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« Quote of the day, Mark Maslin edition | Main | Mark Maslin does fallacy »

On John Timmer

John Timmer is someone I come across from time to time on Twitter. He describes himself as the "Chief science wrangler for Ars Technica" which is a publication you can find here. Timmer has a fairly yawnworthy post up here, in which he seeks to justify use of the term "denier". It's not really worth much of your time, except for one paragraph. This one:

For example, atmospheric physicist Richard Lindzen has been a prominent figure trotted out to suggest that climate scientists have gotten it wrong; but he also seems to think health authorities got it wrong with smoking

The link is to a Newsweek article, the relevant sentence of which is this:

[Lindzen will] even expound on how weakly lung cancer is linked to cigarette smoking.

Uh huh. Which brings us onto this transcript of an interview Lindzen gave in Australia, I think in 2012:

Anna: ...Did you dispute that there was not a link between smoking and health problems?
Richard: I have argued as most people who have looked at it that the case for second-hand tobacco is not very good. That was true of the World Health Organization also said that...With first-hand smoke it's a more interesting issue. There's clearly an issue ...The case for lung cancer is very good...

Illuminating, isn't it? About John Timmer, I mean.

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Reader Comments (129)

Ars Tech does some good features, like reviews of iOS/Android releases. However, I gave up on the rest because there are too many climate/social justice activism. Especially Timmer the fake science skeptic.

They were gung-ho on the "hydrogen economy" a few years back. Wonder why nobody talks about that?
They are also anti-GamerGate, whereas the majority of the tech/game community is supports GamerGate once they read up on it. See Cathy Young at if you are not.

Dec 17, 2014 at 8:37 PM | Unregistered CommenterEric Gisin

The EPA redefined statistically significant to argue that second hand smoke causes cancer, as in their metastudy, they found 8 studies with no statistically significant(95%) link, 1 slight increase, and 2 studies actually had a negative correlation.

Dec 17, 2014 at 8:39 PM | Unregistered CommenterMikeN

Christopher Booker is always accused (by Bob Ward and others) of suggesting Asbestos is no more dangerous than talc.
in fact this is a complete travesty of Booker's closely (and very probably correctly) argued point that there is a huge difference between white (Crysotile) asbestos and brown & blue asbestos (Amosite & Crocidolite). See "Scared to Death".
I have no doubt that Ward is fully aware that this is another of his barefaced lies. But no doubt he reckons that 'mud sticks'.
He's probably right. But that's how the greenies play.

Dec 17, 2014 at 8:51 PM | Unregistered CommenterMartin Brumby

I have seen that slur on Lindzen repeated many times around the blogosphere. It is, of course, a blatant lie. But it is a great test for a blog's integrity. If the lie is not refuted and withdrawn fairly quickly, you know that there is no point in wasting further energy on that blog, as nothing said there can be trusted.

Dec 17, 2014 at 8:58 PM | Registered Commenterjohanna

"The list of genotoxic and non-genotoxic carcinogens present in the pyrolytic tar from tobacco is long"

The list of carcinogens in fruit and vegetables is long, too. That doesn't prove anything.

Dec 17, 2014 at 9:00 PM | Unregistered CommenterNullius in Verba

I stopped reading the rubbish by this idiot Timmer as soon as i realised he's some sort of biologist so about as qualified to speak on real climate science as I am.

Dec 17, 2014 at 9:12 PM | Unregistered CommenterStu

"It is always interesting to see how quickly the theme of a post gets redirected – in this case to the smoke & cancer link."

Dec 17, 2014 at 6:38 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohn F. Hultquist

In this case, I think it is not a redirection, but a valid comparison. Another example of policy/politics abusing science

Dec 17, 2014 at 9:24 PM | Registered CommenterSalopian

Stu beat me to it but yes, Timmer's background is in biology, and on climate he comes across as very much a true believer. It does sometimes seem that those with a bio background are much more convinced than we who come from the physical sciences.

Dec 17, 2014 at 10:14 PM | Unregistered CommenterAQ42


..check out Doll and Peto's work regarding causality and IARC Monograph 38 (Tobacco Smoking) for mechanistic studies.....

Citing more statistical analyses really misses the point I am trying to make - and which seems pointless to repeat again. In fact, your comment rather illustrates the point quite well - If you ask for more precise mechanistic reasoning people will not listen to your concerns, but will rather turn on you and try to force you to accept correlation as being enough. However, knowing what we know about human expectation bias, I really want to see the mechanism.

But I'm not going to, am I? And if I keep insisting, I'll just be ignored. It's that which leaves me suspicious...

Dec 17, 2014 at 10:32 PM | Unregistered Commenterdodgy geezer

Dodgy, I'm with you on this.

While no sane person would suggest that inhaling smoke instead of air on a regular basis is good for you, the leaps made by epidemiologists and statisticians have gone far beyond science and into advocacy, long ago.

They even tried to run "third hand smoke" (residue on clothing etc) for a while, but finally they seem to have reached the bridge too far.

You should see the pictures on cigarette packets in Australia, complete with warnings that are just plain factually inaccurate. "Cigarette smoking causes X, Y and Z." Umm, no. They have dredged up statistical correlations, but no mechanism. As for the gruesome pictures, it emerged that they searched all over the world for them. Apparently, there aren't enough Australian smokers exibiting sufficiently florid imagery.

Nor do they bore us with pesky details like what percentage of cases of X, Y and Z they attribute to smoking fags, or how they reached those conclusions. And how about (from my current packet) "Inhaling tobacco smoke releases hydrogen cynanide into your body." Scary, huh? And utterly meaningless.

I realise that this is a bit of a sidetrack, but the central point is that "science" has been used as a vehicle for other agendas many times before, and little compunction has been shown about lying outright for The Cause.

Dec 17, 2014 at 11:17 PM | Registered Commenterjohanna

@dodgy OK you win. Keep puffing away at your fags, and if your tinfoil hat fails to stop you getting small-cell lung cancer or emphysema, you can always blame it on inhaling fairy dust. But, you might like to actually read IARC 38 if you really want to know the mechanistic evidence regarding smoking and lung cancer.

Dec 17, 2014 at 11:39 PM | Registered CommenterSalopian

"There does appear to be a dose-response in the development of direct smoking related lung cancer"

Indeed there does, one thing ignored in all the requests that demand to know whether one has smoked or not. Answering in the affirmative ensures a premium cigarette per year or per week or probably per day impossible to separate out from all background atmospheric pollutants....leads to a substantial rise in insurance income and no significant detectable change in risk from normative background odds ratio. However, the political consensus feels otherwise. Now, where else do we see that?

From recollection, the low risk of Ca bronchus is proportional at x30 cigs a day. Below that level the rise is gradual and non linear, rising more steeply after x10 a day. Tobacco smoke containing cancer initiators and promoters raises risk, but it does not cause per se. That is to say, were people sure that when they smoked it would literally and definitively kill them, it is doubtful that all but the suicidal and deranged would engage. Reality is that one can point to centenarians, aged aunts, elderly friends and all manner of folk who have enjoyably puffed their way through life in moderation with little discernible compromise of their health or longevity....sometimes referred to as the Winston Churchill factor.

Dec 18, 2014 at 12:40 AM | Unregistered CommenterManfred

Winston drank as well..maybe the 2 balance out each other

Dec 18, 2014 at 1:02 AM | Unregistered Commenterptw

"Contains carcinogems" is one of the most over-worked and least understood terms in contemporary scare-mongering.

Dec 18, 2014 at 1:17 AM | Registered Commenterjohanna

Well, if you might enjoy something more closely argued, there is always David Brin

What traits distinguish a rational, pro-science "skeptic" -- who has honest questions about the AGW consensus -- from members of a Denier Movement that portrays all members of a scientific community as either fools or conspirators?

Many useful distinctions, but go, enjoy yourselves

Dec 18, 2014 at 3:55 AM | Unregistered CommenterEli Rabett

It’s very important to address the “tobacco issue”. Interesting is how much critical information never makes it to the mainstream. It highlights how zealots (even medical zealots) can completely take over information, bastardizing science, history, and language in the process, i.e., appeal to authority. Bear with me. I need a number of posts to provide information from a variety of angles.

It’s America that’s popularized antismoking insanity – again, and which other countries are following suit. The problem with Americans is that they are clueless to even their own recent history. America has a terrible history with this sort of “health” fanaticism/zealotry/extremism or “clean living” hysteria – including antismoking - that goes back more than a century.

Antismoking is not new. It has a long, sordid, 400+ year history, much of it predating even the pretense of a scientific basis or the more recent concoction of secondhand smoke “danger”. Antismoking crusades typically run on inflammatory propaganda, i.e., lies, in order to get law-makers to institute bans. Statistics and causal attribution galore are conjured. The current antismoking rhetoric has all been heard before. All it produces is irrational fear and hatred, discord, enmity, animosity, social division, oppression, and bigotry. When supported by the State, zealots seriously mess with people’s minds on a mass scale.

Dec 18, 2014 at 4:15 AM | Unregistered CommenterSome History

The current antismoking crusade, very much in the eugenics tradition – involving the same medically-aligned personnel and repugnant methodology, is much like crusades over the previous 400 years. It is a moralizing, social-engineering, eradication/prohibition crusade decided upon in the 1970s by a small, self-installed clique of [medically-oriented] fanatics operating under the auspices of the World Health Organization and sponsored by the American Cancer Society (see the Godber Blueprint ). This little, unelected group, using much the same inflammatory rhetoric of its fanatical predecessors, decided for everyone that tobacco-use should be eradicated from the world – for a “better” (according to them) world. These fanatics were speaking of secondhand smoke “danger” and advocating indoor and OUTDOOR smoking bans years before the first study on SHS (in 1981), and extortionate taxes on tobacco years before contrived “cost burden” analyses of smoking: In the 1970s, populations – particularly in relatively free societies – weren’t interested in elitist social-engineering, particularly by a group (medically-aligned) that had a horrible recent track record (eugenics). Given that their antismoking crusade would have otherwise stalled, the zealots conjured secondhand smoke “danger” to advance the social-engineering agenda, i.e., inflammatory propaganda. Until only recently the zealots claimed they weren’t doing social engineering, that they weren’t moralizing. Well, that’s a lie that’s been told many times over the last few decades.

The zealots’ goal this time is not to ban the sale of tobacco but to ban smoking in essentially all the places that people smoke (combined with extortionate taxes), indoors and out. Up until recently the social-engineering intent has been masqueraded as protecting nonsmokers from secondhand smoke “danger”. But even this fraud can no longer be hidden in that bans are now being instituted for large outdoor areas such as parks, beaches, university campuses where there is not even a contrived “health” issue for nonsmokers – even smokeless tobacco is being banned. This dangerous mix of the medically-aligned attempting social engineering is a throwback to a century ago. We seem to have learned nothing of value from very painful lessons of only the recent past.

Dec 18, 2014 at 4:19 AM | Unregistered CommenterSome History

The current antismoking crusade has all the hallmarks of moralizing zealotry. It’s activism of the worst kind – activism masqueraded as “science”. Moralizing zealots always view themselves as “superior”, way above the riff-raff of usual folk. The Australian premiere antismoker, Simon Chapman, made it clear how the antismoking movement should proceed in the war against the tobacco empire and tobacco users. It was part of his presentation at the 1983 [antismoking] World Conference on Smoking & Health taken from his manual on how to do propaganda, “The Lung Goodbye”:

“Such a list could be added to considerably, but most entries would be characterized by being somehow cast in a mythological good versus evil battle in an arena observed by mass numbers of people. The good (health/clean air/children) versus evil (cancer/uncaring, callous industry) dimension is the ineluctable bottom line in the whole issue and a rich reservoir for spawning a great deal of useful social drama, metaphor, and symbolic politics that is the stuff of ‘news value’ and which is almost always to the detriment of the industry.” p.11 (see Godber Blueprint)

The zealots cast themselves in the role of the “mythological good” (health/clean air/children) battling the “mythological evil” tobacco industry (cancer/uncaring, callous industry). The zealots, being the “mythological good”, are always right, benevolent, and virtuous. Therefore, anyone who disagrees with them is “obviously” wrong, malevolent, and wicked, and most likely, according to the “mythological good” zealots, a shill….. an emissary of the “mythological evil” tobacco industry. It’s all contrived. It’s all for manipulative, “theatrical” effect – although there are some in the antismoking movement that believe they are “god-like” - and has been quite successfully used for the last three decades on an essentially superficial/gullible political class, media, and public. Extremists force this dichotomy: There are only two choices – Us, the “mythological good”, and Them, the “mythological evil”. If you’re not in agreement with Us, then you must be one of Them.

Dec 18, 2014 at 4:37 AM | Unregistered CommenterSome History

Consider the claim Smoking Kills

Pretty well all of the evidence against smoking is statistical in nature. Even if we accept that the statistical evidence has been reasonably acquired and free of errors and confounders – which it’s not, there are very definite rules governing how statistical information is disseminated. These rules are routinely violated, mangled, abused, butchered by antismoking activists. Moralizing zealots use a particular, exaggerated, highly-inflammatory language, e.g., “kill”, “death”, “poison”, “toxic”. It targets an emotional reaction.

Honestly depicting statistical information doesn’t have sufficient “terrorizing” value for zealots.

I can point you to a document (see Godber Blueprint) that instructs activists not to use statistical/probabilistic information, but to use such terms as “kill” which go far beyond the implications of the underlying data.
Working Papers in Support of the 8th World Conference on Tobacco or Health: Building a Tobacco-Free World
March 30 – April 3, 1992

Buenos Aires, Argentina
Use strong direct wording such as
Smoking kills
Smoking is addictive
Smoking causes lung cancer
Smoking causes heart disease
Smoking damages your lungs
Smoking harms the fetus
Smoking hurts your children
Don’t use statements that condone any
form of smoking, imply only a chance
of contracting disease, or attribute the
statement to a third party . Don’t use :
“Don’t smoke too much for health’s sake . ”
“Smoking may cause……
“According to the government . . . . .”
Consider skull and crossbones or other
strong visual displays .
Again, we’re not dealing with facts here. It’s vile activism. It’s the standard deterioration into the vocabulary of moralizing zealotry. It’s the production of [baseless] generalized slogans for terrorizing effect.

Dec 18, 2014 at 4:42 AM | Unregistered CommenterSome History

Re-posted without direct links.

It’s America that’s popularized antismoking insanity – again, and which other countries are following suit. The problem with Americans is that they are clueless to even their own recent history. America has a terrible history with this sort of “health” fanaticism/zealotry/extremism or “clean living” hysteria – including antismoking - that goes back more than a century.

Antismoking is not new. It has a long, sordid, 400+ year history, much of it predating even the pretense of a scientific basis or the more recent concoction of secondhand smoke “danger”. Antismoking crusades typically run on inflammatory propaganda, i.e., lies, in order to get law-makers to institute bans. Statistics and causal attribution galore are conjured. The current antismoking rhetoric has all been heard before. All it produces is irrational fear and hatred, discord, enmity, animosity, social division, oppression, and bigotry. When supported by the State, zealots seriously mess with people’s minds on a mass scale.

For a brief history of antismoking, see:
“Cigarette Wars: The ‘Triumph’ of the Little White Slaver” (1998) by Cassandra Tate. Google the following combination - “the endless war on tobacco” “seattletimes” – which should bring up a summary article of the book at the Seattle Times.

Gordon L. Dillow (1981), “Thank You for Not Smoking” [The Hundred-Year War Against the Cigarette]

Robert Proctor (1996), “The anti-tobacco campaign of the N#zis: a little known aspect of public health in Germany, 1933-45”

Dec 18, 2014 at 4:45 AM | Unregistered CommenterSome History

Thanks, Eli. It's refreshing to see a definition of denier that eliminates...well...everyone from the term. I don't think I've ever read a skeptic who didn't like Lindzen, or Curry, or Ball, or Spencer, or some scientist somewhere, so I think there's perishing few people who think all scientists are bad. It's good to know that Brin believes that deniers essentially don't exist.

Dec 18, 2014 at 5:01 AM | Unregistered CommenterRdcii

Golly, this site has become a refuge for people whose own sites are languishing for lack of interest.

So, they come and troll here.

I suppose that it is a back-handed compliment to the Bishop, but it's very tiresome for the rest of us. :(

Dec 18, 2014 at 5:12 AM | Registered Commenterjohanna

Moralizing zealots hate debate: Only their view matters. Slogans such as “the science is settled”, “the debate is over” derive from zealotry, not science. It is the means by which to stifle dissent to the social engineering. And it has been used with great success by “tobacco control”. Question any TC conduct and the dissenter would be set upon, accused of being a “flat earther”, a “holocaust denier”, or, worse still, a shill of the “evil” tobacco industry. Those questioning climate change activism should be familiar with some of these derogatory slogans.

What has this “tobacco issue” to do with anything else? Much. Tobacco control has been set as the “benchmark” for social action/activism. There are now zealots with other pet peeves, e.g., alcohol, diet – and including climate change - that are queuing up to use the successful tobacco control “template”. It’s all propaganda techniques for social control and highlights just how far down the gurgler academia has deteriorated.

The direct connection between social engineering ventures:
Lessons from the Tobacco Control Movement
Behavior, Energy and Climate Change Conference
November 17, 2008
With tobacco, social change has taken decades. The challenge is to accelerate social change for energy and climate change behaviors so that it takes years, not decades.p.32

At the root of the repugnant social engineering is medically-monopolized Public Health. Whatever the fanaticism, contort, contrive it into a Public Health issue warranting urgent “remediation”. For those not familiar, the eugenics catastrophe of early last year that was first popularized in America and later brought to a genocidal peak in Germany, was led by the medically-aligned and inflicted on society through Public Health.

Dec 18, 2014 at 5:21 AM | Unregistered CommenterSome History

"What traits distinguish a rational, pro-science "skeptic" -- who has honest questions about the AGW consensus -- from members of a Denier Movement that portrays all members of a scientific community as either fools or conspirators?"

Sheer numbers? I doubt there's anyone alive who portrays all members of the scientific community as either fools or conspirators.

There are, of course, lots of people alive and well, both within the climate science community and its groupies, who consider all sceptical scientists to be either fools or conspirators and say so publicly, using the most outrageous lies about their motives.

What's up Doc?

Dec 18, 2014 at 7:22 AM | Registered Commentergeronimo

@Salopian, you sound like an insane person when you wish death on others. I'm being a friend here, a kind friend.

@dodgy geezer, as a non-smoker, I am pleased not to have to deal with smokers anymore. But I too would like to see science beyond correlation on this issue.

Dec 18, 2014 at 7:31 AM | Unregistered CommenterBrute

I'm not a smoker but I'm all smoked out by this ... who really cares? If somebody wants to smoke themselves to the grave, then that is their business.

Funny though because in the USA there is such a strong movement for the legalisation of possession and smoking pot ... which includes so many zealots in the anti-tobacco crusade.

So if Lindzen is to be pilloried for some misrepresented comment on second and third hand smoking, then probably a significant proportion of the warmista brigade should be disqualified on the basis of their support of and or use of cannabis. That includes Clinton, Obummer, Al Gore and probably every member of the Hollywood cabal.

Dec 18, 2014 at 8:23 AM | Unregistered CommenterStreetcred

I love the irony of Silent Spring (sacred text) on the tobacco/cancer question. Carson's advisor was a real 'baccy supporter. Almost as useful an annoying fact as telling people that Hitler was a vegetarian.

The reason for silence on this topic may be Carson’s reliance on
William Hueper for her understanding of cancer. Hueper was an important
figure in the debate over the cause of increasing cancer rates.
He was firmly on the side of environmental contaminants being the
culprit rather than tobacco smoking (Hueper 1955‚ 95–100).

Silent Spring at 50: Roger E. Meiners & Andrew P. Morriss

Dec 18, 2014 at 10:48 AM | Unregistered CommenterAllan M

The single scariest thing about sidestream (environmental) smoke is that it is not filtered, either by filters on the cigarette or passing through the rest of the tobacco.

Oh yes, the campaign against Rachel Carson was set off by Roger Bate in a pitch to Philip Morris as a way of distracting the World Health Organization from a planned anti-tobacco campaign

By the way Bish, your seminary students just hit 95 on the Lewandowsky conspiracy scale.

Dec 18, 2014 at 2:56 PM | Unregistered CommenterEli Rabett

dodgy, I won't say looking into mechanisms of chemical carcinogenesis in tobacco smoke is 'not worth it', 'not required', 'stupid', 'conspiracy' etc etc. Asking such questions is an opportunity to review the literature on the topic. Following your questions, I have been reading the papers and review articles, once again, in this area. There is definitely science beyond just correlation in the case of cigarette smoke and lung cancer. Preliminarily, this seems like a good reference:

In turn, I would say that epidemiologic evidence, when it is good quality, can be far superior to experimental and laboratory evidence in certain circumstances. A study involving mice or cell lines is bound to have myriad limitations and yield both false positives and false negatives.

In my research I now managed to reasonably trace the evolution of the accusation of "tobacco!" against Lindzen. It might well be that our friend Eli Rabett and other Rabett-like individuals played no mean part in it, though perhaps not directly. One of the events related to the Master Settlement in the United States was release and archiving of the 'Tobacco Documents'. It turns out, in the early 90s and late 80s, several US organizations were involved in campaigning against ozone, second-hand smoke, acid rain and other environmental hobgoblins mustered up in support of governmental regulations. They employed the services of several scientists, some retired and others active. In the Tobacco documents, which is but a assortment of letters and pamphlets, the names of these people are mentioned as they co-ordinate their activities for meetings, conferences, payments for invited lectures and report preparation. (An example: Lindzen's name appears a few times, and each instance in connection with seminars or conferences that have a range of topics including global warming and second-hand tobacco smoke risk. I could see no evidence for Lindzen taking money to argue against tobacco risk in these documents.

But in the bloodshot-eyes, smear-by-association world of moral tobacco control activism, a mention of a name counts against you. Somehow, likely by hearsay, the fact that Lindzen's name figures in the Tobacco documents must have been transmitted to James Hansen. He writes in his 'Storms of our Grandchildren' book that Lindzen testified in court in favour of tobacco companies. Bizarre! Why did he not pause to think if this was really true? Lindzen himself mentioned his thoughts on smoking and lung cancer to Fred Guterl, who paraphrased it in a 5 word sentence. These two sources - Hansen and Guterl - have subsequently been used time and again to smear Lindzen. The latest in line is Mr Timmer.

Dec 18, 2014 at 4:21 PM | Registered Commentershub

rabett, you know there is a joke about sidestream tobacco right? If nicotine is the most addicting substance known to man, why aren't people addicted to second-hand smoke?

Dec 18, 2014 at 4:23 PM | Registered Commentershub

Because as usual you're blowing smoke shub.

Exposure to secondhand smoke, such as a person can get by riding in an enclosed car while someone else smokes, has a direct, measurable impact on the brain — and the effect is similar to what happens in the brain of the person doing the smoking. In fact, exposure to this secondhand smoke evokes cravings among smokers, according to a study funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), part of the National Institutes of Health. . . .

Previous research has shown that exposure to secondhand smoke increases the likelihood that children will become teenage smokers and makes it more difficult for adult smokers to quit. Such associations suggest that secondhand smoke acts on the brain to promote smoking behavior.

Dec 19, 2014 at 12:02 AM | Unregistered CommenterEli Rabett

“Nicotine addiction” is also a throwback to mid-1800s America.

The US of A has a long history of anti-tobacco (part of “clean living” hysteria) that goes back to the mid-1800s. Anti-tobacco was latched onto by Temperance (religious) groups and assorted physicians. All manner of [baseless] claims were made about the “harms” of tobacco. Within the hysterical fervor to “save” the “slaves to tobacco”, it produced a pressure to quit (or not start) not unlike we currently see.

Below are some of the snake oil “cures” offered in America. They’re all from the mid-1800s to early-1900s.


“Coca Bola”

“Hindoo” & “No-To-Bac” (Sterling Remedy Co.) late-1800s

Newell “Pharmacal”

“Baco Curo” late-1800s

I can provide links to the above.

Dec 19, 2014 at 12:25 AM | Unregistered CommenterSome History

Then there was Ballou’s Tobacco Disinclinator from 1867

Interestingly it made these claims, without basis, back in 1867:
“That the use of Tobacco shortens human life from Five to Twenty years, decreases manly vigor in the same ratio, causes a majority of the sudden deaths attributed to heart disease, and renders the subject more susceptible and less able to withstand any disease, is the opinion of our most eminent physicians. How shall we rid ourselves of this accursed habit, and prevent the uninitiated from falling into it? .....”

Check the claims (remember this is 1867). There was no data to support these claims. There was just an incessant barrage of baseless, highly inflammatory claims peddled through “appeal to authority”. And note the last sentence. It’s the standard prohibitionist credo: “How shall we rid ourselves of this accursed habit, and prevent the uninitiated from falling into it?” That’s the social-engineering intent that we hear now on a regular basis.

Dec 19, 2014 at 12:28 AM | Unregistered CommenterSome History

Post WWII, nicotine was, rightly, not considered an addiction. Nicotine was re-defined, contrary to available evidence, as “addictive” by US Surgeon-General, C. Everett Koop, in 1988. The Office of the Surgeon-General had long been hijacked by high-profile antismoking activists committed to a “smokefree” society.

It was also defined so in 1994 by an “expert panel” very much aligned to antismoking.

The latest that smoking is a habit, not an addiction:

Dec 19, 2014 at 12:44 AM | Unregistered CommenterSome History

Nicotine is not peculiar to tobacco. There are small quantities in potatoes, tomatoes, green peppers, egg plant, and black tea.:

Nicotine is also a precursor of nicotinic acid, also known as niacin or vitamin B3 (NIcotinic ACid vitamIN).

Even the long-time rabidly antismoking Royal College of Physicians has had to concede: “It is now widely accepted that nicotine is the primary addictive component of tobacco smoke. In recent years, however, it has become clear that the psychobiological mechanisms which mediate the addiction are more complex than they first appeared……….However, the experimental animal data also indicate that, when compared with many other drugs of dependence, the reinforcing properties of nicotine appear relatively weak. Thus, it may be that nicotine alone does not have the powerful addictive properties necessary to account for the highly addictive nature of tobacco smoking, and that addiction to tobacco reflects complex interactions between nicotine, other stimuli associated with the inhalation of tobacco smoke, and possibly other environmental, social or behavioural stimuli associated with smoking.” (p.45, 2007)

Having duped the public for decades about “nicotine addiction”, the zealots now want to [further] bastardize language. They still want to use the word “addiction” even though the basis for it has just been shown as incoherent. They now want to include behavioral and social aspects into the definition of “addiction”. Once we get beyond a pharmacological effect of a constituent and into behavioral, social, environmental aspects, then we’re no longer talking about addiction in the sense that the zealots intend to use it. But zealots want it all ways, continually shifting the goalposts.

A prominent American Tobacco Control advocate, Michael Siegel, recently noted that the idea of “addiction” is highly “flexible” in antismoking circles: “The anti-smoking advocates seem to change the science on whether smoking is a choice or an addiction based on the issue of the day. If the issue is a lawsuit, then smoking is an addiction. If the issue is refusing to hire smokers, then smoking is a choice. If the issue is the FDA regulating nicotine, then smoking is an addiction. If the issue is denying medical care to smokers, then smoking suddenly becomes a choice again.” To which can be added, when it comes to extortionate taxes, smoking suddenly becomes a choice again.

Smoking has numerous aspects – psychological, pharmacological, perceptual, behavioral, social. People smoke for different reasons at different times. Nicotine – just one aspect of smoking – is mild in effect, on a par with caffeine.

Dec 19, 2014 at 12:46 AM | Unregistered CommenterSome History

There are two main, interconnected reasons for the “nicotine addiction” myth. Firstly, it serves the deranged antismoking goal of a smokefree world. Smoking is depicted as useless, maintained only by nicotine addiction and where “addiction” is intended in the most derogatory sense of the term. This fosters the idea that smokers are reckless, “intoxicated”, irrational, irresponsible persons. And it is intended to create outrage in particularly nonsmokers. Nonsmokers who allow themselves to be brainwashed by the propaganda then demand protection from irresponsible “addicts”. Even more perverse is the claim that nicotine is “more addictive” than heroin or cocaine. Such irresponsible, agenda-driven statements trivialize what are profound differences between these substances.

Secondly, the nicotine addiction myth also serves the pharmaceutical cartel. By depicting smoking as due only to nicotine addiction, the pharmaceutical cartel has been able to peddle its nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) as the major/only means of quitting smoking. It was fully expected, according to the nicotine addiction model, that people would simply put on a nicotine patch and they would quit smoking. But it doesn’t quite work that way.

Yet, the success rate of NRT at one year is 3+% above a 3+% placebo baseline. At one year, NRT has a failure rate of ~97%. At two years, it is even closer to a 100% failure rate. This further and greatly undermines the “nicotine addiction” model. NRT is the current snake oil “cure” for smoking.

Dec 19, 2014 at 12:49 AM | Unregistered CommenterSome History

Prohibition by salami slices.

Here’s a brief history of the antismoking madness (Godber Blueprint) over the last few decades.

The first demand for a smoking ban was in the late-1980s concerning short-haul flights in the USA of less than 2 hours. At the time, the antismokers were asked if this was a “slippery slope” – where would it end? They ridiculed anyone suggesting such because this ban was ALL that they were after.
Then they ONLY wanted smoking bans on all flights.
Then the antismokers ONLY wanted nonsmoking sections in restaurants, bars, etc., and ensuring that this was ALL they wanted.
Then the antismokers ONLY wanted complete bans indoors. That was all they wanted. At the time, no-one was complaining about having to “endure” wisps of smoke outdoors.

While they pursued indoor bans, the antismokers were happy for smokers to be exiled to the outdoors. Having bulldozed their way into indoor bans, the antismokers then went to work on the outdoors, now declaring that momentary exposure to remnants of smoke in doorways or a whiff outdoors was a “hazard”, more than poor, innocent nonsmokers should have to “endure”.
Then they ONLY wanted bans within 10 feet of entrance ways.
Then they ONLY wanted bans within 20 feet of entrance ways.
Then they ONLY wanted bans in entire outdoor dining areas.
Then they ONLY wanted bans for entire university and hospital campuses and parks and beaches.
Then they ONLY wanted bans for apartment balconies.
Then they ONLY wanted bans for entire apartment (including individual apartments) complexes.

On top of all of this, there are now instances where smokers are denied employment, denied housing (even the elderly), and denied medical treatment. Smokers in the UK are denied fostering/adoption. Involuntary mental patients are restrained physically or chemically (sedation) or multi-day solitary confinement rather than allow them to have a cigarette – even outside. In some countries there are also compounded extortionate taxes.

At each point there was a crazed insistence that there was no more to come while they were actually planning the next ban and the brainwashing required to push it. The incessant claim was that they were not doing “social engineering” (prohibition) when the current antismoking crusade has been so from the outset, just like pretty well every previous antismoking crusade. There has been incessant (pathological) lying and deception. Many medically-aligned groups have been committed to antismoking – their smokefree “utopia” – since the 1960s, and are also in the pay of Pharma companies peddling their useless “nicotine replacement” products. They have prostituted their medical authority and integrity to chase ideology (this is exactly what occurred in the eugenics of early last century). All of it is working to a tobacco-extermination plan run by the WHO (dominated by the American “model”) and that most nations are now signed-up to (Framework Convention on Tobacco Control).

Dec 19, 2014 at 12:55 AM | Unregistered CommenterSome History

Exhibit A:

Moralizing zealots hate debate: Only their view matters.

Exhibit B:

Lindzen compares global warming to past politicized scientific movements: the eugenics movement in the early 20th Century and Lysenkoism in the Soviet Union under Stalin. However, the MIT professor argues that global warming goes even beyond what these past movements in terms of twisting science.

I love "skeptics!"

Dec 19, 2014 at 1:54 AM | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

Ars has a number of editorial manias. One, as pointed out is global warming. Another, back in the days when Apple was a computer company, was an obsessive admiration for the Mac and all its appurtinances. Jacqui Cheng was the leading exponent of breathless enthusiasm, live blogging of every last product announcement or earnings report..... etc.

This is a mainstream commercial site which knows who butters its bread.

Dec 19, 2014 at 3:55 AM | Unregistered Commentermichel

> epidemiology cannot prove causality

Nothing much can, pace David:

The Humean predicament is the human predicament.

Dec 19, 2014 at 4:00 AM | Unregistered CommenterWillard

I'm afraid Some History is rather confused on the biosynthesis of nicotine. He has it backwards, nicotinic acid (niacin) is a precursor to nicotine, not the other way round as he claimed.

Dec 19, 2014 at 6:43 AM | Unregistered CommenterIan Forrester

"Because as usual you're blowing smoke shub."

Blah <quote first search result thrown up for 'second hand smoke addiction'>

Eli Rabett, you realize that if 2nd hand smoke were effectively so powerfully addicting, we have have millions of addicts in the general population right now. You also realize that performing functional imaging studies can at best show evidence for a physiologic effect of nicotine on the brain which is unsurprising considering it's in the air that you breathe in a car.

If the phrenology as elucidated in the study was correct and the effect size was truly significant, you would see real-world addicts - just like you see evidence for tobacco carcinogenesis in the lab and increased incidence of cancer in the world.

Dec 19, 2014 at 6:58 AM | Registered Commentershub

Joshua, "the eugenics movement in the early 20th Century"

The parallels between global warming and eugenics do not rest in zealotry, but more in how 'science' was employed in pursuit of 'an urgent problem' that 'threatened the future of humanity' and demanded 'solutions' now. Zealotry and moral certainty is common to many movements.

See Edwin Black and Daniel Kevles.

Dec 19, 2014 at 7:07 AM | Registered Commentershub

Ian, I get the impression that you would derive some delight if I was confused. However, there’s no confusion in what I’ve conveyed to you.

Nicotinic acid is derived from the oxidation of nicotine (one form is burning of tobacco leaf as in smoking).

Dec 19, 2014 at 10:18 AM | Unregistered CommenterSome History

There’s also a history here. Earlier last century the moralizing zealots didn’t like the idea of associating anything useful with tobacco/smoking.

“Niacin is a member of the B-vitamin family. It is sometimes referred to as vitamin B3. Nicotinic acid was first discovered as an oxidation product of nicotine and thus, the origin of its name. In fact, much of the confusion caused by the use of the term niacin for both nicotinic acid and nicotinamide, as well as for nicotinic acid alone, was created by the attempt to dissociate nicotinic acid from its nicotine origins.”

"Niacin was first discovered from the oxidation of nicotine to form nicotinic acid. When the properties of nicotinic acid were discovered, it was thought prudent to choose a name to dissociate it from nicotine, in order to avoid the perception that vitamins or niacin-rich food contains nicotine. The resulting name 'niacin' was derived from nicotinic acid + vitamin."

Dec 19, 2014 at 10:19 AM | Unregistered CommenterSome History

How the moralizing zealots tried to confuse the circumstance (as they typically do):

“pellagra-preventing vitamin in enriched bread,” 1942, coined from ni(cotinic) ac(id) + -in, chemical suffix; suggested by the American Medical Association as a more commercially viable name than nicotinic acid.
“The new name was found to be necessary because some anti-tobacco groups warned against enriched bread because it would foster the cigarette habit.”
["Cooperative Consumer," Feb. 28, 1942]

Then this from the moralizing zealots:
Ministry Magazine
International Journal for Pastors
Nicotinic Acid vs. Nicotine
H.M. Walton
“Some have apparently gained misleading impressions from recent press reports to the effect that nicotinic acid is now to be derived from the tobacco plant. Information at hand indicates that individuals have concluded from these reports that nicotinic acid is of the nature of nicotine, and therefore undesirable as a product in the “enriched” flour program that has recently been launched —a program that deserves hearty endorsement.”
The name “nicotinic acid” was attached to this factor because of the fact that it was first isolated during the chemical study of the tobacco plant. However, one is not to be misled by this association, for there is no relationship, as relates to effects and actions in the body, between nicotine and nicotinic acid. In fact, authorities in the field of chemistry and nutrition are proposing that the name “nicotinic acid” be changed.”

And this:
The Journal of the American Medical Association – 1942
“A poor name is a handicap to the promotion of a meritorious product. The name “nicotinic acid” for the vitamin so important in the prevention of pellagra has been doubly unfortunate.
To the general public the word “nicotinic” implies too strongly the relationship of this vitamin to nicotine, the chief alkaloid of tobacco often used as an insecticide. The term “acid” denotes a corrosive substance such as the liquid used in automobile storage batteries.
The vitamin called “nicotinic acid” was first produced in the laboratory in 1867 by the oxidation of nicotine with potassium chromate and sulfuric acid. Later the compound was named nicotinic acid because it had been made from nicotine and it had the ability to form salts. As a laboratory curiosity, which it remained for over seventy years, nicotinic acid was adequately named.
From the point of view of those interested in furthering the distribution of foods enriched with this dietary essential the name has proved unsuitable.”

Dec 19, 2014 at 10:22 AM | Unregistered CommenterSome History

The actuality:

Nicotinic acid – 1941 (p.2)
“We find that the smoke from ordinary Ripple cigarettes contains the anti-pellagra vitamin or nicotinic acid in fairly substantial amounts. However, the quantity is probably too low for a man to rely upon this source alone for his nicotinic acid requirement. At least to do so he would find it necessary to smoke an unreasonable number”
“You will recall that in our letter of March 11th we doubted that vitamins could be absorbed from tobacco smoke by the throat and lung tissues. However, we have now found that nicotinic acid is disolved in the saliva of the smoker when smoking ordinary cigarettes, and even in greater amounts when smoking cigarettes made from the enriched tobacco. Thus, the vitamin does not have to be absorbed thru the lungs, but will be swallowed in the approved manner. These conclusions are based on actual analysis of saliva, collected from a smoker while smoking.
“In other words, we analyzed the saliva, which would have otherwise been swallowed. No Nicotinic Acid occurred in the smoker’s saliva before smoking. We feel that we have made this report sufficiently long to cover the discoveries, which we regard as quite remarkable”

Dec 19, 2014 at 10:24 AM | Unregistered CommenterSome History

Suggestion: Add a Most Recent Comments button at the top of the comments so the bunnies don't have to scroll down all the way thru the first 50, or is there a secret handshake way of doing this?

Dec 19, 2014 at 8:30 PM | Unregistered CommenterEli Rabett

Amusingly, amongst the key conclusions of the Royal College of Physicians report cited above was this one

Cigarettes and many other tobacco products have been specifically designed, engineered and marketed to enhance both development and maintenance of addiction.

Which makes a hash of the cherry pick. Tobacco is addictive in humans, nicotine plays an important role, Smoking is killing millions of people. Read the report.

Dec 19, 2014 at 8:44 PM | Unregistered CommenterEli Rabett

Eli, you can't distinguish fact from marketing fiction.

Antismoking has a long, sordid, at times very violent (including torture and execution), 400+ year history. There were antismoking crusades long before the large tobacco companies came on the scene. There were antismoking crusades long before the mass-produced cigarette. There were antismoking crusades long before movies and mass media. There were antismoking crusades long before attempts, however bastardized, at scientific investigation of smoking. There were antismoking crusades long before the recent concoction of secondhand smoke “danger”.

The striking theme over those 400+ years is the extent to which rabid antismokers will lie to rationalize their hatred of smoke/smokers/smoking. There’s more than ample evidence over the last few centuries that the rabid antismoking mentality is a significant mental disorder. Yet here we are again.

Eli, since you’re a “true believer”, maybe you could tell us where another antismoking fiction originated – that nicotine is more addictive that cocaine or heroin? Or that other doozy – the “black lung” hoax? That’ll do for starters.

Dec 19, 2014 at 11:29 PM | Unregistered CommenterSome History

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