Here we have a textbook example of what many in the smokers’ rights movement would consider a ‘better than nothing’ piece and tend to use it, while instead it should be utterly trashed. This piece is worth the time for a rational analysis of the foundations of the tobacco control scam.
The piece, written by Jeff Stier, has the title: ‘Smoke & Mirrors: Butts, Lies and Public Health’. Encouraging, isn’t it? At least at first sight – but not really when you see how fundamentally flawed the rest of the article is. Emphases are added in italics:
The days of deception on the health risks of cigarettes aren’t over after all – although now the distortion’s coming from the "good guys." For decades, the industry-funded Tobacco Institute denied the harmful consequences of smoking and did a great disservice to public health. Today, however, it’s anti-smoking advocates spreading the disinformation – overstating certain risks. But – because such deception undermines the credibility of all public-health work – they’re being called on it by one of their own.
The caption of Frieden’s picture reads: ‘Frieden: Using bad science to push good policies.’
Time already for a close look – but first let us make up a story.
There is a huge mint candy industry. It’s been around and growing for generations and generations. Hordes of children in recent times and years long forgotten have eaten those candies, some tend to give them up as they grow older, though others never do. They are scrumptious candies unlike any others and thus irreplaceable. One bad day, a bunch of epidemiological studies shows up, suggesting that, at the age of 60-plus, 10% of those who have eaten the mint candies develops stomach cancer. Without any direct scientific proof of causation, which is measurable and repeatable by other experimenters, some of the epidemiologists express the opinion that the cancer in the old folks is caused by the candies, on the grounds that some dozens of studies varyingly suggest a prevalence of stomach cancer amongst the current or former candy eaters.
Now say that the mint candy industry employs hundreds of thousands of people, its profits constitute essential investments for stockholders, society and pension plans, while attracting billions of dollars in capital and continuously producing wealth. What is that industry supposed to do?
Like any other industry, it would like to have proof positive that its candies are carcinogenic, or better not. It would demand scientific proof – not epidemiological ‘proof’ – as by definition epidemiology cannot establish causality – that its product is harmful. If the industry could, by using the same methodology used to build the ‘evidence’ against its candies, produce different conclusions or different results, it would naturally present this. If it could indeed produce such evidence, this would call into question both the ‘causative’ conclusions, and the methodology used, epidemiological statistics. Would not the candy industry counter epidemiological attacks with equivalent epidemiological defences? Would that natural response be a lie and deception? That is exactly what the Tobacco Institute did.
Alternatively, would it be rational for the candy industry to say, unquestioningly, ‘OK, folks, some "experts" say that our candies cause cancer a half century later. They cannot prove it at all, of course, but we’ve decided to say they are authoritative. In its first report even the Surgeon General’s panel stated that there is an association between our candies and cancers, but without any scientific proof to support that association, and it said so itself. However let’s all believe another collegial bunch of "experts" who say our candies cause cancer. Let’s all go along with those fellows. Please throw our products in the trash, we’ll stop production altogether, fire hundreds of thousands of employees, and crash the stock market in the process. After all, why not presume the worst, regardless of the consequences? Some self-congratulating "experts" say they loathe and condemn our product and that’s enough for us. Good-bye, we’re heading for the soup kitchen now, and we apologise for making those candies you’ve loved for so long.’
Would you invest in an industry like that if you knew in advance? Not if you are sane.
According to this piece, a ‘good policy’ is what limits or forbids a product because a consensus of presumptive opinions without proof and with a very questionable methodology says that the product is bad and should be tyrannically banished with total disregard for widespread contrary feeling amongst the public.
Let’s take another paragraph of this ‘better than nothing’ insidious piece: ‘There is evidence that long-term, high-dose ETS exposure increases the risk of heart disease and heart attack. And there is speculation that even short-term exposure may be unsafe to those with severe coronary artery disease.’
Absolutely false. There is no valid ‘evidence that long-term, high-dose ETS exposure increases the risk of heart disease and heart attack’ (or lung cancer) because the methodology used to gather the data is an intellectual fraud. Why? Because nothing has been rationally measured – ever – therefore the so-called ‘evidence’ is no evidence at all.
Let us make an example. If your mother tells you ‘I love you very much,’ and father says, ‘I love you even more’:
A) Do you have a measure of the love of your mother?
B) Can you state that dad actually loves you more than mom?
C) Do you know how much more dad loves you than mom does?
D) If mother or father kisses or slaps you, how much love do you add or subtract from the calculation, who says so, why, how much, in each case, and, finally:
E) Does a kiss or slap constitute proof or disproof of the love of your parents?
This is exactly how the studies on passive smoking work. Regardless of their results they want to measure what cannot be measured, that is, the memories of exposure you have, according to what you may recall, and without your having had any chance of measuring those exposures, and not even knowing how. This is the illusory basis of the ‘evidence’ against passive smoking (and of that against active smoking too.) Furthermore, it is impossible rationally to filter out the confounding factors in both cases, as there is no disease that is unique to smokers. Heart disease, for example, has literally hundreds of potential confounding factors.
Similarly, with the case of instrumental measuring of passive smoking pollutants in the air, it is impossible to know if and how much those pollutants hurt you, in one minute or in one century. Just as there are no smoking-specific health conditions, there are no air pollutants that are unique to smoking except nicotine, which is not harmful. So, what do we have left, for both active and passive smoking? Ideology, fear, propaganda, and beliefs – but no science. Science implies genuine and objective measure.
Articles like this are not helpful to the causes of smokers’ rights or of institutional integrity. They promote confusion. They suggest baseless compromises, which at any rate will never come from the uncompromising, fanatically prohibitionist ideology which reigns today. Articles like this are not ‘better than nothing.’ They are wrongheaded. They are trash.
Policy must not be based on meritless beliefs. The closing lines of this ‘believing’ piece say it all. Read carefully. Our comments are in brackets and shaded blue.
Science eventually catches up [WHAT science? The epidemiological interviews on distant memories?] with those who hyperbolize about risks [WHAT risks, those that have been calculated on the interviews on distant memories?], and the public learns to disregard them [The public should. Condemning the extreme manifestations of a fraud does not legitimize the rest of the fraud, although that’s what this foolish author thinks]. It would be tragic to see some public-health advocates lose the mantle of sound science [WHAT sound science, that which attributes deaths and disease without being able scientifically to prove one?] and end up going the way of the old Tobacco Institute [which rightfully fought the epidemiological junk science].
Cigarette smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States [but not even one of those deaths can be scientifically demonstrated as being caused by smoking: not science, ideology] and needs our urgent attention [what needs urgent attention is institutional corruption and especially institutional incompetence]. Overstating the case may help the advocates win this political battle but at significant cost to the overall public-health war [How can one overstate a measure that was never there in the first place?].
Finally, we do agree that this is a war – a terrible and righteous war against state-adopted junk science, fraud as politics, and institutional corruption. When the whole structure is faulty from the foundations up, the only way to fix it is to destroy it. So, rather than ‘better than nothing,’ it should be said that, ‘it is better to have nothing than a bunch of deceptive illusions.’ The alternative is that ‘public health’s’ targets, personal freedom and dignity, scientific integrity, and more fundamentally sweet reason and true culture, will all be inched into oblivion, one lie at the time.