Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Consultation on the Smokefree Elements of the Health Improvement and Protection Bill

I believe you still have time to make a response, so please consider it by using the link in the following prose. I have responded as follows...

Dear Sir

In response to the "Consultation on the Smokefree Elements of the Health Improvement and Protection Bill".

I suspect that the contents of my response are outwith the areas of consultation outlined in the document. Nevertheless I feel it appropriate to make my views known. I hold out no hope that my voice will be heard.

The area of so-called "Environmental Tobacco Smoke" has become a specialist area of knowledge for the most ill-informed. This has occurred through an incidious process of apparently coordinated misinformation. I have no knowledge as to the organisers of this band of propagandists. The band includes the anti-smoking groups, the British Heart Foundation, the Department of Health and the BMA have had a strong voice claiming to represent Doctors.

The BMA will I am sure be proved in the long term to have acted rashly as they do not represent the opinion of Doctors and have acted in an unscientific manner. The BHF on national television are responsible for representing atheroma as porridge completely occluding arteries and exuding from cigarette ends. This is scare-mongering and on a par with Lord Haw-Haw during World War II. The Department of Health, on national television, is responsible for showing visible smoke being exhaled by children. This is a special effect similar to Steven Spielberg films and intentionally horrific and totally misleading. In short these acts are in my opinion immoral. I strongly object to my BMA subscription, my taxes and charitable donations being spent thus.

My position as a BMA member, a hospital doctor, a member of the scientific community and a member of the public is one of disbelief. It is with astonishment that I read reports that misrepresent the interpretation of one epidemiology study after another. Claims are made "estimating" the effects of "passive smoking" in an outrageous way and sadly an unscientific way by respectable Medical Bodies. Information from these studies is claimed to demonstrate a link between Environmental Tabacco Smoke and ill-health in non-smokers. At best the evidence is seriously flawed and at worst evidence that fails to demonstrate any link is deliberately not presented. A balanced view is that there is still no scientifically demonstrable link between ill-health and "passive smoking".

A particularly relevant and comparable moment of epidemiological media reporting recently has us in fear of eating red meat. I assume that the need to investigate the new scientifically proven phenomenom of "Environmental Bovine Flatulence" and its link to BSE and heart disease has already been recognised. "Passive Methane Inhalation" is soon to be the most significant health scare of the decade. Hardly a day passes without some new amateur spin on whats right and whats wrong for me to do. Usually some bizarre and extreme extrapolation of specialist research. These interpretations are selective. They are made by and passed onto people unqualified to subject such studies to any kind of srutiny. Beware the researcher misguiding you into believing his or her views.

I read with interest the summary of financial benefits and costs and firstly note that one cost has not been predicted. The cost to the health service of looking after the many surviving ex-smokers who will develope the diseases of old age including cancer. That is of course assuming that smokers have an increased risk of disease in the first place. Several authors have cast doubt on this most treasured belief by examining worldwide causes of death and the prevalence of smoking. This cost must be great as many saved human years are expected. Further examination of the attempt to quantify costs/benefits exposes several guesses and omissions that make the process fallible. A similar quality of numerical work as the "Passive Smoking" risks commonly quoted.

I note the figures quoted from the polls of 2003 are presented both as a list and as an interpretation. Interestingly these figures show 80% of people were not against smoking in pubs yet the interpretation is somehow different. Even in your document the figures are blatently misinterpreted assuming a level of intelligence in the reader of near zero. This is a very sad state of affairs and if the nanny state is to exist then a better standard of brain-washing will be required. Obviously this is totally flabbergasting to me.

Making cigarette smoking illegal. Why stop there? The proposals are a gross infringement of civil liberty and something you could expect from a dictatorship not from a democratic Labour Government. When will I be forced to grow a beard?

My position is in support of voluntary restrictions on smoking and I am opposed to the bill proposed in the consultation document.


Dr Phil Button
Email gasdoc@eastrop.wanadoo.co.uk
NHS Anaesthetist