Further Information

The Smoking Epidemic: Death and Sickness among Australian Smokers | Peter D. Finch
Article Published: 1996

Type: Meta-Analysis
Further Information

If you smoke, what are your actual chances of getting sick, and dying?

In this study, Prof. Peter Finch from Australia examines the most important tenets of the antitobacco ideology, which he describes as follows:
  1. Smoking must be harmful because it has been associated with a number of illnesses, e.g. lung cancer, heart disease and stroke.
  2. Tobacco is a leading cause of morbidity and premature mortality and is responsible for a correspondingly large burden on hospital services.
  3. Smoking kills at unusually young ages and that, as a consequence, the ages at death of smokers are in general younger than those of non-smokers.
  4. Smokers usually die when they do because of their smoking and the longer they smoke the more likely it is that smoking rather than something else will kill them.
  5. The number of deaths for which smoking is responsible has been accurately determined.
  6. The morbidity of smokers places a large unfair burden on hospital services.
  7. Smoking is to blame for the smoking-related illnesses experienced by ex-smokers and tobacco companies should be made to compensate them accordingly.
We will examine how far these convictions are supported by the figures about the harmful effects of smoking.

Professor Peter Finch then proceeds to analyse the data in this 65-page document.

The conclusions are staggering: none of the claims and numbers of the antitobacco propaganda against active smoking can be verified, and they are largely created with statistical tricks and artifice. In short, it can be extrapolated that a perverse philosophy of vague pursuit of semi-immortality makes use of a vague para-science (multifactorial epidemiology), which in turn resorts to a large variety of statistical manipulations to support ("demonstrate") the ideology that employed it in the first place.

Perhaps the closing remarks of Prof. Finch may bring some relief to some people:

There is nothing new in missionaries telling people how they should behave. There is nothing new in the suppression of relevant information and the use of propaganda to persuade people to believe what you want them to believe. Nor is there anything new in large sections of the scientific establishment putting aside the uncertainties of pure science to support dominant sectarian views on how science should be put to use in practical affairs. […] It is perhaps an oblique comment on the interface between present-day scientific enquiry and public policy that we feel obliged to emphasise that the findings reported here have been pursued in the Baconian spirit of merely wanting to know just what it is that the Muses are telling us when they give us the anti-smoking movement‘s own figures.
This document was written around 1996. Anyone can see how far the Muses have gone. Anticipating very predictable objections, Finch tells us:

The enquiry has been neither prompted by, nor supported by, the patronage of tobacco companies, pro-smoking groups or any part of the anti-smoking movement itself.

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