Received wisdom

Whenever I meander on about smoking or second hand smoke, invariably I get castigated with expressions of “everyone knows smoking kills” or “we all know smoking causes cancer”.

I have read a lot about the subject, and even amongst the people who are opposed to the “science” of passive smoking I have found expressions of “we know cigarettes are dangerous” or “we know direct smoking causes cancer”.

So where does this knowledge originate?

Almost without exception, all knowledge stems from one source.  Someone at sometime proposed a theory which was proved by experiment to be fact.  That fact is maybe expanded upon and so our knowledge increases.  So where is the source of the “smoking kills” theory?  Someone somewhere must have originated the theory and someone somewhere must have proved it?

From all my research, everything leads back to research by Richard Doll and Bradford Hill back in 1950.  This is the most cited proof and is essentially the source of the “fact” that smoking kills, or even that smoking is bad. 

Since their results were published, the word has spread about the evils of tobacco, to the extent that it has become almost undisputed fact.  It is science by democracy – if enough believe it then it has to be fact

But what if Richard Doll and Bradford Hill were wrong?

What if Hill and Doll were biased from the start and manipulated their figures to prove their belief?  What if subsequent “studies” were also biased?  The result would be that our knowledge is in fact received knowledge where we state something is fact whereas in truth it is distorted, or even an outright untruth.  We believe something simply because everyone else seems to believe it, even though the original source is false.

I recently came across a paper by Professor J. R. Johnstone, PhD and P.D. Finch [who are both professors of Mathematical Statistics at Monash University in Australia].  They approached the Hill and Doll studies from the perspective of the mathematician and not the health fanatic.  Their paper makes very interesting reading indeed.

I would urge anyone who believes in the “undisputed facts” of smoking to have a read.

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Comments

Received wisdom — 19 Comments

  1. “So where is the source of the “smoking kills” theory?” Maybe it was the first poor basterd to seccumb to the disease.
         

  2. Have you noticed that all the smokers in your grandfathers time and your great grandfathers time – and I suspect, even further back than them – they’re all now dead.
     
    Proof indeed that smoking kills… or that they’ve changed the make up of tobacco sold these days.
     
    I rest my case.
     

  3. Slab – You could well be right.  Some poor sod bit the dust when his allocated time was up and a quack who hated the smell of cigarette smoke decided that death must have been due to smoking.

    Snookertony – I have indeed noticed that.  One thing that really baffles me though is that I’m fairly sure quite a few of them never smoked in their lives.  Maybe they lived in the same city as a smoker?

  4. It’s all about the odds GD and you consistently refuse to recognise this. Not sure what your agenda is but it seems obsessive.

  5. T.T.  What were the odds that Chelsea FC would be in the Champions League Final ? And indeed, ten years ago, what odds would you have given to the bet that the general public would be bailing out the Banks ? No risk of either before the fact. 

    So, what Grandad is exploring is facts, not risks or odds. As such, he posed the question, what if the accepted facts are untrue ?  If it were untrue, a lot of high profile, influential persons would lose a significant income source. If it is true, they will continue coining it through the use of marginalisation of a minority. 

    What are the odds they will continue on the take though if the majority buy what they say ? 

  6. Everybody dies, smokers and non-smokers. Smokers contribute more in taxes than non-smokers. Any chance of a rebate ?
     

  7. tt & Slab – John is right.  All I am doing is querying the validity of the very foundations of the anti-smoking movement.  I don’t know if either of you read the paper, but it drives a coach and horses through the mathematics of the original “research” and through just about every “report” published since.

    There are several reasons why I keep returning to this subject.  Probably the biggest is the way governments are increasingly introducing laws “for our own good”.  The anti-smoking laws have gone way beyond the reasonable and if anything, reflect an obsessiveness on the part of the anti-smokers.

    Another reason is that the persecution of smokers [based on complete falsehoods] is already spreading to other areas.  Alcohol, sugars and salt are now all in the firing line, and sooner or later these Nanny Laws are going to affect just about everyone in the civilised world.  Maybe the pair of you are unaffected by these laws at the moment but you will be.  I can guarantee that.

    Yet another reason is the way these Puritans are employing junk science to further their causes.  Science is completely discredited and has lost the confidence of great swathes of society.  The problem here is that valuable and true research is going to be dismissed purely because of the corruption within a sizable number  of “scientists” whose aim is to cash in on grants rather than search for the truth.

  8. Poppycock! I am starting to fear for your sanity. John isn’t right and neither are you and your crackpot reasoning. I use the word reasoning loosely. Smoking kills. It increases your chance of a premature death. Jesus Christ GD ask any and I mean any fucking doctor. Don’t you have one in your village? (Whoops! Bet he smokes does he?)

  9. tt – I have indeed discussed this with a couple of doctors who agreed privately that the science is indeed flaky at best.  However, because of the prevailing climate they cannot say anything in public. 

    Where is the crackpot reasoning?  Research was done which has proved to be highly flawed, but it still managed to make its way into the public realm.  Have you read the paper?

    And the reason I put scientists in quotes is because they are not true scientists, in that instead of searching for the truth, they are searching for the highest bidder.  When these people start putting out “facts” such as cigarette smoke traveling through concrete walls or down telephone cables I case calling them scientists.

  10. T.T. – The phrase, “Smoking Kills”, is a piece of propaganda soundbite, designed to be easy to both understand and remember, by those short of the grey matter. It’s a mantra for the unthinking masses. It is widely known among doctors though, that what ultimately kills both smokers and non-smokers in the end is a dodgy ticker or a cancer. These conditions are created by multiple factors, never one only such as smoking. So, you could factually claim that, “smoking can contribute to bad health”, as can bad diet, lack of exercise, alcohol, genetics & DNA, environment, lack of exercise and stress. Again, no one of these is totally responsible and it is usually a combination of several that combine to cause the ill-health. That is why no death certificate lists cause as smoking. It is truthfully neither a primary cause nor a secondary one either. But it is a contributor.
     
    Worse than that, is the fact that clinical trials on smoking are banned, so any and all evidence is based on questionnaires to both smokers and non-smokers who live with them. These answers are presumed to be 100% truthful and accurate, including the up-to-date question of how do you feel now. Answers are then shuffled to create statistics, and that is how you end up with the so called ‘facts’. A survey done in a small Country of say three million people, of which about 300 are questioned, produces inaccurate statistics in the first place. Then an American picks up on it in a Country with 300 million people, and just multiplies all the numbers by 100, and hey presto, another piece of garbage research is created and published in the good old USA.
     
    That is soul destroying for anyone who would like to hear the truth, but highly profitable for the researchers involved, out of public money.

  11. One interesting piece of research, as an example of how these things can be horribly wrong, was done on milk. Several hundred milk drinkers were found for one group and then several hundred others who never touched the stuff were also enrolled. They were all weighed at the start, and weight was monitored all the way through. The research determined that milk drinkers were 18% heavier than non-milk drinkers. So, it was a no-brainer.
     
    But, nobody asked how the milk drinkers consumed it. When they eventually did ask, they discovered that in the main, most poured it over a breakfast cereal or used it in tea or coffee. Sugar was always also added as well. The research was dis-credited but money was spent and the dairy industry was badly affected for a time, because of junk science.  

  12. You call it “junk” science when it doesn’t happen to fit your unfounded and preconceived beliefs. Smoking causes heart and lung diseases that kill you. That’s why more smokers die of these than non smokers. It’s a no brainer. Everything doesn’t have a vast conspiracy behind it. Much as you and GD like to think so.

  13. tt [& Slab] – You are trotting out the mantra of “Smoking causes heart and lung diseases that kill you” which to me sounds like received wisdom.  In other words, you have heard this repeated ad nauseum and believe it without question. 

    Talking of questions – I repeat – have either of you read the linked paper?

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