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Oppressing smokers for fun and profit

According to an article in the New England Journal of Medicine (Prabhat & Peto 2014),

Tripling tobacco tax globally would cut smoking by a third, and prevent  200 million premature deaths this century from lung cancer and other diseases. (here)

This should, of course, be instituted immediately. It is almost the perfect public policy: self-interest dressed up as sanctimony. Not only will we make the lives of non-smokers better at the expense of smokers, but we can do so whilst telling smokers we are doing it for their own good!

The article itself reiterates well known facts about smoking and does so according to the tendentious rules of the anti-smoking lobby that ensure we can feel good about ourselves whilst trampling on freedom. Apparently

Manufacturers’ worldwide profits of about $50 billion [£30 billion in real money] in 2012 (approximately $10,000 per tobacco-attributable death) yield enormous political influence that is used, among other things, to try to prevent large tax increases.

Maybe that’s true: I don’t know. What I do know is that laws regulating tobacco impose high costs of entry to the market and thereby increase tobacco company profits by restricting competition. So I would expect them to spend money on lobbying to that effect.

Still, we can all at least enjoy a jolly good hate of the disgusting profiteers who profit from tobacco-attributable death. Let’s also get clear who they are. The profit made by the UK government on UK tobacco sales was about £10 billion in 2012. I’m not sure how to scale that up to the world but it seems thereby likely that the profits of governments from tobacco sales are much greater than the profits to tobacco companies. Much of that profit is entirely wasted by the general wastefulness of government, of course. So all the otiose government employees paid by that waste are profiteers from tobacco-attributable death. Of the profit that is not wasted, it amounts to a transfer of wealth from smokers to non-smokers, all of who are also profiteers from tobacco-attributable death.

Then there is the attribution of deaths to tobacco. On this calculus if you died of lung cancer that you would not have had, had you not smoked, that entire death is attributable to smoking. Well, I see the sense in the idea but I don’t think it is correct. It would be correct if otherwise you would have been immortal, but you aren’t. The author’s say that smoking leads to ‘a reduction in life span by an average of about 10 years’.  So for the sake of argument suppose you died at 60 but would have died at 70 from cancer. That is to say, other factors that control your ability to forestall cancer would lead you to die at 70 anyway but the smoking brought that forward by ten years. In that case it seems that smoking is only responsible for 1/7th of your death.

Now that case depended on assuming death by cancer anyway and I’m not sure whether it is fair simply to generalise. But I think it does draw out an essential point: that attributing the death to smoking, and thereby attributing the cost of smoking as the loss of an entire life, is misleading. The cost is only the actual loss of life expectancy. If that cost is to be measured in terms of lives, the actual death being caused by smoking does not make the cost of smoking one whole life but rather only the fraction of life lost.

I can see that on first acquaintance this argument may appear stretched so consider this: Suppose our life expectancy was 1,000,000 years. I suggest it is obvious in this case that reducing that expectancy by 10 years would be a relatively trivial cost and that is so because it is a relatively trivial fraction of 1,000,000 years. So the real cost of smoking is only the actual years lost and if we are to measure it in terms of lives, it is the proportion of life lost.

Now if that is right, then it is misleading to present the expected benefit of tripling tobacco tax as the saving of 200 million lives. That is not the expected benefit at all: the expected benefit is saving 2,000 million years of life. And if we want to present that benefit in terms of lives we need to divide through by the life expectancy, which in any case we expect to increase over the century. Suppose, conservatively, that it is 80. Then the expected benefit of tripling tobacco tax is only 25 million lives.

Of course, that is still a lot, which takes us onto the final point: So what? So what if tripling taxes on tobacco saves 25 million lives? For that matter, so what if it is 250 million lives or 2,500 million lives?

Dr Harpal Kumar, Cancer Research UK’s chief executive, said: “there’s an urgent need for Governments to find ways to stop people starting and to help smokers give up”. No there isn’t, and there never has been. There can’t be. It is not and never has been the government’s business whether you,  I or anyone else smokes. The issue is entirely outwith the government’s legitimate concerns.

You might think the government is right to discourage behaviours that reduce life expectancy and that this justifies taxing smokers.  But in that case, why pick on smoking alone? There are plenty of other activities that are dangerous and that reduce people’s life expectancy: horse-riding, ski-ing, climbing, going on holiday and getting drunk on a balcony. Why no call to tax these? These too are no doubt elastic to price and we could ‘save x-million lives in the next century by using taxes to double their price’. But the obvious lunacy of any call to tax these shows that the government is not there to coerce anyone into living safely and hence it is not there to tax risky behaviour.

You might think that the government is there to coerce prudent living and that this justifies taxing smokers. We have yet to establish that smoking is imprudent. Whether it is imprudent depends entirely on whether, for the individual concerned, their life is better or worse if they smoke. The article presents the cost of smoking. But it does nothing whatsoever to consider the benefits of smoking. Only if the costs outweigh the benefits is smoking imprudent. There are plenty of people who show they think their life is better if they smoke. Who are you or I,  Prabhat, Peto or Kumar and, for that matter, the World Health Organisation, to presume we know better?

Passive smoking  is not the concern of the article but let us, for completeness, consider it anyway. You might think the government is right to discourage behaviours that harm others and that this justifies taxing smokers. That is sometimes right: preventing harm is at least a necessary condition for government coercion. But passive smoking does not harm others. You may think otherwise because of the dishonesty of the anti-smokers on this point. The burden of proof is on those who claim passive smoking is harmful. The WHO study of 1998 showed, and Enstrom and Kabat (BMJ 2003) have pretty conclusively confirmed, that claims about harms from passive smoking are unfounded.


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55 Comment on this post

  1. The bias of this article is contemptible, and below the standards of this website. The last paragraph is also replete with fraudulent statements as the WHO said no such thing in their study and Enstrom and Kabat have been linked to Tobacco Company fraud. This whole article should be deleted.

    1. If bias and contempt were the measure than every “study” (and I use that term loosely) produced non-stop by the same handful of activist anti-smoker researchers would need to be deleted. So too would your response. Ad hom attacks — linked to their names being dragged into a court case by their detractors that they then were never given a chance to defend themselves against — on Enstrom and Kabat rather than actually talking about the data in their study. The WHO was outed in 1998 as not having found harm from secondhand smoke and hiding their results. And just a couple of weeks ago another study announces “Passive Smoking Not Linked to Lung Cancer” — an article on it printed in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. The secondhand smoke fraud is the greatest crime of the century. It’s turned lives and legal business on their heads. It’s you sir who needs to be checked.

      1. “Conclusions The results do not support a causal relation between environmental tobacco smoke and tobacco related mortality, although they do not rule out a small effect. The association between exposure to environmental tobacco smoke and coronary heart disease and lung cancer may be considerably weaker than generally believed.” Enstrom and Kabat

        “Conclusions: Our results indicate no association between childhood exposure to ETS and lung cancer risk. We did find weak evidence of a dose-response relationship between risk of lung cancer and exposure to spousal and workplace ETS. There was no detectable risk after cessation of exposure.” Bofetta et al

        “A large prospective cohort study of more than 76,000 women confirmed a strong association between cigarette smoking and lung cancer but found no link between the disease and secondhand smoke.” Peres 2013 No Clear Link Between Passive Smoking and Lung Cancer

        1. You claimed that “… passive smoking does not harm others. You may think otherwise because of the dishonesty of the anti-smokers on this point. The burden of proof is on those who claim passive smoking is harmful.”

          And after your source was criticised, you provided two additional ones.

          The first found a link between lung cancer and spousal / workplace exposure, with possible evidence of increasing risk for increased duration of exposure for the latter. The second summarises a study that found a weak link between lung cancer and long-term exposure to a spouse that smokes. I would have thought that these studies support the contention that passive smoking somewhat increases risks of lung cancer (and is therefore harmful.)

          I’m not sure why you would pick two individual studies when there are plenty of meta-analyses of the available evidence. Taylor, Najafi & Dobson (2007), for example, summarise 55 relevant studies and conclude that

          The abundance of evidence, consistency of findings across continent and study type, dose-response relationship and biological plausibility, overwhelmingly support the existence of a causal relationship between passive smoking and lung cancer.

          I am also not sure why you picked that particular quote from the Peres article, rather than this one:

          “Passive smoking has many downstream health effects—asthma, upper respiratory infections, other pulmonary diseases, cardiovascular disease—but only borderline increased risk of lung cancer,” said Patel.

          Or this one:

          A large body of research has linked passive smoking to lung cancer, as well as to coronary heart disease, asthma, emphysema, respiratory infections, sudden infant death syndrome, low birth weight, and childhood ear infections. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, secondhand smoke is responsible for 46,000 heart disease deaths and 3,400 lung cancer deaths among US nonsmoking adults each year. But many studies that showed the strongest links between secondhand smoke and lung cancer were case–control studies, which can suffer from recall bias: People who develop a disease that might be related to passive smoking are more likely to recall being exposed to passive smoking.

          So does secondhand smoke cause lung cancer or not? “We can’t say it’s not a risk factor,” said Wang.

          Or this one:

          Meanwhile, said Winn, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (as well as NCI) has said unequivocally that passive smoking is a cause of lung cancer. “You shouldn’t conclude from this study that it isn’t,” she said.

          I’m also confused as to why you’re concluding that passive smoking does not harm others based on the risk of lung cancer alone. Lung cancer is far from the whole story. See, for example, this review on parental smoking and respiratory infections:

          Passive smoking in the family home is a major influence on the risk of LRI in infants, and especially on bronchiolitis. Risk is particularly strong in relation to post-natal maternal smoking. Strategies to prevent passive smoke exposure in young children are an urgent public and child health priority.

          1. I reiterate: ““Conclusions The results do not support a causal relation between environmental tobacco smoke and tobacco related mortality”, ““Conclusions: Our results indicate no association between childhood exposure to ETS and lung cancer risk.”, “A large prospective cohort study of more than 76,000 women … found no link between the disease and secondhand smoke.”

            All the talk about links, weak evidence, etc, is a misleading way of saying that nothing of statistical significance was found but a p value greater than 50% was found. So what this talk really means is we cannot reject the null hypothesis (no effect) because our p-value is greater than 5%. And plainly, that proves nothing at all. The case for passive smoking was from the beginning based on ‘links’ and ‘weak evidence’ of this kind and it was dishonest for that very reason. So-called links that lack statistical significance are results which could easily be mere chance.

            In fact, the methodology of the positive results on passive smoking was shown some time ago to be riddled with basic errors and they fit Languir’s remarks on pathological science very well: ‘The effect is of a magnitude that remains close to the limit of detectability, or many measurements are necessary because of the very low statistical significance of the results.’

            Consider what Ioannadis showed about published research which is statistically significant: ‘Why Most Published Research Findings are False’ (2005 So not even statistically significant results are likely to be true. That certainly means that all these claimed links that do not even have statistical significance should be given no credence.
            And that is why the meta-analyses are of little worth: garbage in-garbage out. Of far greater importance are studies with appropriate power based on very large sample numbers, which is what Enstrom and Kabat and the study reported on by Peres are. That is why I quoted them.

            I picked that bit from Peres’s article because is was the bit of the article reporting research rather than reporting opinionating, such as the opinionating of Patel, Wang and Winn that you quote. Consider the context we now inhabit about passive smoking:

            1. the general publication bias against publishing negative results,
            2. the social regimentation of opinion that has gone on over this issue,
            3. the social regimentation has among other things supplemented the publication bias and biased all interpretations of negative results
            4. social regimentation explains the willingness of authors of negative results to give sops (‘weak evidence’ instead of ‘cannot reject null hypothesis of no effect’) to those they know will verbally assault them for their negative results

            Such opinionating is essentially worthless because it is a mere reflection of this context and the social regimentation of opinion that is prevalent.

            Finally, why did I pick on lung-cancer rather than, for example, respiritory infections? Mainly because the article I was responding to was arguing for tax increases on the basis of saving people’s lives. Nevertheless, the Jones et al you quote raises another important area of methodological problems with claims about the effects of passive smoking. Epidemiology is riddled with research publications based on relative risk ratios less than 3 (= 300% or increases in risk less than 200%). This methodology has come under sustained criticism.

            In epidemiologic research, [increases in risk of less than 100 percent] are considered small and are usually difficult to interpret. Such increases may be due to chance, statistical bias, or the effects of confounding factors that are sometimes not evident .[ National Cancer Institute, Press Release, October 26, 1994.]

            As a general rule of thumb, we are looking for a relative risk of 3 or more before accepting a paper for publication.” – Marcia Angell, editor of the New England Journal of Medicine”

            My basic rule is if the relative risk isn’t at least 3 or 4, forget it.” – Robert Temple, director of drug evaluation at the Food and Drug Administration.

            An association is generally considered weak if the odds ratio [relative risk] is under 3.0 and particularly when it is under 2.0, as is the case in the relationship of ETS and lung cancer.” – Dr. Kabat, IAQC epidemiologist

            The main point is that chance alone can easily produce relative risk ratios greater than 1 and to even approach statistical significance greater than 3 is needed.

            The willingness to publish research with low ratios is part of the reason why epidemiology has a low reputation in the biological sciences and why some critics say it should not be regarded as a science at all.

            Now all except one of the relative risk ratios reported in Jones et al are less than 2 and one is 2.51, so it falls into the category of epidemiological publications that critics are willing to call not science at all. On top of that, and of great significance, it is itself not a base study but another meta-analysis. So it is liable to the garbage in-garbage out point already made. But what is especially significant is that, despite being a meta-analyis it still hasn’t managed to get relative risk ratios in the statistically significant range. That is really bad. It means that the analyses that it aggregated were so weak that every single one of them might easily be nothing more than chance.

          2. Just in case you didn’t read my comments…my brother and I grew up in a house with two heavy smokers. Our walls were yellow and both parents smoked in the car with the windows rolled up when we went on summer vacation. My brother and I are fine. He’s 49 and I’m 53. Our lungs are fine. We don’t have and never have had any lung issues whatsoever. On the contrary – we’re both active and slim. If the evidence you point to is valid, shouldn’t we both be either dead or on oxygen and/or unable to breathe due to chronic lung conditions?

  2. The last paragraph is also replete with fraudulent statements as the WHO said no such thing in their study and Enstrom and Kabat have been linked to Tobacco Company fraud.


    Also, the New England Journal of Medicine article is about preventing premature deaths, not about preventing deaths per se. This makes the first half of this post (up to the § starting with “Of course….”) not exactly relevant.

    As for the claim that we do not need to go too strong on smokers since there are other dangerous activities, this is beside the point as tobacco is clearly a more pressing public health issue, notoriously due to the fact that smoking is a socially “contagious” activity (= given certain circumstances more people are likely to begin/carry on smoking in case they are exposed to other smokers).

    1. Wow. A “socially ‘contagious’ activity.” Proof that the core — that a legal behavior is none of anyone else’s to control even if risky — goes right over the domineering fellow’s head. When do propose we start censoring speech next? Will I be penalized for standing on a corner and expressing “there’s nothing wrong with smoking”? Or how about a web site by private citizens called “Smoking is Normal.” You’re the Thought Police… censor smoking by one so that another doesn’t think about it. And it’s smoking that you find dangerous (sheesh).

      1. I think you perfectly got my point about the special case of smoking as a socially induced activity whose dependence on behaviourial patterns makes it difficult to eradicate.

        Now, I don’t claim that this is a scientific fact; I just find it very plausible and explanatorily fruitful. I’d like to have a proof, yet I don’t. But this does not matter very much. What matters are the figures, and the figures show that smoking is (or was and has been) a pressing public health issue.

        As for the negationism going on in this discussion about the effects of second-hand smoking, I suggest you do yourself a service and ask anybody from your local Faculty of Medicine.

        1. Horseriding is a socially contagious activity (if that really means anything rather than being a typical piece of nonsense rhetoric): so by your logic horseriding is a public health issue.

        2. Andrews, there will of course be evidence to suggest that people are influenced to smoke by other smokers, (or however you define ‘socially induced’), that’s how influence works! I see/hear/read something, put some thought to the matter and think yay or nay. The question is: are you or I going to give people enough respect to let them make up their own minds? Now I’m not politics expert, but I am pretty sure in a democracy politicians and leaders are meant to represent me, not treat me like a malleable moron.

  3. This is an outstanding explanation of the truth about first-hand, second-hand and third-hand smoking (I think there might even be some people who think you can get lung cancer from thinking about smoking). People who think smokers should be burned at the stake for their selfish behaviour (subjecting themselves and others to cigarette smoke) or at the very least marginalized by society, are suffering from a much worse disease called “Holier Than Thou.” I really like this paragraph: “You might think the government is right to discourage behaviours that reduce life expectancy and that this justifies taxing smokers. But in that case, why pick on smoking alone? There are plenty of other activities that are dangerous and that reduce people’s life expectancy: horse-riding, ski-ing, climbing, going on holiday and getting drunk on a balcony. Why no call to tax these? These too are no doubt elastic to price and we could ‘save x-million lives in the next century by using taxes to double their price’. But the obvious lunacy of any call to tax these shows that the government is not there to coerce anyone into living safely and hence it is not there to tax risky behaviour.” Here in Canada, obesity is a major cause of illness. Shouldn’t we therefore tax foods that make you fat, or, tax people who don’t exercise? I could go on forever and ever and ever about how stupid it is to think that there is anything altruistic whatsoever in forcing people to quit smoking by taxing the crap out of them. Follow the money, people, follow the money. Both my parents smoked heavily in the house we grew up in and we were passengers in the cars they smoked in. If anyone should be dead from second-hand smoke by now, it’s my 49-year-old brother and me (I’m 53) but we are probably two of the healthiest people alive. Does anyone know where the anti-smoking lobby (otherwise known as government in Big Pharma’s pocket) gets their cancer-related stats from since I didn’t think “cancer” was permissible as a cause of death on a death certificate?

  4. I think that Mr Right has publicised a good idea to discourage dangerous behaviour: tax it to discourage it. It’s not the magic bullet, but it helps. And, as he has pointed out, the principle extends beyond tobacco. It could certainly be applied to alcohol and unhealthy foods.

    As for the cry of “Nanny state!” that’s always the cry of those who profit from peddling human misery.

  5. Mr. Glass – you do realize I was being sarcastic about taxing dangerous behaviour, and that forcing those people who haven’t yet quit smoking by raising taxes higher still is not about health but by who is benefitting financially, right?

    The nanny state is one who, at its core, believes adults should not be able to make their own decisions and that the government is the only one capable of looking after people properly. The “nanny state” is a precursor to socialism which is where, we in Canada, are headed much like Australia and look at the mess they’re in.

  6. Mr Right, publicity is publicity, and taxation has always been used to both raise revenue and influence behaviour. This is true of all systems, whatever their political complexion. Sure, you can raise the bogeymen of socialism just as you raised the bogeyman of the nanny state, but if a tax on unhealthy foods or alcohol or cigarettes helped to decrease rates of obesity, alcoholism and lung cancer, that would be all to the good, except for those who peddle junk food, alcohol and tobacco.

    1. Mr. Glass, the key word is “if” (a tax on unhealthy foods or alcohol…helped to decrease the rates of…). It doesn’t work because people are not robots. You can’t force everyone into submission forever. You’ll have riots on your hands. Unfortunately, we Canadians don’t seem to mind being told what to do by government or special interest groups that use fear mongering and guilt to turn government into its puppet. Can you explain why governments want to triple cigarette taxes to try to get everyone to quit but they won’t make the sale and distribution of them illegal? Do they want people to quit or do they want them to go broke buying them? Also, I do not understand why government cares so much about lung cancer, specifically. Why pick on lung cancer? Do you find that strange? I do.

  7. Mr Right, you have claimed that taxes don’t decrease consumption. The Tobacco Institute of Australia has a different opinion.

    “It seems that the total number of tobacco products consumed in Australia fell sharply over the first few years of the 2000s. This corresponded with increased quitting activity around the start of the new millennium, the extension of smokefree policies in public places in most states and territories, and the reform of tobacco taxes between November 1999 and February 2001. The change to a per stick system of levying duty together with the imposition of the goods and services tax (GST) triggered very large increases in the price of large cigarette packs and moderate rises in the price of smaller pack sizes …”

    1. In general raising the price of something reduces quantity demanded so taxing unhealthy foods and drink will decrease their consumption (just like raising the minimum wage reduces employment). My point is even, for the sake of argument, granting that taxing food and drink *would* decrease obsesity and alcoholism, the government cannot legitimately do so unless it may in general coercively discourage behaviours that reduce life expectancy. But it may not, as is shown by the examples of skiing, horseriding, climbing, going on holiday and getting drunk on a balcony.

    2. What I meant was that you can’t oppress people forever just like you can fool some of the people all of the time and you can fool all of the people some of the time but you can’t fool all of the people all of the time. There may be a dip in usage for short periods of time but even the most draconian of measures won’t get EVERYONE to quit which is why I asked what the real purpose is? If the government really wanted people to quit, they would make the sale and distribution of cigarettes illegal and deal with the fallout of that, i.e. having to hire more police to persecute those who provide it and those who obtain it on the black market as was the case for prohibition, but clearly THAT was a failure.

  8. If all the oppression that you suffer in your life is to have to pay more for things that do you no good, you are indeed lucky.

    But why not go the extra step and ban the harmful substance outright? Sounds logical, but the effect of this can be counterproductive. Take the sale of alcohol in the United States. Prohibition might have sounded logical, but the effect was as described in this famous poem:

    Prohibition is an awful flop.
    We like it.
    It can’t stop what it’s meant to stop.
    We like it.
    It’s left a trail of graft and slime,
    It don’t prohibit worth a dime,
    It’s filled our land with vice and crime.
    Nevertheless, we’re for it.

    A tax on harmful substances can achieve some good without the harmful effects of misplaced prohibitions.

    1. You are begging the question. You are simply assuming that smoking does no good and a smoker’s life is better if they are stopped from smoking. But there are benefits to smoking and if the benefits of smoking outweigh the costs then it is false that stopping them makes their life better and false that taxing smokingachieves some good.

      1. Sure, there are benefits in smoking – to those who sell tobacco. In the case of those who have a vested interest in smoking, the benefits outweigh the costs. However, for the individual smoker, the cost of smoking outweighs any benefit.

        1. This is what you call a tin ear. Someone says, and others agree, — especially those who do smoke — that smoking provides a benefit and what comes back? “I do not believe you feel that way. It’s as I, the non-smoker, tells you it is.” That’s pure gall. I bet if you were a coffee drinker that doesn’t put sugar in your coffee you’d turn to someone who does and tell them they can’t possibly like it that way because YOU have determined it provides no benefit and won’t drink it with sugar.

          1. The problem with this analogy is that if you put sugar in your coffee it does not affect my health. However, if you light up a cigarette in my presence you force me to breathe toxic smoke. So even if you enjoy smoking, you are still violating my right to breathe air without toxins.

    2. You are right in saying that if that’s all the oppression I suffer is to have to pay more for things that do me no good, I am indeed lucky. I am a non smoker but I’m 99.9% sure it’s not the government pushing for a ban on smoking – I think it’s big pharma because they don’t actually want people to quit, they want them to try and try and try and try. Smoking cessation products are expensive AND worse yet, HARMFUL! Can you imagine spraying nicotine in your mouth to stop you from craving a cigarette? How can that be good for you? Can you say mouth cancer? Big pharma makes A LOT of money on cancer so it could be argued that smoking cessation products are worse for you than smoking which is why they want you to “try” to quit. The only way to quit is to decide this is something you don’t want to do and to stop it. I am also “oppressed” by laws that by other standards would certainly be considered miniscule but I am arguing the principle which what Dr. Shackel is saying and has said from the outset: They’ve got their facts wrong and they’re spinning them to suit their agenda which, as I have said, goes back to who is benefitting. Follow the money. Everyone assumes that smoking is bad for you and they are happy to jump on the bandwagon of condemning smokers because historically, people love a good witch hunt. Everyone does things that are bad for them, everyone. Smokers are an easy target. Lastly, young people now “chew,” rather than smoke. I’m pretty sure that’s worse. Can you see how it’s impossible to control everyone’s vices all the time and to try, creates a whole other set of potentially worse circumstances for the individual and society as a whole?

      1. I certainly would feel oppressed if the smoking controls were rolled back and I had to endure smoking in public transport, on aircraft and at work. I don’t want to be exposed to toxic smoke. If people are harming themselves by using nicotine patches, I’m sure the harm is less than getting the same nicotine, together with other toxic substances, by smoking. Of course, if quit smoking schemes were all scams, this would be a concern, but the falling rates of cigarette smoking suggests that fewer and fewer people are smoking, and more and more are giving up. One study indicated that the plain packaging rules in Australia have increased the desire of people to quit smoking. Yes, the tobacco companies have screamed blue murder about the legislation and have done all they can to stop the legislation, but the interests of Big Tobacco are not the same as the general good.

        1. I think you’re safe, public smoking regulations won’t be scaled back. Hopefully you’re breathing clean air and eating clean food and drinking clean water because there are dangers in that, too. Maybe the day will come when the government will regulate the air we breathe, the food we eat and the water we drink. Then we’ll all be safe, won’t we? Here’s one for you: I have even heard that the tobacco industry is behind the anti-smoking legislation (and not big Pharma) because they saw the writing on the wall and have found ways to cut their losses by offering alternatives such as patches, gum, nicotine spray for the mouth…who knows anymore. I only know for sure that if everyone is jumping on a bandwagon (like the one you’re on), it’s not as it appears. Lastly, who decides what the “general” good is? Government? Oh please.

          1. ‘Maybe the day will come when the government will regulate the air we breathe, the food we eat and the water we drink.’ It does and has done in one way or the other for well over a 100 years. For the most part it has worked quite well and we are much safer than before. I am not convinced that the research into smoking is that sound and oppose some of the anti-smoking legislation. But that does not mean I want governments to stop protecting the quality of food, water and air. Surely you are not suggsting we go back to the early 19th century.

  9. My dad, a heavy smoker all his life. told me that smoking boosts your immune system. Maybe that’s why my brother and I are so healthy and have no allergies or lung difficulties whatsoever. I was surprised to read what Dr. Shackel said about the benefits of smoking because I had only heard from my dad and perhaps one other person. So I researched it and found this:

    Well, whaddya know? Clearly, then, someone is benefiting from trying even harder yet to get everyone to quit smoking since the evidence of its dangers to one’s health isn’t as clear cut as the band-wagoners would like it to be.

  10. Mr Right,

    Perhaps you should read the source you quoted. It concludes:

    “While it may be interesting to note tobacco’s few benefits, it is also critical for all consumers to recognize that its positive aspects are few compared to its many very serious risks. Even taking the health benefits of smoking into account, tobacco smokers can expect to live shorter lives and experience many chronic diseases.”

    Mr Right, you’re trying even harder to cast doubt on the evidence of smoking’s dangers to health. There’s a whole book written on this activity. It’s called “Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming” and it’s written by Erik M. Conway and Naomi Oreskes

    Have you considered that you may have swallowed the bait of these merchants of doubt?

    1. Mr Glass,
      I read all of it and taking what it “concludes” as the gospel truth makes the rest of it irrelevant. I thought it was interesting that there were any benefits whatsoever to smoking (with all the hype about evil it is) except for the one my dad told me about. I completely agree that smoking, generally speaking, is a bad idea. It’s expensive, stinky, time consuming, unbecoming, and can become an addictive behaviour which can lead to the health problems you are acutely aware of. Having said that, perhaps you’ve seen documentaries about centurions who talk about their long life with a cigarette in one hand and a glass of whiskey in the other. But they are obviously in the minority. I’m not in favour of smoking and as I mentioned, I am a non-smoker. What I oppose is the government telling me what’s good for me. I am an adult and I decide what is good for me and my family. I use my brain to decide what is true and what is questionable. As I have mentioned numerous times in this debate, someone is getting something – most likely monetarily – out of lobbying against smoking. Yes I have swallowed the bait of these merchants of doubt if that’s what you want to call it. Anything that is super hyped in the media, I take with a HUGE grain of salt. Have YOU considered that YOU may have swallowed the bait of what is perceived to be common knowledge? Don’t forget that at one time, everyone believed the earth was flat.

  11. Mr. Glass, you go on and on about the “evil” tobacco industry. May I remind you that the industry itself remains legal. You attempt to strike a reasonable chord by claiming that is something too troublesome to stop. But that is a cop-out. Every measure put in place by the anti-smokers can’t be explained as anything but de facto prohibition. For all intents and purposes its aim is to make it too expensive for ANYone to smoke except for the rich (this is not a statement attacking the wealthy). Indoor smoking bans have led to outdoor smoking bans that have led to smoking bans in people’s own homes. All so that no one will have an opportunity to smoke. So spare me that these measures AREN’T anything but a reach for prohibition without the de-legalization of the industry (though it’s no secret that the anti-smoker proponents believe that it will be a natural end after they’ve decimated the customer base).

    And now let’s look at this tactic more closely as it pertains to the autonomous individual. Environmentalists are at war with so many things. They want electric, not gas-powered cars. They want wind energy, not power from the electric company. They want solar heating, not heat by coal, oil or gas. They want organic vegetables and free range chickens.

    Yet you name me one group of private individuals — be it gas users, electric/gas company customers, consumers of GMO food, etc. — who, because of a war against these companies, have themselves been the target of punitive measures in order to keep these “evil” companies from their “evil-doing.” There is no ban on buying or driving gas-powered cars, there is no ban on who can use the electricity supplied by the local provider, there is no ban on what people can buy to eat. There is no tax on any of those things that compares to the height of cigarette taxes NOW! There are NO measures in place against the users of such things TO GET TO the company. In fact, ALL the focus is on changing those INDUSTRIES, not the people who like and/or rely on them.

    Smokers have been viciously singled out as a group of individuals to be socially engineered while we get the mewling, “Well, we can’t have prohibition.” It’s the people’s right to lobby Congress for that prohibition and I’d have no problem with that. But you’re damn sure I have a problem with this unbelievably acceptable form of bigotry and all the ugly it brings with it that rivals U.S. pre 1964 and Germany of the ’30s because the antagonists WON’T go after the industry itself. (And no, in this case all the regulations the tobacco industry have been put under does not rise to what’s at stake here — prohibition).

    1. Mr Right, while you object to the Government telling you what to think, you are overlooking the power of big business to seduce you by advertising and other means. In Australia when tobacco advertising was allowed, one group of activists took on tobacco advertising. See

      So it wasn’t big bad government that got tobacco advertising banned, but activists who outmanoeuvred the merchants of death, got the general public onside and forced the government to act against tobacco advertising.

      1. Mr. Glass, I am aware of the power of big business and of special interest groups. As I have been saying all along in this debate, I believe that it is a special interest group behind the anti-smoking lobby. It may not have started out that way, but someone is profiting from the plight of people unable to kick the habit in spite of how socially unacceptable it is. To think that passive exposure to cigarette smoke is harmful to your health is nothing short of paranoid.

        1. Mr Right, I believe that a wide range of individuals and groups helped to change public opinion and forced governments to act against a powerful industry. You argue that a “special interest group” was behind the anti-smoking lobby. Where’s your evidence of this mysterious “special interest group”?

          1. The mysterious special interest group I’m referring to is the pharmaceutical industry (I think I mentioned that). They are benefiting financially from people trying to quit smoking. I came up with this in my own mind – the same mind I use to make my own decisions about what’s best for me and my family – and I do not have any links to support that idea. Other than that, Audrey Silk spoke for me in her comments of January 6 at 7:52 am.

            1. The pharmaceutical industry were Johnny-come-latelies in offering nicotine patches and the rest to help smokers kick their habit. The movement against smoking started long before nicotine patches were put on the market. Therefore blaming an entire movement on Big Pharma is misplaced.

              Audrey Silk claims the movement against smoking is after prohibition of smoking, step by step. Furthermore they’re doing so by singling out smokers for persecution. Well, the problem with that point of view is that many smokers want to give up smoking, and they actually welcome the restrictions that make it harder for them to light up anywhere and everywhere, as they used to be able to do. It is also worth noting that the proportion of smokers in the community has been steadily falling. For Australia, the adult male smoking rate has fallen from 27.2% in 2001 to 20.4% in 2011-12, while the adult female smoking rate fell from 21.2% in 2001 to 16.3% in 2011-12. A similar change is taking place in the UK. and tobacco use in the US appears to be in a similar range.

              As smoking rates are declining and more than two thirds of smokers want to quit, chances are that controls on smoking are going to get even tighter. Now Audrey Silk might find this troubling, but I don’t think this concern would be shared by the great majority of people.

              1. As I had mentioned previously, Big Pharma might not have started the attack on smokers but they are definitely benefiting financially from the oppression of smokers. I agree that many, if not most, smokers want to give up smoking. That’s not the point. The point is: if everyone is going to fall for the idea that it’s OK to relentlessly persecute and profit from the oppression and persecution of people who are undertaking a legal activity, there is something much more wrong with this picture. When you add that that there is evidence to support that second-hand smoke is not harmful (certainly not nearly as harmful as the anti-smoking lobby want you to believe) and that there are such powerful forces behind this misinformation, to me it means that we are ALL being oppressed. At least the smokers are aware of it. Tightening the noose on smokers even though apparently they are quitting in growing numbers (according to some stats which I’m not sure I believe), is nothing short of a good old-fashioned witch hunt. And some of us are so enlightened now! Hardly I say.

                1. So what you are saying is that smokers are a persecuted minority, and you object to this. However, there is another set of rights to consider here: the right of non-smokers to breathe cleaner air. If a smoker lights up in an an enclosed space, he or she will force everyone in that space to breathe tobacco smoke. Now I for one find that quite objectionable.

                  What you are doing is backing someone’s right to smoke against my right to breathe cleaner air. In this situation something has to give. Either the smoker has to forego his desire to smoke or I have to waive my right to breathe cleaner air.

                  I believe the right to breathe freely takes precedence over the right to smoke.

                  1. What I am saying is: If the majority of people are going to fall for the idea that it’s OK to relentlessly persecute and profit from the oppression and persecution of people who are undertaking a legal activity, there is something much more wrong with this picture. When you add that there are such powerful forces behind this misinformation, to me it means that we are ALL being oppressed, not just smokers. Certainly you have the right to breathe clean air. I think most people are happy that smoking on buses, for example, is not allowed. It’s gotten way out of hand, however, because people can’t even smoke outside on the patio of a restaurant. If there’s not enough clean air outside, then we have bigger problems. I recently saw two guys smoking, sitting on a bench outside a hospital with a no smoking sign on it. Do you think they should be arrested?

                    1. Once again you are arguing that the tax and the restrictions on smokers are a case of relentless persecution and profiteering. I say that many if not most of the restrictions are perfectly justified. You cite the case of two smokers sitting on a bench on hospital grounds and smoking. If there is a clear rule that there is no smoking on hospital grounds, then why aren’t these smokers complying? As there is a no smoking sign on the park bench, then the security guards at the hospital have the right to draw this to the attention of the two smokers and asking them to put out their cigarettes or move off the hospital grounds. Do you think that this is inappropriate?

    2. Mr Silk, people have been campaigning against rapacious industry for centuries. Have you seen Hogarth’s pictures illustrating the horrors of Gin Lane?

      Have you read any of Dickens’ novels against the social evils of his time?

      Well, the same kind of thing is going on today. Of course, the activists and zealots sometimes overreach themselves. Of course the powerful interests that they oppose have deep pockets and frequently have the law on their side.

      However, I don’t think the anti-tobacco lobby is likely to go for Prohibition. Why should it? It is having far more success by its successive and successful moves to make smoking socially unacceptable.

  12. Epidemiologists Vote to Keep Doing Junk Science
    Epidemiologists Vote to Keep Doing Junk Science

    Epidemiology Monitor (October 1997)

    An estimated 300 attendees a recent meeting of the American College of
    Epidemiology voted approximately 2 to 1 to keep doing junk science!

    Specifically, the attending epidemiologists voted against a motion
    proposed in an Oxford-style debate that “risk factor” epidemiology is
    placing the field of epidemiology at risk of losing its credibility.

    Risk factor epidemiology focuses on specific cause-and-effect
    relationships–like heavy coffee drinking increases heart attack risk. A
    different approach to epidemiology might take a broader
    perspective–placing heart attack risk in the context of more than just
    one risk factor, including social factors.

    Risk factor epidemiology is nothing more than a perpetual junk science machine.

    But as NIEHS epidemiologist Marilyn Tseng said “It’s hard to be an
    epidemiologist and vote that what most of us are doing is actually harmful
    to epidemiology.”

    But who really cares about what they’re doing to epidemiology. I thought
    it was public health that mattered!

    we have seen the “SELECTIVE” blindness disease that
    Scientist have practiced over the past ten years. Seems the only color they
    see is GREEN BACKS, it’s a very infectious disease that has spread through
    the Scientific community with the same speed that any infectious disease
    would spread. And has affected the T(thinking) Cells as well as sight.

    Seems their eyes see only what their paid to see. To be honest, I feel
    after the Agent Orange Ranch Hand Study, and the Slutz and Nutz Implant
    Study, they have cast a dark shadow over their profession of being anything
    other than traveling professional witnesses for corporate hire with a lack
    of moral concern to their obligation of science and truth.

    The true “Risk Factor” is a question of ; will they ever be able to earn
    back the respect of their profession as an Oath to Science, instead of
    corporate paid witnesses with selective vision?
    Oh, if this seems way harsh, it’s nothing compared to the damage of peoples
    lives that selective blindness has caused!

    The rise of a pseudo-scientific links lobby

    Every day there seems to be a new study making a link between food, chemicals or lifestyle and ill-health. None of them has any link with reality.

  13. Being an ex-smoker who considers having conquered that addiction to be one of the major accomplishments of my life, I am still opposed to increasing taxes on cigarettes.

    While not all smokers are addicted, the minority of smokers who are, consume the majority of cigarettes. This ratio is generally true of alcohol, crack and other drugs.

    Governments increase taxes on cigarettes because they can. Nicotine addicts are easy targets because many of them cannot quit and will adjust to price increases. While the last straw for me was the increase in the price of cigarettes from fifty to fifty-five cents, I hated being a smoker for many other health and social reasons.

    Consequentialist rationales for decreasing smoking rates through increased taxes is as vexing to me as incarcerating drug (ab)users to “rehabilitate” them. Punishment contingencies always produce secondary and undesirable consequences which are often overlooked or minimized.

    1. Rob, you are saying:

      A I was addicted to cigarettes.
      B Increasing taxes on cigarettes were the last straw for me.
      C I gave up smoking as a consequence.
      D Giving up smoking was one of the major accomplishments of my life.
      E Nevertheless, I hate increasing taxes on cigarettes.

      Perhaps you could explain how the “punishment contingencies” of taxing cigarettes produces secondary and undesirable consequences that may be overlooked or minimised.

  14. A fun quote from the article:

    That is to say, other factors that control your ability to forestall cancer would lead you to die at 70 anyway but the smoking brought that forward by ten years. In that case it seems that smoking is only responsible for 1/7th of your death.

    And one from elsewhere:

    I’ve smoked for thirty years. I have emphysema. I am virtually housebound. I get exhausted walking more than a few metres. I have urinary incontinence, and because I can’t move quickly to the toilet, I wet myself and smell.

    I can’t bear the embarrassment, so I stay isolated at home. Smoking has ruined my life. You should start telling people about the living hell smoking causes while you’re still alive, not just that it kills you.

    1. Those are fun quotes. Here’s another one:

      My mom smoked for 40 years and after she quit, she gained a whole bunch of weight. That exacerbated her disc degenerative disease and the pain killers she had to take to manage the pain caused urinary incontinence. So in her case, was the urinary incontinence caused by smoking or by quitting smoking?

      1. Nameuser’s second quote came up with Google. However, I couldn’t find Nameuser’s first quote or Rights’s quote (immediately above). Enough of this game playing!

  15. even a blind man could see there is a witch hunt against smokers, if you go to the doctors with a broken leg and you smoke the doctor will tell you its because of smoking, in the 1950s about 70% of adults smoked compared to about 25% now, yet some cancers have went up by more than 300% since 1950s ,so i will leave you to work out for yourself how much impact smoking has on cancer rates going through the roof

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