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"JUNK SCIENCE"

In addition to allegations of lost business, critics of smoke-free policies frequently attack the scientific evidence demonstrating health effects from second-hand smoke exposure. Given the absence of credible independent analyses demonstrating that such effects do not occur, opponents, such as tobacco industry consultant John Luik and the Pub and Bar Coalition of Ontario, (PUBCO) will use terms such as "corrupt science" or "junk science" to indicate that widely-accepted medical evidence is somehow suspect or defective.

At the local level in Ontario, the terms "junk science" finds its way into attacks on smoke-free policy development by hospitality representatives, notably individuals representing PUBCO.

Thanks to extensive analyses of tobacco industry documents released through U.S. litigation, we now know that the tobacco industry - led by U.S. giant Philip Morris - has long-pursued a strategy of undermining the validity of conclusions from epidemiological and medical studies that second-hand smoke exposure poses a variety of health risks.

The industry effort included attempts to create coalitions and organizations promoting "sound science" and "good epidemiology". Law firms working for the tobacco industry have helped set up "sound science" organizations, and the industry has funded seminars worldwide to promote "good epidemiological practices".

ETS Consultants Program

A recent study from Nicotine & Tobacco Research (2003) reviewed tobacco company documents and shows the industry's worldwide scientific campaign aimed against policies addressing environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) both in the United States and worldwide.

Documents show that the recruitment of researchers by lawyers to an international ETS Consultants Program was integral to the industry's ETS strategies. In one internal document, the program described how it aimed to "pay…scientists on an international basis to keep the ETS controversy alive" (British American Tobacco Company, Bates No. 401033855-3860, 1988).

The industry set out to create the appearance of a wide scientific opinion that ETS "presents no scientific health risks to smokers" (Philip Morris Incorporated, Bates No. 2501474253-4529, 1988) and expected its hired scientists to "produce research or stimulate controversy in such a way that public affairs people in the relevant countries would be able to make use of, or market; the information" (British American Tobacco Company, Bates No. 401033855-3860, 1988).

Furthermore, the industry worked to create the appearance of scientific independence by using established scientists that would appear to have no affiliation with the industry. Therefore, the program required concealment of the industry’s role in organizing and directing the scientists:

    "For this type of program it is absolutely essential to ensure that administration of the program and contact with the consultants is made quite independently of the tobacco industry, and that no tobacco industry executives have direct contact with them (Industry ETS consultancy programmes, n.d.)"

This program was viewed by the industry as being another "product" that was carefully orchestrated to influence public opinion and was used by the industry in specific markets throughout the world. By hiring numerous scientists, the industry was able to make use of the scientists' influences and contacts within their regions and thereby have an impact on decisions about proposed smoking restrictions.

Click here to read a story on the campaign to undermine research on second-hand smoke.

The creation of the concept of "junk science" has been extensively analyzed in the public health literature, to the point where anyone using the term is promoting a concept which originated in the tobacco industry's self-defense strategy against the threat posed by the control of second-hand smoke.

Gio Giori and John Luik, both well-known U.S. tobacco industry lobbyists, best represent this tobacco industry strategy in the following quotation, in which they accused the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) of "bad science":

"…The EPA's resort to corrupt science appears to have legitimized official scientific misrepresentation as long as such misrepresentation is done from the allegedly pure motives of promoting public health" (Fraser Institute press release, April 8, 1999, regarding the publication of Passive Smoke: The EPA's Betrayal of Science and Policy).

The 1993 EPA report, Respiratory Health Effects of Passive Smoking: Lung Cancer and Other Disorders, continues to be taken aim by the tobacco industry and its allies. The 1993 EPA report, and the subsequent Judge Osteen Decision, have been the centerpieces of tobacco industry misinformation and junk science campaigns. The 1998 International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) study, which proved the causal relationship between second-hand smoke exposure and lung cancer, has also been targeted by Big Tobacco in their attempts to propagate the assertion that there is no conclusive evidence that second-hand smoke causes lung cancer, and that "corrupt science" is regularly employed international health bodies to push their agenda.

To learn more about the industry's strategies to combat regulation of second-hand smoke, please refer to Industry attack on the EPA and "Osteen Decision" and Industry attack on the IARC Study. Also, American's for Non-Smokers' Rights also provides a note on junk science, The Tobacco Industry's Approach to Attacking the Science .

Readers are referred to a variety of articles in the American Journal of Public Health which describes the Philip Morris initiative and related international efforts:

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