Archive for August, 2018

Cigarettes Don’t Kill People

August 28, 2018

I’m tired of hearing the myth that cigarettes kill people. It reminds me of the old myth that cold temperatures cause colds.

The smoking issue is not as simple as the anti-smokers portray it.   It can involve more than just addiction to nicotine.

If smoking kills people why do so many smokers live to be over 60?

Looking at substances that sometimes kill people demonstrates how substances can kill people directly.

For most of us peanuts are a delicious and nutritious snack.  However, for some people with a peanut allergy peanuts can be one of the world’s deadliest poisons.

College fraternity hazing incidents sometimes have someone die from drinking too much alcohol.  Combining sleeping pills and alcohol creates a deadly cocktail.

Overdoses of prescription drugs and drugs like heroin kill thousands  a year.

I have never had any connection to the tobacco industry.  I have never smoked, owned any tobacco company assets or worked in a facility that sold tobacco products.  People I cared about have died from medical conditions associated with tobacco use.

On a personal level I don’t understand how people can enjoy smoking, but then smokers might not understand why I like jalapeno slices in my breakfast eggs.  On the scientific level I recognize a genetic condition that many smokers have may make smoking  a virtual necessity for them.

Smoking is blamed for causing lung cancer even though fewer than 10% of smokers  get lung cancer.  In an extensive British study only half of smokers died of conditions associated with smoking.  If cigarettes killed people why would they kill some, but not others?

Cold temperatures don’t automatically cause colds, but may make the body more vulnerable to colds.  Cold temperatures can force the body to divert energy to keeping warm which may reduce the body’s ability to fight the cold virus.

Perhaps cigarettes merely increase some smokers’ vulnerability to certain medical disorders.  For example, smoking may not actually cause cells to become cancerous.   Instead, the nicotine in cigarettes is capable of aiding  the growth of cancers caused by some other factor, such as asbestos.   Smokers may be more likely to take jobs which expose them  to  carcinogens.   Smoking may accelerate aging of some body parts in older smokers.

Evaluating the relative health impact of smoking isn’t as straight forward as tobacco critics assume because smokers often have a significant genetic difference from non-smokers.  Smokers tend to have what is called the”risk taker” or “trill seeker” version of the DRD4(Dopamine Receptor D4] gene.   Comparing risk taker smokers to non-risk taker non-smokers could produce an inaccurate result. Risk taking smokers conceivably could have a higher life expectancy than non-smoking risk takers, particularly those who are alcoholics or drug users.  .

Research is mixed on the existence of risk takers because how people take risks can vary. Individuals  may not consciously choose activities because they are “risky”.    An individual may instead choose activities that they describe as “exciting” or “challenging”.

Most people aren’t athletic enough to participate in obviously risky activities like mountain climbing or skiing.  Some people take risky jobs like fire fighting.   Others prefer to take risks by gambling or having multiple sex partners.  Some men seek thrills by going out in public dressed as women.  The portrayal of smoking as a dangerous activity makes smoking attractive to young risk takers who don’t feel they could physically or mentally handle other “risky” activities..  Young people often feel they can avoid the negative affects of whatever actions they take.   Alcohol and drugs like heroin appeal to other risk takers.

Criticism of smoking focuses on physical health. The risk taker gene and smoking may also impact mental health. The risk taker gene that smokers often have has a connection to mental health problems such as ADHD. (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder).    Nicotine can have a calming effect and reduce anger.

Risk taking isn’t the only potential threat to a person’s health.  The opposite of risk taking is boredom which can have a strong negative impact.  It might even be possible to be bored to death.  People who attempt to quit smoking sometimes experience depression and suicidal thoughts attributed to nicotine withdrawal. For risk takers these conditions might also indicate boredom due to removal of risk generated excitement

Anti-smokers treat smoking as just a “nasty” unhealthy habit.  However, smoking is actually a complex behavior that some may need because of a genetic brain condition.