Junk Science Primers

Excellent piece by Dick Puddlecote on junk science:

Does anyone remember secondhand smoke, aka passive smoking?.

For those with short memories, this was a ruse imagined in 1975 by Sir George Godber to promote a policy of “fostering the perception that secondhand smoke is unhealthy for nonsmokers”, after which the tobacco control industry set about creating the junk science to go with it. The first studies – by rabid professional anti-smoking cranks, natch – started to filter through at the start of the 1980s and eventually in 1993 and 2004 respectively, two politically-driven meta-analyses tortured cherry-picked tobacco control ‘science’ in the US and the UK in order to convince us all that secondhand smoke was dangerous. It mattered little that their conclusions amounted to a tiny and inconsequential relative risk (1.19 & 1.24) which would be dismissed as irrelevant in any other field of research, it was only required to manipulate politicians into passing illiberal and unnecessary bans.

Of course, the charlatans were just chasing headlines so by the time legislation was proposed – the only goal of the whole crusade – many people believed a wisp of smoke was as deadly as napalm…

And a great explanation of how to do junk science from Chris Snowdon:

This has been doing the rounds on Twitter and deservedly so. It’s an excellent demonstration of how quack science is conducted, published and reported.

John Bohannon got sixteen volunteers, a statistician and some chocolate with the hope of finding an association with something – anything – for an epidemiological study.

One group followed a low-carbohydrate diet. Another followed the same low-carb diet plus a daily 1.5 oz. bar of dark chocolate. And the rest, a control group, were instructed to make no changes to their current diet. They weighed themselves each morning for 21 days, and the study finished with a final round of questionnaires and blood tests.

It turned out that the chocolate-eating group lost ten per cent more weight than the other two groups….

I’m not going to re-blog them both. Go read them there.

About Frank Davis

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16 Responses to Junk Science Primers

  1. Joe L. says:

    Fantastic! Thanks for sharing this junk science exposé, Frank and Chris! This is excellent first-hand proof that these so-called “scientific journals” are really nothing but tabloids, looking to profit from shock value. So all it takes is 16 subjects (15 if you discount the one who dropped out) and 600 Euros (can’t forget that!), and — voila! — you have conducted “groundbreaking” scientific research. This needs to be spread all over the internet and hopefully (albeit doubtfully) go mainstream!

  2. Smoking Lamp says:

    The propaganda based on junk science never stops! Just today the Guardian repots that the “Smoking ban ‘reduced annual rate of child respiratory problems by 11,000’,” adding that “Researchers say introduction of UK’s smoke-free legislation in 2007 was followed by immediate 3.5% drop in admissions among under-15s, saving the health service £17m a year.”

    To achieve that research outcome they had to remove asthma from the calculations. As the Guardian report stated: “The new study on children also did not include admissions for asthma. The condition’s inclusion may have “contaminated” some adult studies, they suggested.”

    it appears results that don’t further the antismoking agenda are contamination.

    See the entire article at http://www.theguardian.com/society/2015/may/29/smoking-ban-children-reduce-rate-respiratory-problems

  3. waltc says:

    The point, for a long time now, hasn’t been The Science; the point is the propaganda itself. We no longer live in an empirical world; we live in a world of words. Among people who believe words more than they believe their own senses or experience, who live under the spell of gaudily-dressed emperors and parrot their flimsy words.. As Frank noted yesterday, the onslaught of propaganda that favors the EU will outdo itself in the viciousness of attacks on opponents who’ll be painted, in words, as xenophobic troglodytes. As global warming skeptics are painted as Deniers. The cynical sticks and stones that break spirits, if not bones.

    • petesquiz says:

      Absolutely right Walt. In all their guises they are selling only one thing…fear.

      This is the easiest thing to sell to people because most of us have been brought up in a ‘punishment’ regime – i.e. if you don’t do x, then you will be punished with y. The Old Testament is full of it and throughout the ages the powers that be have learned that fear is the best way to control the population.

      Then along came science with its fact based logic and all seemed well for a while, until the fear mongers learned to abuse the language of science for their own ends.

      Sadly, I don’t see an end to it, hopefully people wiser than me can counter this trend!

  4. Rose says:

    Smoking not only kills, it plunges children into POVERTY because parents ‘prioritise cigarettes over food’

    A simple assumption from anti-tobacco activists considering the price of legal cigarettes, but it would seem unlikely that parents would starve their children just to pay the government’s extortionate taxes.

    Black market cigarettes from Belarus flood Britain: £2bn lost in duty

    “Racketeers in Belarus have flooded Britain with an illegal Brand called Fest accounting for 40 per cent of illicit cigarettes in Britain.”

    • waltc says:

      Somewhere back in my paper files when I still kept them, there’s an item in the Washington Post to the same point –smokers skimp on their kids’ food — going back to the late 90s. Recent articles now claim that lo income smokers go on federal or state food stamps in order to keep smoking. I suppose the latter is meant to inflame the nonsmoking and ever-outraged Taxpayer, giving him yet another reason to hate and resent those parasitic addicts. No one, however, ever seems to think the answer to this man-made problem is to reduce the cig tax.

      • Rose says:

        No one, however, ever seems to think the answer to this man-made problem is to reduce the cig tax

        Strange, isn’t it? You would have thought with all these clever people someone would have spotted that.

        The British Heart Foundation tried something similar in 2013

        Fags over family? Smoker’s choice sparks hate from loved ones
        February 27, 2013

        “Nearly a third of smokers surveyed admit their children or family hates them smoking and a quarter enjoy smoking less nowadays because they feel more guilty about it.

        Proving loved ones can often come a poor second to cigarettes, almost one in five of smokers confessed they could buy more for their family if they were to quit smoking, according to figures we’ve released to mark the launch of the thirtieth annual No Smoking Day campaign.”

        “Our Associate Medical Director, Dr Mike Knapton, said: “These figures reveal the emotional burden smokers endure by feeling guilty about the impact their addiction has on family life and their finances.”

  5. Rose says:

    Yet another smoking ban miracle

    Far from falling, hospital admissions appear to have risen.

  6. Rose says:


    Seattle adds creepiness factor to its smoking ban

    “But reader T.F. alerted me to a part of the debate that showcases, again, a “creepiness to the new Seattle,” as he put it. Like me, T.F. doesn’t smoke but has lived here long enough to recall when we were more of a live-and-let-live kind of town. Not in a flamboyant way, of course. But in that staid Scandinavian sensibility of “You mind your business and I’ll mind mine.”

    “Now instead of that we have as official city policy something called “de-normalization.”

    “Why a smoking ban?” asks a Seattle Parks Department memo. “It is about de-normalizing tobacco use, especially for young people.”

    De-normalization, as one researcher described it, is the use of rules to put societal pressure on “those who fail to aspire to a specific preferred image of the future self.”

    With outdoor smoking, the argument is no longer that the smoke physically harms bystanders. It’s that seeing people smoke is corrupting. De-normalizing it means shunning smoking from public view.”

    I would have called it sinister rather than just creepy, Public Health seems to be going back to it’s Victorian roots.

    • Joe L. says:

      Thanks for the link, Rose. It’s very encouraging to see non-smokers beginning to feel threatened by the denormalization of smoking. Hopefully this is a sign of the times.

      I’m also intrigued by Audrey Silk’s commentary on that piece. How would the Tobacco Control goons react if we smokers all wore “Smoking is Normal” t-shirts on a daily basis? We can wear them in all the public places where we can’t smoke, like restaurants, pubs, parks, universities and even **gasp** elementary schools and day care centers! If the ban is truly about protecting innocent bystanders from the dangers of SHS, then there should be no problem whatsoever with the shirt. However, if the ban is actually about the denormalization of smoking (as we all know it is), what could anyone possibly do about it? Any attempt to prevent us from wearing these shirts in public would be an impingement of freedom of speech, and here in the U.S., nothing seems to stir up a bigger media firestorm than a violation of the First Amendment. This could prove to be an effective method to expose the social engineering endgame at hand to the masses, and if nothing else, it would really irk the hell out of these evil bastards who will have their slimy hands tied.

      • Rose says:

        Joe,I don’t think that many non smokers had come across the word “denormalise” before, to have the concept explained to them so clearly seems to have horrified them as it should.

        I was taken with this comment, I hadn’t thought about it that way before.

        “Imagine a future Seattle with squads of Denormalizers. They’d patrol the city like cops, but wouldn’t be meanies like cops are if you assault them. Instead, the Denormalizers would use a system of state-of-the-art monitors (cameras, parabolic microphones, drones, “bugs”, recording devices, etc.) to watch for any behavior requiring modification. A denormalizing van would quickly pull up to transgressors, throw a “safety net” over them if they fail to comply, and deposit them into a denormal chair.

        They’d be strapped in for their own safety and to prevent escape. Then the lecture(s) would begin. After completion, there’d be a test. It would be strictly pass/other. “Other” would indicate more lecture is necessary.

        Every government program starts out small, but grows better and better as times passes. This one small step could become the giant leap into a future we can all aspire to.”

        Scotland already have Denormalisers lecturing people in public, but at the moment it’s limited to smokers..

        “HOSPITALS are bringing in wardens, staff training sessions and blaring out loud tannoy messages to try to ensure all visitors abide by rules to keep their grounds smoke-free.

        One of the only health boards to introduce enforcers is NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, who will have smoke-free wardens patrolling hospital grounds as well as giving advice on quitting.”

  7. smokingscot says:


    I see they’re very keen to get a whacking great resort style casino operating in the Greek side of Cyprus (they’ve got stacks of small to medium ones in the Turkish controlled area and lots of people – who are not enormously patriotic – have been known to go over there and, to add insult to injury, aside from spending money (and never declaring their winnings to the tax man), even rub it in by staying overnight).

    Supposedly it’ll keep them in the government controlled part and hopefully attract pots of very wealthy people from the Middle East and Russia.

    Anyway it’s become terribly important they get some way to hike their revenue sources and when it comes to fiddly little things like the smoking ban putting off investors, well they simply deal with it thus:

    “The idea of banning smoking in the gaming areas suffered a similar veto, a decision that would have made Cyprus a no-go area for major casino operators.”


    Maybe they’re learning from those in Spain, who refused to amend their smoking ban and lost their mega resort:


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