If Air Traffic Control was like Tobacco Control

I came across this in Tobacco Control journal:

Recent comments posted on some personal blogs impugn the objectivity of Tobacco Control and its reviewers, questioning our motives and the veracity of peer review.

I wouldn’t be at all surprised if my blog is on that list. After, all I regularly call for the complete destruction of Tobacco Control. Although for me Tobacco Control doesn’t mean a journal, but an entire global consortium of antismoking organisations, active in every country in the world, staffed with pinch-faced  killjoys, fully deserving of the name of the Tobacco Control Industry, and producing nothing but new draft antismoking edicts and new antismoking propaganda campaigns.

eye_of_sauronI sometimes imagine that TC has an entire floor to itself in a 6,000 storey Control Tower located in Washington or Geneva or Karachi. Other floors will be occupied by Alcohol Control, Climate Control, Gun Control, and every other sort of Control you may imagine, including Chinese Restaurant Control, Custard Control, and Teddy Bear Control.

There would of course be an ever-vigilant, baleful Eye of Sauron at the top of the Control Tower, constantly sweeping the horizon like a radar scanner.

While other industries engage in starting new things happening, Tobacco Control and other Control organisations engage in stopping things happening. Whenever they encounter some new activity, they set out to regulate and control it, and ultimately to stifle and suppress it.

Given its name, Air Traffic Control might look like it also should have a floor in the Control Tower. But Air Traffic Control doesn’t actually set out to suppress air traffic, and stop people flying in planes. Air Traffic Control doesn’t demonise aircraft. It doesn’t work to ban aircraft from the skies, or obstruct airfields. Instead, the task of Air Traffic Control is to enable the maximum or optimal flow of aircraft landings and take-offs. Air Traffic Control is actually trying to help flyers to get to their desired destinations as safely and rapidly as possible. If Tobacco Control was modelled on Air Traffic Control, it would be ensuring that smokers got the very best tobacco, at the lowest prices, as quickly as possible. But in fact, the task of Tobacco Control is not to assist smokers in any way, but instead to hinder and obstruct them at every opportunity. If Air Traffic Control was modelled on Tobacco Control, it would be trying to “help” aviators to stop flying planes, and “help” tourists stop travelling round the world. And it would hold out a vision of completely “aircraft-free” skies.

Air Traffic Control is not anti-aircraft. It’s actually very pro-aircraft.

What would happen if Air Traffic Control was taken over by people who were anti-aircraft in the same way that Tobacco Control is anti-smoking? They would of course start pointing out all the many dangers of flying. They would portray air travel as a sort of terrible addiction, with “frequent flyers” as the worst sort of addicts. Anti-aircraft campaigners would complain loudly about their lives being blighted by the noise of aircraft continually taking off and landing at airports, birds being killed by aircraft propellers, the skies being obscured by vapour trails (or “chem-trails” as they would prefer to call them). Anti-aircraft doctors would point out health risks of flying – other than dying a horrible death in a blazing airliner – such as those that come from breathing re-circulated air. The Daily Mail has a handy guide to the risks:

Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT), the condition that killed the apparently otherwise healthy Emma Christoffersen, is one of the most common and disturbing medical problems associated with air travel.

Although DVT – where a blood clot forms in the veins of the legs and can work its way into the heart or lungs – is often seen in patients undergoing surgery, studies have shown that about 25pc of all people who develop it have been on a long-haul flight.


Air quality in aircraft is almost as serious an issue as seating arrangements. Here again, we see the negative influence of commercial pressures.

We all need a regular intake of fresh air, and in a plane, air is drawn in by the engine and channelled into the interior. But many airlines try to conserve fuel by recycling air several times.

The Daily Mail even has a Complete Guide to the health risks of flying:

Frequent flyers can be susceptible to a host of health problems, from cardiovascular disease and cancer, to vision and hearing problems, even mental disorders and cognitive decline.


The pressure in an airplane cabin at cruising altitude may make you feel like you are high in the mountains. There’s less oxygen available which puts an added load on a system trying to get the required amount of oxygen into the bloodstream.

And while our usual home environment has a humidity level of about 35 per cent, on a plane it’s below 25 per cent, which may also disturb breathing.


The occupational safety limit set by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) is 88 decibels for four hours and 85 decibels for eight hours, while noise on a plane usually ranges between 95 and 105 decibels, and engine noise during take-off is usually upward of 115 decibels.

Of course there would be “No Safe Level” of Cosmic Radiation:

On most international flights, you are exposed to a not entirely insignificant dose of radiation from cosmic rays, which are energetic particles from space.

The longer the flight and the higher and closer you fly to the North Pole, the greater the dose. On a round trip flight from Washington, DC, to Beijing, for example, you can easily exceed the dose you would get from a chest X-ray.

And that’s without even mentioning the jet lag, constipation, and bad breath.

If Air Traffic Control was like Tobacco Control, it would have plenty of health risks to highlight. And if Air Traffic Control adopted “plain packaging”, aircraft would have the airline names and logos obscured, and they would instead be covered in apocalyptic images of people slowly frying inside blazing aircraft, clawing frantically at the windows in a futile effort to escape.

Something a bit like this:


And, who knows, Air Traffic Control may actually become like Tobacco Control. What’s to stop it?

About Frank Davis

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11 Responses to If Air Traffic Control was like Tobacco Control

  1. Fredrik Eich says:


    I wouldn’t be at all surprised if my blog is on that list. After, all I regularly call for the complete destruction of Tobacco Control.

    Well the last time you were put on the naughty step (tobaccotactics) was back in 2012.
    I have seen no updates since then, a good five years, so either they have lost interest in you or are they a bit short of funds. Do you remember someone posted a comment on your blog that the number was up for ‘pro-smoking blogs’? Five years those blogs are still here!
    Or ,maybe, you have just lost your touch at winding them up!

  2. Rose says:

    If Tobacco Control took over the design of the planes as they did with light cigarettes then none of them would fly anyway.

  3. Vlad says:

    Again, smoking is seen as a sign of freedom:
    ##Later in the joyous clip, women are seen smoking cigarettes during the joyous celebration##
    Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4251918/Women-set-fire-veils-liberated-ISIS.html

    On a different note: in Romania for the past few years there have been a lot of street coffee vending machines and coffee branding on corner shops and suchlike – off the top of my head Doncafe, Lavazza, Dallmayr. Some people say that this type of coffee is poor quality, chemicals and so on, but in general there’s no negative opinion. As far as branding is concerned, I don’t think many notice or care about it.

    20-25 years ago there was a similar situation but with cigarettes instead of coffee..after the fall of communism, there was a hungry market for western, good quality cigs, and I remember plastic bags, umbrellas, outdoor light boxes and other materials with Marlboro, Kent and Camel.
    So the thought I had was this: how come no one says anything about coffee branding, but would probably comment on cigarette branding, if it was still legal? How do we ‘know’ that smoking is bad and coffee is neutral? How do we know it isn’t the other way around? And the answer I came up with: because of ‘experts’ and their ‘studies’. They convinced us, despite of what we can see with our own eyes, that smokers are unhealthy people, the ones who spit blood and are beset with coughing fits. And the ‘experts’ even put it on cigarette packs, in case smokers forget.

  4. Loved this post Frank! Extra clever.

  5. smokingscot says:

    Got me thinking to a conversation I had with an aircraft mechanic working for Air NZ. I was mighty hacked that the flight was non smoking (12.5 hrs non stop LA to Auckland), however he pointed out that Air NZ was one of the last to go non smoking (this conversation took place in the 90’s) because all their flights are medium to long haul – and the demand was there at the time.

    However he told me it suited airlines to adopt the n/s policy because they didn’t need to change the air filters as often. Seems that’s a pain in the butt job that’s expensive and takes time to do – always at home base. Essentially the filters last 3 times longer.

    This article seems fairly authoritative and covers that business of lack of humidity. It differs from the figures quoted in your text.

    “If passengers have one very legitimate gripe, it’s about dryness. Indeed, the typical cabin is exceptionally dry and dehydrating. At around 12 percent humidity, it is drier than you will find in most deserts.”


    Though I don’t give a darn what they say about the percentage of bits they filter out of the air. It ranges from about 94% to 99.9%, but what the author seems to overlook is there’s a flow, front to rear, so someone sitting several rows ahead of you with a foul case of the flu, well their sneeze can easily get to you.

    Trick is to always turn on your own little air vent – and if you suspect you’ve got a sick person ahead of you then turn up the wick!

    Despite all the warnings about deep vein, I am amazed at the number of fellow passengers who stay firmly rooted in their seat – even for long haul flights. Loosen your shoe laces, or better still, get shot of shoes altogether and get up and meander every 90 minutes or less. Oh and when you visit the can don’t towel off your face or hands, let them dry in the cabin air. It helps with dry skin. And drink pots of water – (oh and chortle at the f…wits that get drunk on the aircraft).

  6. Rose says:

    Frank, as we are on the subject of planes, please could you put this one in References?

    Two American Airlines flights grounded: Calls for public inquiry over killer ‘aerotoxic syndrome’ following midair incidents
    29 Jan 2016

    “A union representing cabin crew has demanded an immediate public inquiry into the rise in ‘aerotoxic syndrome’ as a result of contaminated air on board planes.
    The news comes after it was revealed two American Airlines jets were grounded in as many days after passengers and crew passed out on board.

    Clamour for action on ‘aerotoxic’ air travel grows, public inquiry must follow, says Unite

    Unite says it considers the flights, one to South Africa and one to the US, are further evidence that leaks from aircraft engines are finding their way into the cabins causing the crew to feel sick but may also be further impairing the crew’s health .

    Unite is pursuing the 60 cases of individuals who have symptoms consistent with the syndrome, and is fighting too on behalf of a deceased cabin crew member.”

    “The technology behind the circulation of air within aircraft has not moved on much at all since the 1950s meaning that fume events are happening with regularity.

    “Repeated exposure to these ‘events’ is what we believe leads to aerotoxic syndrome – so we say to the industry, sort this out because people are being put at risk.”

    The airlines had been worried about the effects of bleed-air from the engines since the 50’s

    “As the case developed, Boeing turned over 250,000 pages of documents dating to 1954 and 1955 that showed the company was aware of cabin air contamination and had sought detection and filtration systems to combat the problem. Others documented concern among executives that there could be health hazards related to exposure to toxic fumes when oil leaks into bleed-air systems.”

    But anti-tobacco had already claimed all those health hazards for secondhand smoke.


    “Congress ordered the rule in December after two decades of pressure from consumer and health groups and warnings by the Surgeon General of the United States and the National Academy of Sciences about the dangers of second-hand smoke in an enclosure like an airline cabin.”

    “Some air carriers didn’t wait for the law to take effect today. Pan Am began the ban Feb. 5. Northwest Airlines beat everyone when it made all its domestic flights nonsmoking in April, 1988.

    Some U.S. flights still are exempt from the rule. Airlines that fly between Chicago, Dallas, Minneapolis and Las Vegas and Honolulu could allow smoking on such flights, because they exceed six hours.

    American says it will permit smoking on its Dallas and Chicago flights to Honolulu. TWA will also allow smoking on its St. Louis-Hawaii runs. American, Pan Am and United are generally allowing smoking on flights to the Caribbean, Mexico and Canada; most of these flights last under six hours, but they are to foreign destinations.

    But there are some carriers that are even going beyond the new rule in extending the nonsmoking ban.

    Delta will not allow smoking on any of its flights in North America and the Caribbean. That effectively rules out smoking on all Delta flights to destinations in Hawaii, Alaska, Puerto Rico, the Bahamas, Bermuda, Canada and Mexico.

    Northwest won’t allow smokers to light up on its Minneapolis-to-Hawaii flights.

    Although it is not required to do so, Virgin Atlantic Airways, which flies between New York, Newark and Miami to London, announced that it will become the first airline to offer an all nonsmoking service on service between New York and London.”

    Oct 11, 1997

    “The flight attendants’ long-shot legal war against cigarette manufacturers ended Friday with a stunning battlefield surrender by Big Tobacco: An unprecedented $349 million settlement in the landmark secondhand smoke case.

    Individual flight attendants will receive no money in the deal. Instead, the tobacco industry agreed to funnel $300 million into a newly created medical research foundation.

    The rest of the money goes to the flight attendants’ lawyers, the Miami husband-and-wife team of Stanley and Susan Rosenblatt. Their payday Friday: $46 million in fees plus $3 million to offset costs.”

    “The industry made no admissions Friday and did not accept responsibility for any illnesses suffered by flight attendants.”

    Which was used to set up FAMRI

    Flight Attendant Medical Research Institute

    Which did not please the flight attendants who took part.

    Flight attendants voice anger over tobacco settlement – 1998

    “A $349 million settlement of a landmark secondhand smoke lawsuit will stand, despite controversy over paying $46 million to attorneys and nothing to the flight attendant plaintiffs, a judge said in an order released Friday.

    The class action lawsuit, in which some 60,000 nonsmoking flight attendants sued the tobacco industry for secondhand smoke injuries, was settled last October.

    The lawsuit alleged the cigarette makers knew the dangers to nonsmokers of cigarette smoke, and hid the health risks from flight attendants and other Americans. It was the first class-action lawsuit against the tobacco industry — and the first suit addressing secondhand smoke — to go to trial.

    Settlement paid for foundation, legal fees

    In the settlement, the tobacco industry agreed to pay $300 million to create a foundation to study the effects of cigarette smoke on flight attendants, and to pay the legal fees and expenses of the flight attendants’ attorneys.

    While the settlement was in the flight attendants’ favor, a small but growing number now feel the agreement was harmful because it left all 60,000 flight attendants out in the cold. ”

    No money went into plaintiffs’ pockets

    “But the settlement included nary a penny for any of the flight attendants who joined the lawsuit.

    “We want a fair share of what we’re entitled to,” said flight attendant Barbara Kaye, who added that she doesn’t care about funding for the foundation to study secondhand smoke’s effects. “I already know what the effects are. They don’t have to study it any further as far as I’m concerned.”

    The agreement does allow flight attendants the right to take their case to court against tobacco, even if that right would otherwise have expired under statutes of limitation.

    But some flight attendants say they don’t have the money to fight the industry individually. “That’s why we joined together for a class action suit,” said flight attendant Gail Ford. “It was the one way we could go to court and hopefully win, and that’s all been lost.”

    But apparently it still wasn’t enough.

    Tobacco Case Judgment Of $350 Million Was Too Small, Lawyers Say

    “MIAMI — Outside attorneys seeking to upset a $350 million trial settlement against Big Tobacco argued to an appeals court on Monday that flight attendants sold out their case too cheaply.
    The October 1997 deal came four months into the nation’s first trial of a class action complaint against the tobacco industry. The deal would fund a $300 million foundation that would seek to find early detection methods and cures for diseases flight attendants said they contracted through exposure to secondhand smoke.

    The flight attendants claimed in a lawsuit filed in 1991 that because tobacco companies conspired to cover up the dangers of secondhand smoke, they fell victim to everything from bronchitis to lung cancer.

    Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Robert Kaye called the settlement “an extraordinary accomplishment in an extraordinary case” in his order approving it. He also signed off on a $46 million fee and $3 million for costs to Stanley and Susan Rosenblatt, attorneys for the flight attendants.”

    After the smoke had cleared the flight attendants were still getting sick.

    Illness among cabin crew heightens toxic air fears – 2009

    “A survey of pilots and crew has found alarmingly high levels of illnesses they have contracted since beginning work for airlines.

    One in seven of the 789 British airline staff surveyed had to take more than a month’s sick leave in the previous year. One in 23 was diagnosed with cancer, even though the average age of those surveyed was around 40. According to Cancer Research, one in 34 Britons will contract cancer at some point, but for those under 44, the figure falls to one in 200.”

    “The reports, seen by Telegraph Travel, also reveal high levels of miscarriages, thyroid conditions, high blood pressure, cholesterol, pneumonia, bronchitis and IBS. Campaigners claim that the high levels of illness are the result of toxic engine fumes contaminating the air in cabins, and say this has implications for passenger safety and the health of frequent fliers.”

    Boeing suit settlement stirs jetliner air safety debate

    “SEATTLE — A former flight attendant is believed to be the first person in the U.S. to settle a lawsuit against the Boeing Co. over what she claims is faulty aircraft design that allowed toxic fumes to reach the cabin, triggering tremors, memory loss and severe headaches.”

    “As the case developed, Boeing turned over 250,000 pages of documents dating to 1954 and 1955 that showed the company was aware of cabin air contamination and had sought detection and filtration systems to combat the problem.

    Others documented concern among executives that there could be health hazards related to exposure to toxic fumes when oil leaks into bleed-air systems.

    “It’s bizarre that we’re talking about the 1950s, but that’s where our air data comes from with respect to the MD-80,” Brodkowitz said.

    “To this day, the only thing filtering this toxic soup out of the cabin are the lungs of the passengers and crew.”

  7. woodsy42 says:

    And the repainting of all the aircraft in sludge brown and applying all the slogans like ‘flying is bad for all the people around you’ etc would be quite expensive.

    • Joe L. says:

      Too expensive, you say? Well that would only mean they didn’t follow the Tobacco Control playbook closely enough. They just need to increase taxes on airline tickets. Fuck the consumer into paying for the warnings that they don’t want to see. Problem solved.

  8. Clicky says:

  9. Pingback: Tobacco Control: Losing Control. | Vaping Links And More

  10. Mark Jarratt, Canberra, Australia says:

    Excellent creative tobacco and air traffic control comparison. Here’s the latest smoker bullying, engaging in sham consultation to gain ‘legitimacy’ for outdoor smoking bans, although as usual the objective evidence of health risk doesn’t exist. Have your say!

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