Hot on the heels of Christopher Snowdon and Michael J. McFadden’s books, the former’s Velvet Glove, Iron Fist and the latter’s Dissecting Antismokers’ Brains, comes Rich White’s Smoke Screens: The Truth About Tobacco. I am awaiting Rich’s book through the post sometime soon. (if you want a signed copy see details below.)
"In this conscientious, painstaking and scholarly review of the literature, Richard White has validated my scepticism. The book is encyclopaedic in its content. Among the many topics embraced is ‘detection bias’ whereby the notion that smoking causes cancer is now so ingrained that the possibility of lung cancer when doctors examine non-smokers is overlooked; they are not expecting to find cancer and so do not investigate appropriately. Researchers still do not know precisely how, or indeed whether, smoking causes cancer or any of the other diseases attributed to it; they have struggled with weird and wonderful experiments to try and produce tumours in laboratory animals and failed dismally. The chemicals in tobacco smoke are similar to those in traffic fumes, except that in traffic fumes the concentration is much higher; cigarette smoke is therefore less toxic than the air we ordinarily breathe."
And from the intro:
"Until the 1950s almost nobody would have suggested smoking was harmful, let alone deadly. Doctors even recommended smoking...What is widely overlooked, ignored, or just not known is that a very definite health establishment exists, to which organisations like the National Health Service (NHS) and Cancer Research UK belong. Within this health establishment are the researchers and scientists who depend upon funding for their research. There is now a bandwagon, so to speak; any anti-smoking study is guaranteed to receive grants, and guaranteed to get exposure. Thus, the bigger picture begins to emerge and we can see that scientists and researchers are almost forced to churn out anti-smoking studies, regardless of how bogus they are."
From the press release:
‘Smoke Screens: The Truth About Tobacco’ is the culmination of years of research into tobacco consumption. The book explores everything from the scientific links between smoking and illness to smoking trends between the social classes. It also examines fundamental issues such as detection bias and answers the pertinent question of ‘Why was there a surge in lung cancer rates in the 1930s?’
The book delves into the interests of the pharmaceutical industry and the cancer research organizations to determine whether they have vested interests in the ostracisation of smokers and, if so, where those interests lay. Including extracts from a variety of Surgeon General Reports and an anti-smoking magazine from 1917, ‘Smoke Screens: The Truth About Tobacco’ leaves no stone unturned and provides an encyclopaedic view into one of the largest issues in society today. With global smoking bans now in place and the World Health Organisation declaring a global war against tobacco smoking, the book is timely and relevant. With over a billion smokers worldwide there is potential for this book to be a milestone in recent history.
Non-smokers need to read your book too, it cuts across all barriers and maybe the most vehement amongst the anti-smokers will begin to understand why they feel so vociferously against the smoker. Read it, you will not be disappointed!
Smoke Screens: The Truth About Tobacco is the work of Rich White, a graduate of Canterbury Christ Church University. According to the blurb:
"The book explores all aspects of tobacco smoking including smoking trends among social classes and detection bias and its impact on diagnosis.
"It examines in depth the evidence linking smoking to specific diseases, how attitudes towards smoking have changed over time, and how and why tobacco smoking has the negative status it does today."
Actually, that makes it sound a bit dull. Truth is, this book has the word "contentious" written all over it and it is certain to generate strong opinions.
Smoke Screens will appeal to those who are dubious about the alleged risks of smoking and believe - rightly or wrongly - that the benefits outweigh those risks. Whether it will convert anyone who takes a rather different view of tobacco remains to be seen.
A couple of weeks ago Rich White sent me an electronic copy of his book “Smokescreens, The Truth About Tobacco.” It’s clear and well written and he provides a good explanation of anti-tobacco research, including not only the science, but the politics behind it. I especially liked his chapters on second hand smoke.
Rich White has charted himself a difficult road to walk in Smoke Screens: The Truth About Tobacco, but he walks it well and if you join him you'll learn some things along the path.
Most of those who have fought the 800 million dollar a year "Tobacco Control Lobby" in recent years have done so on the basis of their wildly spurious claims about the "deadly risks" of wisps of secondary smoke in the air. It's a relatively easy fight to win if you can find an audience with minds open enough to listen because the lies are so easily exposed and the nonsense so easily swept aside. The only thing keeping the smoke-banners ahead of the game is the enormous money-pot they can dip into and the non-existent financial resources of their opposition. Those opposing smoking bans are "forbidden" to even touch support from Big Tobacco or face the risk that their arguments will be simply dismissed without a hearing. Unfortunately, without that support they never even get to grab the microphone and so the only ones generally heard from are the ban supporters. Meanwhile Big T. itself is so terrified of lawsuits in a highly charged negative environment that they're usually afraid to voice the mildest squeak of protest against even the wildest medical accusations.
In Smoke Screens Rich White has taken up the challenge of fighting the Antismokers at their strongest point: their claims of the harm of smoking to smokers themselves. His dedication and hard work in gathering and organizing evidence has paid off and while he may not convince the majority of readers he'll certainly give them at least some pause to think about what they've basically been hearing since they've been in the cradle: the cute little sound bite, "You Smoke: You Die." may be true, but Rich reminds us that "You Don't Smoke: You Die." is also true and not quite as different as we may have thought. Medicine has gotten caught up in witch hunts and beliefs in its omniscience in the past and Rich puts forth the argument that its crusade against smoking will eventually be shown to be largely built of the same material that predicted millions of deaths from Mad Cow Disease and warned us of the deadliness of butter.
He writes clearly and in an engaging style, presenting facts to support his arguments and presenting those arguments in a straightforward way while avoiding the tedium of simply citing reams of numbers and blocks of repetitive references. He makes an argument that's very hard to make and unfortunately most readers will find that even in the face of his most convincing presentations their background "common sense knowledge" will make it difficult to accept his conclusions. Still, it's an argument that *does* need to be made and even those with the most rock-solid belief in the concept that "Smoking Equals Death" should walk away after his book with at least a little doubt in their minds: things are not always what we think they are.
Michael J. McFadden
Author of "Dissecting Antismokers' Brains"