Atherton v. Arnott

H/T to DP for Dave Atherton v. Deborah Arnott on CNN. I watched it with great interest, particularly to see what she had to say, what kind of line she took.

At the outset Arnott said of Japanese housewives with lung cancer and heart disease that “the reason for that was their exposure from their husbands who were smoking”, and “It took many years to prove that smoking itself killed.” It’s probably true that that their husbands were smokers, but that doesn’t mean that their husbands’ smoking caused their lung cancer. Most spousal studies don’t show any increased risk. Arnott was cherry-picking one of the few studies that did indicate risk. Other studies have shown secondhand smoke to be protective against lung cancer. And Dave Atherton said as much.

“Half of all smokers die from their addiction,” Arnott then declared. I’m not sure where this figure comes from, but I think that if you’re a smoker and you die of cancer or heart disease these days, smoking will be recorded either as the cause of death, or a contributory factor. Given this, I’m surprised that all smokers aren’t said to die from their addiction. And it’s an “addiction” of course, not a habit or a pastime. Arnott was probably always going to use that smear at the earliest opportunity.

She then went on to say that the “levels of secondhand smoke are very similar to light smoking”. Dave Atherton pounced on that one, and said he had several papers saying that secondhand smoke was one five hundredths of active smoking.

At this point Arnott started reeling off the names of various authorities. The World Health Organisation, the Royal College of Physicians, the Chief Medical Officer, the Surgeon General.

And then declared, “Dave Atherton. I’m sorry, Dave. You’re not an expert.”

She then went on to ask, “Why should the World Health Organisation, the Royal College of Physicians, the Chief Medical Officer, the Surgeon General, all these very respectable people and organisations be saying that it’s harmful?”

I thought it was very interesting that, as soon as she met with disagreement, she appealed to authority. And a whole list of authorities. And, of course, attempted to put Dave Atherton down by saying that he wasn’t an authority, wasn’t an expert. It’s exactly the same as what the global warming alarmists do when they point to the consensus of opinion among climate scientists.

But such appeals to authority are not really arguments. In fact they are known to be a form of fallacy: that of argumentum ad auctoritatem, or argument from authority. Just because some authority says something doesn’t mean it’s true. Authorities are often wrong.

But Arnott’s rhetorical question was to ask why these very respectable authorities would make such claims if they weren’t true. Which suggested they wouldn’t say it if wasn’t true, so it must be true. But just because somebody, however authoritative, believes something to be true doesn’t actually make it true. Today’s authoritative convictions are all too often tomorrow’s discarded dogmas.

Furthermore, Dave Atherton actually is a something of an expert on smoking and smoking bans. He has a whole library of information about it all. But of course, just because he’s something of an expert, it doesn’t mean that he’s right either.

Arnott then declared, “In every country where a smoking ban has been put in place, it’s been as a result of public debate and the democratic process.”

And this, I believe, is the exact opposite of the truth. There’s never any public debate or democratic process. In the UK, the Labour party manifesto pledged a partial smoking ban that would have exempted wet-led pubs. They then promptly reneged on this promise, after intense lobbying by the Chief Medical Officer, Sir Liam Donaldson, and anti-smoking organisations like Arnott’s ASH, as she herself bragged.

She went on to say that “the smoking ban in this country has 80% support, and more smokers support it than don’t support it.” In fact, before the ban was introduced, only some 30% of people wanted a total ban, with 25% wanting no change, and the rest preferring some sort of accommodation for smokers. After the ban had been introduced, the question was changed to leave out the intermediate option. It’s an example of getting the answer you want by asking the right question. As for all those smokers who support the smoking ban, I simply don’t believe it. Or if most of them actually do, then I’d expect drinkers to approve of alcohol bans, and gamblers to approve of gambling bans. It defies logic.

And she said that there had been “98% compliance in pubs and bars from day one”. Which isn’t very surprising given the draconian punishments threatened not only on smokers (£50 fines), but also on pub landlords (£2500 fines). In practice, the fines have often been ten times higher than this.

Then, in response to something Dave Atherton said about denormalising smokers and making them second class citizens, she asked, “What’s wrong with that? What’s wrong with denormalising [them]?”

A lot. It entails excluding and vilifying and demonising a quarter of the population, to start with.

In retrospect, more or less everything Arnott said was either untrue or half-true or fallacious. Everything she said could be contested. And many of her claims were statistical in character, “Half of all smokers”, “80% support”, “98% compliance”. One could have responded to every single thing she said by saying: “That’s not true.” And then explained why.

Yet I felt that Dave Atherton scored most of his points when he bundled the statistical web of deceit aside, and said that that the smoking ban was “outrageous”, “a breach of property rights”, “tyranny”, “authoritarianism”, and “the road to serfdom”. Arnott was not comfortable on that sort of moral terrain. I rather had the sense that she had been carefully coached to stick to a list of statistical claims, and very little else. When these claims were questioned, her only response to to appeal to authority.

Occasions such as these are verbal fist fights. And I suspect that the way to win them is to land as many blows on one’s opponent as possible in the brief time available. One parries claims with counter-claims, but the main thing is to land your own punches. Which Dave Atherton did pretty well midway through the round.

I think it’s also about framing yourself and your opponent, portraying yourself as one thing (good), and your opponent a something else (evil). Arnott portrayed herself as being aligned with “respectable” authorities, while she portrayed Dave Atherton as being “not an expert”, and therefore not respectable.  But Dave Atherton neither portrayed himself as anything, nor portrayed her as something else. He could easily have defined himself as “the man on the street”. And he could have portrayed her as being “detached from [street] reality”. After all, smokers are out on the street these days, quite literally. And he could also have portrayed antismokers as dishonest, vindictive, spiteful, discriminatory bullies and bigots.

I think that is something that needs to be done. Because, as far as I’m concerned, that’s the simple truth about them all.

And it’s probably also about grabbing the initiative. And Arnott gained the initiative when she was asked the first question, and was able to set the terms of most of the subsequent debate.

But to be quite honest, if I’d been in Dave Atherton’s shoes, I’d have had a hard time preventing myself from strangling Arnott on the spot and on camera, or bludgeoning her to death with a microphone stand.

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79 Responses to Atherton v. Arnott

  1. The “Appeal to Authority” is hard to argue against because it appeals to the basic lay instincts of not wanting to appear stupid. If you can say you’re on the same side of an issue as all the “smart” people that society has recognized as being “smart” and put in positions of authority, then whether you’re right or wrong you never have to wonder if you’re stupid.

    Supposedly.

    I think the best answer when hit with that is to just blatantly attack the Authorities named with a simple charge and explanation of the charge that sounds reasonable.

    The charge: They lie about secondhand smoke.

    The Explanation: Because they believe that lie will result in pressures that will reduce smoking: they feel justified in lying because they believe it will save lives.

    People will understand that and find it a believable motivation. And once they understand and believe that, then the door is open for them to accept that maybe the passive smoking thing *IS* a lie! I confronted the issue that way very directly in Brains: the back cover is headed with “Why Would They Lie To Us?”

    It’s a good weapon to keep ready in the quiver because the Appeal To Authority is one of the Antis’ most common “Bet you can’t top THIS!” arguments. The beauty of the counterargument is that it’s both simple AND true… and I think people can realize that.

    – MJM

    • Frank Davis says:

      Yes, I do think you have to attack the authorities. Authorities these days tended to be treated too much as sacred cows. They all need to be taken down.

      And yes, they do lie about secondhand smoke. They think it’s lying in a good cause.

    • JJ says:

      Michael – I couldn’t agree more, and that’s what made my blood boil this constant lie about ‘passive smoking’.

      I would have said this in answer to her reference to epidemiology.

      ‘You only grasp at the straws of epidemiology because neither you nor anyone else has any intrinsic medical or scientific proof i.e.; post –mortem evidence, that anyone has ever been killed by ‘passive smoking’.
      Ms Arnott do you have or have you ever seen any such post – mortem evidence that ‘passive smoking’ has ever killed anyone?

      Yes or no it’s a fairly simple question. Ms Arnott do you have an answer please?

      Epidemiology cannot be used as a stand alone tool to discern how someone has died and of what – that is the domain of pathology.

      Epidemiology can only be used as an adjunct to make sense of figures from physical evidence such as pathology, and not the other way round.

  2. PJH says:

    And [smoking]’s an “addiction” of course, not a habit or a pastime.

    But, but, but…. it’s not; even the BMA have declared it a “Lifestyle Choice,” as opposed to anything more sinister such as a health issue.

  3. Thanks for the links on the last two articles, both very good I might add.

    I think you’ve analysed the CNN situation very well. Arnott looked off-guard from the start which suggested to me that she may have been surprised to be debating with Dave. I believe this is the first time any debate has occurred between ASH and F2C, previously Debs’ lot have refused each and every invitation.

    • Frank Davis says:

      she may have been surprised to be debating with Dave.

      Was somebody else supposed to show up? Simon Clark? I think she’s encountered him a few times.

      previously Debs’ lot have refused each and every invitation.

      A bit like the global warming alarmists and the sceptics (or ‘deniers’).

      • Audrey Silk says:

        I believe the answer to your question is…. Me. **I** was supposed to show up (or at least CNN believed they were going to get ME). The discussion centering around NYC’s outdoor ban. But I’ve been so “on” with the media for months — and running around like a chicken without a head planning CLASH’s event — that I declined the invitation. After our “Smoke-In The Park” event on the 28th I convinced myself that it’d all be over for a while (a rest). So when I got the call it was an impulsive “nuh uh, I’ve had it.” So I might imagine that Arnott was told she’d be debating me, only to be replaced at the “last minute” (as has happened to me on occasion when I show up at interviews).

      • Frank Davis says:

        Audrey, was it the same show? See Dave Atherton’s comment downthread.

    • The Archivist says:

      I do believe that the last contact between the two was a radio show phone in between Amanda Sandford (ASH) & Tony Blows, who stopped her dead in her tracks by calling her an out and out liar-which caused uproar. She suddenly had an “urgent phone call from America” at what would have been approximately 3.30 am (their time) as Tony had her bang to rights. They’ve avoided f2c ever since which makes this CNN encounter all the more amazing! They like Simon Clark as he comes across as Mr NiceGuy, whereas they now know that f2c will fight their corner-and that’s what they can’t handle!

  4. C777 says:

    The authoritarianism argument ?
    The witch had no answer to that one.
    Therin lies the Achilles heal.
    It’s plain to see and is part of the structure.
    Without the backing of authority and the law weirdo’s like her could not exist.
    Lobbying is what they do well.
    The lobby system is at the root of all evil when it comes to manipulation of government creating the strange distortions of policy we see from finance ,healthcare,foreign policy,climate alarmism,social policy et al.

  5. Briar Tuck says:

    “He could easily have defined himself as “the man on the street”. And he could have portrayed her as being “detached from [street] reality”…”

    I think he defined himself as ‘the man on the street’ quite well — only present, after all, because he felt strongly about the debate.

    What he could have done was to question exactly why she was there at all; a professional mouthpiece paid mostly from the public purse to lie on behalf of the corporate behemoths in the pharmaceutical industry, whose ambition is to take over the profitable supply of nicotine. And actually, there’s your ‘Explanation’. Her ‘appeal to authority’ was simply quoting her increasingly incriminated paymasters. Just follow the money.

    But Dave did well — his opponent has had a great deal of practice at this and is extremely confident, even having the nerve to squeal “no, let me finish” after having interrupted.

    Indeed, in a situation like this where (a) the ‘journalist’ is simply filling a limited time slot and cares nothing for the integrity of the discussion, (b) the audience is ‘general’ rather than ‘specialist and informed’, and (c) there’s really no time to build a point-by-point case against the default position of all others involved, I think Dave did rather better than ‘well’, and he has my utmost admiration and gratitude.

    • Frank Davis says:

      I think he defined himself as ‘the man on the street’ quite well — only present, after all, because he felt strongly about the debate.

      I don’t know what he was introduced as. The preliminaries weren’t included in the video clip. Perhaps it was as Chairman of F2C. If so, what was F2C described as? Of course I myself know who these people are. I actually met Dave Atherton last year, when he gave a talk at a UKIP conference. (And very nice he is too). But would a wider audience have known?

      It’s why I found myself looking at it as a boxing match. And one in which I was most interested in Arnott’s style. Which emerged, I thought, as very restricted: she has a cookie jar of statistics, one for every occasion.

      I thought Dave did well too. Particularly in the flurry of “tyranny”, etc. But it wasn’t perfect. I don’t think, for example, that Arnott said that smokers were second class citizens.

  6. daveatherton says:

    I am told that when the presenter Max said that whether SHS is harmful remains a matter of discussion was a major victory. Al Gore’s quote on global warming “The debate is over, most scientists agree..” does not apply to passive smoking.

    I got the impression that ASH read my ramblings, did you notice how she described me as “not an expert” a cheap ad hominem. What I think got her going is that just before we went on air I mentioned that I have (I quite sincerely do) unarguable proof that SHS does not cause lung cancer. It will take me this weekend or next to finish the research but I will post it.

    Thanks for the comments guys.

    • Frank Davis says:

      I am told that when the presenter Max said that whether SHS is harmful remains a matter of discussion was a major victory.

      I didn’t mention him. But, yes, I thought that was a very significant moment.

  7. Well done Dave, thanks for write up Frank.

  8. FROSTY says:

    I would like to say a big thank you to Dave for going on that show and standing up for smokers , well done mate, but how you kept your hands off the ugly sour faced cow i dont know.

  9. Deborah Arnott says:

    Atherton ith a horrid nathty perthon. He ith not an expert, but I am and I am thupported by expertth. Do you think this countth for nothing? You wait and thee, you’ll all be made to do ath you’re told in the end. If I have to talk to that Atherton again, I’ll just thcream and thcream and thcream!

  10. Brenda says:

    “It’s why I found myself looking at it as a boxing match.”

    I wish that it had been a boxing match. Dave could have punched her full in her sour, spiteful face and knocked her spark out !!
    What a condescending cow she is ?

    I was listening to the debate and almost screaming ‘thump her now Dave’

    Brenda
    (member of f2c, but not representing them in this post !)

  11. Jax says:

    Dave, I think you did a fab job. And the very fact that you were invited onto the programme instead of (as is usual) the producers wheeling out a spokesman from Forest indicates that there is a growing awareness that more and more anti-ban groups are springing up all over the place. Much as I love Forest for being the first – and for many years the only – group prepared to stick its neck above the parapet, it always grieved me slightly that their sole presence as the counter-arguers against pro-ban campaigners gave the distinct impression that there wasn’t enough strength of feeling for more than one group to exist, when I knew full well that this wasn’t the case.

    But then, as the legendary Leg-Iron has said in the past (or was it you, Frank? I can’t remember), the anti-ban movement is somewhat akin to a swarm of increasingly-angry bees. First there’s one, then another joins it, then another comes along, and before you know it they’re all over the place – swarming as one, stinging individually, flying in for the attack, and wreaking havoc and destruction upon anyone and anything who inflames their rage still further ……

    Well done for being the first bee to deliver such a resounding sting, Dave!

    • Frank Davis says:

      But then, as the legendary Leg-Iron has said in the past (or was it you, Frank? I can’t remember), the anti-ban movement is somewhat akin to a swarm of increasingly-angry bees.

      Dunno about Leggie, but I’ve certainly described it that way several times.

  12. Tony says:

    I think Dave’s response to the “you’re not an expert” was superb. A proper critique would have fallen foul of the TV news 3 second attention span. Instead he ignored the ad hominem and demonstrated that he was indeed an expert on the subject.

    MJM, I agree that in a full debate, stating: “ They lie about secondhand smoke” is a good approach. But in sound bite TV the response would be easy: “Don’t be ridiculous!”, while laughing like a drain.

    Shame Dave couldn’t get the punchline in about heart attacks. Maybe a case for “please let me finish”.

    All in all a great show Dave! Many thanks. Just hope you can get more.

    Tony

  13. Tony says:

    MJM, On second thoughts, I suspect your approach would work well and no doubt you’ve already used it with success.

    I’d be great on a TV interview but only if it was designed for an audience with a three hour attention span!

    Tony

  14. getoffmycase says:

    Great first attempt by Dave.

    Now the debate gas finaly begun, lets hope it continues, as ASH have feeble arguments.
    The most feeble notable being the ‘experts argument’.
    As Dave tried to argue WHO’s own huge study on SHS showed no harm. As for the Chief medical Oficer; it was his predecessor who created the blueprint for the SHS lie back in 1975. Piss easy slap down there.

  15. Dave is able to think on his feet and stand up to attack: something that’s very hard for most of us to learn because it’s such a different skill than what we do here online where we’ve got all the time in the world to formulate our ideas and pretty much an absolutely equal battlefield. We can always be assured of “equal time” unless we’re being censored by an Anti webmaster, and we can take apart their lies one at a time at our leisure. In live debate it’s a lot trickier with a skilled Anti: they’ll sit there, like Arnott did, and both try to dominate the time and also fill their space with tailored sound bites which are almost all lies. It’s hard to battle for equal time without appearing aggressive/obnoxious (especially hard if you’re a man vs. a woman or if your opponent exudes either a highly professional image (e.g. a “doctor” etc) or a “grandmotherly lover of little innocent children” type image). Dave played the game of battlefield domination extremely well against an opponent who’s very experienced at the game and also had the advantages of being both “the expert” and a female confronting two males.

    The best trick is to always watch out for their lies, pick a couple of the ones where you’re confident of your own argument (as Dave did quite well with the WHO example) and just respond to those. This is where our posting online at the newsboards comes in handy because we’ve seen all their arguments parroted by anonymous antis and gotten used to responding to them so repeatedly that the knowledge is sitting there right near the tip of our tongue and we’ve had experience in firing it off in 1,000 or 500 character sound bites!

    :)
    Michael

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  17. Junican says:

    Whether or not my following comment makes sense, I do not know.

    It seems to me that the whole of the ASH et al argument relies upon ’emotions’. If you read the comments in newpapers, you see stuff like, “Poor baby”, even though said baby has more care than any other baby in the Land!

    EMOTION – that is the problem and what ASH and co rely upon.

    Does anyone know the facts?

    • Frank Davis says:

      You were making the same point over on Dave Atherton’s blog, I noticed.

      But is it something new? Politicians have always appealed to emotion. And in some senses everything has some sort of emotional content. Even the laws of physics.

      What seems new about ASH and co is not their appeal to emotion, but their complete disrespect for the facts, and for genuine science. They’re not trying to find anything out. Because they know already what answers they want.

  18. WinstonSmith says:

    I’m a bit late. Sorry.

    Wonderful analysis, Frank.

    I think that Dave did an excellent job. Congratulations to Dave.

    I didn’t read all of the preceding comments in full, so forgive me if I’m re-covering something.

    The “appeal to authority” has already been discussed. She relied upon it heavily. Also, as you pointed out to some degree, she wasn’t so much interested in the content of the discussion, but in trying to win the debate with appealing surface arguments instead of facts and reason, which is what Dave was discussing.

    There’s kind of an “elephant in the room” in that its a short TV segment devoted to a topic that requires much more time. There’s a burden-of-proof element involved because Arnott can just make the appeal to authority, and then Dave has to respond by summarize a lengthy explanation into a few key points. Arnott’s ready for a talking-points stroll, while Dave is understandably hyped-up and animated because he knows he’s going to have to sprint through an obstacle course to make his point well. Arnott gets to ramble of a list of health organizations, while Dave has to actually discuss the reasoning and do the debunking.

    Arnott is the first to interrupt, when she interrupts the interviewer. Dave has hardly even spoken when she comes out with the “you’re not an expert” line. And she looks at Dave when she says it. It seems to me that she knew what she was going to say ahead of time. The first real bomb launched in the interview is by Arnott, at Dave, by trying to destroy his credibility.

    Unlike Arnott, Dave goes to the substantive point. Arnott’s claim is ridiculous, and Dave debunks it easily.

    I could write a great deal otherwise. Dave is simply more interesting to watch. Dave was the show.

    I was especially disgusted with Arnott at the very end. Dave was clearly making the point that smokers shouldn’t be discriminated against in the way that ethnic minorities and gays have been. Arnott saw what she perceived as a flaw in Dave’s wording, and she pounced. It’s a very revealing moment regarding Arnott, but antis will see that and get busy being dishonest with themselves, and see it is as a moment revealing of Dave. Arnott is so eagerly searching for surface appeal over substance that she was eager to try and portray Dave as being bigoted, when Dave’s point was precisely the opposite.

    How cheap and underhanded of Arnott. Again, very revealing. Dave wants to debate an actual topic and Arnott simply has a few talking points. Otherwise, the first thing that occurs to her is to seek any opportunity to impune Dave’s character.

    Last, forgive me if I missed something, but did Arnott ever address any of Dave’s counter-points? She entirely ignored them as far as I could tell.

    Well done to Dave Atherton. I think Dave beat her butt. Not only was the performance impressive, but Dave’s putting himself out front before the public for such a debate in the first place speaks volumes regarding Dave’s character and conviction. My hat’s off.

  19. Pat Nurse says:

    Yes great effort. I am beginning to think for the first time that we actually do have a representative willing to take on these liars and bring out the difficult issues instead of handling them with kid gloves which I think Simon Clark would have done.

    My allegiance now is more towards F2C which I see as a fighter and a friend. I think if the tobacco companies really cared about their consumers, they would be wise to throw some of that Forest cash F2C’s way to really help us fight our corner. Dave did more for us in one single interview than Forest has done for the 10 or 12 years since I’ve known about it.

    I was thinking about what Debs said about 80% of the public supporting the ban. Perhaps if you face this again Dave, you might want to remind Debs that she herself knew that wasn’t true hence the “confidence trick” she had to pull on Govt to get them to start making laws against smokers – the second class citizens Debs despises so much.

    I do hope some people on here will be going to the HoC event on June 29. After my MP said he had better things to do (washing his hair for all I know), my reason for going is now pure jolly and a catch up. Had I not bought my rail ticket already in advance, I’d pass as there is not one single useful reason for being there other than a drink and a smoke with some of my own kind.

    After Forest put it’s support firmly down on the side of our enemies with that Hitchens “debate” – which will also exclude me from attending at Birmingham – and believing the rights of those who hate us to spout complete poison is greater than our right to be heard, I can no longer support Forest and so the HoC event is likely to be the last organised by Forest that I’ll ever attend.

    Sorry if few agree with me or this causes offence to Forest supporters, but I don’t think we can afford to waste any more time playing silly games. When people start talking about how smokers must get themselves jailed to test how far public opinion will go against them (as Phil Booth did on a FB discussion thread) then it is already too late.

    F2C – if you need a media professional to speak for you, then please feel free to get in touch. My services are now yours for free.

  20. Rollo Tommasi says:

    Interesting comments about the “lies” about secondhand smoke. I watched the CNN debate and it is clear that the lies were coming from Dave’s mouth, not Deborah Arnott’s. I’ve pointed these out to Dave on his website.

  21. Rollo, at least Dave is willing to be open about who he is rather than hide behind an internet handle that means “Empty Vessel.” When will we be seeing YOU stand up before the camera, be open about who you are and what your interest is in all this, and defend your position?

    Michael J. McFadden
    Author of “Dissecting Antismokers’ Brains”

    • Rollo Tommasi says:

      Michael – You could have chosen to help Dave out if his claims had actually been accurate.

      Instead, you choose to comment about me and how I exercise my choice about how I participate in public discussions where many people deploy nom de plumes.

      What does that say about the power of your cause?

      • It says nothing about the power of my “cause” Rollo. I believe Dave MAY have made an innocent mistake in his categization, although since I’m not that familiar with all the post 1998 studies or how he came up with his numbers I can’t state that definitively. His percentage addition mistake is quite excusable given that he’s probably not a professional who speaks publicly in this field before cameras as frequently as Ms. Arnott. Heh… I was just reading an email about a college in TX where 88% of the students claim to be nonsmokers, 12% claim to be ex-smokers, and yet they’re having a big fight about a campus smoking ban where these college students evidently can’t add 88 and 12 to come up with 100.

        If you’d like to challenge Dave by putting together an exhaustive table of the post ’98 studies to be combined with, referenced, and verified in a similar format to what I presented for the hundred or so pre-’98 studies at:

        http://www.nycclash.com/Philly.html#ETSTable

        I’d be happy to comment on your tabulation and analysis. I expect it would come out to roughly 85% nonsignificant, 10% significant toward ETS causing LC and 5% significant toward it protecting against LC. Given the realities of publication bias and funding/career/colleague pressure upon researchers I’d say that would be basically a wash.

        As for your “nom de plume,” Mr. Rollo, masquerading for years in hundreds of posts as a real person under a name that most would take as your real name says a lot about the power and forthrightfulness of YOU… although not necessarily your cause.

        – MJM

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  23. Junican says:

    I don’t understand this at all. I am referring to Pat Nurse’s comment. How can Simon Clark be wrong? He is our hero, isn’t he? Odd, though, that I, Junican, having left a comment on Taking Liberties which may or may not have exceeded 300 words (or is it ‘characters’?) find myself to be a ‘no access’ person, even though I have been a staunch supporter of Forest. ‘No access’ appears on your screen when you are blocked.

    Forest is doing a grand job – provided that ‘the job’ is very limited. Forest does not have the funding, or the expertise, to take on Tobacco Control – not in any real, strong sense. That is not to say that Simon Clark is not really good at his job – not at all. Without funding, he can do very little. When I say ‘funding’, I mean millions rather than hundreds of thousands.

    But who am I to talk? Just a supporter of Forest and F2C . Just the sort of person to obliterate with a ‘no access’. Wonderful, isn’t it?

    • Frank Davis says:

      I think I’m right in saying that Forest is funded by tobacco companies. It’s one of the few organisations which actually is funded by Big Tobacco. And they’ve got zillions.

      Simon Clark has said that this makes no difference to Forest’s policy, and that on occasion he’s stood up to them. And I believe him. Because I don’t think Simon Clark tells lies. Nice guys don’t.

      I think it’s one of the reasons why Simon Clark and Forest get invited on air so often. They’re sitting ducks for Tobacco Control. All they need do is point out where the money comes from, and they’re dead in the water.

      I don’t know why Big Tobacco doesn’t give Forest more funds. But they don’t. Maybe it’s because Forest’s strategy of slow retreat is also Big Tobacco’s. They don’t think they can win on this front, and their money is best spent elsewhere. But I’m not a Big Tobacco insider….

  24. My background impression is that Simon is quite good at what he does, but he has to act within certain limitations imposed on him by the nature of FOREST. Correct me if I’m wrong, but a good bit of FOREST’s funding comes from tobacco companies doesn’t it? So to some extent he has to act within the proper public relations confines of “properly representing” them and their interests in ways that would be acceptable to corporate types. Thus it’s unlikely you’d see him calling for anyone to actually break laws, and his public statements have to always be carefully scrutinized by him and/or his staff (if he has any…. I don’t think their budget would be big enough for much in that regard) so that his sponsors won’t be risking libel suits or bad publicity.

    The main questions that should be addressed in evaluating Simon’s work should really be in two areas:

    1) Are he and FOREST free to and effective at promoting the interests of everyday smokers even if those interests might conflict with the wishes of FOREST’s main donors?

    and

    2) Is the money being spent effectively?

    I don’t know enough detail about FOREST’s activities over the last ten years to really know the answers to those questions but I’ve always had a generally good impression of both Simon and FOREST within the constraints they need to operate in. I’m surprised to hear the comments about censorship though: free speech is one of the strongest weapons we’ve got.

    And yeah, parties “celebrating” the last night of “legal smoking” were totally off the wall — I’d always assumed they were all sponsored by the Antis.

    – MJM

    • Frank Davis says:

      1) Are he and FOREST free to and effective at promoting the interests of everyday smokers even if those interests might conflict with the wishes of FOREST’s main donors?

      I think that Simon Clark would say that they are, and that he’ll fight the donors if he has to. And I don’t disbelieve him.

      2) Is the money being spent effectively?

      Who knows? The tobacco companies spend money where they will, and I have the sense that they don’t regard Forest as being that important in their scheme of things. I almost get the feeling that the tobacco companies have written off America and Europe, and are concentrating their efforts on building markets in Asia and the Far East. And why not?

  25. Heh…. Frank, looks like you and I were writing at the same time. Ain’t it about 4am over there? Don’t you Limeys ever sleep?

    And yeah, that’s the problem with BT money. It’s not worthless, but its effectiveness is generally discounted at about a 10 to 1 ratio. I.E. a million dollars in BT money will accomplish about the same amount as 100k would if it came from a “cleaner” source. One of the weird things we’ve got in the States the last ten years though is that the Antismokers have been funded with hundreds of millions of dollars of BT money — but it’s been “laundered” by going through the government via the Master Settlement Agreement.

    BT *might* be able to boost the value of its support for groups like FOREST if it made a guaranteed open ten or twenty year contract of support with a full legal guarantee that the support would continue REGARDLESS of whatever the groups did. That sort of total “no-strings-attached” funding would actually give the groups more moral authority as independent agents than the Anti groups have — since obviously any Anti group that began going against the party line would pretty quickly have its funding yanked out from under it. Ask Ms. Arnott how long she’d continue getting paid for what she does if she suddenly became convinced that new studies showed pubs with well-designed and comfortable ventilation arrangements were quite satisfactory at providing a reasonable level of “protection” from evil tobacco smoke.

    Heh…. ever hear the phrase “being fired faster than a New York Minute” ?

    :>
    MJM

  26. What I actually meant was “Is FOREST spending its budget effectively?” in that question. And that’s something I have no idea/data about one way or the other.

    Now STOP writing while *I’M* writing. Sheeeesh…. you’d think this was your own personal blog or something.

    Hmph…. I’m heading out to party.

    ;>
    MJM

  27. Lysistrata says:

    Hi Frank & everyone:
    I’m very late to this comments party!
    Partly because I’ve been spending any spare moments with a team of volunteers within F2C trying to find and analyse the research underpinning the Bauld report (latest UK Government review of smoking control). Yes, I am a member.
    We’re all volunteers at F2C: it is a simple voluntary organisation. Its funding comes entirely from individual membership subscriptions (£10 a year, so we’re far from rich). Its members come from across the political spectrum and with different views and from all sorts of backgrounds. Some of us aren’t even smokers. We are however totally united by anger (and sometimes despair) at the smoking ban, and a determination to do what we can against it. And the spread of our skills means we can wage guerilla warfare on all levels.

    It’s a glorious ragged army of seriously pissed-off people.

    Dave Atherton did brilliantly on the CNN debate. Others in F2C are using their skills monitoring and researching. Our financial accounts are meticulously kept. Others are good at writing. (Some are less good at writing and get shouted at for their creative use of the apostrophe and spelling). Some keep the comments up on news articles. Others publish our newsletter. Sometimes mistakes have been made – but any external criticism is nothing compared to the internal criticism that goes on!

    Anyway, to my main point.
    I have a huge concern that a few of the above commenters have unwittingly changed the subject from “Dave v. Debs” to “Dave v. Simon” and thence to “F2C v. Forest”. Please stop now. It is F2C AND Forest.

    This is not only unhelpful to both organisations, but is playing straight into the anti’s hands.

    After all, Ms. Arnott described ASH’s successful tactics in detail (Guardian interview 19 July 2006):
    “The next step is to split the opposition….. It is crucial to exploit opportunities that come your way. Our campaign was often lucky, and our opponents often foolish.”

    • daveatherton says:

      Lysistrata I do agree with you. Simon Clark has a very difficult job when you think of the government intransigence against smokers and smoking. I think what he does is done very well and have few criticisms of him.

    • Frank Davis says:

      Others in F2C are using their skills monitoring and researching. Our financial accounts are meticulously kept. Others are good at writing. (Some are less good at writing and get shouted at for their creative use of the apostrophe and spelling). Some keep the comments up on news articles. Others publish our newsletter. Sometimes mistakes have been made – but any external criticism is nothing compared to the internal criticism that goes on!

      So F2C does a lot of monitoring and researching and writing. Does there need to be an organisation to do that? Because I do all that too.

      Anyway, to my main point.
      I have a huge concern that a few of the above commenters have unwittingly changed the subject from “Dave v. Debs” to “Dave v. Simon” and thence to “F2C v. Forest”. Please stop now. It is F2C AND Forest.

      I don’t mind if people change the subject on my blog. I’m not running a boot camp here. Very often there isn’t a ‘subject’ anyway (although in this case there is). And I was taking a critical look at Arnott. I wanted to see what she said. And what she had to say was all statistics. She had it down pat. (The same seems to be true of Rollo Tommasi too). They try to frame the discussion as being about health and nothing but health. Where Dave Atherton scored was where he broke out of the frame, and started talking about tyranny and authoritarianism. Which, as far as I am concerned, is the real issue.

      And that was very refreshing. I’ve never had that sense with Simon Clark and Forest. And so I found myself largely agreeing with Pat Nurse.

      This is not only unhelpful to both organisations, but is playing straight into the anti’s hands.

      As if either organisation has that much impact on the antis.

      I think there are some real differences among people about what they should and shouldn’t do, and these need to be aired. I don’t see the point of maintaining a facade of unity. And if it’s F2C and Forest, why don’t they just merge together, if there’s no real difference between them. Yet clearly the founders of F2C felt that Forest wasn’t doing something right.

      • db says:

        ‘So F2C does a lot of monitoring and researching and writing. Does there need to be an organisation to do that?

        Yes, if newsletters, fact sheets and lobbying MPs etc are the result. I might be mistaken, but I’m not aware of any blogger doing any of those things, at least on a continuous basis.

        It also helps to be part of an organisation if you want to be given the opportunity to go face to face with the likes of Arnott to speak on behalf of 25% of the adult population. This would not have happened if F2C didn’t exist. Credit where credit’s due please.

  28. Rollo Tommasi says:

    Re MJM’s 0952 post….

    Michael:

    The technique of trying to draw hard conclusions from collecting results of individual studies is not only interesting because it is not a practice in which responsible scientists engage. It is also interesting because of how the pro-smoking lobby tries to interpret the results. Put simply they interpret them as follows:
    Statistically significant result of increased harm = suggests harmful
    Non-statistically significant result of increased harm = suggests “null” or no added harm
    Non-statistically significant result of reduced harm = suggests protective
    Statistically significant result of reduced harm = suggests protective

    What a biased interpretation that is – that the “null hypothesis” only applies if a non-statistically significant result suggests increased harm!

    To be fair, you don’t resort to that twisted interpretation in your latest post. But your NYCClash article DOES do that, because it marks with an * both statistically significant and insignificant results. And it seems poor Dave was also applying that twisted interpretation when he claimed that around 10% of his 82 studies suggested protection.

    A quick look at the NYClash table indicates it contains about 125 studies (or subsets of studies). Of these, I could find only 3 results suggesting protective effect. That’s about 2.5% – VERY different from Dave’s “10%” claim.

    • Frank Davis says:

      The technique of trying to draw hard conclusions from collecting results of individual studies is not only interesting because it is not a practice in which responsible scientists engage.

      Yet antismoking “scientists” do draw hard conclusions: they say that SHS poses a real health threat, and that that smoking must be banned in public places. How much harder a conclusion can one get? All that Dave Atherton and others (e.g. Chris Snowdon) have pointed out is that most of the studies are inconclusive. They show neither harm nor benefit. But this isn’t the result that the antismokers want, so they go and torture the numbers some more until they confess that SHS poses a real health threat. Though quite how anyone can claim that a Relative Risk of 1.25 is a real health threat beats me.

      BTW, Frank Davis is my real name. And when Dave Atherton met me last year, he said “Hi Frank!” And I said, “Hi Dave!” Because, funnily enough, that’s his real name too.

      • Rollo Tommasi says:

        “Torture the results”, Frank? Epidemiologists do no such thing. They conduct proper and appropriate meta-analyses / overview analyses of these individual reports to identify emerging themes. These analyses consistently conclude that there is a clear risk between passive smoking and both heart disease and lung cancer.

        These analyses are above board. If they were not, then the reports by the likes of IARC, SCOTH, Law et al and Hackshaw et al would have been hacked to bits by those aggrieved with their conclusions. But they’ve not been.

        • Frank Davis says:

          They conduct proper and appropriate meta-analyses

          A meta-analysis is a study of a number of studies, right? How might one study a number of studies of secondhand smoke, 80% of which show no significant risk, 5% show protection, and 15% show harm? Well, one way might be to set aside the non-significant results, leaving just the 5% that show protection versus the 15% that indicate harm. 15/5 = 3, so SHS is 3 times more likely to be harmful than beneficial. So if the pooled relative risk from passive smoking is 1.12, then 3 times that is 1.36. The numbers have been tortured to produce the desired result. Is that “proper or appropriate”? Not in the least. But who decided what’s proper and appropriate anyway?

          a clear risk

          What’s a “clear risk”? RR greater than 3.0? RR > 1.20? RR > 1.00001? What’s the mathematical definition of the word “clear”? And, once again, who decides?

          would have been hacked to bits by those aggrieved with their conclusions.

          These studies are very, very easy to hack to bits. You don’t even have to be a statistician to do so. But whether you will ever be seen to have hacked them to bits is very unlikely.

  29. Lysistrata says:

    “…the spread of our skills means we can wage guerilla warfare on all levels. …It’s a glorious ragged army of seriously pissed-off people. ” (I wrote).
    My apologies Frank: I should have written better this morning and extended this to everyone, whether linked to an organisation or not: you KNOW I didn’t mean that F2C were the only ones doing anything, or that people had to be part of any organisation! And as for their founders and Forest: I have no idea – I only joined last year. And yes, it is your blog and debate is free. Including what I said.
    Because I’m not yet retired and don’t have a lot of time, I’ve found it more useful to join with others and help, rather than campaigning independently. And because I run a business publicly with my partner, so far I’ve not used my real name while commenting here, though it’s no secret. And I’m not famous.
    But for what it’s worth I’ll state that I’m Carol Cattell. Really.

    • Frank Davis says:

      My pseudonym remark was directed at Rollo Tommasi (as was Michael McFadden’s earlier). I understand that people often have good reasons for using them. But what’s Rollo’s? He’s been posting for years behind this pseudonym of his. And he seems to be one of the Tobacco Control establishment, and he thinks that they (and he) are in the right. And he’s always very courteous. So what’s there for him to lose?

  30. Rollo Tommasi says:

    Hi Frank (re your post of 3.30)

    Rather than simply assuming that meta-analyses must be conducted in an inappropriate way, why don’t you look at one or two for yourself? For example, try the IARC monograph (http://monographs.iarc.fr/ENG/Monographs/vol83/index.php) or the 2006 US Surgeon General’s report (http://www.surgeongeneral.gov/library/secondhandsmoke/).

    You will see that they take account of most of the studies available at the time – including those which on their own are inconclusive or may even suggest a protective effect. For the small number of studies which they exclude, they give their reasons. Their methodology is set out, as is their results.

    Perhaps after all that you might want to tell me what is so wrong about these reports.

    • Frank Davis says:

      Thanks for the links. I took a look at the first one, and it’s 1400 pages long. I took a quick glance through. It might actually be be an interesting exercise to deconstruct it. It probably isn’t very difficult. But it would probably take some time. More than an hour or two this evening, leastways.

      But if I did so, I would have no way of telling you. (I assume the email address you give is a fake.)

      • Rollo Tommasi says:

        Frank – Can I direct your interest to section 2 under “involuntary smoking” which is where epidemiological evidence of lung cancer is considered. That’s about 90 pages, some of which you can zip through v quickly.

        Similarly, for USSG, the sections on lung cancer and heart disease (sections 7 & 8 if I recall) are most relevant.

        • Frank Davis says:

          Thanks again. But 90 pages of text and tables isn’t something that I can digest in an hour or two. And I’ve already been looking at it for an hour or more. There’s a lot there. But I actually would like to pore over it for a day or two.

          What I did pick up, however, were some of the concluding remarks on p1409

          Involuntary smoking involves exposure to the same numerous carcinogens and toxic
          substances that are present in tobacco smoke produced by active smoking, which is the
          principal cause of lung cancer. As noted in the previous IARC Monograph on tobacco
          smoking, this implies that there will be some risk of lung cancer from exposure to secondhand tobacco smoke

          So they’re saying that they know that most lung cancer is caused by smoking, so secondhand smoke must carry some risk too. They are relying to some extent on the studies of firsthand smoking.

          This suggests to me an interesting and simple calculation. The Relative Risk of lung cancer among active smokers is generally put around 12 (sometimes twice that). Dave Atherton said on CNN that he had various papers suggesting that secondhand smoke was something like 1/500th of the concentration of the smoke inhaled by active smokers. Assuming a linear variation of risk with smoke concentration, that would suggest an increased risk for SHS of 12/500 or 0.02, and an RR of 1.02. Yet the usual figure given for SHS is RR=1.25. So they would appear to be saying that, weight for weight, SHS is 6 – 12 times more carcinogenic than inhaled primary smoke. The more tobacco smoke is diluted, the more carcinogenic it becomes. I wonder how that might be explained? Homeopathy?

  31. Junican says:

    I came across a comment on a different subject by a ‘Rollo Thomassi’. In that comment, he revealed that he is based in Thailand. But I do not know if he is the same person. An Italian-ish name, excellent English, based in Thailand …… interesting. But his identity is not that important, is it?

    Rollo is a master debater. Some months age, he was involved in a big debate over at Snowdon’s site (I think) about pubco share values. He cleverly argued that the fall in pubco share values was a result of the fall in property values, even though the property values crash occurred some time after pubco share values started to fall quite dramatically. We should also bear in mind the fact that a pubco with a healthy pub business and healthy profits paying healthy dividends should not be significantly perturbed by (temporary) variations in the value of its properties. Unless, of course, they have done the sort of deal that these Care Home proprietors did – sold off the properties (at a very, very healthy profit) and arranged to pay rent. But even in that case, their real problem is turning out to be the fact that they are sufficiently profitable to pay the rents.

    But, to get back to pubcos, what are we seeing now? I am trying to remember the detail of a report which I read in the DT business section. It seems that the pubco of which Punch Taverns is part is trying to de-merge the two main business which merged to form it. I cannot remember off hand the name of the group. Anyway, the bond holders are up in arms about it, because they see themselves as the group being saddled with possible losses. As I see it (although I am not sure) the group is not far from bankruptcy.

    But…eh!……ASH say that the pub business is thriving! What’s to worry about?

  32. Rollo raised a number of points and questions addressed to me so I’ll try to pull them all together here.

    1) “The technique of trying to draw hard conclusions from collecting results of individual studies is not only interesting because it is not a practice in which responsible scientists engage. It is also interesting because of how the pro-smoking lobby tries to interpret the results”

    “The technique of trying to draw hard conclusions from collecting results of individual studies” ? Isn’t that what your favored “meta-analyses” do Rollo? I agree it has many weaknesses, but you usually seem to like it.

    In terms of interpretations, I agree that saying that non-sig results on one side show something while non-sigs on the other side don’t is incorrect and unfair. My notation with the use of asterisks was quite clear for the most part although I should NOT have included the studies marked “NS” in that manner — your point on that is valid, although at least one of them, Brownson ’92, shows on p. 437 of the SGR2006 as a .98 very weakly protective tendency, while Perhsagen ’87 is a flat 1.0 and Wu-Williams 90 is split evenly, .9 & 1.1, for father and mother childhood exposure. For Stockwell ’92 the NS seems to have been incorrect: the SGR reports it at from 1.2 to 1.7 (father, mother, siblings) but with a very wide confidence interval. Overall there were 30 showing negative tendencies, 9 “NS”, and the rest (70 -80?) showed a positive tendency. Most of the tendencies in both cases flunked statistical significance although in general the positive associations fared proportionately better in that regard. However, I believe that the oft-repeated and believed statement that “studies have shown conclusively that there is a strong link between passive smoking and lung cancer” is, to say the least, overstated when looking at those results.

    2) Your point about your favored “meta-analyses” being shown to “above board” deliberately displays a fatal weakness: it is not so much a question of the META-analyses being flawed as it is a question of whether the individual studies have all been adequately examined, although there is indeed also the question of whether the meta-analyses are somewhat flawed in addition by virtue of study selection. As I have pointed out to you before, given the prejudicial nature and design of so many of the individual ETS studies that I have examined, it would be ridiculous to assume that all, or even most, of these epi studies maintained high scientific standards. It would be like James Randi assuming that there really WERE ghosts at work in those psychics’ chambers that were too complicated to investigate fully.

    3) You propose two prime examples of “meta-analysis,” the IARC monograph and the SGR2006. (Do you know what that word means btw Rollo? I didn’t notice that the SGR 2006 did their own.) OK, those are the two “studies” you want to stake your stance on. I’m not that familiar with the IARC one, but I *have* read through a good bit of the SGR2006. Was it fair? Was it unbiased? Did they include fairly the relevant studies? Well, one of the largest such studies done to my knowledge was the Enstrom/Kabat study of 2003. Unfortunately it was not included in the SGR2006 because it came out too late. Oddly though, the SGR 2006 seems to have numerous references to other studies that came out in 2003, as well as studies that came out in 2004, and even studies that came out in 2005!

    Somehow the exclusion of the largest study, and one that contradicted their favored conclusion, on the basis of a time frame claim that seems pretty patently false, doesn’t seem to support your case very well. You could even say that it was a “Rollo Tommas” : an Empty Spiel.

    – MJM

  33. Jonathan Bagley says:

    Arnott’s asking why the WHO etc would say ETS is harmful was on first hearing very clever. I wouldn’t have known what to say and have spent quite a bit of time thinking about it since. I’m sure it’s a well known and easily circumventented debating tool – somehwere in PR 101 – and Max Clifford wouldn’t have had any trouble with it. I eventually came to the same conclusion as Michael. These organisations think a bit of exaggeration (don’t accuse them directly of lying – the audience will get the message and appreciate the civility) is excusable if the resulting bans mean fewer people smoking.
    I don’t think the passive smoking risk argument will be finally settled until the mechanism of how smoking increases the risk of lung cancer is explained, which looks like being fairly soon. Doll famously thought the passive smoking risk negligible. Peto’s response on the day the ban started was to the effect that he hoped it would result in fewer people smoking – nothing about passive smoking. Alvan Feinstein, Yale University epidemiologist writing in Toxological Pathology, wrote, “Yes, it’s rotten science, but it’s in a worthy cause. It will help us to get rid of cigarettes and become a smoke-free society”. Most anti tobacco campaigners and pro ban advocates, with the notable exception of our anonymous correspondent, have at some time admitted that all along it was active smoking they are hoping to stop, and have left the passive smoking debate behind.

    • daveatherton says:

      Hi Jonathan I trust you and mathematics are well.

      The late Alvan Feinstein did not say the words himself it was a remark directed at him by an epidemiologist. Feinstein was a fierce critic of SHS and its supposed harm. In this article he compares the “science” of SHS to medieval alchemy.

      “I recently heard an authoritative leader in the world of public health epidemiology make the following statement: “Yes, it’s rotten science, but it’s in a worthy cause . It will help us get rid of cigarettes and become a smoke-free society .” The statement, of course, referred to the data and evaluations assembled in the past few years for accusations about what is formally called environmental tobacco smoke and informally designated as passive smoking.”

      http://legacy.library.ucsf.edu/tid/lsv20a00/pdf

  34. Jonathan Bagley says:

    Thanks for the correction Dave.

  35. I’d concur with db on the importance of groups like F2C in the same way I feel blogs like this are important. They allow us to share our ideas and build a support community in a far less expensive way than the Antis’ multi-million dollar conferences. Occasional conferences/gatherings such as the ones I’ve been to with the Smokers Club and TICAP play a very important role as well although they’re far more difficult for us to manage on our out-of-pocket shoestrings. The blogs help build the credibility and power of the groups through the honing of our ideas and exposure to Anti arguments (so that when we’re Pat Nurse or Dave A on air we’ll be well-prepped for what we’re going to get hit with) and the groups help build the credibility and power of the blogs through featuring them on our websites and promoting the ideas expressed in them.

    And finally, even anonymous internet Anti sock puppets help us out when they try to defend their organizations’ ideas online because they end up only showing the weakness of even their best arguments for people to see while at the same time reminding us and encouraging us to remember to stick with “da trut’ ‘n nuttin’ but da trut’ Yer Honnur!” Things like getting the Feinstein and Godber attributions correct are important: when they’re misused they become arrows in the Antis’ arsenal to try to pierce our credibility. And when we make small mistakes sometimes it’s important to be open to recognizing them and showing why our arguments are still valid even when those mistakes are corrected.

    Heh… we make good use of the Antis’ errors when they spout about such things as “Plutonium in cigarettes” and they’ll certainly make the same good use of our own gaffes. The difference between them and us is that ours are generally honest mistakes — while theirs are usually crafty and deliberate attempts to mislead while hoping they either won’t get caught or while knowing that their power over the public microphone ensures that our criticisms of them won’t reach the same extent of audience.

    – MJM

    • Frank Davis says:

      As a bit of an outsider, not being a member of any of these organisations, I hope that I can help a bit by articulating an individual (and perhaps sometimes rogue) perspective.

      I think that it’s by having the widest possible debate that the deepest insights are found, and the best decisions taken. The most surprising ideas often come spinning out of nowhere.

      I’m very much someone for shaking all the dice in a big pot, and throwing them on the table. I suppose that when I think about organisation, I usually think of it as the last thing to be done. Most other people seem to think that organisation should be the first thing to be done.

      When I’ve written about smokers as being like a swarm of angry wasps, it’s as a few disorganised wasps to start with, flying around in erratic circles, who gradually become organised – self-organised -, and gradually become united in their purpose as their numbers mount. I think purpose precedes organisation. I think you should only create an organisation when you know what you want to do. And when you know what you want to do, the organisation will spring into existence.

      The way I see it, we smokers are still just a few very angry wasps flying around erratically. But our numbers are mounting steadily. The buzz of our debate is getting louder (and I like to think that real wasps actually do debate with each other). The noise rouses new wasps into the air. And as new wasps join the debate, they bring fresh perspectives and insights and knowledge. Stuff that nobody else knows. And eventually a purpose and a direction takes shape, and firms and strengthens. And at that point the wasps become an organised swarm, with the bombers in the middle, and the fighters on the flanks, and the transporters at the rear. Or maybe the other way round.

  36. Frank, as usual, I both agree and disagree! :) Wonderful image, and I think an accurate description of us through the 80s and 90s. The buzz got louder, new folks/ideas joined in, the buzz got still louder, and we now have even more new folks joining in and heightening it.

    The idea of our organizations though isn’t to channel all the buzz into neat channels but to magnify elements of the buzz that fall naturally into those channels. The image of organizations “springing into existence” is exactly what happened here. Groups like the Smokers Club, Forces, F2C, Cage, TICAP, and all the rest weren’t started by Big Tobacco or directions beamed down from the Mothership: they “sprung into existence” as subgroups of wasps got together and said, “Hey! Lets us join up into a group and all go sting that thar honey-stealin’ b’ar right on his shiny li’l nose!”

    Most of the wasps will still be stinging everywhere, and that’s important. But a few organized subgroups laming the bear by stinging his feet or blinding him by stinging his eyes can be very powerful and they’re a good thing to add into the general defense of our smoky nest!

    :)
    Michael, the one man who can not only torture an analogy to death, but can make it scream for mercy in the process.

    • Frank Davis says:

      Groups like the Smokers Club, Forces, F2C, Cage, TICAP, and all the rest weren’t started by Big Tobacco or directions beamed down from the Mothership: they “sprung into existence” as subgroups of wasps got together

      Well, yes, they weren’t organised from above in that way. They’re all genuine grassroot organisations. Just like the early antismoking organisations were (GASP?).

      What I mean is that when I started getting involved in all this (after reading an article in the Independent in November 2004 where the president of the BMA was calling for smoking to be publicly banned in the UK), I was a bit surprised to discover that there were already grassroot organisations like Forces and F2C. I kept encountering people saying things like “Smokers are going to have to get organised!” And I could see what they meant, sort of. But apart from being “organisations”, Forces and F2C didn’t seem to have any clear purpose, other than representing smokers. And in the case of F2C, it was advocating a “freedom to choose” that was far wider than just the freedom of smokers. Both Forces and F2C seemed to me to be organisations with largely undefined or catch-all purposes. They were general-purpose containers for the anger of generally-angry people of a general sort.

      And that was why I never joined any of them. They had no clear purpose. And furthermore, I didn’t myself anyway know what their purpose should be, so I couldn’t help give them purpose. But it’s why, to this day, I wonder what they do. Which isn’t any sort of serious criticism of them really. I love them all dearly.

      These days I think purpose comes in its own time. I am content to let events unfold, and for coalitions and alliances to evolve. It will all just happen (or not).

  37. db says:

    Well, one of the things they have achieved is being represented on national TV in a face to face debate with smoker’s public enemy No.1 Deborah Arnott. Everyone here (bar Rollo) heralded it a great success. OK, it’s not going to get the ban overturned in itself, but hopefully it’ll lead to more MSM coverage.

    Just for the record. F2C (via Secretary John Baker) was approached by CNN and invited to debate the NY outdoor smoking ban with Arnott. John (aka The Big Yin) suggested Dave (F2C Executive) would be the ideal representative. Dave did a wonderful job on behalf of all of us. But, crucially, it should be acknowledged that this interview would not have happened without F2C, whose existence relies largely on the hard voluntary work of dedicated members who have chipped away for several years trying to raise public awareness. This investment in time and effort now seems to be paying dividends.

    • Frank Davis says:

      As I’ve pointed out before, the clip doesn’t include the introductions of the two protagonists. So somebody who had only seen this clip might not know who these people were. As it happens, I did know who they were.

      Also Audrey Silk upthread seems to think it was her who was asked to appear on CNN. And maybe that’s who Deborah Arnott thought she would be up against. When Audrey Silk turned it down, it would seem that F2C was asked instead, and put up Dave Atherton at short notice. Did Deborah Arnott know she’d be up against him when she arrived at the studio? Did she only find out minutes before?

      It’s quite important to resolve this, it seems to me. Either Dave Atherton got there by default, or he didn’t.

      • daveatherton says:

        Hi Frank I was introduced as an Executive of F2C and Ms Arnott as Director of ASH. I was phone up at 6.45 pm and I think Ms Arnott was phoned up after me. Apparently she groaned when she heard she was up against me, or so I am told.

      • db says:

        ‘Did Deborah Arnott know she’d be up against him when she arrived at the studio?’

        Good question. Personally, I believe she would have almost certainly declined if F2C was the first choice or if she’d been given longer notice. Probably because she regards F2C as an irrelevance rather than a threat. Nevertheless, she was cornered and had to engage him in debate. Not too well for a seasoned propagandist as it turned out. But in any event F2C WAS invited and their spokesman did a good job. A relatively small victory in the grand scheme of things but a result nonetheless.

  38. db says:

    Bit late, sorry…

    Was it a ‘groan of anticipated pleasure’ Dave?

  39. daveatherton says:

    I think she agreed to go on the programme and then found out it was me.

    For the record she did after the show have a go at me in the Green Room. My aside to her just before we went on air that I have near conclusive proof that passive smoking is virtually harmless may have unsettled her. I indeed do have near perfect evidence.

    The net result at worst 1 in 200,000 people contract lung cancer from SHS, compare that to 10 people per 200,000 that die on the roads yes getting in your car and crossing the road is 10 times more dangerous. The other possibility is zero, nil, none nothing.

  40. Audrey Silk says:

    I’m pretty sure it was the same show. I was called and emailed by “CNN International.” The Arnott/Atherton interview aired, ummm, the same (or next?) day. I also assume that I was their original choice because the topic was to be the smoking ban in NYC parks, etc. It goes without saying that for that particular topic my NYC-based group — who has been the lead spokesperson in the media against it — would probably be the first group they’d want to speak about it. But I declined due to other obligations. But know my whole point in pointing this out is only to answer the question of whether or not Arnott expected Atherton or not, not to claim any prize :-)

  41. Pingback: “No You Don’t.” | Frank Davis

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