Forced to Read 2

I’ve carried on reading ‘The Plain Truth About Tobacco’. And still can’t find anything that says smoking causes lung cancer. Quite the opposite. Page 44:

smoking is an influence which increases lung cancer risk

Page 45:

A fundament of this craziness is the construction that smoking is the “cause” of lung cancer. It is not. Even critics of wrong-headed lung cancer research tend to apply the word “cause” casually to the statistical link between smoking and lung cancer. They should not. Indeed, it is a cardinal rule of statistics generally, that statistical association is not causation.

Page 46:

What is the cause of cancer? There isn’t one, not in any similar sense to the way one can consider a particular pathogen as the cause of a particular communicable disease. Cancer is cell replication gone wrong. Our cells, within our bodies, are replicating all the time. As with nearly all physical processes, cell replication is sometimes imperfect, sometimes grossly so.

What the author does seem to think is that there is a higher incidence of lung cancer in heavy smokers. But he refuses to say that one is the cause of the other. It’s just an “influence”.

Maybe. One of the things that bothers me about the research (and I’m thinking here of the Doll and Hill studies that were carried out in 1948 and 1951) was that most people smoked back then. In the London Hospitals study, 98% of the patients were smokers. In the British Doctors study, 87% of the doctors were smokers. So whatever disease was being studied, there was always going to be a majority of smokers among the patients. Just like there were going to be a majority of tea-drinking, toast-and-marmalade-munching Brits among the patients in these British studies. But Doll and Hill concluded that because most lung cancer patients in 1950 were smokers, smoking must be the principal cause of lung cancer. And the cause of pretty much every other disease as well.

To me it always seems like tobacco and the tobacco companies were framed. And they continue to be framed. Why should anyone want to frame them? Perhaps in order to conceal the true causes for lung cancer.

The article surprised me a bit by quoting extensively from Vincent-Riccardo Di Pierri’s Rampant Antismoking Signifies Grave Danger. And it offered an explanation of something I’ve always found a bit puzzling:

He refers to the purblind philosophical outlook [of antismoking zealots] as “materialist”, i.e. lacking any genuine academic, intellectual, moral, ethical, or spiritual insight, and as “medico-materialist” specifically in reference to lifestyle epidemiology and its adherents.

Is that what Di Pierri really means by “materialistic”? If he does, why doesn’t he say that it’s intellectually and ethically vacuous? Why uses “materialistic” instead?

Doctor DiPierri considers that the “anti-scientific” perspective of lifestyle epidemiology is in many respects limited to the point of total blindness, as we have seen in terms of its gallingly illogical, simple-minded statistical interpretations, but as DiPierri discusses, this simplistic and anti-intellectual perspective is blind not only to basic logic, but also, and perfectly so, to the terrible harm it does to the public and to society: e.g. in blocking less hazardous cigarettes for decades, and in much else, as we shall further describe in the course of this essay.

I think it’s an understatement to say that the “terrible harm” to society lies in blocking the production of less hazardous cigarettes. The terrible harm, in my opinion, lies in a divided society with broken communities and bankrupt businesses. And it’s truly terrible.

The medico-materialist outlook is, simply, ethically reckless and morally wretched. The medico-materialist attitude is, furthermore, arrogantly dictatorial. The former US Surgeon General C. Everett Koop (term of office 1982-1989: pictured at left) was the first among the Surgeons General to affect military garb; all his successors have “followed suit” in this. Koop saw it as his job to dictate personal behavior as a kind of Mussolini of Medicine. (Imagine the outcry if the US Attorney General dressed up as a Führer of the Law and began issuing unilateral diktats.) Doctor Koop expressed the morally vacuous medico-materialist philosophy succinctly in 1996: “From my point of view, anything that stops smoking is good.”

That is indeed morally vacuous.

Anyway, I’m still slowly reading the thing.

About Frank Davis

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16 Responses to Forced to Read 2

  1. junican says:

    I also pondered the use of the word ‘materialist’. The word does not seem to be an appropriate word to describe ‘illness’. But I think that his idea was more to do with ‘exclusiveness’. That is, that there can only be ‘materialistic’ reasons for ill-health. I am not sure, but I suspect that ‘materialistic’ means that death can be avoided if only the processes could be understood.

    That is a tricky idea, and yet it seems to be the anchor of the Holy Zealots.

    • Frank Davis says:

      I guess that for me “materialism” is (perhaps wrongly) the idea that only solid matter/material exists. I wondered whether Di Pierri was suggesting that there was an immaterial, spiritual world as well. Personally I don’t think that ethics requires such a world.

      • ricktransit says:

        As I understand it, what Di Pierri means by “materialism” is the reduction of all human activity to observable, physical phenomena – i.e. everything is focused on the body and only its physical health matters. Psychological health is of no interest, and neither are abstracts concepts like happiness and pleasure.

        These exclusions can be extended (and Di Pierri often does do this) to religious and spiritual matters, but it’s not necessary to take things that far to agree with his basic concept, that modern, prohibitionist public health thinking sees things only in terms of the physical health of people and not in terms of their emotional well-being or social interaction.

        Rick S

  2. smokervoter says:

    I still say that C. Everett Koop was (is) Big Brother. The speech he made in May 1984 demanding a smoke-free world and his whole totalitarian demeanor is just a little too coincidental for me. He passed the torch to the Clinton’s who passed it on to the Blair’s who passed it to Cameron/Clegg/Obama.

    Orwell was indeed a prophet.

    It would be nice for this dark age of health fascism to come crumbling down before Koop dies so he can go to his maker in Hell a thoroughly defeated Big Brother.

  3. ”Doctor DiPierri considers that the “anti-scientific” perspective of lifestyle epidemiology is in many respects limited to the point of total blindness, as we have seen in terms of its gallingly illogical, simple-minded statistical interpretations, but as DiPierri discusses, this simplistic and anti-intellectual perspective is blind not only to basic logic, but also, and perfectly so, to the terrible harm it does to the public and to society: e.g. in blocking less hazardous cigarettes for decades, and in much else, as we shall further describe in the course of this essay.”

    I haven’t read somewhere that the biggest source of bias is the lifestlye status that derives from the authors and its surrounding framework i.e an antismoker who submits a study in an antismoking journal and peer reviewed by antismokers

    In plain english you can’t have a vegan epidemiologist submititing a study about red meat and being 100% objective about it.Or muslims epidemiologists submititing a study about Christianity.Same ofcourse applies vice versa

    Wikipedia is referring to the types of reporting bias ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reporting_bias) but none of them seem to include the most important case of all!

    As for the harm to society, may I remind our readers that initially harm reduction was embraced by the medical authorities back in the 60s (concept of light cigarettes) ,then year after year leaned on more extreme directions; Rejected Gio Gori’s project that would have saved lives in ’71, rejected snus in the 80’s ; rejected tobacco’s industry late efforts in the 90’s( Cigarettes Eclipse) ; and eventually rejected e-cigs in the millenium

    How many lives would have been saved if they were not thinking as extremists against a product that humanity has embraced for centuries?

    and to link it with our topic, no I don’t believe the whole concept that Smoking causes lung cancer, but smoking is certainly a risk factor (That’s something that everyone agrees about ;even on the CATCH debates!!).Thereby by eliminating the risk elements you reduce any morbidity attributed to it

    Last but not least , it really baffles me that when it comes to harm reduction that no one is mentioning disposable cigarette filters .They exist for decades (!) ,but no one seems to know about them and no studies appear whatsoever (with the exception of that piece from jredheadgirl)

    http://jredheadgirl.blogspot.co.uk/2011/09/filtrona-develops-new-charcoal-filter.html

    and some sites for reference

    http://www.ciganot.com/MiniFilterinfo.html

    http://www.crafe-away.co.uk/filter.htm

  4. nisakiman says:

    I’ve been sceptical of Doll’s work since I read about him. Not only was he a “significant figure” in the Socialist Medical Association (with all that implies), but also:

    “From the 1970s on Doll was called as an expert witness in dozens of official enquiries and court cases seeking to establish links between cancer cases and chemicals or radiation. In many cases he denied there was any significant causative factor involved and saved industry and governments millions in compensation payments.

    After his death his papers, held at the Wellcome Foundation Library, showed that he had received a series of consultancy payments, including money from companies whose products he defended in court. These papers show payments of £50,000 to Green College from Turner and Newall, the asbestos company; a 30-year financial relationship between Turner and Newall and Doll; payments of between £12,000 and £15,000 to Doll from the Chemical Manufacturers’ Association; and from 1976 to 2002 (and possibly later) payments to Doll of $1,000 a day (increasing to $1,500 a day in 1986) from Monsanto…”

    http://www.wsws.org/articles/2007/jan2007/doll-j09.shtml

    So government, oil producers and the chemical industry all had a vested interest in creating a scapegoat on which to blame a lot of medical problems. Doll provided them with the ideal vehicle when he declared that smoking was the root cause of lung cancer, which quickly expanded to encompass many other ailments. That he was secretly being paid large amounts of money by vested interests calls into question, to my mind, the validity of his research results.

    • Rose says:

      nisakiman

      Doll’s arrogance sometimes trips him up.

      Richard Doll

      “Robert Proctor is correct in thinking that few people know much about the public health measures of Hitler’s physicians (Opinion, 19 June, p 4, but he is wrong to imply that scientists have been ignorant of the medical research of the period. Opinions may differ about its quality and the conclusions that could be drawn from it, but it is just plain wrong to say that “Richard Doll . . . knew nothing of the Schairer and Schöniger article until he [Proctor] sent him a copy in 1997″. I published its findings in an article on the causes of lung cancer in Advances in Cancer Research, vol 3, p 9 in 1955 and have invariably referred to it in appropriate circumstances ever since.”
      http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg16321956.100

      “1936 Indeed, as early as 1936—the year that the young Richard Doll was attending the lectures in Frankfurt of the SS radiologist Professor Hans Holfelder—they had gathered sufficient statistical evidence to prove the cancerous hazards of what they labelled “passive smoking” (passivraucher).”
      http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1117732/
      He wasn’t just a socialist.

      “Richard Doll was born on October 28th 1912 in Hampton. He joined the Communist Party in his student years and graduated from St Thomas’ hospital in 1937. Doll helped set up the national blood service, insisting that Britain avoid the American path of paying donors for their blood. His war years were spent in the RAMC (Royal Army Medical Corps) on a hospital ship.

      Doll was a member of the Communist Party until May 1957. He resigned, due to his difference with the conclusions of the Communist Party’s commission on Inner-Party Democracy. He and his wife were members of the Norland branch in Kensington at least for most of the 1950s but had probably joined in their youth.

      Richard Doll’s socialism did not please everyone
      “His communism had so antagonised Professor John McMichael at the Hammersmith that he was told after the war, “You’ll never work here.”
      http://www.bmj.com/cgi/content/full/331/7515/517-c

      After 2007 on wet days I used to hunt Richard Doll across the internet.
      Here’s what I found.

      http://tinyurl.com/6aqmuom

  5. nisakiman says:

    Yes Rose,there are lots of question marks over his head. What flummoxes me is that even those articles exposing his payments from those he defended as an “independent expert”, the prevailing thread is:

    “…Sir Richard Doll, the epidemiologist, whose pioneering work in the 1950s proved that smoking caused lung cancer, was receiving a consultancy fee of $1,500 a day in the mid-1980s from Monsanto…

    To quote just one example from your Forces link.

    That is to say, despite his being exposed as a liar and a paid shill, people still accept as gospel his pronouncements that smoking causes LC.

    I’m quite prepared to believe that smoking can be an aggravating factor in the development of LC, and indeed in a number of respiratory ailments; statistical correlation would suggest as much, but as Frank quotes above:

    “Even critics of wrong-headed lung cancer research tend to apply the word “cause” casually to the statistical link between smoking and lung cancer. They should not. Indeed, it is a cardinal rule of statistics generally, that statistical association is not causation”

    • Rose says:

      I think they may have defended him so vigorously partly because a great deal of their work and general assumptions depended on him being irreproachably neutral.

      Here’s some who seriously doubt Doll /Peto but clearly believe every word of Doll’s smoking studies.

      Burying the evidence – 2005

      “This HSE estimate is cribbed from one study, which concluded cancer was overwhelming a “lifestyle” issue (5). HSE said: “An important estimate of the overall proportion of cancer attributable to occupational causes remain that put forward by Doll and Peto in 1981 in a report to the US Congress. They estimated that 4 per cent (plausible range of certainty 2 per cent to 8 per cent) of cancer mortality was due to occupational causes.”

      It added: “Although, this estimate relates to the US over two decades ago, it is seen as broadly applicable to Great Britain today and remains the best overall estimate available.”

      “What HSE doesn’t say is that the Doll/Peto figure is just one of a number of estimates, and is much lower than many of the other estimates reported in the literature. A simple investigation of Doll/Peto’s methods reveals they produced a figure that by design fell considerably short of the true toll. How far short is a matter of debate, but in terms of deaths per year, we are talking thousands.

      Even Doll/Peto acknowledged their estimates amounted to no more than informed guesses, noting it was “impossible to make any precise estimate of the proportion of the cancers of today that are attributable to hazards at work.” It is possible to identify significant flaws in Doll/Peto which mean it can only be a large under-estimate of the true toll.”

      The companies were ecstatic when Doll/Peto came out, because it posed the whole thing politically as a lifestyle issue,” Stirling University occupational cancer authority Dr Jim Brophy (right) told Hazards. “That had consequences for prevention, in that it effectively ended any chance of a structured and well resourced strategy to combat occupational cancer.”

      “This paper and others noted that the Doll/Peto estimate was limited to an analysis of deaths in those under the age of 65. Cancer is primarily a disease of the old – only 26 per cent of the deaths in England in 2003 were in people under the age of 60 (3), so it is likely the great majority of occupational cancers would have been omitted from the figure.”

      “The end result is that cancers are attributed a “lifestyle” cause with relative ease, while production and use of occupational carcinogens continues unremarked and unabated. “The emphasis given to lifestyle factors, to the detriment of information on the role of chemical pollutants, favoured the uninterrupted production of agents with negative effects on health that remain hidden or secret or are deliberately underestimated,” said Tomatis.”

      “Some observers are unsurprised at the conclusions of the Doll/Peto report. Sir Richard Doll, co-author of the 1981 report that informed HSE’s cancer strategy for quarter of a century, was a favourite expert of some of the world’s most hazardous industries. In court depositions in 2000, he admitted T&N, Britain’s most prolific asbestos killer, had donated £50,000 to the Oxford college where he was warden “in recognition of all the work I had done for them.”
      http://www.hazards.org/cancer/report.htm

      I daresay they were even less surprised the following year.

  6. I read DiPierri’s book fully and it is exactly as ricktransit said : DiPierri points out that to the healthists, good health resumes to one’s physical body, nothing else whether psychological, moral, or spiritual well-being matters. And that is absolutely true from what we are observing today regardless of the WHO proclaiming that health is “a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” Everything the WHO does as of lately goes against their very definition of health. Whether one believes in a spiritual dimension or not, who are the healthists to judge them if they are right or wrong in their beliefs as long as it gives them that part of the total well-being they are seeking.
    Iro

  7. junican says:

    I has been observed how often a husband or wife dies shortly after the death of his/her partner. This is not an ‘urban myth’, it is a fact.

    It is thought that loss of a loved one affects the immune system due to sadness and loneliness.

  8. beobrigitte says:

    But Doll and Hill concluded that because most lung cancer patients in 1950 were smokers, smoking must be the principal cause of lung cancer. And the cause of pretty much every other disease as well.
    Because Doll and Hill could not see anything beyond the(ir) horizon they concluded nothing is there.

    The medico-materialist outlook is, simply, ethically reckless and morally wretched. The medico-materialist attitude is, furthermore, arrogantly dictatorial.
    Perhaps medico-materialist outlook is a matter of interpretation. Can it be interpreted as medics lining their pockets whilst comfortably ignoring moral and ethical issues?

    DiPierri points out that to the healthists, good health resumes to one’s physical body, nothing else whether psychological, moral, or spiritual well-being matters.
    Could this be the reason they fall terribly, terribly ill at the prospect of spending an evening in a pub with ashtrays on the table, or is it that they cannot face a pub full of happy, laughing, talking people?
    Or, perhaps they are just paranoid with fear and unaware of it. It remains to be seen if the WHO is unaware of it. But then, the WHO is the best example of paranoid fear.

    Time for a quick evening prayer, starting with: ‘Dear god, please take this fear of from the people who steal out money daily; let them know that our contract here on earth is temporary regardless how wonderful the body looks…”

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  11. ladyraj says:

    I don’t know Frank. Perhaps I’m confused but I interpret materialism as a construct that is defined via an individual’s personal value system or in a cultural era/setting. As you described, human nature dictates that when a term is ill defined that contextual cues become more prominent to define what “something” is. Thus, human perception is inherent to the concept of materialism. The term materialism, in and of itself, is not a negative connotation unless one frames in that way.

    Theoretically, materialism could be viewed as innate and a good influence on human behavior because individuals strive to achieve a measure of success and derive pleasure from that activity. The materialistic endeavor could also be viewed as innate and bad for humans via an unholy desire to acquire “things”. Then again, theory also purports that materialism can be an acquired stance that could also be viewed as good or bad. Good to foster in society because it contributes to that society and bad because there may be a possible false belief that happiness flows from a superabundance of possessions.

    Back in my hippy days, materialism simply meant anti-stuff and pro-living. As we have seen culture changes. My son bought a BMW (which he professes is a chick magnet) which gives him pleasure but raises my “status symbol” antenna born during my anti-materialistic teenage years. As I age, I understand that others are free to determine for themselves what materialism means and act according to those thoughts. Though it is true the psychology of motivation is murky with ill-defined terms that are hard to measure objectively one can’t argue the simple fact humans seek to acquire materials…it matters not if it’s a caveman who’s prideful of his copper axe, or my son’s chick magnet.

    I happen to seek pleasure via the material called tobacco. I trade the material secondary reinforcer of money to acquire the product. Since most venues are smoke-free, I use the product in my materialistic home filled with items acquired over my lifetime that make me happy. To date, there has never been a time I referenced my body or health in materialistic terms. I’m having a hard time looking at health from this perspective. Caregivers engage the mind to possibly bring about a positive change in the body. Are they misguided of detrimental consequences to the mind when championing their pet cause? Maybe so, but I suspect the defense would be the typical no pain no gain argument. (I got a taste of that argument when I had to rehab a shoulder injury sustained while ziplining!)

    Perhaps I’m unsure about the usage of the construct of materialism and I need to read up on current trends. As it is, when I see it, I confess my brain screams…why use such an abstract concept?! 

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