Some weeks ago I asked one of my commenters, Reinhold in Bavaria, if he would like to write something about Professor Romano Grieshaber’s new book, Passivrauchen – Götterdämmerung der Wissenschaft which was recently published in Germany. He very kindly agreed to do so, and having written one review in German, set out (with the assistance of another regular commenter, Brigitte) to translate it into English. I also got involved in the latter stages, helping to try to get it to read as good English. The result of this co-operative effort follows below:
“The question ‘Is passive smoking injurious to health?’ is commonly regarded as having already been unequivocally answered. I, however, did not find any such unequivocal answer in my prevention investigation. Quite the contrary!”
Prof. Romano Grieshaber
In March 2012, a year after he retired, the German medical professor Romano Grieshaber published a book in which he considered the “creative truths” of the WHO and its zealous footsoldiers in science and politics – as well as the methods being used to push these “truths” through into law.
The book’s title is “Passivrauchen – Götterdämmerung der Wissenschaft” (“Passive smoking – Science’s twilight of the gods”), and its publication is a special event. Because Grieshaber is the first in Germany – perhaps even worldwide – who himself carried out research work on passive smoking, and then came out publicly to oppose the sacred dogmas of the WHO, and to cut them down to size – from the practitioner’s standpoint – to what they are: ideological, statistical sleight-of-hand, remote from any reality.
We often ask ourselves how it could happen that nearly the entire learned world tolerates laws against smokers being concocted (for the protection of non-smokers, it is said), rubber-stamped by courts, and cheered by the media, even though the underlying “studies” are so flimsy that even a layman – as far as he concerns himself with them – can recognize that it is much more missionary zeal than science that has contributed to their production. How is it that serious, unbiased researchers can tolerate such a development? Why must even someone who has the courage to speak up against it wait until their retirement to do so? Grieshaber himself gives the answer:
“According to the well known phrase: ‘Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely’. In Science, whenever the subject addressed is Tobacco, every objection can easily be nipped in the bud by using the same dismissive phrases (‘Tobacco lobby’ accusations etc.) over and over again, and this has given the WHO-led global Tobacco Control movement a position of power which has offered too many temptations for scientific integrity to survive unscathed. One can assume that scientists who have seriously delved more deeply into the subject of tobacco smoke have been aware of this for a long time. But almost every one of them is silent. Why? Given my own experience it is very likely that dissenting voices are systematically silenced. I am convinced that effective means of exerting pressure exist for this.”
In an interview, Grieshaber was asked how we might imagine the retaliation measures that were taken against him. “Colleagues from the German scientific community have defamed me and my work”, he answered. “They said I was in the pay of the tobacco industry; I was even called a “mass murderer” once. Such infringements and slander are not easy to take, especially when it also involves employees, and when our reputation as scientists is violated.”
Who is Grieshaber?
From 2000 until his retirement March 2011 Prof. Dr. med. Romano Grieshaber was the responsible leader of the Department for Prevention and Research at the “Berufsgenossenschaft Nahrungsmittel und Gaststätten (BGN)”, the German Employer’s Liability Insurance Association for the Food and Catering Industry. He is Honorary Professor of Applied Prevention and Health Promotion at the Friedrich Schiller University of Jena. He was board member of the “Forschungsgesellschaft für angewandte Systemsicherheit und Arbeitsmedizin (FSA)”, the German Research Association for Applied System System Safety and Occupational Medicine, member of the International Social Security Association (ISSA), and spokesman of the board of the “Kompetenzzentrum für interdisziplinäre Prävention (KIP)”, Competence Centre for Interdisciplinary Prevention at the University of Jena.
Grieshaber is a physician. After doing clinical work in internal medicine, trauma surgery, emergency and occupational medicine, he worked from 1986 at the BGN, first as chief physician at the Occupational Health Service, and from 1994 as Medical Director, and from 2000 as head of the department for Prevention and Research.
The centre of his attention in his professional and research career were the causal connections of work-related health risks.
For several years he focused on studies of passive smoke exposure in restaurants and the discussion of hypotheses which have become the basis of the nonsmoking protection legislation.
Grieshaber is and always has been a nonsmoker.
Why this book?
Obviously, for the author it goes against the grain to see science on its way to becoming untrustworthy, but not only that: he also sees tangible dangers for the life and limb of real people (in contrast to those existing only on paper) in the use of statistical number games for a supposed “good cause”.
The fact that as a doctor he therefore stands in opposition to the dogmatists is obvious, particularly those who are part of a gargantuan collective re-education programme. Thus, at a conference in Singapore about the same time as the publication of the book, WHO Director-General Mrs. Chan asked her widely travelled (at whose expense?) and favourable audience: “Can we ban the sale of cigarettes?” And her audience thundered: “Yes!”. “If we stand together,” Ms. Chan said with satisfaction, “the industry cannot survive.” [These words are re-translated from German and may slightly differ from the originally spoken ones.] Then of course for such people there is no point wasting time thinking about the huge fraction of the world’s population for whom tobacco use is a normal part of life, since they believe that there’s a devil that must be driven out by all possible means, even if it involves the destruction of an entire industry and everyone dependent on it.
For Grieshaber, however, it is not about destruction and re-education, but about preservation of the individual’s health, and for him dogmatism at all costs is out of place. He writes:
“What preys on my mind are my decades of experience in dealing with, both medically and scientifically, the working population and the risks to which they are exposed. They are the victims of symbolic politics. They are being fobbed off with pseudo explanations and inappropriate accusations of blame, while the real causes of their ailments remain undetected – and are even supposed to remain undetected, because anything else would place the foundations of the out-of-control WHO campaign in jeopardy. … My position on the second hand smoke issue developed only gradually, the more I realized and experienced the full extent of the obsession with which WHO-controlled science responds when it is confronted with real life.”
About the contents
The titles of the nine chapters provide a glimpse of Grieshaber’s concerns, and that he uses plain language:
1. The Munich Hospital fulfills an order.
2. Missionary zeal and war rhetoric: The WHO in imitation of the Holy Inquisition.
3. The creative truths of the Collaborators.
4. For risks and side effects ask the publican of your local pub.
5. The Epidemiologist’s basics.
6. … and Tomorrow the Entire World? [from the refrain of a Nazi song]
7. Higher mathematics for milkmaids [a pun: “Milchmädchenrechnung”, “Milkmaid’s calculation” means in colloquial German a case of naive fallacy]
8. Well intentioned is the opposite of good.
9. When will decent people revolt?
Prof. Grieshaber looks at it from several points of view.
On the one hand he reports research that he and his colleagues did a couple of years ago. This included the disproof of the infamous Invernizzi experiment (in which the tobacco controllers compared cigarette smoke in a small room with diesel fumes), but also a study of actual disease incidence among German hospitality industry staff (showing no increased lung cancer risk for non-smoking waiters) and debunking epidemiological collages like the one about the famous 3,301 annual alleged deaths due to passive smoking in Germany.
Grieshaber knows the facts and he doesn’t hold back. He confronts the statisticians, and those who parrot them, with reality – surely an unforeseen and painful experience for many of them.
Secondly the author describes his personal experiences with anti-smokers: how they avoid discussions, hide data, slam doors in meetings, tried to give his research and his institution a bad name, and even tried to get the federal government to remove him from office.
“It is a macabre irony of history that the WHO and its disciples instigated international condemnation of the research results, brushing aside a law governing research trade associations such as the BGN, and boycotted the manufacturers and certification body of the most sophisticated ventilation systems […] and thus forced the abandonment of their work in this area. The interdict used UN sanctions, as if the WHO’s fight against ventilation technology to protect nonsmokers was about preventing mass murderers and dictators from their bloody business.”
And finally the professor closely examines the overall development with detailed and extensive analysis and commentary: How the WHO has become the new inquisition, how counterproductive patronising public health approaches can be, and what’s to be thought of all those boastfully-announced heart attack miracles of the world, and so forth. He covers the damage to the hospitality sector due to total smoking bans (in Ireland and Bavaria, e.g.) and also questions some approaches toward active smoking (for example, the “black lung” myth). Hence Grieshaber doesn’t regard the smoker as somebody who “shouldn’t actually be there any more” as the WHO’s loyalists do.
“In which law of nature is it supposed to be enshrined – that it is impossible to reduce the health risks for smokers who do not want to give up their vice? Risk reduction becomes impossible only according to the dogma that smokers must be encouraged in all circumstances to quit smoking. The underlying idea in this is a quasi-religious notion of sin and of salvation based on repentance which has no place in science at all.”
“Unfortunately, many smokers do not want to be freed, but in a constitutional state the intervention in the behaviour of a person who harms only himself is limited. But the situation is different if smoking also harms bystanders […]
“It would be very inconvenient for the WHO, should it turn out that their warnings about the health risks of secondhand smoke were based on gross exaggerations. And so one may guess the means and resources they use to fight dissident opinion and critical inquiry. I got to know them all: Deception, concealment, falsification, control of the professional media (and thus of professional interactions), as well as intimidation which goes so far that I’ve ceased to wonder why in the professional world hardly anyone dares to object when it comes to the subject of passive smoke.”
But the non-smoking professor certainly didn’t set out specially to himself champion smokers – he primarily wants to pull the emergency brake on a runaway train before further delusional developments result in completely losing touch with political and scientific realities, and doing more harm than good.
“When it comes to tobacco smoke, over the course of time a universe emerged, existing only on paper and in the minds of many devout disciples, which, after being constantly supplemented with more and more alleged, hair-raising dangers, now more or less resembles a painting by Hieronymus Bosch. This development, as such, is pathological, and the chances of ensuring better health in the world in this way are are low to nonexistent. Probably even the opposite is true: The real risk factors, especially for non-smokers, as a result of a greatly exaggerated role of passive smoke, are neglected and therefore continue to act unhindered.”
But it’s not over yet. There’s still everything to play for. And Grieshaber doesn’t believe that the misguided development will go on forever:
Grieshaber looks to the future
“At the end the global ‘war on tobacco’ of the WHO will fail – the question is not whether, but only when. It will be doomed to failure not only because of their drift into bottomless pseudo-science, but also because of their self-righteous claim to absoluteness. The optimisation of naturally deficient human being to a target of hundred percent has never yet worked in the entire history of human civilisation, other than in the imagination of the initiators of the recent programme for the improvement of mankind. Even with the strictest control and suppression and extermination measures, it has never been possible to completely eradicate ideas and people that supposedly threaten man’s spiritual welfare, or the progress of humanity, or the realization of socialism, or – in today’s case – global ‘health’. It will not be successful this time either.
But history also tells us, how tremendous damage may be done by those ‘improvers of mankind’, if the right moment for objection is missed. That right moment is right now and I have entered my objection. It’s my wish for you, for me, and for our society that it will be heard and understood and will provide impetus to start a new course: to a science that is fallible, and willing to learn, and able to abandon old certainities when new knowledge is found.”
This book is well worth reading. It’s been published by PubliKom Z – so far, however, in German only – and costs 19.95 Euro. It can be ordered online (but apparently at present only inside Germany??) – plus 3.80 Euro forwarding costs – here: www.grieshabers-passivrauchen.de
P.S. See also Grieshaber interview in comments below.