Friday, August 6, 2010

Philip Morris, DOCUMENT ID 1005099727/9729

As the scientific evidence on the health effects of smoking was piling up in the '50s and '60s, Big Tobacco scrambled to mount a defense in the face of bad publicity. This 1962 document, "Brief Guides for Press Sessions," tells Big Tobacco execs how to cast doubt on the evidence.

In a textbook example of using faulty logic to intentionally mislead, Big Tobacco argues that cigarettes don't have negative health effects by citing statistics on Americans' improving health—improved average lifespan and higher survival rates among those suffering from respiratory disease—from 1920 to 1959, the same span that smoking has risen in popularity. More people are smoking, and we're living longer, so smoking can't be bad for you, they contend. This of course makes no sense—it would only make sense if smoking were the ONLY thing killing people. In truth, medicine was advancing so much over that time (penicillin, kidney dialysis and the polio vaccine and are just a few examples) that humans were living longer IN SPITE of the fact they were getting sick from smoking.

Also ridiculous is how the document exhibits the very attributes it alleges make the prevailing scientific evidence untrustworthy. For example, it says research linking smoking with declining health is often "insufficient and perhaps inaccurate," then makes claims such as "the rate in increase of lung cancer has been slowing" without citations or corroborating evidence.

The document states in its conclusion, "A responsibility exists to be sure that facts are not obscured by opinion and publicity-seeking." Indeed.

1 comment:

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