Of course, smokers have been being told for 50 years or more that smoking is bad for them. But does that mean that they are ‘aware’ that it’s bad for them, or that they ‘know’ that it’s bad for them? Well, no, it doesn’t mean that at all. Just because people read things, or are told things, doesn’t mean that they believe them.
For example, I’m being told all day every day that there’s something called Global Warming happening, and humans are causing it. But do I believe it? Or do I ‘know’ it? Well, no, I don’t believe it. Just because some climate scientists say that it’s happening, doesn’t mean that I have to believe them. Just like when some politician comes on TV and makes some promise about what his party will do when they get into government, I don’t have to believe them either.
And the same goes for health warnings about smoking. Yes, I hear what’s being said. Do I take it on board and adopt it as an article of faith? No, I don’t.
It’s only been over the past few years that I’ve begun to think about smoking, and begun to realise that I don’t actually ‘know’ very much about it at all, primarily because I’ve never seen an in-depth discussion of the research that proved that smoking causes lung cancer. And there’s a funny thing: there are no discussions of smoking. There’s no debate. The debate, if there ever was one, is over. And there’s no dissent. Dissent is not permitted.
And that’s surprising. If the debate really is over, you’d think that those who engaged in it would be more than happy to open the dusty old files, and let people read about it, hear for themselves the decisive arguments that clinched the case, and draw their own conclusions. But this doesn’t happen. The debate is buried. All that’s left are the conclusions. Smoking causes lung cancer, sonny, and that’s really all you need to know.
I probably wouldn’t have started digging into it all if the people who’d been telling me that smoking causes lung cancer hadn’t started telling me that passive smoking causes lung cancer too. The idea that smoking causes lung cancer hadn’t seemed at all implausible. But the idea that passive smoking did so too stretched credulity too far. I didn’t believe it. It seemed to me to suggest that smoking was about a thousand times more dangerous than it used to be said to be, back in the days when smoking just caused cancer in smokers.
And it wasn’t particularly difficult to find out that a number of large studies had failed to show any significant threat from passive smoking. Here’s the WHO report of 1998. And the Enstrom and Kabat study of 2003. It turned out that most studies – something like 6 out of 7 of them – had failed to show any risk either. The supposed danger of passive smoking is a complete invention.
It’s a lie. But public health campaigners would probably say that it’s a ‘whie lie’ , or an exaggeration, that does no real harm because it’s being done in a good cause: that of getting smokers to give up smoking. And that’s a good cause because we know that smoking causes lung cancer, and so it’s OK to use any means at our disposal to get people to stop smoking, even if that includes a bit of exaggeration now and then.
But once it emerges that antismoking campaigners have been lying about the dangers of passive smoking, then one has to ask: What else they’ve been lying about? Is that the only lie they’ve told? For if they’re prepared to advance their cause with this one lie, then why not with lots of lies?
And what if the biggest lie of all was the claim that smoking causes lung cancer?
When that thought first occurred to me, it seemed almost unthinkable. No, it couldn’t be a lie. It would be crazy to think that was a lie. But it soon became clear that antismokers were not only lying about passive smoking, but had since moved on to tell new lies – e.g. ‘third hand smoking’ -. These days, antismokers just tell ever bigger and bigger lies. And the bigger the lies I found them telling, the more I found myself wondering how far back those lies went, and exactly when the lying started.