A very serious question — 40 Comments

  1. Possibly it´s because smoking gives enjoyment. Same as with fatty foods, drinking and all the usual suspects.

    Didn´t know that about mashed potatoes and nicotine, grandad. Thanks. I´m having that for supper tonight and I´m looking forward to it more than is usually the case.

  2. Welcome, Morris!  Yup.  Potatoes, tomatoes and sweet peppers all contain nicotine.  It’s amazing the things that come to light with a bit of research.  😉

  3. Heh!  The great irony is that anti-smokers ingest all of the chemicals and ‘pollutants’ attributed to cigarettes in far greater quantities than they realise every single day.  In other words – we should all be dead long ago.

  4. Good points Grandad. Here in the UK an autopsy on a man who has never smoked but was a sales rep for over 30 years and did a lot of motorway mileage with window open found he had the lungs of someone who smoked 40 a day for decades.

    It was the shit in the air (vehicle fumes) which gave him lung cancer. Before anyone whines about second hand smoke they first need to whine about getting rid of cars from major urban areas.

    Last Sundays UK Sunday Times (can’t link as it was a sidebar story) but so small I can produce it if challenged by digging the paper out this evening.

    Your point about ‘visibility’ is crucial- same reason alcohol advertising is attacked. Its the most visible element of those ‘vices’ and gives the people the idea they know everything about the subject.

    The most addictive drug known to man is- telling other people how to live their lives.

  5. Cap’n – Actually, I could take issue with you there.  Ask any pathologist, and they should tell you that it is almost impossible to tell a smokers lungs from a non-smokers lungs.  All those photos of ‘black smokers lungs’ are in fact from coal miners.  Also, the definitive cause of cancer is as yet unknown.  No one can say that something ’causes’ cancer.  They can theorise that it is a contributory factor all right, but genetics and diet seem to have a lot more to do with it.

    The visibility thing is interesting.  People have got such a massive hang up about smoking now that they hate to even see the things.  Very, very strange.

    And I agree with your last sentence.  Heh!

  6. Won’t bang on- but did you see the story that ‘the average Scot drinks 46 bottles of vodka a year’ in the last few days? ‘Medical research’ apparently.

    Looking closer at the story ‘sales’ includes all alcohol released through excise compounds and then divided by the adult population.

    Only one problem- much of the alcohol ‘sold’ into the market either sits on a shelf in a pub for over a year or is held in cages at distilleries and depots ready for sale- its not sales direct to consumers.

    Scotland produces all of the world’s scotch. There are huge containers of it which never move for years although its determined as ‘sold’ to the distributor because it comes out of production with a customs stamp.

    Manipulation of data in order to get knee-jerk legislation going. The Puritans lying again.

  7. Cap’n – Please do bang on.  Yes I saw that story, and it is typical of the manipulation of facts to promote their pet theories.  It’s like the anti-smoking crowd banging on about ‘massive drops in heart attack rates since the introduction of smoking bans’.  They neglect to mention that heart attack rates are on the decline anyway, and that the bans make no difference whatsoever to the rate of decline.

  8. Welcome, Mesmer!  I was afraid someone would ask me that!  I have them somewhere but it will take me a while to find ’em.  Bear with me, but in the meantime there was another report done by the American Surgeon General which came to the same conclusions.  Needless to say it has been deeply buried in the vaults.  Here it is.

  9. Almost had me believing there; for just a tick though – you put it so well. However, I am here today because I stopped my 20 a day; fact.

    Anyway, as to what causes cancer, recently I read that cancer is caused by a failure in cells to kill themselves when they become ill. Yep, cells are constantly replaced in the healthy human body aided and abetted by a specific suicide action in sick cells.

    The solution to this cellular activity is where most cancer research is now focused. Won’t be long now I’d say.
    .-= unstranger´s last brainfart .. Cape Mastered by Jessica =-.

  10. Unstranger – Had you going?  I know this is hard to stomach, but I am deadly serious.  They are making huge strides in their understanding of cancer, and as far as I am aware, the greatest cause is simple genetics.  Though it has been found that smoking actually can have an anti-carcinogenic effect [Yes – I am serious].

    Mesmer – I am having some difficulty finding on-line resources.  So far the nearest I have found is a report [not on-line, unfortunately] discrediting Doll, and reporting the discovery that there is a lower rate of lung cancer in inhalers than non-inhalers –

    Fisher R.A. (1959) Smoking, The Cancer Controversy, Some Attempts to Access the Evidence, Edinburgh; Oliver and Boyd

  11. Hi again Grandad- you are absolutely spot on re cancer. By far the greatest ’cause’ of cancer is genetic predisposition. The second is pollution (NOT including tobacco smoke but urban pollution). In third place we have lifestyle factors (heavy smoking and drinking together).

    The above can be seen in the World Health Organisation’s own World Cancer Report studies. Two years ago they were free to view on the WHO site but now you have to pay to access them I believe.

    11 million people worldwide are predicted to die of cancers caused by urban pollution by 2015.

    Know why this stuff is startling news? Because people can’t see what they are breathing in. Take a look on a summers day down any city street. That blue shit in the air isn’t from cigarettes.

  12. Richard Doll was asked about risk factors from secondhand smoke. His reply (which has enraged puritans ever since) was ‘its too small to measure’.

    The notorious anti-smoking ad showing a kid sitting on the stairs breathing out large plumes of smoke had to be withdrawn in the UK because it was not a fair representation of risks. I don’t smoke around kids or anyone who feels uncomfortable with smoking- fair enough.

    Buts its way past time the pointy headed Puritans were challenged on this stuff.

  13. Cap’n – I know only too well what traffic pollution is like.  Having worked right in the heart of Dublin, and now living in the wild mountains, the difference is unbelievable.  An you only have to see Dublin from the mountains to spot the haze of fumes any day.

    I know the WHO was commissioned to do research into passive smoking.  They produced their report which was rapidly consigned to the bin – they could find no significant health risks!

    TT – That is not at all like you?  Afraid of losing a debate?  😉

  14. Grandad- the WHO anti-alcohol brigade came up with the wizard idea of taking terminology from the anti-smoking crusade a couple of years back. They started using the term ‘passive drinking’ to describe anyone who lived in a house with someone who regularly consumed alcohol. ‘Passive drinking’- I kid you not. They did realise they’d gone a step too far though and quickly dropped the term when people started laughing.

    It boils their piss that sound medical evidence showing that a glass of wine a day for women had a protective effect against osteoparosis in later life. They hate that.

    Thing is- its not just wine although red wine is best as it has a high resveratrol content which also protects against heart disease. Thats why the French who smoke and drink away have a dramatically lower incidence of some diseases that are much higher in the UK or Ireland for example.

  15. No. But when you say,and I quote, “smokiing is not unhealthy” well there’s no point going there; is there. Think I’ll stick with my trained,experienced doctor’s opinion on this one.

  16. Cap’n – There was another case a couple of days ago of some heart surgeon who wants to ban butter!  He reckons it’s the cause of the massive rise in heart attacks in the UK [what rise??].   After a bit of sifting, it was discovered he was being funded by Flora.  That was just coincidental though……  😐

    TT – I know doctors say that smoking is unhealthy, but they are just repeating the Party Line that they were taught in college?  This whole ‘smoking kills’ thing has become so ingrained in society that no one questions it any more.  It is based on completely false data, unscientific surveys and no actual medical evidence whatsoever.  Incidentally, a doctor did confide in me once that he didn’t consider smoking to be that unhealthy, but he added that he could be struck off for saying so!!!

  17. Grandad, two technical questions: do you smoke cigarettes/tobacco, or just pipe? And, if you do smoke cigarettes, have you ever stopped for a while?
    And the main question: what you are saying, basically, is that smoking is not deteriorating for our health?
    .-= jedrzej´s last brainfart .. window sunsets, Sawmill Street, Cork =-.

  18. Another major factor in triggering cancer appears to be stress although I have not seen the data on that.

    This is my own take on it but it occurs to me that if you are to consider the amount of stress in modern life someone with a coping strategy is logically less likely to spark cancer from stress.

    Exercise is clearly a good stress cope strategy. But what happens if its discovered that smokers are more laid back because they smoke?

    Pipe smokers in particular look pretty laid back to me;)

  19. been off them for a year…actually a year and a quarter…some happy days smoking….some better ones since but there is nothing to compare with that first lovely smoke of the day or when you have just finished work or when you switch the computer on or when….ah fuck it…I miss smoking….sake stupid lungs and stupid asthma…
    .-= manuel´s last brainfart .. “Prat” =-.

  20. For as much as I’d love to believe this, citation from 1959 and 1965 aren’t going to cut it for me. Can’t you unearth better evidence? Please make an effort here, your message is not one to be taken lightly.

  21. Jedrzej – I used to smoke cigarettes about forty years ago but switched to the pipe.  I haven’t touched a cigarette since then [they taste foul!].  I did give up the pipe for a couple of years, but one of the reasons I went back was that Herself and friend nagged me, saying I didn’t look complete or as relaxed.

    What I contend is that cigarettes, in moderation [up to ten a day] are not only not bad for you, but can have beneficial effects.

    Cap’n – Stress is more than likely a factor.  Apparently a stress free attitude to life can add up to ten years to a lifespan.  Pipe smokers are in general a pretty laid back lot, so maybe this explains why they too have a longer life expectancy than non-smokers?

    Manuel – Yup.  The first is the best.  Whatever about health, think of the money you save?  Now you know why I haven’t been leaving tips – you don’t need the cash so much.

    Giuppi – Welcome.  Yes.  I realise I have been making some pretty outlandish statements, but this is not just a pet theory of mine.  For a start, I would suggest you read Smoke Screens” by Richard White.  This is a well researched study into the scientific evidence that has been produced by the various bodies in the past.  It is a very thorough book and rather frightening!

    Regarding the dates – I’m sure I can find more recent studies, but those just came to hand.  The original studies and research were done on the basis of finding a link between cigarettes and cancer [where they should have been studying a) whether cigarettes had any health effects or b) what caused cancer].  As they had a specific goal in mind, they naturally concocted the evidence.    The trend was set at that stage, and from then on research was accepted if it ‘confirmed’ the link or was rejected if it proved there was no link.

  22. Could not agree more with you Grandad, I have been smoking for 60 years and am considered to look and feel 20 years younger than I am. I think that some people should not smoke because of inherent respiratory problems which smoking can only exaggerate. Think about the French lady who smoked un-tipped French cigarettes for 100 years, gave them up and lived for another 11 years !!

  23. Grandad,

    You are fighting a losing battle here. I used to smoke 20-30 a day and now have it reduced to just smoking when I am having a drink, but constantly battle to rid myself of them completely. I know the smoking police are a pain in the arse, but you will probably find they are banging on about something else when its not smoking. Smoking damages your health and so does pollution. One doesnt cancel the other out!

  24. As an on/off smoker I’d love to agree with you on this one but can’t.
    However, I ‘d love them to tax the fuck out of coffee, that stuff really stinks. And I reckon they could lift a lot more tax off coffee than smokes, prevent a lot more heart attacks and make people generally more likeable without the physiologically unnecessary coffee jolt.
    Coffee, it’s the elephant in the room.
    .-= not twitter´s last brainfart .. Pfffft =-.

  25. Heh- I’ve an image of a coffee-coloured elephant standing patiently in someone’s living room now. Smoking a fag.

  26. Perfidious – Have you ever noticed that whenever they wheel out people well into their second century, that a lot of them are smokers?  Of course when they finally cough their last at 120 or whatever, the Antis still gloat and claim that smoking killed them.

    SAm – But am I fighting a losing battle?  As the campaign against smoking becomes ever more ridiculous [‘Third Hand Smoke’ and banning smoking in Central Park in N.Y. because of its hazards] people will begin to realise that there is no science behind it and hopefully will begin to question the whole charade.  And they are already turning their guns on food and alcohol.

    Not Twitter – Jayzus!!  Taxing coffee now?  Be very careful here – you’re sounding frighteningly like the Nanny State?

    Cap’n – Where did that ‘elephant’ expression come from?  Suddenly everyone is using it.  It pisses me off.  I like your image though.  🙂

  27. Grandad, I was going to say for once and for all get down of your horse about smoking. Of course I then remembered that this is your blog and you can ride whatever horse you like on it.
    As an ex smoker I do disagree with your view on the health concerns on smoking. ‘BUT’ I do respect your right to decide whether you should smoke or not. I am all for free choice. I do not condone the smoking ban or government actions to ban smoking. It is a no greater evil then many other vices. On the other had. People need to be educated at an early age about the dangers of smoking and other habit forming practices equally. I choose not to smoke. I can only hope choose the same.

  28. What about leading a rebellion against the smoking ban ? We can tell the powers that be we are going to do it, they cannot arrest us all, the jails are full already ! We can refuse to pay any fines so what could they do to us ?

  29. Think about it. More people drink coffee than smoke. If they go after coffee you’ll probably end up getting all the cigs you can puff at duty free prices.
    .-= not twitter´s last brainfart .. F*ck off, Bono =-.

  30. Thanks for the link you gave me Grandad (and for looking for the links to the Doll and WHO studies). I’m sure you aren’t making this stuff up – but – while I’m not a journalist- I’m at the point now that any time I learn of information like this I try to get verification and I don’t even trust to leave it on my hard drive – I make a printout of it. Thanks again and keep the faith.

  31. I appreciate that what I have said may seem a little off the wall, but like Mesmer, I don’t say things like this unless I have done some considerable research into the subject.  I have been studying the subject for the last couple of years [yes, Bubbles, it is a wee hobby-horse but I was pissed off by the smoking ban] and the more I read the more I disbelieved it.  But there comes a point where a virtual lifetime’s indoctrination begins to crumble.

    This is the point.  We have been indoctrinated with the concept of smoking being dangerous for so long that it is now as immutable in the public psyche as sunrise in the morning.  But once I realised that virtually the entire house of cards is built on false data and incredibly bad surveys, it suddenly all made sense.  The anti-smoking propaganda is just that – propaganda.

    For many many centuries, nicotine has been used in medication.  It has well known healing powers and is still used to this day, though they tend not to use the word ‘nicotine’ now for obvious reasons.

    Just as an example, smoking lowers the risk of Parkinson’s Disease –

    Similarly smoking reduces the risk of Alzheimer’s tenfold –

    They are just two examples out of many.

    I think maybe it is time to start an all out revolution against the ban.

    But not against coffee.

  32. Grandad, thank you for the new references. I had a brief look at them, and this is what I’ve found.

    “”It is not our intent to promote smoking as a protective measure against Parkinson’s disease,” Evan L. Thacker from Harvard School of Public Health emphasized in comments to Reuters Health. “Obviously smoking has a multitude of negative consequences. Rather, we did this study to try to encourage other scientists…to consider the possibility that neuroprotective chemicals may be present in tobacco leaves.””
    and at the end of the article:
    “The observation that smokeless tobacco users also have a lower risk of Parkinson’s disease suggests that the most likely candidates are not compounds generated by combustion, but rather constituents of the tobacco leaves.”
    which to me means that TOBACCO might have some beneficial properties. That doesn’t automatically make smoking a healthy habit though, as the researchers state clearly.

    The article tries to verify a genetics based hypothesis about the cause of “the inverse relation between smoking history and early onset Alzheimer’s disease”, and fails to do so.

    But a later study published by the some research group (three authors contributed to both articles) states “Smoking was associated with a doubling of the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease”
    Link here:$=relatedarticles&logdbfrom=pubmed

    I haven’t read “Smoke Screens” yet.

  33. My mother’s a secret coalminer! I’m in shock! All that huffing and puffing and stuff about asthma and COPD while really she’s been out lugging sacks of coal out of the depths of the ground somewhere. You’d at least think she’d be good for a discount on the stuff at this time of year!

  34. Giuppi – It’s the old story… For every document produced, there is another causing confusion.  I would advise reading ‘Smoke Screens’.  It os not exactly what I would call bed-time reading, but it is well worth the effort.  I would love to hear your opinion.

    Arhonda – Did the coal dust in the bed sheets not give it away?  I know when I send Herself out to shift a ton or two, she remains black for weeks after.

  35. I haven’t read all the comments, so I apologise if I’m just repeating what someone else has said, but it seems to me that the government has it both ways by vilifying smokers. First, they get the tax from the products, then they get to seem upright and concerned (or should that be ‘sanctimonious’?). Another benefit is that they get to choose who to treat on the NHS on the basis that smokers don’t deserve any transplant organs or lung x-rays (yes, OH got refused one of those during a BUPA health check which he’d PAID for, although he is completely healthy right now) and they’re picky about what else they’ll pay for if you smoke. Thus they save a truckload of money.

    This, despite the fact that research proves that nicotine is more addictive than most street drugs, so smokers are every bit as addicted as the guys shooting up heroin down the road – who, incidentally, have the NHS bods bending over backwards (and breaking all the rules) to help them.

    It’s completely unfair, and unconstitutional, especially when it comes to forcing pubs and clubs not to allow smoking on their premises.

    By the way, I’ve never smoked in my life, and in fact I’m highly sensitive to cigarette smoke in the air – it makes me cough and gives me asthma, and within minutes I sound like a gin-drinking, 50-a-day, barrow boy – er, barrow woman. It’s the injustice that gets me. I’d be perfectly happy for smokers to be treated like anyone else and not ostracised, providing there was clean air somewhere for me to breathe. In a place like a cinema, sure, it’s nice to have a ban, because otherwise I wouldn’t be able to stay there more than five minutes, but in a pub? Come on! What’s wrong with a smoking room? With proper ventilation and an extractor fan, what’s the problem? You’d only go in there if you smoked!

  36. Grandad, I tried to find other material supporting your view, but I could only find conspiracy theorists and other totally unreliable sources.
    Again, I haven’t read Smoke Screens yet, but I am kind of inclined to think it wouldn’t change much. But my mind is open, so if you have other points, bring them in.

    That said, since you title this post “a very serious question”, I would like to shift the perspective a little bit. Let’s admit that smoke is not worse than many other social plagues, which affect our health and wellness. Let’s admit that there are interests behind the war on smoking (by the way, do you know of any issue that doesn’t have interests behind? no, seriously). Ok, this is as much as I am willing to admit at this point 🙂 Under these assumptions, I would be more interested in finding out what the government should do to stop individuals or groups from behaving in ways that affect their own health and wellness. Or whether the government should do anything at all. Think seat belts, drink and drive, drugs, pollution related traffic blocks, smoke, waste recycling and many more things.
    How do you reconcile the public interest with the individual’s freedom of choice, the common sense with the epidemy of bad behaviours?
    I know you hate the idea of a nanny state. And so do I. But is reliance on individuals’ behaviours the best recipe for their own and the common good?

  37. Giuppi – The whole post did get a bit off topic.  My original question was why smokers in particular were selected for such villification.  There are lots of things I would cosider to be antisocial from chewing gum on the pavements through to drink and its horrendous fallout.  However, smokers are the only ones who are subject to a campaign of denormalisation and, quite frankly, hatred.

    I would consider myself a libertarian and am therefore opposed to the myriad of inane and insane laws that govern every move we make.  On the smoking front, I have no objection whatsoever to smoke-free pubs or places of work, but I think it should be the right of the people directly concerned to make the choice of their own free will.  If an establisment wants to be smoke-free then fine, but if it doesn’t then it should have that choice too.

    If there had been a plebiscite on the subject of the smoking ban then I might feel slightly differently, but this ban was imposed without any discussion whatsoever, which is not the function of government.  A government is there to carry out the wishes of the people and not vice versa.

    With regard to the Nanny State – I agree there should be a system of laws in place but it should be there to protect bystanders.  If I want to kill myself through overeating, electrocuting myself or not wearing a seatbelt then that should be my problem.  My personal welfare [through my own actions] should not be the business of government or anyone else.  Where the laws should come into force is only where my actions impinge on others.

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