Mad Max in Australia

There is something almost magical about the social aspects of Cigars and Pipes. The simple act of lighting one changes your demeanor, relaxes you, and makes you more willing, hell, more able, to consider other points of view. Conversations among cigar and pipe smokers are different and better then most smoke free conversations.


As the Nicotine Nazis continue their relentless mission to stamp out all things fun, this simple pleasure is becoming more and more difficult to enjoy in the presence of friends.


Dr. Max Whisson sent this letter to The Weekend Australian Magazine in response to their article about the artist David Hockney. They haven’t printed it, if they ever do they’ll likely edit it, and it deserves to be published in it’s entirety.



English artist David Hockney is quoted as saying “passive smoking is nonsense” [“Master Class” June 30-July 1]. Such statements are rare in the media these days. Hockney is also reported as referring angrily to his “purloined rights”.


Having spent much of my professional life in some of the world’s leading cancer research institutes I cannot resist making a comment. Readers may be surprised to learn that until a few decades ago every laboratory had ash trays and almost all of the best scientists smoked cigarettes, pipes or cigars. In the 1980s, as a senior research worker, I lived through the introduction of bans on indoor smoking. Almost overnight I witnessed the destruction of the deep incisive discussions of both scientific and social questions, and, as the bans spread to pubs and restaurants, the break-up of social groups and the virtual extinction of the stories and jokes which were the lifeline of local cultures.


These negative social effects have received almost no publicity and, to my knowledge, no funding. Whilst billions of dollars have been spent trying to prove that passive smoking is dangerous, research laboratories capable of genuine research are starved of funds.


Many claims are made about the dangers of passive smoking but a close look at the scientific literature shows that artist Hockney is spot on. It is just nonsense. In my view it is a disgrace that some of my colleagues have gone along with this stuff, even with the best of intentions.


Yes, the passive smoking story has persuaded many to stop smoking but there has been a serious downside, including I believe an increase in the use of much more dangerous psycho-active drugs. Worse still, the objective in some well-funded quarters seems to me to be not public health but the fostering of a compliant easily manipulated population.. Certainly that was the main aim of the pioneers of the anti-smoking movement, the Nazis of the 1930s.


Dr. Max Whisson


Western Australia

2 Comment(s)

  1. What makes me suspicious about the health warnings on cigarette packets is the one which states ” smoking causes aging of the skin” is this a problem regarding health? I think not, this seems to be more about vanity. alongside which I have seen no such side effect within myself, and have been a smoker for 27 years. Obviously this is not conclusive proof for the pro smoking debate, but it does rather undermine their argument for me.

    tracey maclean | Jul 6, 2007 | Reply

  2. Tracey; Any warning that begins “smoking causes” should be a red flag. Whatever the claim goes on to say will be illogical because of the word “causes”. For something to be considered a “cause” it should demonstrably and invariably create the effect. If I put my hand into boiling water it will get scolded. If you do the same thing you will get the same result and so would anyone else not wearing anything to protect their hands. It will happen every time. From this we can conclude logically that putting a bare hand into boiling water will cause a scold.

    When it is claimed that smoking causes yellow ears, lung cancer or global warming we must ask how many packs a day for how long will cause this effect. Then look to see all the exceptions where lots of people who also smoke that number of packs per day for that length of time yet do have show evidence of the claimed effect. If there are no exceptions there might be a case for the claim.

    Bernie | Jul 7, 2007 | Reply

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