More anti-science crooks: The smokers

This is another archival repost of something written on the old blog waaay back in April 2005.

This evening I’ve come across the first of what is for me a whole new world of anti-science stupidy. It comes in the form of John Hughes of “Smokers United UK”, which consists of an appalingly designed free-hosting website and an awful lot of spam. Here is my response to him, it’s long so it continues “under the fold“:

This is a response to a one man “pressure group” who is spamming web forums with his campaign against a smoking ban in the UK. The reason I bothered to write it is not because I think smokers shouldn’t be allowed to smoke, or because I support the political parties behind the ban. The user concedes that there should be smoke free places, but argues that there should be no rigid smoking ban, and in some establishments smoking should be allowed (licensed maybe?). Not particularly uncontroversial, and something which I may even have agreed with.

The reason I am writing this is because the man is a loon peddling pseudoscience. If he kept to political argument I would probably never had made any reply to his argument, and ignored his discussion. But the crook is telling outright lies, slandering medical researchers and concocting conspiracy theories. And of late, my weblog has been turning into a forum for pseudoscientific loon bashing. Perhaps after two years of drifting webloging I’ve found my niche? I’m not a doctor, but I spend my evenings studying for my Ph.D. in Pseudoscientific Rhetoric at the University of Ediacara, and well, a quick PubMed and a google knocks this one down.

The claims

Whether you’re reading this as a smoker or a non-smoker: the introduction of a complete ban on smoking in the UK should be of concern to all of us.I’ve recently written to members of the mainstream parties to query their stance on this issue, and asked them to both clarify their position, and also confirm or deny that successive governments have adopted a strategy of deliberately manipulating statistics and distorting established medical facts to try to support their claims.

Of the few who have bothered to reply, here are the results:

Lib-Dems and SNP support the ban and intend to implement it if elected.

Good on them, I’m already voting Liberal, though, so you haven’t converted me to them, but I’ll put a note under the orange diamond on the front door.

The Green Party, Conservatives, Labour, and Plaid Cymru: No response.

Good to see they have better things to do with their time than reply to cranks. Take a look over at, though, it might help.

The avalanche of propaganda in recent years has resulted in even smokers believing all the hype & hysteria, and yet – is it justified? Is smoking {and passive smoking} really so demonic that we should criminalise millions of ordinary, law-abiding citizens?

Yes. Direct all further questions to this computer. A few tips to improve your rather poor rhetoric here, though: braces are not the same as brackets, using them as such make your writing look like a teenage Goth’s effort at being different. The phrase “law-abiding” is redundant, the word “criminalise” implies that the citizens are currently law-abiding. Puting it there is, of course, a good subliminal way to get casual readers and libertarians’ sympathy. But when I read it, I did a double take, and thought to myself: “he’s trying to get my sympathy by saying this people are good, because they’re law-abiding, so we’re criminalising good people.” A obvious non-sequitur on our subconscious’ part, clearly.

Here are the REAL facts:If you take a look at the government’s White Paper on Smoking, it appears that – going by the very impressive list of “scientific” research which “proves” that smoking is the No. 1 killer on the planet – only an idiot would even dare to suggest that it’s all a load of nonsense.

I agree, though I’m interested by this data about smoking being the number one killer. I thought malaria (at 2mpa) and AIDS (at 3.5mpa) killed more, but the data I have to hand for smoking only covers the US at 440,000 per year (from the centers for disease control & prevention), though that’s a conservative estimate, and smoking contributes to the top four medical causes of death in the US:

Heart Disease: 696,947

Cancer: 557,271

Stroke: 162,672

Chronic lower respiratory diseases: 124,816

Accidents (unintentional injuries): 106,742

Diabetes: 73,249

Influenza/Pneumonia: 65,681

Alzheimer’s disease: 58,866

Nephritis, nephritic syndrome, and nephrosis: 40,974

Septicaemia: 33,865

(compared 16,110 people murders)

The CDC describes tobacco use as “the single most important preventable risk to human health in developed countries and an important cause of premature death worldwide”.

Well, this particular idiot is prepared to stand up and say this: they have very meticulously “cherry-picked” all the “best bits” from the accumulated research, and are now waving all this “conclusive and overwhelming evidence” around to persuade us that yes – if they don’t impose a ban right now {even though it’s against the wishes of 22 million smokers and non-smokers from a population of 59 million}, we’re all going to die slow, horrible, and painful deaths.

Yes, they probably have “cherry-picked” the “best bits”. The bits in which the experiments or epidemiology studies have been replicated and otherwise backed up by further studies. I haven’t seen the size of the report though, they might have included it all, though having just found 107,498 results when searching the peer-reviewed biomedical literature for “smoking”, I suppose they’d have to leave some of the less relevant of unreplicated studies out.

Maybe we all will – but there’s NO evidence at all to confirm that smoking, let alone passive smoking, will cause it. Who says so?

1. you are a complete idiot.

2. you are a liar.

Incidentally, you are asking the wrong question “who says so?”. In science and medicine (or any other academic discipline, and to a large extent in politics for that matter), the truth isn’t determined by “who”, it is determined by observation and experimentation designed to discover as objectively as possible what is true.

As you’re clearly in politics and not science, let me give a political example: there is an objective answer to the question “did Iraq have WMDs?”. To answer the question we look to observation, from inspectors and intelligence agents, we don’t ask “who says so?”

Well, how about The World Health Organisation, or the National Cancer Journal for starters? Together with the sadly few non-smoking and even anti-smoking doctors who have been honest enough to question the results of the propaganda in the British Medical Journal.

Copy and pasted from the WHO website:

Why is tobacco a public health priority? Tobacco is the second major cause of death in the world. It is currently responsible for the death of one in ten adults worldwide (about 5 million deaths each year). If current smoking patterns continue, it will cause some 10 million deaths each year by 2020. Half the people that smoke today -that is about 650 million people- will eventually be killed by tobacco.

Were you innocently misled?

Could you give references for you NCJ assertion? As far as I am aware the NCJ, like all medical journals, accepts the overwhelming evidence for the link. I know they published an article some time back that didn’t find a link, but not finding a link not the same as disproving a link (which has been found by many studies), and a journal publishing a paper is not the same as the journal, or its editors, endorsing the conclusions of the paper. Unlike magazines you can buy in WH Smith, editors of medical journals tend to accept any relevant and notable study which has followed the scientific method and isn’t obviously submitted in bad faith. An editor may comment on a study if she has an opinion on it, ultimately that opinion doesn’t matter: science works by experimentation, so if that editor thinks the study is bunk she tries to replicate it (or more likely gets some students to try and replicate it).

While the government {fully backed up by doctors and the NHS} inundate us with startling examples of “conclusive results” taken from individual single-centre studies, they ALSO choose to completely ignore {wonder why?} major, multi-centre, international studies which demonstrate exactly the OPPOSITE!Please don’t take my word for it – as if you would. The World Health Organisation sponsored one of the world’s biggest and costliest studies ever: an international multi-centre study across 21 countries, and spanning a 10-year period.

Its objective was specifically to prove “once & for all” the link between heart disease and the 4 suspected major causes: obesity, smoking, high blood pressure, and elevated cholesterol.

And the results, published in August, 1998? Not ONE of these factors were implicated in causing heart disease! At least they had the decency to admit that the results were “surprising”, if only to them.

Go on – look it up for yourself on Google. It was called The MONICA Project, and yet strangely, it’s never mentioned in the anti-smoking blurb we see & hear every day, along with the results of other major cancer studies covering years of research across hundreds of centres worlwide.

So many flaws in so few paragraphs. MONICA did not have a single conclusion, and it was not a single study, it was a project of many studies.

The study did not “seek to prove” a link, the study set out with the hypothesis that a link existed. The reason it had this hypothesis was that a number of previous studies had found the link, and MONICA was following up those projects. Incidentally, when they designing the study the hypothesis had to be that the link existed, as it’s impossible to prove a negative. This also happens to be the main inaccuracy in your summary of the results: even before reading the conclusions I know that they did not conclude that there was no link. The conclusion would be that “there was insufficient evidence from the study to reject the null hypothesis”.

In the language of scientific reports these findings would be “surprising”, because “surprising” is a pretty concise summary of any study that fails to replicate multiple earlier studies.

So, that’s it for the defence? One study that failed to find a link? One study, that from a brief glance through the abstracts appears to be the study into passive smoking only?

OK – why would doctors and the government lie to us all? To answer that, let me ask YOU a question: who benefits from a smoking ban? Answer: the pharmaceutical giants. Make no mistake about this: stop-smoking products {along with lose-weight products and all the others} is a multi-billion dollar industry – far bigger than the tobacco industry.

Erm. Leaving aside comments on my five minutes spent rolling around laughing at the paranoid conspiracy theories:

1. Tobacco is legal and people are trying to quit by buying gum and patches.

2. Immediately after a tobacco ban (if it were a total ban, when the only bans on the books or currently being proposed are in restaurants and other public places) there would be a rise in sales of gum and patches.

3. As people successfully give up sales will begin falling.

4. After several years the pharmaceutical giants will have lost the demand for that business.

Therefore the pharmaceutical companies loose money in the long run, and we all stand around laughing some more at the stupidity of the really really stupid paranoid conspiracy theory.

Looks like a fun game, I can construct my own paranoid conspiracy theory. Who is assisting the tobacco companies in suppressing studies which find a link between smoking and cancer? Who is helping tobacco companies lobby government against a ban? The pharmaceutical companies, of course. If everyone stopped smoking, they’d stop getting cancer, and then those nasty pharmaceutical companies (who, incidentally, make bath salts–I don’t know why that’s relevant, but apparently when discussing pharmaceutical companies it’s good form to name an unrelated product in parenthesis) wouldn’t be selling their chemotherapy or morphine to the NHS.

Now also consider this: who are MAJOR sponsors of our political parties? And which profession intimately relies on funding from drug companies, and is paid to produce research for them?

If people every actually start believing this crank we can easily find out who funded each piece of research under open-government laws. Needless to say, that makes no difference: the research has been replicated multiple times by independent researchers in several countries. Science works by observation, and if a pharmaceutical company (or tobacco company) forges research they get found out when somebody replicates it. Their scientists will be unwilling to go along with fraud, because they’ll be the ones who never work again.

Note too that tobacco itself isn’t actually being banned, so we have a scenario where if we smoke, the government gains, and if we try to quit, they still gain.

Er. Right.

No, no, no: it’s all about improving the nation’s health for the benefit of all {whether we like it or not}. And so while we’re told regularly that “Banning smoking will save the NHS an estimated £1.7 billion per year”, it’s conveniently forgotten that tax on tobacco rakes in over £21 billion per year.

It’s not conveniently forgotten by the Chancellor or the Inland Revenue, who say:

Smoking is the single greatest cause of preventable illness and premature death in the UK, killing 120,000 people every year. Research has consistently shown that the demand for cigarettes is affected by their price, and that high tax levels can consequently play an important role in reducing overall tobacco consumption..

The high tax on tobacco is there to stop people smoking, and is a more recent phenomenon than the burdens on the NHS. Ash can put it better than me:

Tobacco taxation amounts to £10.5 billion per year whereas a figure for NHS spending on tobacco related disease is £1.7 billion. But so what? The comparison is a false one. Tobacco tax is not and never has been a down payment on the cost dealing with ill health caused by smoking. (Note: £10.5bn, not this £21bn figure — I’d check it against the Inland Revenue, but they’re taking part in the evil conspiracy by hiding it somewhere in endless pages about stopping smuggling.)

I’d suggest Ash are part of the conspiracy, but they don’t even advocate a ban.

Then there’s the assurances that there are over “160,000 needless smoking-related deaths per year in the UK”.Right: let’s take a look at that. Can anyone tell us what a “smoking-related” death actually is?

Yes, one which was caused or partly caused by smoking.

No, because there’s no national or international definition – it’s entirely up to individual doctors and institutions to decide, and when completing death certificates the only question is: “Did the deceased ever smoke?”.If the answer is Yes, then there ya go – Smoking-related death. No query as to how many cigarettes they smoked, how long they smoked for, how long ago they quit, whether there was a family history of heart disease or cancer, or even what age the person was. And thus even an 85-year old who stopped smoking at 21 can be classified as a “premature smoking-related death”.

If a doctor does this, I suggest you report it to the local health authority for cutting corners. Can your provide references for those 85 year olds who were counted as premature deaths? Most doctors are well trained and keep up to date with the literature, they know which diseases are caused by smoking.

{Some centres are now using “pack-years” as some kind of indicator; however this is by no means universal}.Common sense alone should dictate: if smoking {and passive smoking} somehow “causes” heart and lung disease, would it be reasonable to assume that the more people smoke, the higher would be the incidence of disease?

Another curious thing: once again, the OPPOSITE applies! In countries where there is a far higher rate of per-capita smoking than in the UK {e.g. China, Japan, South America, and various central European countries}, there is a massively lower incidence of these diseases: how could that be possible?

Do you have some data for these claims? According to Japan’s medical services, the biggest killers in Japan are cancer and heart/circulatory disease, at incidences up to 20%.

As for China and South America, of course those causes make up a low proportion of deaths: there is less advanced medical care, more diseases like TB and AIDS which are better controlled in the west, and many other ways of dying before reaching cancer age, from warfare to starvation. Comparing medicine in the UK to medicine in developing countries doesn’t work for so many reasons.

I could go on, but this post is already much longer than I’d intended.

Please don’t. Oh, you’re going to anyway.

The so-called “evidence” of the “success” of the ban in Ireland and the USA has also been significantly exaggerated, to the point where pub owners on both sides of the Atlantic are beginning to join together to make a public stand against this social injustice and the denial of the very concept of democracy.

So, the smoking ban passed by the elected government of Ireland has caused people to start smoking ballot boxes preventing elections, has it? Note that no figures for the popularity of the bans are quoted. Why? Because the ban was popular with the Irish people, and has grown in popularity ever since it was passed.

{In Scotland, pub owners have set up their own political party called The Publican Party to contest the Inverness seat on May 5th, and plan to field over 200 candidates nationwide in the 2007 elections}.Yes, of course non-smokers shouldn’t have to put up with cigarette smoke; however what is SO undemocratic about having smoke-free pubs & restaurants {as we already have, together with smoke-free public buildings, workplaces, buses, taxis, trains, airports, flights, shops, and cinemas, etc} AND have places where smokers can also enjoy an element of personal choice?

The health arguments just don’t add up, and even if they did – is it REALLY the prerogative of elected representatives to impose bans on us against our wishes?

Our? You mean, your own, of course, a majority do support it.

Non-smokers might laugh it all off as tough luck; however the campaign to target the next group of social lepers has already begun – “fat” people, as defined by government who for the last 40 YEARS, have been issuing the WRONG weight/growth charts for babies to doctors. {WHO report}.

Aaaagh, conspiracies, everywhere.

Seems someone “goofed” and used data gathered from bottle-fed babies instead of breast-fed children: so who’s responsible for the “overweight crisis”? And now they’re force-feeding “healthy choices” {actually that should read NO Choices} on our schoolkids, as spearheaded by the Jamie Oliver initiative to Eat Your Greens And Shut The **** Up.Stop eating Butter – they got it wrong.

Stop eating/even handling Eggs – they admit they were wrong.

Use “cleaner” glass chopping boards – Oops: wrong again! Wood is much safer after all.

The list is endless: a bit like this post, so I’ll shut up at last.

Sorry, I fell asleep through the last rant. What? You’re shutting up? Good idea.

But I’m SO angry at all the trite misinformation we’re being given by our “superiors”, I’ve set up my own website in protest at this unacceptable intrusion into our personal liberty, and insult to our intelligence.

I have my own website for protesting about people who insult our intelligence, especially the variety of cranks who think they can go around misusing and misrepresenting science for their political purpose. Don’t worry, you’ll be on it.


A couple of hours ago I was undecided on a smoking ban, just as I was undecided on a hunting ban. After the farcical arguments from the Countryside Alliance, and their outright lies about ecology I was fully in favour of the ban. I am now fully in favour of a tobacco ban, and will indeed be campaigning for one. Thanks, John, for making up my mind.

Comments on the original

Rorschack You foolish single minded arse! I couldn’t even finish to read the garbage you call an article as you are a clearly bias anti-smoking nazi. The point is not whether smoking is bad for you or not, everyone knows it is! But then again so is alcohol, “unhealthy” food and lack of exercise. Now, in your ideal health-obsessed fascist society, how would like government to ban all things bad for your health, and force daily exercise routines on everyone. This is what you self-obsessed type of people don’t get because you can’t see any further than your own pathetic little nose. This is not about health; it’s about basic freedom of choice. If individual places of commerce want to ban smoking in their own establishments, then that is their own free choice. And if there are as many of intolerant anti-smokers out their as you claim, such establishments would flourish!

Now this is the point where you come in with the usual non-sense line about the cost to the nation in health costs which make it a government issue. It doesn’t hold up! Do you have any idea how much tax is collected simply though the sale of tobacco? You could probably finance the entire NHS through it alone. So the costs of curing possible cigarette related cancers are being financed by the smokers themselves, and this research is probably going to save you and one of your spawn when they contract cancer from spending too much time on the internet looking up useless, misleading or just plain erroneous information because you forgot to teach how to live. Because let’s face it, most of the most enjoyable thing on this planet usually aren’t the best for your health.

Posted at 2005-12-31 02:25:11 –

Rorschack, you didn’t read the whole article? Did you even read the start of it? If you had, you’d be aware that the reason I wrote it was that the moron I was replying to was claiming that smoking isn’t bad for you.

Do I know how much tax is collected from tobacco? Yes, all I had to do was scroll up the page to where I stated how much tax is collected from tobacco and discussed the tax issue.

Perhaps if you had read the article you’d have discovered that I am not an anti-smoking nazi (but thanks for invoking Godwin’s law again, and loosing the argument on a technicality) or, except in jest in the conclusion of the post, pro-ban. The blog post was entirely about people who make bullshit arguments that fall apart with the slightest analysis. Unfortunately one of the people who it seems could most benefit from it decided to post a reply without even reading it.

(This was originally posted on 2005-11-16 23:52 GMT, but I accidently deleted the comments database and had to revert to a backup before this was posted, and had to retreive the post from Google’s cache –Ed.)

Posted at 2005-12-31 02:26:04
Maria Joe,

Once again you restore my faith in humankind.

Well, at least a tiny part of it.

Posted at 2005-12-31 02:26:45
Carol AS Thompson

The anti-smokers are the ones who are guilty of scientific fraud. They suppress research and purposely use defective studies to falsely blame smoking for diseases that are really caused by infection – incuding your beloved CDC. And they ARE a conspiracy. The Lasker Lobby has controlled the health establishment for the last decades, and you don’t even know who they are, because you’re content with ignorance. I DO know the history of the US health establishment, and I know their methods – including the fact that their precious (US) EPA ETS report was written via illegal pass-through contracts to a handpicked stooge, with a crony of George W. Bush on the board of the company that did the pass-through.

The History of the Conspiracy Against Tobacco

Posted at 2006-01-09 17:36:05

Carol, I am not going to reply, having checked on Google your past internet etiquette I don’t have any expectation of a reply. For other readers who don’t think that Carol “comes off as totally bat-shit insane“, here are some excellent replies to an email sent by Carol to the British Medical Journal.

You too can have hours of fun going though Google reading all about Carol’s tales of the connection between a National Geographic study into mitochondrial DNA (at least, I assume this is the study in question, Thompson doesn’t go into details) and IBM sponsored genocide.

Posted at 2006-01-11 01:47:33
Anon Get real! Get a life! Everyday smokers and non drive around in their death trap! Breath it when filling up! Get real on druggies and their smoke ( meth). The inviourment is what we have all made it. Get tough on Sex offenders of our children. Put positive energy to work and have a real life all you dummies!!!
Posted at 2006-03-26 03:54:38

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *