Can Denormalisation Ever Succeed?

I’m still puzzling over the two antismokers in Tobacco Control who’ve swum into my view over the past few days: Marewa Glover and Ronald Bayer.

Glover:

“In tobacco control over 35 years, we have exaggerated the effects deliberately to scare people off smoking,” she told the Health Select Committee on Wednesday.

Bayer:

…the case for interventions depends on weak evidence and involves degrees of dissimulation.

They’re both saying the same thing. Tobacco Control has “exaggerated” the effects of smoking, and engaged in “dissimulation”.

dissimulation meaning: concealment of one’s thoughts, feelings, or character; pretence. “an attempt at dissimulation”
synonyms: pretence, dissembling, misrepresentation, deceit, dishonesty, duplicity, lying, guile, subterfuge, feigning, falsification, shamming, faking, bluff, bluffing, counterfeiting, posturing, hypocrisy, double-dealing; 

So essentially they’re both saying that Tobacco Control has been telling lies.

And these are both antismokers from inside Tobacco Control.

This rather suggests that there are divisions opening up within Tobacco Control.

Beyond their shared belief that Tobacco Control has engaged in deception, Glover and Bayer seem to part company. Glover empathizes with smokers (a little), and points to unnecessarily draconian antismoking measures:

“(We) are now taking these extreme, punitive measures, when the evidence does not support the need for it.”

Bayer, by contrast, is concerned that the result of telling lies will be a loss of public trust, and thinks that Tobacco Control should come clean about its wish to denormalise smoking:

“Advancing claims that mask the underlying public health goal of denormalization is a perilous strategy. Public health must, in the end, rely on public trust.”

Clearly Bayer thinks that the aim of denormalising smoking is a perfectly laudable goal. But it would appear that others do not:

“…advocates have sought to avoid the charge that outdoor smoking bans represent yet another case of overreaching by the “nanny state,” of unjustified paternalism that lacks any respect for adults’ fundamental autonomy.”

That is to say that while some of the bullying bastards in Tobacco Control do not want to be thought of as bullying bastards, Ronald Bayer himself is perfectly happy to be regarded as one. He doesn’t want to avoid being charged with nanny state overreach, unjustified paternalism, and contempt for adult autonomy. And that’s probably because he thinks that nanny state paternalism is perfectly justified, and smoking is something that must be quite simply completely stamped out. Bayer:

In 1939 Norbert Elias published The Civilizing Process , a history of manners in which he sought to explain how acceptable behavior becomes revolting. Drawing on Elias’s classic study, in 1993 Robert Kagan and Jerome Skolnick noted that “smoking has not yet, like blowing one’s nose in one’s hand, or spitting, or eating with the fingers, been stigmatized as ‘disgusting.’”

…In this article we examine contemporary efforts to extend smoking bans to beaches and parks, seeing in them policy initiatives designed to denormalize smoking and having as their ultimate goal a profound transformation in public norms and behavior.

Has eating with the fingers really become stigmatized as ‘disgusting’? Whenever I eat a sandwich, I hold it with my fingers. Same when I eat a piece of chocolate or cake. I’ve never seen anyone eat these things using knives and forks.

And spitting in Muslim countries is mandatory,  I believe, during those periods when Muslims are forbidden to swallow anything, including their own saliva.

Undoubtedly customs and norms change over time, but do they change as a result of deliberate public campaigns to change behaviour, or as a result of an unguided gradual evolutionary process involving the interaction of large numbers of people?

To frame the question in a different way: do Americans speak English with a characteristic twang in their voice as a result of a deliberate public campaign to change (or fix) their accent, or was this accent the result of a natural evolutionary process? Or – same question – do Liverpudlians speak in a characteristic scouse accent because there was once a deliberate public campaign to get them to talk that way, or was it something that happened of its own natural accord? I suspect that the answer in both cases is that it just happened that way, entirely unplanned. In which case why does Bayer believe that a deliberate public campaign to denormalise smoking is ever likely to be successful?

After all, was there ever a deliberate public campaign to stop people eating with their fingers? Was it once made illegal to eat with your fingers? Were there No Eating With Fingers signs everywhere? The answer, I suspect, is that there was never any such campaign, but instead some people stopped eating with their fingers, and other people gradually began to emulate them, in the same way that people emulate the way that other people dress and speak. And if there had been a public campaign, complete with bans and fines, to get people to stop eating with their fingers, would it have been successful? Could it have been successful? I suspect it would not have been successful, and could not have been successful, because this isn’t how social norms and customs arise. Social norms are not things which can be imposed upon people, because if they are imposed by force they can never be norms to which people will naturally adhere (school rules being a good example of rules imposed by force).

Tobacco Control’s attempt to denormalise smoking can never succeed. If anything it will result in the renormalisation of smoking, and the destruction of Tobacco Control

About Frank Davis

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9 Responses to Can Denormalisation Ever Succeed?

  1. Rose says:

    Don’t forget Dr. Siegel on whose blog we cut our teeth.

    But his greatest concern seemed to be “the movement” telling so many lies that they lost all credibility with the public, not that the original science his work was based on might have been flawed..

    Where there’s smoke, there’s hot air
    2007

    “Siegel, a respected if now despised scientist in his field, has been pummeling the anti-tobacco movement on secondhand smoke for several years in his blog, tobaccoanalysis.blogspot.com. A spokesman for Tobacco-Free Kids declined to discuss Siegel.

    “I view him as a tragic figure – he has completely lost it,” says the tobacco researcher Stanton Glantz University of California. “His view is that everybody in the tobacco control movement is corrupt and misguided except for him. You have to be careful what you say to preserve credibility in academic circles, and he is not doing that.”

    Is the tobacco control movement misrepresenting the acute cardiovascular health effects of secondhand smoke exposure? An analysis of the scientific evidence and commentary on the implications for tobacco control and public health practice
    M.Siegel
    2007

    “The dissemination of inaccurate information by anti-smoking groups to the public in support of smoking bans is unfortunate because it may harm the tobacco control movement by undermining its credibility, reputation, and effectiveness.”
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2100052/

    12 years on it doesn’t seem to have got any better for him, either.

    11 Million Lies: The Tobacco Control Movement is Committing Public Health Malpractice by Misrepresenting the Health Effects of Vaping
    March 17, 2019

    “My colleagues and I in the tobacco control movement have based our entire careers on the principle that it is wrong to lie to the public. The bulk of our campaign against Big Tobacco was based on the contention that the cigarette companies lied to the public about the health risks of smoking. Numerous lawsuits were filed against Big Tobacco, seeking damages based on the claim that the companies are responsible because they misrepresented the health effects of their products, thus preventing smokers from making an informed choice. The name of the major youth anti-tobacco campaign is called “Truth.” Clearly, honesty is the central value that has been at the core of the tobacco control movement for decades.

    In the last few years, however, I believe that our movement has largely abandoned truth as a central value in our campaigns against vaping. Driven by an almost puritanical inability to accept the fact that a person could obtain pleasure from nicotine without it killing them, we have made the demonization of vaping the solitary goal of the movement, at the direct expense of what I always believed was our primary goal: to make smoking history.”
    http://tobaccoanalysis.blogspot.com/2019/03/11-million-lies-tobacco-control.html#disqus_thread

    • Frank Davis says:

      I enabled your NYT link.

      Driven by an almost puritanical inability to accept the fact that a person could obtain pleasure from nicotine without it killing them, we have made the demonization of vaping the solitary goal of the movement, at the direct expense of what I always believed was our primary goal: to make smoking history.

      Shouldn’t that read:

      Driven by an almost puritanical inability to accept the fact that a person could obtain pleasure from nicotine without it killing them, we have made the demonization of vaping the solitary goal of the movement, at the direct expense of what I always believed was our primary goal: the demonization of smoking. .

      Also Siegel says:

      “My colleagues and I in the tobacco control movement have based our entire careers on the principle that it is wrong to lie to the public.

      The way I see it is that Tobacco Control has always lied about everything, all the time. So much so that they even lied to themselves about the lies they were telling, and so came to believe their own lies. It goes all the way back to Doll and Hill, and all the rest of them.

      • Rose says:

        It goes all the way back to Doll and Hill, and all the rest of them

        “Dr. Wilhelm Carl Hueper, MD was an early pioneer in the field of occupational medicine, and was the first director of the Environmental Cancer Section of the National Cancer Institute, holding that post from 1938 to 1964.”

        Testimony of Dr. W C. Hueper 1957 page 90

        “They manipulated the evidence. Anyone who introduces a corrective factor in his calculations to make the evidence fit a preconceived idea, I do not feel that this is valid scientific evidence.

        “Do you feel, in view of what you said, that the application of a corrective factor means a predetermined manipulation in this case?

        A.In this case I could not say, no.

        Q I want to get clear on that.You asked me to read on. I will do that. This appears on Page 435 of your May, 1957 article and reads;

        “However, even this estimate is heavily biased by the arbitrary assumption that the benzpyrene content present allegedly in cigarette smoke was about 12 times as effective in eliciting cancers as benzpyrene demonstrated in atmospheric air.

        Only when such a “corrective” coefficient is applied was it possible to obtain proportional correlations between the total exposure to benzpyrene from both cigarette smoking and air pollutants and the relative incidence rates of lung cancer found in the industrialized metropolitan Liverpool area, an intermediary urban-rural region, and the rural area of North Wales”

        A That is right.

        Q That was your statement.

        A I would like to have that on the record too.

        Q All right. It is in Doctor”
        https://www.industrydocuments.ucsf.edu/docs/#id=lkdg0096

      • Smoking Lamp says:

        On Richard Doll’s conflicts of interest check out [Richard Doll. A surprising story of conflicts of interest]. (Abstract of article in French.)

        Abstract: Richard Doll is a very famous English physician epidemiologist. He is credited with discovering the link between smoking and lung cancer. His reputation was recently vitiated by two facts, ignorance of German studies prior to his work and the existence of major conflicts of interest with industry that led him to minimize the role of chemical products in carcinogenesis. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23167139

        • Rose says:

          But he did know.

          Sir Richard Doll
          2001
          “The issue of Zeitschuft für Krebsforschung in which Schairer and Schöniger’s paper appeared did not reach Britain during the war (although most other issues did) and it is still not held by many libraries and was not indexed in the cumulative medical index.

          It is understandable, therefore, that it was not mentioned at the conference held by the Medical Research Council in 1947 to discuss the reasons for the increase in mortality attributed to lung cancer (Hill, personal communication) and was not referred to when Hill and I published our first paper on the association between cigarette smoking and lung cancer,although we did refer to Müller’s paper that had been published in 1939”
          http://ije.oxfordjournals.org/content/30/1/30.full

          War of words
          Richard Doll
          1999

          “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.”
          https://www.newscientist.com/letter/mg16321956-100-war-of-words/

  2. EG says:

    I smoke but my smoking is not important. I miss the second hand smoke. I think there are way more people like me. Just a little hint.

  3. Smoking Lamp says:

    The ‘Tobacco Control Tactics’ website provides a collection of valuable data that disputes many tobacco control lies: https://www.tctactics.org/index.php?title=Main_Page

    Particularly germane to this discussion is their listing of 39 scientists skeptical of tobacco control propaganda (read manipulated data and lies): https://www.tctactics.org/index.php?title=Critical_Scientists

  4. beobrigitte says:

    Bayer:

    In 1939 Norbert Elias published The Civilizing Process , a history of manners in which he sought to explain how acceptable behavior becomes revolting. Drawing on Elias’s classic study, in 1993 Robert Kagan and Jerome Skolnick noted that “smoking has not yet, like blowing one’s nose in one’s hand, or spitting, or eating with the fingers, been stigmatized as ‘disgusting.’”
    I am not aware that people blew their nose IN their hands; In the outdoors they bent forward a little and used 2 fingers to drop their snot onto the ground.
    Once people noticed that handkerchiefs keep their fingers clean, this practice stopped on it’s own accord. There was no campaign for stigmatisation by “make-the-world’s-hands-snotfree” lobby groups.
    People spitting can still be seen outdoors (not exactly a nice view), but indoors people politely (and discreetly) use tissues if the need to spit arises.
    And spitting in Muslim countries is mandatory, I believe, during those periods when Muslims are forbidden to swallow anything, including their own saliva. Indeed.
    To my knowledge no-one is stigmatised, although in general European people find spitting unpleasant.
    Bayer quoting Kagan and Skolnick just shows his short-sightedness and obsession. Back in the early 70s I spent a lot of time with my Indonesian colleagues. One of them was a Raden and when she invited us all for her end of Ramadan fest that her servants cooked, I asked her to teach me the etiquette of eating with my fingers. Back then this was something totally new. Nowadays it isn’t.
    Again, the European people decided at some point no longer to eat with their hands. No, for the tax-payer expensive, lobby groups played a role.

    Smoking does not fit into this whole thing and people are being forced to stigmatise smokers.

    Tobacco Control’s attempt to denormalise smoking can never succeed. If anything it will result in the renormalisation of smoking, and the destruction of Tobacco Control
    Indeed. Anything that people do not decide by themselves is doomed to fail. Remember the prohibition years?

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