The background to this paper was the publication in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) of Dr. James Enstrom and Dr. Geoffrey Kabat’s “Environmental tobacco smoke and tobacco related mortality in a prospective study of Californians, 1960-98.” It concluded on the effects of second hand smoke that, “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.”
The Rapid Responses saw the anti smokers whip themselves up into a frenzy of denial, ad hominems and smears. The two authors above also commented too and in response produced a paper published in 2005 called “Silencing science: partisanship and the career of a publication disputing the dangers of secondhand smoke.” This is the abstract:
This paper examines the silencing of science, that is, efforts to prevent the making of specific scientific claims in any or all of the arenas in which these claims are typically reported or circulated. Those trying to mute the reporting or circulation of scientific claims are termed “partisans.” The paper examines silencing through a systematic examination of the “rapid responses” to a smoking study published in the British Medical Journal claiming that secondhand smoke is not as dangerous as conventionally believed. Media coverage of the smoking study is also examined, as is the question of whether there is self-silencing by the media regarding doubts about the negative effects of passive smoke. The results suggest that the public consensus about the negative effects of passive smoke is so strong that it has become part of a regime of truth that cannot be intelligibly questioned.”
Ungar and Bray then quote from some national newspapers.
“According to the National Post (Toronto, Canada) of 20 May: “To believe that second-hand smoke may not be very harmful has become a thoughtcrime almost akin to Holocaust denial. Those who dare express doubts must expect hysterical abuse from every point of the PC compass. “ And the British Telegraph of 19 May asserted:
“Researchers who dissent from the party line face character assassination and the termination of grants. Those who report their ﬁndings are viliﬁed as lackeys of the tobacco industry, and accused of professional misconduct (in 1998, campaigners tried to have this newspaper censured by the Press Relations Commission for our reports on passive smoking. They failed).”
Professor Carl Phillips the former Professor of Public Health at the University of Alberta was hounded out of his post for trying to be honest, also has written a paper on the same lines, he consludes: “It is an attempt to promote the kind of self-censorship of thought examined by Orwell and mastered by Stalin.”
Nobel Prize winner Friedrich Von Hayek in his 1944 publication “The Road to Serfdom” cited that in totalitarian regimes science is perverted for political ends, we can only conclude that when it comes to epidemiology and the science of second hand smoke we live in a post democratic age.