A Billion Lives

There has been a bit of a commotion over this Billion Lives thing over the weekend.

Simon Clarke wrote about it and that was followed up by Dick Puddlecote who threw in his hape worth.

I had little to add to the debate, but then under an article on Facts Do Matter I came across a response by Aaron Biebert, the director of the film.  To say my gob was smacked was a slight understatement.

It seems that many pro-smoking advocates would like to hurt our film because they are delusional veterans of a lost war. Lost.

It's laughable to me that they are still fighting. It reminds me when they found Japanese soldiers on an island many years after WWII was done. They were still on alert, waiting for orders. They were still at war.

Let me set out my stall.

First of all, I am a reasonably intelligent person of mature years and I consider myself quite capable of making my own decisions about my own life and therefore resent in the strongest possible terms any attempt to force me down a path according to someone else's ideology.  This applies to smoking, eating, drinking and any other aspect of my life that others may think unsuitable.  I am not pro-smoking.  I am not anti-smoking.  I am not pro-vaping.  I am not anti-vaping.  I am pro free choice to make my own decisions about my health and my life.  The Antis have declared war on me and I will fight them and their allies to the last man.

Secondly, I believe in science, and with regard to smoking or vaping there is no science.  It is all surveys, statistics and epidemiology, none of which are science – they are mathematics and are wide open to bias and error.

The entire anti-smoking/anti-vaping movement is based on figures which are highly questionable to say the least.  No one has ever actually proved that smoking causes cancer, and the so called "facts" around second hand smoke are more than questionable to say the least.  As far as I am concerned smoking may, or may not be harmful.  So are a lot of things in life.  Second hand smoke is an outright fabrication designed specifically to turn non-smokers against smokers.  Just read Frank Davis or Velvet Glove Iron Fist for some mathematical trickery!

The whole anti smoking movement has relied on tried and trusted propaganda methods, mainly the old adage "repeat a lie often enough and it will become the truth".  So they trot out trite figures such as one in every two smokers will die, or 165,000 kids die of secondhand smoke every year, and these little headline-makers get trotted out on a regular basis without question.  They are all bollox.  They are figures that are plucked out of the air and are purely the result of fevered imaginations, wishful thinking and dubious statistics.  Even the Billion Lives figure is a nonsensical piece of rubbish designed exclusively to grab headlines.  It is absolute bullshit.  It implies that if smoking were eradicated entirely that somehow, miraculously a billion people wouldn't die this century which is laughable.  I can guarantee that every single person who reads this along with 99% of the world's population of seven billion will never see the year 2100, so where is the one billion lives now?

I have been very disappointed at the stuff I have read from vapers over the last few years. In the main, their rhetoric has been playing right into the hands of the Tobacco Control Industry.  They scream about how much safer vaping is and how it is saving lives.  Maybe vaping is safer and maybe it isn't – I don't care one way or another as it is irrelevant.  My point is that smoking or vaping should be a free choice where no one has any right whatsoever to dictate terms.  Maybe vapers have been trying to cozy up to Tobacco Control hoping for an easier ride, and maybe some are now realising that Tobacco Control doesn't give a damn about Tobacco – they care about Control.

I don't know what was going through Aaron Biebert's mind when he wrote the comment above.  Does he really hold smokers in such contempt?  Is he trying to score brownie points with Tobacco Control?  He has certainly not convinced me that he is in any way an ally.

I haven't seen the film A Billion Lives but going by the trailer it is a massive disappointment.  It should set out to debunk the lies and propaganda but by the looks of things it may debunk some but just repeat others.  The title alone is enough to put me off at it is just another of the over dramatised myths. 

I know the title comes from the WHO and The Lancet but that says nothing [neither is exactly famous for impartiality].  It is a wet dream headline designed to scare and dramatise, but it is still the result of very dodgy statistics and extrapolation and is ultimately a nonsense.

Aaron Biebert should be really careful.  He should be fighting for the freedom of the individual, instead of which he is just fighting his own little vaping corner and it looks to me like he is losing.

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A Billion Lives — 27 Comments

  1. My Mr. uses a vape-cig now, he enjoys the benefit of not coughing as much, regaining more taste and smell and controlling how strong the vape thing is and what flavour, added plus of when we travel it doesn't stink out a room or having to step outside to puff (which he did for me, I have a lung issue). Me? don't care if  you smoke or vape, what ever makes life enjoyable. Live and let live.

    • Fair play to Mr..  Whatever works for him [and you]. 

      As I said, I don't mind whether people smoke, vape or stick pins in their backsides, just so long as it is their choice.  The evil we should all be fighting is state control over our private and rational choices.

  2. Unless something very peculiar happens, the vaping battle is already lost. For a start, Totally Wicked would have to win the court judgement, cancelling Clause 20 of the TPD. If the TPD is upheld, then it is hard to see how Parliament (in the UK) will be able not to enact the provisions of the TPD into law. There is very little 'wriggle room' in the TPD. I forget what exactly, but a couple minor matters may be discretionary. It will still mean that most ecigs on the market today will in effect be banned.

    • I agree.  Either Clause 20 has to go or else the lapdogs in gubmints would have o ignore the directive, which I can't ever see happening.

      From what I can gather, the only devices produced will have to be essentially vapour producing toys that are no use to man nor beast.  Roll on the Black Market!

  3. I have always read the film title as a vague attempt at a pun, 

    the V is shown as only smoke, leaving the letters to read "a billion lies"

    and I think that's a better description.

    • Possibly you're right, but essentially the film seems to be a plea from the electrofag community on the basis that "it is the healthier alternative" and that by banning electrofags they are condemning people back into smoking.  The lies apply to both camps [tobacco and e-juice] and should be exposed as such whereas the film promotes one at the expense of the other.

      This is not about which camp is right or which camp is healthier, it should be about the freedom of choice for both camps to enjoy their own personal preferences without interference from the Puritans.

  4. I'd disagree with you about the science part, I'm not sure what tests you'd be expecting around vaping/tobacco. Chemistry (hands up!) can tell you what's in there or not, biochemistry can tell you what that might do to cells etc in-vitro or from blood tests . But when it comes to "what does it do to us?" then studies, stats and epidemiology are "it". There is no definitive test for carcinogenicity, lung damage etc. Not perfect by any means, but it's what we've got to work with.

    The major health issue for smoking is just that: Smoke. Woodsmoke, tobacco, paper, whatever the source you've got a heady mix of complex aromatic, cyclic and linear compounds, metals, PM25s etc etc. And anyone that's exposed to large amounts of smoke over long periods will see an increased risk of cancer and other diseases. And not everyone will die from that exposure. Like most exposures, it's a risk, a dice rolling excercise. I used to smoke, so I've got my own bag of dice to roll.

    I think one of the main subtexts of the film is being missed, the irony in that the figures used are the same figures that the "anti-vape" contingent have used and continue to use, The aim of the film isn't to be anti-tobacco or anti-choice, it's supporting a choice that many seem intent on removing. The reasons for wanting to ban vaping run from puritanism through ideology to flat out greed. Vaping is healthier less risk laden than smoking, but no-ones saying it's risk free. 

    Nothing is, every action or inaction has a risk. And yes, everyone will die etc etc. But everyone has the right to choose how they live their life and make their choices without interference from nannies and vested interests. 

    As far as I know Aaron isn't a vaper, most of the crew aren't either, so I think accusing him of trying to take fight his "own little vaping corner" is a bit unfair when they're trying to support vapers against a massive bias. Never once have I heard from them or contributors any mention of swinging opinion or action against smokers or choice. but I understand that some smokers may be tasting "sour grapes" in that their choice isn't being supported. Unfortunate but there you go, maybe someone will make a pro-smoking film?

    • Welcome John!

      Ouch!  a long one…..

      There have been many attempts to induce cancer under laboratory conditions and to the best of my knowledge, all have failed.  If memory serves, in some cases there were indications of a protective effect.  Even the original Doctors Study indicated that Lighter [10 a day] smokers had a longer lifespan. 

      Logically speaking an argument can be made that introducing foreign material into the lungs must have a negative effect, and that smokers therefore must run a risk, just as a sky-diver must stand a greater risk of plummeting to the ground than a non sky-diver.  However I would contend that the risks associated with smoking have been exaggerated out of all proportions to give the impression that smoking is fatal, and that every smoker will die a horrible and painful death which is plainly not the case.

      Even if smoking does increase the chances of cancer, then so what?  It is not an end I would choose for myself but that is the point – it is, or should be my choice to weigh up the chances.  Just as a parachutist knows there is a chance his chute will fail to deploy, he is still willing to take that chance as he derives great pleasure from the experience.

      Regarding the film defending "it's own little vaping corner", I can't see how that can be done without repeating a lot of the old anti-smoking rhetoric.  It shouldn't be a case of vaping being safer or vaping saving so many lives – it should be entirely about people's right to choose their own pleasures without any interference.  In fact this goes way beyond nicotine [in whatever form] as we are now seeing interference in what we eat with calls to ban sugar, meat and whatever the flavour of the day is.

      Sooner rather than later, we will all be tasting sour grapes.

    • Smoke. Woodsmoke, tobacco, paper, whatever the source you've got a heady mix of complex aromatic, cyclic and linear compounds, metals, PM25s etc etc. And anyone that's exposed to large amounts of smoke over long periods will see an increased risk of cancer and other diseases.

      Would you not think, John, that given the fact that humanity has been huddling over open, smoky fires since the means of creating fire was discovered, that over the millennia humans will have evolved a defense mechanism against the potential harms of smoke from vegetation? What do you consider 'large' amounts of smoke? Because even in a room full of smokers, the amount of smoke particles when measured in PPM is pretty insignificant.

  5. Thanks for the welcome. Inducing cancer under lab conditions? Crikey, there's a tall order. Because cancer occurs in people, not test tubes. Like I said, there's no definitive test just a really big bag of dice..

    Personally I wouldn't go back to smoking, but I understand and accept that there are many who wish to continue or indeed start. I did once. The point remains however that the risk profile of tobacco and vaping are not the same, despite desperate efforts from "Public Control" (Pub Health/Tob Control) to conflate the two.

    Smoke carries a big chunk of risk, it may have been exaggerated to an extent but it's still there. But if that is the choice someone makes then who am I to argue. I work (voluntarily) with a stop smoking service, but I don't encourage people to quit, my part is to help advise on peoples choices if they want or need to quit. Because even quitters are being lied to by many.

    Our sour grapes have already been served, and they're pretty bitter. The TPD article 20 exists as do the Aussie bans and others. What I and millions of others currently use will be gone/going from March 2016, choice restricted/removed and new products suffocated unless you've got millions to bring them to market (Tobacco/Pharma, I'm staring at you…). Innovation and quality will be gone, as no small maker can afford it.

    But, I guess I'll still be able to buy a white packet of fags 🙂

    • " Inducing cancer under lab conditions? Crikey, there's a tall order."

      Having spent a lifetime in biomedical research I am in a position to inform you that inducing cancer in the lab is not a "tall" order. I have been involved in a number of projects where a cancer model was needed to test either a preventative strategy or a putative cure. Inducing cancer in animals with a known carcinogen is easy, really. What grandad has said is that it has never been done with cigarette smoke, which is true. I find the failure of cigarette smoke, even at unrealistically high concentrations, to induce cancer in animals a bit odd given that the claim that smoke IS a known carcinogen is so widespread.

  6. The point remains however that the risk profile of tobacco and vaping are not the same  

     

    John, your comments are well tempered but there is no evidence for that claim. If we conducted studies on people who have been smoking for 5 years, there would be no additional risk. The same with 10 years. The risks associated with smoking have to do with lifelong smoking, i.e., 40, 50, 60, 70 years. There is no such data for e-cigs. They’ve only been around for a few years.  

     

    Further, when dealing with lifelong risk, it brings into play a plethora of other factors (confounders) that are never accounted for in smoking “death tolls”. Unfortunately, in Public Health the term “causation” has been mangled beyond recognition.  

     

    Inducing cancer under lab conditions? Crikey, there's a tall order. Because cancer occurs in people, not test tubes.

     

    I think Grandad was referring to the numerous failed attempts at inducing lung cancer in a variety of lab animals through tobacco smoke.

    • Welcome Magnet!  Indeed I was referring to the attempts to induce cancer in lab animals.  If I remember correctly [*damn memory!*] they even attempted to slant the results by using a breed of rat that is highly susceptible to cancer.  The test group developed fewer tumours than the control group which is possibly why we don't hear so much about it?

  7. On reflection after a couple of days, I think that this young director (I bet he is quite young) has delusions above his station that this film will be a “turning point” and a “groundshaker” that people will be talking about for years to come and which will make all public health workers sit up in their seats and say: “Goodness me! We never realised all this! Let’s start palming every smoker in the country off with e-cigarettes right now!”  And I think he’s trying to do this just like pretty much every other hobby-horse campaigner is trying to jostle “their” chosen health evil to the front of the queue – by emulating the tactics of that icon of health-lobbying success, the anti-smoking movement. 

     

    In fairness, I haven’t seen the film and probably never will, but I’d bet my bottom dollar that it features all the most-successful of Tobacco Control’s strategies: frightening-sounding statistics, doe-eyed and sad-looking kiddies, over-hyped “advantages” of not smoking, nasty-looking smokers’ organs which are actually not from smokers at all.  We all know the kind of thing. 

     

    What he’s forgetting, of course, is that these strategies were applied by Tobacco Control over many, many decades and were honed and refined as they went along.  It takes that long to achieve large-scale changes to public opinions.  Tobacco control were in it for the long haul – and they knew it.  The switch of public opinion towards smoking from an innocuous activity which some people just did and some people just didn’t, to one of the greatest social evils ever certainly didn’t simply happen as a result of some anti-smoking wannabe film-maker pumping out one tiny little documentary spelling out the Horrors of the Terrible Habit.  So it’s naïve for this youngster to think that he can achieve with one film the kind of opinion-change that has taken a whole army of seasoned anti-smoking campaigners 50 years to achieve.  He’s clearly got a lot to learn …

  8. An excellent and well written article, I will probably be quoting a lot of it myself. Now im a none smoker  after years of 60 a day, and I do`nt regret a single one I ever had, I loved everyone of em.  It was the cost that made me stop is all and fair play it was`nt easy either.

    Its all down to freedom, and they do`nt like that we want freedom.

    As for second hand smoke  I sit as close as I can to a smoker, ok yeah  its free I know 

     

  9. For the record, I am not a vaper. Interesting how quick you all are to assume things.

    Also, thank you for using only half my quote. You sound like one of the TC people, only telling half the truth from on top your pedestal. Maybe if you asked questions, before you spoke, you pro-smoking people wouldn't be doing the very thing you are accusing me and my team of doing.

    From what I've seen, you are no better than the TC people you loathe…trying to publicly shame me, using half-truths and lies.

    Keep fighting.

    • Welcome Aaron!

      Did I say you were a vaper?  I don't think I did, and I can't see how it would be relevant anyway.  You do however claim that I am a pro-smoker, which [if you read my piece above again] I clearly stated that I was neither pro or anti smoking or vaping.  Actually, to save you the trouble, what I said was "I am not pro-smoking.  I am not anti-smoking.  I am not pro-vaping.  I am not anti-vaping.  I am pro free choice to make my own decisions about my health and my life." Furthermore I might add that I am not affiliated with any group and the axe that I grind is purely my own.  

      My general point is that the film appears to be setting up a stall half way between smokers and TC and appealing to TC for lenience because vapers are better than "the bad guys".  This is a losing tactic from the outset as TC don't apparently know the meaning of reason or logic.  My point is that if smokers and vapers combined on a united front and attacked TC for all its lies about vaping and smoking that it would have far greater impact.

      In the trailer you yourself state that "165,000 die from second hand smoke every year" and "one billion people will die this century from tobacco".  Both claims are nothing short of sensationalist bullshit dreamed up by TC to grab headlines.  There is no proof that any child [or adult] anywhere has ever died from second hand smoke, and the Billion Lives claim is meaningless.  The latter implies somehow that if TC allow vaping that somehow a billion lives will be saved?  If it were true, it just means those billion will die from some other cause.  I fear that the film will contain a lot of these TC propaganda lines [please correct me if I'm wrong] and that this just furthers the cause of TC.

      Incidentally, you accuse me of only half quoting that comment above.  The full comment is –

      It seems that many pro-smoking advocates would like to hurt our film because they are delusional veterans of a lost war. Lost.

      It's laughable to me that they are still fighting. It reminds me when they found Japanese soldiers on an island many years after WWII was done. They were still on alert, waiting for orders. They were still at war.

      Sadly, the vaping war is nearly lost as well. If vaping is going to survive, the tactics must be non-conventional. The people fighting it must actually rally around something. They must stop fighting each other…stop fighting their few remaining allies.

      I have had MANY discussions with THR folks lately and I fear the worst. Our film may not be able to help, especially if people run to discredit it without thinking.

      Why would we put that 165K stat in there? Why did we call it "A Billion Lives"?

      Are we idiots?

      I'm starting to wonder…

      This weekend has been hard. We've gotten 8000+ positive comments, but the few painful attacks have caused pain.

      Time to get back to the film now…

      Thanks for fighting the current war. Thanks for supporting the Manhattan Project.

      I don't think that changes anything?  Far from "pro-smokers" attacking you, I think it's yourself who is taking a remarkably defensive position?

       

       

      • Grandad

        Did I say that you said I was a vaper? Read the comments on your blog. That was for your group and their ignorant comments.

        You declared yourself a pro-smoking advocate the moment you took offense from my comment on another blog and used it to attack me. Who's getting defensive? That comment wasn't even directed at you.

        • *sigh*.  You didn't say I said you were a vaper.  Is it important?

          Regarding the comment on the other site, you said [and once again, I quote] It's laughable to me that they are still fighting.  As a smoker for the last forty plus years, I am still fighting and will continue to do so.  My rights as an individual are being usurped by a bunch of fanatics and I strongly object to the fact.  It is the principle of the invasion of my self determination that I am fighting for, not the act of smoking.  I would therefore consider myself more a freedom fighter than a pro-smoker.  I therefore find the comment that my fight is "laughable" more than a little insulting.

          • That comment was only intended for "pro-smoking advocates". 

            Who said that I don't like freedom of choice? Why are you making stuff up? It's unfortunate that you're being so defensive. 

            • I don't think there are many "pro-smoking advocates".  Most are Anti-TC which is an entirely different thing.  I am Anti-TC but am indifferent as to whether other people smoke or not – that's entirely up to them, but your comment did appear to attack anyone who was non-vaper and Anti-TC.  That was the strong impression I got.

              Damn but this is going around in circles!  We're all supposed to be on the same side?

  10. To John Summers,

    I agree with Grandad on cancer because in the 50's 60's and 70's when they ran clinical trials both on lab rats and monkeys, even after prolonged exposure to dense tobacco smoke overdoses, no animals got cancer but several did get very sick and some even died due to lack of oxygen. 

    As regards the switch to epidemiology to show statistical causation, it would work perfectly if cancer were a mono-factorial condition, but it is multi-factorial, which A) makes it an unsuitable candidate for the use of epidemiology and B) makes the true risk assessment impossible to gauge. In reality though, it would be true to say that tobacco smoke contributes to cancer as does stress, diet, lack of exercise, alcohol, obesity and some hereditary conditions. The real truth is that we have still not discovered what causes that very first cell to turn rogue.

    But then you are right to label it a risk but like Grandad, I believe the risk is exaggerated to suit a political/economic agenda that is hidden from us. The exaggerated risk has been used to whip up hysteria against smokers and that is the core of our anger at it. How great the risk is the question and in response, a computer program called 'SimSmoke' is used to spit out any figure the user desires. On the age-old computer saying of bullshit in/bullshit out, the risk from smoking can be made any number that is politically expedient at the time with the result determined in advance of the research. When dealing with a tricky con-founder the rule-of-thumb seems to be, 'Leave it out altogether.' 

    And so we are presented constantly with "proof from research" that is bought, paid for and says what the funders want it to say about the risk of smoking. But they have cried wolf too often.

    It all presents us with two major problems as I see it. Firstly, those who have been systematically lied to will not now believe the truth if it is ever found and secondly, research into the other many causes of cancer is just not profitable for the researchers in comparison to say, proving smoking causes baldness, for example.

    Pure science, (that we could believe in), have been prostituted to the highest bidder and tobacco control has become a racket that yields millions for its loudest voices.

    No decent respectable smoker would have anything to do with that!

  11. As I said, yes the risk has and still is being exaggerated. Look at the idiots trying to ban smoking (and vaping) outdoors!

    It's not just science that's sold out but it's one of the ones most missed, along with justice.

    The biggest threat, ironically, to the health of the public is Public Health. Admitted, there are some who genuinely are interested and passionate about actual health matters. But on the whole they're more interested in the gravy train, kow-towing to even bigger idiots and the pursuit of "fame" (infamy?) within their sphere.

    Almost to a soul they are not qualified to make a medical diagnosis or conduct medical research,

    But then many of those that are "qualified" are just as bad. The BMA, BMJ, Lancet etc. regularly get involved in things that are not their remit. The BMA is a union and the BMJ/Lancet paid journals, none are organisations responsible for, with a remit in or authority over health matters & policy. Yet they repeatedly act as if they do.

    You're all right, there is no concrete evidence but as I said, there's no concrete in-vitro test. Animal testing is proven repeatedly to be a poor model of human physiology. These diseases are, as I said, dice rolling exercises: every exposure or risk of whatever type adds another die to the bag, but none guarantee that every dice will come up sixes….

    I genuinely believe that Aaron didn't and isn't intent on attacking tobacco although that may inadvertently appear to be so. The only way to deal with "Public Control" is (given we're not allowed mob rule) to frame your argument such that it resonates and jars with their statements. And sadly the statements they're using are the same ones they've been trotting out for a long, long time. After all, they've not the wit to trot out a new one. Or indeed time between gutter press interviews.

    • I don't think Aaron is attacking, or ever intended to attack tobacco.  What his film does though is to trot out some of TC's own lies and propaganda and is therefore inadvertently playing into their hands.  By repeating the lie he is reinforcing the public perception that it's the truth.

      TC has always relied on falsification of figures, distorted "research", extreme exaggeration and downright lies to further their cause.  One only has to hear the much quoted Surgeon General's line that "there is no safe level of tobacco" to realise how far they have gone.  Any scientist worth his salt will tell you that there is no such thing as "no safe level" yet here we have supposedly one of the greatest experts claiming just that.  Any repetition of those lies is playing straight into TC's hands.

      I wouldn't place any money on the film swaying TC's mind about vaping, but they will be delighted to see their own claims reinforced. 

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