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History of one manipulation, or how anti-tobacco activists create “facts” for themselves

Back in 2006, another scandal erupted in the world of anti-tobacco campaigns – the largest US tobacco companies were accused of artificially increasing the amount of nicotine in their cigarettes, while keeping it secret from the consumers themselves. The purpose, of course, was to increase the army of unhappy smokers with the mass of “addicted to nicotine” youth.

This “fact” is still appealed to by all kinds of “fighters”, however, without telling this story to the end. So, in this post I will tell you how it actually happened, and you will understand where and how all these “irrefutable arguments” come from, especially those who are especially stubborn on the subject of anti-tobacco campaigns.

So, in 2006, researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health, on the basis of study of the reporting documents of the tobacco companies, formed the accusation. According to statistics gathered from tests of the “smoking machine,” they found that between 1997 and 2005, the amount of nicotine in some of the most popular U.S. cigarette brands increased by 11 percent, and cartridges themselves began to be filled tighter and they burned for a greater number of puffs. The most important part of the accusation by the tobacco industry was the idea that it was an insidious scheme by the manufacturers, whose aim was to get the youth hooked on smoking their cigarettes faster by increasing the nicotine dose.

If you just turn on your brain, even at this stage you can read the obvious forgery. How so clandestine? Annual reports on the composition of tobacco smoke are freely available on each company’s websites and paper bulletins are issued. The “smoking machine” tests are conducted by companies independent of the tobacco companies. Another thing is that no one else reads these reports except specialists…

Pretty soon, this study became one of the most quoted and you can probably recall hearing something like this somewhere yourself. All thanks to the composition of the research team – these were not some activist students, but Gregory Connolly, the director of the Tobacco Control Research Program himself, was at the helm.

The researchers, led by Connolly, meticulously calculated that in 1997 it took 11.3 puffs per cigarette, and nicotine content was 1.7 mg, but in 2005 it took 12.4 puffs and nicotine level increased to 1.9 mg. These figures are not significant for the average person, but from the point of view of the “wrestlers” they are enough to make an accusation. And, yes, the statistics were enough to require the FDA (Federal Food and Drug Administration) to tighten control over tobacco and tobacco companies. And these tightening measures were enacted, at the legislative level.

And what about the tobacco companies themselves? In fact, they blamed giants like Philip Morris and R.J. Reynolds. Apparently they agreed with the accusation, if the tightening of the law did happen. No, they did, and they did. But they responded from the perspective of a reasonable person, which, as it turned out, is not inherent in the anti-tobacco campaigners.

What arguments did the tobacco people provide? It’s simple – the data obtained from the “smoking machine” can not be 100% objective, proven by imperfect technology – this is one. And two – the tobacco itself, as a plant, it is very plastic and the nicotine levels in it can change depending on…

The weather! If the year of harvest is rainy and warm, the nicotine production in the plant is suppressed, and if it’s dry and hot, then exactly the opposite. This argument was made not even by representatives of tobacco growers, but by Dr. Bill Collins, the coordinator of tobacco programs at the North Carolina College of Agriculture.

Another point that did not come to the attention of the “researchers” from Harvard is the very technology of tobacco bag distribution. Before it goes into cigarettes, the tobacco crop lays in company warehouses for about 3 years and as such, the linkage to the weather and the nicotine drop in the final product in their study did not coincide. We could have checked all this with the tobacco companies themselves, at the time of the study, but… But, apparently, in this case the pre-planned result of the “research” would not have been achieved.

Michael Siegel, a professor at Boston University’s School of Public Health who has been involved in tobacco control for more than two decades, also defended the tobacco industry and publicly questioned the Connolly team’s findings. According to Siegel, it is precisely cigarettes with reduced nicotine and those that burn faster that make smokers buy them more often.

But all the arguments of the defense were in vain, they say that if the tobacco growers had defended their rights more actively, things could have been different. After all, this conflict was actually born even earlier. In 1994, on ABC’s Day One TV show, a certain “expert” had already made similar accusations. And without any research! The reaction of Philip Morris was unambiguous – ABC was sued for $10 billion for defamation! ABC’s Board of Directors eventually had to repeatedly and publicly apologize to Philip Morris and pay all the legal expenses checks.

But the nonsense said publicly, repeated many times before the next “studies” in 2006, became almost a court-approved “fact”, which made the very precedent set by Connolly possible. And such “facts” and “independent studies” are a dime a dozen in today’s anti-tobacco campaign! And, yes, in the era of the Internet, one can no longer risk the capitals of pocket information agencies – it is enough to throw “meat” to voluntary “fighters” and they will spread any nonsense around the world as a “light of true knowledge” ((