A report circulating the world newswire services today has revealed that the British Government had discussions about smoking and health as far back as 50 years ago. Major newspapers around the world have reported this as a failure to act to protect health. It is commonplace nowadays for anyone with a vested interest to jump onto the anti smoking bandwagon in the victimisation of smokers, in fact it is so deeply ingrained into the social conscience that most people wouldn’t bat an eyelid if the ten ‘o’ clock news said "every death everywhere is caused by smoking". The formula of the anti smoking craze is well known; there are billions of dollars on the table for anyone in authority who is prepared to promote anti smoking sentiment, the media is, as always, keen to print health scares because it sells newspapers and pleases their largest advertising customers in the pharmaceutical industry. The pharmaceutical industry loves the health scares even more because the daily scares terrify people into buying their products. Finally that brings us to the special interest groups who will exaggerate the claims and shout from the rooftops in the efforts to force their agendas onto society.
In light of the above it is easy to see why today’s reports about the failures of the British Government to act in the 1950’s contain colourful and inflammatory sentiment such as – "A grim portrait of the events; and a cavalier approach to the possible public health risks of cigarette use." The case against the Government is argued on the basis that they enjoyed tobacco themselves and didn’t want to jeopardise the tax revenue.
Is this an accurate summation of the historical events?
The 1950’s in Britain was a time of liberty and freedom; emerging from the most encompassing war ever against totalitarian ideals the people had little time for big brother; it was not the job of MP’s to protect people from themselves. The most important aspect missed in this historical assessment however is the judgment of the evidence by the British Government; in actual fact they correctly recognised that a statistical correlation is not scientific proof and a statistical analysis that shows smokers die younger in no way indicates that they die younger because of the fact they smoke.
The evidence they had before them showed that the average life for a smoker was 72 , the average life for a non smoker was 73 and that smokers were more likely to get cancer. In any scientific arena they would be correct to conclude that this was all completely meaningless; smokers have always been at higher risk for many other reasons such as socio economic status and diet and it was therefore entirely obvious that this section of society would suffer more health problems and lower life expectancy whether they smoked or not.
The only things that have changed in the years since this first Government discussion is that the statistical numbers have been exaggerated further year on year and that massive funding from corporate and special interests has ensured that far more time, money and energy has been put into the anti smoking effort than all other public health issues combined.
Today’s politicians are only too happy to pamper to the media scares churned out by special interest groups and to bow to the lobbying of corporate interests. This is the real "cavalier approach" to public health policy and the actions of the current MP’s will be the ones eventually recorded in history besides such sentiments as "A grim portrait of the events".
Unaffected by pressure from the pharmaceutical industry, media induced social attitude, the global spread of American nannyism and the lobbying power of special interest groups, all the British Government did in the 50’s was to recognise junk science when they saw it and then have the integrity to dismiss it.