The Nazi Origins of Tobacco Control

I’ve been thinking this morning that the UK smoking ban of 1 July 2007 was the culmination of a very long slow process, and not any sort of new and surprising revolution. For the war on smoking has been going on for a very long time. It has in fact been going on for my entire life.

For I was recollecting that, when they began living in Brazil in about 1957, when I was only 8 or 9 years old, my parents regularly bought copies of Reader’s Digest and Time magazine and the Brazil Herald. The last was an English language weekly newspaper, but the first two were US publications. And I used to occasionally read them, when I wasn’t reading Superman and Batman comics and Mad magazine (also US publications).

And Reader’s Digest would regularly carry articles about the dangers of smoking, usually written by doctors. They were mostly rather matter-of-fact, and hardly scare-mongering but they always strongly advised smokers to at least “cut down” on their smoking, if maybe not yet completely quit. By the time that I left Brazil for the last time in 1965, these articles were appearing in nearly every issue, and becoming steadily more insistent. I asked my father, who smoked a brand called Continental, about the warnings that were appearing in newspapers and magazines with increasing frequency, and he became rather defensive about it, saying that he was “trying to cut down”.

Back then in Brazil in 1957, we had no TV, although I think we had a radio, so almost all news was reaching us through the printed press (this was true of Britain as well). TV only arrived a few years before 1965, and I used to watch Brazilian football matches, which mostly consisted of the players standing around on the pitch idly kicking the ball between themselves (unlike English football, which entailed non-stop running for 90 minutes).

In retrospect, I can see that smokers were already in headlong retreat by about 1960, and were in retreat before an army of doctors who were penning weekly or monthly articles in newspapers and magazines advising smokers to cut down if not quit smoking. And I don’t remember reading any counter-articles in favour of smoking written by smokers or tobacco company executives. It was all relentlessly one-sided. Nobody seemed to have an answer to the army of doctors.

Is it very surprising if, after 50 years of this slow, insistent, one-sided, and increasingly shrill media campaign, the UK ( and many other countries) introduced a public smoking ban in 2007? The first UK smoking ban that I can remember was on public transport, circa 1970, and even then there were smoking carriages on trains, although these dwindled in number, and finally completely vanished. And in 1990, when I flew to Egypt, it was still possible to smoke on the plane, and inside the hotels in Egypt.

The truth of the matter is that smokers were already a defeated rabble by 1960, slowly retreating before the advancing army of doctors. In retrospect it’s surprising that antismokers weren’t more numerous back then (there were none), and that the bans didn’t come quicker.

And it would seem that this comprehensive defeat was inflicted on smokers in 1950, with the almost simultaneous publication of the UK Doll and Hill London Hospitals Study and  by the parallel but smaller US Wynder and Graham smoking study, and another smaller US study as well. It was triple whammy, and was widely debated in UK (and no doubt US) newspapers in the early 1950s. And it was around this time that the belief that Smoking Causes Lung Cancer became, almost overnight, an unquestionable fact of life.

Back then there actually was a spirited public debate. And it seems to have been one that pitched the medical profession against various others. On one side there were the massed ranks of the medical profession, and on the other side there were a few sceptical scientists and statisticians, most notable Sir Ronald Fisher, who was the most eminent statistician of the day.

The medical profession won the debate that took place in the early 1950s. But how did they manage to do it? How did Doll and Hill, neither of whom were statisticians, manage to defeat the likes of Sir Ronald Fisher (who retreated to Australia and died there a decade later)? The whole episode looks very like the global warming scare that took place 50 years later, and saw climate scientists battling other scientists – usually retired physicists like Richard Lindzen -, and winning the public debate once again, so that now everybody knows that Carbon Dioxide Causes Global Warming just as surely as they learned that Smoking Causes Lung Cancer half a century beforehand.

One possible answer is that the medical profession was not converted to the belief that Smoking Causes Lung Cancer in 1950 by the 3 papers that appeared that year. They had actually been converted 20 or 30 years earlier, by the work of Nazi era German scientists like Fritz Lickint and Franz Mueller. For medical science, like all science, is global in character, and developments in medical science are rapidly disseminated around the world. So of course British and American medical researchers would have been aware of the Nazi era research. But in the post-war era, the Nazi origins of much of this research was something of an embarrassment, and so the Nazi research had to be duplicated by Doll and Hill, and Wynder and Graham and others, before it could be published. It needed to be laundered to conceal its origins, because if Britons and Americans had been presented with raw Nazi research, they might not have so readily accepted it.

And also the Nazi research did not employ any statistics. And so there was no need to counter the sophisticated statistical arguments of the likes of Sir Ronald Fisher.

Robert Proctor, in the Nazi War on Cancer, compared Nazi tobacco science to Nazi rocket science. But Nazi rocket science was not part of Nazi ideology. Rocket scientists like Wernher von Braun were not avid Nazis, and did much of their work despite the Nazis than because of them. In fact Nazi tobacco science was as ideological in character as Nazi racial science: tobacco was as great a danger to public health as Jews and Gypsies. And also Nazi tobacco science received personal funding from Hitler for the Institute for Tobacco Hazards in Jena.

Nazi racial science has vanished completely (I can’t find any online), and the Nazi era in Germany ended 75 years ago, but Nazi tobacco science has flourished and prospered over the past 75 years, and is perhaps the sole remaining remnant of Nazi ideology in the world. Tobacco Control is essentially a Nazi construct, minus only the swastikas. And it must be destroyed just like the Nazi state and Nazi racial science.

About Frank Davis

smoker
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14 Responses to The Nazi Origins of Tobacco Control

  1. Elizabeth says:

    Nice post Frank. I think the two issues are different in the persecution of smokers. The one issue is that smoking causes cancer, emphysema etc. I have accepted that it is true. That idea gets weaker when I consider the fact that if 20% of smokers get cancer/emphysema etc from smoking, why don’t the other 80% get those things. They must be genetically protected? I don’t actually know what the statistics are. That is the Doll/Nazi study – smoking “causes”cancer.

    But, the unsubstantiated smoker persecution mechanism that was brought in with malice aforethought by Tobacco Control is that Second Hand Smoke causes cancer in others. THAT was done on purpose to make other people frightened of tobacco smoke. And they are.

    So, on the first idea – that smoking causes cancer – I think smokers have no defence. It’s Russian Roulette if you smoke. But on the second idea – that SHS causes cancer in others – there needs to be a challenge. I don’t know of studies that conclusively prove SHS is dangerous and does that. It’s taken as gospel. Nowadays you are not allowed to experiment on people, and we know dogs do not get cancer from smoking……

    I think there are cancer/smoke inhalation studies from third world countries where families have fires in their huts/houses/hovels day in and day out. That doesn’t prove SHS cigarette smoke causes cancer in the West. I’m sure Rose has got her finger on all sorts of fascinating information.

    I love the discussion your posts generate!

    • Fredrik Eich says:

      Elizabeth,
      If you look at countries where millions of people have given up smoking over many decades and compare them to countries where smoking prevalence remains high to this day then you find no effect from people stopping smoking. See chart here

      https://stats.stackexchange.com/questions/350494/how-much-lung-cancer-is-really-caused-by-smoking

      As there is no cause and effect at play (this is many billions of subject years of data) then any difference between smokers and never smokers must be caused by detection bias.

      15% of lung cancer occurs in never smokers and they currently make up 52% of the population.This means plausibly not more than 7 out of ten lung cancers could be caused by smoking (via some unknown mechanism).

      https://www.cancerresearchuk.org/about-cancer/causes-of-cancer/smoking-and-cancer/how-smoking-causes-cancer

      This represents about a three fold risk for smokers. But we know from autopsy reports designed to check the accuracy of lung cancer diagnoses the bulk of this three fold risk is explained by detection bias. This detection bias occurs because health professionals allow a patients smoking status, and especially how much people smoke to influence their decisions. The perception among health professionals that smoking causes lung cancer is has to be what causes the difference and probably always has done IMO.

      • Philip Neal says:

        Very true. Rates of lung cancer and rates of smoking both rose during most of the twentieth century and are now falling. Equally, the ratio of lung cancer in smokers compared with never-smokers is impressively large, though the correlation is not as strong as it once was.

        But detailed examination of the fluctuating speed with which these factors rose and fell in different groups of people (male and female in different countries) shows so little correlation that other explanations of the link need reexamination.

      • 15% of lung cancer occurs in never smokers and they currently make up 52% of the population.

        They certainly do, but looking at it from a more historical perspective, considering the high prevalence of smoking up to the 50s and 60s, never-smokers nowadays only comprise about 20% of the over-60s group – the ones more at risk for LC *, other cancers, and heart problems -, which means that if a modicum of logic was inbuilt into the antismoking narrative, the proportion of never-smokers affected by ‘smoking-related’ diseases should be vastly lower than just 15%.

        * some figures of LC deaths according to:
        http://www-dep.iarc.fr/WHOdb/WHOdb.htm
        2013 – males, over 60 (UK): 17,472 (out of 19,511) = 89.6%
        2013 – females, over 60 (UK): 14,337, overall, 16,011 = 89.5%

        Note that 14,337 is only 18% lower than 17,472! I thought that women were 50% less likely to smoke than men back in the day, and even had extra immunity (lower relative risk from smoking ‘harm’). As usual, this discrepancy is just water off the duck’s back for the TC juggernaut.

    • margo says:

      Cancer is like Russian Roulette whether you smoke or not, Elizabeth.

  2. slugbop007 says:

    November 19, 2018

    Two items that I recently read. In a sense, the first one contradicts that the absolute certainty of the second one. Unfortunately this study was not a best seller like the second one:

    Fertilizers infect plants and promote cell death: Introduction In their natural environment, plants are exposed to many different biotic and abiotic stresses. Among various stressors, heavy metals, especially lead (Pb), are major environmental pollutants, particularly in areas with high anthropogenic pressure (Gill, 2014) and its accumulation has adverse effects on plant growth and crop productivity. Pb is phytotoxic and found in dust, fumes, mists, vapors and in soil as minerals (PbCO, PbS, PbSO4) (Nicholls and Mal, 2003). Although the level of heavy metals in agricultural soil is normally very low, the repeated use of phosphate fertilizers over long periods may cause dangerously high concentrations of some of these toxins (Gill, 2014). Pb is taken up via roots along with water, or it can be absorbed from the air via shoots and foliage (Fahr et al., 2013). Unfortunately, plant roots are not selective and absorb Pb with other minerals where accumulates. In a number of species, high Pb levels cause abnormal plant morphology, reduced plant growth and finally it induces cell death (Pourrut et al., 2012). Toxic Pb concentrations inhibit the activity of key enzymes, e.g., acid phosphatase, esterases, peroxidases, malic dehydrogenase, by reacting with their sulfhydryl groups. Moreover, Pb contributes to water imbalance, alterations in cell membrane permeability and it limits mineral nutrition. Pb excess also induces oxidative stress in tissues by increased reactive oxygen species (ROS) generation. Simultaneously, Pb provokes DNA damage, gene mutations, protein oxidation, lipid peroxidation and finally it promotes signal transduction cascades that promote cell death (Wierzbicka, 1999; Gill, 2014).

    • Rose says:

      Ok, Slugbop, you got me beat, where did your quote come from?

      It’s so very like this one –
      Melatonin restricts Pb-induced PCD by enhancing BI-1 expression in tobacco suspension cells
      2016
      https://link.springer.com/content/pdf/10.1007/s10534-016-9977-6.pdf

      Yours
      “Unfortunately, plant roots are not selective and absorb Pb with other minerals where accumulates. In a number of species, high Pb levels cause abnormal plant morphology, reduced plant growth and finally it induces cell death (Pourrut et al., 2012).”

      The Melatonin study
      “Unfortunately, plant roots absorb lead with other minerals and then accumulate it in tissues. In several species, a higher lead level causes plant abnormal morphology, reduces plant growth and finally induces cell death (Pourrut et al.
      2012)”

      The Melatonin study

      “Environment degradation caused by rapid industrial
      expansion e.g. mining, power generation, transport
      and intensive agriculture using a lot of chemicals, has
      become a major threat to the sustenance and welfare of
      mankind. Heavy metals, among them highly phyto-
      toxic lead (Pb), are major environmental contamina-
      tions (Nicholls and Mal 2003).

      Lead is present in the atmosphere as dust, fumes,
      mists, vapors and in soil as minerals (PbCO, PbS,
      PbSO4), so its uptake and accumulation in plants occur
      either directly, via roots along with water, or it could
      be absorbed from air via shoots and foliage (Fahr et al.
      2013).”

      Yours
      “Fertilizers infect plants and promote cell death: Introduction In their natural environment, plants are exposed to many different biotic and abiotic stresses. Among various stressors, heavy metals, especially lead (Pb), are major environmental pollutants, particularly in areas with high anthropogenic pressure (Gill, 2014) and its accumulation has adverse effects on plant growth and crop productivity.

      Pb is phytotoxic and found in dust, fumes, mists, vapors and in soil as minerals (PbCO, PbS, PbSO4) (Nicholls and Mal, 2003). Although the level of heavy metals in agricultural soil is normally very low, the repeated use of phosphate fertilizers over long periods may cause dangerously high concentrations of some of these toxins (Gill, 2014). Pb is taken up via roots along with water, or it can be absorbed from the air via shoots and foliage (Fahr et al., 2013).”

      I am getting terrible deja vu, what is your study about?

      • Rose says:

        The reason I ask, is that I did a fair bit of research about lead in phospate fertilizer when TC started going on about polonium after the Russian spy was murdered.

        Tobacco firms kept quiet on polonium role in cigarettes
        24 August 2008
        “Philip Morris and others failed to publish internal studies into lethal substance”
        https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/health-news/tobacco-firms-kept-quiet-on-polonium-role-in-cigarettes-907194.html

        Polonium-210 has a
        half-life of 138 days, and it decays to stable lead-206 by emitting an alpha
        particle.

        “Because it is produced during the decay of naturally ubiquitous uranium-238, polonium-210 is widely distributed in small amounts in the earth’s crust”

        ” Polonium-210 is also emitted to the atmosphere during the calcining of phosphate rock as part of the production of elemental phosphorous. Although direct root uptake by plants is generally small, polonium-210 can be deposited on broad-leaved vegetables.”
        http: //www.ead.anl.gov/pub/doc/polonium.pdf
        no longer works

        And Lead in petrol

        Firms ‘knew of leaded petrol dangers in 20s’

        “Three of the world’s largest companies were accused this week of deliberately introducing lead into petrol in the 1920s knowing it would poison millions of people and manipulating the science for more than 50 years to avoid censure and loss of lucrative sales.
        Car magazine carried out a two year investigation into the history of tera-ethyl lead additive in petrol and compared the conduct of General Motors, duPont and Standard Oil (now ExxonMobil) to that of the tobacco companies which hid the effects of nicotine.”

        “The issue of lead in petrol arose in the 1920s because petrol on its own did not allow high performance and engines “knocked”, or vibrated. Alcohol, easily made and used but frowned on in prohibition America, did the trick and so did the lead compound. The advantage of tera-ethyl lead was that it could be patented and royalties charged.

        Yandell Anderson, professor of applied physiology at Yale and inventor of the gas mask, was among those who warned about lead poisoning in 1924.
        Documentation unearthed by Car shows that the three companies colluded with the then US surgeon general Hugh Cumming to avoid the product being killed off by health fears.

        It was not until 1965 that Clair Patterson, a geochemist, proved that lead in human bodies had increased 100 times since the introduction of lead in petrol. The US environment protection agency finally moved in 1976 to abolish lead in petrol.

        Since the US began to phase out lead, the average American’s level of lead in blood has declined by nearly 80%”
        https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2000/jul/13/uknews

        Science: Tetraethyl Lead
        Monday, Nov. 10, 1924

        “The Standard Oil Co. of New Jersey has a plant at Bayway, N. J. There last week a man suddenly became raving mad. He was taken to a hospital in Manhattan where he soon died. Others became affected. Within a few days, five men, all raving mad and confined in straight-jackets, died. In all there were 45 men—three shifts of 15 each—working together on the same job. All were placed under medical observation and care. Only ten of them were unaffected. The others all showed symptoms of the disease: headaches, nervousness, insomnia, lowered blood pressure. Such was the toll of the first major onslaught of the newest “occupational disease.” For some time experiments have been going forward in an effort to improve gasoline as an automobile fuel.”

        “The Standard Oil Co. temporarily closed its plant at Bayway. Meanwhile, thoroughly frightened, health authorities in parts of New Jersey and New York forbade the sale of Ethyl Gasoline, and in some other places sale was voluntarily stopped until it could be publicly demonstrated that Ethyl Gasoline is itself harmless”
        http: //www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,728055,00.html

        • Fredrik Eich says:

          Rose,
          It is worth noting that during the atomic weapons testing period the amount of radiation
          inhaled from cigarettes was insignificant compared to the amount breathed from the atmosphere. Whether that is still true today I have never been able to find out.

        • Rose says:

          There should be less in the atmosphere today, leaded petrol was finally banned in December 1999.

          Car fumes `emit radioactivity’
          1995

          “Raised levels of radiation caused by a chemical in car exhaust fumes have been found in the teeth of children who live near motorways.
          The levels are low and come from polonium-210 – which is also emitted from power station chimneys, volcanoes and the ground. Dr Denis Henshaw, of the HH Wills physics laboratory at Bristol University, an expert on radon in the environment, found significantly raised levels of polonium up to 10km from motorways.

          He says in the Lancet that as a result of the findings radioactivity should be added to the list of potential cancer-causing agents in vehicle exhaust.
          The researchers knew radiation in children’s teeth was higher in urban areas. They say the polonium-210 (210Po) in exhaust can come from leaded petrol or as a decay product of oil.”
          https://www.independent.co.uk/news/car-fumes-emit-radioactivity-1571240.html

          Why did we use leaded petrol for so long?

          “Ethyl alcohol had much the same effect and wouldn’t mess with your head, unless you drank it. Midgley knew this, having combined petrol with practically every imaginable substance, from iodine to camphor to melted butter.

          Why did the petrol companies push tetraethyl lead instead of ethyl alcohol? Researchers who have studied the decision remain puzzled. Cynics might point out that any old farmer could distil ethyl alcohol from grain. It couldn’t be patented, or its distribution profitably controlled. Tetraethyl lead could.”
          https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-40593353

  3. Rose says:

    The truth of the matter is that smokers were already a defeated rabble by 1960, slowly retreating before the advancing army of doctors

    That was the problem for the true believers of 1971, they weren’t.

    Second World Conference on Smoking and Health
    1971 September 20

    “There was a feeling on the part of many participants that fear had failed as an instrument of persuasion, that apathy among the public had developed with respect to claims concerning smoking and health and that, in many instances, the matter had been cast in terms of morals rather than health.”
    https://www.industrydocumentslibrary.ucsf.edu/docs/#id=jzfb0040

  4. Philip Neal says:

    Proctor’s book is called The Nazi War on Cancer, but a close reading indicates that Lickint was a Nazi sympathiser but not a party member, that Shoniger was a Nazi of opportunism (joined the party in 1937) and that very little is known of Muller and Schairer. Their work was promoted by the ideologues Karl Astel and Leonardo Conti who were predisposed to believe it for other reasons. (Similarly with race: the likes of Hitler, Goebbels and “philosopher” Alfred Rosenberg did not understand Mendelian genetics, and those who did were unscrupulous careerists of the same sort as Wernher von Braun).

    As for Doll, a neglected figure in the story of his triumph is Horace Joules, the medical director of the Central Middlesex Hospital who gave Doll his start in epidemiology (they met through the Communist Party of Great Britain). A search on the Tobacco Archive shows that he crops up again and again in the early US scare stories about smoking in the Reader’s Digest and elsewhere, and it was he who kept up the pressure on the British government to issue an official report endorsing Doll’s findings.

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