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More prejudice and propaganda

Like many people I'm curious to see A Billion Lives, a film about vaping, when it's released next year.

It's ironic however that a trailer for a pro-vaping documentary should begin with the bold statement 'YOU ARE BEING LIED TO' (about the risks of e-cigarettes) before making the utterly bogus claim that "One hundred and sixty-five thousand kids die from secondhand smoke [pause] every year."

To be fair, the vaping community was split last night with several vapers voicing their concern on Twitter and another saying the matter had been "dealt with", whatever that means.

Many more however are happy to pass on the message. At the time of writing the trailer has been retweeted 273 times and viewed by more than 20,000 people.

As for the film's snappy (and tendentious) title, the producers are clearly content to promote the anti-smoking mantra that half of all (long-term) smokers worldwide will die as a direct result of their habit, ignoring other factors such as diet, poverty and genetics.

If the film is as evidence-based as the trailer (and the title), I can't wait to review it.

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Reader Comments (22)

Those who shared or re-tweeted it are promoting their cause on the back of smokerphobia - and then they wonder why smokers get pissed off.

I won't be watching. I get enough smokerphobic propaganda every time I am forced to watch an anti-smoker industry advert complete with all the relevant scaremongering.

A billion lives?? What a load of shite.

Sunday, November 22, 2015 at 13:14 | Unregistered CommenterPat Nurse

It is an interesting dilemma, isn't it. I have not bothered with the trailer or any discussion of the content. But the title alone has made me wonder. It seems to imply that every one of the world's ~1B smokers' lives would be improved -- nay, saved!! -- by vaping. Seems like rather a stretch, to say the least.

The whole "lives saved" concept is rather tenuous even apart from that. You could say the same thing about olives: About 1B people alive today have their lives saved!! -- which means extended by some amount -- by the existence of olives (because they are a healthier source of oil and calories than what they usually substitute for).

Sunday, November 22, 2015 at 14:15 | Unregistered CommenterCarl V Phillips

Sorry to hear you don't like it.

Sunday, November 22, 2015 at 16:24 | Unregistered CommenterAaron

Aaron, it's not that I don't like it (I'll reserve judgement until I've seen the film), but if you're going to accuse others of lying about e-cigs it's not a good idea to repeat some of the lies and exaggerations about the impact of smoking.

I'm not suggesting that smoking doesn't carry serious health risks. Of course it does. Likewise common sense (and current evidence) would suggest that e-cigs are much safer than combustibles.

What disturbs me is the way many advocates of e-cigs, who rightly castigate public health campaigners and politicians who question the efficacy of e-cigarettes, accept without murmur everything the same people say about smoking, including the absurdly exaggerated risks of second hand smoke for which there is very little evidence.

Double standards?

PS. Title aside, good luck with your film. I look forward to seeing it.

Sunday, November 22, 2015 at 17:10 | Unregistered CommenterSimon

I have to say I'm with Pat Nurse on this one. I've been questioning the #ABillionLives hashtag on twitter since it first appeared.

As you point out, Simon, and as I and many others have been saying for a while now, vaping and e-cigs are all very well, and I support them. But when vapers are quoting the Tobacco Control propaganda soundbites to support their cause, that's when they lose me.

They don't seem to be aware of the fact that they are sitting firmly in the anti-smoker camp when they resort to that kind of promotion of their favoured product, and then they act all surprised when smokers call them out on it. Even vapers who profess to be avowedly in support of smokers right to choose can't help falling into the trap of anti-smoker rhetoric when championing e-cigs.

Tobacco Control must love the fact that such a vocal group is broadcasting their propaganda far and wide. Particularly given the fact that vapers are already in the crosshairs of the zealots, and are the next in line to be 'denormalised'. The irony is, I'm sure, not lost on them.

Sunday, November 22, 2015 at 17:40 | Unregistered Commenternisakiman


I hope this isn't a case of 'the means justify the ends'.

Sunday, November 22, 2015 at 18:59 | Unregistered Commenterwest2

I think you need to wait for the video before passing judgement. If a film maker tries to use statistics given out by the health organizations & governments worldwide, which are the statistics we, the public, are supposed to believe as trusted, whose fault is it if the statistics are wrong? That is part of the point of this video. Those trusted places cannot be trusted to tell the truth. Anyone who has made the switch from tobacco to vaping ( I am one of those people) and has experienced the positive health impact of doing so, already knows the truth about the lies. It is unfortunate that a huge number of people still don't know that the government and health organizations can't be trusted to tell the truth as the $$ lost from drooping tobacco sales and all the "approved" pharmacalogical failures are pushing for the lies. The only thing smokers are really giving up by switching to vaping is the "opportunity" to get cancer! Of course, the huge savings of less rescue inhalers (that hurts Big Pharma), and having more money left in pockets that didn't go to tobacco is another added benefit for vapers. I am angry that since I switched to vaping, and have seen such great improvements to my health, I should have to fight so hard for sensible regulation or fair taxation. It is pure insanity that a product that will benefit our overburdened health care industry should be demonized as it has been. I am sick of the murderous misinformation campaign against vaping. I am sick to death of hearing it is all about saving the children when if you follow the money, it is very plain to see how smokers were never really meant to get off the merry-go-round that tobacco built, and that governments and pharmaceutical companies and health organizations capitalized on the trough and absolutely don't want to stop feeding from it.....even if it kills us all. I believe vaping is just the tip of the iceberg of lies we are being told, and people need to wake up to that fact. Ignorance in this day and age is no longer's a choice. I choose to know the truth no matter how ugly it might be.

Sunday, November 22, 2015 at 19:01 | Unregistered CommenterMelody Chard

For clarification, when the vaper said that the matter had been "dealt with", he meant that it would - quite rightly - not appear in the film, as he made clear in his next tweet. See here.

I was one who objected to the use of that stat cos it's totally bogus as you say, but to be fair I understand that the filmmakers are not vapers or smokers so are on a learning curve. As such I find it quite encouraging that someone outside of our bubble has recognised that public health lies ... a lot. :)

Sunday, November 22, 2015 at 20:03 | Unregistered CommenterDick Puddlecote

Simon, stats are a wonderfully mendacious thing. "A billion lives" doesn't refer to the billion+ smokers today but potentially a billion lives in the next 100 years. That's not half of all smokers dying.

The intent of the film isn't to attack smokers or their rights, it's to damage or destroy the withdrawal of choice being pursued by Pharma, Tobacco co's, PH, ideologists and greedy politicians.

I think that's something that everyone here can agree on?

Sunday, November 22, 2015 at 20:58 | Unregistered CommenterJohn Summers

I'm with Pat Nurse on this one too. As a smoker I know I am going to pop my clogs this century whether I smoke, vape or even quit.

Unless I live to 150...........

Sunday, November 22, 2015 at 20:58 | Unregistered CommenterGrandad

And the antismokers spake “LET THERE BE NUMBERS”. And there were numbers….. an avalanche of numbers…. a tsunami of numbers. And, lo and behold, the numbers always ….without exception…. every time… supported the antismokers’ ranting and raving. Need a veneer of support for some harebrained antismoker idea? No problem. The number shamans of antismoking can whip up a batch of numbers pronto.

More numbers, please!

The numbers really begin with “death tolls”. Few ask from whence these numbers come. Well, we can thank the US of A.

There is an account of the US Centers for Disease Control’s “Smoking Attributed Morbidity/Mortality and Economic Cost” (SAMMEC) – which spits out the smoking “death toll” we incessantly hear – from page 92 in the book “Rampant Antismoking Signifies Grave Danger” (the book is available for free download here ). Any country can make use of the SAMMEC program by inputting, for example, population and estimated number of smokers and, with a few strokes on the computer keyboard [click] [click] [click], voila, instant “death toll” (and associated “economic cost”).

Don Oakley (1999), “Slow Burn”, also has a description.(if you can find a free copy).

Although all of these spout the “death toll” with the greatest of confidence, I would be very confident that most in Public Health wouldn’t have a clue how the smoking “death toll” (that “exists” in a statistical fantasy world) is arrived at. And I would be very confident that all in government and the media would be clueless.

For this statistical fantasy to be given a veneer of “reality”, it is constantly piggy-backed onto actual death tolls where underlying causation is well understood, e.g., the “death toll” from smoking is higher than road deaths, illicit drug overdose deaths, and murders combined. There are those in society (i.e., the gullible) that actually believe that the smoking “death toll”, a statistical fantasy, has been meticulously produced from autopsy data that specifically reveals smoking as the “cause” of death. And this is exactly what the propagandists want people to believe.

There are now instances where doctors are putting on death certificates that a particular fatal disease was specifically “caused” by smoking.

The SAMMEC process is not only a terrible abuse of the flimsy relative risk statistic but it maximally misrepresents information. For example, there is no partitioning of known confounders for particular diseases. So smoking is presented as a singular “cause” for raw RRs. If that’s not bad enough, it gets way worse when it gets to the level of doctors imputing “cause” for a variety of medical conditions. Medical doctors are not trained in the scientific method or quantitative methods for that matter. We know that the “death toll” comes from elevated RRs above a [nonsmoking] baseline. We know that causal attribution, let alone sole causal attribution, is entirely arguable and SAMMEC does not partition for confounders. The result is not only a nonsensical “death toll”, but an inflated, nonsensical “death toll”. I would venture that most, if not all, medicos wouldn’t have a clue what a “baseline” refers to. So, when falsely attributing causal status to smoking in multiple individual cases, this number will be even more inflated because it will also erroneously include the baseline rate for all RRs for specific disease. In other words, smoking will be blamed for every smoker presenting with a specific [“smoking-related”] disease. It just goes from very bad to worse. It’s a circus of incompetence and zealotry, amongst other things, that has produced a dangerous, institution-wide superstition. Remember that these nut cases are also considered “experts”.

It must be noted that RRs are based on group-level differences that have little-to-no extrapolation value to the individual level. But this doesn’t stop the antismoking nut cases. They are all too willing to attribute causation to smoking/smoke in individual cases of disease/death. I’ve even heard of instances where medicos are telling nonsmokers with lung cancer that it was specifically caused by the secondhand smoke that they were exposed to in the lunch room at work all those years ago. There is no information that would allow these sorts of claims to be made in individual cases. At a saner time these sorts of baseless, highly inflammatory claims would have attracted a session before a disciplinary tribunal. Rather, this derangement is now the norm.

Sunday, November 22, 2015 at 21:21 | Unregistered CommenterPoint


If we’re going to conjure a “death toll”, why not a global “death toll”? No problem. It’ll just take a few extra minutes on the computer….. [click] [click] [click]…. instant “death tolls”, all in nicely rounded numbers. Behold a more recent venture into number “magic” by that august exemplar of impartiality [giggle], the World Crap Health Organization (the prime mover for the “smokefree” world):

Passive smoking claims more than 600,000 lives each year around the world, an estimated 1 per cent of all deaths, a major study has found.
Children are the group most heavily exposed to secondhand tobacco smoke, and around 165,000 of them die as a result, said researchers.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) study is the first to assess the global impact of inhaling other people's smoke.
Based on 2004 data, the figures show smoking in that year killed almost six million people, either actively or passively by claiming the lives of non-smokers.

Sunday, November 22, 2015 at 21:22 | Unregistered CommenterPoint

Or we could go for multiplying a conjured annual “toll” by “many years” (e.g., a century) to concoct even larger [senseless] numbers. For example, here’s Glantz, an expert in crapistry, claiming that antismoking measures will “save” a “billion lives” (over the next century) - another nice, really big, round number:
“It's About a Billion Lives February 8 -- Save the Date”
“Tobacco may lead to extinction of 1 billion people in 21st century”

It's all agenda-driven junk!

Sunday, November 22, 2015 at 21:24 | Unregistered CommenterPoint

Hardly surprising, given that e-cigs are marketed as smoking cessation aids, regardless whether for recreation use or NRT. And if a smoker switches, he or she is no longer a smoker.

What have vapers ever done for smokers, and vice versa? The only common ground we share is to try to resist TC and Big Pharma, though for different reasons. But let's not forget that most vapers are ex smokers, so they're hardly likely to emphasise with those who ain't seen 'the light'.

Sunday, November 22, 2015 at 21:26 | Unregistered Commenterdavid

Levy & Marimont provided a critique of SAMMEC in early-2000s. It could have been even more scathing.

Sunday, November 22, 2015 at 21:27 | Unregistered CommenterPoint

I've not taken the time to read your blog yet Simon or the comments - and I know that is poor form, but I was writing my thoughts down after I saw the video and I'm a slow worker! Here are my raw thoughts;

We are being lied to by Tobacco Control and Tobacco Companies and we have been for decades. Unfortunately, the producers of this project are perpetuating some of these lies to form an argument to justify e-cigarettes. Why have a film about exposing lies if you cannot see through ALL the lies? Why have a film showcasing and denouncing some lies whilst using others to your advantage? The whole premise of “A Billion Lives” is preposterous because of a lack of 'apparent' understanding that harm does not necessarily mean death.

There is a huge difference between the harm caused by smoking and death being caused by smoking. There is plenty of scientific evidence that smoking causes harm, even common sense tell us that smoking is harmful. There is also plenty of scientific evidence that air pollution, poor diet and a myriad of other factors are also harmful.

As an example, where is the evidence that “165000 kids dies from second hand smoking every year” come from? It's pure bullshit and has no scientific basis. It is impossible to attribute smoking and only smoking to those premature deaths. It is also the same with “A Billion Lives” that will be lost over the next century due to smoking, it's pure nonsense. There are thousands of factors which may lead to our ultimate demise – smoking may be just one of them, but only one of them.

To have any credibility, this project needs to expose the lies and not get embroiled in the Tobacco Control (and the E-cig Business) rhetoric. Smoking and vaping is about personal choice. There are many other potentially harmful personal choices that we all make every day. If we want to reduce our harm from nicotine, we shouldn't smoke lots of cigarettes, just as if we want to reduce the harm from alcohol, we shouldn't drink lots of it. E-cigarettes work because the give the smoker a choice of enjoying nicotine with a reduced risk of harm compared to smoking tobacco. Other products do the same, such as snus and NRT, but ultimately it is about CHOICE, not control or manipulation.

Sunday, November 22, 2015 at 21:47 | Unregistered CommenterRussell VR Ord

Unfortunately the original stats put out, from an article in the Lancet I believe, are themselves questionable. The stat in the film seems to be a misreading of the article/study. In order to be credible, you need to be trust worthy. Misquoting, for effect, undermines credibility. The trailer itself is out and has rightly been called on this.

There are risks associated with most life choices. If you drink alcohol you could reduce health risks by switching to orange juice as alcohol is a Class A carcinogen. Would bigging up orange juice, denigrating those who choose to drink, using temperance slogans to validate my choices be problematic with drinkers?

On an individual level, If a person who smokes asks about vaping, I am happy to give advice. Not knowing their current or future risks, I could not, in all good faith, tell them they would have an extended life if they switched.

This is all beside the point, the issue is not about whether vaping is healthier than smoking. It is about personal autonomy and the abuses of power by groups that do not like the choices individuals make.

Sunday, November 22, 2015 at 22:18 | Unregistered Commenterwest2

My take on the whole thing is here.

Sunday, November 22, 2015 at 22:29 | Unregistered CommenterDick Puddlecote

I think it is quite appropriate to use their figures. Whether they are true or not, they believe them so basically, it says if this is true, how can you demonized something that can reduce those numbers dramatically.

Sunday, November 22, 2015 at 23:56 | Unregistered CommenterKent

I understand the need to use the publication stats. But what really concerned me when I watched the trailer was the whole 'You're being lied to' thing. It comes across as conspiracy ranting and only current vapers will watch. We want everyone to watch this. We've got to stop preaching to the choir.

Monday, November 23, 2015 at 0:34 | Unregistered CommenterJanetda

Some seem to believe that showing up some 'public health' lies is useful. But all this film does is to repeat many of them and then add an additional layer of lies on top. So I'm with Pat Nurse on this.

The anti-smoker global cartel contradicts itself all the time without assistance from lackeys like these. I hope all sane vapers will condemn this utterly. Unfortunately, many have foolishly sought support from the anti-smokers, licking the bullies' boots in the hope of not being picked on.

All this film looks likely to achieve is to give these vile (anti-smoker) individuals a further public platform from which to spout their foul prejudices.

Monday, November 23, 2015 at 0:38 | Unregistered CommenterTony

The only comments here that I find offensive are those which suggest that smokers will die, will get cancer, and can only be saved by ecigs as Melody found when she switched.

Good for you Melody. REally. I'm pleased YOU found an alternative to suit and save cash. BTW, we don't have to sdwitch to ecigs to save a fortune. Most of us now are part of The Resistance. We buy cheaply abroad or grow our own. I save literally hundred snad hundreds of pounds. Agaian, there are other solutions that just switching to ecigs.

And puuleease, just because you've been saved don't try telling me or any smoker what you think would be best for us.

I am so very sorry to burst your bubble but I am not the only one who has smoked pretty much a whole lifetime with NO ill effects.

Why??? We would never find out because the only "truth" that people like you and tobacco control want to hear is smoking kills.
Clearly it doesn't suit everyone but you are no longer a smoker so don't speak for us.

Peddle your propaganda a miracle cure elsewhere.

Monday, November 23, 2015 at 12:23 | Unregistered CommenterPat Nurse

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