August 31, 2011

The Tobacco Debate-Main Course

Do tuck in.

First, can we get that old "I have a right to fresh air" myth out of the way? No such right exists, and even if it did, it is unenforceable. Shortly after we fell out of the trees, started to walk upright, discovered fire, then discovered how to start a fire and control it, fresh air went out of the window cave. Since those days we have been breathing in whacking great lung-fulls of smoke and we haven't stopped. Not ever. The make up of the smoke may have changed, but we have continued to ingest it, (or far worse, since the Industrial Revolution), and despite the fact that wood, coal or charcoal emits 10,000 times more carcinogens, cancer was a rare beast. Before 1900 or so, cancerous tumours were almost unheard of. Strangely, when the motor car began to be mass produced, cancer cases rose exponentially. I know, like you do, that correlation does not prove causation, but it is a mighty strange coincidence, is it not?

Luckily, for the governments of the day, there was a scapegoat waiting in the wings.

This wee beastie:


Nicotine protects against a nasty condition called Pellagra. All smokers are naturally protected but governments knew that they had to protect all the non-smokers too. They launched Nicotinic Acid as a supplement to our daily diet. The anti-smokers were horrified. They campaigned and had the name changed to Niacin (a contraction of nicotinic acid) but still, the more idiotic amongst them continued to howl. Eventually the name was changed to vitamin B3. Someone should have told Kellogg. Check the ingredients in that bowl of cereal. Someone should have told Warburton. Check the ingredients in your daily bread. In fact, Niacin is part of your daily diet whether you want it or not. It is in dozens and dozens of products.

Nicotine protects against Alzheimer's Disease (AD). If you prefer your news from an anti-smoking source, you can start with the BBC. If you want to dip into one of my favourite sources of information, pop along here and read away. Non-smokers, you will discover, have higher incidences of AD, Parkinson's, Colorectal cancers, ulcerative colitis and even Tourettes Syndrome, for fucks sake.

From the same piece you will notice that smokers have better cognitive abilities too!

Quitting smoking kills you stone dead. People are often amazed when I quote the figures from this study-unique in the field of science, most anti-smoking groups (who fund these studies) stay the hell away from facts like these. (Note the usual caveat "Smoking is very bad for you and you must quit").

Pub closures cost the Treasury big time.

Pub closures since the bans were enacted here and here.

From my own recollection, the number of closures in England in 2005 were 102, in 2006 it was 204, and in the last six months of 2007 (the ban took effect in July) the number of closures was over four thousand. Please note that this was 7 months before the recession/downturn kicked in. The anti-smokers always blame the economic downturn and they are always wrong about it.

How smoking protects against lung cancer. One of my all time favourites. The logic, and the evidence, is stunning.

Of course, every anti-smoker you come across will say "Second hand smoke has killed hundreds of thousands of people this year alone!"  My standard reply to them? Name three.

Anti-smokers misquote or downright lie about the available studies on second hand smoke all the time. If you want a close look yourself, you need to understand the difference between relative and real risk. They are a world apart. Scoot back over to Dave's place and bone up statistical risk. I guarantee that the very next story you see in the Daily Mail wailing that the sky is falling, you will understand why it isn't falling at all.

Once you graduate from Statistics 101 you are ready to go visit Forces International to see all studies between 1981 and 2006, and you can see at a glance which studies were statistically significant and which ones weren't. I won't spoil the surprise for you.

I'll stop there. You have a fair bit of reading to do to understand why second hand smoke is about as harmful as a pixies fart.

But let's end with good news: Tobacco will be used in the fight against cancer.

If I have missed anything you care deeply about, or feel that I have not proven my case, do let me know and I will provide more links than a sausage factory.



Antony said...

Surely the time has come to organise a new private study into smoking and the effects, particularly with regard to the nuclear testing.

I remember the video you had on here a while back showing the number of nuclear tests across the world over a period of time, and found it very thought-provoking.

We have a friendly rogue scientist in the form of Leg-Iron. Perhaps he could advise on how much such a study could cost, what equipment would be required and, I suppose, whether it is even possible.

If there is one way to bring a Government and all its attached rent-seekers to heel, it would be in the form of payouts to everyone who has suffered lung cancer.

Chez said...

Hmmm, interesting stuff.

I can readily believe that a government and bureaucracy, once enamoured of an idea, won't give it up because to do so would be to admit they were wrong. Most readers here could readily accept that, I'm sure.

In fact, from what I've read (principally "Why we get fat, and what you can do about it" by Gary Taubes) something similar has happened with obesity. "They" got fixated on the wrong thing, and so now there's a major anti-fat thing going on when it's carbohydrates that are the problem (I'll spare you a synopsis of the book, but the short version is that carbs cause blood sugars which are toxic in high levels, so your body produces insulin which tells your body to store fat and burn blood sugars. Hence you get fat. Plus a load of other things.)

A couple of things that sit uneasily with me, though:
1) All the scientific articles mentioned in the "Nicotine benefits" page are are pre-2000.
2) The nuclear fall-out argument is interesting, but didn't list any studies to back up the assertions about cancer incidence. I'd be surprised if the big anti-nucs lobby hadn't looked into this angle.
3) Some of these linked articles twitch my swivel-eye meter. There's a lot more bald assertion and less admission of complexity than I would expect from "real life." This is not to say it's wrong, just feels like a partisan piece rather than an objective review.
4) The part about no lab rat ever being given lung cancer by tobacco smoke just doesn't sit right. For the number of times and places this issue has been studied it would take one hell of a conspiracy to suppress that result, and that makes me sceptical.

Overall, I am sure the Authorities are not giving us the complete and nuanced view. I would expect tobacco to have both good and bad effects, but that is clearly verboten to say. The "tobacco doesn't cause lung cancer, in fact protects against it, the real culprit is atmospheric nuclear tests" claim is a biggie and requires correspondingly big evidence. For me, the nuclear side to that argument is plausible (although means we're all screwed, cheers), but I'd like to see more evidence.

Span Ows said...

Great post...from a non smoker. Knew all about niacin etc. btw, There are so many chemical compounds in plants that have medicinal benefits (not actually the case here, they're just using tobacco as a 'tool'). Not sure about the higher FUCKING BASTARD CUNTING incidences of AD, Parkinson's, Colorectal cancers, ulcerative colitis Tourettes Syndrome though.

Captain Ranty said...


The trouble is, these studies cost money. A lot of money if they are to be done correctly, get peer reviewed and get published.

All of the campaign groups I know of have no money whatsoever. Big Tobacco are terrified to get involved and any research paid for by them is tainted right from the get go.

The same, however, is never said about Big Pharma who have much to gain by selling their "clean" nicotine.


Captain Ranty said...


I was aiming for a mix of evidence against the "harm" SHS is alleged to cause, and to point out some of the benefits of using tobacco.

I am not claiming that smoking is the mecca of all things healthy, merely that it is not quite the monster we are led to believe.

As to the age of some of the research I link to; it has been a while since I went on the hunt for new material. I can do that if people are interested enough in a follow up in a few weeks.

My main aim, I think, was to offer food for thought, hence the titles of these pieces.

In many ways this post just scratched the surface.


Captain Ranty said...


I left out several elements of the argument.

I could have explained about the 4,000 chemicals in tobacco smoke. Some say there are up to 11,000 which is fine by me. They were too tiny to harm me when there were 4,000 so if they keep adding more to the pile they do me even less harm. I hope that they one day discover there are over 1,000,000 chemicals in each smoke.

The whole anti-smoking thing was never about health anyway, not mine as a smoker and not yours as a non-smoker. It is only ever about money and control.

Both sides (Big Tobacco & Big Pharma) are addicted to our money. The government simply cannot keep their hands off our money so there are three competing factions without thinking too hard about it.


ranksoftheinsane said...

Ranty, while I agree with much of what you say, the whole smoking thing is getting very fucking tiresome, to the point where I'm almost not bothering to visit your blog anymore (I'm sure you're gutted about that).

I couldn't give a shit if you or anyone else wants to smoke themselves into an early grave - that's your choice. Just don't do it around me, ok?

Yes, I know there's no proof "passive smoking" is actually a health issue - that's not the point. Like many non-smokers, I find smoking a fucking disgusting habit, and don't want it anywhere near me. Your "right" to smoke does not trump my "right" to breathe air free from the revolting stench of cigarettes.

Smoking is a lifestyle choice. In the same way that I don't want some veggie fucktard coming round my place and vetting the contents of my fridge and telling me what I can and cannot eat, I don't want you or any other smoker inflicting your lifestyle choice on me.

It's not about rights and freedom, it's about consideration for others - yes, I know, an old fashioned concept in these enlightened times.

Captain Ranty said...


The title of the piece pretty much gave the game away.

If you see a piece is about smoking why do you click and read?

This blog is about freedoms-mine and yours. Smoker bans impinge my freedoms, and I will do whatever I can, whenever I can, to have them repealed or amended.

It looks like you are most upset about the smell.

I have a huge list of smells I want to legislate against. But I fucking won't because it is an act of stupidity.

Exhaust fumes are a million times more harmful yet you will probably walk down the street inhaling lungful after lungful only to berate some poor fucker having a smoke?

Until the bans came in I was possibly the most courteous smoker on the face of the earth.

I've given up being courteous or considerate because it was always a one way street.

It's the hypocrisy I can't stand.


Anonymous said...

"It's not about rights and freedom, it's about consideration for others - yes, I know, an old fashioned concept in these enlightened times."

Exactly, and this is why people are so vexed and angry about it. To use your own analogy, it's as if ASH and their ilk have indeed come round our houses (the pubs frquented and owned by smokers) and demanded we eat tofu. No-one was ever stopping non-smoking pubs from being set up and no-one ever smoked in those few that existed. Nor can smokers say, "Sod the lot of you! We will set up our own (to torture the analogy even further) meat-eating pubs and all you lot can have your quorn pubs to yourself!" Many would dearly like to but they can't, as it is against the law.

It is indeed about consideration for others. And surely, if non-smokers find the smell of smoke so repellant (and in my experience most don't) then surely the important thing is that they are not exposed to it. In that case what difference does it make to the non-smoker if a smoker is outside in a 50% enclosed area, as now, or outside in a 95% enclosed area (i.e in a separate room)? The important thing is that they don't smell smoke.

Unfortunately, for many in the tobacco control lobby, the important thing is that smokers are denormalised, belittled, and demonised. That is why they have to stand in the cold, by law! That is why they are trying to ban e-cigs, which have no smell whatsoever. That is why they are trying to ban smoking in films, which even ASH would have a hard time proving gave off any smell, despite their outlandish claims that smoke can travel down electricity wires etc.

It used to be a sad thing when legislation affecting civil liberties and private property rights was enacted because of personal preference to do with smell! Amazingly, we've even gone beyond that and are now legislating on things that LOOK like they MIGHT smell.... THAT is why so many are angry and THAT is why these evil bastards need to be stopped.

Keep up the good work, CR!

ranksoftheinsane said...

Ranty and Anon,

I agree with you pretty much 100%, that anti-smoking is another of these vehicles that communists and other control freak scumbags have hijacked to suppress liberty and freedoms (global warming, health and safety, diversity etc. - take your pick).

I think you'd agree that if I were to drop an enormously smelly fart whilst sat next to you on a plane, that'd be me inflicting my lifestyle choice (ie., to share the gaseous by-product of my digestive system) on you and others around me, and you would, not surprisingly, object.

You may indeed be a courteous smoker - but, be honest, in the UK today how often do you see courtesy from anyone? Certainly almost never from anyone under 30. The fact is, given the chance smokers would smoke everywhere all the time, and non-smokers would never be able to get away from it.

And, being needy fuckers who can't get through the day without a chemical crutch, most smokers in my experience are not courteous people - in fact the only one I can think of was my Grandad, who would ask if he could smoke, not simply light up, blow smoke in your face and say "fuck you!".

It's a difficult one. Like I said, I have no objection to people killing themselves in whatever way takes their fancy - drugs, drink or fags - I just don't want to see it, smell it, have to step in it, or have to pay for the consequences, either in taxation or by getting mugged by some junkie loser.

Antony said...

Which is why I suggested having a word with LI. If anyone can give an honest answer on costs and the technicalities of setting such a study up, it will be him.
Don't forget the most important thing to real scientists is peer review - if a small but perfectly controlled and replicable study can be set up - who knows where it might lead?
If it turns out the cost is only a couple of million or so - then a concerted fund-raising effort could be attempted. Look at the successes of Nick Hogan and Stoney Stratford, and I'm sure some richer people would anonymously donate - e.g. Worrell-Thompson or Hockney.
It's this sort of thing that brings peoples' mischievious sides. Not everything has to be Government funded in order to be true.

Anonymous said...

ranksoftheinsane is spot on.

Smoking where there are those who do not wish to smoke is like farting in other people's faces or pissing on their shoes. It's like your stereo being loud enough to hear down the street - it's antisocial and inconsiderate.

That doesn't mean the Government shouldn't fuck off with their totalitarian crap, however.

Anonymous said...

'...and even Tourettes Syndrome, for fucks sake.'

Brilliant. That made me laugh!

Keep up the excellent work Captain - it is VERY much appreciated.


Anonymous said...

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eddyh said...

"Quitting smoking kills you stone dead." I stopped from 60 a day 35 years ago and am still alive, I think.

Anonymous said...

Ranty, the reason why cancer rates have increased over the last 100 years is because people are living longer. The longer you live, more than likely something like getting cancer, is going to happen.

Good news though, is that cancer survival rates are also increasing.


Captain Ranty said...


You are obviously in the 42% of people who did not die after quitting.

We are all going to die anyway.

What does it matter what the cause is?


Captain Ranty said...


That is only part of the story.

How many people contract lung disease from diesel fumes? The particulates are exactly the same size as those in tobacco smoke.

Is it not within the realms of possibility that a smoker who dies of lung disease may well have contracted it from somewhere other than his fag packet?

And if so, what are the accurate numbers? How many people are really, truly killed by smoking tobacco?

I fully agree though: cancer is a disease of the old. Young folks contract cancer very, very rarely.


Captain Ranty said...


I think that happened this morning.


Chez said...

Cap'n Ranty,

Food for thought it certainly was. Tobacco use is something I've mainly ignored because I don't and never have smoked.

Disentangling the effects of primary and secondary smoke, fallout, car emissions... probably impossible. I guess this is why they talk about risk factors.

In thinking about the propensity of governments/bureaucrats and The Establishment to keep pushing the Received Wisdom (regardless of how ill-received it is) I'm reminded of something that I think was on Bishop Hill's blog a few days ago, and the tendency of modelling efforts to converge on models most likely to secure more funding.

Anonymous said...


Am a bit late to this smoking party, but I have enjoyed these tremendous posts immensely. Above, you said "Non-smokers, you will discover, have higher incidences of AD, Parkinson's, Colorectal cancers, ulcerative colitis and even Tourettes Syndrome" and a few commenters have wondered about this.

I can attest to it in respect of UC as I know someone who was hit by it. They had quit smoking a few months earlier having started at 12 and carried on happily with no overt negative effects for many years. They were "advised" to quit after a sudden trip to the ER with heart palpitations, and they did so. Then they got UC, out of nowhere. The only thing that had changed was the smoking; no dietary change at all. Then medics admitted the beneficial effect of smoking during the follow-up treatment, adding the usual "you'll get cancer so it's not worth it" afterwards. Rather telling...

Whilst has an article on this topic as you probably know (for the benefit of others:, there is lot more out there too, including more recent studies – a few examples:
- (PDF download)
- (someone's own story)

Some of those are even on “proper” sites; problem is that some use the same methodology as described for the EPA "report"...

Smoking was chosen first for a reason, serving as a vanguard. With the work fairly completed (at least in the public sphere), the drinkers and the eaters are now being rounded on. Most people haven't a clue when it comes to their own diet and will probably buy a lot of the bollocks that's going around about food, even once the insipid ideas of Dave's Common Purpose-inspired Behavioural Insight Team become more “standardised” (have a read of this PDF if you haven’t already) but it will prove extremely difficult to marginalise the drinkers because there are so many more of them; and are we not told that the inhabitants of the British Isles have been boozers since the dawn of time?!

TPTB have no true concern with public health beyond establishing a baseline level at which the wage slave is able to get up day after day and work on the plantation. The assault on privacy and liberty, in the name of public health and the safety of puppies, is just part of the story. The other is the designed and much less visible side effect: the continued elimination of cultural and societal traditions within the nation-state, preparing the populace for the global future. This runs right through everything and goes far beyond matters of public health alone.

Closing the Great British Pub and/or sanitising it into a homogenised “approved recreational facility” is just one example.

I know it ain’t the same thing, but could it not be argued that the internet is sort of the biggest “pub” of them all? Hence why they want to shut that down too...



John Pickworth said...

Just to address the issue of modern cancer rates...

Some have correctly identified vehicle fumes, pollution, nuclear tests and greater lifespans as just a few of contributory causes of modern day cancers. But lets not forget lose sight of the fact that even before the advent of tobacco (and trained physicians) many people probably did routinely die of cancer. Although quite likely, these deaths were blamed on things like the pox, an over-consumption of bad-air, not reading the bible or witchcraft etc.

Or to spin this back around again. How many modern day animals (domesticated or wild) contract cancer? I don't know the answer but its a few (according to vet friends) and as far as I know, none of these animals were noted smokers!

By the way, I've played the 'name three' game for real on Leg Iron's blog in the past with a non-smoking commenter who was banging on about SHS... on that occasion; I challenged the chap to 'Name One' example. He failed.