2011/02/08: Is research done by Tobacco Control now more biased & less reliable than Big Tobacco’s?

“Mogasp, it’s sad to say, but I think that actually today you may find MORE corruption of various kinds in research funded by Tobacco Control than that funded by Big Tobacco.”

The above is an excerpt from a pro-smoking advocate’s comment submitted in response to the mogasp blog 2011/01/30: “Marshall Keith’s argument that ADA doesn’t apply to private businesses and rebuttal from Billy Williams, GASP of TX

How many of you read it and dismissed it as having no merit?

I felt it worth pursuing and you may too when you read what follows, which is the comment in full and then an observation on it by Dr. Michael Siegel, Professor in the Department of Community Health Sciences, Boston University School of Public Health. Dr. Siegel writes the insightful and popular blog The Rest of the Story: Tobacco News Analysis and Commentary.

Michael McFadden, author of Dissecting Antismokers' Brains

Michael J. McFadden
antibrains.com
Cantiloper@aol.com
Submitted on 2011/02/07 at 2:19 pm

Mogasp, it’s sad to say, but I think that actually today you may find MORE corruption of various kinds in research funded by Tobacco Control than that funded by Big Tobacco.
         Why do I say that? Two reasons:

1) Big Tobacco researchers know that their work is going to held under a microscope and sliced to ribbons for the slightest defect or hint of bias. Tobacco Control researchers are largely immune to that sort of scrutiny except by folks like me (and, lately, people like Siegel, Whelan, Sullum, Snowdon, FORCES, F2C et al)

2) Big Tobacco researchers have one main motivation: Money. They research for a living, they enjoy it, and PM/RJR pays them well for it. Tobacco Control researchers do it for both money AND for idealism. That idealism both blinds them to inadvertant bias AND pushes them toward actual fraud “for the greater good.” It also insulates their work from substantial criticism by the mainstream medical research community. I believe the combo of those two motivations produces more bad work from Tobacco Control than from Big Tobacco today.

– MJM

Although Michael McFadden is a strong and unwavering pro-smoking advocate, he raises an interesting and troubling question: Is the Tobacco Control movement MORE corrupt than Big Tobacco because they are now more apt to distort findings of fact in studies and reports than the latter, on the grounds that the ends justify the means?

I found that hard to believe but at the same time I’ve noted that Dr. Siegel has been critical of the Tobacco Control community for just this reason, frequently holding their feet to the fire on his influential blog. Consequently, I asked him for a response to McFadden’s allegation and have pasted it below:

Dr. Michael Siegel, Boston University School of Medicine

From: Michael Siegel
Subject: RE: Tobacco control research now more biased/less reliable than Big Tobacco’s?
Date: February 7, 2011 4:27:25 PM CST

I wouldn’t say that there is MORE bias in tobacco-funded research than tobacco control research; however, I believe that in recent times, we are seeing what could be said to be an equal amount of bias in tobacco control research.
         The smoking ban – heart attack studies are perhaps the best example of this. I have documented many examples of this bias on my blog.
         I also would hesitate to use the word “corruption” for what tobacco control scientists are doing. It is bias, for sure – shoddy science, for sure. But I wouldn’t use the word corruption.
         In contrast, I would use the word corruption to describe much of what Big Tobacco has done with respect to bogus research.
         Nevertheless, Michael’s point is an important one and deserves attention from tobacco control researchers and groups. We need to become more rigorous in our science and avoid any possible comparisons with Big Tobacco research.

6 responses to “2011/02/08: Is research done by Tobacco Control now more biased & less reliable than Big Tobacco’s?

  1. MoGasp, thank you for following up on this, for the full and fair presentation of my point, and for getting Dr. Siegel’s comment. I’d like to add one brief clarification and one brief comment:

    Clarification: I’m an Anti-antismoking advocate; a very different thing than a pro-smoking advocate. Really!

    Comment: I would disagree with Dr. Siegel on the use of the word corruption. Deliberately distorting and misrepresenting science in order to mislead people and modify their behaviors in return for either money, prestige, or satisfaction in pursuing what one believes to be a worthy goal, is still deliberate distortion and misrepresentation and a corruption of science.

    Gold is not the only currency in the academic world: publication, prestige, the number of grad students under one’s belt, these are worth as much to a professor as dollars are to salesman — and ultimately they DO, just by coincidence of course, translate into dollars for the professor as well.

    mogasp question: Are you claiming to be the sole exception to the rule that a double-negative equals a positive?

  2. Let me explain a bit more fully. I am against many of the actions taken and statements made by the great majority of the people working in the antismoking movement. As you know, I call them “Antismokers”, not to belittle them, but because some of them began trying to appropriate the term “nonsmokers” to themselves years ago — at a time when the great majority of nonsmokers did not actually agree with their goals and I wanted to clearly differentiate them.

    Thus, I considered myself to be an “Anti-Antismoker” — not someone who necessarily promotes smoking, certainly not someone who supports the Big Tobacco companies that sold smokers down the river with the MSA tax, and not even someone who would try to defend the general healthiness of smoking– just someone trying to rectify what I see are the wrongs done and the lies, misrepresentations and exaggerations promoted by others.

    – MJM

  3. The issue was well argued by both sides.

  4. Thank you Hans. And I’d like to take a moment at this point to say how much I appreciate and greatly respect MoGasp for allowing opposing arguments and points of view to be made public on his blog. I like and respect MoGasp and believe he is far more principled and honest than many on his side of “the fence.” I believe he is wrong in many ways, and he believes I am wrong in many ways…. BUT he is willing to allow both sides to lay out their opinions, facts, and arguments in full public view for others to judge.

    I just wish that more on his side of the aisle were similarly fairminded.

    🙂
    MJM

  5. William Johnson

    Michael J. McFadden: “…some of them began trying to appropriate the term “nonsmokers” to themselves years ago — at a time when the great majority of nonsmokers did not actually agree with their goals and I wanted to clearly differentiate them.”
    Most nonsmokers DO agree with the goals of smoking restrictions, Michael.
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1748400/
    “Non-smokers also clustered into three groups, of which the “adamant” non-smokers (45%) are the least favourably disposed to smoking. “Unempowered” non-smokers (34%) also oppose smoking, but tend not to act on it. “Laissez-faire” non-smokers (21%) are less opposed to smoking in both attitude and behaviour.”

  6. Why is the Anti-smoking industrial complex not concerned with the millions of tons of carbon monoxide pumped into the air by automobiles, rather than the whiffs of smoke which dissipate from smokers, and to which no known long-term health effects are known to exists via 2nd-hand smoke? Cigarette smoke is not creating global warming. Carbon emissions are. Maybe its just easier to pick on smokers that to fight a real battle and REAL air pollution.

    mogasp comment: Speaking for myself, I am very concerned about the industrial pollution, and the science concluding that it’s a major contributor to climate change. Among my personal contributions to lessen my impact: I ride a bike whenever I can for local transportation and have been a certified bicycling instructor since 1997.
    However, I concluded long ago, based initially on personal experience, later supported by overwhelming science, that secondhand smoke was both a serious public nuisance and also a major long-term health threat.

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