40 1 min 14 yrs

So, on the day that the Health Minister for Northern Ireland, the implausible Michael McGimpsey, announces plans to remove cigarette displays in shops in Northern Ireland….consider this.

“One of the most frequently heard pieces of propaganda is that passive smoking causes childhood asthma. Children of the fifties did more passive smoking in one visit to the cinema than modern children do in their whole lives. Childhood asthma was then virtually unknown. It has increased steadily in subsequent decades, while environmental tobacco smoke has declined. It is now a major health problem. These facts are incontrovertible. Yet to state them is to arouse wrath. The sad side-effect of the dogma is that it diverts impetus from the search for the real cause: not a unique result of zealotry.”

 

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40 thoughts on “ZEALOTRY KILLS…..

  1. ‘Passive smoking’ is good for young lungs – according to the one widespread study of the subject.

    The deeply political World Health Organisation commissioned the study and the results weren’t as expected. What they revealed is that children exposed to smoke are less likely to develop cancers later in life.

    Oh dear.

    So the results were suppressed.

  2. "One of the most frequently heard pieces of propaganda is that passive smoking causes childhood asthma"

    Where have you heard this?

  3. So the results were suppressed.

    So that explains the lack of any link or reference to this "widespread study"?

  4. So the results were suppressed.
    As far as I can see they were never published so we have no way of testing the claim one way or the other. That is a great shame because if the report did challenge the orthodoxy then it should have been available for scrutiny.
    We can only speculate as to why it wasn’t published. Some will say to bury the inconvenient conclusion. But equally well it could just have been a crap survey. Alas we will never know.
    However there is plenty of other evidence to support the assertion and the quickest of google searches turns up plenty of peer-reviewed information that does support the assertion. And peer-review has to be the standard against which things are measured.
    As for the source, it was rather disappointing.
    Professor John Brignell is obviously a man of some standing and is at his best when he is examining the facts, but alas they are rather thin on the ground and have been replaced by rather less rigourous assertions and statements.
    Now that he has retired it appears he has taken up with great relish the freedom to write in the polemical way he wants to, and not with the academic rigour that one would normally associate with someone from his background.

  5. Pinky –

    By any measure, first, second or any hand smoking is far less injurious than government. If by lighting up over my child’s cot I could make them immune to the evils of the state, light up is what I’d do.

  6. Pete Moore

    Smoking causes cancer and various other lung disesases such as emphesema. But don’t take my word for it, google it.

    Then come back with your ludicrous faux libertarian dogma and amuse us some more.

  7. Peter –

    Well you could try google yourself:

    http://www.davehitt.com/facts/who.html:

    Fact: On March 8, 1998, the British newspaper The Telegraph reported "The world’s leading health organization has withheld from publication a study which shows that not only might there be no link between passive smoking and lung cancer but that it could have even a protective effect."

    http://www.reason.com/news/show/28274.html:

    In its war on tobacco, WHO has attempted Orwellian moves of almost absurd incompetence. In 1998, for instance, the group was supposed to release an enormous 10-year study on second-hand smoke’s links with lung cancer, the largest ever done in Europe. A small mention of it was printed in a WHO report before the whole study was available. The British Sunday Telegraph tried to get a copy of the study, since the brief reference intriguingly implied that it could not find a statistically significant link between second-hand smoke exposure and lung cancer. The Telegraph implied that WHO was trying to bury the report since its results went against their official anti-tobacco stance …..
    As for the "suppressed" part, WHO insisted that the paper was merely being peer-reviewed, not hidden. Yet three years later, you’ll still find no mention of the report on WHO’s list of "Comprehensive Reports on Passive Smoking by Authoritative Scientific Bodies."

  8. Sounds like complete bollocks.

    For example here’s one study:

    Mortality rates due to all respiratory illnesses in children have fallen markedly in the last three decades. This decline has been more rapid than the overall decline in childhood mortality and respiratory diseases are now responsible for a smaller proportion of deaths in children.

    Trends in deaths from respiratory illness in children in England and Wales from 1968 to 2000

    http://www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov/articlerender.fcgi?artid=1747255

    Jaz,

    "As far as I can see they were never published"

    They were. They just didn’t show that conclusion at all. Pete apparently enjoys being lied to.

    http://www.ash.org.uk/files/documents/ASH_658.pdf

    This is simply part of a larger pattern of blank denial of the facts on topics ranging from global warming, to tobacco, to iraq mortality, to evolution, to whatever else it is about reality rightworld finds inconvenient. In many cases the same people are involved.

  9. Pete Moore

    Tobacco kills tens of millions every year around the world, many in their prime, through lung disease and heart disease. It wrecks families and causes untold misery. It is an evil scourge.

    But go ahead and defend it, in the name of your beloved libertarianism. Why not add heroin to your crusade, in the same stupid blindly dogmatic cause? And crack cocaine, and the rest.

  10. Frank O’Dwyer –

    Action on Smoking and Health is hardly an impartial source.

    Peter –

    I didn’t say that smoking does not kill. I’m talking about the possible protective effects of passive smoking.

    By the way, the dangers of passive smoking are hugely exaggerated anyway – by the likes of the dismal organisation O’Dwyer cites.

  11. ”If by lighting up over my child’s cot I could make them immune to the evils of the state, light up is what I’d do.”

    Pete, that just about convinces me of your nature!

  12. I’m talking about the possible protective effects of passive smoking.

    Yeah, maybe protective exposure to nuclear radiation would be a good idea for children. You never know, it might work. Worth trying anyway, if only those pesky health nazis weren’t in the way!

  13. Pete,

    "Action on Smoking and Health is hardly an impartial source."

    They aren’t the source, it is simply a convenient link. The article is from the Lancet.

  14. The protective effects of passive smoking – it is almost comical. And beheading cures headaches.

  15. \the issue is simple: If youn want to smoke ciggaretes, go ouitide. If you want to smoke weed, go outsise. It is as simple as that.

    If you must smoke, step outside the fecking door. Passive smoking may or may not cause harm; it does not matter. It is disgusting. Get outside the flippin door.

  16. If passive smoking is a killer then all my generation would long since be dead. We grew up surrounded by adults who smoked, travelled to school on smoke-filled buses, went to smoke-filled cinemas, and even when ill, doctors’ waiting rooms were filled with smokers. About the only smoke free areas were live theatres, and not many school kids went to the theatre in those days. I think the the real villains of the piece are petrol and diesel fumes.

  17. Progressive health freaks –

    It’s clear the World Health Organisation suppressed the results of a study suggesting – that’s ‘suggesting’ – passive smoking may actually retard the development of cancer later in life.

    Since you’re not interested, since your assumptions are sufficient, we’ll have no more arguments about science and evidence on other subjects.

  18. It’s clear the World Health Organisation suppressed the results of a study suggesting – that’s ‘suggesting’ – passive smoking may actually retard the development of cancer later in life.
    Well we don’t seem to know what this report said – we can only speculate on its contents and we don’t seem to know if it was published, or if it wasn’t, why it wasn’t. We can also only speculate as to the reasons for its apparent non-publication. The truth, alas, is far from clear.
    What is clear from plenty of other reports is that passive smoking is believed to be harmful – and on the balance of probabilities it is not a bad idea to avoid it where possible.
    What is also clear is that since publication of information about lung cancer and the link to smoking was published, lung cancer incidence in men has fallen quite dramatically (although not among women).
    I have no idea if smoking causes childhood asthma – that quote seems to suggest otherwise. But I am not sure that is the point – did anyone say it did?
    Surely the point is to reduce the harm that smoking, either secondhand or brand-spanking-new, does to anyone.
    But that if you wish to carry on smoking you are quite free to do so. All that is being done is to reduce the impact your smoking has on others. Now that seems a perfectly reasonable approach.

  19. Jaz,

    "Well we don’t seem to know what this report said – we can only speculate on its contents and we don’t seem to know if it was published, or if it wasn’t, why it wasn’t. "

    Again, yes we do. It was published. Nothing was suppressed. There is no need to speculate on its contents as they are available – and it doesn’t say or suggest anything of the sort.

    This European situation was poised for change when
    the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC),
    a research branch of the World Health Organization
    (WHO), undertook, from 1988, the largest European
    epidemiological study on lung cancer and second-hand
    smoke.7 Consistent with earlier studies (panel 1),2–4,9–12
    IARC7 observed a 16% increase in risk for nonsmoking
    spouses of smokers (95% CI 0·93–1·44), and a 17%
    increase for nonsmokers’ exposure in the workplace (95%
    CI 0·94–1·45).7 The study was too small to detect, with
    95% confidence, an increase in risk of around 16%, the
    sample size having been selected to have enough power to
    detect a relative risk of 1·3. The October, 1998 issue of the
    Journal of the National Cancer Institute published the study
    with an editorial concluding that the new study data, plus
    previous evidence, presented “an inescapable scientific
    conclusion . . . that ETS is a low-level lung carcinogen”.

  20. I believe this is the primary study.

    You can see where Pete is getting the ‘protective’ idea (though I wonder if he’s ever read it), however the conclusions section specifically states this conclusion can’t be drawn.

    The evidence from the available European studies of an association between ETS exposure during childhood and lung cancer risk is inconsistent (8,9). Among the non-European studies, Janerich et al. (33) provided evidence of an increased risk related to exposure in childhood or adolescence. The remaining studies [see (34) for a review], however, failed to confirm this finding. In the light of the inconsistent findings of other studies, our results on childhood ETS exposure can be plausibly interpreted as sampling fluctuation around a relative risk of 1 (no effect) and do not allow us to conclude that ETS exposure during childhood is protective against lung cancer.

    And the fact that I can link to it shows it clearly wasn’t suppressed.

  21. Frank – I stand corrected. The report was published so we do know and we can add that to all the other things we do know. In the light of that, I think we can say things are very clear. The childhood asthma thing is a red-herring.

  22. The quantum of wantum is infinitely finite…

    If I didn’t smoke, someone else would have to…

  23. I read a study once, don’t ask me to cite sources, that theincrease in asthma could be a result of people leading ever more antiseptic lives.

    The basic premise was that peoples bodies were less and less exposed to minor irritants so that when they were exposed to irritants their bodies reactions were excessive because it was unused to dealing with minor problems so it turned them into major problems

    Don’t know if its right or not but how many kids do you see playing in sand boxes as opposed to xboxes

  24. Frank O’Dwyer –

    I’ve read it, and if you had you’d have noticed the discrepency between the conclusion and the results.
    They state: "In the light of the inconsistent findings of other studies, our results on childhood ETS exposure can be plausibly interpreted as sampling fluctuation around a relative risk of 1 (no effect) and do not allow us to conclude that ETS exposure during childhood is protective against lung cancer."

    This study found a relative risk below 1 (Fig. 1, page 4), an outcome passed over in that one paragraph. Now it’s not at all proof of anything, but it’s less than honest and the WHO did suppress it.

  25. Pete,

    "it’s less than honest and the WHO did suppress it."

    What’s less than honest is to continue to claim that a study we are all able to read and discuss was suppressed by anyone, whether you want to claim that is the WHO or its lead singer.

    "This study found a relative risk below 1 (Fig. 1, page 4), an outcome passed over in that one paragraph."

    I know it did. But how are you able to read that since it was suppressed?

  26. Frank, The Lancet is demonstrably politicised and its opinions would match those of ASH so citing that as an impartial source is ropey.

    Sean at 1.55 is correct. I’ve seen several articles mentioning that immature immune systems need external threats to activate and calibrate them, otherwise they go haywire.

  27. The Lancet is demonstrably politicised and its opinions would match those of ASH so citing that as an impartial source is ropey.

    The Lancet is a peer-reviewed journal. That is widely accepted to be the standard against which to measure.
    So if we can’t accept that, what can we accept? Is there a list somewhere of acceptable disinterested sources (and I don’t think The Daily Mail counts I am afraid)?
    The danger, Allan, is that there does seem to be a tendency to dismiss as partial any source that doesn’t agree with the point in hand.

  28. Jaz,

    "So if we can’t accept that, what can we accept?"

    In my experience, the answer is that they can only accept things that are in line with their pre-conceived notions. Anything else is not ‘impartial’ and up go the shields.

    It’s classic conspiracy theory – evidence against the conspiracy becomes part of the conspiracy.

    There’s actually research out there that shows that given misinformation plus the evidence that rebuts it, conservatives are more likely to believe the misinformation, than if they received the misinformation alone. Pretty depressing really. What’s funny is that so many of them claim that they’re sceptics.

  29. It appears that the figures quoted by The Lancet in their Iraqi polemic were not quite right:

    http://www.hurryupharry.org/2009/02/04/bbc-iraqi-death-researcher-censured/

    As a result of the imprecision, the number of Iraqi dead is at least 6 (six!) times that number of actual dead bodies accounted for.

    Here is the famous clip of the Lancet Editor – Richard Horton, himself a medical doctor, laying bare what would appear to be a self-explanatory backdrop to this clearly very seriously erroneous Lancet ’study’ published in that journal –

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v7BzM5mxN5U

    Comment in the first link:

    <<Nick (ex South Africa)
    4 February 2009, 10:59 pm

    To believe the Lancet study not only do you have to believe that casualties in Iraq in 2006 were higher than all the war dead of the US and the UK combined – civilian and military, during WW2, Double that of France in WW2 – which remember was overrun twice. And they shipped off the bulk of their Jews for barbecuing. You have to believe that Iraqi war dead in 2006 after 2.5 years of war, were comparable to British War dead in The Great War.

    This in a country with less than half the population of the UK during WW2.

    That’s completely and utterly incredible, especially given that the study was shot down comprehensibly very soon after it was released. No, still holding to this is about more than this….. it’s about faith, it’s about wanting to believe something, it’s diddly squat to do with any kind of credible evidence, considered view or functional critical thinking faculties.>>

    So the result of a politcised leftist doctor reviewing the draft article of another politicised leftist doctor is an article which reflects the views of politicised leftist doctors. The Lancet has been taken over by leftists and now has no credibility in the numerate community (left-speak).

  30. Allan,

    "It appears that the figures quoted by The Lancet in their Iraqi polemic were not quite right:"

    Actually there were two Lancet reports on Iraqi deaths.

    When the first report appeared the rightworld warbloggers responded in the same fashion as they always do when presented with facts contrary to ideology – claims of bias, fraud, blank denial, communists under the bed, argument from incredulity, misrepresentation, misunderstanding, mathematical illiteracy, and ad hominem. That first report has since been vindicated by other studies – so rightworld forgets it ever existed and forgets to mention that its arguments the first go around have subsequently been proven to be tosh. Possibly some of them don’t even know this.

    Their attacks on the second report were more of the same and haven’t been any more credible the second go around, despite the existence this time of another reasonable study with different results.

  31. Frank, the figures touted by The Lancet were incredible, simply incredible – the result of leftists infiltrating the medical profession, seizing its publication arm, and then proceeding to produce peer-reviewed falsehoods which don’t bear scrutiny. (I have no doubt that it was peer-reviewed: drafted by a far-leftist and reviewed by another far-leftist). The video footage linked shows how impartial the editor isn’t.

  32. Allan,

    "Frank, the figures touted by The Lancet were incredible, simply incredible"

    Well, since that’s exactly what you lot said about Lancet study #1 – which has since been borne out by subsequent studies – they clearly have a better track record than you do.

    Also remind me – was it you who approvingly cited the same researcher’s figures for the Congo (derived using similar methods), or was it some other Lancet denier?

  33. Frank, The Lancet’s figures and the leftist medicos behind such drivel are discussed on the first link to Harry’s Place. Therein one shall find exactly the arguments made here and elsewhere against the absurd method and outcomes. In short, I’ve no more to say on the Iraq dead tally. However, this now establishes that The Lancet is firmly in the control of a leftist clique and the term ‘peer review’ means one lefty reviewing the draft of another lefty and getting ……the views of leftists, by sheer chance. Do you not think that Richard Horton is left-wing and publicly so?

  34. "the absurd method "

    i.e. standard statistical methods used to estimate deaths by any study of this nature – used in the Congo (by the same guy!), used to estimate deaths from the boxing day tsunami, the death toll due to Saddam, etc etc. But when it’s used in Iraq it’s absurd.

    Pure denial – the sort of thinking that leads people to think smoking is good for you.

    Richard Horton didn’t do the research by the way. Is your problem that he is anti-war? I suppose that studies about malaria are invalid too if the researcher is opposed to malaria.

  35. The first Lancet study concluded that there was a 95% chance that there had between 8000 and 190000 excess deaths, the problem wasn’t that it was incredible but that it was useless. It was like being told that someone was between 4 and 8 feet tall, it encompassed every plausible value.

    The second one produced extraordinary results, at the time I said that seeing as it was the only study available it couldn’t simply be dismissed, but the results appeared too high. For example it estimated that there were around 160 people being killed in car bombs each day, which was deeply implausible.

  36. Ross,

    "The first Lancet study concluded that there was a 95% chance that there had between 8000 and 190000 excess deaths, the problem wasn’t that it was incredible but that it was useless. It was like being told that someone was between 4 and 8 feet tall, it encompassed every plausible value."

    Not really since the central values are more likely than the tails of the interval. And it was the headline figure of 100,000 deaths that everyone wailed about and claimed was incredible. That has since been vindicated.

    Lancet 2 is somewhat different in that though it is also compatible at least one other big study, it is also incompatible with at least one other (from memory). All those studies including Lancet 2 have issues, which basically reflects the fact that surveying a place like Iraq is really difficult, and not that statistics is a tool of communism and mathematicians are possessed by the devil.

    So those who denied Lancet 1 have been proven wrong, and they move on to do the same for Lancet 2. However the same people who defended Lancet 1 (e.g. deltoid, dsquared on the blogs), and who have been shown to be right, also continue to defend Lancet 2. Since they have the better track record, they should be listened to.

    There is certainly zero evidence of fraud or influencing the results for political reasons, which is the far right anti-science answer for everything from evolution to global warming to (as we see here) passive smoking and Iraq mortality. Not that you have made this accusation, that I know of anyway.

  37. Ross,

    "It was like being told that someone was between 4 and 8 feet tall, it encompassed every plausible value"

    Just to extend the analogy, it was also like being told that you lost between £8,000m and £190,000m. It excludes the possibility that you got richer. This is far from useless if that is the question you are interested in.

  38. I suppose that studies about malaria are invalid too if the researcher is opposed to malaria.

    Thursday, February 5, 2009 at 09:42PM | Frank O’Dwyer

    WOW! Now that is a really serious case of diahorraeic BS. I’d like to propose you for the Bullshitzer Prize. How on earth can someone who writes that be engaged in debate, but I’ll try 🙂

    Frank, can you cite any researcher who favours malaria?

  39. Allan,

    I’d say that all researchers are opposed to malaria, so by the argument you have presented they aren’t impartial and so their scientific results should be discounted.

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