Frank Davis

Banging on about the Smoking Ban

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Invitation to a Colloquium
Does smoking cause lung cancer? To most people the answer is probably: FFS, everybody knows that smoking causes lung cancer! And it certainly used to be my own belief. It was what numerous senior doctors and health professionals have been telling us for the past 60 years, and I had no reason to disbelieve them. But in recent years, as I've pondered the matter, I've begun to doubt the veracity of this claim. And I've even begun to explore one or two other hypotheses.

However Chris Snowdon, author of Velvet Glove, Iron Fist (see ad in right margin), does not have much doubt about the truth of it, and has suggested we have an online debate about it. Tomorrow night, I will have the honour of posting up his opening "case for the prosecution".

I will then respond to Chris. But I hope that Richard White, the author of Smoke Screens (see other ad in right margin), who shares my doubts, and who has devoted a chapter in his book to the matter, will also contribute some thoughts for me to have the honour of.also posting.

I'm sure this will be a good-natured and open debate, if only because the present participants are all of much the same mind about other smoking-related matters (e.g. passive smoking). The format I intend to follow is to start off with Chris Snowdon, and then follow that in no particular order with other posts from myself, Rich White, and Chris. The comments as ever will be open to anybody to respond, or ask questions. I would like to invite anybody who feels that they have something that merits its own post to submit them to me at, and I'll consider them for publication. As I see the debate, the people whose posts get published will be the speakers at a debate, and the commenters will be their audience.

I'm not proposing (at the moment) that there should be any time limit on this debate, nor any deadlines by which anyone is expected to provide submissions or responses. I'm thinking of a fairly leisurely discussion. As the debate proceeds, it'll likely be interspersed with posts from me about other matters. I've decided to call the debate a Colloquium or Conversation or Chat About The Cigarette Hypothesis, partly because this is what Sir Ronald Fisher used to call it back in the 1950s when it first became a matter of controversy. It also makes for a nice catchy acronym -- CATCH -- which I'll use as a tag for the various posts. I'll number each post in the series, starting from CATCH-1, to provide an easy way of referencing posts. Who knows, we might even get as far as CATCH-22.

This is something of an experiment. I've not seen an online debate conducted on a blog this way. So I have no idea how it will go. With luck, however, it'll give the whole matter a fairly good airing, and we will all come away newly enlightened. Or perhaps even more confused than ever.

For now I'd like to invite any further suggestions anyone might like to make before kicking off in 24 hours time with Chris Snowdon. People might wish to suggest other possible contributors (who might even include antismokers).  Or they might seek clarification. Or whatever.

It occurs to me that it might be a good idea to start off by trying to gauge opinion on the question by polling my readers. But I had a rather unhappy experience with a Livejournal poll I tried out a year ago. I might give it another try. If it doesn't work, maybe somebody can suggest another online polling gizmo. And also some questions.


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I'll look forward to following the on-line colloquim here from the US where such talk is of course - banned. I particularly started thinking about what you have said in the past, about Doll's experiments drawing highly from subjects who have been smokers - because 80%+ of the public smoked back then - so it wasn't really a cause and effect, it was just an interpretation of the statistics in a way that favored his fore-gone conclusion - the one which BTW he was paid handsomely by all the polluting non-tobacco industries to make sure he came up with. Ta and good luck!

This will be very interesting.
I have an open mind of whether it does or doesn't cause lung cancer but leaning towards 'doesn't' simply because I trust no-one who tells me FACTS with no proof.

looking fwd, too

Plot a graph of smoking prevalence by year / total LCs / LCs attributed to smokers / LCs attributed to ex-smokers.

Plot the LC categories in year and with 10 / 20 /30 year lags.

Yes, I look forward to this, too. My experience is much like yours Frank: I always accepted what they said about smoking and lung cancer because it had been said as truth for so long. But again, it was the obvious flaws in Tobacco Control research in other areas and their increasingly outlandish claims that made me also question the active smoking claims, too.

On top of that you throw in the fact that , as you say, Doll's study was conducted when 80% smoked and they got an "80% of cancers occur in smokers" result and now that 20ish% of people smoke the figure is "20% of cancers occur in smokers" (they only still get the 80% figure by including "former smokers" who are people who have smoked more than 100 fags in their entire life).

Then you get the fact that many similar coutries with high proportions of smokers have far longer average life expectancies than us (Germany, Japan etc), Cancer Research UK's own figures saying that smoking causes 25% of all cancers (when 25% of the population smoke) as well as the number of false correlations (smoking going down, childhood asthma going up etc) and I now doubt this active smoking hypothesis very much too. Especially when, anecdotally (and I know it's not science but hey, the anti smokers also use it) when I look at my 70something parents and their friends, not one smoker had died yet but several of their non-smoking friends have, many from cancer, and I become even more convinced.

My gut feeling is that active smoking increases the risk of lung cancer, but by nowhere near the amount the antis say. I also suspect it causes emphysema and other breathing-related difficulties and may contribute to heart problems (albeit only in combination with other factors - I firmly belive smoking on its own has no effect on the heart if your diet is good and you exercise semi-regularly. And I also believe any other cancer linked to smoking is 100% bollocks. But I'm happy to see evidence, either way.

This should be a good debate as the pro choice camp are very switched on when it comes to conducting arguments based on the evidence and excellent at fisking the methodologies of shoddy research (as opposed to the antis who usually resort to insults and smears.... if they get engaged in a debate at all). As far as possible contributors are concerned, how about Dave Atherton? That would be "The Big Three" of the smoking science crowd, in my eyes.

As far as antis are concerned, their very nature precludes them from debating as they issue nonsense then expect their drones in the media to repeat it, They don't do debate and questioning. Although maybe Rollo is a possibility? (That said, I suspect such a debate would get very frustrating - I'd rather hear Dave, Chris and Rich debate it out - any differences would be evidence-based rather than agenda-based and we are guaranteed a good-natured intellectual rumble). Rollo and his ilk are agenda-driven and I've seen in debated with him in the past that he seems switched on but he deliberately twists and isnores key bits of evidence to suit his views. With these pro-choice guys no-one has anything to prove.... other then the validity of their respective pieces of evidence.

Mr A.

I am looking forward to the debate too.

I will be so quiet that you won't even know I'm here.


"I will be so quiet that you won't even know I'm here."

haha Rose, your good humour preceeds the many paragraphs I look forward to you presenting


I would urge a discussion rather than a debate, since my experience with climate studies is that online debates go nowhere.

And I'd suggest that a good start would be to define exactly what you mean by 'cause', since in my little corner of reality, the pro case goes right there.

Sounds simular to days of old when chess game were played between gentlemen.Often waiting weeks to months for the opponent to deliver via mail his next move.......but then today its email!

Looking forward to it

I will be following this debate from Canada. So many questions left unanswered. Unlike dearest Rose, you'll probably know I am here, unless of course you cover every angle. So I promise I will keep quiet till you yell CHARGE! lol :-)


What time does it start and where do I sign in?

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