“Merchants of Doubt” Part 2

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[I started writing this “Merchants of Doubt” Part 2, but while doing so a flood of memories came back to me. If time permits, I’ll add some in a later blog.]

Merchants of Doubt_5031Weaving a gifted performer of card tricks into this movie was a stroke of genius.
Jay Ian Swiss earns money legitimately by demonstrating to his audience something they know is fake but cannot fathom out how.

Contrast that to the successful tobacco industry, who knew their product was both highly addictive and killing hundreds of thousands of Americans, yet denying it strenuously and successfully for decades in order to continue profiting from it.

Subsequently other industries causing harm and facing critics recognized that they could learn from Big Tobacco, employing deniers to bamboozle the public.

Below are screen shots with audio transcript captured from the opening part of the movie, starting with an animated nicotine-addicted King of Diamonds in the movie’s credits:

King of diamonds sm_5029 King of diamonds smoking_5030
First he’s smoke-free …….

Then he’s not!

(Click any image to enlarge; back arrow top left to return to this page)

Jamy Ian Swiss_5046Jay Ian Swiss, Magician:

     My expertise is in deception. The thing that sets magicians apart from con men and other kinds of thieves and liars is that we’re honest liars. It’s the moral contract.

Swiss is introduced to an intimate audience and while he’s shown performing he continues:

“I’m saying, I’m gonna fool you but it’s OK, right, that’s my job. But I’m gonna bring you back whence you began in a not severely altered condition.”

After being shown performing some amazing sleight-of-hand card tricks Swiss concludes:

“I make an honest living, right?
Therefore, it offends me when someone takes the skills of my honest living, if you will, and uses it to twist and distort and manipulate people and their sense of reality in how the world works.
I know how to fool people, and I know how to recognize when people are being fooled.”

Steve Milloy JunkScience.com_5052Short clip of Steve Milloy, who maintains a website JunkScience.com which evidently focuses on attacking and seeking to undermine good science, being interviewed and stating:

“Dioxin, pesticides, chemicals in general: there’s no evidence that these are harming us.”

Below is a clip from the movie, kindly provided by Melissa Robledo, Robert Kenner Films, after a request to Dr. Stan Glantz, and from which the still images in the previous blog were captured.

And below, in response to a TV host’s claim that his smoking harms no one at work, I’ve pasted Stan Glantz’s most memorable scientific rejoinder during the entire clip:

Glantz_No, that’s bullsh-t_5087

No, that’s bullsh-t!

2014 movie “Merchants of Doubt” & how tobacco deniers led the pack

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I recently viewed this 2014 movie, rented from Netflix, called “Merchants of Doubt,” after it received highly rated reviews. It deserves those plaudits. In both an informative and entertaining way, it presents the facts about the deception practiced by polluting industries, leading with the tobacco industry which laid the groundwork for methods used by others, including more recently climate change deniers. It compares it with the deception practiced by a card trick performer.

A two minute trailer is on-line at ‘Merchants of Doubt’ Trailer (2015)2:01’Merchants of Doubt’ Trailer (2015), but neither that nor this blog which follows really does justice to this movie.

After an introduction by an expert demonstrating a card trick, the movie begins by describing the tobacco industry’s deliberate tactic of creating doubt about the dangers of secondhand smoke (SHS), and how that was finally countered by science, helped by highly secret and damaging industry documents leaked anonymously to Dr. Stan Glantz at the University of California, Berkeley.

Glantz describes how he’s initially treated as a virtual pariah, with clips from one TV show in which he participates and is confronted both by a belligerent smoking host, and an apologist denying the dangers of secondhand smoke, whom he confronts head-on with study after study.

Here are screen shots from this segment of the movie together with a transcript. The host starts off by saying:
“What in the world is so wrong about smoking in the workplace. I mean, I smoke in my job every night and I’m not hurting anyone.”

Stan Glantz (SG) replies, while getting bleeped for using the following expletive:
“That’s bullshit!” A comment which gets a strong audience reactions.

Glantz present_5018
Cut to SG being interviewed for the documentary:
“One thing you’ve got to be willing to do when you’re doing science that is not in the interests of these giant corporations: when people come after you for baloney reasons you’ve got to be willing to stand up to them.”

Secondhand smoke hazard denier (Denier):
Glantz opponent_5001
“I don’t know of any evidence, any CONCLUSIVE evidence …”

Glantz opponent raising hand_5019
Stan Glantz (SG), offering him the first EPA report on SHS:
Denier: “That, that …”
SG: “You can read this.”

Glantz dumps more reports on his lap and Denier reacts angrily, raising his voice:
Glantz opponent_5002

As Glantz plonks another study on his lap, the opponent holds up his hand:

Glantz opponent objecting 4th study_5020

Glantz opponent flinging studies_5005
Denier, exasperated, flings studies over his shoulder, to roars from the audience.

Back to Glantz, again being interviewed for the documentary:
“We spent a long time banging our heads up against the wall because these guys are rich, they’re politically powerful, and they’re mean.”

Host confronts a seated Glantz, adopting an aggressive manner:
Host interrogating Glantz_5009
“How old are you?”
“I’m 42.”

Host 4 packs a day_5017
Host, emphasizing by holding up four fingers:

Host pointing finger_5013
“I am FIFTY FIVE.”(Audience erupts).
“Wait a second, wait a second.”

Host pointing at Glantz_5014

(View of Glantz with tousled hair leaning back in his chair.)

Glantz commentary: “But when you went to policy makers or media to talk about how dishonest and manipulative they were, people would kind of think you were a little paranoid delusional.”

2015-10-15 P-D: “Dear Abby” gets it wrong! … Or does she?

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In today’s St. Louis Post-Dispatch Everyday section (page EV3), “Dear Abby,” aka Abigail Van Buren, addresses a letter from a concerned smoke-sensitive non-smoker. My initial reaction was that Abby’s advice was lacking sensitivity for the non-smoker and plain wrong. But then I had second thoughts.

(My wife commented that Carolyn Hax, who writes a similar column, would give a more nuanced response with several options and the consequence of each.)

What do you think?

Actually, it reminds me of my situation and my wife’s French family, many of whom were smokers, including an older sister who was also a medical doctor!

Back then, of course, “doctors” were recommending cigarette brands, such as Camel, as in this ad on the Stanford School of Medicine website at http://tinyurl.com/c878lbo:

R. J. Reynolds campaign which ran from 1940 to 1949 and claimed that

R. J. Reynolds campaign which ran from 1940 to 1949 and claimed that “More Doctors smoke Camels.”

Here’s the letter and response:

Dear Abby: My husband and I have been married 10 years. Half of his family are smokers. Every year, there has been a family gathering at his dad’s house. Since the birth of my first child, smoking has become forbidden in that home.

This year, however, the party will be held at the home of another where smoking will be permitted. I can’t handle smoke. It gives me a sore throat and I cough for a week after exposure. Because of my reaction and for the health of my children, I don’t want to attend. (When we get home we have to immediately shower and launder our clothing to get rid of the smell.)

My husband is adamant that we SHOULD attend and bring the kids. He was raised around smoking and doesn’t see what the “big deal” is. What can I say or do to convince him not to force me and our children to be exposed to the health hazards of secondhand smoke? Am I being unreasonable because it’s only one night a year?

— Hater of smoking in West Virginia

Dear Hater Of Smoking: I think so. Much as you might like, you can’t raise your children in a bubble. I would hate to see you isolate your children from their aunts, uncles, cousins and any grandparents who are still alive during their once-a-year holiday celebration. If you would prefer not to attend because you can’t stand the smell of the smoke, stay home. But do not prevent your children from knowing the family. Assuming they don’t have health issues, one evening of exposure to cigarette smoke shouldn’t be harmful.

Write Dear Abby at http://www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.

2015-08-18 P-D: “Higher Tobacco Taxes?”

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Higher Tobacco Taxes? was the lead story on the front page of today’s St. Louis Post-Dispatch, describing two proposals to raise the cigarette tax from 17 cents a pack to 40 cents. What is most intriguing is that both are spearheaded by the self-same group, the Missouri Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association, led by Executive Director Ron Leone, that has successfully opposed previous efforts to raise Missouri’s lowest-in-the-nation cigarette tax.

[For a previous blog featuring Ron Leone please click here: 2012-11-07 P-D: “Missouri keeps tobacco tax as the lowest in the nation”]

It transpires that this is being pursued not for altruistic reasons but to head off a potentially larger tax increase if a competing initiative to raise the tax by 50 cents to 67 cents a pack is successful.  How marvelously devious.

New campaign to raise Missouri’s tobacco tax could fund transportation projects 

21 hours ago  •  By Leah Thorsen

69 on-line comments to date


Missouri’s 17-cent per pack tax on cigarettes is the lowest in the nation. Here’s a look at what Missouri’s neighboring states impose:

Illinois: $1.98
Iowa: $1.36
Kansas: $1.29
Arkansas: $1.15
Oklahoma: $1.03
Nebraska: 64 cents
Tennessee: 62 cents
Kentucky: 60 cents

Source: Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids

The latest appeal for an increase in Missouri’s tobacco tax came Monday from an organization that has successfully fought to keep the state’s tax the lowest in the nation.
          The Missouri Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association filed two nearly identical versions of an initiative petition seeking a statewide vote to raise the tax on cigarettes to 40 cents a pack.
          That’s a 135 percent increase, but it’s less than two other proposals being floated and more likely to win voter approval, the trade group says.
          One of the group’s proposals could mean $800 million over a decade to be used for transportation funding, it says. Any measure would require a signature-gathering campaign before going before voters.
          Missouri’s current state cigarette tax is 17 cents a pack, the lowest of any state in the nation.
          The proposed increase would be phased in, with an additional 13-cent tax per pack going into effect on Jan. 1, 2017; an additional 5 cents on Jan. 1, 2019; and the remaining 5 cents on Jan. 1, 2021.
          The group — which fought all three tobacco-tax increases ultimately rejected by voters since 2002 — also is proposing a 50 percent tax increase on other tobacco products.
          Under one version, the proceeds would fund transportation. Under the other, the money would go to the state’s general revenue fund.

Ron Leone

Ron Leone

          Ron Leone, executive director of the Missouri Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association, said his group will see which is more popular with voters, but he expects Missouri voters to support the version allocating the extra money to fund transportation projects. He also said it would allow Missouri stores to keep their tax advantage over border states.
          A 40-cent tax on cigarettes would keep Missouri’s tobacco tax among the lowest nationwide, topping only Georgia and Virginia, which impose tobacco taxes of 37 cents and 30 cents respectively, according to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.
          He said the hike would be equivalent to a 3-cent hike in the gasoline tax. A measure to increase the state’s fuel tax by 2 cents died this year in the Legislature, and that has caused the state to dial back on transportation spending.
          No Missouri Department of Transportation expansion projects, such as new lanes, interchanges or bridges, are planned over the next five years. That represents a first in the department’s history, the result of a bleak funding outlook.
          The belt-tightening comes as MoDOT braces for lean years after the death of the fuel tax hike and rejection by voters of a sales tax increase that would have provided about $5.4 billion over 10 years for roads and bridges as well as ports, railways and public transit.
         “Would it solve our transportation problems? No,” Leone said of his group’s proposal. “Would it help our problems? Absolutely.”
          If successful in collecting enough signatures — a minimum of 157,788 from six of Missouri’s eight congressional districts — a measure would be up for a vote in the November 2016 election. The two initiatives submitted Monday to the secretary of state’s office brings the total to 80.
          And Leone’s group isn’t the only one with an idea for where money from a tax-hike on tobacco could go.
          Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster, a front-runner for the 2016 Democratic gubernatorial nomination, in Marchcalled for the state to pass a cigarette tax hike to around 90 cents a pack with the money earmarked to fund college scholarships for state students. No such petition has been filed to get that measure on the ballot.
          The group Raise Your Hand for Kids has filed its petition and is also pursuing a November 2016 ballot initiative to increase Missouri’s tobacco tax and use the money for early childhood education and health screenings for children ages birth to 5.
          The group wants to increase the tax by 50 cents — to 67 cents a pack — to bring in an additional $250 million a year for screening programs, home visits and child care from birth through age 5.
Under the plan, St. Louis County, with the highest population of young children in the state, would gain about $37.5 million in funding. St. Louis would gain nearly $14 million. St. Charles and Jefferson counties would gain $15.7 million and $9.5 million respectively.
          But voters have turned down other tax hikes, most recently in 2012 when they were asked to raise tobacco taxes by 73 cents a pack. Nearly 51 percent of voters rejected the plan to raise $283 million for smoking cessation programs, K-12 education and higher education.

Copyright 2015 stltoday.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


2015-04-23 P-D Comics: Dilbert’s attitude to smoking

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In today’s comics section of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch Dilbert had something to say about smoking during a technical interview:

Dilbert dt150423

Well, I didn’t know about this 2010 Israeli study either and I found it surprising. In part, that was because my former next door neighbor in Harlow, England, who had a Ph.D. in Chemistry, was a bright guy working for 3M and also an addicted smoker. (He finally quit, thanks to pressure from family members, including his asthmatic son.)

Dr. Evarts Graham, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, was a long-time cigarette smoker who, together with Ernst Wynder, was the first to report a definitive link between smoking and lung cancer. Dr. Graham later died of lung cancer in 1957 at age 73.

So, back to Dilbert’s reference to a 2010 Israeli study that smokers have a lower IQ than nonsmokers. It turns out that there IS such a study, and you can find it reported here:

Smoking linked to lower IQ’s


But it’s not that smoking LOWERS your IQ. It’s that those with LOWER IQ’s are more likely to smoke. As reported in the article, Dr. Mark Weiser from the Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer Hospital in Israel said:

“It’s very clear that people with low IQs are the ones who choose to smoke. It’s not just a matter of socioeconomic status – if they are poor or have less education – and because of that do less well on IQ tests. And that’s really the story,” he says.

Protected: The Little (smoke-free) Engine that could(n’t quite prevail in St. Charles County)

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2015-04-13 P-D Bill McClellan: “Lung cancer doesn’t get the attention it deserves”

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Today’s column instantly brought back memories of my late sister, Lilian, a nonsmoker who nonetheless died of lung cancer shortly before her 58th birthday in England in 1988. She was lying in bed unconscious by the time I arrived, after flying via TWA from Lambert-St. Louis International Airport to Gatwick Airport in southern England. I had always admired her for being pretty but on this occasion her face was distorted, as though she was trying to escape from her skin, and she was taking raspy breaths. She never did regain consciousness before she died hours later.

In 2009 I memorialized her death in a blog, illustrated with photos of happier times, and posted on November 11th, the date that she died, titled:

In Memoriam: Lilian (Leah) Williams, nee Pion

Below I’ve pasted Bill McClellan’s on-line column, which in the print version is titled “Lung cancer doesn’t get the attention it deserves,” which I think is a better title so I’ve used it for this blog.

One thing that struck me in McClellan’s column below is this paragraph:

“There is no behavioral link to breast cancer, no one blaming the patients, no one asking if they were smokers.”

Dr. A. Judson Wells

Dr. A. Judson Wells

In 1987 I read a ground-breaking paper by A. Judson Wells, Ph.D., which estimated non-smoking deaths due to secondhand smoke exposure, and included breast cancer deaths among them.
This was at a time when any such association between secondhand smoke and breast cancer was generally dismissed by the medical community. I believe that association has now been recognized.

P.S. After posting this I received the following e-mail from a former St. Louis resident, good friend, and mogasp supporter. He was kind enough to allow me to post it without attribution:

“Thanks for forwarding Bill’s column with your commentary.
We had a very good friend who never smoked and her husband was a very heavy smoker. She eventually died of lung cancer and it devastated my wife who had become very fond of this woman. We were unable to maintain contact with her husband (the couple had moved to Quebec, Canada).
Your sister in Brighton brought back memories.
In 1936 my older sister was put into a boarding school in Brighton for a year since public schools in Germany were closed to Jews. I followed to the UK a year later (9/37) and we both ended up in Bournemouth (of course at two different boarding schools).
On Thursday, 4/16, we celebrate 76 years since we landed in New York.
Had I told you before that the community to which we’ve retired is now smoke free within 25 feet of any window or doorway of any community building?
Life is good out here in the great Northwest.”

What’s truly an amazing coincidence is that my family moved from East London to Bournemouth shortly before WWII on the advice of a family doctor. He said my sister, who had severe bronchitis, would not survive if we remained in London’s dirty air, polluted from numerous homes heated by inefficient coal fires. He recommended Bournemouth, a seaside town in the middle of the south coast, for the “healthy ozone” from its many pine trees.

Another reason we might not have survived was this. When my family visited London shortly after the end of the war, half of Sigdon Rd. in East London where we had lived had been destroyed by a V2 rocket!

Those with lung cancer find themselves fighting on two fronts
13 hours ago • By Bill McClellan

Bill McClellan banner FS 500 96 (M 300 58)

Larry Less woke up one morning five years ago with the taste of blood in his mouth. He was 61 and lived alone. He thought about driving himself to the emergency room and then decided to call an ambulance.
Two days later, he woke up in a hospital. A doctor told him he had had a heart attack. Also, he had terminal lung cancer. He was my oldest friend. I wrote about visiting him before his death. He was a skeletal figure and he still smoked. Why quit?
Shortly after Larry’s death, Beth Radinsky began having a pain in her hip. She was 65. People that age get random pains. She understood that. She was a physical therapist. Later, she had chest pains and went through a battery of tests. Lung cancer. She had never smoked.
By the time her cancer was diagnosed, it had spread. The pain in her hip? Cancer had eaten up the hip bone. She died in September of 2013.
Larry and Beth represent two sizable minorities among people diagnosed with lung cancer. Twenty one percent are smokers. Eighteen percent never smoked. The rest are former smokers, many of whom have been off cigarettes for years, even decades.
Still, the link between smoking and lung cancer has stuck lung cancer patients with a stigma that other cancer patients don’t have to deal with.
Cheryl Lamprecht was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2005. She had never smoked. She went to the Siteman Cancer Center to get information about support groups. There were none.
Later, she met another lung cancer patient who had also unsuccessfully looked for a support group. Myrtle Chidester was a former smoker. She had been off cigarettes for 20 years when she was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2005.
The two women became their own support group. Then they founded an actual support group in 2009. They called it Lung Cancer Alliance. It is now called Lung Cancer Connection. They wanted to do more than support other patients. They wanted to advocate for more research money. Lung cancer is one of the least-funded cancers despite the fact that it claims more lives than breast, prostate, colon, liver and kidney cancers combined.
Also, they wanted more emphasis on early detection. One reason it is so deadly is the low rate of early detection.
Cheryl was fortunate in that regard. She had a chest X-ray taken because of a persistent cough. The first diagnosis was pneumonia. Seven months later came the diagnosis of lung cancer.
She had half of her left lung removed and underwent chemotherapy. She was cancer-free for five years. Then she was diagnosed with breast cancer.
No one wants to be a connoisseur of cancers, but Cheryl could not help but notice the difference between the two. There is no behavioral link to breast cancer, no one blaming the patients, no one asking if they were smokers. Perhaps the more profound difference was this — at a run for breast cancer in which survivors wore pink, Cheryl, wearing pink herself, saw a sea of women wearing pink.
At a walk organized by the Lung Cancer Connection in 2009, there were less than a dozen survivors.
In fact, the five-year survival rate for lung cancer is 15.9 percent. For breast cancer, it is 98.6 percent. For that matter, more women die of lung cancer than of breast cancer. That is not meant to minimize breast cancer. My sister died of breast cancer when she was 34.
Myrtle died in 2012.
I met with Cheryl and several members of the Lung Cancer Connection last week. Among the members was Bob Radinksy, Beth’s husband. He talked about the need for early detection. The group provides money for screenings. X-rays, CT scans. People don’t understand everybody is at risk, Bob said. Not all insurance companies provide screenings for people with no risk factors.
Bob first called me in the summer of 2013. I had written a column comparing life to walking across a frozen lake.
“We just fell through the ice,” he said.
Roy Williams was also in the group. He is 66 and he quit smoking almost 30 years ago. He had a chest X-ray two years ago, and doctors discovered early stage lung cancer. He will be among the survivors on the stage this Saturday when Lung Cancer Connection holds its annual walk at the Chesterfield Amphitheater.
Originally, the group held the walk in November. That’s Lung Cancer Awareness month. A November walk didn’t work well because of the weather, but that’s the way it goes for lung cancer patients and their advocates.

Bill McClellan worked as a reporter in Phoenix before coming to the Post-Dispatch in 1980. He was night-police reporter before becoming a columnist in 1983. He also appears on Channel 9’s Donnybrook.