“Just the Facts, Ma’am”     September 8th, 2011

By C. R. S. Lyles
Tobacco could kill 1 billion this century.

That’s the headline of a heartwarming news article published in Reuters a few years ago which claims that "if current trends hold, global health experts said" that if we don’t lay off the smokes, then by 2100 we can kiss about 14% of the current population goodbye.

The report was gleaned from information published in the 2009 Tobacco Atlas by the World Lung Foundation and the American Cancer Society.

Here’s some of the numbers that were tossed in there for dramatic effect:

  • Tobacco use costs the global economy $500 billion a year in direct medical expenses, lost productivity and environmental harm.
  • 100 million people were killed by tobacco in the 20th century.
  • Tobacco accounts for one out of every 10 deaths worldwide.
  • Tobacco will kill 6 million people in 2010 from cancer, heart disease, emphysema and other diseases.
  • Occupational exposure to secondhand smoke kills 200,000 workers every year.

First off, the whole "cost of direct medical expenses, lost productivity, blah blah blah" argument can be immediately marked off with the counter-argument of the tobacco tax.

 



For example, in 2007 alone the state of Texas tripled its cigarette tax revenues from $523 million to $1.5 billion despite a 21 percent decline in sales.

And that’s just the state of Texas, one state among 50, among dozens of countries who produce cigarettes, pipe tobacco, cigars, etc. who are all being charged an increased tobacco tax.

I think that this can cover the expenses. Hell, with the kind of money we’re talking about here, health facilities could probably afford to employ full-time personal masseuses for each of the patients that comes in.

Now, this article was published back in 2009, before anyone could accurately figure how the figures would be by the end of 2010.

However, we do have the luxury of examining that information, all of which can be found on the public websites of the American Cancer Society (ACS), the American Heart Association (AHA), and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

In 2010, there were approximately 1,529,560 new cancer cases (all kinds of cancer, not just lung cancer), and approximately 569,490 deaths between both sexes (again, from all types of cancer).

There were approximately 667 deaths caused by bronchitis, 12,790 caused by emphysema, and 111,020 attributed to other chronic lower respiratory diseases (CLRD).

And, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, "every 26 seconds someone has a heart attack, and about every minute someone dies from one."

Let’s round those deaths up exactly one every minute, which gives us 1,440 deaths a day. Add them all up and that gives us 525,600 deaths a year.

Now, here’s where I get lost every time a health crusader tries to whittle some logic out of persecuting smokers based on statistics like this, because to me, here’s how the math breaks down:

  • 667 bronchitis deaths + 12,790 emphysema deaths = 13,457 deaths
  • 13,457 deaths + 111,020 CLRD deaths = 124,477 deaths
  • 124,477 deaths + 569,490 deaths from cancer = 693,967 deaths
  • 693,967 deaths + 525,600 heart disease deaths = 1,219,567 deaths

1,219,567 from cancer, heart disease, emphysema and other diseases.

I really haven’t heard of any new and terrifying side effects that tobacco causes besides the good ol’ standards of lung cancer, heart disease, and emphysema, but there must be some really ravenous and quiet effect that it has on people because that’s the only rational way that the other 4,780,433 lives that the World Lung Foundation and the American Cancer Society predicted tobacco would claim can be justified.

Now let’s really put that number to the test and see what comes up. The approximate number of deaths in 2010 range from between 59 and 60 million depending on which source you use, so let’s do the math and see if the WLF / ACS prediction was correct:

  • 1,219,567 divided by 60,000,000 equals just a little over 2%

Now, granted, this figure didn’t remove the deaths by all the natural disasters and war casualties that occurred last year, but a claim of one in ten people is 10%, and….you get where I’m going with this.

Which leads me to the claim concerning 200,000 occupational secondhand smoke (SHS) deaths made by the World Lung Foundation and the American Cancer Society.

A handy piece of information for any smoker to know off-hand are the facts that were listed in the 1993 EPA report because this information will come in very handy should you ever find yourself in a debate with a vehement anti-smoker who will cite all the health hazards related to second hand smoke.

In 1992, the EPA issued a report which claimed that Environmental Tobacco Smoke (ETS) caused 3,000 deaths per year (ETS is an interchangeable term for second hand smoke.)

However, the EPA announced these results BEFORE the study was finished, and the study that was being conducted was a Meta Analysis, or an analysis of pre-existing studies.

And even in the report itself, on page 3-46 the EPA estimates that nicotine measurements in non-smokers blood, "would translate to the equivalent of about one-fifth of a cigarette per day."

These facts were discovered while I was cruising around on the Internet and came across a website run by a Mr. Dave Hitt.

Mr. Hitt’s website provided a startling amount of information concerning second hand smoke under a tab titled (appropriately enough)The Facts.

On the CDC’s website, they make the claim that second hand smoke causes 3,400 annual deaths from lung cancer and 46,000 annual deaths from heart disease.

Just where are they getting these numbers from, anyway?

And how exactly is it possible to trust a source whose claims can be proven wildly inaccurate with just thirty minutes of searching on Google?

No matter how hard I’ve looked, I’ve yet to come across a clear explanation on how the process of data collecting, statistical equations and drawing conclusions from the process’s results works in regards to deaths attributed to second hand smoke, but then again I don’t really expect to find a clear answer about it.

Ignorance is, after all, the greatest tool that the shepherds use to keep the "sheeple" in line.

Carter R. Lyles is a student at the University of Central Florida in Orlando, FL and at the University of Florida in Gainesville. He is a journalism/psychology major, and in addition to his work at Pipes Magazine, he has contributed articles to The Alligator, Thursday Night Magazine, and The Fine Print.

 

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25 Responses to ““Just the Facts, Ma’am””

  1. brewshooter said:

    Mr. Lyles you know too much, please report to your nearest “education” camp for reprogramming.

  2. sherlock said:

    Great article. Thanks

  3. glpease said:

    Bravo, Carter. A great look inside the lies. I was once told by someone who worked in the records department of a large hospital that whenever someone snuffed it, if the deceased had ever been a smoker, it went in the roles as a tobacco related death, even if the ultimate cause was a gunshot, car accident or suicide. I have no idea how true or, if it is, how widespread this would be, but it would certainly skew the statistics a little bit, don’t you think?

    But, the public will believe what they want to believe, and if false statistics based on questionable data can support their dislike of something, they’ll be all over it. Try making BBQs illegal because of the carcinogenic effects of the resulting nitrosamines, and see how much support THAT gets.

    Thanks for raising my blood pressure a bit. I was feeling a little too calm today.

  4. lonestar said:

    Greg, I cant speak to widespread trends, but I can say 100% this was the case with my wifes father. He died at 76 years old after a series of strokes, and because he was a smoker the cause of death was officially listed as tobacco use. I cant find any reason for it, except to skew the numbers of tobacco related death.

  5. spartan said:

    Things like this just make me angry. We are losing sight of the bigger picture and have skewed the very foundation upon which this nation was built. Great article. Keep on keeping on.

  6. Lawrence said:

    It’s been many years since ANY Death Certificate in the USA listed the cause of death as “natural causes” or “old age”… I think those became invalid entries in the mid 1950’s….

    Great Article Carter!

  7. Jim Beard said:

    Methinks in some cases national (U.S.) figures have been confused with global figures.

    The attacks on tobacco remain idiocy, however, so the thrust of the arguments is correct.

  8. jgbsr1 said:

    1.) “Smoking Kills People.” So, let’s target Al-Quaidda infestations and carpet-bomb them with cartons of US-made cigarettes, thereby supporting American agriculture and showing our trust in Cancer Society claims.
    2.) If pipe smokers are 2% of all nicotine addicts, how many deaths am I responsible for? I want to paint a “Kill” flag on my car door for each one that can be confirmed to my tobacco consumption.
    3.) “You and the Cancer Society can pry my pipe from my cold dead hands.”

  9. romeowood said:

    Good article as always, Carter. Unfortunately a rebuttal of fact and logic is futile against a crusade of behavioral control. Statistically speaking, that is.

  10. kcghost said:

    A man is offered a cigarette prior to facing a firing squad. He smokes the cigarette, takes his place against the wall, and is summarily dispatched. His death was recorded as “smoking related”.

  11. cortezattic said:

    This is one of the more poorly written articles I’ve ever read in a commercial publication. Organization is nonexistent, reasoning is opaque, and the conclusions don’t necessarily follow from the facts presented. Mr. Lyles, please don’t waste my time reading your rough drafts, I don’t have the patience to connect your dots with my lines of conjecture.

  12. Kevin said:

    Wow Cortez. That was harsh. Who peed in your Cheerios?

  13. cortezattic said:

    Oh, I was just workin’ myself up to do a review of Mixture 79. :)

  14. Walter said:

    I believe it was H.G. Wells that says in one of his writings that the devil likes to quote both scripture and statistics. Let’s face it though gentlemen the tobacco industry has been just as good at twisting the facts as the anti-smoking establishment. They apparently have learned from the same political and scientific hacks. Actually I think I’ll write an article, Why Tobacco is Good for You, and publish all the related joys and pleasures of the ancient weed for everyone to ponder. Our world is full of itself.

    For a good read, take on How to Lie with Statistics by Darrell Huff.

  15. cortezattic said:

    As an advocate of smokers’ rights, and in general, freedom from excessive government intrusion upon personal lifestyle choices, I believe our interests are best served by avoiding the obfuscating fog of tiresome statistical arguments and the occasional snide rejoinder (ahem).
    .
    After all, such an approach is based implicitly on the premise that the most salient studies, or the most exhausting litany of them, will win the day — and that’s not the issue here! What is at stake is personal freedom; and to me, the most promising approach is to champion our nation’s founding principle.
    .
    The notion is so basic there should be no debate. Yet, the ongoing controversy testifies to the inherent fragility of that freedom threatened by our opposition, which is daily growing in political strength and tyranny. Remember, human rights were presumed, and the U.S. Constitution was constructed not to enumerate them, but to limit government intrusion. This should be our thrust.

  16. Kurt Simmons said:

    As always,your spot on in your analyses and conclusions. You think like a scientist and write the truth as you see it.
    I sometimes feel compelled to write a comment whenever I see one of your treatises even thouth I have come to realize that you have the fire in your belly and would write the truth even if no one ever read it.
    We need more like you.

  17. nameshy said:

    cortezattic - The Constitution was constructed to limit government intrusion for some groups - certainly not for slaves or women - but fashions seem to keep changing with regard to whose human rights the founding principles include.

    In the fist segment of the PBS Prohibition series one of the activist leaders claimed that just one drop of intoxicating liquor could destroy an entire family.

    This week the government is giving out $103 million in grants for prevention. Prevention is the bread and butter for some groups. As for the rest, prevention makes patients of us all.

  18. drjhale said:

    Maybe, someday, they’ll leave us alone. Good article.

  19. cortezattic said:

    @Nameshy: Point well taken: principles have never gotten in the way of legislating fashion. One hopes for improvement though; and maybe the slavery, equal protection and suffrage amendments (13 - 15, and 19) are evidence of it.

  20. jerwynn said:

    Does anyone know where we can get the true truth and the real facts? I mean this in all seriousness. I had my first pipe in the late 1970s and was so besieged with well-intentioned concerns for my health that I put it away for the last 30 years. Last year I finally said to heck with it… and started collecting and smoking pipes (again). I’ve had so much enjoyment from the aromas, the feel of various briar textures in the hand, the happy peaceful contemplative mood that comes with it, etc etc etc… and then I go to the movies and see a “commercial” (already irked because I was already paying for NOT commercials) with terrible pictures of surgically traumatized “smokers” from some organization with “truth” in its name. It DOES scare me. The one voice in my head says, “Jer… you’re 55… the time when most intelligent people quit smoking as opposed to take it up. What are you doing to yourself?” I have held the hands of people dying from lung cancer, emphysema, and various other smoking attributable causes and I surely don’t want to risk that. But I also take seriously the positive perspectives of so many of the contributors here. What I would really like is to base my understanding and lifestyle decisions NOT of beliefs and feelings, but on valid statistical risk factors and medically sound information. Where are these things? HELP!

  21. nameshy said:

    Jerwynn, your question is a good one. Tobacco in cigarettes is normally inhaled. Tobacco smoked in a pipe is almost impossible to inhale. The fact that for hundreds of years pipe smoking was very popular but the major diseases that are associated with smoking only came into existence when machines were invented that could mass-produce cigarettes. This should be documentation of the most solid scientific kind. The evidence is further confirmed by the government’s own mortality tables, which illustrate the vast gap between cigarette smoking and pipe smoking.

    A glance at the results of the first Surgeon General’s report were so positive that he himself switched to a pipe. Since that time they attempted to build up the figures as best they could, but without much statistical significance. Currently they discovered that some of what they had thought was a tobacco problem turned out to be HPV.

  22. jerwynn said:

    Nameshy, thank you very much! I really appreciate your response. In the last year since returning to the pipe, every time I go into a pipe-store or meet a pipe-ster or pipe-maker, I want to ask if they have ever known any other real pipe-smoker that actually got mouth/throat/esophageal/etcetcetc cancer. I never do because I wouldn’t want to bring sad recollections to anyone who might have lost a friend to that. But then it occurs to me, so many of these people, who have been happily piping away all their adult lives, are my age or older and are obviously still living and happy about it! Hmmmmmmmmm… I must have another pipe to ponder the mystery of it!

  23. RevJoeyG said:

    Jerwynn: I was just having those thoughts, although I have been smoking a pipe for some time now.
    I was at the VA this week for cholestrol medication review and of course the ususal questions come up. What do you eat? How much, when etc? Then the unevitable ones come. Do you drink alcohol? I say no because I was the guy that could not drink responsibably and havn,t had a drop for 10 yrs. Then the “how about tobacco use”? I said I smoke a pipe. She wasn’t puzzled or anything. Then looks at my file and said that with my risk factors I would be 30% likly to have a heart attack within the next 10yrs. I called her about smoking a pipe and not cigarettes and how they add chemicals in cigarettes to keep people addicted and not inhaling a pipe. She said it didn’t matter and that even if you only smoked 1 cigarette a day you are still considered a risk factor because of it. Then asked me if I needed assistance with a stop smoking program LOL!!!
    My mother died of a heart attack at 56. They told me that was a risk to me as well and told me it did not matter that my mother was more a less mentally ill and laid on the couch all day, everyday and didn’t do anything except eat potato chips and never left the house.
    Great article, I needed to see this and be reaffirmed of what tobacco nazis are up to….Joe

  24. midniteryder said:

    Jerwynn: I was just having those thoughts, although I have been smoking a pipe for some time now.
    I was at the VA this week for cholestrol medication review and of course the ususal questions come up. What do you eat? How much, when etc? Then the unevitable ones come. Do you drink alcohol? I say no because I was the guy that could not drink responsibably and havn,t had a drop for 10 yrs. Then the “how about tobacco use”? I said I smoke a pipe. She wasn’t puzzled or anything. Then looks at my file and said that with my risk factors I would be 30% likly to have a heart attack within the next 10yrs. I called her about smoking a pipe and not cigarettes and how they add chemicals in cigarettes to keep people addicted and not inhaling a pipe. She said it didn’t matter and that even if you only smoked 1 cigarette a day you are still considered a risk factor because of it. Then asked me if I needed assistance with a stop smoking program LOL!!!
    My mother died of a heart attack at 56. They told me that was a risk to me as well and told me it did not matter that my mother was more a less mentally ill and laid on the couch all day, everyday and didn’t do anything except eat potato chips and never left the house.
    Great article, I needed to see this and be reaffirmed of what tobacco nazis are up to….Joe

  25. bakerfox said:

    As far as I’m concerned, Tobacco smoking IS protected under the First Amendment. Smoking has been a form of expression for thousands of years, and never really hurt anyone. . .untill now!! Hmmm! It’s not the Tobacco. . .It’s been since the advent of the diesel engine.





 

 


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