Thursday 8 December 2011

Any 'Evidence' Will Do

Yesterday I mentioned the Welsh Assembly's Tobacco Control Action Plan which has reached a perfect level of consensus. Air-headed Taff politicos are united in thinking it's a work of genius, while the poor saps who are forced to pay their wages reckon it's a crock of shit. That's the way of the modern world, sadly.

Most of the gobshitery contained within has been discussed many times before, but I was particularly interested in the 'evidence' they would use for this much reported promise [page 35].

The Welsh Government will develop a campaign on smoking in cars carrying children and consider pursuing legislative options to ban smoking in cars carrying children if children’s exposure to second-hand smoke does not start to fall within three years (Action 4.7).
Now, apart from the obvious - that it's a threat designed to make you do as they say, and if you don't you'll be criminalised - what are they using as a driver seeing as sufficiently creditable justification for such a law is extremely thin on the ground?

Well, in a comprehensively referenced report, they seem very vague about their source.

Research published in March 2011 looked at the impact of smoking cigarettes in private vehicles. It recognised that exposure to second-hand-smoke can give rise to significant health impacts and that there is no ‘safe’ level of exposure. The main findings of the report included that smoking in cars is dangerous to children even after the cigarette is extinguished and that high levels of dangerous particulate matter from tobacco smoke is still present in cars up to two hours after lighting up, and that opening the car window does little to reduce the risk of harm to children.
Now, there were two pieces of research produced in that month, the first of which was by the British Lung Foundation, referencing ASH's "Essential Information on: smoking in cars" which, in turn, quotes the Ontario Medical Association report which we all now know to be a lie.

Can't be that, then. Even the Welsh Assembly wouldn't be that stupid as to use something which so recently made the BMA into a laughing stock. So it must be the one by the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health.

Delegates at a public health conference organised by the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH) in Cardiff will be told about new research showing that smoking in cars is dangerous to children even after the cigarette is extinguished.

The study also reveals that high levels of dangerous particulate matter (PM) from tobacco smoke is still present in cars up to two hours after lighting up, and that opening the car window does little to reduce the risk of harm to children.
Yep, that seems to fit.

Not quite enough to justify heavy-handed legislation though. A fact quite willingly admitted in the CIEH study itself.

Improvements to Future Studies

More details required regarding real-time measurements. Timed recordings should be taken of when a cigarette was lit, how long the smoking occurred for and time vehicle was parked.
Hold on. You mean such things weren't thought to be important at the time?

Detailed recordings should also be taken of any external events that may influence a rise in levels monitored such as time static in stationary traffic, whether positioned adjacent to a potential pollution source ie smokey exhaust from neighbouring vehicles.
Err, colour me staggered, but none of that was considered as pretty damn essential either?

In order to make a comparative study with relation to potential health effects measurements should be taken that can be compared to 24 hour or annual mean concentrations.
Yes, and this is the point, you see. Because the 24 hour thing is - duh! - vital if you're going to be comparing levels with a 24 hour measurement.

Which they did.

Although there is no recognised threshold at which adverse health effects are known to occur the US Environmental Protection Agency air quality index rates 24 hour exposure to PM2.5 concentrations as follows: Rates of 40 µg/m³ or less are deemed as “unhealthy for sensitive groups” with levels of more than 250 µg/m³ being “hazardous” for all individuals.
The study, however, didn't even come close, mostly measuring just a couple of hours, with levels rapidly dissipating when windows were open. Yeah, those of us living in the real world kinda knew that.

So, what we have here is a report using a gadget you can pick up off eBay; which wasn't accurately timed; which didn't control for external factors; and which compared apples with oranges in terms of EPA quality index rates. And this on top of trying to ascribe harm from minutes of kids sniffing the smell of smoke (not smoke itself, the subjects didn't smoke with kids in the car), when even the shoddy studies the whole passive smoking scare is based upon rely upon lifetime exposure to grasp at a manipulated relative risk roughly comparable to that of dying by kissing a kettle.

Apparently, that's the kind of compelling evidence that requires urgent legislation on private property in Wales.

The Senedd - being the font of restrained wisdom that it is - glibly overlooked the CIEH's "more details required" recommendation, and have just gone ahead with their pre-determined nonsense anyway. Who really cares if the evidence is shakier than a house on stilts in a hurricane?

These people have headlines to create; egos to massage; work to make up to justify their salaries. Any evidence will do. So what if it's crap? Money to fund the public health community doesn't grow on truth trees, you know!


Snowman said...

"These people have headlines to create; egos to massage; work to make up to justify their salaries."

This last point is IMO the crucial one. We have a grotesquely bloated state; layers and layers of government with no real purpose or function (the worthwhile stuff having been offshored to the EU). The fuckers literally have to scratch around for any old shit to fill their days, and interfering in the personal lives of their employers offers a rich seam of makework.

Fire the lot and start again.

Anonymous said...

Even allowing for the fact,the Welsh are not the brightest of tribes,surely there must be a few with some notion of anger at the
dismal gathering of druids and
witches in the totally unecessary
WA.Does'nt Taff realise his daft Senate is a stain on his nation,
a parasite on his resources,an
embarassment to his name abroad,
a festering curse on his future.
Glyndower would have had the lot beheaded.No need now for the English to trample all over the Welsh ,they've got their own to do it for us.

East of Offa'sDyke

PJH said...

DP - please check your email - I sent a link to the 'name 3' posts made else-blog about SHS and equiring whether you'd seen it - I now assume you haven't.

Namely that no-one has actually died because of it, and the EU (IIRC) specifically denied that SHS won't be used as an example of workplace hazard (due, presumably, to the extortionate amounts of money that would otherwise have been paid.)

Anonymous said...

Devolution: smaller is better, local democracy ...these are attractive ideas. But the unintended consequence - or was it indeed unintended? - has been a proliferating job creating system for people of maybe middling talents, but high ambition for power over others

Anonymous said...

The relationship to your post today is in reference to your words "crock of shit." I've been looking about trying to figure out why all of a sudden protestant Christianity is being blamed for the antismoking movement. It appears you may be a contributor to that unfortunate and devisive turn, as well as Scott Cooke and Frank Davis. (You may refer to my comments posted after Davis' December 5th blog for your further information.) In your case, Puddlecote, I find the blog of July 21 where in one of your replies to comments you imply Puritans opposed "having an occasional drink". This is not correct, the ones who came to America at least did not oppose it and even defended the Native American's right to purchase alcohol. Your blog of October 20 (my birthday, thank you very much for this present -- talk about putting a damper on Christmas) is even more beside the point. The bulk of the October 20 blog speaks of Tony Holohan in Ireland, who attended the (Roman Catholic order of) Christian Brothers school in Limerick, and yet you find it enlightening to use the word Puritan in reference to Mr. Holohan's antismoking doings. So I did some more checking and found there is another Holohan, Kevin, who was educated at the (Roman Catholic order of) Christian Brothers school in Dublin and Kevin Holohan(now living in New York) has written a book much about that experience. The critics (probably self-hating Catholics as I suspect must be YOUR problem) hailed it as being delightfully, scathingly anti-Catholic. Ah Ha! So there you have it: the Puritans were, no doubt about it, anti-Catholic. Puddlecote, keep your self-hating Catholic English crap on your side of the pond. Apart from the fact that neither Protestantism or Puritanism have anything to do with antismoking (again,refer to my comments of December 5 on Frank Davis), you have no concept of the history of Puritanism or Protestantism in America. Even the charge of how it relates to antismoking in the United Kingdom is a little ridiculous, since Puritanism came along in the midst of a time when everyone was alternately persecuting everyone until you all sorted it out for YOU. You (English) made a permanent choice that you will always have a monarchy and for having an episcopalian style Anglican church at the helm (though you have become more tolerant of other religions). We in America decided we will never have a monarchy and the overwhelming majority of protestants here are not Episcopalian, and would not prefer to be. Through it all, I think it's nice that our two countries had developed mutual respect for our different ways and even mutual admiration, but we know that each the other chooses differently. As a faithful Christian of American Protestant heritage and tradition, and one who is also sacrificed much to fight against antismoking, this sudden accusation of being of those who have somehow caused antismoking is unbelievable to me -- especially since I have come up with my own theories on that score too (again see Frank Davis December 5 comments). I have kept my mouth shut about the influences that have come into MY COUNTRY and caused this madness up until this point, but since I'm hearing that people like me are oddly being charged with the blame lately, why should I? You fucking kikes, atheists and papists are the fucking ones who did this, and why don't all you fucking assholes fight it all among your fucking selves. Why did it happen first in Protestant countries (as Davis cites as his end-all proof of the matter)? It's because we were the ones who were stupid enough to let you fucking assholes in. (Reference User 3958)

Michael J. McFadden said...

To the unnamed Puritan: I'd read your note about Puritanism somewhere else recently and was surprised at hearing your side of the story on it. It's not just the Brits who may have been misled about the Puritans though: it's quite common here in America for anyone who's against drinking, smoking, sex, naughty movies, etc etc to be simply described with the term "Puritan." Unfortunate, and worth pointing out its inaccuracy as you do, but you can't really blame anyone too much for that use of the word: it's pretty universal.

Re the Welsh thing in general: This is not the first time the WAG has come out with nonsense in the smoking area. See what I wrote to them and the British Parliament over five years ago when they first wanted authority to institute their own smoking ban. The only response I received was an email from Lady Elaine Smith who candidly admitted that the real reason for the ban had nothing in particular to do with secondhand smoke, but was rather simply to reduce smoking in general.


It provides a good example of just how irresponsible governmental bodies can be.


Anonymous said...

No we don't Michael. We sometimes say someone is being "puritanical" which has made its way into common usage most of the time origin not reflected upon. Not one of sudden incidences which have all oddly come about in less than seven days have used this word. The words that have been used are "Puritan" and "Puritanism" if you can't see the difference, then I expect it's because you expect that Protestants are just supposed to sit back and take it, when heaven forbid if any of them should ever dish the least out. Well, I'm sorry, when it comes to antismoking Protestants are not the ones who started that, and no I'm not going to refrain from defending that position. It shouldn't even come up in the first place -- people should know better. At least Frank Davis was honest enough to use the words Protestant/Protestantism instead of masking his bigotry behind Puritan/Puritanism though his thoughts were in fact exactly along the same line as the others. (Reference User3958)

Dick Puddlecote said...

Anon: You can read as much religion into it as you like if that's your bag, it has nothing to do with me using the word though. I use it as a noun equivalent of 'puritanical', or the pursuit of bodily purity. Not from any church except the new cult of 'public health'.

As for it just appearing in the past 7 days, I think you need to rest your fevered imagination. There have been 123 articles here under the 'Puritans' tag, the first back in December 2008.

Anonymous said...

"a proliferating job creating system for people of maybe middling talents"

One of the ministers was my former Geography teacher and to describe her talents as middling.... Well it is not immediately clear to me how such modest praise might apply.

Lysistrata said...

@DickP - an excellent post, as usual. Thanks.

@Anonymous, Protestant - well, I was brought up as a northern english Protestant: Wesleyan Methodist if we are going to be tribal about it! Our mantra that we were taught was "moderation in all things". We smoked, we drank, we ate apple pie at the Harvest Supper.

I have no problem with the words "puritan" or "puritanical". I really don't understand your anger. No-one - let alone our blog writer DP - is dissing Protestantism or promoting Catholicism. It's a completely different subject and irrelevant to freedom to smoke, or drink, or eat icecream.

Mind you, my Protestant Congregationalist ancient aunties did divide the way we cooked potatoes into sinful and saintly. Roast potatoes were Sinful unless it was a Sunday. Boiled potatoes were Holy all the time. But chips (French Fries) were at all times the Spawn of the Devil and no decent family would ever hold their heads up in the community if they ate chipped potatoes, at home or purchased from a fast food joint.
Any woman who made chips for her family was a Whore of Babylon.

Sometimes I think the ghosts of my old aunties have passed into the souls of the modern health movement. *sigh*.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Puddlecote, I meant I encountered it for the first time seven days ago -- immediately and viscerally found it offensive (just take my word on it, this was my FEELING) but figured it would pass. Then two days later someone else brought it up; then again two days after that. That's a lot for five days, considering I never heard this angle applied to subject of antismoking ever once before. It made me ask one great big WTF question.

Mr. Puddlecote I was there when not the first shot, but the most significant cannon blast of antismoking appeared on the scene with the Massachusetts Tobacco Control Program in the early 1990s. I was not in favor of this -- but born there, I feel shame for it.

I was also there in the same state in the early 1970s when the Catholic church used it's majority power and influence to try and block birth control legalization (and not everyone in the state of course was Catholic).

Twenty years later did it occur to me that the Catholic church was behind antismoking? No, and I still don't think so. But by the logic that you use, that should be my conclusion shouldn't it?

While we are on the subject and since the finger has been pointed at my house. Do I think Catholics are more likely to be antismoking than Protestant? Yes. Do I think Jewish people are more likely to be antismoking than Protestants? Yes.

Do I overlook that there have also been those from other faiths who have spoken out against, and work hard against, antismoking? I sure do not, and from my gratitude for them, I would not have raised the subject; but the finger was first pointed at my house, the rock was thrown at my window, and so the door is open.

Would you like me to close it before this gets out of hand? I'd be happy to, but if you are going to keep throwing stones at my house, I am going to keep opening the damn door. Damn right I will protect what's mine.

Like the 1970s Catholics in Massachusetts, the 17th century Anglicans, Puritans and also Catholics sought to make the whole state, each the way they wanted it, and none was most virtuous or least vicious in their designs or methods they did or would use.

In the end the Puritans figure I suppose as a disruptive influence in the course of English history; however they were a creative force in America; and Puritanism was also a religion and a recurrent thead of influence in the fabric of American Protestant Christianity.

I remember in the 1970s even though the Catholic Church's lobbying against birth control was going on -- to a CERTAIN FACT in the present and not the past -- one still had to be careful about having this debate with anyone Catholic.

Their church may have been acting politically in a secular context, but it was still their church in a spiritual and a emotional context. (Try and let yourself think of it a little that way. In those days, I sure had to, and fyi, I was atheist/agnostic at that time.)

My reaction to the first hearing of the Puritanism of Antismoking hypothesis almost a week ago was emotional and visceral. It came from someone I like and respect. I KNOW no harm was meant, and I am not an unforgiving person, but I still can't get there yet (though hopefully soon I will).

I will leave you with a Christmas gift in the spirit of that effort. It is something that may surprise you to learn I like too.

I like good writing that finds bases for it's hypotheses, provides support for what it says as well as entertains the reader -- you Puddlecote are most culpable in that regard :-)

Note I don't mind the little marginally derisive flourishes as much as you might think, and the whole thing for all I know could be full of inaccuracies, but the writer gains my confidence, and he does not offend me (fruitcake a teensy, but I can live with that).

PJH said...

What's with all the religious idiocy? DP - are you competing with Cranmer/Heresy Corner now?