Thursday, 19 August 2010

Arm Yourself With Facts

Not a day goes by that doesn't see more garbage spewed by anti-smokers, in the vain effort of further demonsising smoking, the tobacco industry and smokers themselves. This is a couple of years old but is showing its head again Straight away we know it's a crock, because the "spotlight" on FCTC is in support of it, rather than exposing the horrendous implications it carries. It's full of factual errors, which I have rebutted point by point and which should be passed around as much as possible so people can do what the blog title says.

1. Its products kill. Tobacco is the only consumer
product that kills one half of its regular users
when used as recommended by the manufacturers.
More people die from tobacco related
conditions per year than tuberculosis, hepatitis
and HIV4 combined.

"smoking-related disease" is intentionally fickle. There is not one single illness that smokers get that non-smokers don't; in fact, rates of "smoking related" illness is rising faster in non-smokers than smokers, most probably due to the fact that we have less smokers these days, showing that the illness is not smoker-specific but because the percentage of smokers was higher it produced an illusion. Therefore, the claim that 50% die from tobacco is fraudulent - while 50% may die from cancer, emphysema, heart disease etc, this figure isn't much different than the non-smoking population. With life expectancy at an all-time high, cancer and other diseases come with the territory. Plus, the countries with the highest rates of smokers, like Japan and Greece, have lower rates of heart disease and lung cancer than countries with the lowest rates of smoking, like the USA. Seeing a smoker with lung cancer does not mean smoking caused lung cancer, the cause could be the same as it would be in a non-smoker. As Lord Nimmo said, the fact non-smokers also get the disease means we cannot say with certainty that had the smoker abstained from the habit he would not have suffered it anyway. Finally, plenty of products kill people when used as intended, if a tyre blows out on a motorway then the risks of a high-speed crash, and fatality, is high. And let's not forget guns, a product whose design is specifically to kill. Not only is the 50% figure bogus, but the claim that tobacco is the ONLY product to kill a high percentage is outrageous, especially taking weaponry into consideration. The CRUK site has figures explaining that 0.03% of smokers get lung cancer a year - a number far lower than anyone would imagine given the anti-smoking hyperbole. Even Richard Doll noted that smokers have a 99.9% chance of NOT getting lung cancer (annual risk).

2. If tobacco products were developed today they
would not be allowed on the market. The tobacco
industry developed at a time when there
was little understanding of the detrimental
health effects from smoking so that until the
1960s, it had little oversight from regulators.

Possibly, but it's difficult to say. To this day, no animal study has ever managed to induce lung cancer in an animal using tobacco (excluding tobacco condensate on bald mice to induce skin cancer; any irritant can cause skin cancer however). Furthermore, smoke-exposed animals typically outlive the non-smoking animals AND suffer less cancer, which means if tobacco were developed today it would very likely be marketed as safe, just as other animal-tested products are. In the field of epidemiology though, the average age of a smoker developing lung cancer is 65 (the same age as it is for non-smokers, incidentally). If the average smoker starts at 18, it takes almost 50 years for cancer to become apparent. So if tobacco were introduced today and subjected to epidemiology, given the very long length of time it takes to notice any disease the study would probably not last that long, and tobacco would probably be passed as safe. Even if the study went on for 50 or 60 years, it may well note that given smokers get lung cancer at the same age as non-smokers, and there is no immediate risk from the activity, tobacco would probably not be banned. We consume and use things everyday that we know may pose a threat to us, so there is no reason to think that tobacco would be an exception.

3. The industry cannot be relied upon to
regulate itself. As early as the 1960s tobacco
industry sponsored research showed that
nicotine was addictive. This information was
never willingly disclosed by the industry. The
tobacco industry also uses tactics in the developing
world that are outlawed in other areas5
such as promotions to children6 and young
people smoking, advertising that glamorises
smoking. The tobacco industry also exploits
farmers to such an extent that they struggle to

Nicotine is actually a habit, not addiction. ASH have recently admitted this ( It is also verifiable by noting that NRT has a failure rate of over 98% - if nicotine was the sole reason for smoking then smokers would happily turn to NRT. In any case, nicotine being addictive is a moot-point - alcohol can be addictive, as can caffeine and many prescription drugs. The tobacco industry tried to develop a safer cigarette in the 1960s but was squandered by the anti-smoking movement - even when the industry DOES try to regulate itself, it is hindered. Nicotine occurs naturally in the tobacco plant and any additives the industry uses are approved safe for consumption and are found in our food, drink and air.
Tobacco accounts for huge profits and generated income for developing countries. How it affects individual farmers is a separate point, but it must be remembered that banning their prime crop is going to cripple them financially far more than the tobacco industry. Criminalising tobacco is not the answer, but instead the respective governments should implement legal protection such as minimum wage. Any business can treat its workers badly, this is the reason sweatshops in developing countries are so popular for such brands as Nike and Adidas. While their actions are not condoned, there is no purpose in singling out the tobacco industry - they abide by the little laws in the country. The tobacco industry also employs thousands upon thousands of people around the world.

5. The industry has actively fought against
regulation. The tobacco industry tried to block
the development of the FCTC and weaken its
content and has attempted to discredit the
WHO. An independent enquiry into the tobacco
industry’s attempts to undermine the WHO
concluded that “the attempted subversion has
been elaborate, well financed, sophisticated, and
usually invisible8”.

Of course it has, what business would not try to halt a movement trying to put it out of business? The WHO are openly anti-smoking, with posters showing they want the whole world to be smoke-free. If you ran a business, would you not stop someone destroying it? The WHO have no objectivity with tobacco, either; their study into passive smoking, the world's largest ever carried out, found no statistical significance for non-smokers exposed to smoke, and even found a 22% decreased risk of lung cancer for babies exposed to smoke. The results were duly hidden. They should be discredited, and the tobacco industry wasn't the only one to do it: the British media was very vocal when it got hold of the study results.
The FCTC is a hateful and wasteful organisation, attempting to outlaw smoking around the globe and put a government monopoly on nicotine delivery. The FCTC costs vast sums of money to be a part of and removes government choice in deciding what laws and regulations to place on tobacco. As an initiative, it is intolerant and hateful, with a sole purpose of destroying the tobacco industry.

6. The tobacco industry has either suppressed
research or aimed to create ‘controversy’
around the harmful effects of smoking. Despite
strong scientific evidence demonstrating
the negative health effects from smoking
tobacco, the tobacco industry has
consistently sought to discredit it and funded
confounding studies. This was especially the
case of second hand smoking. Gilmore and
McKee9 show how the industry systematically
tried to undermine a crucial Environmental Tobacco
Smoke study conducted by International
Agency for Research on Cancer.

The studies - and internal documents - of the tobacco industry are freely available on the internet. The prime reason the industry refuted third-party studies was simple: they were bogus. A good example is the famous smoking beagles study, with its methodology having 80 something smoking dogs and only 7 non-smoking dogs, allowing them to make the (unsurprising) discovery that the smoking group had higher rates of illness. Epidemiology cannot 'prove' cause and effect, and that is the only research on smoking and illness for humans. Moreover, as said earlier, it has been consistently shown that countries with high rates of smoking have less rates of lung cancer than countries with low rates of smoking. The industry had good reason to discredit the studies.
With regards to secondhand smoke, the IARC study in question is the aforementioned WHO study, finding no statistically significant link, meaning no reason for a smoking ban. The WHO radically twisted these results, but they are available for all to see on the internet should anyone doubt this. The other large study, by Enstrom & Kabat, was initially funded by the American Cancer Society and anti-smoking groups. The primary data came back showing no risk of SHS and these groups, with their clear agenda, pulled funding. It is no secret they only support studies that are guaranteed to provide the 'right' results. Their tactics are worse than those of the tobacco industry and their claims of discrediting studies is wholly hypocritical.

6. The interests of the tobacco industry, selling
more tobacco, are in direct conflict with the
goals of public health. In order to continue
generating high profits the tobacco industry
needs to replace the smokers who have either
died or quit. The industry argues that it does
not directly target its advertising at young people.
However a major study found ‘a positive,
consistent and specific relationship’ between
exposure to tobacco advertising and later takeup
of smoking among teenagers10.

Tobacco advertising is banned. Most smokers start as teenagers because that is when it is legal to do so, just as most people begin to drink when it is legal to do so. The goals of public health are not to encourage people to be more healthy, but to conduct phony studies to fulfil political ambition. The tobacco industry does indeed need people to smoke, or it will have no profits. However, their advertising is banned so there can be no claims made against it. People smoke because they want to.

7. Corporate irresponsibility: WHO has stated
that corporate social responsibility and tobacco
companies are an “inherent contradiction’. The
tobacco industry’s own documents show that
most of its youth smoking prevention campaigns
are designed to promote the industry’s
political and marketing aims rather than to
reduce smoking. Their campaigns mostly focus
on underage smoking, stressing that smoking is
an adult activity rather than an unhealthy one.

It would make little sense for any company selling a product to try to reduce the number of said product being sold. There is no factual error in what the tobacco industry says: smoking is an adult activity. A quick look at the Philip Morris website clearly shows abundant health warnings, too, but in this day and age no one is ignorant to the potential risks from smoking. What is more remarkable is that the tobacco industry does this at all, as other industries do not promote such self-harming warnings - for instance, Coca Cola does not mention the aspartame in its diet drinks can cause a variety of health problems.

8. Negative to society: The World Bank argues that,
on economic grounds alone, tobacco should be
controlled, and estimates that when all costs of
tobacco around the world are subtracted from all
the benefits, the net result is a global economic
loss of US $200 billion each year.

They 'estimate' that because the real figure could never be in agreement. In Britain alone, smokers pay between £8 billion and £12 billion tax, and "smoking-related diseases" costs about £1.5 billion. Smokers therefore pay an extra £6.5 bn - £10.5 billion. Taking into account that this is a similar trend in other countries, each country has a lot of profit. Then factor in the amount of jobs the industry offers and it is clear that tobacco is very good for the economy.

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