Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Anti-Smoking Groups Can't Handle the Truth; Personal Attacks Erupting After Expressing My Opinions about Misleading Scientific Claims

Apparently, the truth can be painful. Rather than either accepting it or demonstrating why my arguments are wrong, anti-smoking groups are resorting to abusive personal attacks.

Today's example comes from a long-time friend and colleague with whom I worked closely for a number of years on issues related to federal tobacco legislation. This colleague heads up a statewide anti-smoking group. In an email to me yesterday, this anti-smoking group wrote:

"You are the one misrepresenting public health, and doing great damage for all that you and the rest of us have worked for so many years. Take me off your mailing list ASAP. I have better things to do than read items from your tobacco industry support group."

The Rest of the Story

This is actually the first time in a long while that I am realizing that my efforts to restore some scientific integrity to the movement are having an effect. Because this is type of reaction that one would expect only if the anti-smoking group in question realized that there was some truth to my argument. If what I were arguing were mere hogwash, my claims would simply be dismissed as nonsense, and would garner no such response.

The fact that groups are apparently very angry with me suggests that at least subconsciously, they are afraid that they are indeed in trouble because they are misleading people. Coming from someone who is a respected scientist in the field and who has published more than 60 articles, many of them regarding the health effects of secondhand smoke, I can see why my commentary is threatening to these groups.

Still, they wouldn't respond so abusively if they didn't, deep down, realize that there were some serious problems.

Nevertheless, while I understand the reason behind this derogatory personal attack, I think it would be nice if anti-smoking groups actually made an effort to defend their statements and to show me why I am wrong. I think they owe nothing less to the public.

At least I had the decency to provide a detailed, scientific, evidence-based explanation of the reasons why I think the claims of a number of anti-smoking groups about the acute cardiovascular health effects of secondhand smoke are misleading. In response, I just get this personal attack from the organization with not even a single argument for why my reasoning is wrong.

Incidentally, this individual is not a physician or a scientist, so they are probably not in a position to debate me on this issue. So I guess all that is left is to issue a derogatory and abusive personal attack on their colleague.

Seriously - with colleagues like this, do I really need enemies?

You dedicate 21 years of your life to working with a group of colleagues for a common cause and this is what you get?

Now let's get a few things straight.

First, it is not me who is doing the damage. I'm just documenting it. If there is damage being done, it's being done by the anti-smoking groups which are making the misleading and inaccurate health claims in the first place. They are the ones who are threatening the credibility, integrity, and effectiveness of the movement and doing great damage to the cause that I and they have worked for years to promote.

It was not me who claimed that just 30 seconds of secondhand smoke exposure caused coronary artery function among nonsmokers to be just as bad as among lifetime smokers.

It was not me who claimed that 30 minutes of secondhand smoke exposure causes as much heart damage as a lifetime of chronic active smoking.

It was not me who went against the Surgeon General's report and told the public that there is sufficient evidence to conclude that secondhand smoke causes debilitating, irreversible chronic lung disease - pulmonary emphysema - in nonsmokers.

Let's get the facts straight here.

Second, the group seems to be accusing me of being a tobacco industry-supported group. This is the most common tactic that I've experienced. When advocates don't like the arguments I'm making, they accuse me of working for the tobacco industry. But the group offers no evidence to support such a contention. I look forward to seeing their documentation of the links between my blog and the tobacco industry. (Hopefully they haven't found out about the donations I have accepted to support this web site - but the burden is on them to document their accusations, not on me).

Perhaps the most disturbing part of the response is the statement that anti-smoking groups have better things to do then to ensure that the claims they are making to the public are accurate. Apparently, the science is just something that is getting in the way of the agenda. We don't have time to worry about the science.

I'll rest my case with my readers: you tell me who is doing the misrepresenting of the science - is it me by suggesting that there is no evidence that 30 seconds of secondhand smoke exposure can cause severe coronary artery damage similar to that seen in a smoker and that it is absurd to claim that simply walking through a smoky room causes heart attacks, or is it those making these claims who are misleading the public?

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