The British Medical Journal has just produced this editorial on banning tobacco companies from publishing papers. My response is below.
Firstly any letter which contains the approval of Ruth Malone requires the closest of scrutiny, especially as her journal Tobacco Control journal contains some of the mendaciously biased papers I have ever read.
One assumes that if you are banning tobacco companies means pharmaceutical companies (Big Pharma) are to be treated in the same way too? You only need to look at the “science” that was hyped up by Big Pharma for the H1NI “epidemic” at the behest of the WHO as investigated and reported in the err, BMJ. (1)
To give you some examples of the tobacco control industry’s questionable practices I give you the example of Professor Linda Bauld of Stirling University wrote this paper (2) where she stated that the smoking ban had “…no clear adverse impact on the hospitality industry.” My essay published by the Institute of Economic affairs (IEA) (3) of which I am reliably informed was peer reviewed, double blind, shows overwhelming empirical evidence of a four-fold increase in pub closures post ban. The original source of pub closures supplied by the British Beer and Pub Association is (4). Weekly pub closures four years prior to the smoking ban, were running at 13, 8, 8, 8 a week. Post ban 27, 38, 26, 28.
Professor Jill Pell’s “17% reduction in heart attacks” Scottish miracle also beggars belief too. Cherry picked data, cherry picked months it was a lesson in manipulating the data to fit a hypothesis. If you compare (5) all Scottish hospitals one year after from the start of the smoking ban the reduction was 3.7%. The two previous years were 3.7% and 3.8%.
The Rand Corporation reviewed (6) America’s heart attack incidence and smoking bans. In reviewing 217,000 heart attack deaths, 2 million heart attacks covering all 50 states and 468 counties over an 8 year period they concluded: “In contrast with smaller regional studies, we find that smoking bans are not associated with statistically significant short-term declines in mortality or hospital admissions for myocardial infarction or other diseases. An analysis simulating smaller studies using subsamples reveals that large short-term increases in myocardial infarction incidence following a smoking ban are as common as the large decreases reported in the published literature.”
They even refer to Prof Pell’s study as being implausible. Her study, understandably made the top ten of The Times’ “Worst Junk Stats” of 2007.
What I am most disappointed in is Dr. Godlee’s apparent embracement of junk science and “..the harmful effects of secondhand smoke.”
Was it not in this very parish that the BMJ bravely published Enstrom/Kabat in 2003 Environmental tobacco smoke and tobacco related mortality in a prospective study of Californians, 1960-98. (7) Let me remind what it concluded: 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.
Let me also remind you that it was largely paid for by anti tobacco money, i.e. Proposition 99 a tax from 1988 by the Californian State Government on cigarettes. After coming up with all the wrong results in 1997 was it paid for by tobacco companies. They were not allowed to see the results until publication.
Would this be disallowed today, especially as the BMJ had it peer reviewed too?
Enstrom/Kabat’s paper is not isolated. Here is a list (8) of over 80 studies done into SHS and lung cancer. 85% epidemiologically do not state a correlation. While a meta analysis may come up with an RR of 1.25, not only is it questionable of proof, but the major confounder of misclassification, easily explains it away. Misclassification rates are 1%-4% with a mean of 2% as smokers are more likely to mislead on their smoking status than non smokers. With an RR of 10 for lung cancer and active smoking, the 1.25 figure withers to 1.05.
This paper makes my figures hugely modest. (9) “12 (6.3%) were defined as biochemical smokers and possibly misclassified by self-report. Among 124 never smokers only 5 (4%) were biochemical smokers compared with 7 of 65 (10.8%) self-reported former smokers.” I make that a mean of 7% fibbing about their smoking status.
I do believe active smoking does indeed cause lung cancer and early mortality, in which I am at pains to point out in my media appearances. However it is not the slam dunk it is made out to be. While you have the overwhelming epidemiology evidence, try as they may scientists have never been able to replicate lung cancer in smoking animals. When all the evidence was presented to a Scottish Court in McTear vs Imperial Tobacco, (10) Judge Lord Nimmo Smith who is paid to be neutral said: “.. the pursuer’s case fails on every issue..” and that includes the scientific evidence that active smoking causes lung cancer.
However I am persuade that via active smoking the carcinogen benzo(a)pyrene is ingested ultimately in lethal quantities causing a genetic mutation of the P53 cancer protecting gene called a guanine to thymine transversion.
This Editorial is more systematic silencing of debate. If SHS had been omitted from it I would have passed it by, but as when the fox has seen the rabbit, mixing my metaphors it is a car crash not easily gawped at. I believe that the harm of SHS is one of the biggest scientific frauds of the 20th century, that has besmirched one area of humanity that should possess integrity.
In this article I wrote this year (11I quote a paper written in 2005 by Professor Sheldon Ungar and Dr. Dennis Bray ”Silencing science: partisanship and the career of a publication disputing the dangers of secondhand smoke” partly in response to witch hunt of Enstrom and Kabat and concluded: “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.”
In July this year, Professor Ronald Bayer, the co-director of the Center for the History and Ethics of Public Health, Columbia University New York City published a paper where he said, “We conclude that the impetus is the imperative to denormalize smoking as part of a broader public health campaign to reduce tobacco-related illness and death. Although invoking limited evidence (on the harm of SHS) may prove effective in the short run, it is hazardous for public health policy makers, for whom public trust is essential.”
You cannot have it both ways. Alleged junk science from tobacco companies maybe should be banned, but so should Big Pharma and Tobacco Control Activists too.