Thursday, December 01, 2005

This is the Anti-Smoking Movement???

Is this what the anti-smoking movement is all about?

In response to my post yesterday which provided a detailed analysis questioning the claim that smoking bans lead to immediate and drastic reductions in heart attacks, yet another anti-smoking advocate publicly attacked me as follows:

"I find your comments intrusive and divisive... please look at the impacts of your comments and consider in a larger way what you are up to. It is a disservice to the larger community if what you are saying is about your ego, and an even larger disservice if it is intentionally dishonest."

The Rest of the Story

I can't help but start my commentary with the obviously inappropriate and possibly defamatory accusation that I am intentionally lying. I didn't include the advocate's entire comment, but I can certify that there was not a single specific fact mentioned in the response that I had purportedly lied about. If I am lying about something, I'd like to know what it is so I can correct it. But more importantly, I don't think it is appropriate to accuse me publicly of lying in front of a broad audience of my colleagues, and without even the decency of pointing out the specific fact or claim in question so that I have an opportunity to provide documentation (or correct the claim, if need be).

Second, the attack based on my ego is completely unwarranted. I can certify that the personal attacks I have been receiving since having the gall to suggest that maybe, just maybe, the claim of a 40% immediate drop in heart attacks due to a smoking ban was an exaggeration are not doing wonders for my ego. But even if they were, this has nothing to do with the basic matter at hand, which is the scientific evidence behind the evaluation of the impact of smoking bans on acute cardiovascular events.

Third, the substantive message behind this advocate's comments appears to be not that my arguments are scientifically invalid, but that I should muzzle myself because by challenging the dogma of the movement, I am being divisive.

And, more interestingly, that it is actually an intrusion upon anti-smoking advocates for them to have to listen to an opinion which doesn't coincide with their own. Expressing my opinion is apparently intrusive because of what my opinion happens to be. If I had conducted exactly the same analysis, but found a significant decline in heart attack admissions associated with smoking bans, then my comments would not have represented a divisive intrusion.

The lesson I am learning, and it is being driven home repeatedly now (this is not just an isolated case of one or two inappropriate and misguided actions), is that for many anti-smoking groups and advocates, the science and the facts are really not of interest. Unless they support the pre-conceived agenda, in which case they are of great interest.

But if the science doesn't support the agenda, then the messenger must be attacked, discredited, and silenced. Even defamed if that is necessary.

The sad thing is that many of these anti-smoking groups or practitioners do not seem to be willing to even look at the evidence. If they know it doesn't support the agenda and the claims that are being made, then it must be discredited before even examining it.

I find it quite interesting that over the past two days since I published my analysis and commentary, there has been literally zero discussion of the scientific issues behind the evaluation of the impact of smoking bans on acute cardiovascular morbidity. Instead, the discussion has been entirely focused on attacking me as well as the authors of the original study.

I can't help but make note of what FORCES' Gian Turci termed the Fourth Amendment of the tobacco control movement:

"The antitobacco movement is inherently right, just and true – thus, it is heresy to disagree with its goals and methods."

Honestly, when I first read that I thought it was a bunch of crap. But now I'm beginning to see that perhaps there is some serious truth to it. And it greatly saddens me.

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