Smoking Kills -> Smoking harms ones around you

Smoking Kills… Well, I’m sure many people believe that. I say believe, because we don’t have a proof. Scientists have carried out lots and lots of ‘research’ to prove the point, but it’s all correlative, rather than causal, evidence. Anyway…
What annoys me (as a happy smoker) surrounding this array of ‘stop smoking campaigns’ you see everywhere, not to mention on the packets of cigarrettes, is that the authority is now trying to use psychological ‘blame’ game on moral ground. Have you seen the TV campaign advert in which a young girl ‘blame’ her mother for dying of lung cancer – which surely is down to her smoking… The message seems to be that "well, the consequence of smoking extends beyound your own death, but your loved ones also ‘suffer’ from their loss, and how do you account for that?"
I’m quite aware that I would sound extremely radical, but all this message – including the issues of passive smoking – would have meaning only if you accept the ‘causal’ connection between smoking and lung cancer and death from it. There has been a massive volume of research on the association between smoking and incidence of lung cancer, and there is statistical evidence that so many people "die or lung cancer" every year. The opponents of smoking argue on the basis of health risks and they seem to think it’s "too obvious" but things are not as obvious as they would like to believe.
Some food for thoughts:
  • What all the research shows is the ‘correlation’ between the incidence of lung cancer among smokers, on the one hand, and among non-smokers, on the other. There’s no study that ‘proves’ the causal mechanism, in which it explains how a substance generate cancer cells.
  • Epidemiological evidence of the "smoking-related death" has quite a shakey ground. Some argue that some studies include deaths which may not directly be attributed to smoking on an empirical ground (i.e. coungin all deaths from lung cancer, hart attack, etc) pretty indiscriminately. All they needed was the fact that the dead sued to smoke. The indiscriminate nature of such studies extends to the consideration on the duration of smoking as well. That is, it may include someone who had died of heart failure at the age of 85, having smoked probably over 40 years.
  • And finally, the number of deaths attributed to lung cancer in the statistics itself can be questionable. My close relative "died of lung cancer" last year. It’s put in the inverted commas because he actually didn’t die of cancer. He had a lung condition, more like a genetic disease, that lung cells collapse and lose the function to inhale oxygen. So he practically died of sufforcation. The doctor, however, put lung cancer on his death certificate for the insurance purposes. And the rumour has it, this is not an unusual practice. The implication, obviously, is the credibility of the statistics that are used in epidemiological studies.

Good night, and good luck


About Dr Kats

a working sociologist/linguist/translator based in Kobe, Japan
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