized the Kessler verdict as a victory for Big Tobacco.

French fries and cancer - While french fries are the object of California's health cartel's ire, John Luik writes an informative piece regarding the "science" that found a link between girls who eat them and breast cancer later in life.  This is a must read for those who wish to understand how epidemiology and statistics are perverted to produce a politically desirable result.

Surgeon Dictator - While normal people enjoyed the last month of summer indulging in vacations, time spent with friends and family, the fat police have been toiling in the vineyards of paternalistic regulation policy. 

John Luik examines one proposal that would require restaurants to cut their servings by one half to two-thirds.  He not only makes mincemeat of the supposed "obesity epidemic" that would justify such a bizarre — not to say wildly illegal — policy but points out how restaurants, as well as all other business, respond to consumer demand not the reverse.

A Precautionary Tale - John Luik no longer has hope that the corrupt and ineffective World Health Organization can reform itself.  The organization's embrace of the inherently flawed concept, known as the precautionary principle, dooms it to veer ever nearer to a cultish mindset that is incapable of coping with the multitude of variables that constantly flow through every aspect of human health.  Its adherence to special interest pet peeves and agendas renders it incapable of fulfilling the mission the world set it up to perform.

Middle aged fatties prone to dementia - In addition to reiterating the limitations of epidemiological studies John Luik exposes the questionable methodology of this study which preposterously links obesity in middle age with old age dementia.  In addition he explains why this example of junk science caused such consternation both in the United States and abroad.  The media's scientific illiteracy is only part of the problem.

Nightmare of incrementalism - Last year we reported on the so-called tobacco buyout that ended the agricultural subsidies for that crop. Since tobacco was involved the simple relief bill for farmers turned into a smorgasbord of special-interest bottom feeding that included the Holy Grail of Food and Drug Administration control over tobacco products.  When the ravenous oinks ended smokers were stuck with the $10-billion cost of bailing out the farmers but the FDA regulation component was excised.  This year the usual suspects have reintroduced a bill that will give the FDA the power over tobacco that the tobacco control industry has so long sought.  John Luik wrote extensively about last year's shenanigans, making the complex understandable.  With anti-tobacco special interests again hoping to grasp the club to bludgeon smokers it's appropriate to present this informative piece to our readers.

Whoppers and the End of an Epidemic - Apart from this huge downward revision in the numbers of people supposedly dying from fat, there are several things in this study which signal the end of any legitimate linkage between obesity and premature death. First, for the merely overweight with BMI's from 25-30 there is no excess mortality. In fact, being overweight was "associated with a slight reduction in mortality relative to the normal weight category." Being overweight not only does not lead to premature death, something that dozens of other studies from around the world have been saying for the last 30 years, but it also carries less risk from premature death than being "normal" weight. In other words the overweight=early death "fact" proclaimed by the public health community is simply not true.

They Don't Embarrass Easily - A few years ago The New York Times ran a cartoon that showed two Washington DC policy experts having a conversation. "In Washington the search for truth is a creative process. First, you create a premise. Next you create a statistic to back it up. Then you create an audience by repeating it over and over again, until the media pick it up. That's when you know that you've done it." "Done what?" "Created a fact!" Just add Atlanta -- the home of the Centers for Disease Control -- to Washington and you have a pretty good idea of how obesity science and policy are made these days.

Only the Plump Die Young? - Some people don't know when to quit. You would think that after the debacle over the grossly inflated estimates of so-called obesity-related deaths from the US Center for Disease Control that the fat police would have the decency to just shut up. But the scary junk science stories about killer fat just keep coming. The latest is an alarmist study in the New England Journal of Medicine titled "Children's Life Expectancy Being Cut Short by Obesity." The study, by a team led by Jay Olshansky of the University of Illinois, makes the astonishing and quite unsupported claim that for the first time since at least 1900 children born in the United States today will live shorter lives than their parents due to obesity-caused mortality. The study's only problems are...

Beyond the myopia of prevention: the promise of harm reduction - Ever since the publication of the US National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine’s 2001 report Clearing the Smoke: Assessing the Science Basis for Tobacco Harm Reduction, much of the tobacco control community, particularly in the US, has engaged in a campaign to discredit harm reduction- the provision of lower risk tobacco products to smokers unable or unwilling to stop smoking- and insure that it does not find it way onto the tobacco control policy agenda. ...

It's the movies, stupid - Thanks to visiting US academic Stanton Glantz we at last know why young people smoke. In Toronto last week to tell the Ontario Film Review Board that movies containing smoking should receive the 18 A rating (that would prevent anyone under 18 from seeing them unless accompanied by an adult), Glantz told the Post’s James Cowan that seeing on screen smoking is the main reason why teens start smoking. No wonder the Post ran the Glantz story on the front page. Since almost everything about youth smoking, but especially what initiates it, is an immensely complicated and controversial issue, it is nice to know that this difficult issue finally has a neat and straightforward solution: just prevent kids from seeing films with people smoking and they will not smoke...

Eating Some Crow on Fat - All of this suggests that this is not merely some storm in the statistical teacup but a major credibility issue for the entire war on fat. The only basis for the massive interventions into the nation’s stomachs being proposed by the government and the public health community is that we are all getting excessively fat and our fat is killing us. But between the doubts about the CDC numbers, the evidence that most of us gain about a pound a year (most  of it during the holidays according to the New England Journal of Medicine) and the huge literature that fails to find a link between overweight and premature mortality, the rationale for the war on fact looks like it is dissolving under a weight of junk science...

Binge drinking, advertising bans and higher duties- the wrong prescription - There is an unfortunate tendency in contemporary public policy debates to attempt to solve long-standing and multi-dimensional problems with simple solutions that resemble political slogans or sound-bites more than serious attempts to deal with complicated issues. Whilst this tendency is found across the policy spectrum it is particularly obvious in policy debates that involve advertising and health. Michael Prowse exhibits this tendency all too clearly in his completely unsubstantiated claim that the answer to the UK’s ‘binge drinking’ problem is to ‘ban alcohol advertising and sharply raise taxes on products aimed at the young’ (18/19 October, 2003)

The perils of denormalization - One of the more disturbing contemporary trends in tobacco control is the increasing use by both anti-smoking activists and governments of “denormalization” campaigns against the industry. As used by the tobacco control movement, denormalization is as a made-up word that functions as noun and verb to describe both a state in which the tobacco industry and smoking are perceived to be non-normal, aberrant, and deviant and a series of activities designed to achieve this end...

The real light and mild scam - For the last few years one of the major strategies of the anti-tobacco activists and their opportunistic friends in the plaintiff’s bar has been to attack the description of tobacco products as “light” and “mild”. The activists have claimed that such descriptors are inherently misleading in that they convince smokers that using these cigarettes is less risky than other cigarettes. For the activists’ legal colleagues the use of light and mild constitutes a novel but massive commercial fraud which the experts in tobacco litigation have been quick to convert into the only thing that really counts in the American tobacco war- multi-billion dollar judgments. But the public policy battles and the courtroom claims about light and mild, have often distracted attention away from the larger issue of...

Canadian content at WHO - Like many of his fellow citizens Toronto Mayor Mel Lastman didn’t know a lot about WHO until the last few days, when its nature and powers became quite undeniably real and frightening. But this bit of national ignorance, however understandable, is completely unjustified for Canadians, of all people, ought to know what WHO is like. This is because for over the last thirty years we - or at least the people we trust our health care system to - have provided the intellectual foundations for WHO’s approach not only to SARS in Toronto but much else. And call if whatever you want - the boomerang effect, things bite back, or reaping what you sow - the WHO we have helped to create has now come back to haunt us...

Sheela Basrur, junk science and phantom risks - You would have thought that between SARS and the looming return of West Nile that Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health would have a fairly full plate. But the good doctor appears to never let real health risks get in the way of the important work of her unit- using junk science to stamp out phantom risks. So last Monday while the numbers of SARS deaths continued to grow Dr. Basrur and the Board of Health ran an eight hour meeting devoted to the hugely important health risk of, yes, Designated Smoking Rooms (DSR’s are fully enclosed and separately ventilated spaces where smoking in bars and restaurants is permitted.)

The dark side of tobacco taxes - Neither Finance Minister Greg Sorbora nor Health Minister George Smitherman appear to get it. Both Ontario ministers, along with Premier McGuinty and his Manitoba counterpart believe the orthodox fiction pushed by Canada’s anti-tobacco activists that raising tobacco taxes is an innocuous, cost-free policy measure that improves public health. Yet the evidence clearly shows that both of these claims, that higher tobacco taxes improve public health and that they are a cost-free policy measure are untrue...

Junk science redux - It used to be that the only junk that Canadians had to deal with regularly was the kind that dropped into their mail boxes. Now however, there is not a week that goes by without a new piece of junk science appearing in the press. For instance over the last couple of months the Post and the other national newspaper have averaged two-three junk science stories a week, including stories about herbicides and childhood cancers, alcohol and breast cancer, new nutritional guidelines from the WHO and global warming. Despite last year’s musing by FP Editor Terry Corcoran that the FP’s crusade against junk science might be running out of targets, this year has produced an enormous number of new cases. Clearly the epidemic has not run its course...

Fat chance: some cautions about the war on fat - Ever since the Lancet last year called for sin taxes on ‘junk food’ and prohibitions on food marketing and advertising to children it was clear that Britian’s health establishment paternalists were planning a massive new war on fat. It is now impossible to pick up a newspaper or turn on the television without encountering a new claim about the damage done by fat, the causes of obesity or what to do about it. Perhaps the most obvious sign that government intends to get involved is to be found in this week’s hearings by the Commons Health Select Committee at which representatives of the food industry including McDonald’s Cadbury Schweppes and PepsiCo will be asked to explain their role in the rise of obesity...

The origins of the junk science epidemic - The anti-tobacco movement likes to call the tobacco industry the “disease vector” of the tobacco epidemic. While that claim is certainly disputable, what is indisputable is that the anti-tobacco movement and their allies in the public health community are the disease vector of the junk science epidemic that threatens to overwhelm sound public policy, not only in tobacco but in a wide range of health issues...

Ten wasted years - The Health Minister's decision to slash funds for Ottawa's multi-year, half-a-billion-dollar anti-smoking campaign is one of the few positive things to come out of last week's annual National Non-Smoking Week. The move signals that perhaps the government finally realizes how much of its tobacco control strategy over the last decade has been driven by the unevidenced rhetoric of the anti-smoking movement...

Smokescreen: 'passive smoking' and public policy - The Health Effects of Passive Smoking, the Draft Report of the NHMRC Working Party represents a careful and sophisticated development of the principles of two Canadians, Professor John Last, a distinguished epidemiologist, and Marc Lalonde, a distinguished former minister of National Health and Welfare. Professor Last's principles are taken from his plenary address to the International Epidemiological Association, while those of minister Lalonde's are taken from a 1974 document, ' A New Perspective for the Health of Canadians'...

A response to: "Towards healthier communities in Nove Scotia: a Discussion Paper"  - "There is no compelling evidence to support our claim, the authors all but admit, but it is important, in the interests of health promotion that the public be made to think that there is scientific evidence of harm."

The 'Smee Report' as a contribution to the tobacco advertising debate - Almost two-and-a-half years after the release of the Smee Report and despite the fact that the UK government has declined to use the Report's conclusions as the basis of public policy with respect to tobacco advertising, the Smee Report continues to be cited around the world both as a comprehensive analysis of the evidence about tobacco advertising and as a definitive judgement about the necessity for bans of such advertising...

Pandora's Box: the dangers of politically corrupted science for democratic public policy - The assumptions about the nature of persons and the legitimate role of the State (of necessity unargued for) which structure our argument are those of an unreconstructed liberal individualist, namely, that the individuals who make up democratic society are the best judges of the shape they wish their lives to take, and consequently they should be accorded the maximum liberty, compatible with similar liberty for everyone else, to think, believe, and live as they choose. This means that the State's role is at least fourfold: first, to prevent or minimize harms by one individual to another individual...

'I can't help myself': addiction as ideology - In one sense it is perhaps curious that a symposium on addiction should include a paper by a philosopher. Addiction, as we are constantly told, is, after all, a medical, indeed a scientific issue for which the tools of the philosopher might seem ill-suited or out of place. But to allow that addiction is a medical problem, a disease to use the vocabulary favoured by some, is to concede precisely the point which is at issue, namely, what should we mean when we use the word `addiction', or more importantly, do we mean anything at all when we use the word...


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