I just finished reading an alarming article from the American Journal of Public Health (Garder MN and Brandt AM The Doctors’ Choice is America’s Choice 2006 February;96(2):222-232) which reviewed the aggressive marketing of cigarettes and the influence of the tobacco industry on the practice of American medicine, including the AMA’s permitting multiple cigarette ads in their premiere journal, the Journal of the American Medical Association.
As this article points out, even before “modern epidemiological research would demonstrate the health risks of smoking at mid-century, there had already arisen considerable concern about the health impact of cigarette use.” [quoted from the article]. In spite of this, the medical establishment continued to accept advertising money for the pages of its journals, and permitted the tobacco companies to continue harping about how many doctors happened to smoke their particular brand of cigarettes.
This is a sobering and worthwhile article to read. Not only does it include damning images of actual print commercials of the day, but it points to the obvious, irrefutable fact that the most trusted authorities CAN BE WRONG. That is why the hoopla over recent studies purporting to show that vitamins are allegedly either pointless or dangerous, that fish oil supplementation will allegedly give men prostate cancer, and that testosterone supplementation will allegedly increase certain men’s risks of heart attacks get my hackles up so much. These assertions fly in the face of the scientific evidence, exactly as did the blasé permissiveness of the medical establishment of the early 20th century.
The take home messages: the “authorities” can be wrong. The scientific evidence is paramount. “Correlation does not prove causation.”
If in doubt, consult a physician who is an expert at the published peer-reviewed medical literature, that can access it UP TO THE MOMENT OF CONSULTATION, and can defend, with peer-reviewed studies (not merely the blathering of the collective idioti) the logical and defensible basis of what he or she is proposing.