Introduction: Where It All Began

Until the 1950s almost nobody would have suggested smoking was harmful, let alone deadly. Doctors even recommended smoking; my own grandmother’s doctor told her to smoke during her pregnancy in order to eat less. There are videos on Youtube of old cigarette advertisements in which doctors recommend smoking – one Camel advert has doctors saying they favour that particular brand over others.[1] Smoking was not only socially acceptable, it was the norm; almost everybody smoked. One look at classical Hollywood will show just how prominent smoking was at the time. Moreover, smoking was seen as classy and elegant – who can forget the classic picture of Audrey Hepburn with her cigarette holder? Even today smoking is widely used in films and art to symbolise anything from a phallic symbol to independence. An example of this is the film Fight Club, in which a cigarette was used to symbolise masculinity. Until more recent times, it was commonplace in Europe for people to keep spare cigarettes and an ashtray to offer their guests upon arrival in their home. Smoking was so entrenched within society that when the idea that it could be harmful first came to light most doctors, and indeed civilians, refuted the idea as preposterous.

The very first study showing that smoking was linked to lung cancer was conducted in 1912 by Dr. Isaac Adler who used a monograph to demonstrate the link. As early as 1928 there were studies in Germany also purporting to demonstrate a link, although the first formal statistical evidence was in 1929 by Fritz Lickint of Dresden. This study was far from conclusive though, as the link was simply ‘discovered’ because men smoked more than women and had higher incidence of lung cancer than women. The other German studies will be looked at in the sub-chapter ‘The Nazi Discovery of Smoking and Cancer’.

Despite these earlier attempts to demonise tobacco, the public perception of smoking did change. The pinnacle study to the current anti-smoking movement was conducted by Sir Richard Doll.

Doll was, and despite his passing still remains, one of the most prominent figures in the anti-smoking movement. After the publication of his first study in 1950 he was very active in speaking out against smoking. Cancer Research UK, speaking of this study, state on their website “This British Doctors Study has provided much of our current knowledge about the dangers of smoking.”[2] On the fiftieth anniversary, June 2004, Doll released the follow up, a fifty-year epidemiological study. Research shows that much of today’s figures and statistics on the hazards of smoking come from this study; it is considered the Holy Grail of smoking studies and, as far as the Tobacco Control movement is concerned, it has not yet been surpassed. In looking at the study in detail later on, the reader will probably have to question the validity of such figures and subsequent claims.

That study prompted a lot of change: an ever increasing number of studies began to emerge showing a correlation between smoking and lung cancer, and then studies that linked smoking with emphysema and heart disease. Nowadays, there is barely a week that goes by without another anti-smoking revelation, to the point where we are now told smoking can cause a range of cancers including bowel, pancreatic and bladder, as well as impotence, aging of the skin, acne and even blindness! We are also continually told that second-hand smoke is responsible for thousands of deaths each and every year.

What started off as somewhat feasible – that inhaling smoke into the lungs could cause lung cancer – is now looking hugely different: never before has there been such an attack on any substance (except perhaps alcohol in the 1920s), despite well known and well documented dangers of countless chemicals in our everyday purchases. No other product of substance has received such hounding, and it seems the evidence, whilst getting more and more plentiful, is becoming more and more far fetched. In 2007 the United Kingdom implemented a blanket smoking ban, meaning the legal activity is now prohibited in any enclosed area including pubs, clubs, and even open-air railway platforms.

The first thing most people ask is ‘how does banning smoking benefit the government?’ A good question and the answer is simultaneously somewhat obvious and surprising: money. Anti-smoking groups, such as Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) (UK), receive funding for their work, whilst most pro-smoking groups, such as Fight Ordinances and Restrictions to Control and Eliminate Smoking (FORCES), receive no such funding. Furthermore, the funding to ASH and other such groups comes, in part, from the Department of Health. Freedom Organisation for the Right To Enjoy Smoking Tobacco (FOREST), on the other hand, is one of the few, if not the only, pro-smoking group to receive funding and this comes from the tobacco industry itself. The government has, therefore, aligned itself with one side instead of remaining neutral.

The aforementioned study by Doll was funded by the Medical Research Council, Cancer Research UK and the British Heart Foundation,[3] and Cancer Research’s “Smoke is Poison” campaign was funded by the Department of Health.[4] Suing Big Tobacco was, at one time, hugely rewarding – financially speaking. The anti-smoking campaign allows government members to increase the size and power of their agencies and further their careers, whilst allowing those outside the government increased funding for their research projects. Some people may be thinking ‘but they put a lot of money into anti-smoking adverts’. In truth, the anti-smoking adverts and campaigns are funded by the excessive tax on cigarettes so that it is smokers themselves who are paying for the adverts. Furthermore, there are now countless products designed to help people stop smoking, such as patches and gum (including a different type of gum for every each type of cigarette) as well as in-person individual support and treatment. Smoking cessation lines many pockets with a lot of money.

What is widely overlooked, ignored, or just not known is that a very definite health establishment exists, to which organisations like the National Health Service (NHS) and Cancer Research UK belong. Within this health establishment are the researchers and scientists who depend upon funding for their research. There is now a bandwagon, so to speak; any anti-smoking study is guaranteed to receive grants, and guaranteed to get exposure. Thus, the bigger picture begins to emerge and we can see that scientists and researchers are almost forced to churn out anti-smoking studies, regardless of how bogus they are. As a matter of fact, there is a large, and increasing, body of evidence showing tobacco smoke helps prevent Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, as well as relieving symptoms of Tourette’s syndrome; unfortunately one has to dig around a bit before finding the studies, reinforcing the above point, but we will get to them in chapter thirteen.

Some people believe that tobacco has been scrutinised as a cover-up because the establishment still has no answer to what causes cancer. The idea is certainly conceivable, even probable. As a matter of fact, in 1952 the American Cancer Society (ACS) was frustrated that there was no known cure for cancer, or even a known cause of it, and accused smoking so as to appear to the public they were onto something. In the same year, the ACS conducted a study in which volunteers were used under the assumption they would be researching whether smoking was related to lung cancer or not, but in actual fact they were setting out to prove smoking did cause lung cancer. Dr Leroy E. Burney, Surgeon General at the time, supported the ACS’ claim that smoking causes lung cancer, allowing further exposure for the claim, saying “Unless the use of tobacco can be made safe, the individual person’s risk of lung cancer can best be reduced by the elimination of smoking.”[5]

Another small but relevant point to raise is just what a smoking ban potentially means – and certainly what people stopping smoking means. While the government, NHS and anti-smoking groups are quick to inform people that smokers cost the NHS between £1.5 and £2.7 billion a year in treatment, what they are not so quick to tell people is that smokers pay into society over £9 billion annually through cigarette tax. It does not require a mathematician to work out that no government is going to willingly lose that amount of money, and as such the more the smoking rates decrease, the more other taxes will have to increase. Will people be so pleased if the ban is working and there are fewer smokers around so other taxes have to rise? I, for one, doubt it.

Elaborating on the above point, it is important to keep in mind that when we are told smokers cost the NHS £1.5 billion annually, what that means is that any smoker needing treatment is categorised as having a smoking-related illness – whether the doctor believes it was smoking-related or not. In fact, the smoking-related illness figures comprise everyone thought to be ill from smoke, including any smoker, regardless of the illness, any non-smoker who lives with a smoker and anyone claiming to be exposed to second-hand smoke.[6]

Furthermore, ‘smoking-related disease’ is an incredibly misleading term as there is not a single illness or ailment that affects only smokers, and as such it cannot be a ‘smoking-related disease’; such a term would relate to something that only afflicts smokers, or at least, an ailment which was caused solely by the act of smoking. There is no way of telling whether a smoker would have contracted the same illness if he or she did not smoke, and consequently the statistics are misleading. Given that statistics are the main body of research it is imperative to keep that point in mind. It is one thing to say that 50% of smokers die of smoking-related diseases, but that is an irrelevant point – official statistics also say that smoking is “the cause of more than a quarter (29%) of all deaths from cancer and has killed an estimated six million people over the last 50 years.”[7] This means, of course, that 71% of cancer deaths are not from smoking, yet it appears to be the main focus of research. Moreover, the word “estimated” is a subtle way of saying unproven, thus allowing those who announce the figures an ability to create any number they desire.

Let us have one last look at the official statistics from Cancer Research: “Around one in four British adults currently smoke. Men are still more likely to smoke than women (27% and 25% respectively).”[8] However, the official census shows that, in 2001, there were 58.8 million people living in Britain, of which 11.9 million were under sixteen, leaving 46.9 million over sixteen. For argument’s sake, we will consider those aged 16 or over as adults and, again for argument’s sake, we will work under the assumption that 50% are male and 50% female. This means 23.45 million are men and 23.45 million are female. 27% of 23.45 is 6,331,500 and 25% is 5,862,500. Combining these totals leaves us with 12,194,000 smokers in the UK, or 26% of the population.

Using the above statistics, 26% of the adult population smoke, which is 12.19 million, and apparently 50% of smokers die from cancer, a total of six million. If this is the case, how is it that only six million people in the UK have died from tobacco in the last fifty years, especially as the rates of smokers have declined in the same space of time?[9] Clearly, something is amiss. Of course, those are just statistics from Cancer Research; in 1990 Richard Peto – a researcher who worked with Doll – claimed that cigarette smoking was responsible for 20% of deaths in the Western world. The problem is that either figures are too low, showing that, with the amount of people who do smoke or have smoked, there is statistically no risk to the habit, or that they are too high, showing nothing but sheer manipulation and propaganda. Furthermore, one would expect the figures to be at least vaguely similar, yet they are not.

Sadly, because conventional wisdom states that smoking is harmful and carries a strong risk that it will cause cancer, people passively accept this. However, not only is there plenty of evidence that this conventional wisdom is wrong, but history itself shows that conventional wisdom is often incorrect. In the first instance, doctors used to advise smoking – so they were either wrong then or now. Additionally, alcohol was prohibited and then allowed again. Let us also not forget that, before the 1900s, it was a commonly held belief, still used jokingly today, that masturbation causes blindness. People readily accepted this and truly believed masturbation was a high risk activity, yet we now know that it is not. However, no person in their right mind, doctors or other professionals especially, would have said otherwise because if their words influenced someone to go ahead and masturbate and the person coincidentally went blind, masturbation and the doctor would have been blamed. It was also believed, and stated by experts, that marijuana would turn people into sex-crazed murderous maniacs. Some people may also remember how, in the 1970s and 1980s, parents were instructed to put their babies to sleep face down, which resulted in a huge increase in the number of cot deaths.

These examples show that conventional wisdom can be incorrect and lead people in the wrong direction. The sad truth is that because the mantra of smoking being harmful has been repeated so many times people now just accept it without question or research. However, misinformation or a lie told over and over is still wrong; never will mere repetition make something true.

One argument I hear often from anti-smokers, when they are told of the evidence that smoking is not as harmful as we are told, is that it is propaganda from the tobacco industry or those receiving funding from them, such as FORCES. However, FORCES, and most other freedom of choice groups, receive no funding from any organisation. Furthermore, most of the evidence used by those groups is actually the same studies that are used to show smoking is harmful, they just point out the bias present in the studies, or intentionally missed factors that had skewed the results, and so forth. In other words, the very studies used to show smoking is harmful have been, or can be, reviewed to show that, actually, they do no such thing. Perhaps the most relevant quote is from Winston Churchill when he said: “a lie gets halfway around the world before the truth gets a chance to put its pants on”.

Another odd mantra that is oft spoken by anti-smokers is that tobacco is the only product in the world that, when used as it is intended, kills its users. It is amazing that they had the temerity to think this up, and even more amazing that people repeat it with conviction. Apparently, none of these people think of vehicle accidents where a car tyre blows out, or people who eat too much food thus becoming obese and dying (after all, they consumed the food the way it was meant to be consumed: eating it), or drinking too much alcohol, or, most surprisingly, illegal drugs.

This book will be looking objectively at studies that have been used to prove smoking is harmful. It will also be looking at what other scientists really think of the existing anti-smoking studies. This book will not be choosing select studies in an attempt to disprove the existing mantra that smoking can cause death, as that would be a pointless and childish exercise akin to one person saying ‘yes it does’ and another saying ‘no it doesn’t’. Instead, it will be focusing on studies that are widely used as evidence for smoking being harmful to see if those conclusions are really true, as well as reviewing other bodies of work for a well-rounded and neutral standpoint on smoking to see whether or not smoking has an effect on the body that warrants any alarm.

Before continuing, it is important to include a disclaimer: I do not, nor have ever, worked for, or received money from, tobacco or medical* companies or other bodies on behalf of the tobacco or medical industries. I do not, nor have ever, owned shares or stocks in any tobacco or medical company. The following work was not conducted under any premise or promise of receiving money in the future from tobacco or medical companies, nor is it intended as advocacy of smoking. The book is an independent and neutral analysis of various factors in the smoking controversy.

I have included citations of all my references and where possible I have cited links to web pages. In most instances the web pages are there for the reader’s convenience as they contain the original articles in their entirety and so save hunting libraries for the documents. In the instances where the original documents are not on the web page they are either scientific articles or contain information from relevant documents – again, I have included them to save those who want to check the references from spending time locating the original articles or documents.   * ‘Medical’ includes pharmaceutical or any other related companies [if !supportFootnotes] [endif] [if !supportFootnotes]

[1] http://www. youtube.com/watch?v=gCMzjJjuxQI
[2] http://info.cancerresearchuk.org/healthyliving/smokingandtobacco/howdoweknow/
[3] http://info.cancerresearchuk.org/news/archive/pressreleases/2004/june/38863
[4] http://info.cancerresearchuk.org/healthyliving/smokeispoison/?a=5441
[5] http://legacy.library.ucsf.edu/tid/cmq36b00/pdf
[6] Levy, R; Marimont, R (1998) Lies, Damn Lies & 400,000 Smoking-Related Deaths
[7] http://info.cancerresearchuk.org/cancerstats/causes/lifestyle/tobacco/
[8] Ibid
[9] Ibid

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