Sunday, 22 August 2010

Weird science (as usual).

A little while ago, there was considerable distress when it emerged that non-smokers with knackered lungs were being given transplants from dead smokers. Let's, for the moment, gloss over the obvious - that these non-smokers had knackered lungs and the smokers didn't die of anything lung related, and consider something else.

Transplant surgeons considered the smokers' lungs suitable for transplant. They didn't have to wring a bucketful of tar out of them, they didn't steep them in nitric acid for 24 hours to remove - oh, what would it be? One and a half-hand smoke? No, the surgeons considered these smokers' lungs perfectly good enough to transplant into someone else.

These are the same surgeons who tell you that smokers' lungs are riddled with cancer, don't work properly and have enough tar in them to warrant an exploratory visit from BP.

So they are happy to rip our body parts out when we die and give them to the pious who follow their commands, but while we're alive, well have a look at this, which I found at the Big Yin's place :

Well made, isn't it? So let's rip it up into the segments that will no doubt be shown on TV at a time when films like 'A Clockwork Orange' would cause the professionally offended to wear the numbers off their phones.

First segment.

The old 'This is a healthy lung' ploy. No it isn't. It's dead, as is it's owner and that's about as unhealthy as you can get. There is no 'This is a smoker's lung' part because that wouldn't work. It would look the same. You think not? So why is there no such lung? There can surely be no shortage of dead smokers, can there? So why does the green-clad abattoir worker resort to pouring tar into this healthy dead lung? An amount we are to believe is equal to the tar inhaled by a smoker in a year.

In which case, how can they not find even one smoker's lung to show?

The tar goes in, sticks to phlegm and the tar comes out. It doesn't stay in there. Coal dust does. Diesel particulates do. The tiny particles in smoke don't. They are small enough for the natural mucus coating to deal with. You don't have to have a cough for this to work: everyone's lungs continually push mucus upwards. You swallow it without noticing. Smokers' lungs just do it faster.

Incidentally, by enhancing the flow of phlegm, smoking actually keeps those lungs flushed so infections find it harder to get a hold. But let's not hit these Righteous smokophobic morons too hard on the first go. They have more lies to tell us.

Second segment.

So, you can take a brain from a corpse and it has unclotted blood in it? They must have been quick to whip his head open. Isn't it lucky they found that blood clot precisely on the first slice? Couldn't be faked. No, surely not. Not like all those photos on the cigarette packets. Not like third hand smoke. Not like second hand smoke. Not like the piles of dead babies caused by those things, which incidentally don't exist. Surely, this time, they are telling the truth? Is there really anyone left who thinks they are?

We are to believe that this is the brain of a 38-year-old smoker when in fact it's impossible for us to tell if that's true. It could have come from a 90-year old Puritan who has never touched booze or cigarettes in his life. Strokes can hit anyone, any time.

When I was about 40, there was a spate of deaths in and around the place I worked. A head of a research station, moderate drinker, non smoker, bang - aneurysm. Dead at 40. Another, non-drinker, non-smoker, a little older than me - bang, dead of a heart attack. There was one of the heart attacks who didn't die.

He was a smoker. He's still alive.

More recently, someone I knew well and respected as a scientist passed away. He had cancer. He never smoked and gave up drinking entirely over twenty years ago. Not a miserable Puritan, he just didn't like those things so didn't indulge. He never passed judgement on those who did.

It is pot luck. You can live your life scared of shadows and you'll die anyway. Heart attacks and stroke can happen to teetotal, non-drinking vegetarians and so does cancer. You can't hide from the Reaper, no matter how miserable you make your life.

With no supporting evidence at all, the brain section is even more meaningless than the lung one.

Third segment.

Lungs again. Our lungs are rotten, apparently. Good enough for transplant and they couldn't find a picture of a rotten lung, remember. Just a normal one and a jar of gloop. The woman in that segment is likely to find her health damaged more by being forced to stand outside in the cold and the wet than by the cigarette she's smoking. But the smokophobes don't care. It's not about health. It never was.

Fourth segment.

Smoking is a major cause of irreversible blindness. It will be if I stub one out in your eye. Seriously, this is nonsense. There is no evidence at all for this assertion, it is entirely fabricated and has no basis in fact whatsoever. It does give me an idea though - what if one of those ciggie busters went for me and in the ensuing confusion, my cigarette accidentally...

Fifth segment.

Smoking makes you fat. Not so long ago, those fatty deposits were blamed on cholesterol. For now, they are blamed on smoking but don't get your hopes up if you're wider than average. You'll get that back when they've finished using it on us.

We are to believe that smoking fills your pipes with lard by the time you're 32. I'm 50 and my pipes work just fine, thanks. All of them. We are also to believe that they didn't preload that artery before filming, even though we didn't see them remove it and are given no clue as to the weight of the smoker involved. No, it's just smoking. Smoking magically creates fat in your arteries even though tobacco contains no fat at all. Can anyone honestly say they believe that?

Sixth segment.

This is beautiful. One man with a bit of leaf in paper, standing at a bus stop, watching a bus approach in a cloud of diesel fumes. But it's the cigarette that does the damage. Diesel fumes are good for you.

This is the biggie. Lung cancer. If you freeze the film at 2:21 you'll see lung cancer has a face, and it looks rather like Bill Gates. In which case, no worries, it'll run for a few days then slow down and crash. It won't start again until you close all your windows.

'One damaged cell is all it takes to start...' - well, that's true if you have no immune system at all. Cancer cells arise all the time, in everyone. Yes, non-smokers too. The immune system finds them and terminates them with extreme prejudice. Once in a while it doesn't work and a cancer takes hold. While I don't dispute that smoking could do that, I very definitely dispute that it is the only, or even the main cause. It could only be regarded as the main cause if we lived a pastoral Eloi existence with no burning fossil fuels and no sprays of any kind and nothing in the air but tobacco smoke.

We don't live like that. Smokers and non-smokers alike are subjected to carcinogen challenge every time we spray an underarm deodorant or a paint can or an air freshener or venture out into the street. Smoking is only one among a million possible causes - but all those other causes are ignored. Does that make you feel safe? It's all right for me. If I turn up with chest pains and say I smoke, they'll test everything. If you turn up with chest pains and say you don't smoke, they'll give you an aspirin and send you home. You can't have cancer unless you smoke. It's not possible. Ha ha ha.

Once again, the smokophobes rely on misinformation and lies to terrify smokers into stopping. Many will have been so terrified by that video they'll have smoked a whole pack just to calm themselves.

The antismoker harridans will lap it up and then they'll meet me and insist on spouting this 'science' at me. They are conditioned to believe what they are told, and I will tell them things. I will tell them tales of horror and gore that will make their eyes burst. Hmm, I might incorporate that for the next one. I will make them scared enough to cross the street whenever they see someone who looks as if they might once have stood within a hundred yards of a smoker. I will make them scared of the shadow of smoke. I will make them fear the very word.

They deserve no less.


DaveA said...

Even the NHS put their hands up to smokers weighing less than non smokers by about 4-10 lbs.

Unknown said...

Thanks for the link LI. I failed to notice how, with one cut, they found the blood clot in the brain. I think I watched the vid with my eyes closed only opening them when the squeemish bits had finished.

Great post with your usual scientific eye firmly on the button, so to speak.

PT Barnum said...

So smoking makes you fat, blind, brain-damaged, impotent and/or sterile, cancerous, with wrinkles, lousy teeth and a foul stench lingering around us. How the hell are we (a) still here (b) managing to breed and (c) counting some of the most glamorous people in the world amongst our number (see Frank Davis's lovely piece on ugly smokers)?

JuliaM said...

"This is beautiful. One man with a bit of leaf in paper, standing at a bus stop, watching a bus approach in a cloud of diesel fumes."

Yeah, that one always puzzles me too...

Anonymous said...


Your take on tobacco particulates being trapped and expelled by the phlegm, whereas coal dust & diesel particulates are not. Could you expand a bit more on that for us? [Of course, the pouring of the tar is obviously complete tosh.]

What of the damage to the cilia which we are always told that smokers suffer?


Anonymous said...

Interesting article LI. I'm quite a bit older than you and had to attend hospital last week.
A consultant gave my lungs an all clear, my weight is normal, my eyesight perfect and I have all my own teeth, thank you.
In fact I've gone through life funding the NHS and only visited this time. I've smoked since 17 years old.
The problem is the whole ethos now seems to blame the fag. Straight away you are asked if you smoke, how many, how long. Not one single question about what I eat, what activity's I do, just do you smoke.
Once you have admitted to being a sinner the investigation is over, all your ailments are there and then blamed on your smoking.
They simply don't care if you have deep fried your Mars bars for 40 years (yet) or if you have spent your life laying on the sofa, the case is closed when you reveal you are a dirty scummy smoker.
Any other field of work would investigate every angle to resolve a problem but the medical profession has deluded itself to blame the fag for every ailment and this simply is not the truth.

Unknown said...


Your take on tobacco particulates being trapped and expelled by the phlegm, whereas coal dust & diesel particulates are not. Could you expand a bit more on that for us? [Of course, the pouring of the tar is obviously complete tosh.]

What of the damage to the cilia which we are always told that smokers suffer?"

If I may...

Smoke doesn't damage the cilia. If it did, you'd have gunk and whatnot pouring out of your nostrils rather than being caught by the hairs ready for you to blow out when ready. If the smoke was damaging the cilia, you'd know it - it'd hurt. Plus, you can look up your nose and see the hairs still there, with no tar draped over them.

As for the phlegm, I don't know if the particulates stick to phlegm or are just exhaled with the smoke, but the whole thing is something of a homeopathic method; phlegm is there to carry out nasties, whether it be dust that made its way down or other bacteria, that's its job. It considers the smoke a foreign body, which of course it is, and produces phlegm to counter it. As a result, smokers have more phlegm which keeps their lungs clearer than they otherwise would be. Smokers generally get less colds than non-smokers, and this is probably the reason why.

Anonymous said...

Why don't we use this same video footage and add our own text to it, analogous to the text written above but a bit more condensed and to the point? Shouldn't be that difficult to do. And we can add our own video to YouTube too...

Leg-iron said...

If you look at coal dust, you can see the particles. They're pretty big as dust particles go.

Likewise, if you hold the palm of your hand in the fumes coming out of a diesel exhaust, your hand will be covered in visible soot in no time.

Blow smoke from a cigarette at your hand and there's nothing to see. The particles aren't heavy enough to settle quickly.

So in the lung, that coal dust or diesel soot can be very difficult to move. Tiny particles of smoke are not.

The cilia are not the nose hairs. They are tiny projections on the surfaces of cells within the lung tubes. These move, wafting the phlegm and all the junk light enough to be lifted (these cilia are very small, remember) upwards to the back of the throat, where it's swallowed.

Smoke does paralyse them. Temporarily. If it paralysed them permanently, then every Bonfire night there'd be an outbreak of dry-land drownings because people's lungs would fill up with mucus that's being produced but not moved.

Once the smoke is finished, they get back to work, shifting the mucus and trapped particles out of there.

On the scale of those cells, smoke particles are sand. Diesel particles are boulders and coal dust particles are slabs from Stonehenge. The mucus can't move them.

It was coal dust that killed my grandfather. Pneumoconiosis, I believe they called it. He smoked, but the coal dust got him first.

Michael J. McFadden said...

Beautifully done as always Leg Iron.

"These are the same surgeons who tell you that smokers' lungs are riddled with cancer, don't work properly and have enough tar in them to warrant an exploratory visit from BP."

You Brits certainly have a way with the English language. How'd you loin it so goode? LOL! I'm actually quite serious: you guys are GREAT writers!


Leg-iron said...

Well, in the old days we had teachers who were allowed to punish us for getting things wrong. So we got things right.

We weren't allowed to stab them or accuse them of being paedophiles (unless they really were) either.

My English teacher at school was a master of sarcasm. She never hit a pupil. She could reduce anyone to a quivering jelly with no more than words.

I paid close attention ;)

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