Public Health

Anti-Smoking Lie of the Year

|

Tobacco policy blogger Michael Siegel picks 10 finalists for his Lie of the Year Award, which goes to "the anti-smoking group which disseminated the most egregious lie during 2010." Six of the finalists are statements regarding the health hazards of secondhand smoke. Americans for Nonsmokers' Rights, for example, claims "there are virtually no health disparities between active and passive smoking"; "the risks of heart disease associated with secondhand smoke…are virtually indistinguishable from those associated with active smoking"; and "just thirty minutes of exposure to secondhand smoke can cause heart damage similar to that of habitual smokers." The winner is the Office of the U.S. Surgeon General, which recently warned that "even brief exposure to secondhand smoke can cause cardiovascular disease and could trigger acute cardiac events, such as heart attack." It also asserted that "inhaling even the smallest amount of tobacco smoke" can "damage your DNA, which can lead to cancer."

Whoppers like these are aimed at encouraging the proliferation and ever-widening reach of smoking bans, an important "public health" tool for discouraging smoking among people undeterred by the well-known hazards of the habit. Although these laws are sold as a way of protecting nonsmoking bystanders, their main "public health" payoff (in terms of preventing disease) comes from pushing smokers to cut back or quit and from making the habit less attractive. Yet as Siegel notes, the hyperbolic claims used to promote smoking bans actually undermine warnings about the hazards of smoking by asserting a false equivalence. If a pack-a-day habit really is about as bad for you as spending a half-hour in a smoky bar, what's the big deal? Alternatively, if public health authorities are willing to lie about the dangers of secondhand smoke, why should we believe what they say about other risks?

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

79 responses to “Anti-Smoking Lie of the Year

  1. “there are virtually no health disparities between active and passive smoking”

    Wow. If that were true we would never have known smoking was harmful since there would have been no way to isolate it as a cause of health problems. The whole reason we know smoking is harmful is because smokers started showing up with higher rates of lung cancer and the like. To this day I am not sure we fully understand the causation.

    1. Congratulations, John, you’re smarter than the Surgeon General.

      Which brings to mind a question.

      What the fuck is a surgeon general? I always just picture an old guy with a mustache who sits behind a desk and, every once in a while, issues some kind of warning about something and then goes back to sleep.

      1. The best definition I’ve come up with for a S.G. is “official nag.” I know it doesn’t make up a big percentage of the budget but if I was elected Prez one of the first things I’d do is abolish the whole position and all its associated staff.

      2. The opposite of a surgeon specific?

  2. The U.S. Surgeon General can’t even acknowledge masturbation as a health, positive act. They’re morons.

    1. Healthy, I mean. My other hand was…elsewhere.

      1. See! Second-hand masturbation! It’s a mind killer!

        1. Re: Pro Libertate,

          See! Second-hand masturbation! It’s a mind killer!

          Don’t you know anything? Everybody knows that fear is the mind-killer.

          1. Know you not that I am the Kwittheshitz Hadenough and am beyond the understanding of a mere Kwisatz Haderach?

            Begone, as I must make flans within flans within flans. For Shaihuludmas.

            1. Too funny!

              Now I’m going to get back to moving one toe at a time.

              1. Okay, I retract my diatribe below in regards to sarcasmic.

            2. Shaihuludmas! Jesus, what is wrong with you people? In the old days, just coining the term Shaihuludmas would’ve gotten something like 500 comments.

              Where’s Stevo when I need him?

              1. No SugarFree to instigate. I lol’d though.

                1. ‘T was the night before Shaihuludmas, when all through the sietch,
                  Not a creature was stirring, not even a leech.
                  The stilsuits were hung by the glowglobe with care,
                  In hopes that Shai-Hulud soon would be there.

              2. I seriously laughed out loud at that one Pro.

              3. Out riding the worm. Or drinking it, I forget.

                1. Mescal, spice essence, what’s the difference? I leave out a bottle and some cookies for Shai-Hulud each year.

        2. Second-hand masturbation can be dangerous but first-hand is still safe

          1. Care to cite to any FDA studies supporting your, ahem, “claim?”

            It’s not safe until the FDA tells me it is.

            1. Baby you’ve studied this issue long enough-write your own thesis

              1. I await your evidence with bated breath.

                Hey, wait, can I take that back?

            2. “That is your uncle talking” – Obi Wan Kenobi

              [Provided your uncle is Max]

              1. Well, I guess if the EPA or FTC say it’s safe, too. Or, well, anyone in the government. Because they’re like benevolent gods. Just like.

          2. Why is everyone disparaging the Stranger.

      2. Son, I am disappoint.

    2. What, you don’t believe a woman who gets to strut around in a fancy uniform?

  3. My uncle died from second-hand chew, assholes.

    1. 3rd hand smoke is the real killer.

      1. The sad thing is that 3rd hand smoke isn’t a joke any more; they’re really trying to sell that one now.

    2. anal or oral cancer?

      1. Re: Rather,

        anal or oral cancer?

        Only if he chewed with his ass…

        1. Haven’t you heard of STDs? Dating a smoker can be dangerous

          1. Making true the statement, “if she smokes, she pokes.”

        2. Skoal Bandits make nice tobacco enemas.

      2. Oral. It was my Aunt Jess that chewed. Uncle Norbert hated it, so when Aunt Jess would find Uncle Norbert sitting in front of the TV set asleep with his mouth open, she’d bite off a big piece of chew, work it up till her mouth was filled with juice, grab the back of Uncle Norbert’s head and cram her toungue down his throat. He always fought it, but it was useless because she was so much bigger.

  4. “if public health authorities are willing to lie about the dangers of secondhand smoke, why should we believe what they say about other risks?”

    I don’t. Let’s see, war on drugs, war on terror, airport security, economic stimulus, anything john bolton says, ethanol is good, anything charles grassly says, obama going to concentrate on jobs, inflation is low, quantitative easing is good, WMD, ………
    Yep, pretty much I don’t.

    1. To be fair to Grassley, I don’t think he knows he’s being dishonest. He just reads (poorly) what is put in front of him. Seriously — watch a Finance Committee hearing. It’s painful. Follow-up questions that have no link to the response given by the witness are common. You can tell when the sentence continues to the next line. It’s like a typewriter.

  5. If a pack-a-day habit really is about as bad for you as spending a half-hour in a smoky bar, what’s the big deal?

    You’re asking people that want to use the power of government to make the world according to their dreams, to be intellectually honest? All of a sudden?

  6. It’s so absurd. When does the tobacco version of “Refer Madness” get released. I love a good comedy.

    1. Fuck Refer Madness. Stagliano is working on Milk Smoke Nymphos

      1. Vaginal smoking causes lip cancer.

      2. There’s already plenty of smoking porn.

        My friend didn’t even have to tell me about it, I’ve seen enough myself.

        1. Doesn’t it get in your eyes

        2. I’ve never understood the appeal of that. I’m a smoker myself, but I don’t, like, get a kick out of seeing a girl smoke, you know?

          1. Its probably gasping grannies like the Surgeon General who get off on it.

  7. Alternatively, if public health authorities are willing to lie about the dangers of secondhand smoke, why should we believe what they say about other risks?

    Why assume they are telling the truth about the other risks at all, anti-smoking whoppers notwithstanding? Why believe the government (which cheats, steals and lies as a matter of routine) at all? Why be credulous when it comes to “health authorities” or any other so-called authority?

  8. “Alternatively, if public health authorities are willing to lie about the dangers of secondhand smoke, why should we believe what they say about other risks?”

    Am I to understand that someone here might actually believe anything so-called “public health authorities” say?

  9. When are we going to get after marijuana smoke?

    1. Today at 4:20.

  10. if public health authorities are willing to lie about the dangers of secondhand smoke, why should we believe what they say about other risks?

    *cough*global warming*cough*

    1. What’s wrong? 2nd hand smoke?

  11. It also asserted that “inhaling even the smallest amount of tobacco smoke” can “damage your DNA, which can lead to cancer.

    I like these types of lies because, while they are technically true, they are practically meaningless.

    In this case, it is true because all cancers ultimately result from very tiny causes that trigger a single mutation in the DNA of a single cell. On cosmic ray particle out of the thousands that hit your body everyday could mutate the DNA and kill you. One molecule of hydrogen peroxide created by sunlight hitting that glass of spring water you drank, could give you cancer. The free-radicals caused by a mosquito bite could give you cancer. And so on…

    So, while it is true that exposure to the smallest amount of tobacco smoke could give you cancer, it is equally true that exposure to the smallest amount of anything could give you cancer.

    My other favorite lie is the ubiquitous “as much as…” or “as little as…” when used to qualify risk. These are code phrases for, “the far end of the probability distribution” i.e. the least likely events to occur of all events measured. Yet we routinely base policy on the far end of the curve because that were the panic monsters live.

    1. “Yet we routinely base policy on the far end of the curve because that were the panic monsters live.”

      Don’t forget about the hobgoblins.

    2. The anti-smokers got away with it because their supposed opponents embrace their scientific fraud, including that garbage about single mutations free radicals, while ignoring the role of infection. That health ideology is straight out of the rear end of Adolph Hitler’s favorite quack, Otto Heinrich Warburg. And it proves that Nazi pseudo-science only promotes Nazi goals, not libertarian ones.

      http://www.smokershistory.com/OWarburg.htm

  12. I watched someone eat a Big Mac once and gained 3 pounds.

  13. …even brief exposure to secondhand smoke can cause cardiovascular disease and could trigger acute cardiac events, such as heart attack.

    I think the heart attacks of secondhand smoke victims come as a result of the exertion involved in the overly-exaggerated explosion of fake coughing they fire into whenever they spot a lit cigarette within fifty yards of a No Smoking sign.

    1. “I smoke all day and don’t cough like that. Do you go up to crippled people dancing, too?”

    2. The overly-energetic hand flapping, too.

  14. Dude.

  15. This would be a hilarious post if it wasn’t so sad. I am a non-smoker (I use Swedish snus) but I support the right. Hell, even the stuff I use has been proven to be fairly safe and the government is chasing after it.

    1. Smoking is NOT a right; it is just a personal habit. This has been established many times in court trials. Smoking is like picking your nose, spitting, urinating, masturbating and farting – arguably acceptable in private, but not to be forced on others who do not choose to see or smell you doing it. Go ahead and do it all you like, but do not impose the effects on others without their consent.

      1. This would be more believable, fra59e, if you didn’t keep walking over to me from 50 yards away just to have an opportunity to sniff my farts.

  16. You acknowledge that these laws are sold to “protect nonsmoking bystanders.” And they do–they protect the liberties of nonsmoking bystanders to breathe clean air. That should be a libertarian position. I consider myself an independent with libertarian views myself; I happen to believe that my rights to breathe air are infringed upon every time I walk into a cloud of cigarette smoke, or it is blown in my face on the street.

    You come across as shilling for the tobacco industry when you seem to categorically ignore the facts: secondhand smoke does trigger heart attacks, causes emphesema, asthma, etc.

    No one is talking about banning cigarettes–just consuming them in locations where their byproducts are not forced upon people unwillingly–in the same fashion that say, kids in public schools shouldn’t be forced to have the Koran, Bible, or any religious text read to them.

    1. Let’s talk about bars and restaurants, if you don’t like second hand smoke go to a bar or restaurant that doesn’t allow smoking. What gives you the authority to take away my right to smoke?

      1. There is no “right” to smoke. Few bars allow patrons to defecate in the bar; those who must do so can remove themselves to an appropriate private place. Smokers seem to imagine that gaseous wastes from the face are more acceptable than solid wastes from the rectum.

        1. No, smoking’s not a right, but the bar owner has the right to enforce whatever policy he wants in his bar.

    2. The argument is that occasional exposure on the street is an annoyance, not the health threat that anti-smokers are claiming. And there is no “right” to not be annoyed.

    3. So, you hold your breath when you walk outside, or do you just wear a NIOSH-approved gas mask when travelling outdoors?

      BTW, you have few rights on someone else’s property, least of all the right to tell them how to run their business. If you don’t like the quality of air they provide (or the available cuisine, the selection of music, the grooming habits of the staff, etc.), you know where the door to leave is.

    4. When farts, body odor, swamp gas and car emissions are controled come back and talk about cigarette smoke.

      1. Don’t forget the particulates a person is exposed to when grilling with charcoal. And the oxidative mutations that occur to red meat after being cooked. If the system is going to be fair (ha), there needs to be a taxation on all forms of ‘exposure’.

    5. You anti-smokers are the criminals. You violate everyone’s Constitutional rights by committing scientific fraud.

    6. “kids in public schools shouldn’t be forced to have the Koran, Bible, or any religious text read to them.”

      Public schools shouldn’t exist. And that’s the real problem with smoking in “public” places. There’s too many public places to begin with.

  17. With all the hype promoted by Nicoderm funded smoking ban lobbyists, you’d think secondhand smoke is more hazardous than welding smoke in the workplace…..but is that true?

    http://cleanairquality.blogspo…..smoke.html

  18. The Surgeon General is guilty of flagrant scientific fraud for ignoring more than 50 studies, which show that human papillomaviruses cause at least a quarter of non-small cell lung cancers. Smokers and passive smokers are more likely to have been exposed to this virus, for socioeconomic reasons. And the anti-smokers’ studies are all based on nothing but lifestyle questionnaires, so they’re cynically DESIGNED to blame tobacco for all those extra lung cancers that are really caused by HPV. And those criminals commit the same type of fraud with every disease they blame on tobacco.

    http://www.smokershistory.com/hpvlungc.htm
    http://www.smokershistory.com/etsheart.html

    For the government to commit fraud to deprive us of our liberty is automatically a violation of our right to the equal protection of the laws, no different from purposely throwing innocent people in prison. And its spreading lies about phony “smoking dangers” is an act of TERRORISM, no different from calling in phony bomb threats. The Surgeon General is a criminal and a terrorist!

    http://www.smokershistory.com/SGlies.html

  19. Smoking is like rape; it satisfies a perpetrator’s need and the harm done to others is probably exaggerated by those who wish to reduce it.

  20. Babies wear diapers so their bodily wastes are contained at the south end of the body. Smokers discharge their bodily wastes from the north end and don’t have the common decency to keep their used smoke to themselves.

  21. George Bernard Shaw said that so long as war is considered dangerous it will continue, but it will cease when it is perceived as vulgar. Paraphrasing this, we can say that so long as smoking is considered unhealthy it will continue, but it will end when it is recognized as dirty.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.