"Tobacco is not an illegal substance yet the government is persecuting a minority. I think that's a disgrace in a social democracy."
Sir Ronald Harwood,
Playwright and screenwriter
The idea that tobacco smoke, heavily diluted in the atmosphere, can kill or seriously harm large numbers of non-smokers is so implausible that the anti-smoking lobby has gone to exceptional lengths to foster a fear of environmental tobacco smoke (ETS), also known as secondhand smoke (SHS) or “passive smoking”.
While it is perfectly legitimate for people to express a dislike of the smell of tobacco smoke or say it causes them some discomfort, the distortion of scientific, statistical, methodological, and research procedure to provide a medical justification for banning smoking in public places is not acceptable, least of all as a pretext for removing the rights of ten million British adults.
Regardless of what you may have heard, the scientific establishment has found it impossible to reach agreement on the issue. Interviewed on BBC Radio 4's Desert Island Discs on 23 February 2001, Professor Sir Richard Doll, the first scientist to publish research that suggested a correlation between lung cancer and primary smoking, commented: “The effects of other people smoking in my presence is so small it doesn't worry me.” Professor Doll’s comments surprised some people, but not those who have analysed the arguments about ETS in detail.
The simple fact is that in terms of establishing a clear causal connection between exposure to ETS and illness in non-smokers, the anti-smoking industry has continually failed to prove its case.
One of the few scientists who managed to publicise attempts to measure significant exposure to environmental tobacco smoke - in Swedish homes - was a toxicologist, Professor Robert Nilsson. Nilsson quoted findings that showed that non-smokers who consistently breathe other people’s tobacco smoke are smoking the equivalent of one cigarette a week to two cigarettes a year.
Yet only the most diligent or scrupulous students will have heard of such findings because, as Professor Nilsson explained, studies that produce the “wrong” results (that is, unwelcome to the extensive anti-smoking network) do not get published. So the campaign of intimidation and suppression goes unchallenged.
Anti-smoking campaigners are determined to stop people smoking. The suggestion that smokers are harming non-smokers is a carefully orchestrated means to an end. The argument that an adult has the right to choose whether or not to indulge in a legal activity can be undermined if it is established that they are harming others. ETS is a very effective weapon with which to demonise smokers and justify their calls for a blanket ban on public smoking. But as they have been unable to prove that “passive smoking kills”, the anti-smoking lobby propagate a falsehood hoping that “a lie told often enough becomes the truth”.
There is a “party line” on passive smoking and dissent is neither encouraged nor welcome. Some understand that the claims are not sound but they conclude that obscuring the truth about passive smoking is acceptable if it helps people to quit smoking. Others fail to speak out for fear of professional retaliation.
Some doctors and scientists have spoken out but they are shouted down by an antismoking movement which is well-organised, well-funded, and on a roll. Those who have dared stick their heads above the parapet include the late Dr Ken Denson of the Thame Thrombosis and Haemostasis Research Foundation who wrote, “The ill effects of passive smoking are still intuition rather than scientific fact, and billions have been spent by the medical institutions in pursuing this illusory myth” (British Medical Journal, 1 August 2004).
Dr Richard Smith, former editor of the British Medical Journal, famously commented, “We must be interested in whether passive smoking kills, and the question has not been definitively answered” (British Medial Journal, 30 August 2003).
Are you a smoker who is tired of being targetted for your habit?