A gentleman dropped by the JREF a couple of weeks ago, and left this flyer (PDF) for us. As skeptics, we're committed to considering new data, and this flier with its title "Are You Smoking Enough to Stay Healthy?" made us wonder what we were missing. Please read this "enlightening" piece of literature before continuing.

According to the flier, smoking can do amazing things, like prevent alzheimers and some forms of cancer. It can also improve memory and mental acuity. And while this goes against everything we've ever been told, there is some truth to it.

Did I just say that? Smoking has some health benefits? Yes, some studies say it does. Don't believe me? Check out The Straight Dope for more on that.

Ok... so wow, could Dr. Douglass be right? Are we being lied to about smoking, and should we start smoking today to protect our health?

First, note the spelling of the final syllable of his last name. While this method of detecting BS isn't reliable, it seems to be accurate in this case.

Second, apply some critical thinking. Dr. Douglass is selling this information. He's making claims without presenting any backing data, and asking you to pay for the information. His motivation is to compel you to buy his product - not to give you reliable information. While this alone doesn't call his data into question, it is important to consider.

Third, the organization that named him "Doctor of the Year" was investigated by Dr. Steven Barrett of Quackwatch in 1993. In summary:

The National Health Federation (NHF) is an alliance of promoters and followers who engage in lobbying campaigns and many other activities. It is antagonistic toward established medical practices and uses the words "alternative," and "freedom" to suit its own purposes.

Read the full article to see a very interesting list of indictments against some of the organizations members. It's tragic that there are enough discredited doctors that they can actually band together and create a false sense of credibility with a pseudo-scientific organization.

While it is true that there are some studies, good studies in fact, that show a relationship between smoking and specific health benefits, the absolutely slam-dunk overwhelming evidence points to one simple conclusion: smoking is a significant detriment to your health. And following the advice of Dr. Douglass is likely to be counterindicated as well.

I believe we have here another unscrupulous individual who is trying to profit by telling people what they want to hear, rather than what is supported by evidence. The fact that his advice could potentially be deadly encourages me to add him to the same list that includes Kevin Trudeau, John of God, and Peter Popoff. And sadly many others.