Thursday, 2 December 2010

Smoking and The Lumps.

Daily Telegraph, 29th November 2010, p. 23. Thanks to Myles for the Email.

Over at Frank Davis's place, there is a discussion on smoking and lung cancer. Not the antismoker 'you will all get lungs lumpier than badly-made custard that's gone cold in a sock' diatribe, but a reasoned and civil discussion. Where smoking is concerned, that is in itself astounding. The argument is 'Does smoking cause lung cancer?' All contributions welcomed. Except the custard in a sock brigade. We've heard enough from the parrots, thanks.

I haven't commented because I'm sort of in the middle on this one. As a smoker, I know there are risks to what is essentially an unnatural behaviour. I'm not going to claim it's natural, because it's not. It's just as bizarre as spraying yourself with perfumed chemicals so you don't smell human or using moose pheromones to attract a mate and in this weather, you are taking a serious risk with that one.

Drinking alcohol, well, even wasps do that. See them at the end of their season, gorging on fermenting fruit then picking a fight with whoever happens by even if they are a thousand times their size. Those insects are plastered when they waver around in front of you. If you could speak wasp you'd hear 'See you pal, you're fookin deid, so y' are. See me. See my arse. See sting. I've got a fookin sting in me arse, so I have. See you. You're gettin' it, so y' are.' All they are missing is the string vest and head bandage and evolution has made a start with stripes already. All wasps are Glaswegian, by the way. It's been proved by evolutionary scientists. I don't want to get all technical on a side issue, but I will tell you this. Being guttered is natural, so there y' are.

Cows who get hold of the right kind of grain at the right time of year will ferment it in their rumens and get utterly pissed by producing their own booze internally. Cows are not as stupid as they appear. You can't tax it if it forms in the gut. But back to smoking...

Frank has made the point that since the discovery of fire we have all been inhaling smoke up until the invention of central heating. He is right on that point. Nonsmokers enjoy a barbecue, bonfire, chimenea, log or coal fire, all of us are comfortable watching a controlled burn because it's always been part of human life. We are acclimatised to smoke. Even Wrinkly Gillian, the unhealthiest-looking health freak on the planet, was able to stand in campfire smoke while having a hysterical episode at Shaun Ryder's little bit of burning leaf. Smoke, in and of itself, is part of human life. We live by fire. The containment of that fire inside a central heating boiler is an extremely recent adjustment.

I'm not sure it's such a good thing. I remember having to get up in the freezing cold, lay a coal fire and then wait until it heated the room. Just the room. The rest of the house took a lot longer to warm up even slightly. Usually, the previous night's ashes had to be removed before the new fire was laid and that was done while frost formed on the inside of single-glazed windows. Now, we set the heating to come on half an hour before we have to get up. We were tougher in those days.

However, sticking leaves in our faces and burning them is another level. It seems logical to me that there are risks in smoking. Sure, there are claims that we have an increased risk of lung cancer but the overall risk of cancer isn't all that great. The biggest cause is getting old, which we do much more of than we used to. Cancer cells arise in all of us all the time. Sunlight does it, life does it, everything does it. Our immune systems take care of these rogue cells but as we age, our immune systems prefer the pipe and slippers to the roaming vigilante life and the cancer cells get a chance to reach out-of-control levels.

Really, the biggest cause of death in the world is getting too old to be alive any more. What you do in between popping out and popping your clogs should really be your choice because you don't get another go. Individual life should be left to the individual. Not to some massive-foreheaded lunatic whose head is rented out as an echo chamber, not to some smoker who hates himself almost as much as he hates the rest of us, and certainly not to the talking horse with the frizzy mane and the hayseed brain. I know the risk, I take the risk. If I ever need the NHS, I've already paid for it and I have the stuff that will help me get through that experience without shitting myself to death. My risk of long-term possible cancer is nothing compared to the NHS's supply of free-at-the-point-of-infection deadly diseases.

Even so, deliberately inhaling smoke can't be good for me. Whether it's bad for me is a different question. It is certainly not as bad for me as the smokophobes claim. Smokers do not, by far, all die a horrible death. Most just die of something else but as commenters have pointed out, if they die as smokers, they are included as 'smoking deaths' even if they fall off a ladder. There are no vegan deaths. Vegans don't do such base and coarse things. Unless they are smoking vegans and yes, smoking is an entirely animal-free activity.

I'm watching the discussion at Frank's with interest but I'm on neither side at the moment. It seems to me that smoking has the potential to cause cancer but there are so many things to inhale in the modern world that it's not so easy to say 'this causes that' and just expect everyone to accept it. Besides, as the image above shows, it's a war on smokers and so why would we believe anything we're told by those who have stated they want us dead?

Frank's discussion is worth your time if you have any interest in the smoking argument at all, so here it is -

Part 1

Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5

It's far from over.


Anonymous said...

you forgot the elephants :)

-every odd year or so there's a story from india in the news about them breaking in the local's distilleries, get plastered and run amuck afterwards... :p

-as for your 'logic' concerning smoke I think the word 'intuitive' would be more appropriate. It is intuitive that subjecting an organ to an agent would affect that particular organ, but logic/science (real science) proves that it is not necessarily so. (eg. getting cancer anywhere by drinking water polluted with nitrate)

...hope my english makes sense. ;)

-great blog btw, love your wit & sense of humour.

banned said...

I'm a great believer in the idea that countless thousands of years spent sitting in smokey huts all through the long winters night aclimatized us to smoke (and evoluted out those who could not adapt).
But then I would think that since I'm an extremist smoking smokist.

Fredrik said...

Leggy, I suspect that many of our ancestors thought that chucking perfectly good meat and vegetables on a fire was a little unnatural but 40,000 (minium) years later people still do it. I would think for the first 1,000 years the practice raised a few (large) eyebrows. In 40,000 years time if we are still smoking then maybe it will be seen as natural.
Although arguably cooking food is unnatural. Why did people chuck food on fire? They could not have known about bacteria or that
breaking down food out of the body saves the stess of doing it in the body. Maybe they just did it because their bodies told them
to do it! The same way the bodies of 1.2 billion people tell them to smoke?!? And we are only in the first 100 years!

Anonymous said...

"And we are only in the first 100 years!"

Oh no we aren't Fredrik, but we may be in the last.

Validation of smoke inhalation therapy to treat microbial infections.

"In traditional healing, the burning of selected indigenous medicinal plants and the inhalation of the liberated smoke are widely accepted and a practiced route of administration."

CONCLUSION: These results suggest that the combustion process produces an 'extract' with superior antimicrobial activity and provides in vitro evidence for inhalation of medicinal smoke as an efficient mode of administration in traditional healing."

But to the puritan mind you are NOT supposed to enjoy your medicine. Its perverse..



"If the medical profession is responsible for the wide-spread belief that alcoholics are of service to mankind both as food and medicine, it should not be forgotten that it is to members of the same profession the world is indebted for the correction of these errors."



Frank Davis said...

Thanks for the links!

I know there are risks to what is essentially an unnatural behaviour.

What's natural and unnatural? It seems to really amount to how animals usually behave. Usual behaviour = natural behaviour.

There was a time, presumably, when the ancestors of humans were hairy all over, and walked on all fours. By comparison with them, we're unusual, and therefore unnatural.

A lot of thinking today seems to follow this usual/natural line. The climate freaks seem to have an idea of a 'natural' world which has got so many polar bears and whales and trees and so on, and anything else is unnatural (despite the fact that almost all animal and plant species become extinct after a while).

It's a sort of fixed idea of the world as an unchanging perfection, any interference with which courts disaster.

Anonymous said...

*What's natural and unnatural?*

It's about what our bodies are naturally designed to accomodate.

Our lungs have not been naturally designed to filter out the crap introduced by smoke in the quantities concerned.

The heat from the smoke physically damages tissue, but you body can heal such damage just as it can heal cut's and scrapes, i don't see that as leading to cancer, but just reduced lung capacity due to scar tissue.

The chemicals, tar and other deposits that are stuck in the lung from smoke again may be handled by your body, but how much is your body meant to handle?

Your body can handle many substances that it wasnt "designed" to, but to much of anything (and i mean anything) will kill or damage your body.

So the question to me is really how much can your body handle before its to much, and obviosly that will be different for every person.

Maybe "natural" doesnt really describe this very well, but what word does?

sixtypoundsaweekcleaner said...

I've always had the sneaky feeling that it's only when man tampers with nature that things go awry. So, tobacco is fine, until it's adulterated to make mass produced cigarettes. It's the chemical additives which make us ill. The same with our food. Fat is fine, until it's processed to make the hydrogenated stuff and then it furs up the arteries. In fact processed food I think kills people in the long run, because it doesn't provide the body with the goodness it needs to look after itself.

Behind it all are the marketing men and profiteers who are just after our money. In which case the love of money really is the root of all evil.

Anonymous said...


So naturally occouring poisons are not poisionous?

You lot are being as silly as the people who cry murder over someone smoking near them in open air.

Anonymous said...

Naturally occuring poisons certainly are poisonous!

Nicotine is an alkaloid found in the nightshade family of plants (Solanaceae), predominantly in tobacco, and in lower quantities in tomato, potato, eggplant (aubergine), and green pepper.

Oxalic Acid
"Oxalic acid and oxalates are useful as reducing agents for photography, bleaching, and rust removal. They are widely used as an purifying agent in pharmaceutical industry, precipitating agent in rare-earth metal processing, bleaching agent in textile and wood industry, rust-remover for metal treatment, grinding agent, waste water treatment. acid rinse in laundries and removing scale from automobile radiators."

Also in Leggy's rhubarb and chocolate.

Killer Spices

Natural pesticides are everywhere!

Because before we started looking after them, our food plants had to look out for themselves.


Anonymous said...

The anti-lettuce movement.

"As you might have guessed, Lactuca virosa is the wild forebear of the item we chop and dice into salad bowls.

Though it is currently accepted as a safe food, this was not always the case.
Prior to the Victorian age, wild lettuce was well known as a painkiller and sedative. When there appeared in the market cultivated varieties devoid of the medicinal elements found in wild lettuce, social commentators were not pleased.

In fact, they became quite vocal as to the incredible danger this represented to society. It would be as if someone today introduced a salad variety of marijuana.

There was great concern that lettuce would cause childlessness or would produce children with subnormal intelligence.

A whole list of horrible things were supposed to happen if people proceeded with this shameless eating of lettuce.

Obviously, the public needn’t have worried as they did. For one thing, no one would choose to sit down to a salad made of the medicinal variety, unless he had a penchant for the taste of match heads.

The lettuce scandal passed; unfortunately so did awareness of wild lettuce’s pain-killing abilities."


timbone said...

The newspaper cutting at the top of this blog prompts me to share something.

There is an old lady who visits the local shops every day. She lives alone, and this is her connection with the local community. She always drops in to the local cafe and has a toasted teacake and a cup of tea - maybe this is her breakfast.

Yesterday morning, bitterly cold, snow on the ground, and a biting wind, I popped out to the shops. She had had her teacake and tea. She was sat outside, with her crumpled face and her parkinsons disease. She was struggling with her bare hands to light a cigarette.

This is the smoking ban.

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