Chapter 6: The Propaganda Machine

© 1999, Lauren A. Colby. Version 2.3

Chapter 6: The Propaganda Machine

Beginning in the early 1950's, the American Cancer Society started to wage war against smoking. Later, the government took up the cudgel and, today, there is a government agency, the Office of Smoking and Health, dedicated to stamping out smoking. Unfortunately, the government propaganda is often predicated upon assertions which are simply untrue. In many instances, these are examples of the "LaLonde effect".

Marc LaLonde was formerly the Canadian Minister of National Health and Welfare. He argued that health messages should be vigorously disseminated, and should be "loud, clear and unequivocal" even if unsupported by scientific evidence. If a particular study showed that smoking might be related to a particular disease, it made no difference to LaLonde whether the study was seriously flawed, or not. He felt that releasing the study was always justified, if it would convince people to stop smoking, since everybody knew that smoking was bad for people.

The LaLonde effect is by no means new. As early as 1955, J. Neyman wrote an article in Science Magazine, entitled "Statistics - servant of all sciences". In the article, he commented upon a statistical study of smoking and cancer and concluded that the study was possibly flawed. None-the-less, he felt obliged to remark, in a footnote, that "A referee warns me that in spite of the fictitiousness of the figures in Table 1 and in spite of the emphasis on the methodological character of my remarks, the `tobacco people' may pick up the argument and use it for publicity purposes" 12 .

Every year, the government releases figures on the number of "smoking related deaths" in the United States. The most recent figure is 470,000, although Congressman Waxman recently said 500,000. Most people assume that there is some scientific basis to that figure. Not so! The government "scientists" simply take a flat percentage of the number of people who die from a particular disease, and assume that to be the number whose death was caused by smoking. There are no autopsies, no studies on actual human beings.

Dr. Bernard M. Wagner, the editor of Modern Pathology, recently wrote, "Are there 450,000 smoking-related deaths per year in America? Maybe...but no human beings are ever studied to find out". Wagner went on to say the biggest obstacle to knowing what is actually going on is the low autopsy rate in this country, about 10%.

Perhaps the best (or maybe the worst) example of the LaLonde effect is the recent report of the Environmental Protection Agency on the "dangers" of second-hand smoke (ETS).

In an article published in the Winter 93-94 issue of Bostonia, a magazine published by Boston University, the EPA Report was vigorously attacked by Dr. John C. Luik, a non-smoker, and a senior associate of the Niagara Institute, Ontario, Canada. As Luik showed, the EPA study was based on some 30 studies from several different countries. These studies dealt, essentially, with the effect of smoking by a smoking husband or wife on a non-smoking spouse. Of the thirty studies, 24 showed no statistically significant connection between ETS (environmental tobacco smoke) and lung cancer. However, while the EPA saw fit to discuss and refer to all 30 studies, it made a statistical analysis of only 11 U.S. studies. EPA conceded that ten of these studies also showed no statistically significant increase in lung cancer risk. One study alone showed such a risk, but to show such a risk, the EPA was obliged to reduce the statistical "confidence factor" which it normally uses in such analyses from 95% to 90%!

The EPA then went on to merge all of the eleven studies together (a statistically invalid procedure since the studies were not all structured the same way), and to reanalyze the results, using the newly reduced "confidence factor". By folding, mutilating and stapling the data, the EPA decided that the spouses of smokers had a risk of developing 119 lung cancers, as opposed to a risk of 100 such cancers in the spouses of non-smokers. Without the reduction in the "confidence factor", no statistically significant risk could have been shown. None-the-less, the EPA branded ETS a "carcinogen".

Writing in Toxological Pathology, Alvan Feinstein, a Yale University epidemiologist quotes another prominent epidemiologist as saying this about the EPA report: "Yes, it's rotten science, but it's in a worthy cause. It will help us to get rid of cigarettes and become a smoke-free society". The "LaLonde Effect" is alive and well!

Meanwhile, the propaganda machine continues to spew out all kinds of spurious information and distortions. On July 13, 1994, an obituary in the Washington Post reported the death, at age 60, of Richard Joshua Reynolds, III, an heir to the founder of the R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company. The headline, and an accompanying photograph showed the deceased holding a lighted cigarette, implying that Reynolds died from emphysema, caused by smoking. Reading the body of the obituary, however, it turned out that he had quit smoking eight years before his death; that there was a family history of emphysema and the deceased's own father had died from the disease at the age of 58; and that his doctor was unable to state the "immediate cause" of his death! 13

Recently, also, the Post Office released a postage stamp, honoring a deceased jazz musician. The likeness of the musician is on the stamp, and is based on a photograph, taken while he was alive. The original photograph showed the musician with a cigarette dangling from his lips. But the cigarette has been airbrushed out in the postage stamp!

Recently, on Maryland Public TV, an official of the Maryland Cancer Society made the statement that the smoking/lung cancer connection had been established in "laboratory experiments". Of course, it has not, but nobody challenged him.

Similarly, in a recent CNN television program about smoking, a lady was presented who had lost her larynx to cancer and had to use an artificial voice box. In the course of the program, it came out that the lady was a life long non-smoker. The moderator, however, proceeded to explain that the cancer had been caused by second hand smoke!

Whenever anybody challenges the view that "tobacco kills", they are immediately confronted with the argument that they are tools of the giant tobacco companies. Supposedly, these companies spend millions to spread lies and disinformation concerning smoking.

The truth is that the anti-smoking lobby has successfully demonized the tobacco companies to such an extent that few public officials would dare accept contributions from tobacco companies, lest they be charged at election time with accepting "tobacco money". The truth is, moreover, that there is a lot of money to be made in the anti-smoking movement, and lots of people are benefiting, financially, from that movement.

In 1994, the Labor Commissioner for the State of Maryland proposed a state-wide smoking ban. It was far reaching indeed, and, in its original form, would have prohibited people from smoking, even in their own hotel rooms, on the theory that the maid might come in to clean up, sniff some second-hand smoke and suffer lasting injury.

At the time the ban was originally proposed, a stream of U.S. government officials poured into Maryland, conducting seminars and public meetings to whip up support for the ban. These officials, from such agencies as the Office on Smoking or [sic] Health, EPA, FDA, etc., make a good living, "educating" the public in the dangers of tobacco. Furthermore, the months leading up to the ban were filled with television spots, featuring animated skeletons, demonstrating the "dangers" of smoking. These spots were paid for with taxpayer monies. A similar television spot campaign runs in California, also paid for with taxpayer dollars.

At the time the Maryland ban was first proposed, William Donald Schaefer was Governor. In November, 1994, an election was held for a new governor, and the smoking ban became a campaign issue. The Maryland "hospitality industry", consisting of owners of restaurants, bars, convention promoters, etc., was terrified that the ban would drive business out of the state to such nearby jurisdictions as the District of Columbia, Virginia, Delaware, West Virginia and Pennsylvania. Ellen Saurbrey, the Republican, promised to do away with the ban. Her Democratic opponent, Parris Glendening, promised to provide exemptions for small businesses, taverns, restaurants, etc.

Glendening won the election by a whisker-thin margin, amidst charges of voter fraud. Upon assuming the governor's office, he forgot all about his campaign promises, and set about to impose what amounted to an all-encompassing ban. At a meeting of anti-smoking forces in the state capital, the governor appeared with Victor Crawford, a self-styled former lobbyist for the tobacco industry, who now has throat cancer and attributes it to his former smoking habit. At the same rally, the Governor declared that 3,000 Marylanders die every year from second-hand smoke (a figure which is a fabrication, pure and simple: remember, even in its highly flawed report on second hand smoke, the EPA claimed no more than 3,000 deaths, annually, in the entire nation). The governor went on to claim that Maryland has the highest rate of cancer in the nation. On the basis of death certificate records, that's technically true; however, the Governor neglected to mention that Maryland has many large cancer treatment centers, e.g., NIH, Bethesda Naval Hospital, and John Hopkins University Hospital, and that when people die from cancer in these institutions, their death certificates are issued in Maryland, even though the deceased may have come here from Iowa!

Ultimately, the state legislature passed legislation, exempting some bars and restaurants from the ban, and the governor compromised, declaring, however, that he would come back later and remove the exemptions. Meanwhile, however, Victor Crawford had a field day with the press. He was featured in editorials and in a "60 Minutes" television interview with Leslie Stahl. In the interview, Crawford asserted that he had served the tobacco companies by "turning out the troops" for pro-smoking rallies; (b) presented false laboratory reports; and (c) presenting false information on poll results, affecting smoking.

The Tobacco Institute has denied that Crawford did any significant amount of work for them. Moreover, in the 22 years that I've lived in Maryland, I never heard about any pro-smoking rallies, or any polls dealing with smoking, or any "laboratory reports". So, I searched the archives of the Baltimore Sun. There were five references to Crawford: three dealing with his present claims that he lied on behalf of the tobacco companies, one dealing with a property dispute, and another, which identified him as a prominent criminal lawyer, who had been involved in 33 capital cases. There were no references to any pro-smoking rallies, or polls dealing with smoking, or lab studies dealing favorably with smoking. So, if Crawford organized rallies, they must have been kept very quiet and, if he distributed information about polls or lab studies, that information must have been kept very quiet.

Crawford, of course, is a confessed liar. In fact, on "60 Minutes", he bragged about the lies he supposedly told. The question I have is whether a confessed liar can be believed, when he says that he's now telling the truth. Is it possible that he was paid for his appearances with the Governor?

Crawford's name surfaced again in the September 23, 1995 edition of the Washington Post. There, a story appeared about a prostitute who said she had sex with a Montgomery County judge and that her own attorney offered her $10,000, if she would leave Maryland after the investigation began. The attorney? None other than Victor Crawford. Crawford denied the allegation of course, but his denial shows that he still has tobacco on his mind. In a telephone interview from Denver, Crawford said, "Somebody's got their facts awfully screwed up if they think I'm involved with this...Ten thousand dollars? Somebody has really been smoking some funny cigarettes on this one...".

The story goes on to say that Crawford gained national attention this summer when he was profiled by the CBS News program, "60 minutes" for abandoning his life as an Annapolis lobbyist for the tobacco industry. Apparently, the Post forgot that, in their March 4 Edition, Crawford admitted that he really never had a "life" as a tobacco lobbyist in Annapolis or any place else. In an interview, he disclosed that he lives in the posh Washington, D.C., suburb of North Chevy Chase (some 60 miles from Annapolis), and that his career as a tobacco lobbyist consisted solely of working on contract for the Tobacco Institute for 6 years in the late 1980's. In the same interview, he claimed that he received "about $20,000" for his services, at a rate of "up to" $200.00 per hour. That meant that, if he can be believed, he devoted approximately 17 hours per year to tobacco lobbying.

Many anti-smoking "experts" are paid, and paid very well. There are grants available from the cancer societies and from governments, for anti-smoking research and "education", and many people benefit from these grants. In California, Proposition 99, passed in 1988, has turned out to be a mother lode for the anti-smoking lobby. Under its provisions, there is so much to dole out that practically anyone with a harebrained scheme can profit, so long as their ideas can be viewed in some way as furthering the anti-smoking cause. Thus, camping trips are funded and the hikers clothed with tee-shirts bearing anti-smoking massages. One group built a race car with anti-smoking slogans on it and now tour the racing circuit at smokers' expense. Swimming pools are built for schools on the condition that smoking be banned throughout the property, including in teachers' cars on the parking lot.

If Crawford is the "Poster Boy" for the anti-smoking movement, Stanton Glantz is the movement's high priest. Glantz is a professor at UCSF, in California. In addition to his salary, Glantz gets generous government research grants as well as speaking fees from numerous groups such as the American Heart Association. Glantz recently came up with a figure of 53,000 deaths per annum in the U.S. from second hand smoke. In truth, Glantz did not support his estimate with any scientific data; he didn't have to. His adoring audiences will believe anything he says, and he gets paid to say it, so long as he tells the audiences what they want to hear.

Before leaving this subject of propaganda, mention should be made of the oft-repeated canard that smoking imposes costs upon society, which must be paid by non-smokers. The State of Florida, among others, is suing the tobacco companies for the medical costs which it claims to have incurred as a result of the smoking habits of its residents.

Now, I do not happen to think that smoking causes any disease. Assuming, however, solely arguendo, that smokers do, in fact, die prematurely from smoking-related diseases, there is a considerable saving to society because these dead smokers do not collect their full social security and/or pension benefits. Moreover, smokers pay cigarette and tobacco taxes, both to the states and the federal government, which non-smokers do not pay.

In 1991, Willard G. Manning, et al., published a landmark study on the costs to society of alcohol and tobacco 14 . Manning and his colleagues were no friends of tobacco. They assumed that smoking causes premature death, extra sick leave, and fires. Never-the-less, when all of the costs attributed to smoking by Manning are added up and offset against the benefits, it is clear that smokers pay more to society than they take from society. In the following table, a minus sign denotes a cost to society, while a positive sign denotes a saving or benefit. All of the figures are expressed in cents per pack of cigarettes smoked:

Additional medical expenses from smoking-26
Sick leave costs -01
Group life insurance -05
Fires caused by smoking -02
Lost tax revenues due to premature death-09
Reduced use of retirement pensions +24
Reduced use of nursing homes +03
Federal cigarette tax +24
State and local taxes 15 +26
Net Benefit to Society +34

This is, perhaps, a convenient place to mention another benefit to society which formerly accrued from smoking, but no longer exists, because of the ban on smoking in commercial airplanes. In these aircraft, devices known as "packs" are used to filter the air in the passenger cabins. When smoking was allowed, the airlines used up to six packs to filter the air in first class; a fewer number in economy class. Packs, however, cost the airlines money, because they decrease fuel economy. The smoking ban enabled the airlines to reduce the number of packs they used, and they did so, enthusiastically, since, without the odor of smoke, passengers could not tell whether the air was being efficiently filtered, or not. As a result, the air in commercial airliners is likely to be filthy, and laden with viruses, bacteria, and other unpleasant things. It's no coincidence, therefore, that stories have started cropping up in the newspapers about stewardesses who transmitted tuberculosis to passengers and other crew members 16 . The odor of tobacco smoke formerly served the same function as the odor that gas companies add to natural gas. It warned of insufficient ventilation.