The CIF article by Ben Goldacre is a comment on a recent analysis of the science relating to studies that find tobacco smoke to have a beneficial effect on Alzheimer's disease. The analysis on which he bases the comment is simply an anti-tobacco establishment argumentum ad hominem, bulled up to sound like ‘science’. I am pleased this article has been put under the ‘bad science’ series, because this is about as bad as it gets and a lesson to anyone who thinks that anti-smoking science now has ANY credence whatsoever. It is not about ‘bad science’ more like promoting and celebrating bad science that serves a pre-determined agenda, which begs the question what affiliations does Goldacre have? I make no suggestions, but whats good for the goose....
Guardian CIF article
Goldacre fallaciously suggests that the media do not give smoking ‘science’ a fair crack of the whip when in reality they routinely report any anti-smoker rubbish, often apparently without the most basic validity checks. Examples of this ‘science by press release’ include Dr Winickof’s ‘Third hand smoke'
touted in the press as ‘science’ but which boiled down to ‘ringing around’ a few people for their inexperienced opinions, and Jill Pell’s Scottish Heart attack study
that was totally discredited when objectively examined using real, complete, hospital statistics. Pell’s ‘science by press release’ was devoured by the press and used to justify anti-smoker demands for smoking restrictions worldwide and anti-smokers still quote these ‘studies’ to further their pernicious agenda, ignoring the clear, indefensible flaws. The media, with a few notable exceptions, are very supportive of the anti-smoking agenda and if one looks at the value of anti-smoker and pharmaceutical advertising revenue compared with that which could be generated from the tobacco industry, or those who oppose the anti-tobacco deception, one can understand why.
Goldacre does not link to his ‘systematic review analysis’ reference, so I will do so for the purposes of accuracy. He actually refers to an ‘analysis’ authored by Janine K. Cataldo, Judith J. Prochaska and Stanton A. Glantz from the University of California, San Francisco, reported here; Abstract; the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease;
While the first two authors are instantly forgettable, the third is instantly recognisable to anyone who is conversant with the anti-tobacco campaign. That Goldacre avoids mentioning Glantz, is an indication of his relevance to the validity of this ‘analysis’. If he wasn’t such a powerful figure and strong influence within the anti-smoker movement, it is my opinion that Glantz would have been put out to grass a long time ago, bearing in mind his well documented antecedent history. His infamy even warrants a full page here. And another revealing article on Glantz here;
The anti-smoker industry which is run on lots of money and generous funding may well be inherently corrupt and Glantz has done very well, financially, out of it; For example.
and through his ‘Americans for Nonsmokers' Rights’ organisation; RWJF reports (appendix 5).
This also describes how Nicoderm manufacturer, Johnson & Johnson's private foundation, RWJF influenced the political community to attract public funding (tobacco tax) to the anti-smoker campaign but NOT using RWJF funding for direct lobbying(as this is against the law) but through its ‘smokeless states’ initiative.
However, I would suggest Glantz is one of several dedicated fanatics who is neither motivated nor corrupted by cash, but by a pathological hatred of smoking. His authoring of any analysis that considers which studies are good or bad on any smoking issue, has as much validity as an analysis, authored by an avid, lifelong, dedicated and fanatical Manchester Utd. Fan, that analyses which is the best premier league football team.
The analysis, according to Goldacre:
“... because they are scientists, not homeopaths – to make sure that they found all of the evidence, rather than just the studies they already knew about, or the ones which flattered their preconceptions. ... found 43 in total.”
If we look at the abstract of the analysis however, it states:
“... AFTER controlling for study design, quality, secular trend, and tobacco industry affiliation of the authors, electronic databases were searched; 43 individual studies met the inclusion criteria.”
So, apart from insulting homeopaths, in fact this indicates there were MORE studies, but they were only interested in the ones THEY considered relevant. They ONLY included those that met THEIR inclusion criteria.
I wonder how many studies which did not flatter their [anti-tobacco] preconceptions were ruled out! We are not treated to a list of those studies, nor why they failed to meet the criteria, so we just have to trust the integrity of the authors and ‘believe’ they did not meet the criteria, that the criteria was valid and that's that.
Glantz, commenting on the analysis in The Science Daily
"We know that industry-sponsored research is more likely to reach conclusions favorable to the sponsor,"
Out of the 43 studies the authors deemed
suitable for inclusion, 11 were disqualified because of some perceived connection with the Tobacco industry, in order to eventually come up with the conclusion that smoking represented a small increased risk for alzheimer’s disease. Glantz’s ‘analysis’ states;
“The researchers used an inclusive definition of "tobacco industry affiliation" and examined authors' current or past funding, employment, paid consultation, and collaboration or co-authorship on a study with someone who had current or previous tobacco industry funding within 10 years of publication.”
Did anyone notice the deliberate mistake?
Yes, Glantz’s ‘Industry-sponsored research’ is actually limited only to ‘Tobacco Industry'
sponsored research! If we look at historic public health related research, various industries such as Nuclear, Chemical, Asbestos and others have sponsored research that, with the ‘right’ results would be ‘favourable’ to their industry. Most apparently unconnected tobacco related research has also been indirectly favourable to them, however. in this specific area of study, one omission is very relevant - the Pharmaceutical Industry!
This industry is arguably the greatest current beneficiary of anti-smoker research, and they have been major sponsors for years, yet there is not one mention of their input or involvement? In the past the pharmaceutical industry has made a killing on nicotine replacement therapy products and anti-depressants as a result of the anti-smoker campaign (possibly in a literal as well as abstract sense, when we consider Champix
etc.). In relation to Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s Disease, and many other diseases that presently benefit from smoking, there is potentially a massive profitable future market for Big Pharma eg. nicotine, the wonder drug
: Pharmaceutical companies are keen to develop safe nicotine-like substances.
If only they could eliminate their competition in the nicotine market - the simple cigarette; Of course Pharmaceuticals also need to protect their present Alzheimer’s drugs market
until such time as they are able to find a better way than smoking to deliver their nicotine wonder drugs. With Big Pharma, profit apparently trumps health every time;
So why were studies that had any Pharmaceutical affiliations NOT identified and controlled for, when the ‘right’ results would clearly be favorable to the sponsor!
Is it possible that any ‘impartial analysis’ can be valid when such basic but essential information is ignored and excluded? If none were used, a simple note to that effect would have clarified their position.
To give the impression of ‘balance’ in his comment, Goldacre refers to other “research that comes from people who disgust us” - Nazi science! What he actually intends is, not only to psychologically link the tobacco industry with Nazis, but also to provide some sort of positive corroboration of present day anti-smoker science. He achieves the opposite.
Prof Karl Astel, (who eventually committed suicide rather than face prosecution for his atrocities.) mentioned by Goldacre, was the Dean of the University of Jena He headed The Scientific Institute for Research into the Dangers of Tobacco
that produced what Goldacre describes as “a well-conducted study”. This institute was Hitler’s ‘baby’ and he, as we all know, was not only a militant anti-smoker
but also the master of propaganda. Astel had earlier (before the Jena institute was opened or any tobacco research initiated) described abstinence from smoking as a ‘national-socialist duty’
and was himself a militant non-smoker. What sane person will believe that any tobacco research that this person is affiliated with, could be even close to impartial, yet his research is at the very foundation of present day anti-smoker science, pre-dating (even influencing?) anti-tobacco’s original high priest, Richard Doll.
Another critique of Doll's work here.
Astel’s comment has an uncanny similarity to the 1975 George Godber
comment urging anti-smoking activists to “foster the perception”
that smokers were harming others - again, well before any research was done on passive smoking ‘harm’. This seems to be a common thread within the anti-smoker movement; ie. Decide what the outcome should be and set the agenda then make the ‘science’ fit that agenda.
This is not the only similarity, there are others. In the Nazi era we had the University of Jena’s ‘Scientific Institute for Research into the Dangers of Tobacco’
and today we have the University of California’s ‘Tobacco related disease research program’ (TRDRP).
Can anyone not identify the inherent bias in the very similar names of these institutions (a process of natural evolution or just a complete coincidence)?
Both Glantz’s Alzheimer’s analysis and Winickof’s third hand smoke studies were supported by the TRDRP and so are many others. Now look at what the TRDRP includes in its mission;
“TRDRP funds research in all relevant scientific disciplines designed to improve tobacco control...”
Does anyone believe that ANY ‘scientific’ study originating from this source would ever have the intention to search for the truth? Will it be impartial in any way, shape or form when its openly stated aim is simply to, ‘improve tobacco control?
I suggest that this analysis was never produced to provide an objective view of the science relating to the benefits of smoking and Alzheimer’s disease. It is not unique, but only one small part of a well established trend and well oiled machine that maintains a well used tactic to compromise and keep impotent any opposition to the anti-tobacco agenda allowing them freedom to disseminate their unchallenged version of the ‘truth’. Sadly, impartial science is being systematically choked to death and starved of funding by anti-tobacco cuckoos. Expect to see a future flood of ‘studies’ like this one of the same quality, with the same purpose and following the same agenda. For some perspective, here is a published list of research grants, involving $millions, awarded by the TRDRP for 2009 only.
This is an aggressive cancer that will continue to spread, infecting all other areas of genuine scientific research. As long as ethical scientists and honest politicians remain silent and continue to do nothing then impartial science will remain chronically ill! Fortunately, the almost moribund response to agenda science from ethical scientists and honest politicians, with a few notable exceptions, is compensated for by an increasingly disenchanted and vocal average ‘man on the Clapham omnibus’ and the San Francisco streetcar.
Nothing in this document should be taken as either medical or legal advice, but instead should act as a resource in providing general information that may be useful to the general public, and a basis for further research. While I have no reason to believe any of the links and references I provide are inaccurate or vexatious, I do not warrant the quality, accuracy or completeness of any information on this or any linked site. Such information is provided "as is" without warranty or condition of any kind and I add them in good faith on the understanding that the reader verifies the content to their own satisfaction.