Wednesday, May 21, 2003

Tobacco Road: My wife (that's Mrs Enobarbus) brought back some cigarettes from Ukraine. They're actually called "Cossack." Sounds like they should have extra tar. So what's the first news story I see this morning? Reuters: "World Health Body Adopts Historic Anti-Smoking Pact." Folks, this is just the start. International busybodydom, bad as it is, is in its nascent stages. Wait until the EU really gets humming. Bureaucrats in Brussels will come over to your house to make sure you're flossing (and that you don't let the water run while you brush).

So the article says that the WHO is aiming to "[break] a habit that kills nearly five million people a year." This figure is later explained in this sentence: "The U.N. health agency says 4.9 million people die each year from cancer, cardiovascular disease and other conditions linked to smoking ..." What a nightmare of a sentence. (Reuters, like many other news agencies, seems to be staffed by illiterates.) So 4.9 million people die a year from diseases linked to smoking? Does that mean that scientists believe that these diseases often have tobacco use as a contributing factror, or does it mean that doctors have determined that tobacco use was a contributing factor in each of the 4.9 million specific cases? It's a big difference. (And go read Balko on MADD and RWJ Foundation and their method of "linking" alcohol and car accidents. Same kind of pseudo-scientific crap in the service of the lifestyle police.)

Actually, the fault for the lack of clarity doesn't lie entirely with Reuters. Any branch of the UN knows how to play the vague-press-release game. What does it matter what the "link" between smoking and disease is (never mind the ever-weakening link between second-hand smoke and disease) as long as the bureaucrats get their budget increase every year?

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