Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Smoking related deaths plummet in Canada

Health Canada has slashed the number of deaths attributed to smoking by roughly 21%. And they’ve done it with a simple stroke of the pen. And, even better, they’ve done it retroactively. Uh-huh. The new estimate of smoking attributable deaths is based on StatCan mortality tables from 2002. Some pundits estimate that 60,000 lives have been saved since 2002. Others point out that they're still just as dead, just not from smoking.

For years now Health Canada has been “estimating” the number of Canadians who die annually from smoking related deaths as a direct result of smoking. Until a month or so back, the estimate given on their web site stood at 47,000 annually.

The Smoking Attributable Deaths (SAM) estimate has been used by Health Canada to support their contention that smokers have been dying in epidemic proportions. But, the estimates have also been used by anti-smoker crusaders like the Non-Smokers Rights Association, Physicians for a Smoke Free Canada and Action on Smoking and Heath Alberta (ASH), to name just a few.

In fact, those estimates have been used as a scare-mongering tactic by anti-smoker zealots for a decade or more. The figures were quoted at every opportunity, in newspaper articles, press releases, television interviews, etc. They’ve been spouted by politicians of every political persuasion to support the imposition of draconian smoking bans across the country and impose punitive levels of taxation on smokers.

Now, Health Canada is reporting on their web site that smoking related deaths in Canada have dropped by 21%, from 47,000 a month or so back to just 37,000 today.

Well, actually, they don’t tell you that smoking related deaths have declined, at least not on their web site. They just announce that tobacco kills 37,000 Canadians each and every year. For, the explanation, you have to search around for a report published in 2007.

So, just how was this miracle accomplished?

Apparently, the computer generated estimates used by Health Canada were based on the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Prevention Study II (CPS-II). But, the direct application of the US survey to the Canadian population was deemed inappropriate. So, Health Canada simply made a few adjustments to data, and bingo, 10,000 fewer deaths from smoking.

Health Canada explains the change in their report: “The total Smoking Attributable Deaths (SAM) was estimated to be 47,581 (21% of all deaths, age ≥ 35). However, the CPS-II has been criticized for not being generalizable to the entire US population. When compared to the general population, participants in CPSII tend to over represent the middle class and have more education. As well, a disproportionate number of them are white. Thus, direct application of a large US survey to the Canadian population may not be appropriate.”

But, to keep the estimated death toll high, they added a few more diseases from which Canadians may be dying as a result of their smoking habits: “In 2004, the Surgeon General (SG) added several diseases to the list of those for which evidence is sufficient to conclude a causal relationship between smoking and disease: stomach cancer, renal cell carcinoma, uterine cervical cancer, pancreatic cancer and pneumonia.”

So, what’s the big deal? They made a mistake and now they’ve corrected it.

Well, there’s a little more to it than that. The inflated figures have been used by the anti-smoker brigade in their march to tobacco prohibition since the previous Health Canada study conducted in 1998.

And, it’s not just the guesstimate of smoking attributable deaths that have been used to manipulate the public. All data which was based on those estimates will also be artificially inflated. Estimates of health care costs, for example, and Possible Years of Life Lost (PYLLs) were also calculated on the inaccurate SAM numbers from a decade ago.

There have already been considerable social and economic costs attached to the smoking bans and ever-increasing levels of sin taxes imposed by senior levels of government in response to the alleged smoking epidemic. These include job loss in the tobacco and hospitality industries, lost tax revenue and increased policing costs to deal with smuggling and contraband

Smokers are now social outcasts, open to blatant discrimination in housing, employment and medical care, thanks to a campaign of de-normalization initiated by anti-smoker fanatics at the Non-Smokers Rights Association, ASH Alberta, the Canadian Cancer Society, and a host of other activists receiving funding from Canada’s two senior levels of government.

The death toll from tobacco use, exaggerated beyond reason, was used to persuade a naïve public and gullible government to impose the draconian legislation demanded by the anti-smoker fanatics.

And, wait until you see what they’ve done with the estimates of death due to secondhand smoke.

To be continued . . .


Anonymous said...

What a fucken bunch of stupid idiots wanting the right to inhale large amounts of burning tobacco. Don't you realized that your were lied to by the tobacco companies and fooled that smoking was something that cool, powerful sexy people did. Ads showed cycling up mountains with people wanting to smoke NOT. Or Scuba divers want to smoke Lies Well I hate to tel you but you don't look too smart. How much money have you spent on this health damaging activity? Get wise kick sucking in smoke thousands have .

Susan Jenkins said...

Does it matter if the death toll drops if you or someone you love is one of the people who dies? Besides, is it really that great to walk around smelling like a filthy ashtray?

Anonymous said...

The point that Susan Jenkins and all the other anti-smoking zealots miss is that due to the exaggerations on smoking, other health problem related issues get neglected. Obesity is a prime example. Todays generation of children will be the first to have a shorter life-expectancy then their parents. This is occurring in spite of smoking rates plummeting the last several decades. This is evidence that the HUGE focus on smoking has been misguided and has been a disservice to the general population. Look at Japan. They have a high smoking rate with very little SHS legislation but they are always at the top of the list in life expectancy. Coincidently, their obesity rates are one of the lowest.