BBC Anti-smoker Bias

Dick Puddlecote has written a piece entitled: “BBC ‘success’ is 25% of an industry collapsing”:

Dick P was talking about a report on the BBC radio about an Irish publican who has survived the cull of pubs in Ireland, which seriously started not long after the smoking ban. The publican is a Mr Con Dennehy and his pub is in Cork. He said that he was against the ban at first but is happy with it now. You can hear the report here:

I wonder how many pubs in Cork went to the wall? Because if there were quite a few, then Mr Dennehy will have benefited from closures. I have been looking at the pub on the internet. It is called “Dennehy’s Bar”, a traditional pub with various affiliations. It does not do food and only opens at 5pm. It is closed on Sundays. So how has it managed to survive? I think that a major factor must be that it has been in the family for over 50 years, having been owned by his father and then by his mother. It is hardly likely that there would be any significant debt associated with his ownership. Mr Dennehy acquired another pub called “The Venue” in mid 2014. It is in a village called Ballintemple, which is also part of Cork. It was run down and not trading. There are only two pubs in Ballintemple.

I have been searching around and found a snippet of information about the pub trade in Cork:

A substantial, non-residential premises [The Venue], it had been on the market, last year, for €495,000, having been offered, back in 2006, for €2.4m. Since then, the bar trade has plummeted — with the number of licensed Cork premises dropping below 1,000, from a 2005 figure of 1,200. “We want to be a part of the community here,” says Mr Dennehy, who will have a small, traditional bar for locals, as well as a larger section for TV and sports, and will do a limited food offering.

If pubs in Ireland have diminished by 25% overall, it seems to me that Cork has got off quite lightly by only losing some 17% of its pubs. Somehow, despite ‘the bar trade plummeting’, most pubs must have been able to survive. Also, of course, a smaller closure rate in Cork means a higher closure rate elsewhere.

But what Dick P was drawing attention to was the rosy picture which the BBC painted of ‘success’ of the smoking ban. All was well in the pub trade, it suggested, and everyone had got used to the ban. Smokers were perfectly happy to go outside for a cig. Not a mention of the 25% closures (and still counting). Dick finishes his piece with:

And there we were thinking that the BBC is a world-renowned source of agenda-free news, eh?

[I think that Dick was referring to the fact that the report was on the BBC World Service when he said ‘world-renowned’]


I could not help but leave a comment at Dick’s place:

Well, there is a big problem, DP. In the UK, all three main parties are in favour of the smoking ban. Thus, to be politically impartial, the BBC has to report only pro-ban stories.

I took a bit of a liberty with his piece by extrapolating from ‘agenda-free’ to ‘biased’, but I think that it is tolerable.

But can you see my logic? It is a bit peculiar, but is it correct? If the powers-that-be, the political parties and the whole medical profession, are all in agreement that the smoking ban is wonderful, would it be ‘impartial’ for the BBC to go against that ‘consensus’? Would not the BBC be acting ‘partially’ if it gave airtime to views which described the smoking ban as a disaster? Could the BBC be accused of bias in favour of smoking if it gave any serious airtime to studies which purported to show that cancer, especially lung cancer, was due to random changes which had little to do with smoking directly, but was connected to a multitude of variables, of which mere chance is the most important?

But there is a big problem. We saw a couple of posts ago that incidence of LC deaths, as a proportion of total deaths, has hardly changed since 1970, despite the huge reduction of smoking prevalence. However, the evidence from the Doctors Study was that smokers suffered 15 times more LC deaths than non-smokers. What is the explanation for the continuing toll of LC deaths despite the long-term decline in smoking? Let us suppose that smoking declined to 5% and LCs continued to be about 6% of all deaths. What would that tell us? At what point will someone do a study and point out the perfectly obvious fact in those circumstance, which would be, perhaps, that the doctors study began very shortly after a World War, with all its deprivations and risky behaviours; including a lot of doctors who would have been involved in WW1 also; including exposure to all sorts of viral infections; including exposure to smogs and other atmospheric influences. One oddity of the Doctors Study is that Doll said that, at first, he went to some lengths to ensure that a death from LC was in fact certain. But he did not say that he went to any lengths to be sure that a death from pneumonia was certain. How many non-smoker deaths might have been ascribed to pneumonia rather than LC? In any case, how many doctors, who wrote death certificates, would have said: “Erm… Well….. I’m not sure. I wrote ‘pneumonia’ because of the symptoms”.

Smoker = LC. Non-smoker = pneumonia.



And so it goes on. Until something dramatically changes, the Zealots of Puritania will push and push, to their personal advantage. They themselves are not puritans as their shindigs in various pleasant parts of the world have shown. They want Puritania to be imposed upon everyone else, apart from themselves.


But, going back to the BBC. there is another consideration, which applies to all the Media.

If there is general ‘consensus’ among all the political parties and among ‘scientists’, why should the Media buck the trend? From a Media point of view, the fun and profit comes from exaggerating the horror, not from diminishing it.

Given the political consensus that smoking bans are wonderful, why should we be surprised that the BBC concurs? What would it profit them to say otherwise?


2 Responses to “BBC Anti-smoker Bias”

  1. mikef317 Says:

    Re your post of March 30th, Why Do Academics Do It?

    The 1964 U. S. Surgeon General’s report did not hold Doll’s studies “in reserve.” They (and I believe one Canadian study) were used along with American studies.

    I’d have to look for examples, but even at the early date of 1964, I think Doll was communicating with the American Cancer Society, forming the American / British link that would eventually grow into Worldwide Tobacco Control.

    • junican Says:

      I stand corrected, Mike.
      I think the cooperation goes back much further than that. I think that much of what appeared shortly after WW2 would have appeared much earlier had not WW2 intervened. Doll was a ‘Rockefeller Student’ and had visited Nazi Germany pre-war. At that time, he might have been only a small cog in the wheel of the fledgling new prohibitions.

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