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article imageOp-Ed: The great passive smoking hoax Special

By Alexander Baron     Jul 24, 2011 in Health
A recent study claims to find an association between passive smoking and teenage deafness, but is this just more anti-smoking hype?
There is an old joke about a man who was treating an ailment with homeopathy until one day he forgot to take his medicine and died of an overdose. If you found that even mildly humorous, some of the recent findings of the anti-smoking lobby should have you in stitches.
Big headlines worldwide on Tuesday last week screamed Passive smoking can make kids go deaf – The Times Of India; Passive smoking harms hearing of teenagersthe London Daily Mail; the latter in the on-line version with a suitably staged photograph of a distraught teen looking in horrified fascination at a lighted cigarette. From whence does this nonsense come?
The research on which these particular stories are based comes from an American paediatrician, Dr Michael Weitzman in Archives Of Otolaryngology, a peer reviewed medical journal published by the American Medical Association.
No doubt the good doctor means well, but what he has found is “an association”. Later the same week, another association was found by medical researchers: taller women are more prone to cancer than are shorter women. So, if adults are to refrain from smoking anywhere near children in order to reduce the risk of their contracting lung cancer, going deaf, or catching athlete’s foot, by the same logic, tall women should chop off their legs at the knees.
The reason for the barrage of propaganda directed against passive smoking is not difficult to fathom. The anti-smoking lobby lost the argument years ago; they realise this. In spite of the at times alarmist propaganda churned out against it, smokers continued to smoke, and both smokers’ rights groups and civil libertarians stressed that as intelligent, informed adults they were entitled to engage in their pastime and take the consequences, as are boxers, sky divers, motor races and drinkers. If though, smoking can be shown to be detrimental to the health of “innocent people”, especially children, it’s a different ball game, which is where passive smoking comes in.
Five years ago last March, Chris Tame died. Who was Chris Tame? For seven years he served as Director of FOREST, the British smokers’ rights organisation, and under his leadership it churned out a steady stream of publications exposing the bogus statistics and other shenanigans of the anti-smoking lobby. One of his assistants, Judith Hatton, published a considerable body of research on the facts about smoking, passive smoking, and the massaging of statistics. Lifelong non-smoker and fitness fanatic Chris Tame died at the age of 56 from a particularly virulent form of bone cancer; smoker Judith Hatton lived until she was nearly ninety.
In addition to his tenure at FOREST, Chris Tame was Britain’s leading Libertarian and Director of the Libertarian Alliance; his friend and successor, Sean Gabb, has recently published a critique of the anti-smoking lobby – not his first publication on this subject. Recently he debated the issue Should Smoking Be Banned In Cars? on BBC Three Counties Radio wherein he debunked the “junk statistics” that are churned out by this lobby specifically in Britain but also elsewhere.
As well as publishing a prodigious body of mostly academic work he has worked for the Lord Chancellor’s Department, contributing to the draughting of The Supreme Court Practice. He had the following to say:
AB: Sean, you are a lifelong non-smoker are you not?
SG: Though not much of a smoker, certainly not a non-smoker.
AB: My apologies. You say you are extremely skeptical about statistics with specific reference to medical statistics. Can you give a few examples?
SG: I would refer you to my article here.
AB: Chris Tame used to say when they start talking about protecting children, what they really mean is destroying you rights. Do you agree with that?
SG: Whole-heartedly. Let me give you another link .
AB: Leaving aside the exaggerated and at times bogus statistics, there is a consensus that the benefits of smoking are far outweighed by the dangers and unpleasant side effects such as bad breath. What is your position on this?
SG: Since all the statistics are dubious at best, I have no position on this matter. I simply draw your attention to the works of the late Judith Hatton, in particular Wild Guesses And Rubber Numbers, wherein she compared official smoking rates with life expectancy in various countries, and saw no inverse correlation.
AB: Do you think smokers should pay more for health services? Don’t they bring it on themselves to some extent?
SG: Since all the statistics range between lies and the dubious, I have no idea how many times more smokers already pay for the medical services they might require.
AB: You are a proud father; what will you tell your daughter when she is of an age to perhaps want to smoke?
SG: She must choose for herself.
AB: The government, all governments, tax tobacco heavily. What is your view on this from both a practical and an idealogical perspective?
SG: Since governments exist and maintain themselves through various modes of armed robbery called taxation, there is some pragmatic case for arguing which taxes are most burdensome. This being so, it is permissible to tax inessentials like tobacco and alcohol for revenue purposes, but not to deter consumption. The difference of motivation is hard to define, but easy to see.
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There is though, even more to the passive smoking scam than meets the eye. Not only has passive smoking become increasingly dangerous but some later studies appear to show it is actually more dangerous than regular smoking, which is clearly absurd. Then there is the work of Simon Wolff.
Simon Wolff was Lecturer in Toxicology at University College, London. Like Chris Tame he was a non-smoker, and died even younger, in November 1995, aged only 38, but his spirit lives on in the foundation that bears his name. Although he said smoking had nothing to recommend it, and that it most definitely caused lung cancer in isolation, as well as many other unpleasant diseases, he believed if we could reduce air pollution, especially from cars, we would see very much lower rates of especially lung cancer.
This sentiment was echoed by Edward Goldsmith, the founder of The Ecologist magazine; in fact, Goldsmith went even further and believed there was a vast conspiracy engineered by the petro-chemical industry to foist most or all of the blame for lung cancer and many other cancers onto the tobacco industry, but with the recent massacre in Norway, the famine in East Africa, and the ongoing phone hacking saga, we have seen enough conspiracies in the media this month. Suffice it to say, that any reasonably objective individual who studies the works of Judith Hatton or the dissenting medical literature on both smoking and passive smoking will rapidly conclude that the public is consistently presented with only one side of the debate. And although it is not generally known, at one time, even prestigious medical journals used to actually advertise cigarettes!
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com
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