Forest Unfiltered






40 Years of Hurt

Prejudice and Prohibition

Road To Ruin?

Search This Site
The Pleasure of Smoking

Forest Polling Report

Outdoor Smoking Bans

Plain Packaging

Share This Page
Powered by Squarespace
« You want to smoke? That'll be £1, please | Main | Do smoker-friendly pubs exist? »

Michael Siegel: friend or foe?

Interesting article in the New York Times today.

Michael Siegel is a professor of community health sciences at the Boston University School of Public Health. He writes a thoughtful blog, The Rest of the Story, that offers "tobacco news, analysis and commentary".

Siegel corresponds with opponents of smoking bans on both sides of the Atlantic. He has a deserved reputation for being one of the more reasonable members of anti-smoking movement. Unlike some, he doesn't seem to be driven by intolerance of smokers or hatred of the tobacco industry.

Today's article focuses on the ban on smoking in New York parks and beaches, which will be introduced (if not enforced) from May 23.

Siegel supports smoking bans in workplaces, including restaurants, bars and casinos:

I base my position on the scientific evidence demonstrating that chronic exposure to secondhand smoke — the sort of levels you’d experience working in a smoky bar or restaurant — significantly increases the risk of respiratory disease, heart disease and lung cancer

He questions however the claim by the US Surgeon General’s office that “even brief exposure to secondhand smoke can cause cardiovascular disease and could trigger acute cardiac events, such as heart attack,” and that “inhaling even the smallest amount of tobacco smoke can also damage your DNA, which can lead to cancer.”

The Surgeon General’s statement conflates the temporary negative effects of secondhand smoke on the circulatory system, which have been shown to occur with short-term exposure, with heart disease, a process that requires repeated exposure and recurring damage to the coronary arteries. It also conflates one-time DNA damage, which occurs with any carcinogenic exposure, with cancer risk, which likewise generally requires repeated exposure.

Siegel's concern is that:

... in trying to convince people that even transient exposure to secondhand smoke is a potentially deadly hazard, smoking opponents risk losing scientific credibility. The antismoking movement has always fought with science on its side [my emphasis], but New York’s ban on outdoor smoking seems to fulfill its opponents’ charge that the movement is being driven instead by an unthinking hatred of tobacco smoke.

That, in turn, could jeopardize more important fronts in the antismoking fight, in particular the 21 states that still allow smoking in bars and restaurants.

A ban on outdoor smoking may provide a symbolic victory. But from a public health perspective, it’s pointless. Instead, antismoking organizations should focus on extending workplace protections, already enjoyed by millions of New Yorkers, to the 100 million Americans still denied the right to work without having to breathe in secondhand smoke.

In other words, for all his good points, Michael Siegel is as keen as any anti-smoker to ban smoking in every workplace in every state in America. (I assume that's what he means by "extending workplace protections" rather than improving ventilation or introducing separate smoking rooms. If I'm wrong I apologise.)

Once that is accomplished the anti-smoking juggernaut will simply move on, in every state, to the next logical step. Science, as Michael knows, doesn't even come into it.

See: A smoking ban too far (New York Times)

PS. Talking of junk science, Brian Monteith has this to say on The Free Society: Warning: junk reporting of junk science threatens individual freedom.

PrintView Printer Friendly Version

EmailEmail Article to Friend

Reader Comments (15)

Dr. Michael Siegel testified against the tobacco companies on oath which resulted in tobacco companies being fined $billions.

One of the great cruxes of the SHS debate is how much passive smokers breathe in. From my research it is minimal. The highest from the papers is from ASH Trustee Dr. Martin Jarvis who's upper estimate is the equivalent of 150 cigarettes per year. The lowest is the equivalent of 1 cigarette every 2 weeks for bar staff. The SCOTH Committee says 1% which was also written by Dr. Jarvis says, "The increased risk associated with exposure to SHS is about 25%, a substantial fraction of the risk from active smoking, although uptake of smoke by non-smokers is typically only about 1% of that by active smokers."

So the maximum exposure is <1/2 a cigarette a day and as far as I am aware there is not one paper on active smoking that suggests that level of active smoking increases the chances of lung cancer and heart disease. If anyone has these papers please get in contact with me.

The median age for LC is 70/71 and then that only affects 8% of smokers, after probably 50 years of smoking, so how come at the maximum of 1/2 a cigarette a day passive smoking can be a cause?

Friday, May 6, 2011 at 11:29 | Unregistered CommenterDave Atherton

He is a friend on FB I think I will now block. Seems he can't be trusted with the truth either and is just playing with us. I have my doubts about some of the others allegedly "on our side" too.

Friday, May 6, 2011 at 13:23 | Unregistered CommenterPat Nurse

Kudos for this post Simon, and Dave and Pat. Frankly I've always been wary of Siegel - I first came across him when researching Smoke Screens, when I found a study (included in the book) where he manipulated data to support a restaurant smoking ban. He likes to talk about scientific integrity of the anti-smoking movement but also clings to fabricated numbers and calls them 'scientific fact'. I consider him as dishonest as any other in the anti-smoking brigade, and interestingly, as popular as his blog is, most of the time when i read the comments the readers are calling him out on various aspects of bullshit

Friday, May 6, 2011 at 16:15 | Unregistered CommenterRichard White

The thing I found most surprising about this post was the fact that 21 USstates still permit smoking in bars and restaurants! America is not yet lost, NY and Cal notwithstanding.

Friday, May 6, 2011 at 17:30 | Unregistered Commenternisakiman

After criticizing CASAA last week and Siegel this week, it appears that Simon Clark only considers his friends to be those who want to repeal all smokefree workplace laws and policies, those who want to eliminate all cigarette taxes, and those who want to increase cigarette consumption.

Seems like FOREST is just as intolerant of dissent as are tobacco prohibitionists.

Friday, May 6, 2011 at 19:43 | Unregistered CommenterBill Godshall

I'd hardly say that's true, Bill. It is no secret Siegel still admits to be an anti-smoker, who repeats the fabricated numbers of SHS deaths and the grossly overstated 400,000 annual deaths from primary smoking, who in the past has made up his own numbers tosuit his ideal, and the only difference is that now he talks about the current lies with the anti-smokers. That's all well and good, but he IS still an anti-smoker and not on our side. That in no way suggests Simon only likes people who agree with him on every point.

Friday, May 6, 2011 at 19:54 | Unregistered CommenterRichard White


While I applaud your support for vapers as it does not give you a 'headache' some of us think that the emperor is butt naked. This is the equivalent in the UK of the Surgeon General's report.

As I wrote above "The increased risk associated with exposure to SHS is about 25%, a substantial fraction of the risk from active smoking, although uptake of smoke by non-smokers is typically only about 1% of that by active smokers."

Smoking and ill health is dose responsive, the more you smoke the more the risk. It is implied that the opposite is the truth too. A pack a day is 100% risk increase of LC and heart disease. A regression model which I am in possession of suggests that the risk at 1% of exposure for lung cancer and heart disease has a risk factor of <1/4 of 1%, i.e. the curve is strongly inversely logarhtmic.. At <0.25% passive smoking in practical terms is a non risk.

Bill, just because smoking gives you a headache is not reason for a smoking ban, especially based on frankly, lies.

Friday, May 6, 2011 at 20:19 | Unregistered CommenterDave Atherton

My response to Siegel:
Michael B. Siegel is an Official Anti-Smoker-Approved Fake Opponent, who is guaranteed never to seriously attack the anti-smokers' scientific fraud. They're flagrantly guilty for ignoring more than 50 studies which show that human papillomaviruses cause at least 1/4 of non-small cell lung cancers. Smokers and passive smokers are more likely to have been exposed to this virus for socioeconomic reasons. And the anti-smokers' studies are all based on lifestyle questionnaires, so they're cynically DESIGNED to blame tobacco for all those extra lung cancers that are really caused by HPV.

They falsely blame smoking for DNA damage that's really caused by infection, and they commit the same type of fraud with every disease they blame on tobacco.

And, all their so-called "independent" reports were ring-led by the same guy, Jonathan M. Samet, including the Surgeon General Reports, the EPA report, the IARC report, and the ASHRAE report, and he's now the chairman of the FDA Committee on Tobacco. He and his politically privileged clique exclude all the REAL scientists from their echo chamber. That's how they make their reports "unanimous!"

For the government to commit fraud to deprive us of our liberties is automatically a violation of our Constitutional rights to the equal protection of the laws, just as much as if it purposely threw innocent people in prison. And for the government to spread lies about phony smoking dangers is terrorism, no different from calling in phony bomb threats.

Friday, May 6, 2011 at 20:37 | Unregistered CommenterCarol

As David Cameron said 'calm down dear.'

If you want my honest assessment of Michael Siegel, I sincerely believe he is a public health professional who wants to see less people smoking. I also think he believes that whatever happens people will smoke but is content that less 'harmful' ways for nicotine ingestion like E cigarettes and snus for example.

He or Bill Godshall may want to correct me but I believe he was trained by Professor Stanton Glantz before giving evidence against tobacco companies. I am open to correction on this. Dr. Siegel has drawn the line at the 'most exposed' to questioning the science on the less exposed on SHS.

For this principled stand he has drawn the displeasure of the more fundamentalists in anti smoking. We only have to look at Dr. James Enstrom and Professor Carl Phillips the net effect of honest science. Draw your own conclusions but when the anti smoking lobby were rattling sabers at Siegel's blog he all of sudden published a paper on passive smoking and lung cancer which found the null hypothesis. He stressed that the paper was NOT funded by a tobacco company.

I am all for the benefit of the doubt.

Friday, May 6, 2011 at 21:03 | Unregistered CommenterDave Atherton

The only purpose Siegel serves is to drown out the real opposition, so the anti-smokers can create the illusion that they allow criticism when they actually ruthlessly suppress it. The same goes for all the rest of his ilk.

Friday, May 6, 2011 at 21:15 | Unregistered CommenterCarol

Hello, Bill. Are you, by any chance, Bill Godshall, founder and executive director of Smokefree Pennsylvania since 1990? If you are you won't mind that I Googled your name and found some fascinating links. I particularly enjoyed your article about Vapefest 2010. Now I am intrigued.

Friday, May 6, 2011 at 21:34 | Unregistered CommenterSimon


I hope I am quoting you correctly.

"Bill Godshall, executive director of Smokefree Pennsylvania, in a letter sent to the New Jersey senate: "Proponents of [the bill banning indoor use] have grossly and intentionally misrepresented the health risks of e-cigarettes in order to scare legislators into voting for this unwarranted legislation that threatens (instead of improves) public health. Smokers who have recently quit and/or are trying to quit need support, not harassment and ostracism."

Friday, May 6, 2011 at 21:40 | Unregistered CommenterDave Atherton

This is Bill's headache.

"Considering that the fundamental tenet of all toxicology is "the dose makes the poison" (e.g. consuming two gallons of water can kill a person) and that I experience severe headaches when exposed to even low levels of secondhand tobacco smoke, pesticides, glues and perfumes, I decided to expose myself to massive levels of e-cigarette vapor. "

Read more:

Friday, May 6, 2011 at 21:45 | Unregistered CommenterDave Atherton

In other words, for all his good points, Michael Siegel is as keen as any anti-smoker to ban smoking in every workplace in every state in America.

What took you so long to work that out?

Friday, May 6, 2011 at 23:14 | Unregistered CommenterFrank Davis

His so-called "good points" are trite and banal and inconsequential, if not profoundly counter-productive. They are nothing but noise to drown out serious discussion. This is the real face of censoring dissent!

Saturday, May 7, 2011 at 0:30 | Unregistered CommenterCarol

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>