Peter D Finch

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Dr Peter D Finch was a statistician with both Monash University and with the Australian National University who worked for the tobacco industry both directly, and via the Institute of Public Affairs. He occasionally styled himself 'Professor'.

He was one of a group of statisticians who were easily recruited as cigarette company supporters because, given the right financial incentive, a technical statistician can always dispute any findings made by other biostatisticians or biomedial researchers who rely on the accumulation and processing of data to support his/her findings. All the purist statistician has to do is to say, in effect, that the data isn't totally convincing. And it never is, when considered in isolation. The trick is for the statistician to never venture into making claims to have any knowledge of actual biomedical field, but to stay pure to his expertise in numbers. He must stand only on his own mathematical credentials; then he is unassailable in the public arena.

Documents & Timeline

  • Prof of Stats, Monash Uni, Australia
  • FOREST Information Pamplets
    • Professor Peter Finch, "Lies, Damned Lies..: A Close Look At the Statistics on Smoking and Health," 10pp, £1.00
    • Professor Peter Finch & Dr. Peter Lee, Addendum: "Regarding Smoking, Health and Statistics : An Exchange" 4pp £0.25 [2]

[Note Peter N Lee was the statistical Tweeledum to Finch's Tweedldee in the United Kingdom]

1963 Mar 30 Australian Bulletin magazine article,"Does Smoking Cause Cancer: Another pseudo-scientific fad" by Michael Kelly MD. [Republished from the Melbourne quarterly "Twentieth Century"] He is attacking a statement on smoking made by

Dr W Summons (Age, November 22, 1962, on, behalf of' the Council of the Victorian Branch of the AMA. (Australian Medical Association)

In an excellent letter (Age, November 28) Mr PD Finch, a University statistician, showed the extreme vulnerabiliity of Dr Summons' position in relying on statistical tables to prove that smoking causes cancer.

Whereas the collection of data such as statistics, says Finch, is the province of medicine, the prime responsibility in the analysis of' the statistics lies with the statistician. Further, a distinction must be made between the nature of' the evidence required to convince a scientist that there is an association, and the evidence required to convince a layman that his smoking habits are subjecting, him to risk.

Finch pointed out that individual statisticians differ in their interpretation of the relevant data, and no qualified statistician can assert that smoking is a proved cause of cancer: On one point, says Finch, Summons actually misled his readers by suggcsting that inhalers have a higher incidence of lung cancer. For the figures of Doll and Hill show a lower incidence in inhalers than puffers, and that is why many statisticians are not impressed.
Finch was overwhelmed on, three successive days by (1) a statement by Dr Dickson, secretary of' the AMA (Novcmber, 29), (2) a letter from Sir Macfarlane Burnet (November 30) NS (3) a long, letter from the Victorian Government statist, VH Arnold.
{Note:The writer was heavily influenced by Sir Ronald Fisher's views about constitutional basis for lung cancer -- extensively detailed here.] [3]

1989 There appears to have been a Peter Finch working in the field of statistics for British-American Tobacco (BAT) in 1989.

1990 Winter issue of Policy , published by Centre for Independent Studies.

  • "The Lalonde Doctrine in Action: The Campaign Against Passive Smoking" by Peter D Finch, Foundation Professor of Statistics, Monash University.

He writes complaining that the Canadian LaLonde Doctrine has politicised health promotion. He quotes Goran Pershagen, C Snow (unknown), Peter N Lee, and Ted Sterling (all know well-known as tobacco-funded scientists). [4]

1990 'Private and Confidential' Philip Morris Discussion paper looking for ways to improve their pariah status encloses

Two articles by Professor Peter Finch, a leading academic statistician, which points the way to how we can effectively counter the key epidemiological claims against us. After all, it is such claims which constitute the essential and most damaging weapon of our opponents. [5]

1990 Confidential Discussion paper for Philip Morris "Some Reflections on Our Present Discontent - or Why We are Losing the Public Affairs War on Tobacco?" It makes a large number of points (and admissions):

  • It seems fairly clear that we are losing far too many battles far too quickly.
  • A major crunch is near [] a tightly constrained and perilous "end game".
  • The Economist (Sep 15-21) [a long-term tobacco/business ally] reported uner the title " Advertising under siege, "The drug which Raleigh introduced to Europe now kills about 3 million people a year around the world, and the number is rising fast ." It then goes on apropos of the current wave of imposed or threatened advertising bans, to say, that the "temptation to support such bans is immense -- not least because of the obvious self-interest and fraudulent arguments of the tobacco and alcohol lobbies . . .The heart urges a ban on their lying killers" (this presumably is a reference to us!) .
  • we will find that within 12 months we could well lose our advertising and sponsorship, and a good deal of our marketing freedoms in most of our major markets. Defeat, like fear, is contagious . Once people sense surrender is in the air, the collapse of the whole operation can come with enormous rapidity.
  • We must, fundamentally, face the fact that the health issue drives every other issue. Not to even respond to the health issue, which is increasingly the case, simply confirms our "guilt" in the eyes of both the public and the politicians. It suggests intellectual and even moral bankruptcy.

He then includes the Economist article and

Two articles by Professor Peter Finch, a leading academic statistician, which points the way to how we can effectively counter the key epidemiological claims against us. After all, it is such claims which constitute the essential and most damaging weapon of our opponents. [6]

1990 May Peter D Finch, "The health effects of smoking: misreading the evidence". Policy (Spring 1990) [Follow-up to earlier article)

1990 Nov/E Peter D.Finch, "The Lalonde doctrine in action: The campaign against passive smoking." published in the magazine Policy (Winter 1990)

[Note:The magazine 'Policy' was an political-economics polemic published by a far-right/libertarian Australian think-tank in Sydney, The Center for Independent Studies.] In this article he also references two of industry-funded pseudo-research publications:
  • one by a notorious tobacco industry's scientists, the Canadian -- Theodor D Sterling, (1977), "New Evidence concerning Smoking and Health", which was published in the Medical Journal of Australia, 15 October, pp. 538-42
  • the second by one of their favourite UK scientists Peter N Lee (1988), "Misclassification of Smoking Habits and Passive Smoking," Springer-Verlag, Berlin

1990 Dec /E Peter Finch, Foundation Professor of Statistics at Australia's Monash University, points out some of the dangers of the increasing politicization of health promotion in two articles in Policy magazine .

The author goes on to discuss the Lalonde doctrine's [Precautionary principle] influence on the ETS debate in Australia. The Australian Institute of Health, inits 1988 biennial report Australia's Health, acknowledges the doctrine as having had a "major impact on thinking about health, health services, health promotion and illness prevention"

Finch claims that health promoters have created a phobia among the public by reports on findings on ETS and disease. According to Finch, antismokers have deliberately suppressed qualifications and uncertainties in studies on ETS; he suggests that this tactic was used in the presentation of the 1981 studies on ETS and lung cancer by Hirayama and Trichopoulos. [Note: Two biomedical studies that found smokers created health problems in non-smokers]
He also disputes claims that reductions in smoking bring about substantial savings in overall health costs. According to Finch, "This is likely to be seen as a persuasive argument by a government trying to provide health care at a manageable cost". [7]

1991 "Lies, Damned Lies …" by FOREST, the tobacco-industry funded-and-run smokers' rights organisation in the UK. FOREST credits Finch as being at the CIS. (The CIS = Centre for Independent Studies is the Sydney-based sister organisation to the Melbourne-based IPA.) [8]

1991 Peter Finch with Lord Harris of High Cross and Chris R Tame of FOREST, "Lies Damn Lies -- A close look at the statistics on smoking and health."

Ralph Harris was Margaret Thatcher's 'elevated' friend, political manipulator and advisor. Along with Sir Antony Fisher, Harris was the founder of most of the right-wing think-tanks in England and a fair number in the USA. [They tapped into the tobacco funding, and the industry shared their mutual affection.) [9]

1991 Manhattan conference on risk - (Type-in Bates Number) 2046768359

1991 with tobacco-scientists at conference (Type-in Bates Number) 507782490/2536

1991 Mar Mary O Pottorff ('Mopsy') at Philip Morris International's Corporate Affairs offices in New York had a bookshelf list for the period 1984-91 which included many 'consultants' associated with the Australian IPA/CIS [Those bolded]:

  • "Let's take a look at Smoking in a Free Society" which had essays by Ronald Brunton (IPA), Ronald V Conway, LJM Cooray (Macquarie Uni Law School), John Hyde (Liberal MP), JR Johnstone, Walter Jona (Victorian Liberal Member), Charles D Kemp, - (the rest are outside the IPA) = Bernard Levin, Paddy McGuinness, Robert D Tollison and TE Utley. [All are tobacco lobbyists or linked to the IPA which takes tobacco funding]
  • "Health Scare, the Misuse of Science in Public Health" by JR Johnstone and Chris Ulyatt.
  • "Health, Lifestyle and Environment: Countering the Panic" by Peter Berger, Irving Kristol, Mark Mills, Aaron Wildavsky, Digby Anderson, James LeFanu, Petr Skrabbanek, Robert Browning, Peter Finch and J Raymond Johnstone.
  • "Environmental Tobacco Smoke in the Workplace" edited by WA Crawford.
  • "The Pharmacology of Nicotine" edited by [Prof] Michael J Rand and Klaus Thurau
  • "The Network: A guide to Anti-Business Pressure Groups" by Bob Browning
    Also one by a critic:
  • '"The Lung Goodbye" by the anti-smoking activists, Simon Chapman of Sydney University [10]

1991 May 21 Peter Finch also spoke at tobacco industry conferences, along with his editorial associate from the IPA, [J Raymond Johnstone]. Also on these speaking lists were other tobacco industry scientific lackeys:

With the possible exception of Mills, all the speakers here were in the pay of the tobacco industry (the EPRI was linked) [11]

1996 July Peter Finch is mentioned also in John Luik's monograph "Smokescreen 'Passive Smoking' & Public Policy" which he wrote for the IPA and the Australian tobacco industry. Luik was a Canadian scientific lobbyist who was seen by the tobacco industry as being an expert at opposing the proposed legislation to impose 'plain packaging' of cigarette packets on the industry.

He was flown out to Australia, and given the help of Ray Johnstone a West Australian academic and assistant to John Hyde (the politican behind the IPA). They were housed at the IPA while Luik conducted tours, gave speeches, and generally provided propaganda on the need to retain the freedom to advertise, and the freedom to maintain a distinct identity on all products. [12]

1997 Nov Mike Nahan at the Institute of Public Affairs was writing to Bob Deards of the Tobacco Information Centre. This was the hurried replacement for the Tobacco Institute of Australia when its activities were exposed by the signing in the USA of the Master Settlement Agreement. Nahan is spelling out the IPA;s current services to the tobacco industry with an implicit request for more money. (See letter

Both the IPA in Melbourne and its associated Centre for Independent Studies in Sydney were getting annual retainers and special grants for specific lobbying projects from the tobacco companies, until this year.

    We are planning a number of things that will be of interest to your members.

    Deards 'members' were the main tobacco companies in Australia who were under attack.
  1. We are in the process of publishing a monograph by Peter Finch with a working title of "The Smoking Epidemic: Death and Sickness Among Australian Smokers". The monograph uses the anti-smoking lobby's own research to attack the conclusions they draw from the research. The monograph is currently with referees and, subject to successful passage of our review process -- which is expected -- we plan to publish June 1994.See Draft Copy
  2. Peter D Finch (A statistics lecturer at Monash University - not a "Professor" - although he used the title) was a serial supporter of the cigarette companies (as was the Institute of Public Affairs). He published pro-tobacco articles through a series of think-tanks which laundered tobacco money: Social Affairs Unit in the UK, the Manhattan Institute in New York, and the Melbourne Institute of Public Affairs. His associates were Christopher E Ulyatt and J. Raymond Johnstone - both with the WA Uni and John Hyde's Australian Institute of Public Affairs. They were collaborators with John C Luik from Canada who was brought out to Australia by the IPA to help the local tobacco industry obstruct (unsuccessfully) the first international 'plain packaging laws' for cigarettes.
  3. Secondly, we will be publishing an Australian version of a book by Steven Milloy entitled "Science Without Sense: The Risky Business of Public Health Research". This book is a lighthearted but hard hitting critique of junk science in public health. Mr Milloy is an American public health specialist and a lawyer. We will organise a national lecture tour to accompany the release of the book. This should be released in March 1998.
  4. Milloy was neither a lawyer or a public health specialist: he was a professional lobbyist hired to run a very successful (for a time) "junk science" operation known as The Advancement of Sound Science Coalition (TASSC). This had been set up by Philip Morris through their private PR firm, APCO. In the early days of the internet it became the source of anti-science propaganda: claiming that global warming, the toxicity of dioxins and DDT, and the claimed dangers of cigarettes, were all the results of "junk-science" conducted by biased researchers. Nathan and Deards would both have known of this connection by this date.
  5. Third, Alan Moran (IPA staff executive) is writing a feature article for the December 1997 Edition of IPA Review. It draws from three contemporary pieces of work: the revamped 'blue book' prepared by ACIL on the costs & benefits of smoking; a recent article of Robert Bork defending people's choice to smoke,; and the Alan's analyses in "Soaking the Poor". The article will address the issues from the viewpoints of the economics and morality of individual choice.
  6. ACIL was actually the cosmetic front of an 'Economic Consultancy" that had been retrofitted to the Tasman Institute. This was an associated (to IPA) libertarian advocacy operation which transformed itself into a semi-legitmate research organisation for right-wing governments wanting to justify privatisation of public assets. This Institute ran Project Victoria" for the Kennett Liberal government's privatisation program.
  7. Fourth, next year we plan to prepare a Special Lift-out in the IPA Review on the nanny state. The lift-out will be published and distributed separately from the IPA Review with a circulation in the vicinity of 8,000 [copies].
  8. The term "Nanny State"" to characterise the UK welfare system was invented for Margaret Thatcher by Keith Josephs and Ralph Harris of the London Institute of Economic Affairs and used very successfully by her in her campaign to become the UK Prime Minister. Harris then established two operations for the tobacco industry: FOREST, the Smoker's Rights organisation, and the European Science & Environment Forum (ESEF) which was the European version of the American TASSC (initially known by the US tobacco companies as "Euro-TASSC). It was run by Harris's assistant at the IEA, Roger Bate, but he didn't have the skills of Steve Milloy and the ESEF was only marginally successful in becoming the arbiter of what was 'sound science' and what was 'junk science'. It's most effective propaganda was the spread of the derogatory term "Nanny State" to suggest regulatory interference in personal choice -- and the organisation that spread this message so successfully in Australia was the Institute for Public Affairs.
  9. Fifth, staff of the IPA Review write a large number of op-ed pieces (over 200 last year) and are otherwise active in the media. In the ast we have written on a variety of issues of interest to you and we no doubt will continue to do so.
  10. Op-ed writing for the newspapers is still the main activity of the IPA, and the newspaper editors know that they will be well written (the IPA has a multiple input and review process) and they don't need to pay for the copy. They can always claim to justify the opinion as the need to balance views against those of most journalists.

    Of course other things may arise during the year, [13]