I've received some responses to the smoking article, and as they are so different, and make such relevant points, I thought I would include them.

If anybody else is moved to write to me with their thoughts relating to smoking, they might well find themselves quoted here!


- from Linda Steele

One thing about the tobacco/smoke slot you might be interested in: my oldest friend, who is a biochemical toxicologist, worked years ago for the U. of Kentucky doing tobacco research under the aegis of the head honcho there. I recall his telling me at the time, after doing testing on core samples from the huge vats where the leaves are stored for some reason or other, that one could identify between 30 and 35 toxic substances in the leaves at that point.
Some of these are chemicals used on the growing plants to encourage growth, reduce insect infestations, etc., and some of them are chemicals added to the tobacco to make it burn faster, be a certain color, etc. ... all that kind of marketing stuff. He was a smoker at the time and used to grind and roll up the core samples he was testing, so I dont think he was prejudiced about what he was finding.
As it turned out, when he reported all his data to his boss, the guy essentially said We can't report this or we won't get any more grant money from the tobacco industry to do this research and keep our jobs ... at which point my friend quit. He eventually went to work for Dupont, where he still is, with the one stipulation that he would never knowingly lie for them. I can only hope he's kept that commitment through the years as he has been everything from head of their research lab to their EPA officer!


- from Marijke van Gans

Very much agree with what you say about the elephant on your dog <g>. A car engine produces more CO, NOx, unburnt hydrocarbons and carcinogens in 5 minutes than a smoker in their lifetime, i can't help laughing when i see cars (cars!) with non-smoking stickers inside...
It's been known for decades that the difference in lung cancer incidence between smokers and non-smokers is the same as that between town dwellers and those in rural areas. Put simply, if you're a rural non-smoker you have virtually zero chance getting it, rural smokers and townie non-smokers have about the same risk, and for town smokers it's double. Yet i've never heard of a doctor refusing to treat town dwelling patients unless they agree to move to the countryside -- but many instances of doctors refusing to treat patients unless they become non-smokers. Clearly something else than the numerical risk of lung cancer is at work here. It's a personal dislike. A "moral" issue untroubled by sense or logic. A witch hunt.
BTW i'm a counter-example to your assertion in your web article that

«the most die-hard (no pun intended) smoker will admit that it's not actually good for you»

I've read claims that smoking cuts your risk of Parkinson's by 90% (smokers are ten times less likely getting it) and your risk of Alzheimer's by 95% (smokers are twenty times less likely getting it). Recently there was also the news that breast cancers (at least those caused by the BRC1 or BRC2 genes) could be prevented by smoking. All in all it seems that smoking, like so many things, increases some risks while reducing others.


- from Andrew Brown

I agree whole-heartedly with your smoking analysis. The vehement crusade against smoking overshadows a much more deadly, anti-social problem: alcoholism. It destroys families and careers whereas smoking is relatively victimless, except the mild discomfort of non-smoking bystanders! In this respect, it is amazing to me that the alcohol industry has remained unscathed by these anti-smoking crusaders (here in the US). Also, the reason smokers are 95% less likely to contract Alzheimer's (according to one of your respondents) is . . . because they die earlier! It's like saying - youth is good for your health, so shave off those years!
Anti-smoking activists in the U.S. justify their huge liability suits against tobacco companies in terms of the health care costs borne by the government to treat smoking-related diseases. But any analysis of costs must also include the benefits. In the case of treating smokers, the government actually saves money in the long run: smokers tend to die at a younger age such that the government saves money on Social Security outlays and Medicare reimbursements associated with treating an older population. If anything, the government should reimburse the tobacco companies for inflicting premature death on entitlement beneficiaries!