The latest part of his counter-offensive is a letter to the FT in which he argues that although the smoking rate has been falling at roughly the same rate for years in absolute terms, it has sped up in relative terms. This, of course, is just a mathematical inevitability if you have a declining number of smokers. If two per cent of the population give up smoking every three years, that two per cent is obviously going to be a larger proportion of smokers if smokers make up 15 per cent, rather than 40 per cent, of the population.
It's taken as read that Chapman's arguments are going to be fallacious so I'd like to focus on an amusing piece of trivia. He ends his letter thus:
Like Monty Python’s Black Knight talking about “just a flesh wound” after losing all four limbs, this is not likely to be the last round of denials from Big Tobacco.
It's a nice little analogy because it diverts attention from the fact that it is Chapman who is flailing around while his ridiculous idea falls apart in the most predictable way. He must be proud of this line because he used it two days earlier when writing a black-is-white propaganda piece for ABC (in which he introduced yet another layer of wrong, see Dick Puddlecote for details).
Like Monty Python's Black Knight talking about "just a flesh wound" after losing all four limbs, this is not likely to be the last round of denials from Big Tobacco.
In fact, he's very proud of it, because he used it in August 2012 when writing about the legal challenges to plain packaging...
Like the mortally wounded Black Knight in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Big Tobacco will now be hoping that, despite losing its right arm and buckets of blood (just flesh wounds), two other cases will see off the scourge of plain packs, against all the odds.
And he used it again in October 2012 in a completely irrelevant context...
Professor Chapman says tobacco companies will do anything to create a sense of "intrigue" about their products.
"They're a bit like the Black Knight in Monty Python in The Holy Grail; you cut their legs off, you cut their arms off and they keep on saying, 'it's just a flesh wound, bring it on'."
And he was using it way back in 2001 when writing about the claim that pylons cause cancer (see page 251 of Velvet Glove, Iron Fist to appreciate the irony of Chappers debunking dodgy epidemiology)...
Those in the media who believe that high voltage power lines and pylons cause cancer in children are like the plucky, armless black knight in Monty Python's Quest for the Holy Grail: they just won't give up.
Maybe he's been using it for even longer than that, who knows? Perhaps he's one of those fellows who quotes huge chunks of Monty Python sketches in public. What a character!
Shouting the same old line over and over again is the characteristic of a tub-thumping campaigner, not a serious thinker, but even the most zealous street corner barker gets tired of repeating themselves eventually. Maybe it's time for Chapman to invest in a new metaphor?
On Twitter, Jon Fell has directed my attention to page 174 of a book published in 2007 titled Public Health Advocacy and Tobacco Control. Can you guess the name of its author?