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Cheers - AE

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

A Righteous frenzy.

Following on from last night's piece about anti-tobacco zealots comparing smoking with the September 11th attacks (see post before last), this afternoon I read an interesting article in The Age in which a public figure is slammed for not being on message when it comes to ruling over other people's bodies. The frenzy of the Righteous getting in there to tear off a piece of the poor sod is depressingly predictable.
LORD Mayor Robert Doyle has caused a storm by suggesting there is no evidence passive smoking causes lung cancer.

Cr Doyle, who is also chairman of Melbourne Health, told 774 ABC Radio: "I don't know of a case of cancer that has been caused by passive smoking."
So not just a public figure but also one who chairs a local health service, and worldwide that industry is just stuffed with people addicted to lecturing other people about what they do with their own bodies. Melbourne Health is no exception, as we shall see.
When told there has been, he said: "Have there? Really? I don't know of one. I am happy to be corrected."
Good for him, though he could have gone further and more overtly called their bluff simply by asking for one example of a death certificate, just one and from anywhere at all, that listed passive smoking as cause of death. Yes, I know they're only talking about incidences of cancer but the implication is clear. And so, when you read on, is the bullshit (my emphasis).
The chairman of lung service at Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, Associate Professor David Ball, said no one knows the point at which tobacco smoke becomes safe.
From which we can infer that no one knows the point at which tobacco smoke becomes dangerous either, though naturally Professor Bell assumes, despite the tacit admission that he doesn't actually know, that it's anything greater than zero (again, my emphasis).
Professor Ball, who has worked at Peter MacCallum for more than 30 years, said: "The most sensible advice I would give to people is to avoid tobacco smoke altogether.

"We know that about 10 per cent of people who are lung cancer sufferers have never smoked, so the cause of their cancer is unclear...
From which we can infer that the cause of cancer in the remaining 90% who have smoked or do smoke is considered clear.
...and it would not be unreasonable to conclude that some of those people may have caught it from the cancer-producing substance in tobacco smoke that they may have been exposed to, either through their contact with relatives or close family members."
Which translates as "we don't know why they got cancer, but we're assuming that a smoking related cause must be present for some of them". From this we can infer that there is no identifiable cause at all for the others who may not have been exposed to blahblahblah.

However, the important point is that there is no practical difference between cases where there may have been smoke exposure and cases where there may not because in all cases, to use the professor's words, the cause is unclear because they have never smoked. From this we can infer, as Leg-iron frequently points out, that medics tend not to look for any other cause once it has been determined that the patient has ever smoked. Breathing radon, if we choose to take the good professor's claims at face value, is apparently harmless after all. At least he doesn't consider it worth a mention despite being, according to Wikipedia (with all that implies),
... responsible for the majority of the mean public exposure to ionizing radiation.
Radon emanates naturally from the ground and from some building materials all over the world, wherever traces of uranium or thorium can be found, and particularly in regions with soils containing granite or shale, which have a higher concentration of uranium.
Presumably this is because both uranium and thorium are radioactive and radon isotopes are in both thier respective decay chains. And does Australia have much in the way of uranium and thorium? Oooh yes. Lots of both, and by extension presumably a fair bit of radon along with it. Granite? Sure, we've got tourist landmarks made of the bloody stuff? Shale? Not so sure about that but I think some of the domestic gas production comes from shale rock.

Anyway, all that's irrelevant because tobacco is determined to be the cause for 90% of lung cancer as well as an unspecified, though implicitly significant, proportion of the remaining 10%. This might change in future if anyone works out how to sue a rock or ban certain types of geology.
Professor Ball supported banning smoking in outdoor dining areas.
Who'd a thunk it?

And of course he wasn't the only one getting cross with Cllr Doyle over his failure to toe the line on smoking. Aaaaaaaand... cue rent seekers!
Mike Daube, professor of health policy at Curtin University and president of the Australian Council on Smoking and Health, said: "There is very clear evidence on passive smoking and lung cancer. .."
But not in the form of death certificates, obviously.
"The lord mayor should be ashamed of himself for making a comment like that. It sounds to me very ill-informed and irresponsible."
It sounds impartial and perfectly responsible to me. If he is ill-informed perhaps that's because nobody can inform him of the name of a single person who has cancer or who has died and where all factors, e.g. possible presence of radon, were considered but eventually passive smoking was positively identified - as distinct from 'assumed to be in the absence of any other ideas' - as the cause. Go on, name one. Cllr Doyle has said he's happy to be corrected, and I think most pro-choice people are the same. We're all just waiting on the name.
Quit Victoria executive director Fiona Sharkie said: "Exposure to second-hand smoke is a cause of cancer."

She said the evidence was "incredibly well documented".
Providing you're not expecting to see it on an actual death certificate, in which case it's not documented at all. Again, name one, just one, case in which all possible causes were considered but exposure to second hand smoke was positively identified as the cause. Just one case.

The thing is you can't can you? And neither can the guy from Council on Smoking and Health (CoSH? - it feels appropriate somehow). Not if Professor Ball, himself a zilion miles from being pro-choice, is to be believed.
"Given that Robert Doyle is the chair of Melbourne Health, which includes the Royal Melbourne Hospital, he has probably got many doctors there he could check it with," she said.
Why? He already knows what they'll say. We all do. But can any of them point at a single death that has been positively and indisputably caused by passive smoking? Or is it the usual assertions of vast numbers simply on the grounds that, well, what else could it be (forgetting that nobody's actually looking for any other cause, natch).

Since it's all laced throughout with caveats and the usual weasel words 'may', 'could', 'potentially', 'some' and so on, whoring themselves on behalf of people who believe their assumptions are correct but can't bring themselves to say openly how much is still assumed, I wouldn't be surprised if the first certain passive smoking related death is actually some poor bastard getting murdered for lighting up by an outraged non-smoker who's simply retaliating in unjustified fear - whipped up by the antis - for their own life. They'd probably get off too. The way things are going murdering untermenschen like smokers will be seen by some as a public service. Ordering the poor sods around is already fine, and, as Cllr Doyle has found, failing to support more and more oppression of smokers makes you nearly as bad as them in the eyes of the Righteous.


Bucko said...

Finally someone speaking out against this nonesense.
Thoses ten percent of cancer deaths who weren't smokers, they MAY have eaten tomatoes while they were alive.
That statement proves tomatoes cause cancer if we are to go by their parameters.

Angry Exile said...

Quite. It's all so loosely put that when you look at it you see they've simply made smoking their default cause. 90% are smokers, ergo smoking caused all those... not working down a mine or living in a polluted city or eating breakfast off of a granite worktop every day. And having decided that for those 90% it is the smoking that is the cause they've more or less forced themselves to try to fit the other 10% into that world view. The trouble is they've been so bloody gung ho about it that their statements now exclude things like orking down a mine or living in a polluted city or eating breakfast off of a granite worktop every day.

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