One advantage of truth over lies: it seldom contradicts itself

by Carl V Phillips

As regular readers know, the tobacco control industry will say anything they can think of that might further their cause, regardless of whether it is true.  The downside of this — other than the fact that it means they fit the definitions of both “sociopath” and “evil” — is that lies frequently contradict each other.

There are a million examples of this, of course.  I find the most notable one to be the claim that there is a worrisome “gateway” effect from smoke-free products to smoking (which is not true) and yet there is a concerted effort to deny that smoke-free products are low risk compared to smoking (which would tend to create a gateway effect, since you might as well smoke if that is true).

A closely related problem is that sometimes the tobacco controllers want to report the truth, and the truth very frequently contradicts the sociopath lies.  A recent favorite lie that has been flogged by Stanton Glantz and used by others to attack e-cigarettes is the claim that they are often used merely to cut down on smoking, and cutting down does not reduce your risks.  More specifically, Glantz is claiming that the heart attack risk does not decrease and phrasing it to trick the reader/listener into believing that the claim is that risk does not decrease it all.  Even setting aside the fact that cutting down is a typical transition state on the way to stopping, this is simply not true.  Apparently the somewhat more honest tobacco controllers at the CDC did not get the memo that this is the lie of the month, because they just tweeted:

(‏@CDCTobaccoFree) No smoking is safe, but risk of heart disease & heart attack greatly increases w/number of cigarettes smoked.

For any readers who might be as innumerate as Glantz (though I cannot imagine there are any), “increases with the number of cigarettes” is exactly equivalent to “decreases when you cut down”.

By the way, for those interested in the truth, it is this:  The risk of cancer increases close to linearly with the number of cigarettes smoked (cut the number smoked by half and you cut the risk by half).  Cardiovascular risk, including heart attack, increases much more sharply with the number smoked and then gets flatter, which means that cutting from 20 to 10 does not cut this risk in half — not even close — but it does decrease it.  Other diseases seem to fall in between those functions.

We do not actually have very good data on smoking less than about 10 per day and almost nothing useful below 5, so it is hard to be sure.  But there are good reasons to believe that the cardiovascular risk from smoking just a handful per day could be in the neighborhood of half of that of smoking a pack a day.  (Strangely, this means that CDC was arguably overstating the benefits of cutting down without quitting.)

So there is a good reason to push on to zero after cutting down.  But it is obviously a lie to claim there are no benefits to cutting down.

13 responses to “One advantage of truth over lies: it seldom contradicts itself

  1. There you go again trying to ruin Stan’s Cocoon!

    • Carl V Phillips

      Oh, don’t worry. He doesn’t read about the subjects he pontificates about, so he is safely protected from hearing this.

  2. ‘We do not actually have very good data on smoking less than about 10 per day and almost nothing useful below 5, so it is hard to be sure.’

    They seem pretty sure about SHS though. The point is that if very light smoking is much safer than a pack or more a day habit, the passive smoking agenda is seriously undermined. Not to mention the totally ludicrous third hand lie.

    • Carl V Phillips

      The challenge with ETS is that even for substantial exposure, they are chasing a number that is in the order of 1% that of the risk from smoking a pack a day (if it is not just zero, of course), and that is almost impossible to sort that out of the massive confounding problems. Anyone who claims that there is definitely is or definitely is not a risk from ETS does not understand the evidence (or in the case of the “definitely is” faction, are intentionally lying). And, yes, one thing that is clear from that “order of 1%” observation is that it is absolutely inconceivable that ETS kills 10% as many people as smoking — that is a totally made-up number.

      Note that this is not all that different from the challenge of figuring out whether smokeless tobacco is 1% as harmful as smoking, or 0% or 2% or even -1% (protective). Obviously with e-cigarettes we do not even have that data, so just have to extrapolate from smokeless.

  3. Glantz has been pushing the dual use argument as if it’s a bad thing. From what we know, the more you vape, the less cigarettes you will smoke which in turn will decrease your risk of disease. I really hope this shuts him up about that..

  4. The TCI (Tobacco Control Industry) clearly does not understand that cutting the number of cigarettes smoked requires an effort and extracts a cost. It also does not seem to understand human nature. When people have expended a great deal of effort and you tell them, in effect, that what they have accomplished is worthless, some of them will sooner or later say, “To heck with you, then. If you feel what I have done is worthless, then I will just stop trying altogether.” For those who need a diagram drawn for them to understand, the TCI is encouraging people who have engaged in the process of quitting without getting to zero Cigarettes Per Day (CPD) to go back to full-time smoking. To put it into Carl’s words, “You might as well smoke.”

    Perhaps the TCI should consider the fact that extinguishing a strong habit is not an event: It’s a process.

    Dual use is often a transition period, not necessarily a permanent condition. When the CDC conducts its survey on tobacco use, it should ask former smokers whether or not they went through a period of using more than one product at a time that contained nicotine before arriving at zero CPD; and if so, how long that period lasted.

    • Carl V Phillips

      Many people at the useful-idiot level in the TCI really do care about people (and are just clueless that they are signed onto a zealous campaign that does not), but those running the show clearly do not. A few days ago, @TobaccoTacticss tweeted a link to a story about offering compassion to smokers who are trying to quit with a comment along the lines of “we do not offer compassion”.

      I agree that TCI people understand very little about consumers, which is unforgivable in itself, but I think that the hamhanded discouraging remarks have as much to do with the fact that they despise smokers and actively want to belittle their efforts. It is kind of like a coach who lambasts his proteges for failed attempts rather than praising them for the progress that they made: Some such coaches actually believe (incorrectly, according to the research) that such “tough love” is better for success in the long run, but some are just bullies who try to make up their limp …um… — let’s say, self esteem — by belittling others. The more visible tobacco controllers clearly fall into the latter category.

  5. Back when tobacco control had more credibility,they used to state that smoking cessation will cause an immediate decrease in “heart attack” risk with a 50% reduction after the first year.They largely stopped using this when they started on the “harm” from ETS scare.After all,you can’t have smokers’ heart disease declining when you’re trying to claim that non-smokers are dying in ever increasing droves from the same thing.Smoking related death began showing declines in 1991 in North America (should be earlier) and 1975 in the U.K.However,using the N.A. figs.,they have non-smokers’ ETS “deaths” increasing by 20 times over the same period.(1993 to present) Non-smokers exposure to ETS had also declined by 70% by 1991,due to smoking cessation.You do not get more “death” from a declining source,especially when the ones with the greater risk (smokers) are showing decreases.Actually,if this situation is found,a sane researcher would be looking for another cause.Unless they’re trying to flog a dead horse.(all their claims show is that secondhand smoke couldn’t possibly be the cause) Another fact to consider is that the half life of exposure to tobacco (smoke) is 30 minutes.(some say 2 hours) In either case the effects disappear rapidly.

    The same claims can still be found on ratz sites.(smokers get better while non-smokers somehow get worse)

    • Carl V Phillips

      The long term trends in ETS estimates are not quite an example of a contradiction — it is, after all, possible to discover something is causing harm and adjust the numbers. Of course, the reality is there was never any solid evidence there is any harm at all. And the contradiction does indeed appear over the last decade or two, during which exposure has dropped (not so much because of the number of smokers, which is steady, but because of smoking place prohibitions), the research showed there was less risk than previous research suggested (and, of course, it was consistent with there being no risk at all), and yet the numbers crept up. That was clearly a lie.

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