Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Washington Post's Gift to Tobacco Lobbyist: Free Space, Shielded Identity

The Washington Post publishes a guest editorial today from a man named Gio Batta Gori titled "The Bogus 'Science' of Secondhand Smoke" (bolding added by me):

It has been fashionable to ignore the weakness of "the science" on secondhand smoke, perhaps in the belief that claiming "the science is settled" will lead to policies and public attitudes that will reduce the prevalence of smoking. But such a Faustian bargain is an ominous precedent in public health and political ethics. Consider how minimally such policies as smoking bans in bars and restaurants really reduce the prevalence of smoking, and yet how odious and socially unfair such prohibitions are.

By any sensible account, the anachronism of tobacco use should eventually vanish in an advancing civilization. Why must we promote this process under the tyranny of deception?

Here's how the Post identified him:

Gio Batta Gori, an epidemiologist and toxicologists, is a fellow of the Health Policy Center in Bethesda. He is a former deputy director of the National Cancer Institute's Division of Cancer Cause and Prevention, and he received the U.S. Public Health Service Superior Service Award in 1976 for his efforts to define less hazardous cigarettes.
Here's what they left out, courtesy SourceWatch:

In 1980 Gori became Vice President of the Franklin Institute Policy Analysis Center (FIPAC), a consulting firm funded initially by a $400,000 grant from the Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corporation (B&W). [2] Following its initial formation, FIPAC continued to receive hundreds of thousands of dollars in funding annually from B&W. [3][4]. [5] Gori worked on R&D projects for B&W, such as analysis of the sensory perception of smoke and how to reduce the amount of tobacco in cigarettes. By 1989, Gori was a full time consultant on environmental tobacco smoke issue for the Tobacco Institute in the Institute's ETS/IAQ (Indoor Air Quality) Consultants Project. [6] In May 1993, Gori entered an exclusive consulting arrangement with B&W, reaping pay at the rate of $200/hour an day to $1,000/day for attending conferences. [7]

Activities in which Gori engaged on behalf of the tobacco industry included attending conferences, writing and publishing books and papers, and lobbying.
Are Gori's links to the tobacco industry new or obscure? Nope. They were detailed as far back as this 1978 TIME magazine article.

Deception, huh? Exactly who is doing the deceiving? Seems like it's the Post and Gori.

As for his arguments, they match exactly the strategy Jonathan Chait recently laid out in The New Republic when conservatives try to attack long-agreed-upon science -- "treat the question as a matter of dispute rather than a settled fact":

[W]hether the missing data would make inequality look worse or better is really beside the point. Reynolds's role is merely to point out that the data is imperfect. The skeptic challenging the expert consensus must be fluent enough in the language of the experts to nibble away at their data. (The evolution skeptic can find holes in the fossil record; the global-warming skeptic can find periods of global cooling.) But he need not--indeed, he must not--be fluent enough to assimilate all the data himself into a coherent alternative explanation. His point is that the truth is unknowable.


Lauren said...

I just like his argument about smoking bans being "socially unfair". Why doesn't he then take on the age requirement to drink since I'm sure 20 year olds think it is socially unfair that they can't go to bars? And while he's at it, why should bars be allowed to have Ladies Night and kick out drunk people for having too good of a time. That's my snark on the subject.

And way to go Miles for your sleuth work. Second hand smoke is nasty and unhealthy. Period. If my lungs smell as bad as my hair after a night in a smoky bar, it can't be a good thing.

jcasey said...

Interesting comments on Gori and on the attack on science. I posted on his argument on my blog--www.thenonsequitur.com--I found the arguments eerily evocative of the film and book "Thank You for Smoking" : push back the goalposts and demand an unreasonable amount of scientific certainty from your adversary.

Miles said...

Loved "Thank You for Smoking"! The art of arguing according to Nick Naylor ...

Joey: So, what happens when you're wrong?
Nick: Well, Joey, I'm never wrong.
Joey: But you can't always be right.
Nick: Well, if it's your job to be right, then you're never wrong.
Joey: But what if you are wrong?.
Nick: Okay, let's say that you're defending chocolate and I'm defending vanilla. Now, if I were to say to you "Vanilla's the best flavor ice cream," you'd say ... ?
Joey: "No, chocolate is."
Nick: Exactly. But you can't win that argument. So, I'll ask you ... so you think chocolate is the end-all and be-all of ice cream, do you?
Joey: It's the best ice cream; I wouldn't order any other.
Nick: Oh. So it's all chocolate for you, is it?
Joey: Yes, chocolate is all I need.
Nick: Well, I need more than chocolate. And for that matter, I need more than vanilla. I believe that we need freedom and choice when it comes to our ice cream, and that, Joey Naylor, that is the definition of liberty.
Joey: But that's not what we're talking about.
Nick: Ah, but that's what I'm talking about.
Joey: But ... you didn't prove that vanilla's the best.
Nick: I didn't have to. I proved that you're wrong and if you're wrong, I'm right.
Joey: But you still didn't convince me.
Nick: Because I'm not after you. I'm after them.

Karyn Wells said...

The University of California regents recently made the decision to continue taking tobacco money for tobacco research.

The Pharmaceutical companies also give major grants to universities to study various drugs.

Both organizations are profit making companies.

Stanton Glanz and Jim Repace have also received tobacco money through prop 99. If one agrees with your supposition then all studies done by Glantz and Repace are tainted because they were funded by tobacco and their institutions are still taking tobacco money.

To be fair you must look at the research and make your own judgment as to the validity of the study.