Smoking Gun

You’ll like this. A study of 123,479 volunteers over seven years, all of whom were exposed to second-hand smoke in their childhood, has shown a statistically significant rise in cancer cases, compared with those who were not exposed as children. The British Medical Association has said that “the results show clearly that second-hand smoke causes cancer of the lung, mouth and throat.” Here, however, is the response from pro-smoking group ‘Forest’:

The effects of passive smoking are notoriously difficult to measure.

Well, ok. This is true. That’s why the study takes into account so many people, to average out any other factors as much as possible.

Most studies are based on imprecise recall and anecdotal evidence concerning the exact amount of exposure to environmental tobacco smoke

Whatever. Did your parents smoke in the house? Yes. Asks parents. Did you smoke in the house around the kids? Yes. Anecdotal, yes. But there are 123,479 people, here. Wait for it, though.

Yet this report, like so many, adopts a preposterous pretence of precise measurement which immediately arouses suspicion.

This is called science, my friend. You’re here implying that all anecdotal evidence is bad, and that any attempts to get around its flaws are useless. Precise measurement can be achieved with the right kind of experiment, and using buzzwords isn’t going to stop this being true. The last statement could really be re-written as:

I think this scientific report is wrong, therefore it is.

And then:

To isolate the effect of environmental tobacco smoke on lung cancer cases would require an examination of all possible alternative causes.

All possible alternative causes? Get a grip. How would one go about such an investigation, anyway? Ask them if they’ve ever been exposed to cancer-causing levels of radiation? No! That’s anecdotal! The only way to convince this man would be to conduct a study in which 100,000 people are followed around by a researcher for 70 years. And then the presence of the researcher would affect the experiment, so it’s all void! And finally:

Unfortunately it is just another example of anti-smoking hysteria, a further attempt to demonise smokers for their habit.

How can a report be ‘hysteria’? Why would anybody just decide to arbitrarily attack smoking? Because the evidence shows that it kills people! We’re just trying to stop people dying. Imagine a boxing pundit saying the above words, but change smoking to ‘getting hit in the head’ and ‘lung cancer’ to ‘brain damage’. All number of other things could be causing the brain damage! Strange that you don’t find people complaining of anti-boxing hysteria…