Consummate dilettantism!

Friday, November 9, 2007

Big Oil + Big Tobacco + Big Enviro

Read this post at the Wall Street Journal's Informed Reader blog. It's really very funny how anti-tobacco campaigners criticize the tobacco industry for funding a relatively small amount of research (in comparison with the tremendous amounts of money from the government (most disgustingly, I might add) and other sources poured into the coffers of the anti-tobacco lobbyists and researchers) regarding the effects of secondhand smoke, and then go ahead and smear the industry and the science in "support" of their claims, regardless of the actual evidence behind them.

Such dire warnings have helped fuel widespread public smoking bans in recent years, but tobacco researcher Mike Siegel of Boston University says the claims are largely distorted. Dr. Siegel agrees that 30 minutes of secondhand smoke exposure causes measurable changes to blood flow – but research shows that those changes are temporary, with circulation returning to normal within a matter of hours. “It is certainly not correct to claim that a single 30-minute exposure to secondhand smoke causes hardening of the arteries, heart disease, heart attacks or strokes,” he says. “The antismoking movement has gone overboard.”

Perhaps the most revealing quote is one from an anti-tobacco advocate:

Other researchers say public-health messages sometimes have to be simplified in order to have an impact. “When you take the science and put it in the public domain you can’t include all the caveats,” says Stanton Glantz, a tobacco researcher at the University of California, San Francisco.

I'd have more sympathy for these people if the tobacco industry's right to freedom of speech had not been systematically denied for about 40 years, and if its products had not been under continuous assault by the government (which has no business in this matter, as the government's costs in health care (in which it should also not be involved) for smokers are more than made up for by egregious tobacco taxes*) and radical anti-smoking (and anti-industry) activists (who have by now infiltrated our nation's public schools), often on the government payroll.

There's a similar pattern here with respect to the global warming debates. Though the amount of money going to global proponents hugely outweighs that going to skeptics by a factor of 1,000, and though the amount of political campaigning and lobbying on behalf of so-called "environmentalists" outweighs that on behalf of the tobacco industry by a factor of 3, some are simply not content. Any viewpoints contrary to the usual mantra of "we're all going to die" must be crushed, violently if necessary, and must be smeared in the press and by our politicians. Anything less is immoral, nay, sinful. The money that does go to the skeptics is both useful (indeed, there is evidence for this point -- see here) and necessary for free scientific discourse (whatever your opinion on global warming or its magnitude), as I can't imagine the EPA funding much research skeptical to global warming.

One final word from a prominent catastrophic global warming proponent (Steven Schneider of the NOAA), eerily similar to the above quote by the anti-tobacco researcher:

We have to offer up scary scenarios, make simplified, dramatic statements, and make little mention of any doubts we have. Each of us has to decide what the right balance is between being effective and being honest.

*“Cigarette Taxation and the Social Consequences of Smoking,” NBER Working Paper No. W4891 (October, 1994).

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