Rush Limbaugh does his best impression of a 60's tobacco executive

Blog ››› ››› DAVID SHERE

On his radio show today, Rush Limbaugh once again proved to his listeners why the last person to whom anyone should ever go for reliable information is in fact Rush Limbaugh.

From the November 29 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Program:

[W]e have in our archives...a World Health Organization study that was suppressed when it came out. We have it....World Health Organization did a massive world-wide study of second hand smoke and they found it has no impact at all. Zilch, zero, nada, and it was suppressed, you can't find it. We have it. We kept it. ... All this is, I mean this is pure bunk. This is, all of this is just a crock.... This is just -- it's all lies. It's what the left does. Lies about our light bulbs, lies about global warming, and now lies about this. All for the express purpose of ending up controlling people's lives.... Secondhand smoke is harmless.

Take a second with that. Let it sink in.

Despite the fact that these claims practically debunk themselves, here's why (and I never get tired of saying this) Rush Limbaugh is wrong:

First of all, the World Health Organization didn't do a "massive world-wide study." For the 1998 study they interviewed 650 people with lung cancer and 1542 without it to see if those who were exposed to "environmental tobacco smoke" had a higher chance of contracting cancer.

I'll outsource the initial rebuttal to the group that commissioned the report, the World Health Organization. From a March 9, 1998 WHO press release:

The World Health Organization (WHO) has been publicly accused of suppressing information. Its opponents say that WHO has withheld from publication its own report that was aimed at but supposedly failed to scientifically prove that there is an association between passive smoking, or environmental tobacco smoke (ETS), and a number of diseases, lung cancer in particular. Both statements are untrue.

The study in question is a case-control study on the effects of ETS on lung cancer risk in European populations, which has been carried out over the last seven years by 12 research centres in 7 European countries under the leadership of WHO's cancer research branch -- the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC).

The results of this study, which have been completely misrepresented in recent news reports, are very much in line with the results of similar studies both in Europe and elsewhere: passive smoking causes lung cancer in non-smokers.

The study found that there was an estimated 16% increaseed risk of lung cancer among non-smoking spouses of smokers. For workplace exposure the estimated increase in risk was 17%. However, due to small sample size, neither increased risk was statistically significant. Although, the study points towards a decreasing risk after cessation of exposure.

In February 1998, according to usual scientific practice, a paper reporting the main study results was sent to a reputable scientific journal for consideration and peer review. That is why the full report is not yet publicly available. Under the circumstances, however, the authors of the study have agreed to make an abstract of the report available to the media.

"It is extremely important to note that the results of this study are consistent with the results of major scientific reviews of this question published during 1997 by the government of Australia, the US Environmental Protection Agency and the State of California", said Neil Collishaw, Acting Chief of WHO's Tobacco or Health Unit in Geneva. "A major meta-analysis of passive smoking and lung cancer was also published in the British Medical Journal in 1997. From these and other previous reviews of the scientific evidence emerges a clear global scientific consensus -- passive smoking does cause lung cancer and other diseases", he concluded.

But why should we believe the World Health Organization when it defends itself? After all, they're only supported by the National Cancer Institute, which says that "[more] than 50 of the toxic chemicals in secondhand smoke [are proven to] cause cancer" and "[o]ther toxic chemicals in secondhand smoke are suspected to cause cancer..." And that "[t]here is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke. Even low levels of secondhand smoke can be harmful."

Furthermore, the "11th Report on Carcinogens," produced in 2005 by the Department of Health and Human Services, says that secondhand smoke "is known to be a human carcinogen based on sufficient evidence of carcinogenicity from studies in humans that indicate a causal relationship between passive exposure to tobacco smoke and lung cancer." It goes on to cite dozens of studies which back up this claim. If your spouse smokes, your risk of cancer increase by 20 percent. Studies that were designed to "address possible systemic biases" in the research showed "an increased risk." These findings have been backed up by the International Agency for Research on Cancer. The Centers for Disease Control says that secondhand smoke causes ear infections, asthma attacks, respiratory symptoms, respiratory infections, hundreds of thousands of cases of bronchitis and ten thousand hospitalizations. In children. For adults, the effects are simpler: Heart disease and lung cancer.

But hey, if there's a big international government conspiracy to make us all believe that secondhand smoke causes cancer, then why should we believe all these government reports?

Well there's the Mayo Clinic, which says "[e]xposure to toxins in secondhand smoke can cause asthma, caner and other serious problems."

Or the American Lung Assocation, which says that "Secondhand smoke is a serious health hazard causing close to 50,000 deaths per year."

Or the American Heart Assocation, which says "[s]econdhand smoke causes cancer" and "other kinds of diseases and deaths," "may be linked to breast cancer" "kills children and adults who don't smoke, and makes other sick."

It's also worth pointing out that the article Limbaugh points mentions on his show, "Passive Smoking Doesn't Cause Cancer - Official," comes from a 1998 edition of the U.K. Sunday Telegraph. The only "expert" quoted in the story is "Dr. Chris Proctor, head of science for BAT Industries, the tobacco group," who said "If this study cannot find any statistically valid risk you have to ask if there can be any risk at all. It confirms what we and many other scientists have long believed, that while smoking in public may be annoying to some non-smokers, the science does not show that being around a smoker is a lung-cancer risk."

This type of disinformation is nothing new for the influential entertainer. As far back as 1994 he was making similar unfounded claims, as evidenced by this blistering fact check from Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting. They reported that Limbaugh, on the April 29, 1994 edition of his radio show, informed his viewers that "It has not been proven that nicotine is addictive, the same with cigarettes causing emphysema [and other diseases]." FAIR goes on to report that "Nicotine's addictiveness has been reported in medical literature since the turn of the century. Surgeon General C. Everett Koop's 1988 report on nicotine addiction left no doubts on the subject; 'Today the scientific base linking smoking to a number of chronic diseases is overwhelming, with a total of 50,000 studies from dozens of countries,' states Encyclopedia Britannica's 1987 'Medical and Health Annual.'"

Full transcript after the jump.

LIMBAUGH: Anyway, here's the story that I mentioned earlier: "Secondhand smoke kills more than 600,000 people worldwide every year, according to a new study. In the first look at the global impact of secondhand smoking, researchers analyzed data from 2004 for 192 countries. They found 40 percent of children and more than 30 percent of non-smoking men and women regularly breathe in secondhand smoke. The study was paid for by the Swedish National Board of Health and Welfare and Bloomberg Philanthropies. 'This helps us understand the real toll of tobacco,' said Armando Peruga, program manager at the World Health Organization's tobacco-free initiative, who led the study. He said that approximately 603,000 deaths from secondhand smoking should be added to the 5.1 million deaths that smoking itself causes every year."

OK, now, we have in our archives and our essential stack of stuff at, we have a World Health Organization study that was suppressed when it came out. We have it. I want CoCo Junior to link it back on the home page today. World Health Organization did a massive worldwide study of secondhand smoke, and they found it has no impact at all. Zilch, zero, nada. And it was suppressed, you can't find it. We have it. We kept it. We copied it ourselves, not relying on their website. All this is -- I mean, this is pure bunk. This is -- all of this is just a crock. I look at this, this kind of stuff, this debate's been going on for 30 years. I don't know how many people have been around secondhand smoke all their lives. This is just -- it's all lies. It's what the left does. Lies about our light bulbs, lies about global warming, and now lies about this. All for the express purpose of ending up controlling people's lives. That -- that report that I talked about, we first revealed it March 22 of 2001. Secondhand smoke is harmless. "Passive smoking doesn't cause cancer: official," that's the headline, and we'll link to it. We've got it, it's in our essential stack of stuff, but we'll make it prominent on our web page this afternoon, so that you can look it up tonight when you get around to it.

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