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December,
2006

Anti-Smoking Movement Evolves into a Crusade

For years, many in the tobacco industry have bemoaned the anti-tobacco movement’s penchant for citing “bad science” in building arguments for public policy regarding smoking bans, tobacco manufacturer liability, tax hikes and more. Cherry picking data, drawing inaccurate conclusion from scientific data, distorting the truth: You name it, nearly every tactic imaginable has been enlisted for the greater good of anti-smoking movement.

These days, even a respected researcher who helped ban indoor smoking now says his movement is distorting science and has lost its credibility.

Michael Siegal, a physician specializing in preventive medicine and public health, has been taking issue with his own anti-smoking movement’s distortions of truth. With 20 years of experience in tobacco control, primarily as a researcher, Siegal is well versed in the health effects of secondhand smoke, policy aspects of regulating smoking in public places, effects of cigarette marketing on youth smoking behavior, and the evaluation of tobacco control program and policy interventions.

But the manner in which anti-smoking groups have resorted to intimidation, fear, and false conclusion are driving this anti-tobacco advocate nuts, www.tobaccoanalysis.blogspot.com. They have, he asserts, has given up its most cherished possession: their scientific integrity.

Dr. Siegal has spent his entire career warning about the dangers of tobacco, and a great deal of effort supporting anti-tobacco measures such as smoking bans in bars and restaurants. But even he has finally come to terms with an uncomfortable reality: his “side” of the debate has given up its claim to the scientific high-ground in favor of overblown fear-mongering. Says Siegal:

By virtue of the widespread, coordinated, and intentional deceptive, misleading, and inaccurate statements being made by anti-smoking groups about the health effects of secondhand smoke, I believe that the tobacco control movement has unfortunately given up the scientific high ground that it previously could argue that it held above its opponents. And this, I feel, is a great loss.

Many in tobacco will still find plenty wrong with even the “scientific truth” when it comes to tobacco and health, but to truly understand how the playing field tilts these days, Siegal’s www.tobaccoanalysis.blogspot.com is a must-read to see example after example of how scientific research evolves into sensational public information campaigns that drive the very legislation that constricts the average citizen’s ability to smoke in increasingly fewer venues.

The “movement” has become a “crusade,” asserts Siegal - success at any cost. Whether it’s banning outdoor smoking under the guise of second-hand smoke dangers, clogging up the legal system with long-shot lawsuits intended to scare people into complying with anti-smoking agendas, or scaring the public with unreal correlations between even small amounts of secondhand smoke expose and immediate, dire health consequences, extremism has become the norm, and even the major of the scientific community feels that’s OK.

E. Edward Hoyt III