Friday, 10 December 2010

"It's very scientific"

It was a mark of the crankiness of Victorian-era anti-cigarette campaigners that they claimed cigarettes caused instantaneous death (see Chapter 2, Velvet Glove, Iron Fist). And it was partly because the public became weary of such obvious scare stories that they found it difficult to believe the real truth—several decades later—that chronic smoking could cause fatal diseases in middle- and old-age.

But everything comes full circle and the latest comments from the new Surgeon General, Regina Benjamin, seem designed to take us back at least 100 years. Her predecessor was a tough act to follow. Scientifically illiterate statements like "There is no significant scientific evidence that suggests smokeless tobacco is a safer alternative to cigarettes" and "There is no safe level of secondhand smoke" set new standards of quackery at the Surgeon General's office. But the new incumbent looks up to the job, and when you have an obese Surgeon General serving a president who smokes, all bets are off.

The latest headline claim—breathing a puff of secondhand smoke can kill you instantly—is really just a variation of Carmona's "no safe level" rhetoric. It takes the theoretical possibility that someone at death's door who is critically, terminally ill with heart disease could be finished off by smoking a cigarette, and then extends it to suggest that healthy people are being killed in the street from breathing secondhand smoke.

Benjamin has done nothing to distinguish between these very different situations. Indeed, she has gone out of her way to add to the confusion. This is very clear from her recent interview with Ed Baxter on KGO Radio. Baxter gives her every opportunity to clear up any misunderstanding but Benjamin just keeps piling it up. The transcript is below, and requires little further comment, but I recommend listening to the audio to get a measure of the woman. She doesn't exactly ooze authority. (Listen here - starts at 17.00). My thanks to Becky Johnson for helping with the transcript.

EB: Well, this may be, there have been a lot of warnings about cigarette smoking, but this may be the scariest I've seen. So we really wanted to get it straight from the person who did the study and the survey so we went straight to the top. Surgeon General, Regina Benjamin is on the KGO live line. Thank you for joining us.

RB: Thank you for having me.

EB: If I'm reading this correctly, you're saying your next cigarette could be your last. That's a dramatic way of putting it: "The next cigarette could be your last." This  is a report coming straight out of the Surgeon General's office. Cigarette smoking can cause instantaneous shut down of systems, is that true?

RB: It can certainly cause a heart attack and death, that's true. This report is the 30th Surgeon General's report on tobacco. The previous reports have focused on what diseases are caused by tobacco. But this particular report focuses on how tobacco smoke really damages every organ in your body. One of the things we know is that if you inhale cigarette smoke or inhale passive, second-hand smoke you might have an underlying cardiac disease like heart disease and didn't even know it. When you inhale it, those chemicals, they can irritate the blood vessels, irritate that lining, causing immediate damage. And also cause your blood to be thicker and clot quicker so that can cause an immediate heart attack. So just that one cigarette can cause a heart attack.

JLJ: So even just second hand smoke? Just a whiff of the smoke?

RB: That's correct. We know that cigarettes today have over 7,000 chemicals and chemical compounds. And inhaling those chemicals causes immediate damage to your blood vessels.

EB: And this, of course, would be more severe or traumatic to somebody who has a chronic condition, who has been smoking for a while....

RB: No, it's anyone! Most people who have heart disease, for example, don't even know they have heart disease because they never had any symptoms.

EB: So anyone just walking on a street, a first cigarette or just second hand smoke?
This could be caused by hypertension or any underlining disease, correct?

RB: Any underlying disease or people who may appear to be very healthy and just didn't know it! And also people who are healthy, it affects them as well. It affects your blood vessels and can damage your DNA. We find that people who, particularly women who have reproductive problems, because the DNA is affected by the chemicals in the tobacco. We didn't even know these chemicals existed. We didn't even know that there were 7,000 different chemicals and chemical compounds so these things are new. It's very scientific, but how these chemicals affect your body. Every organ in your body.

EB: We know it causes cancer. It may lead to heart disease. People are talking about chronic diseases. We're talking about instantaneous—and I just want to make sure we're understanding this correctly—instantaneous... your next cigarette or breathing someone's secondhand smoke could cause, basically, an acute episode that could lead to instant death.

RB: That's correct. The other thing is that these cigarettes today are more addicting. The nicotine, the chemical compounds that we now have the science behind—and this report tries to explain how it becomes much more addicting.


Anonymous said...

Bit of a porker telling porkies aint she !

One to watch out for reminds me of this song from the 1960's film the blob.

Beware of the blob, it creeps
And leaps and glides and slides
Across the floor
Right through the door
And all around the wall
A splotch, a blotch
Be careful of the blob

JJ said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
JJ said...

So many chemicals now

At one time there used to be just 4000 there are 7000...where have these extra chemicals come from?

I'm surprised that the interviewer didn't really challenge her and ask what scientific experiments were ever carried out to validate these statements.

Anonymous said...

Chris Id say,lets start the betting on when this porker/sg will fall on her healthscare sword to potect the movement! Speaker of the house elect bohner was busted yesterday for lighting up in the capitol commons area yesterday as this report was being released....

I have a feeling yesterdays report was the tipping point in tobacco controls run.......

The comments Ive read around the country are basically that she is insane......I hope this is the beginning of the end of tobacco control! We have all been fighting for years now to end the darkest hours.


Ben said...

She is the new Surgeon General? You must be kidding. Are they employing kiddies?
She doesn't even seem to know what she is talking about. Does she have an academic degree?

Anonymous said...

She’s right for the job. Needed is someone with no scientific competence. They will simply repeat whatever they’ve been fed by The Experts™ without batting an eyelid. The more absurd the claims, the more the incompetence required. Reggie was probably questioned at length to ensure that scientific enquiry wasn’t one of her strong points. Incompetent…. able to parrot .…. you’ve got the job, Reggie.

Ed Baxter did ask quite a number of times. Reggie seemed on the brink of barking (softly, of course): “How many times do I have to tell you, Ed? Anyone – A-N-Y-O-N-E - can drop dead at any moment, anywhere, from A whiff of tobacco smoke. Is that too hard to understand? Don’t you see that there are 7000 (not 6999) chemicals in tobacco smoke and nicotine is addictive? How many phenomena do you know that have 7000 chemicals and don’t kill instantaneously? Answer that, Ed? ….Did I mention that nicotine is addictive?”

P.S. The few parts of the SG Report that I’ve heard are so absurd, so emphatically outrageous, that they could have easily been contrived (if not so already) by the sanity-challenged, disturbed mind of Big Jarn the ⅓ (pronounced mor’on) over breakfast. They would have seemed very much at home, easily enmeshed, with all the other inflammatory Drivel® on the ⅓’s cluttered web site (and that’s saying something).

P.S. (cont’d) Tobacco smoke – firsthand and secondhand - has been manufactured into weapon-like status that makes standard bio-weapons look puny. The military (if they were as insane) would drool over the new revelations of the cigarette and its destructive potential – drop a load of lit cigarettes on the enemy. Could it get any worse? The only unexplored frontier in the derangement that is the antismoking mentality is thirhand piffle and the [additional] “grave danger” it poses. Why…. sitting on a park bench six weeks – 20 weeks, 80 weeks, 10 years - after it was occupied by a smoker would usher, immediately dispatch, the hapless sitter out of the worldly condition.

Anonymous said...

At least she has a medical degree.

Her boss, Sec. of DHHS, is a career politician with degrees in the arts and in public administration.

Gary K

Anonymous said...

Big Jarn the ⅓ (pronounced mor’on) is probably reading the SG Report, misty-eyed, barely able to contain his excitement, muttering, “I’ve been saying this for decades. It’s about time The Experts™ caught up!”

With a Report on thirdhand piffle to be expected, Big Jarn should be made an honorary SG. Forget even the pretense of “research”. Give him a white lab coat and a stethoscope draped around his neck for the photo shoots. Give Big Jarn free rein. Let him come up with the entire report. It will save all of the inch-by-inch-creep into further mental dysfunction. Let Big Jarn the ⅓ get straight to the deranged point.

Anonymous said...

How did she ever get a medical degree with thought processes like that?

Oh, how far America has fallen!

Anonymous said...

I think they call her education,AFFIRMATIVE ACTION......

Vlad the Inhaler said...

so then what about other air pollutants then, the kind you can't see? have I already died?

or is there nothing to fear from breathing in say diesel fumes for a midday pick me up?

Dr. Strangeglove said...

Depleted uranium? Hell, I hope that the tobacco tipped missiles are in development. Or would they be restricted to specially designated smoking areas... Are any left? They all seem to be non-smoking areas. Rats.

I'll rethink this plan.

Magnetic said...

For the record. The idea of “no safe level” of ETS exposure was being circulated around the antismoking clique in early-1992, many months before even the official release of the later discredited the EPA(1992) Report. See Godber Blueprint

From Tobacco in Developing Countries
Working Papers in Support of the 8th World Conference on Tobacco or Health: Building a Tobacco-Free World
March 30 - April 3, 1992

Buenos Aires, Argentina

Consideration of new laws to restrict cigarette marketing offers an excellent opportunity to limit cigarette use . Such laws shape social norms about tobacco use and complement policies that limit marketing. New evidence clearly shows that exposure to secondhand smoke can cause cancer among exposed nonsmokers and increases infant risk of respiratory problems. On a preliminary basis, the U.S . Environmental Protection Agency has classified environmental tobacco smoke as a class A carcinogen. (p.16)

Smoke Fighting is a strategic guide useful at the early stages of coalition development and later to update strategies . Coalitions formed to fight TTCs have additional needs and responsibilities .

The coalition must establish a strong public image that portrays it as a defender of the nation's health and sovereignty . In many nations, coalitions are seen as fringe "antismoking" groups out to impose their narrow vision on a society that sees smoking as a sign of status and power . The term "antismoking," a label often applied by the tobacco industry, should be avoided and positive names such as "national health campaign" used. (p.17)

The scientific evidence linking ETS to death and disease is clear and overwhelming : There is no safe level of exposure for the carcinogens found in tobacco smoke. Victims of ETS are called involuntary smokers or passive smokers . The only way to protect people from the dangers of ETS is to keep tobacco smoke out of our indoor air . The prevention of involuntary exposure to ETS should be a priority for tobacco control advocates worldwide. (p.79)

Michael J. McFadden said...

"It's very scientific..."

This is practically a comedy skit.



Ben said...

Aah, the (in)famous mechanical engineer Stanton Glantz is behind the report:
"Hold your breath: No safe level of tobacco smoke exposure?"

Anonymous said...

There’s an article in the LA Times that quotes Sly Glantz the Amazing on the SG Report.,0,3271278,full.story

Anonymous said...

Guys I think its worthwhile to check into the so called genetic science the sg report is using to make the claims.....heres some of what I have found on the subject.

Here's proof that they're lying. They don't specify what gene, even in the source article.

But there's a clue to what it might be from their other similar work:

And what is AKR1B10? It turns out to be something that's "rapidly reversible upon smoking cessation."

Evidently Spira et al turned up their noses at AKR1B10, because unlike PI3K, it had no use for predicting lung cancer. PI3K is activated by HPV infection, which more than 50 studies have implicated as the cause of over ten times more lung cancers than they pretend are caused by secondhand smoke.


It seems tobacco control owns the geneticists doing the studies...Has anyone heard of the super computer genome project.I believe its stored in holland or belgium and they will do experiments for you,Ive seen them used by tobacco control in some of their studies...put in x and get out y.....Ive a feeling its like the sammac system!

Anonymous said...

This is a startlingly different conclusion than that reached by three previous studies looking at the potential effects of tobacco smoke exposure to babies in the womb, one of which Dr. Grant co-authored. The primary papers largely discounted the effects of secondary -- and sometimes even direct exposure through maternal smoking -- or produced contradictory results.

The original studies looked at mutation rates at the HPRT gene located on the X chromosome in cord blood samples from newborns. Dr. Grant's analysis pooled the studies' data, looking for frequency of induced mutation as well as the resulting molecular spectrum of mutations. In particular, the new analysis redefines the "non-smokers" used as controls to consider their second-hand exposure to tobacco smoke through other family members at home, at work or in social situations at restaurants or even outdoors.


Anonymous said...

It just seems to me when you have a big healthy tree growing in a forest and you try and claim that tree is sick but it looks perfectly healthy and you spend 40 years and still cant prove anything,so along comes the microscope and vavoom a new avenue to try and prove the healthy tree is sick.......yet you subject the tree to everything while looking at its cell structure and find things are going on and then try and claim weve proved you can kill the tree with/but no dose is given.......yet 100 years later the tree is still a healthy bigger tree even after being exposed to everything they could muster short of fire.....It seems that 100 years later its discovered that what they saw was actually the big trees natural defence system protecting it from all those everythings they threw at it!

If you cant prove anything on the surface,what makes them think they can prove anything on the molecular level!

Michael J. McFadden said...

Magnetic, thank you for the research: those are GREAT excerpts for us to use in the trenches out there!


Starship Fighter said...

I can't help but snigger at this sort of nonsense. My partner and I are both smokers and, although we don't smoke in the house when our daughter is here, she is still exposed to a certain amount of SHS as well as being exposed in utero. She is incredibly healthy, very hardy, intelligent and happy despite this. However she has two cousins, both of similar age, children of strict non-smokers who are rather sickly, with weak chests who are both hospitalized several times a year with severe chest infections. Their mother uses numerous powerful cleaning products, has air fresheners in every room and is constantly wiping surfaces with anti-bacterial wipes.
Anecdotal, I appreciate, but I would echo the other commented concerns about other weapons grade chemicals which are disseminated into the atmosphere with nary a thought by the same people squealing about my burning leaves.

Anonymous said...

I'm sure anti-smokers would believe that pronouncing the word "cigarette" can lead to instantaneous death. The antis want anybody who smokes stoned to death in the streets. The propagation of mass hysteria by "authorities" is certainly not unprecedented. Eugenics and racist laws, and of course the Holocaust, are great examples. God what a horror is contemporary anti-smoking. The end of its reign isn't yet in sight. It's so nauseating and frightening: what foolish human beings are capable of. I won't live to see the day that these antis receive the violent condemnation they deserve but I'll pray for that day every day I'm still here.