tocacco plant Native American Tobaccoo flower, leaves, and buds

tocacco Tobacco is an annual or bi-annual growing 1-3 meters tall with large sticky leaves that contain nicotine. Native to the Americas, tobacco has a long history of use as a shamanic inebriant and stimulant. It is extremely popular and well-known for its addictive potential.

tocacco nicotina Nicotiana tabacum

tocacco Nicotiana rustica leaves. Nicotiana rustica leaves have a nicotine content as high as 9%, whereas Nicotiana tabacum (common tobacco) leaves contain about 1 to 3%

tocacco cigar A cigar is a tightly rolled bundle of dried and fermented tobacco which is ignited so that its smoke may be drawn into the mouth. Cigar tobacco is grown in significant quantities in Brazil, Cameroon, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Honduras, Indonesia, Mexico, Nicaragua, Sumatra, Philippines, and the Eastern United States.

tocacco Tobacco is an agricultural product processed from the fresh leaves of plants in the genus Nicotiana. It can be consumed, used as an organic pesticide, and in the form of nicotine tartrate it is used in some medicines. In consumption it may be in the form of cigarettes smoking, snuffing, chewing, dipping tobacco, or snus.

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Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming

No matter how overwhelmingly the scientific community may back a research study, naysayers can always find a scientist to support the global tobacco warmingopposing view on issues ranging from tobacco smoke to global warming.

According to science historians Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway, the same contrarian scientists keep popping up no matter the topic: Fred Seitz, Fred Singer and Bill Nierenberg, to name three. All physicists, Seitz and Nierenberg worked on the atomic bomb, while Singer, a rocket scientist, worked on observation satellites.

Oreskes and Conway have co-authored a history of these Merchants of Doubt. Their subjects have stood against the scientific consensus on a number of issues. They gained traction because a media concerned with fairness gave them equal time.

In 1953, a scientific study demonstrated that mice painted with cigarette tar developed fatal cancers. In December of that year, tobacco companies created the Tobacco Industry Research Committee (TIRC) to cast doubt on the link between tobacco and cancer. It worked. Between 1954 and the late 1970s, more than 100 lawsuits were filed against tobacco companies and not one plaintiff received money, the authors say.

In 1979, tobacco giant R.J. Reynolds hired Seitz, former president of the National Academy of Sciences, as a consultant. His credibility helped TIRC counter research linking smoking with health problems. As one tobacco industry executive put it in an infamous memo, “Doubt is our product.”

In 1993, the tobacco industry published Bad Science: A Resource Book, a handbook containing ideas for messages that could be used in sound bites to weaken scientific claims. Examples:

•Too often science is manipulated to fulfill a political agenda.

•Government agencies betray the public trust by violating principles of good science to achieve political goals.

•The Environmental Protection Agency adjusts science to support preconceived public policy prescriptions.

•Decisions based on bad science cost society heavily.

•EPA’s tobacco reports allow political goals to guide research.

•Proposals that target tobacco smoke are an excuse for new laws to take individual liberties.

Writing about secondhand smoke, Singer once said, “If we do not carefully delineate the government’s role in regulating (danger) … there is essentially no limit to how much government can ultimately control our lives.”

What Singer and Seitz did for tobacco, Nierenberg did for global warming. In 1995, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concluded that human-caused climate change was a reality. By 2004, global warming was becoming the scientific consensus. The National Academy of Sciences commissioned a study, naming to the panel economists and scientists including Nierenberg. A committee Nierenberg chaired could not get the economists and scientists to agree, so the synthesis supported Nierenberg’s economic argument.

The scientists had argued that a “wait-and-see” attitude was untenable, but Nierenberg discounted distant costs and ascribed the rise in temperature to the sun. Nierenberg’s message carried, even though other scientists such as Bert Bolin called Nierenberg “simply wrong.”

Eventually, most of the scientific community stopped working with Nierenberg, according to Oreskes and Conway.

Though a veteran of tobacco wars, Singer also joined the global warming fray. In an article on the topic, he said, “The scientific base for a greenhouse warming is too uncertain to justify drastic action at this time.” He had voiced similar reservations about acid rain and ozone depletion.

The authors give examples of conservative think tanks supporting the status quo:

•The George C. Marshall Institute opposes the views of the Union of Concerned Scientists, an advocacy group for environmental solutions that included late astronomer Carl Sagan.

•The Competitive Enterprise Institute, which promotes free-market economics and minimal business regulation, dismisses research of Rachel Carson, author of Silent Spring, a book decrying overuse of the pesticide DDT.

•The Advancement of Sound Science Center promotes the idea that environmental science on issues such as smoking, pesticides and global warming is “junk science.”

The center is operated by Steven Milloy, a self-described libertarian and columnist at Milloy once wrote an article blasting the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment, a report of the Union of Concern Scientists that explores the impact of a warming Arctic. At the time, it was not revealed that Milloy got money from ExxonMobil.

All in all, Oreskes and Conway paint an unflattering picture of why some scientists continue to stand against the overwhelming scientific consensus on issues at the center of public discussion.

By Seth Brown

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