Life and Smoking

Okay, now that you've used a little common sense to see that what you've been told might not be quite right, take a look at some facts.

Image found in the journal Nature (January 2006, Vol 6, No 1). Why did lung cancer rates rise so drastically when the fruits of reduced mainstream and secondhand smoke should have forced them to fall?

The people who have lived the longest on this earth have been smokers. Sound bizarre? Maybe you think that is more of the "mere rationalization" that people who smoke are supposedly prone to do. So, anyone who pays attention to reality and facts is merely rationalizing? Oh, dear. That doesn't make much sense, does it. So, let's just stick to the facts. Start with Jean Louise Calment, who quit smoking in her teens...her 100+ teens and died a few years later at the age of 122. Interestingly, the reason she quit was that her eyesight was failing and she was too embarrassed to keep asking people to light her cigarettes for her! No report is given as to whether or not she used Nicotine Replacement Therapy but it is highly unlikely. (Now, if that doesn't make you smile a bit, then you need to visit the ASDS recovery page.) For more long-lifers, visit "World's Oldest-All Smokers" to learn more about Zhang Shuqing (100+), Emiliano Mercado del Toro in "World's Oldest Man Celebrates 115th Birthday in Puerto Rico; Quit 76-Year Smoking Habit at 90", John McMorran in "Oldest American Man Dies at 113 [after giving up cigars at the age of 97]", and the long list that follows is rather too long to reproduce here. However, the section on the Italian Massacre (February 26, 2003) is worth repeating:

In the meantime, we get a full dimension of what tobacco does to people in other countries as well. The Italian daily "Libero" has just reported updates on the Tobacco Massacre of Milan last February 6th. Out of a population of 2.2 million in that city, there are 646 people whose lives will, inevitably, be cut short - shortly after they turn 100. Two of them are already 110, five are 109 and 12 are 106. Another 217 are only 100, 167 just turned 101, and 115 are 102. But that's not over. Over 35,000 Milanese are in the age range between 85 and 94, and another 92,000 are between 75 and 84. You can see them in the polluted Italian city with their dogs, in the typical little bars, indulging in despicable habits such as coffee, grease-filled brioches, alcohol and - worst of all - smoking Tuscan cigars that stink more than any diesel tailpipe, poisoning their peers. Some of them even "do" cigarettes, having indulged in the deadly habit for over 94 years. Imagine how dirty their lungs are. According to the daily, in fact, the overwhelming majority of these people either smokes, drinks, or eats fatty foods. Most even do it all. No wonder the heroic health authorities must intervene to stop the carnage. It's either now or never!

Says it all. Mind you, these centurians technically died prematurely because they smoked as noted in Those 400000 Smoking Victims Lived longer Than The Rest Of Us!

Also, take a look at how smoking prevalence by nation stacks-up against lung cancer at "Smokers Prevalence vs. Life Expectancy II"--and make note of the disclaimers at the bottom of the page and the link to the main page. If you'd like, you can read similar information in French in Statistiques : tabagisme et cancer du poumon (OMS 2002; 05 juin 2007)

For more of the supposed "mere rationalization," there is a rallying cry that probably does sound pretty outrageous to most people: Smoking is GOOD for you! Well, this isn't something that Reader's Digest will use to pander to the egos of antismokers! However, before we dismiss the idea outright, first consider what so many people have dubbed "Smokers' Paradoxes," such as how people who smoke fare better against Alzheimer's disease. As it happens, quite a bit has been studied on the beneficial effects of smoking. Whether or not you are prepared to believe that smoking is good for you, I suggest that you peruse some of the findings--because the evidence is substantial and the studies are what is often called "hard science" as opposed to the "soft science" of epidemiological studies. You know that there are times when having a smoke does calm your nerves and provide some measure of physical benefit. The most obvious example is having that oh-so-satisfying smoke after eating a meal. As it happens, that relaxation after a meal does improve digestion and people who smoke do tend to have better digestion. Other benefits are not so obvious but very real all the same. At the very least, consider some of the Therapeutic Effects of Smoking and Nicotine.

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Facts about Nicotine

When you think of "nicotine," the first thing that should come to your mind is "unstable." Yet, most people think of "addictive." You think nicotine is in the processed tobacco that you hold in your hand? Well, okay, try a little experiment. One true fact about nicotine is that it is a natural pesticide. So, if you can find some insects somewhere--say and anthill--then sprinkle some of your tobacco and see what happens. (Webmistress speaking here: Actually, I tried this myself some years ago because I really don't like chemical pesticides and I heard that nicotine was a natural pesticide from, of all things, an episode of The X-Files. Didn't work. I didn't discover the reason that it didn't work for several years.) Better yet, put a whole bunch of tobacco in a fire ant hill and tell your favorite rAnti to sit on it--because, hey, the nicotine killed the ants, right? Actually, don't do that because antismokers have not yet confronted their ASDS and are too irrational to know better.

As it happens, nicotine is very unstable in the air. The nicotine is found in the tobacco plant and it, happily, acts as a pesticide for that particular plant. However, when nicotine reaches the air or, certainly, when it is burned, it changes. This is the reason that people who say that there is nicotine in secondhand smoke are actually talking about cotinine. Another form of nicotine is nicotinic acid, also known as niacin and vitamin B3. This is probably one reason that young adults (teenagers) get "hooked" on smoking; they aren't addicted to nicotine but their bodies crave vitamin B3. (Teenagers are frequently deficient in various vitamins/minerals/nutrients. In the case of "B3 issues," may I suggest additional peanutbutter in the diet for those who do not have nut allergies.) So, you see, most of what you've heard about nicotine and addiction is pure bunk. Once you know the facts, you begin to see how Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) is...insane in a very irrational way.

A few additional notes need to be made concerning NRT. I know a woman who used NRT patches to quit smoking. She had been recently divorced and both she and her ex-husband had smoked. She is now one of the most irrational antismokers I've ever met--going into hysterics at the slightest hint of tobacco smoke and even going so far as to insist that she can "taste it" in the cooking of people who smoke. You don't need a doctorate in psychology to realize that she quit smoking as a means to "divorce" herself from her former married life. The patches that she used probably had a very real placebo effect in her quitting. She is the only person I've ever known to use NRT to quit smoking and not become "addicted" to the NRT device. I have another friend who used NRT gum to quit, only to spend most of her time nervously chomping on nicotine gum ever after. Young people have reportedly become addicted to NRT devices supplied by government-sponsored antismoking programs. Whether or not people are physically addicted to the nicotine in NRT devices is unknown because the young people simply enjoy the buzz from the nicotine and many adults use the devices as crutches to avoid their actual desire to smoke. However, two facts are abundantly evident:

  1. Finding true (i.e., "free-base") nicotine in tobacco products is as nonsensical as finding metallic sodium in table salt, and,
  2. NRT is probably not safe.

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