Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The WHO Study (Part 2)

Nothing better illustrates the real agenda of the prohibitionists than the way the study, conducted by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), and commissioned by the World Health Organization, was handled in 1998.

The British press had to use access to information laws to actually get the study for examination and review. And, when it was pointed out that the relative risk factors identified in their report were statistically insignificant, WHO simply ignored the fact, claiming instead that "It is extremely important to note that the results of this study are consistent with the results of major scientific reviews of this question published during 1997 by the government of Australia, the US Environmental Protection Agency and the State of California.”
Which, of course, was the whole point. The results of the WHO study were consistent with other studies. Their study indicates that there is no causal relationship between secondhand cigarette smoke and lung cancer; a result which was consistent with other studies conducted on ETS. The WHO study, intended to confirm an association between ETS and lung cancer, instead, showed just the opposite.
But, even more devastating for WHO, the relative risk of children exposed to second hand smoke was established at 0.78, with a confidence interval between 0.64 and 0.96. which would indicate a net health benefit to children as far as developing lung cancer is concerned.
One of the most baffling aspects of the WHO study was the reaction of anti-smoking fanatics and the press.
For instance, there were some who tried to bring the results to public attention. Lorraine Mooney in her article in the European Edition of the Wall Street Journal pointed out, “For the past 15 years the anti-smoking lobby has pushed the view that cigarette smoking is a public health hazard. This was a shrewd tactic. For having failed to persuade committed smokers to save themselves, finding proof that passive smoking harmed non-smoking wives, children or workmates meant smoking could be criminalized. Last week the science fell off the campaign wagon when the definitive study on passive smoking, sponsored by the World Health Organization, reported no cancer risk at all.”
But, many tried to discredit the story and the results of the study. Some of the comments from the anti-smoking lobby were actually very extreme. For example, Neil Collishaw, a former Health Canada statistician who was working the anti-tobacco desk at WHO in Geneva, suggested that the research didn't exist. "This was certainly nothing done in my office." Then he added: "But if my organization commissioned it, it's strange I haven't heard of it." Unfortunately for Mr. Collishaw, the WHO would issue a press release admitting to the existence of the study.
The Non-Smokers Rights Association (NSRA) in Ottawa trashed the WHO study as tobacco industry propaganda. David Sweanor, the NSRA's lawyer in Ottawa, said the research "is simply not sound science. The only place we have seen this kind of garbage is from the tobacco industry." Jim Repace of Maryland, an anti-smoking advocate and author of many papers on secondhand smoke described the study as "propaganda, not science."
Charles Enman of the Ottawa Citizen started his rant with the claim that, “Experts have blasted a study purportedly from the World Health Association that suggests second-hand smoke does not cause lung cancer.”
Purportedly? The World Health Organization had admitted to having commissioned the study in a press release and had published an abstract of the study. Perhaps Mr. Enman wasn’t aware of that fact when he wrote his article for the Ottawa Citizen.
So why, now that they have been made aware that the study was conducted by WHO, is it considered the definitive link between second hand smoke and lung cancer? Why is it no longer considered “propaganda, not science?” Does the NSRA still contend that “The only place we have seen this kind of garbage is from the tobacco industry?”
The scientific community considers a relative risk of 2.0 a weak response, requires a relative risk of 3.0 to be considered a strong response and a relative risk of less than 2.0 is considered statistically insignificant. So why is the WHO study, with a relative risk of only 1.16, given so much weight? And, if the scientific community routinely ignores studies with a relative risk of less than 2.0, why do they make an exception when the studies are related to ETS?
And the answer, simply put, is that they are prepared to misrepresent the facts, fake the statistics and lie to the public in the pursuit of their objective: an all out prohibition of tobacco.

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