The Hittman Chronicle



Dave Hitt



When I was a kid, my father used to try to get me to eat stuff I didn't like by claiming, "There are millions of starving kids in India who would love that!" One day I replied, "Name three!" I received a quick slap in the head, and later that night he spanked me to sleep.

This taught me two important lessons. One: don't say that to dad again. Two: "Name Three" is a great comeback to people spewing bogus numbers.

Several months ago I was visiting the site of the Tompkins County Health Department. After reading the claim that second hand smoke kills for the zillionth time, I decided to have some fun at the expense of the propagandists. I submitted the following question to their contact person:

"On your website you claim that 63,000 people die from second hand smoke every year. Could you please name three or four or them?"

I received this answer from Ted Schiele:

I have attached a report about the dangers of second hand smoke for your reference. I hope this adds to your understanding of the situation.

Thanks for your interest.
Ted Schiele

I didn't bother opening the attached PDF file. Instead, I wrote back:

Thanks for sending that, Ted, but it doesn't answer my question.

My question is quite simple. Name three or four people who have died from second hand smoke.

Anyone can name a dozen people who have died from primary smoking, because it really does kill people. So if SHS really kills people too, it should be possible to identify at least a couple of them.

So I ask, once again, Can you name three or four people who have died from second hand smoke?"

His answer was short and to the point:

"No, I cannot."

I smirked a little smirk and didn't think much more about it, until a few months later when I decided to try it again, on a bigger scale. I wrote to several health organizations and anti-smoker activists, asking the same question. Their responses, and lack of responses, tells us all we need to know about the validity of their claims.

(Note: I've taken the liberty to make some small edits of spelling and grammar errors in some of the following correspondence, both in my own messages and the ones I've received. Some clarifying comments have been added in brackets and italicized text. The original, unedited versions of these messages are available here. )

A request to the American Cancer Society, via a web form, resulted in an auto reply claiming they'd send me an answer within three days. That was over a month ago. I guess they're really busy.

A web form submission to the American Heart Association was ignored.

I e-mailed Joe Cherner, a rabid activist responsible for the ban in New York City. He didn't reply. To be honest, I didn't expect him to, because I've had many e-mail exchanges with him in the past. He got into a snit when I asked him about the murder of Dana Blake. Dana was stabbed to death trying to enforce Joe's ban, making him the only employee whose health really was affected by SHS. Joe hasn't answered any of my e-mails since.

I sent two requests to Stanton Glantz, one of the primary leaders of the anti-smoker jihad. He ignored both of them.

Tobaccofree.org also ignored the request.

The American Lung Association did reply. First they sent an auto responder that begged for money. A few days later they e-mailed a response that didn't answer the question.

"We are sorry but we do not have this information."

I replied:

Why not?

If I had asked for the names of people who died from primary smoking, I'm sure you could name a dozen without giving it a second thought, and could list a hundred or two with five or ten minutes research on the {Internet}. It's an easy project because primary smoking really does kill people.

According to your numbers, a half million people have died from SHS over the past twenty years. That's huge. So if SHS really is a threat, you should have no trouble supplying me with a few names.

{I made a big math error here. 63,000 people over twenty years is well over a million victims, not a half million. Although I made the same mistake several times during this project, none of the numbers "experts" caught it.}

If you can't, then it's reasonable to conclude that SHS isn't the threat you claim it to be, right?

Their answer:

We do not have names, however, we do have scientifically proven studies that document that secondhand smoke exposure has been direct!

Strange. A million deaths in the past twenty years, and they can't name a single one. And that last sentence makes no sense at all. It sounds like something from engrish.com.

I realized I had left out two of the nation's biggest nicotine nannies, Jeffrey Wigand and James Repace. They both make a very good living flying around the country, vilifying smokers and lying about the dangers if SHS. Much to my surprise, I received prompt answers from each of them.

Wigand was the subject of the movie "The Insider," which portrays him as a hero going up against the Big Nasty Evil Tobacco companies. When I sent him the "name three" question, he answered:

I have been involved in only one case where a nurse, initially a missionary nurse who then worked at the VA hospitals holding cigarettes for the VA hospital's patients. She NEVER voluntarily smoked or used any form of alcoholic beverages.

She died of adenocarcinoma of the lungs...the specific lung cancer associated with SHS and smoking mild or light cigarettes.

Her name was Elizabeth Wiley and the case was tried in Muncie, IN.

I told him I could find no reference to the case anywhere on the Internet. He replied with the name of a legal firm, suggesting I contact them.

Then I blew my cover. I answered him, noting that lawyers aren't allowed to discuss their clients publicly. But during this time I had also been talking with Repace, the only person who actually supplied three names. I mistakenly asked Wiggand questions about them, tipping my hand a bit earlier than I intended. When I didn't receive a reply, I sent another e-mail, asking if there were any death certificates, anywhere, that listed second hand smoke as the cause of death. A week passed with no answer. My guess was he looked up my site and discovered I wasn't very friendly to his cause. I was disappointed, because I wanted to bring up several other issues about his integrity. So I waited a bit, then sent him the following, not really expecting it to be answered:

I haven't heard back from you, and realize it's my fault. I've been asking various anti-smoker groups the "name three" question in preparation for an article for my web site, and the last paragraph of my last e-mail to you was intended for someone else. I apologize for the confusion. My last question to you was "Are there any death certificates, anywhere, that list second hand smoke as the cause of death."

I'd like to ask you about three more things, if you don't mind. I realize these are very personal questions, but since you willingly became a public figure, I think it's fair to ask them.

The first is regarding your employment at Biosonics Inc. Jack Paller, the CEO, wrote a rather devastating report about your behavior there. He claims you were very abusive of employees, including his wife, that you were fired from there, and that you then lied to Brown & Williamson in order to get hired. He also says you resigned with a one sentence letter, but provided The Wall Street Journal with a much more elaborate resignation letter. Is he telling the truth?

What I find most interesting about his story is that it used to be in several places on the Internet, and now the only place I can find it is FORCES, a smoker's rights web site. Why did the other sites remove it? Were legal threats levied against them?

The second question is the most troubling. If you only answer one, please answer this one. One of the most dramatic scenes in The Insider was you finding the threatening letter and the bullet in your mailbox. Yet when the FBI investigated, they found some concrete evidence that you had written that letter on your own computer, printed it on your own stationary, and put both the bullet and the letter in your own mailbox. Their report is available on the highly regarded web site "The Smoking Gun." (http://www.thesmokinggun.com/archive/wigand1.html) Why did you do that, Jeff? And why do you think the FBI declined to prosecute you for the fraud?

My last question is about signature line you use in your e-mail. You use the quote "Thou shalt not be a victim. Thou shalt not be a perpetrator. Above all, thou shalt not be a bystander" and cite the source as the Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC.

A while back I did some research on Hitler's war on smokers. It turns out that he was a rabid anti-smoker too. (http://www.davehitt.com/nov02/nicotine.html) His methods and techniques are eerily similar to those that you and your anti-smoker colleagues use. The phrase "passive smoking" was coined by one of his minions. Therefore, if you're going to compare yourself to anyone in the Holocaust scenario, it's clear which side you belong on, and it's not the side of the victims. With this new information at hand, will you continue to use that quote?

I look forward to your answers.

I didn't expect a reply, and haven’t received one.

My longest correspondence was with James Repace. Repace makes his living cheerleading the war on smokers. He claims hurricane force winds are necessary to clear smoke out of a room. While this comes as a complete surprise to anyone who has opened a window and watched a gentle breeze clear the air, the media, who repeatedly refer to Repace as an expert, dutifully repeats his ridiculous claims. He's also written a paper that claims that SHS doesn't dissipate outside, but instead forms little tornados that hunt down non-smokers.

Repace was the only one to answer with three names:

Sure. Mildred Wiley of Indiana, Burl Butler of Missouri, and Larry Ray Thaxton of Tennessee. You're welcome to check them out on Google.

I wrote back that I found the first two, (more on them later) but couldn't find Thaxton. He replied that the case hasn't come to trial yet. (That shouldn't have mattered - information about pending trials is usually available, especially in high profile cases.) I then asked:

Another question, if you don't mind. I know you worked for the EPA, and I see you listed as a contributor to the 1993 report, Respiratory Health Effects of Passive Smoking. Do you approve of the methodology the EPA used for that report?

Up to now, his replies had been almost instant, taking an hour or two at most. When I didn't get a reply to this one, I figured he had probably goggled me and didn't like what he found. I sent another e-mail asking the same question, and received this reply:

Dear Mr. Hitt, I have visited your website. I note that you are a smoker, and take a decidedly libertarian view of this issue. While this is your right, based on those opinions, I do not think that my professional opinion of the EPA study methodology will be understandable to you, as you are apparently not a science professional. In the event that you ever wish to pursue genuine scientific inquiry on this issue, and are not simply a flack for big tobacco, I suggest you visit the Cal EPA website for an update on the risks of passive smoking. Jim Repace

Ah yes, the old "appeal to authority" trick. He's the big smart researcher, and I'm just some bumpkin who can't understand fraud when I see it. It was time to take off the gloves. I answered:

One doesn't need to be a farmer to know if an apple is rotten.

If you were an *ethical* science professional, and a real scientist, you would be appalled at your name being attached to a study that ignored 2/3s of the data, then doubled the margin of error, then doubled *that* number, to come up with 3,000 imaginary deaths in a population of 300 million people.

For the record, I despise Big Tobacco as much as you do, in fact, probably more.

I spent several years as a consultant for General Electric's R&D center, working with hundreds of the world's best scientists and engineers. Many of them worked with highly toxic airborne chemicals. They protected themselves with ventilation. They didn't need hurricane force winds, and would have laughed at the suggestion that they were necessary. And that was for high concentrations of chemicals that were really dangerous, not the imaginary danger of SHS.

I'm not sure which site you visited - there are actually three under the same domain name. I'm guessing you visited The Hittman Chronicle, where I print opinion articles. You should also check out The Facts, which shows the real facts about second hand smoke. You'll find that here: http://www.davehitt.com/facts/. You're invited to search it for a single error listed as a fact. The third is a Blog I just started, just for fun, and doesn't have anything to do with this conversation. You'll find it at http://www.davehitt.com/blog/

Our conversations are the final step in a project of mine. I've been asking the same question (name three people) to a variety of organizations and individuals. You were the only one who supplied three names, and your choices are quite revealing. One of them is unverifiable. Another, despite the fact that juries love ailing individuals and hate tobacco companies, was unable to convince a jury that his illness had anything to do with SHS. And the first one you cited was an outright fraud - she had pancreatic cancer which spread to her lungs, and she tried to cash in by blaming tobacco.

So thanks, James, for proving what I've known all along. You and your ilk are making a very good living by telling lies about SHS and vilifying smokers. The bans you promote put thousands of small business men and women out of work, all to protect someone from a non-existent danger. And worst of all, you've provided nannies and busybodies of every ilk with a blueprint on how to use Big Brother and Lawyers to interfere with every aspect of everyone's life.

There are all kinds of evils in the world, but the very worst comes from those who sacrifice freedom and facts "for our own good," and for their own profit.

I figured that would be the end of our conversation, but to my surprise he still wanted to chat. He sent back:

Dave, each cigarette you smoke takes 13 minutes off your life. What more do you need to know about the toxicity of tobacco smoke? If a horse drinks out of a well and dies, do you supply the town with the water? Use your common sense, man. Jim

I answered:

Jim, I don't smoke cigarettes. I used to, but quit, because I wasn't comfortable with the risk. I do smoke cigars, but not a lot.

Thirteen minutes? Not nine, not fourteen, but precisely thirteen? Those are the kind of nonsense numbers no real scientist would be quoting. A real scientist would say something like "cigarettes increase the risk of dying prematurely." No one can argue that, because that's a real, honest to goodness fact. But smoking seems to have no effect on some people (everyone knows someone who lived to be 90+ while smoking several packs a day) and a devastating effect on others.

Of course, none of that is the issue at hand. We both agree that primary smoking is risky, but we're talking about SHS, an entirely different thing. We're talking about your "hurricane force winds" statements. And we {are} talking about you having your name, apparently without any objection, appearing on one of the most fraudulent "studies" that ever came out of the EPA. Wouldn't a real scientist speak out against a report that ignored 2/3s of the data, then doubled the margin of error, then doubled THAT number, to come up with an RR that is laughably small? Why haven't you spoken out against that, Jeff? {James}

He copped out with:

I've forwarded your message to the author of the EPA study; if he wants to, he can respond

I replied to his evasion:

I didn't ask the author of the EPA study. I asked you. Why are you evading the question?

It's pretty simple. There's nothing tricky about it. Do you approve of the methodology of the study? Yes, or no?

Once again he pulled out the "appeal to authority" trick.

No, Dave, it's not simple. It's a weight of evidence approach, you just don't consider the EPA studies, most of which are flawed because of poor exposure assessment, which drives the results toward the null. There are 10 different risk assessments, all using different methodology (see "Risk Assessment Methodologies in passive smoking-induced lung cancer." J.L. Repace and A.H. Lowrey, RISK ANALYSIS, 10: 27-37, (1990)) , EPA's is just one; at the time, I reviewed the methods in detail, and I thought {it} was a very nice job, and so did the 16 member external review panel, all of whom had PhDs. All the other 9 risk assessments produce the same estimates as everybody else, plus or minus 50%, including mine. The only garbage submitted at the hearings in 1992 was from the tobacco companies and their stooges. Now before you respond again, why don't you check out some of my publications?

He then listed 71 of his fabrications publications, which, I'm guessing, was supposed to impress me.

I was surprised that the conversation had gone on this long, and guessed he was willing to keep it going. I knew this article was already going to be too long, and since he had already admitted to being enamored with one of the most blatantly dishonest studies ever conducted on the subject, further conversation wouldn't accomplish much. (Although I have to admit, I was really enjoying cornering him.) I ended the conversation with this message:

I checked out the one {publication}where you claim that SHS doesn't dissipate outdoors, but does some acrobatics and then heads for non-smokers. I found it pretty amusing. Perhaps I'll look up some of your other papers when I'm in need of entertainment.

The results are driven toward the null because SHS has no effect on mortality. Kabat just proved that with a 39 year study. A cohort study, no less. One funded mostly by the American Cancer Society.

So you reviewed the methods in detail. Let me make sure I understand this, me being a non-scientist and all. The EPA announced their results ahead of time. Then they committed the fraud of ignoring two thirds of the available data. Then they compounded that fraud by doubling their margin of error to a 90% confidence level. Then they compounded that fraud by doubling the 1500 deaths they calculated. And after reviewing those methods in detail, you say it "was a very nice job"

Thank you James. I think that explains everything I need to know about you. There were two more things I was going to bring up - your ludicrous claims that hurricane force winds are necessary to clear smoke from a room, and the fact that of the three names you did supply, one was unproven, one was unverifiable, and one was an outright fraud. But since your assessment of the EPA study provides such a deep insight into your character, I think those conversations would be a waste of both your time and mine.

So thank you, James, for your time. It has been most enlightening.

In summary, here are the people and organizations I contacted, and the results:

Contact Results
   
American Heart Association Request Ignored
Joe Cherner
President SmokeFree Educational Services, Inc.
Request Ignored
Stanton Glantz
Founder of Americans for Non-Smokers Rights, Tobacco Scam, and other anti smoker organizations.
Request Ignored
TobaccoFree.org Request Ignored
Tompkins County Health Department Evaded the question in their first reply. When asked again if he could supply names, their spokesperson responded: "No, I can not."
American Lung Association Evasive reply. Unable to supply any names

Jeffery Wigand
Star of "The Insider"
Proffesional anti-smoker gadfly.

Supplied one name, which could not be verified.
James Repace
Repace and Associates
Proffesional anti-smoker gadfly.
Supplied three names.
One could not be verified.
One had been ruled against by a jury.
One was rejected by a jury because her claim was a massive fraud.
   
Total Number of valid, verrifable names supplied: 0

There are so many anti-smoker organizations out there contacting them all could be a full time job. But this project wasn't meant to be all inclusive, just to provide a good sample of the blatant dishonesty nicotine nannies rely on.

Of course, this dishonesty isn't limited to nicotine nannies - nannies of all stripes love to spew made up numbers. The next time you hear a one, try this very simple technique: look them in the eye and say "Name three."

 

Additional Information

All of the e-mails mentioned in this article can be found here, in a formatted, edited version that's easy to read, and here, in a raw, unedited format.

Learn how to spot bogus studies by reading The Facts

Wigand's former employer tells his story here.

More on Wiggand's claims.

Someone else searches for a name.

A reader submitted this review of this article. I love his description of THMC as an "entertainingly ornery" web site, which fits perfectly with my own description of the place. His blog has a distinctive anti-nanny flavor to it, which all too rare these days. Check it out.

April 2004

Comments?

© 2004 Dave Hitt

 

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