Challenging Dogma?

The Real Dogma Is Not Challenged At All

Click on the image to write to Gian TurciMarch 15, 2006 - I was pleased to see that my previous article about the antismoking dogma was partially shared by Dr. Siegel, who quoted points C and D of my list of “commandments” of antitobacco in his blog. Of that I am honoured – but an important part of the issue are points A and B. Point A (and especially B) challenge the real dogma about smoking: where is a reliable, scientific demonstration that smoking (including especially passive smoke) “kills”? Without that foundation the whole antitobacco premise crumbles, as the emperor has no clothes. Antitobacco is turning out to be a dangerous, fanatical phenomenon that is getting worse than the First Prohibition, justified on questionable science to gobble up immense sums of public money and secure global political power without any accountability. That lack of accountability is the most dangerous part of all, as it puts “public health” above any democratic process and guarantees total immunity from prosecution and political consequences. That in turn gives licence to top international organs such as the WHO to perpetrate any statistical fraud and abuse, and to promote or encourage veritable hate campaigns in the member countries.

Those campaigns are looking more and more like the racial and religious persecutions of the past; recent events in the United States prove my point conclusively. History shows that, eventually, even dictators are politically accountable for their actions to the people, and the fate of many of them demonstrates that. But this is certainly not the case for the bureaucrats of “public health” anywhere in the world.

In this reality antitobacco is promoted at the very top by dishonest bureaucrats and “scientists” who have made lucrative careers of epidemiological uncertainties. It is sustained and expanded by mostly incompetent authorities and opportunistic politicians who have found an easy scapegoat. As bottom feeders of this hysteria we see only bigots, fanatics, hypochondriacs and an ever-growing number of people who feel so uncomfortable and powerless today,  they are only too happy to pour their hatred down the emotional drains the system has kindly provided: smokers today, fat people tomorrow, drinkers next. This, in my opinion, is the reason why the “scientific” basis - that is, epidemiological junk science - of this movement is never, ever discussed. The antismoking “culture” is based on a rigidly observed taboo: thou shall not question the science – especially when it’s junk.

Yet, I would like to see anybody at all out there bring to the table one of the following:

  1. one disease or death where it is possible to say that it has been caused solely by active or passive smoking;
  2. one disease or death where it is at least possible to quantify the contribution of active or passive smoking.

Those are not outrageous challenges. Proof of causality is at the base of science – and opinions, no matter how numerous, are not considered proof, since science is not a democracy, but the domain of reason and ethics – or at least it should be. I am forgetting, of course, that science no longer matters (and in this I agree with Dr. Siegel); hatred seems to matter much more, nowadays.

Still, failing (a) and (b), at least it would be nice to see one of these:

  • An epidemiology textbook stating that risk increments of 20-30% allow us to establish with some degree of certainty that what is under examination (in this case, passive smoke) is responsible for those puny increments in the case of multifactorial diseases such as cancer - especially when over 50% of the studies available on the subject are statistically insignificant.
    Let me put that in another way: a text stating that a bare minimum of 100-200% risk elevation is not what is needed to just begin to suspect that what is examined may indeed be a real risk factor for the multiple-causality disease;
  • A scientific textbook stating that epidemiology can establish causality;
  • A scientific textbook stating that generation-skipping retrospective analyses based on questionnaires about unverifiable memories of non-measurable exposures are sound science.

In spite of all that is happening, I still believe that people are smarter than they look – thus capable of understanding more than three-word slogans - and quite capable of following a public debate based on the points above. I am forgetting, of course, that “public health” is not up for debate and has become an absolute – thus all we get is elusions, false accusations, rhetoric and insults – the result of what happens when a system goes amok with mass-emotion instigations rather than staying on track with real education and  rational debates. Nowhere in the world has any “health authority” or professional antismoker, regimented oncologist or medical association ever accepted to debate this. Instead, they TELL you that it is “scientifically established” that smoking in any form and quantity causes cancer – but no one will accept a debate with studies in hand. This alone should speak volumes about the solidity of the science behind antitobacco. Yet before spending billions of public dollars in hate campaigns all over the world, involving the United Nations in ghettoizing millions of people and demanding that smokers be jettisoned from jobs, parenthood and society altogether, we should at least have some conclusive proof of one death in the world, shouldn’t we?...

We read about tobacco death counters at the WHO headquarters, and hear upsetting stories of “smoking-related” cancer patients told by their survivors while the patients themselves become proof of causality for their own disease. Children are shown black lungs of pigs or miners always with cancer to nail into their heads the ridiculous belief that there cannot be smokers with healthy lungs. We hear “experts” and “authorities” quacking that smoking bans save “thousands of people’s lives”. All smoking causes cancer – it’s evil and “deadly in any form or disguise” - it’s a scientific consensus. Yet any and every voice that dissents on the causality of a disease whose early development, dispersal and etiopathology are still a dark mystery has been slandered first, then ridiculed, then ignored, and finally silenced for good. Why? I am forgetting, of course, that this is a rhetorical question.

Having said that, for primary smoking it is unquestionable that it kills statistically – that is, when we compare masses of populations that actively smoke with masses that do not smoke we see consistently higher numbers of people with lung cancer in the former.  But it should be explained to people that this is not enough to establish causality, but only to guess it. One could precisely measure that Detroit has more homicides than Anytown, USA - down to the last police report. We would have two unquestionable realities: Detroit (the smokers) and the homicides (the cancers). But these two unarguable realities still don’t build up to the crucial element: the reason why (causality) Detroit had more homicides than Anytown. Could it be the size of the cities, the preponderance of this or that race, unemployment, political beliefs? Maybe the spreading of illegal drugs, or the distribution of wealth - maybe the average age, or the preponderance of aggressive males? Most likely, we would be looking at the end result of a complex combination of a large number of interacting factors. But we’ll never be able to establish which factor (causality), or to quantify the contribution of each factor to Detroit’s (smokers’) reality that there are more homicides (cancers). This is because even if we could totally remove one factor from the investigation, before measuring the difference we should also freeze all other factors – but society is not a laboratory, and this is impossible. This is the reason why epidemiology cannot establish causality – and so far epidemiology is all we’ve got. In other words, we would have reached the limit of what we can establish objectively – and we should say so. [*]

But if we want to keep those grants coming we can’t say “That’s all we know, folks”: we have to show usable results (causality) even when there isn’t any; so we arbitrarily attribute Detroit’s homicides to what seems plausible at the moment or - more frequently - to the political target of the financers of our investigation. So, if the target is blacks, “blacks kill”; if we are extremist feminists, then “men kill”; if the target is drugs, “drugs kill”. Down to our issue, smoking - just one of over 40 suspected factors of lung cancer - “kills”, and we look no further. Perhaps there is some truth in all those statements – but that’s a far cry from being a reasonable base for the launching of multi-billion dollar social engineering projects and crusades that disintegrate liberties, economies and social fabrics. That is because all we have are opinions which may indeed be based on some real observations, but they are still incapable of establishing causation. The “mountain of evidence” against active and passive smoking is a sequence of attributions that at no time ever had correspondence with experimental science. And this is the pivotal point of the whole, world-wide antismoking misrepresentation. I am forgetting, of course, that the tobacco issue has never been about science or health – but about politics and social control.

Today the opinions of those who have no proof - thus make attributions - have become science, faith and dogma in one single step in a society claiming to have grown beyond superstitious credulities and into science. Good luck! Simple questions such as: “Can you demonstrate that Mr. Doe’s cancer (or asthma, emphysema, anything you want) was caused by active/passive smoking?” are absolutely ignored by the media and by all “public health authorities”. Just asking such questions leads to “lack of credibility”, and becomes a contemptible action against those noble “authorities” who heroically lead the sacrosanct crusade against evil tobacco in the holy name of eternal health. Ask those questions and you become tobacco industry stuff. When it comes to lifestyles and especially smoking, health “authorities” have become the Untouchables of the 21st century, as they say that the issue of “smoking & cancer” is settled for good. No, it is not. What is settled is that we have an ominous institutional integrity problem of planetary proportions that is getting worse by the day.

This is the real dogma that does not get challenged at all - and this is the rest of the story, Dr. Siegel. You  wonder why the situation got this far: candidly, I don’t think that it takes a genius to figure it out.

Gian Turci

[*] Frankly, I would cheer if public health authorities had engaged in a honest campaign of public education about the epidemiologic/statistical risks of smoking, and more so if they had moved to promote and even regulate cigarettes and ways of smoking that might be statistically less hazardous. But instead they have mounted a scorched-earth political crusade to their advantage and, to this day, they continue a self-serving intransigence in opposing the development of less hazardous smokes that could have been possible as far back as the late '70s – and the authorities know that. If it’s true that smoking kills as much as they say, then following a hate-based abolitionist policy instead of one pursuing risk reduction has made “public health” as responsible for the statistical slaughter as Big Tobacco may be. But – once again – “public health” is not accountable for its actions, as it seems to be above any juridical and moral law.

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