Scary but Irrelevant Statistics

I have mentioned Carl Philips before. He believes that smoking is harmful, but does not deny that it has benefits, such as just being pleasurable, calming and possibly helpful in mental acuity. His ’cause’, if I may use that word, is Tobacco Harm Reduction (as compared with eventual prohibition, championed by the Zealots and Charlatans).

He has just published a corker of a post. You can read it here:

He reports on a press report which issued from a group calling itself “The Tobacco Atlas”. The press report was headed:

“Tobacco Industry Profits $7,000 For Smoking-Related Deaths”

Carl said that his jaw dropped open when he saw what this group had done. It had taken the revenue of the big four tobacco companies in the world (ignoring such ‘companies’ as the Chinese Government monopoly supplier), and ignoring the tax take included in that revenue, and called it “PROFIT”. The group then created a figure from somewhere of the number of deaths throughout the world, which were ’caused’ by smoking.

The figures were:

Profit: $44 billion in the year.

Deaths: 6.3 million in the year.

Dividing the ‘profit’ by the deaths gives approx $7000 per death.

Now… Isn’t that the most important and awful bad news? Well, that’s what is supposed to be the scary bit. These bastards! – Profiting to the extent of $7000 per death! Bastards!

But as soon as I saw that equation, I knew that there was something wrong, although I could not put my finger on it. Reading on through Carl’s post, he helped me out.

Suppose that the number of deaths was 1 million? In that case, the per death ‘profit’ would be 6.3 times larger – around $45,000 per death. Or, suppose that the deaths were about 35 million? Then the per death profit would be only about $1000 per death – a paltry sum. Taken to the extreme, the more deaths there are, the less profitable the deaths are to the tobacco industry!

That is the reason, as Carl points out, that the stated facts have no significance. It is like saying that road deaths are profitable to petrol companies. How much profit do petrol companies make world-wide? I have no idea, but let us invent a couple of figures in the same ballpark. Say, $50 billion profit: say 5 million road deaths. WOW! That’s $10,000 profit per death!!!! Bastard petrol companies!!!!

I like simple and amusing conundrums. For example, 1 + 2 = 3. Let us call 1, A. Let is call 2, B, and let us call 3, C. Thus we can say A + B = C. That would be true, provided that A, B and C were, respectively, 1, 2 and 3. But if we were to imagine a simple maths class where children were being taught some understanding of algebra, a teacher might write “A + B = C” on the blackboard and ask the kids to put numbers in to replace the A, B and C. Those kids which ‘get it’ might write 1 + 2 = 3, or 2 + 4 = 6, etc. Or teacher might say, “If A is 10, and B is 20, what does C equal?

Where things get tricky is when we not only provide numbers but also ‘properties’. For example, suppose that A is 1 apple, and B is 2 pears, what would C equal? Suppose that you mashed the apple and pears into a mush. What would you have? Well, you might have a big mess of fruit, but you would then not have ‘3’ anything. You would have only one mess of fruit.

Classically, we might say, “If A equals B, and B equals C, then A equals C”. There’s the rub. How can A equal B when it is obvious that A is A and B is B, and the two are different?


Oh dear. I do get carried away. I suppose that I’m saying that figures are precise (as per the $7000 per death) but the real world is vastly more complex than simple mathematics.


I’ve noticed a similar theme running through some other blogs as well as Carl Philips. Michael Siegel is one and Clive Bates is another. They may be anti-smoking, but they have empathy of a sort with the lot of smokers. Their empathy, however, is weak. Their greater empathy is with people who want to stop smoking, and so they admire ecigs and do everything that the can to promote them, even if they cannot be proven to be totally harmless.

But Bates and Siegel are on the horns of dilemma. For what seems to be idealogical reasons, both of them knowingly exaggerated the harm of SHS. Both must have known that SHS is harmless for all intents and purposes. In both cases, they are stuck with an inability to say that tobacco itself can be safely used in the form of snus or chewing tobacco. they cannot do it because of their hatred for BIG TOBACCO. They cannot get over that mental block.

That is sad.


I think that it is true that The Doctors Study was a one off and that no other study has followed through for such a long period of time. I think that it is the Holy Bible of Tobacco Control. Many of the slogans of TC have come from that study, such as ‘half of smokers are killed their addiction’. In fact, Doll went further. His claim of ‘half’ was tempered by an unwillingness to claim that what his figures told him was that smoking killed around two thirds of smokers.

I think that he was afraid of ridicule – and rightly so. But he did say that his figures said two thirds! There is no doubt. But that would suggest that diet, alcohol, genetics, war-time harm, atmospheric pollution, drugs, infections, etc, had little to contribute. Only smoking was involved.

But at least the Doctors Study was backed up by FACTS in the form of death certificates, no matter how doubtful many of the certificates might have been (eg, non-smoker deaths from LC being ascribed to pneumonia). What we are seeing more and more of now is study results in the nature of “Tobacco Company profit is $7000 per smoker death” stuff.

I think that the real implication of Carl Philip’s critique of that claim is that TC’s claims are getting wilder and wilder. Grantz (sorry, Glantz) has been drawing wild conclusions about ecigs based upon similar logic. To paraphrase, “Twice as many youths have ‘tried’ an ecig this year compared with last year, therefore twice a many youths will be hooked on nicotine addiction”.


Can it get any worse? It can, because the implication in the UK is: “Government profit (real profit) from smoker deaths is $35,000 per death”.

Just think. If the Gov got rid of TC, the drain on profit would be much reduced.

Erm… Tell me again why Cameron permitted the imposition of PP? OH! I SEE! He knows that it will make no difference! His $35,000 per smoker death with still roll in!


I detest tobacco companies. They have done nothing in the UK to help smokers to organise as a group to defend their freedoms. It is clear that the freedoms of others, such as drinkers and eaters, are also being removed, piece by piece. Drink companies, food companies, tobacco companies vie with political parties to reduce every individual to a compliant drone.

I do not know how this super control can be defeated. I suppose that, in the end, civil disobedience, en masse, is the only way, in the same way that the public saw off Thatcher’s dream of a personal local tax. I wonder who advised her? For it was not she who devised it. She was advised that it would work. It was rolled out in Scotland without objections, but, in England, it was met with great opposition. The crazy thing is that those who marched against the Poll Tax were probably those who would have gained most from it! Little old ladies with little income.


Talking about some simple car problem, a friend of mine said, “Let it develop”. (It was not a dangerous problem). I think that we should adopt that attitude. Display ban? Who cares! PP? Who cares! The really important battle will begin when the EU attempt to eradicate ecigs starts to bite. That is when the PRINCIPLES of Tobacco Control will come under intense scrutiny.


15 Responses to “Scary but Irrelevant Statistics”

  1. harleyrider1978 Says:

    figure how much TC makes per plastic created death…….they get a percentage of tobacco taxes and MSA moneys………They likely profit by their own formulas about 1500 per plastic unreal death statistic.

  2. harleyrider1978 Says:

    Actually what happens when the end of TC comes is it just loses steam and credibility along with loss of any political support any longer. The Media turns on them and then it just ends. That’s how it happened last time………..then it was over and all the claims were swept into the trash heap.

  3. harleyrider1978 Says:

    Something Magnetic wrote to a Nazi one day

    You’re still peddling antismoker slogans that go back at least a century. Chemical addiction? That one’s been floated, without basis, since the 1800s. Then, of course, there’s the big “evil” tobacco industry. That was an antismoker theme of early-1900s America and Germany.

    The fact of the matter is that there were antismoking crusades long before the large tobacco companies came on the scene. There were antismoking crusades long before the mass-produced cigarette. There were antismoking crusades long before movies and mass media. There were antismoking crusades long before attempts, however bastardized, at scientific investigation of smoking. There were antismoking crusades long before the recent concoction of secondhand smoke “danger” [The term “passive smoking”, without basis, was coined during the N#zi era].

    The common theme over those 400+ years is the extent to which rabid antismokers (misocapnists/capnophobics) will lie to rationalize their dysfunctional fear and hatred of smoke/smokers/smoking. There’s more than ample evidence over the last few centuries that the rabid antismoking mentality (also prone to violence such as torture and executions) is a significant mental disorder. Yet here we are again.

    Capnophobics are way, way worse that germaphobes.

    that is not empirical evidence, it is anecdotal evidence. Empirical evidence is when a mechanism can be repeated under laboratory conditions and achieve the same result every time.

    What you would appear to suffer from is a psychosomatic reaction to smoke, probably as a result of believing the propaganda you’ve been indoctrinated with over the years. And it manifests itself in hayfever-like symptoms. As already pointed out, there are no proteins in cigarette smoke to cause an allergic reaction.

  4. harleyrider1978 Says:

    that is not empirical evidence, it is anecdotal evidence. Empirical evidence is when a mechanism can be repeated under laboratory conditions and achieve the same result every time.

  5. harleyrider1978 Says:

    7 October, the COT meeting on 26 October and the COC meeting on 18
    November 2004.

    “5. The Committees commented that tobacco smoke was a highly complex chemical mixture and that the causative agents for smoke induced diseases (such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, effects on reproduction and on offspring) was unknown. The mechanisms by which tobacco induced adverse effects were not established. The best information related to tobacco smoke – induced lung cancer, but even in this instance a detailed mechanism was not available. The Committees therefore agreed that on the basis of current knowledge it would be very difficult to identify a toxicological testing strategy or a biomonitoring approach for use in volunteer studies with smokers where the end-points determined or biomarkers measured were predictive of the overall burden of tobacco-induced adverse disease.”

    In other words … our first hand smoke theory is so lame we can’t even design a bogus lab experiment to prove it. In fact … we don’t even know how tobacco does all of the magical things we claim it does.

    The greatest threat to the second hand theory is the weakness of the first hand theory.

    • junican Says:

      About the continuing anti-tobacco crusade after the removal of prohibition.
      About 1948, I was aged 9. I used to read comics as we all did, like Beano and Dandy. The British comics were full of fun, but some of the American one were also ‘lecturing’. One I shall never forget is the portrayal of Nick O’teen as a sort of hook-nosed cripple, just as the Nazis portrayed Jews.
      In 1948, eugenics and prohibition were still alive and living in America. They still are.

  6. smofunking Says:

    Thanks to a certain Quinn Martin production, this clip will forever spring to mind whenever the second hand smoke myth is mentioned:

  7. harleyrider1978 Says:

    That was the Streets of San Francisco

  8. garyk30 Says:

    a + b = c

    Math is wonderful?

    4a – 3a + 4b – 3b = 4c – 3c

    4a + 4b – 4c = 3a + 3b – 3c

    4(a + b – c) = 3(a + b – c)

    4 = 3

    • junican Says:

      Nice try, but no.
      4a – 3a + 4b – 3b = 4c – 3c is not correct.

      4a – 3a = 1a.
      4b – 3b = 1b.
      4c – 3c = 1c.

      Therefore, numerically, 1a + 1b must equal 2 something. It cannot equal 1c. That is the whole point of the truism that you cannot add unlike ‘properties’. Thus, 1 apple plus 1 pear can never be anything but 1 apple plus 1 pear, no matter how you pulverise and mix them. However, if you said 1 VOLUME of a + 1 VOLUME of b = 2 VOLUMES of ab, that might work, because 1a x 1b = 1 ab.

      • garyk30 Says:

        The real impossibility is:
        4a + 4b – 4c = 3a + 3b – 3c
        Given that a+b = c
        a+b – c = 0
        0 = 0

        4(a + b – c) = 3(a + b – c)
        The same:
        0 = 0

        4 = 3 is actually 0 = 0

      • junican Says:

        Like it.

  9. garyk30 Says:

    0.999… is the same as 1. Not just very close, but precisely identical:

    a = 0.999…
    10a = 9.999…
    10a – a = 9.999… – 0.999…
    9a = 9
    a = 1

    There’s no trick here. It’s just a mathematical fact that most people find deeply counterintuitive.

    • junican Says:

      I would be more comfortable what is happening here if it were said that ‘infinite iteration of 0.999…… is indistinguishable from 1. Your calculation only works if you are at liberty to change 0.99. For example, if a is 0.99, then 10a is 9.90 and not 9.99. Which you are, of course, able to do because of the infinite iteration.
      I find that idea that pi iterates ad inf quite disturbing! If a circle has a precise radius length, then so does the circumference. And yet our mathematics cannot describe the length of the circumference precisely. I sometime wonder if the problem has something to do with the fact that everything in nature is three dimensional. If you were to take the surface of a sphere, like the Earth, and measure an exact distance from the North pole to some point on the curved surface of the sphere, would the resulting latitudinal ‘circumference’ ever result in an exact value for pi? You would have to imagine different sized spheres, since the bigger the sphere, the less the curvature at a given distance from the pole.
      My brain is hurting again……

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