Sunday, 1 January 2012

Peter Lavac - the whole story

I recently mentioned the bizarre case of Peter Lavac, who blames two people who lived in a flat below him for 18 months for giving him lung cancer and now plans to sue. The whole affair is as fishy as a barrel of haddock, not least because Lavac is a well-known nonsmokers' rights activist and the doctor who claims that his illness was probably caused by secondhand smoke "permeating" his apartment happens to be the chairman of ASH Australia.

My thanks to commenters on the previous post for pointing me to Lavac's testimony to a parliamentary committee on tobacco policy which is dated 1st May 2006. Despite being a member of the Non-Smokers Movement of Australia, Lavac describes himself in this document as a "private citizen". His testimony is filled with anti-smoking clichés and an obvious hatred of smokers.

We have laws to protect us from home invasion by thugs and criminals, yet inadequate laws to protect us from home invasion by toxic carcinogens transmitted by selfish ignorant idiots who do not give a dam [sic] about anyone else ... From the moment these people start sucking on their cancer sticks there is no escape ... Invisible smoking and non-smoking lines make about as much sense as having a non-urinating area in a swimming pool.

His testimony provides some crucial facts that did not appear in the recent news reports, which make a mockery of ASH's claim that his lung cancer (from which he has now recovered) was caused by second, third or fourth-hand smoke. Bear in mind that this testimony was given two years before the cancer was detected, but while he was still living in the apartment.

Not long ago I was diagnosed with a very serious life-threatening illness. One of the first things I did was to purchase a small apartment right on the headland on the edge of a cliff overlooking the ocean to take advantage of the fresh clean air coming off the sea. This, I felt, would be conducive to my recovery and treatment, and give me the best possible chance of beating my illness. The location is idyllic, the view spectacular, the atmosphere tranquil, but, most important of all, the ocean air is pure and pristine.

He does not specify what this life-threatening illness was, but judging by the importance of "fresh clean air", it is reasonable to assume it was some sort of respiratory disorder. Furthermore...

My current health problems are further aggravated and compensated by the fact that I am asthmatic, and have permanent scarring of my lungs from a bout of pneumonia several years ago.

It was at this cliff-side getaway that Lavac encountered two hated smokers who lived in a flat below. According to Lavac, "second-hand smoke constantly permeates my apartment" and according to the Sydney Morning Herald:

Professor Peters told Mr Lavac and his wife to reduce their exposure. After living in their flat for 18 months in 2005-06, they changed address.

And so, within months of giving his testimony to parliament, Lavac had moved house. He had only been there for a year and a half, and it was another 18 months before he fell ill again.

In March 2008, Mr Lavac was in a criminal trial in the Downing Centre, which happened to be filmed for an ABC documentary, On Trial.

"I got pretty sick but at the time I didn't realise just how sick," he said. "I had a bad flu that didn't seem to go away. After the jury verdict I got an X-ray done. I thought I had pneumonia."

A CAT scan detected a small dark shadow at the top of his right lung, and a biopsy confirmed it was cancer.

Here we have a guy with a history of pneumonia, respiratory illness and asthma. A man who had scarred lung tissue long before he moved to his mountain retreat and who had only moved there in the first place because he had a "very serious life-threatening illness".

Both scarred lungs and pneumonia are risk factors for lung cancer:

Tuberculosis and pneumonia can leave scarring on the lungs. The scarring is a risk factor for lung cancer development, specifically adenocarcinoma.

Asthma is also an independent risk factor for lung cancer:

The combined results from five case-control studies--that presented data limited to individuals who had never smoked--showed a 1.8-fold increase in lung cancer risk among asthmatics (95% confidence interval (CI) = 1.3-2.3).

Attributing a case of lung cancer to any single cause is a fool's game—which is why his case will fail if it ever gets to court—but Lavac had at least three identifiable risk factors for the disease which had nothing to do with tobacco. It is plainly nonsense for ASH's chairman to claim that "on the balance of probabilities" Lavac's lung cancer was caused by living for 18 months by the ocean near some people who smoked on the balcony below him. This would be a ludicrous thing to say at any time, but it it is still more absurd when the patient had at least three known risk factors.

You be the judge, because I seriously doubt that a real judge will ever be asked to decide. This is a publicity stunt to launch ASH's campaign against smoking at home. Nothing more, nothing less.


Anonymous said...

From Dave Atherton

This is the kind of dishonesty that one expects from ASH et al. The paper that ticks all the boxes is the Neuberger Paper which Mr. Snowdon was kind enough to send to me, here are the results.

Urban residence was a significantly increased risk factor using inside city limits as the category (OR=1.84, 95% CI=1.35-2.51). There was a significant increase in risk for those with certain pre-existing lung diseases (OR=3.53, 95% CI=2.45-5.08) or for those with any lung disease (OR=2.14, 95% CI=1.64-2.78).

A significant inverse association was found for those with some college education (OR=0.63, 95% CI=0.48-0.81) and for those with adult passive smoke exposure at home (OR=0.37, 95% CI=0.26-0.54).

So living in an urban environment and having past lung problems are the more likely reasons for the lung cancer and the least passive smoking.

tsange said...

How many years does it take to develop a lung cancer afer the exposition to a carcinogen?
10-30 years for active smokers?

David C said...

All the best for 2012 Chris. Your constant supply of ammunition helps me to take a few pot shots at the prohibitionists which I seem to be surrounded by (even in the pub!), and is hugely appreciated.

Mac the Knife said...

I can't find any sympathy in me, leave alone compassion.

The milk of human kindness curdled in me long ago where antismokers are concerned, their divisive sadism is a force for evil and more at odds with human life than any disease.

If Lavac's poisonous, narrow little soul is extinguished, the world will be a slightly lighter; happier place.

Mag said...


Chris (and others),
Excellent job.

I would just like to add a few thoughts.

From a 1996 link behind a paywall:

Lavac, went into a [wild] athletic career as a youth against medical advice. He has put his body through a pounding for much of his life that could be considered excessive for the best of physical circumstances, let alone someone already carrying considerable medical conditions. This guy’s body seems to be giving out under the sheer stress of what he’s put it through for so long – and he’s now in his mid-60s.

More importantly, that you highlight other risk factors for LC is useful. However, it must be remembered that we’re not even dealing with “secondhand or passive smoke” here. “Smokedrift” (or smoke “seepage”) is at most – if it occurs – not even smoke, but a few remnants of smoke at barely-detectable trace-levels. It would be a very difficult undertaking to measure anything in smokedrift because it’s so dilute. In the Greenbelt case, Jimmy Repace, a rabid antismoker, attempted to measure particulates and nicotine – in the kitchen of all places – as markers of “smokedrift”. The nicotine reading was the equivalent of a tiny, tiny, tiny fraction of a cigarette that could just as easily have come from frying potatoes on the stove. Repace claimed that the particulate reading was “elevated”, although very-low volume, in the plaintiff’s home when the defendant was smoking outside. This reading wasn’t corroborated. But Repace also conducted a particulate measurement in the courtroom while in session. The reading in the smokefree courtroom was the same as that in the plaintiff’s house when “smokedrift” was supposedly occurring. The entire episode was an embarrassment to the antismoking fool. It must be noted that there’s not much to even attempt to measure; these fanatics are clutching at nothing. We’re at such a trace level where we could also pick up vapor from the glue in furniture, vapor from carpets and paint, etc, that is right on the edge of detection equipment. Critically, there is no epidemiology on “smokedrift” and disease. It doesn’t exist. And we can see why. It’s extremely difficult to get any readings, let alone stable readings, let alone any readings that are peculiar to remnants of tobacco smoke.

Mag said...


In Lavac’s specific case, there is not even any evidence of smokedrift except his word (let alone that it bears no demonstrable relationship to disease), which doesn’t count for much given the multitude of critical lies/omissions already highlighted in this one story. Peters’ causal claims are beyond delinquent. They are scandalous. Both know that there is no basis for these outrageous inflammatory claims. So they have done what the antismoking fanatics have been doing for the last few decades – bypass scientific and legal scrutiny by making the claim in a press release that goes straight to the public. They also “threaten” legal action to give the baseless claims an air of authority and put the fear of litigation into landlords. The fanatics also know that the dumbed-down media will pose no critical questions and will simply print the story as it is given to them – as has occurred. And it’s [intentionally] timed with the launch of their bigoted smokefree apartment campaign.

So, Chris, you're right. It’s a publicity stunt. We’ve seen numerous inflammatory lies over the last few decades. But this one is a real whopper. It plumbs new depths of depravity even for antismoking fanatics. It takes absolutely nothing and conjures it into catastrophe requiring remediation. It can only promote more neurosis and bigotry (i.e., bigotry bandwagon) in the population at large, and the cost this time is discrimination against those who smoke in accessing housing, which in some parts is already hard to get.

Mag said...


Chris, notable, too, are the standard antismoking clichés in Lavac’s parliamentary testimony that clearly highlight the underlying bigotry. I had a look at some of the NSMA newsletters which would be no different to those of other antismoking groups around the world (e.g., ASH, GASP). What becomes very quickly apparent is the extremism and the utterly and entirely one-sidedness of the contents: It’s not healthy. These fanatics have a sheer terror/hatred of smoke/smoking/smokers where nothing short of humiliating/eradicating smoke/smoking/smokers from normal society would suffice. The reaction to smoke/smoking/smokers is so inordinate, so disproportionate, that it should be obvious that it cannot be the smoke that bothers them. These are disturbed minds with some deep-seated psycho-emotional problems and they are projecting (psychological defensive mechanism) their inner troubling onto smoke/smoking/smokers. Through psychological projection, the more troubled the mind, the more dangerous will the smoke appear.

If it was just one person, they would be recommended for psychotherapy. Unfortunately, when governments embraced the deranged idea of antismoking as a societal ideal, they effectively “normalized” these disturbed minds. Rather than authority indicating that they are suffering, at the least, anxiety disorders (e.g., phobia), authority told them that their mental dysfunction is not so, but is the normal reaction to the “terrible” smoke. Worse still, they were legitimized, and in many cases even funded, to “educate” the public with their derangement. Rather than heal the phobia, the goal changed to eradicating the smoke, i.e., reinforcing the mental dysfunction. This activity of trying to eradicate the externalized source of fear will be manifested as hate/bigotry. Only the blind would put anti-smoking/tobacco fanatics in charge of smoking/tobacco and not expect disaster.

Mag said...


So, the worst-afflicted of these individuals gravitate to antismoking groups where they reinforce each others’ neuroses and bigotry; and the more the reinforcement, the more terrifying/hated will the smoke/smoking/smokers become and the more outrageous will be the attempts to eradicate the externalized source of fear. As has been seen over the last few decades, the fear has spread from spending hours in a room with ambient smoke, to then a whiff of smoke from a nearby smoker – even outdoors, to now “smokedrift” from a neighboring apartment. In the NSMA newsletter, they advise each other to “barricade” themselves in their apartment with material around doors and windows to prevent the “dangerous smoke” from entering. They have worked themselves into a neurotic lather. They have manufactured anything to do with smoke into something on a par with sarin gas. This is an anxiety disorder. And I suspect that many of them do have degrees of anxiety reactions which they attribute to the “physical effects” of smoke, e.g., shortness of breath, heart palpitations, chest tightness. These are not due to the physical properties of “smoke” but are psychogenic. They are actually reinforcing their mental dysfunction.

The apartment situation provides another set of problems and is why Peters’ and Lavac’s baseless inflammatory claims are particularly repugnant. Here’s an example (this sort of experiment may have been conducted in the past, although it probably wouldn’t pass an ethics committee now). Consider a cinema foyer where people are congregating, waiting to enter a screening. Word goes out that there is a suspected [natural] gas leak in the building and anyone smelling gas should go to the front desk to report it. Now there actually is no gas leak. Also, gas is equated with high danger; short-term exposure can be fatal. It can be a surety that a handful of people prone to fear will actually report smelling gas, i.e., hallucinatory - these people actually believe they smell gas. Some may even demonstrate actual physical symptoms (i.e., anxiety reactions); one or two might even faint. The argument is that fear can warp perception, and strong fear can severely warp perception.

Mag said...


By claiming that “smokedrift” causes disease and that “if you can smell it, it’s hurting you” can only promote mental dysfunction. There are nonsmokers living in apartments that never gave “smokedrift” a second thought. Now believing that it is “dangerous” (akin to gas), they become hyper-sensitized/reactive. They can work themselves into such anxiety that they can even “smell” smoke where there’s none there. Just knowing that there are smokers somewhere in the building becomes fearful. Everyday pangs and pokes or existing ailments or flu become “attributed” to this newly-realized “danger” (i.e., somatization). The smell of smoke that was once neutral or a pleasant scent now becomes a “horrible, unbearable stench”. It opens up a veritable can of worms along the psychological dimension that then has social ramifications. Those that have worked themselves into such neurotic states can see only one “solution” that they are completely “justified” in – demand a smokefree building. And the very “authoritative” organization that claimed the “danger” also has an “advocacy” manual and website on how to terrorize a landlord into adopting a smokefree policy. People who believe they are “right” can become very aggressive and incessant in their demands.

This sort of circumstance is beyond tragic. The perpetrators are dangerously deranged. They promote mental dysfunction, discord, social division, and bigotry. The way these groups conduct themselves is akin to a supremacist group. They believe they hold a superior position that must be imposed on everyone and they’ll lie and cheat – regardless of the consequence - to achieve it. There are some within the antismoking movement that view it only as political activism; to get bans achieved is seen as a “victory”. They have no grasp of the considerable multi-dimensional damage they are doing. There are others that know full well the damage they are doing.

These are individual antismoking groups. Then there is the over-arching, global antismoking network that operates top-down from the WHO through the Globalink network that individual groups tap into. This is where the antismoking agenda is refined, where the slogans and manuals are manufactured. Siegel describes it as operating as groupthink. There are certain beliefs – false or otherwise – that all must maintain and proliferate. Any deviation or questioning of beliefs or methods (however questionable) attracts degrees of castigation, including “excommunication”. This group operates as a supremacist cult. So we have smaller supremacist groups guided by a supremacist cult. It’s an ugly situation and they need to be recognized as demonstrably deranged supremacists.

Ann W. said...

The Non-Smokers' Movement of Australia...Subject: Tobacco smoke drift in apartment building

Note: They would already be aware that smoking is banned indoors in all public places and in many outdoor places, especially near children's play areas and congested areas and sporting stadiums. This is not primarily because the smell is offensive but because even a small amount of secondhand smoke can trigger deadly asthma attacks and heart and lung conditions.

Feel free to use this letter as a draft in writing your own letter.

- You must be aware that, if we can smell the smoke, the poisons are going into ours and our children's lungs. You may be under the impression that, because you smoke outdoors, the smoke doesn't cause a problem, but the smoke gets blown in every direction and enters our home at all times. We should not be forced to barricade ourselves and our children into our home to protect ourselves from the poisons in tobacco smoke.
- If you remember, I have asthma, and my father, who will be coming to spend a few weeks with us, is a heart patient who suffered a cardiac arrest a few years ago.
- Nobody should be forced to barricade his/her family into the home to protect the family against the poisons in secondhand smoke.
- You may suggest that the solution is for us to move away from the duplex, but that wouldn't necessarily solve the problem. Exactly the same situation could occur elsewhere. Besides, we are not causing the problem - it's the smoke which is causing the problem. We would not even suggest that you move away, simply that you stop smoking where it affects others. We all came here to make this property our home, not necessarily to smoke.
- May we offer another possible solution? With all the medical evidence about the deadly dangers of smoking, and the positive aspects of freeing oneself from addiction to nicotine, we would be willing to contribute to your quitting. We have a book which has apparently been extremely helpful (Allan Carr's "Easy way to quit Smoking".) - it has apparently helped a lot of people. Alternatively, you may wish to try Quitline's method(s) Phone: XXXXX. We would also like to contribute towards whichever therapy you choose. In return, we would ask that you say to your friends that you prefer for them to smoke away from the property, for yours and your neighbours' protection.
- We are aware of legal avenues which could be taken to resolve this situation, but would much prefer not to resort to such drastic measures, even with the support of several organisations and legal aid.

Eric Crampton said...

Doesn't the beach have high PM10 concentration from salt spray? I'm sure I've seen that in discussion of PM standards around ports....

Anonymous said...

Ocean RADON levels

Marine Chemistry and Geochemistry Department, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Quissett Campus, Woods Hole, Massachusetts, USA
There is a need for improved estimates of the radon (222Rn) flux density from the ocean for use in the modeling and interpretation of atmospheric radon in global climate and air pollution studies. We use a modification of a frequently used model of gas transfer to generate global predictions of ocean radon flux density for each month of the year (climate averaged) on a 192 by 94 global grid. Compared with the often-used approximation of a constant radon flux from the ocean, the model's predictions indicate large variations over regions of the ocean (a factor of ten is not uncommon). For example, latitude bands near the equator and Southern Ocean are predicted to emit relatively high average radon flux compared with other latitude bands. The predicted annually-averaged flux density from the ocean is 0.0382 mBq m−2 s−1 (0.00182 atoms cm−2 s−1), smaller than some commonly-used estimates.


Anonymous said...

"Jimmy Repace, a rabid antismoker, attempted to measure particulates and nicotine – in the kitchen of all places – as markers of “smokedrift”.

Did he really? I didn't know that.

The kitchen is the obvious choice, under the circumstances.


"Many plants of the Solanaceae family, which includes the genus Nicotiana, of which the tobacco
plant is a member, contain solanesol; particularly those that contain trace amounts of nicotine.
These include the tomato, eggplant, potato, and pepper.

The potential interference due to these sources is negligible, cooking being the only likely potential source of interference. An interference of this type would bias results high, overestimating the contribution of ETS to RSP.


David Goerlitz said...

Looking forward to a new year of your developments, thoughts, and published opinions. Enjoy your efforts almost daily. Keep up the good work. We should do another interview on the failed experiments of tobacco control. The lies keep on coming which makes it appear that they are achieving their desired results. Many people, including myself are ready to pounce when the time is right, and I'm pretty sure we have reached our maximum patience level. We can pull publicity stunts as well. hmmmmmmmm.

Anonymous said...

The best stunt would just be telling the truth!

Mag said...

Chris and readers,
You may be interested in another vile development in the supremacist, social-engineering crusade – entire university-campus bans.

There is a fair bit of background information on Siegel’s blog:

See “comments section” for Wednesday, October 12, comments by “Shadow Guest” about half-way down the comments page.