What the British Medical Journal won't publish...and what they will


The BMJ has one of the best sites I've seen (bmj.com). Logically arranged and easy to navigate. The reader is invited to comment on the content and they publish on line within 24 hours just about everything. But not something I sent them. I phoned them and they told me it "has been put on hold".

No prizes for guessing why:


Dear Jeffrey R Johnstone,

Thank you for your response to an article in bmj.com . We will post it on our web site within the next 24 hours so long as it contributes to the topic under discussion and does not breach patients' confidentiality or libel anyone. All electronic responses are eligible for publication in the paper BMJ and its local editions, and a choice will be made about 4 weeks after the corresponding article has been published. Severe space restrictions in the paper journal limit us to publishing only 15% of all letters submitted. Unfortunately, we cannot inform you automatically if your response has been accepted for paper publication, but we are working on this problem. A copy of your letter is included below. Once your response is posted on the web you can see it by accessing the article you responded to and clicking "Electronic responses to this article" in the top right hand corner.

If you have any problems please contact me directly.


Yours sincerely,


Sharon Davies

Letters editor






"Trivial pursuit and worse"



<!-- article ID: 331/7525/1117 -->


<P> So legislation which bans smoking in pubs reduces the concentration of nicotine metabolites in the saliva of pub employees. That is not science but it is consistent with the history of the modern antismoking movement. Anything, no matter how trite, spurious or false can be published if it is antismoking. It is a trend which began 50 years ago. In 1950 Doll and Hill published the results of a preliminary study which showed that smoking was associated with lung cancer. But their results apparently showed that inhalers and noninhalers had the same incidence of lung cancer. In fact, as Fisher(1959) showed, men who inhaled were significantly less likely to get lung cancer A strange result given the hypothesis that Doll and Hill espoused. As Fisher said, "Even equality would be a fair knock-out for the theory that smoke in the lung causes cancer." But far more bizarre was the response of these investigators. When they began their major survey of smoking and health ( usually known as the British doctors study) the questionnaire sent to their subjects no longer included the question about inhaling (Doll and Hill, 1954). That is a scientific scandal.

<P> Posterity will judge harshly a generation of scientists who have looked on indifferently at such a debasement of the scientific method.


<P> Doll, R and Hill, A.B.(1950): "Smoking and carcinoma of the lung",

BMJ, pp739-748

Doll, R and Hill, A.B.(1954):"The mortality of doctors in relation to

their smoking habits", BMJ, pp1451-1455

Fisher, R.A.(1959): Smoking, Oliver and Boyd, London


<P>Competing interests:

None declared





Dear Dr Johnstone,

Thank you for your phone call on Friday enquiring about what had happened to your most recent response, as well as for your very positive feedback.I have chased up my colleague as promised. Unfortunately, we have decided not to post it because it does not contribute substantially to the topic and seems mildly attacking n an ad hominem way .The barrier for posting responses was raised in the summer as you will see in this editorial:


I am sorry to have to disappoint you at this time.

Best wishes,

Sharon Davies

Letters editor


And what they will publish: A letter suggesting that smokers should be murdered.






Smoke-Inhalation? How about Smoker-Inhalation Machines? 31 August 2002

Tony Floyd,

Medical Student

Newcastle University, Newcastle Australia



I refer to the suggestion contained in Frank Leavitt's response to Fichtenberg and

Glantz's Paper(1):

> One alternative which might be considered is the Japanese practice of installing

smoke-inhalation machines in or near public places.

Surely this does not go quite far enough? Why not have the smoker inhaled along with the smoke? They could then be turned into garden mulch, which would assist plants to grow and further help purify the air.As per my previous response there would be savings not only in less cancers, but in reduced rates of Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, asthma, diabetes and obesity. Johnson and colleagues(2) showed that children of mothers who smoke are significantly less intelligent when tested at both 3 and 5 years old.So, without smokers breeding, the average intelligence of the community would also increase. Smarter kids would be less likely to want to suck in cancer-causing filth, therefore even less smokers!Smoker-Inhalation machines may be a highly cost effective solution allowing us all to breath a little easier.


Tony Floyd


(1) Fichtenberg CM, Glantz SA. Effect of smoke-free workplaces on smoking behaviour:

systematic review. BMJ 2002; 325: 188-191.

(2) Johnson DL. Swank PR. Baldwin CD. McCormick D. Adult smoking in the home environment

and children's IQ. [Journal Article] Psychological Reports. 84(1):149-54, 1999 Feb.