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Closet Fascination

A blog about a journey, smoking, not smoking, vaping and everything in between

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anti-smoking movement

Eyes Wide Open

My mind is reeling. I want this book: Velvet Glove, Iron Fist. I knew the anti-smoking movement was over-zealous, but the more I look into it, the worse it gets. Chapter 10 resonated with me the most, as this was the era I grew up in. The era of “there is nothing good about smoking”. Bad move trying to use that one on us. Seriously. Like Snowdon mentions in chapter 10, and as I have mentioned here before, I think it was precisely this “anti-smoking” lie that got me to try smoking in the first place. I was curious as to why someone would want to do something that was supposedly so vile. First attempt: gee, tobacco actually tastes good. First successful inhale: gee, smoking feels good- that’s why people keep doing it for long enough to get addicted.

Chapter 10 also has a pretty good run-down of all the junk-science that is used to link smoking to just about anything including AIDS. Yeah, AIDS. I didn’t believe that one until I read it. Maybe, just maybe it would be better to stick to research about things that tobacco could actually cause, than trying to demonize it further. This is like the smoking equivalent of “climategate” only less people know or seem to care.

What really got me was that there is little evidence to actually back passive smoking being bad. That’s right. All the smoking bans meant to “protect” non-smokers based on the fact that second-hand smoke is really bad are not based on good science. Good science involves accepting the results whether they go against what you previously thought or support it. But smoking science isn’t the only place that this occurs. And if science progresses through a series of paradigm shifts like Kuhn seems to think, one day another study will be done that says, hey- look here, passive smoking doesn’t seem to increase your risk of anything. Eventually what they will find is that the percentage of diseases caused by passive smoking are not decreasing, despite our decreased exposure. Or if those that believe in passive smoking are right, we will see a decrease. I actually think it would be funny if we saw an increase. Explain that one.

It is kind of like the time when they were sure that ulcers were caused by excess acid. The guy who proposed that gastric ulcers were caused by bacteria was laughed at. Ridiculed by the scientific community. So he took matters into his own hands. Much to his wife’s dismay, he drank a flask of the bacteria that he thought caused gastric ulcers. Sure enough, he developed ulcers. Luckily he had already figured out the concoction of antibiotics that need to be used to treat it. Faced with this evidence, the scientific community had to accept their research.  So maybe one day, there will be shift away from this bullshit of passive smoking and I will see smoking lounges start cropping up around here again. Because quite honestly, an establishment should be able to choose whether they allow smoking or not. I’m all for keeping smoking as an “adult” activity and only allowing it in places that do not allow minors. No need to return to the days of smoke-filled restaurants.

I guess what bugs me most about all this, isn’t the smoking bans or the regulations. It’s that people are doing shitty work and calling it science. They are twisting their results to suit their needs. That’s not what science is about. We saw this with climategate too. Maybe climate change is occurring, but shame on the scientists that decided to fudge their data to make it fit their hypothesis. Something like climate change isn’t something that we are likely to collect enough data for over even the course of my lifetime. It is the type of research that needs to be ongoing and over long periods of time, because the earth is old. We are just a blip on the radar as far as the history of Earth is concerned.

All of this makes me more confident in my choice to take up smoking the pipe occasionally. Sure my oral health may suffer a little although if my dentist had her way I would never eat candy either. Sure I am probably increasing my risk of mouth, throat and esophageal cancer, although by how much, I cannot say because when I looked into that the research I found many different numbers. For the most part, research concluded that you do not significantly decrease your lifespan by smoking pipes or cigars, unless you smoke heavily (defined as 10 cigars a day or 20 pipes a day).  Life is a giant game of risk vs benefit analysis. After analysis, I have determined that the benefit of pipe and cigar smoking far outweigh the risk. And to that I will smoke.

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Thoughts about Tobacco Harm Reduction

My idea for this post actually came from those randomly generated links that appear below each blog post. How related are these articles to my blog? Usually not at all. Most of the time it sends me to a blog of a person trying to quit smoking. Because that is what people do now days. This link happened to relate to my post on the smoking in Avatar. It brought me to an interesting anti-smoking website. What? Did she just say interesting and anti-smoking in the same sentence? Yes, dear readers- I did. Most anti-smoking websites or blogs are off-putting, because they assume that smokers are self-destructive idiots. Okay… maybe that is an exaggeration, but they come off as very condescending and very doom and gloom. Much like some sermon’s I have listened to in older school catholic churches. The blog I will be linking you to talks about tobacco harm reduction. What is this? Well- they are all about you quitting smoking, but you don’t have to give up nicotine or tobacco. You just have to quit smoking it. I’ve already had a few comments from Tony about the benefits of e-cigarettes.

I happen to have a thing for smoke. The way it smells. The way it tastes. I enjoy the effect of nicotine, but I’m not addicted to it. I do recognize its highly addictive potential though. Well, harm reduction people are anti-smoking advocates who say- obviously people smoke for a reason and that nicotine use is beneficial in some ways so instead of making people give up something they love, replace it with something else. They recognize that smokers are not stupid which made it refreshing to read some of their articles.

Am I going to give up smoking? Probably not. I see occasional smoking as “harm reduction” in a way too. The anti’s will have you believe that there is no safe amount of smoking, which is probably true, but they do exaggerate the risk for a low-level smoker. I plan on eliminating inhaling from my smoking routine, mostly because the type of smoking I will be doing doesn’t really require it and also- I am a nicotine lightweight, which is like being a cheap drunk. Will I have a higher risk of mouth and esophageal cancer? Yes.  But so do people who use smokeless tobacco. Inhaling and the frequency that you do so is what increases your risk so much more. Will I miss inhaling? Maybe… I only inhaled once on Saturday, and while it did feel good in a way, I also really enjoyed just blowing smoke. From the point of view of my fetish, I didn’t look like the pack-a-day smoker confirmed smoker that I always wanted to look like, but that goal conflicts with my greater desire to remain an occasional smoker. I didn’t look like a confirmed smoker when I was inhaling all the time, although my exhales were often quite impressive, the nicotine would kick me in the ass.

Back to the post I wanted to link people too, because honestly they make some really awesome points in it and it is something that I always tell people and they don’t believe me because tobacco has been so demonized. The post is: It’s not the tobacco, it’s not the additives: it’s the smoke. People are under the false impression that cigarette smoke is bad because of the additives, making cigar smoker safer because it is just pure tobacco. Or if I only smoke natural cigarettes, that is less bad than smoking regular cigarettes. Or my favourite, pot smoking is way less harmful than smoking cigarettes. Actually, smoking anything is bad. If I were to smoke tea bags everyday inhaling them like cigarettes and say did it 20 times a day, I would be putting myself at just as much risk as smoking 20 cigarettes a day and getting far less pleasure out of it. Sure nicotine is hard on your heart and blood vessels, but there is no good evidence that nicotine itself causes cancer. The carcinogens come from the combustion of the plant whether the plant you are burning is marijuana or tobacco. The only difference I can see between the two is that the majority of pot users don’t smoke twenty joints a day.

Finally, another article that I want to call people’s attention to is this one: Why Tobacco Harm Reduction Includes Defending Smoking. This is where you see that the people advocating for tobacco harm reduction are the only sane anti-smoking advocates out there. They believe that tobacco use, whether smoking it or other uses is an informed choice that people make. They try not to judge people on what choice they make, although they would prefer people choose smoke-free options. Further, they are actually not really for all the recent public smoking bans. This article: NYC:the city that never smokes talks about how there is not a lot of good scientific evidence for the dangers of second-hand smoke and he is right. The movement is largely a social one, that was backed by pseudo-science. I have a whole paper that explains how in great detail.

So when I talk about antis, I’m not talking about these level-headed tobacco harm reduction supporters who see smokers as people not just a demographic. I’m talking about the zealots who got mad because there was smoking in Avatar.  If the tobacco harm reduction people were in charge, it would be a different world for smokers. There might even still be places to smoke inside, although they would still prefer you switch to a less harmful form. These people take almost as much flack from the antis as smokers do, as they are accused of being “in league” with the tobacco companies.

I’ve covered a lot in this post and I think it might be something that I will revisit again at some point in the future. I find the science behind smoking very interesting, particularly because much of it tends to be biased. There is no getting around bias really, although many people seem to think science is “objective”. People try to be objective when doing science, but is it ever possible to be completely objective? No. What I find even more interesting is the communication of science and how the actually research results can be twisted to mean whatever society wants it to. Or  better illustrated by this PhD comic (click on comic for larger version):

The Science News Cycle

Just some food for thought, that we can’t always believe everything the media is telling us because something could have been lost in translation. Smoking is bad for us, yes. But how bad? That question is a little harder to answer.

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