CDC tobacco science – discrediting another ridiculous vaccine myth

And today we have another vaccine myth to debunk – since the CDC tobacco smoking science was wrong 50 years ago, how can we trust them about vaccines? Of course, the problem with the myth is multi-faceted, typical of every anti-vaccine trope pushed on the internet.

Let’s start right at the top – is there any evidence whatsoever that the CDC tobacco science was anything but what we know today? Spoiler alert, nope, nothing there. 

I have kind of written about this subject recently, but that article focused more on the claim about “doctors endorse smoking” rather than the CDC. This is a more specific article debunking the old CDC tobacco claim – so annoying.

So, let’s get into another ignorant anti-vaccine trope/myth/lie that is used constantly used by the anti-vaxxers to dismiss anything the CDC says. They do this because they lack any evidence supporting their claims, so inventing a conspiracy is so much easier than accepting the truth.

Disgusting cancer-causing cigarette. Photo by Mathew MacQuarrie on Unsplash.

The facts about tobacco smoking

Maybe I’m naive, maybe I’m too focused on the lying anti-vaxxers, or maybe I’m spending too much time searching for Bigfoot, but there is a whole section of the internet that denies the links between tobacco smoking and any disease (see Note 1). These people think that tobacco smoking is perfectly safe.

Well, it isn’t safe, and the evidence is overwhelming. According to a report from the Surgeon General of the USA, the risk for smokers vs. nonsmokers are:

  • For coronary heart disease by 2 to 4 times
  • For stroke by 2 to 4 times
  • For death from COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) by 12 to 13 times
  • Of men developing lung cancer (including the trachea, bronchus, and lung) by 25 times
  • Of women developing lung cancer by 25.7 times

And it’s not just lung cancer that is linked to tobacco smoking. These cancers are also closely linked to smoking:

These aren’t invented links. We have known these links for nearly 140 years:

The CDC tobacco message has been consistent for half a century. Period.

So what about that CDC tobacco myth?

Let’s discuss the history of what major public health authorities have said about smoking. The Royal College of Physicians (UK) warned against smoking in 1962. The Surgeon General of the USA warned against smoking in 1964. Without a doubt, the CDC (and many other public health experts) have warned about the deleterious health effects of smoking for over 50 years.

Once there was an established link was shown between smoking and cancer (as I described in the previous section), the CDC and most public health authorities across the world opposed smoking by the mid-1950s. This occurred despite the strong opposition from Big Tobacco, whose ethics are only matched by the anti-vaxxers and Big Assault Rifle

The anti-vaccine crowd uses advertising from Big Tobacco that showed doctors smoking, or worse, endorsing cigarettes. But that wasn’t the “science” of the time. Nor does it indicate the CDC’s viewpoint on cigarette smoking either then or now.

Vaccine science is equal to tobacco science – the CDC has been correct on both for over 50 years.

The CDC used peer-reviewed science to support its concerns about cigarette smoking. Physicians were actually the first group to stop smoking (yes, physicians would smoke their cancer sticks in front of patients during the 50s). And some of the evidence that was accumulated by public health authorities was when physicians stopped smoking, the incidence of smoking-related diseases also dropped.

The CDC tobacco message has been consistent over the past 50-60 years – it’s bad for you. But the anti-vaccine zealots, lacking ANY evidence supporting their outlandish claims, invent this crackpot conspiracy as a weird strawman to contradict the CDC’s message on vaccines.

Notes

  1. I do not link to anti-vaccine (or any anti-science) website anymore. Why should any of us send traffic to those purveyors of ignorant nonsense? But if you’re really interested, you all know how to Google. You know, for real research

Citations

The Original Skeptical Raptor
Chief Executive Officer at SkepticalRaptor
Lifetime lover of science, especially biomedical research. Spent years in academics, business development, research, and traveling the world shilling for Big Pharma. I love sports, mostly college basketball and football, hockey, and baseball. I enjoy great food and intelligent conversation. And a delicious morning coffee!