Wednesday, May 12, 2010

More anti-smoker hypocrisy & conflict of interest

I visited the web site of the American Lung Association earlier this week. They've launched a new anti-smoker campaign called “The Quitter in You” with funding from Pfizer Inc, the manufacturer of various smoking cessation products. And, the ALA is promoting NRT (Nicotine Replacement Therapy) and other drug therapy as the key to quitting.

I was following the links provided in a post by Dr. Michael Siegel on his blog “The Rest of the Story”. Siegel was pointing out the hypocrisy (and the financial conflict of interest) of the ALA in their promotion of drugs as a means of quitting smoking and all the while taking millions of dollars in funding from the pharmaceutical industry for their efforts. At the same time, they are actively engaged in a campaign to have the FDA ban electronic cigarettes, a product which threatens drug company profits from the sale of smoking cessation drugs.

It makes you wonder if the ALA, ACS and their allies in the anti-smoker brigade are promoting smoking cessation or peddling drugs.

Nothing particularly earth-shattering in that bit of news. This blog and others have been pointing out that the anti-smoker brigade has been heavily funded by the pharmaceutical industry for years.

The anti-smoker crowd promotes smoking bans and de-normalization to force smokers to quit; the drug companies rake in the profits from smoking cessation products sold to smokers trying to quit. Then the drug companies funnel a portion of the profits back to the anti-smoker zealots to push for more smoking bans, punitive taxes and the further de-normaliztion of smokers to force even more smokers to quit and buy even more drugs.

A vicious circle.

Another claim on the ALA web site that caught my eye was the assertion that: “Smoking cost the United States over $193 billion in 2004, including $97 billion in lost productivity and $96 billion in direct health care expenditures, or an average of $4,446 per adult smoker.”

This has been a standard strategy used by the anti-smoker crowd to garner support from non-smokers for decades. Use the high cost of treating “smoking related diseases” to generate anger against smokers for the financial burden they allegedly impose on society.

The numbers for “lost productivity” are, in my humble opinion, especially suspect; based on assumptions and statistical manipulation and unverifiable in the real world. The statistics raise a lot of questions. For example, does a 55 year old worker take more or fewer smoke breaks than a 68 year old retiree? Which one costs the employer more in lost productivity? Does the 68 year old retiree call in sick as frequently as a 35 year old? Have you ever known anyone to call in sick because they had too much to smoke the night before?

How exactly do they estimate "lost productivity" for the over 65 crowd? The under 65 crowd? Do they just pluck the damn numbers from someone's posterior? Would numbers plucked from some anti-smoker's ass be any more or less reliable than the method they do use to calculate the costs due to “lost productivity”. Yeah. I know . . . silly questions.

Of course, that still leaves direct medical costs of roughly $2,200 per adult smoker; a cost which is allegedly borne by the non-smoking taxpayer. But, is it? Really?

Everyone seem to forget that smokers are taxpayers too. And, here in Canada, smokers pay much more into the system than they take out. In a May, 2008 blog entry, I noted: “In fact, not only do smokers pay for their own health care, they contribute roughly $83 annually towards the health care costs of every man, woman and child in the country.” And those calculations used data provided by the anti-smoker zealots at Physicians for a Smokefree Canada.

I suspect the numbers aren't that much different in the US, once adjusted for their unbelievably high health care costs. From Wikipedia: “the latest figures showed that the US spent $2.5 trillion, $8,047 per person, on health care in 2009”. The same source claims per capita health care costs in Canada were $4,089.

The Wikipedia article on health care costs in Canada notes that: “Of the three biggest health care expenses, the amount spent on pharmaceuticals has increased the most.” The amount spent on medications increased from $1.1 billion in 1975 to $26.5 billion in 2009. Uh-huh.

And, the anti-smoker crusaders want the government to fund smoking cessation drugs which will, in turn, increase drug costs. And, naturally, they'll blame the resulting increases in drug spending on smokers. And, they'll demand more pressure be put on smokers to force them to quit, thus generating more profit for the drug companies who will provide further funding to their partners in the anti-smoker crowd to further harass smokers.

Same vicious circle.

The Wikipedia article also notes health care costs in Canada are greater for those at “extreme” old age and the newborn ($17,469 per capita in those older than 80 and $8,239 for those less than 1 year old). I suspect a similar situation exists in the States

I wonder how they'll manage to blame that on smokers. Maybe they'll just ban growing old.


Anonymous said...


The Old Rambler said...

Dear Anonymous,

Must you be so damn repetitive. Perhaps you should invest in a good thesaurus.