Monday 14 November 2011

The Astounding Gullibility Of A Stanford Professor

If you want a laugh, you may wish to have a read of this quite absurd article by some berk from Stanford University, on the banning of tobacco.

He's got it all figured out, so he has.

Mr. Proctor has called for regulators to do two things. First, because cigarettes are designed to create and maintain addiction, the amount of nicotine should be limited to a level at which they would cease to be addictive. Smokers who want to quit would then find it easier to do so.

Second, that we should bear history in mind. The first smokers did not inhale tobacco smoke; that became possible only in the 19th century, when a new way of curing tobacco made the smoke less alkaline. Regulators, therefore, should require that cigarette smoke be more alkaline, which would make it less easily inhaled, and so make it harder for cigarette smoke to reach the lungs.

If we want to save lives and improve health, nothing else that is readily achievable would be as effective as an international ban on the sale of cigarettes.
Now, I was going to fisk this quite vigorously, but since the little Ps kindly brought a cold home with them that, while not severe, has an irritating tendency to sap one's energy to that of a valium-soaked Jim Royle, I - consequentially - can't be arsed. Besides, I'm pretty sure you can pick holes in it without much help from me.

Suffice to say that said berk possesses an almost childlike belief in the realistic extent of state power.

For those who recognize the state’s right to ban recreational drugs such as marijuana and ecstasy, a ban on cigarettes should be easy to accept.
Well, firstly he is starting from an assumption that the state has such a right which is universally accepted (hmmm); and secondly, seeing as ecstasy has killed just about no-one, that's not too difficult a comparison. One might just as easily say that we should ban swords because they kill more people than soft boiled eggs.

I digress. So, as he brought up the subject of state proscription of recreational drugs, let's discuss the progress of this policy in Wales as detailed in two articles published today. Remember that cocaine was banned in 1920.

Home Office figures published this week figures reveal there were 6,029 seizures of illegal drugs across all categories from April 2010 to April this year, down from 6,245 for the same period 12 months previously.

And that figure was down from 6,720 during 2008/09.

Inspector Steve Clarke, who is with South Wales Police's territorial policing section, said: "We never lose sight of the effects that drugs have on our communities and we are using all means at our disposal to halt the cultivation, supply and sale of all illegal drugs to make our communities safer.

"Intelligence gathering and information from the public has paid dividends and led to many raids across South Wales, leading to significant hauls of drugs being seized."
Again, employing a state-is-perfect mentality, this is sold as a good story. Because the police, quite obviously, always find all drugs that are in circulation, don't they? Celebrations all round!

So, how is consumption faring with substances which haven't been legal for over 90 years?

"There has been an increase in the number of individuals testing positive for cocaine from around 10 per cent in April 2011, to 50 per cent in September — including those testing positive for both cocaine and heroin."

Councillor Stephen James said the increase in positive cocaine results was 'alarming'.

Fortunately, cocaine is easily created in a specialist lab, whereas tobacco requires the almost impossible requirements of a greenhouse and some seeds, so our berk doesn't foresee any problem with prohibition.

The other argument for the status quo is that a ban on tobacco might result in the same kind of fiasco as occurred during Prohibition in the U.S. That is, like the effort to ban alcohol, prohibiting the sale of tobacco would funnel billions of dollars into organized crime and fuel corruption in law-enforcement agencies, while doing little to reduce smoking.

But that may well be a false comparison. After all, many smokers would actually like to see cigarettes banned because, like Mr. Obama, they want to quit.
Don't laugh. This guy is a science historian, and published author, at a renowned university. You should be very scared.

Good grief with loud, dangly bells on!


Curmudgeon said...

So 10% of arrested people in April tested positive for coke, but 50% in September? Sounds like a classic example of variability in small samples to me rather than any kind of genuine statistical trend.

Or was there a sudden bonanza delivery of Coke to Carmarthen in September?

Dick Puddlecote said...

Curmudgeon: Yep, but it's clear that consumption hasn't been to effectively eradicated no matter the percentage. Nor will it ever be considering they've had nearly a century to get it right. ;)

Woodsy42 said...

University professors are usually very clever people. Often they are so clever that they don't relate whatsoever to the real world.

The Filthy Engineer said...

has he not realised the fact that some people actually like the act of smoking.

Dick Puddlecote said...

TFE: No. Simply because he's been told we don't. If you read the whole article, he has swallowed every anti-tobacco propaganda piece without question. That's just one of them.

Anonymous said...

Was there not a TC claim recently that lights and ultralights (reduced nicotine) lead to compensatory behaviours (smoking more not less)?

A bit like the anti-salt nutters who wanted to restrict the number of holes in a salt shaker, ignoring the fact that we would simply shake longer or take the freaking top off.

I guess Stanford standards are reducing. Are they part of the poison ivy league?

Jean said...

The author introduces his case for banning tobacco by saying that Obama quit. Like the world wouldn't ban tobacco until the president's last puff.
Now, if Obama is the kind of tobacco quitter that can only hold on by bullying other to quit too, we can expect some trouble.

One more thing: Proctor bases his case for prohibition on the fact that tobacco is addictive. Then he wants the regulator to make cigarettes non-addictive by lowering the nicotine level.
First problem: I don't think that works at all for various reasons ; second problem: if it works, and cigarettes become non-addictive, it nullifies one of Proctor's arguments for prohibition (the other one being that Obama has quit).

Mag said...

DP, that Robert N. Proctor is the same RNP that gave us a number of articles/books on the Nazi war on tobacco, e.g.,

Proctor is a long-time antismoking activist who has an interesting spin on Nazi anti-tobacco, that it was one of the “useful” aspects of the regime. In some ways he could almost be called a Nazi apologist:

Although he is an historian, he is yet to make the connection of Nazi anti-tobacco, an aspect of eugenics, to earlier American eugenics [I think this might be intentional]. He does not comprehend the danger of physicalism which eugenics rests on.

I don’t think Proctor is so much one of the “gullibles” as he is one of the antismoking propagandists. Just a few years ago he attracted a serious reprimand for tampering (bullying) with student researchers involved in tobacco court cases:

Ivan D said...

I believe that this article is authored by Peter Singer, the Australian, utilitarian vegan philosopher who is OK with the concept of people having sex with animals under some circumstances. He is quite interesting and worth a google.

I love this Singer quote which I admit is from WikipediA but have checked the reference:

“I don't eat meat. I've been a vegetarian since 1971. I've gradually become increasingly vegan. I am largely vegan but I'm a flexible vegan. I don't go to the supermarket and buy non-vegan stuff for myself. But when I'm traveling or going to other people's places I will be quite happy to eat vegetarian rather than vegan.

How very kind of him to allow others to cater especially for him. We tend to take a more utilitarian approach at my place and cater for what the majority prefer to eat.

I am too tired to even comment on his ill-informed and really quite stupid article on tobacco. I assume that the pompous ass was trying to be controversial again, or to plug his mate Proctors prohibitionist agenda.

Lysistrata said...

"The author introduces his case for banning tobacco by saying that Obama quit." (Jean 20.58)

The LAST thing I want is for a nuked-up powerful nation to be run by someone who has reluctantly JUST QUIT SMOKING.

No probs with someone giving up if they really want to, but couldn't they just leave it until they're not in charge of something REALLY BIG like America?


timbone said...

"...because cigarettes are designed to create and maintain addiction, the amount of nicotine should be limited to a level at which they would cease to be addictive. Smokers who want to quit would then find it easier to do so."

A perfect example of the never smoker who has no grasp whatsoever about what makes tobacco smoke give a buzz to those who want it.
Similar to the old joke,
"I don't like guiness"
"Have you tried it"
"No, I don't like it"

Or as a teetotal uncle of mine says,
"I don't understand why people drink beer, if I am thirsty, I drink water".

Frank Davis said...

As Mag above said, Proctor does indeed argue that Nazi antismoking science was an example of "good" Nazi science.

He also cited the V2 rocket as another example of "good" Nazi science. Some years back I wrote an article debunking the notion that there was anything particularly "Nazi" about the V2. The rocket research programme was terminated by the Nazis when they took power, and survived despite the Nazis rather than because of them. Hitler had no interest in the V2 whatsoever until far too late in the war.

If anyone wants to read it, it's here.

Anonymous said...

Stanford is a half hour drive south of San Francisco. Maybe UCSF (Stanton Glantz) and Stanford (Proctor) are in competition for large pharmaceutical funding since the economy is so bad.

I read a White House Insider Report that said no, Obama has not stopped smoking. He smokes like a fiend all day long. In public, they put on a show as if he has quit, because it's the politically correct thing to do (also source of funding).

A much sought after and expensive hypnotist who deals almost exclusively in smoking cessation and rotates between office in San Francisco and Los Angeles, where he is said to have hypnotized many big name Hollywood movie stars into quitting smoking told me point blank that everyone in the TC business knows that it is not the nicotine in cigarettes that makes them habit forming. He said it is because tobacco companies put sugar in cigarettes and it creates a constant craving, similar to that of wanting a candy bar.

I don't know how much of that is verified fact, but it is what he said to me, point blank and with assurance.

nisakiman said...

" is not the nicotine in cigarettes that makes them habit forming. He said it is because tobacco companies put sugar in cigarettes and it creates a constant craving..."

I find that very hard to believe, mainly because there is no logic behind it. It sounds like another of the fantasies that TC likes to spout as if it were truth.

Liver Salts said...

I think that proposing tobacco smoke be made more irritating suggests that historians are fairly ignorant of health issues. The professor might like to read up on history of chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases (COPD).

Anonymous said...

making tobacco more irritating....

"As from 17 November, once the new safety standards are published in the EU Official Journal all cigarettes sold in Europe will have to comply with these measures"

Anonymous said...

'I find that very hard to believe, mainly because there is no logic behind it. It sounds like another of the fantasies that TC likes to spout as if it were truth.'.
He said that as his honest 'belief', not backed up by fact, but he did say it was sugar that created the urges but everyone would have you believe it is a nicotine 'addiction' so then it makes it that much harder to even attempt stopping, because an 'addiction' makes it sound unstoppable, good for the tobacco companies, or else good for the pharmaceuticals who sell NRTs to supposedly beat the 'addiction'.

He also said he does not recommend nicotine gum and patches because he said that will never work since it's nothing to do with nicotine 'addiction' in the first place, but the sugars.

It's the man's belief and he's a PhD in psychiatry who does hypnosis so he must have read or else conceived the idea from somewhere. Or too it could be his personal marketing myth in order to try selling people on the idea of hypnosis.

One thing though, if secondhand smoke is a myth devised to create bans to promote NRTs then it would not be unthinkable to have a myth about nicotine 'addiction' in order to also promote NRTs, which means the idea could have come from tobacco-control as an idea to make NRTs sound more effective, which of course they are not.

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