Richard is wrong about smoking

(To read this post with links, see Let's start with what he wrote: - apparently I’m prevented from posting more than 2 links?)

Let’s start with what he wrote:

As no cause-effect connection has ever been established between tobacco use and any of the 101 ailments it has been epidemiologically associated with, the latest bout of demonisation which tobacco is currently receiving leaves me decidedly unimpressed. For example, despite 50+ years of subjecting many different laboratory animals (such as dogs, monkeys, rats, mice, and so on) to enormous amounts of tobacco smoke – in one instance laboratory mice were forced to inhale the human equivalent of 62 packs of cigarettes a day – no animal has ever developed lung cancer. For another example, in the USA, where all the furore started back in the ‘fifties’, whilst the number of people using tobacco has dropped from approx. 50% of the population back then to approx. 25% nowadays the incidence of lung cancer has risen, not fallen.

What is of particular note is that the cause of liver cancer, cervical cancer, throat cancer and stomach cancer has recently been discovered to be bacterial/viral, all the while that tobacco was being blamed and valuable research dollars were being allocated elsewhere, and some preliminary research is showing indications that bacteria/viruses might also be the cause of lung cancer … and maybe even heart disease.

Also, the figures published claiming, say, 350,000 deaths in a given year from tobacco-related diseases are not figures derived from a body-count – there are no such dead bodies in graves to count – as they are 350,000 (or whatever) phantom deaths generated by a computer programme such as SAMMEC II … meaning that it is the epidemiological data that is fed into the computer which determines the statistical deaths the programme prints out.

Lastly (as I have no interest in belabouring the subject) those graphic photographs showing a slimy-black cancerous lung, labelled ‘smoker’s lung’, and a shiny-pink healthy lung, labelled ‘non-smoker’s lung’, are nothing but propaganda: the slimy-black lung should read ‘cancerous lung’ (and could very well be a non-smoker’s lung) and the shiny-pink lung should read ‘healthy lung’ (and could very well be a smoker’s lung) as it is impossible for a pathologist to determine, from both gross and microscopic examination of lung tissue, whether a person who died from other causes (such as a vehicular accident) is a smoker or a non-smoker.

The following URL covers all this and much more: (lcolby site)

For the record, I have a nicotine patch on my skin right now, and regularly use alternative nicotine-delivery methods, believe there’s something to the quip that greatness declined when the anti-smoking campaigns gained power in the 2nd half of the 20th century (who was it again?). By the same token, I am not maximally negative on gout (link unavailable).

Some in my family, some of the most important people to me, died of causes obviously exacerbated by smoking cigarettes; Russia is a country of heavy smokers and short male lifespans; tobacco smoke is indelibly low-class-coded in my olfactory bulb. Such are my biases.

Your link includes [this chapter on risk:] (link unavailable)

The reader may ask, “Well, if smoking doesn’t cause lung cancer, just what does?”. Recent studies suggest that the answer lies in the genes of those individuals who develop the disease.

One must be cautious in assessing the genetic evidence, because molecular biologists, many of whom are employed by the rabidly anti tobacco government establishment, are not above the use of techno-babble in support of the establishment position on smoking. In their book on gene therapy, Altered Fates, authors Jeff Lyon and Peter Gorner quote scientist Philp Leder as saying that nicotine is a “mutagen par excellence”. A mutagen, according to them, is another way of saying “carcinogen”. There are, however, absolutely no studies showing that nicotine is a carcinogen. If it were, the FDA could scarcely have approved the sale of the nicotine patches, used by smokers who choose to quit smoking.

Quite frankly, I do not know whether there is a risk to smoking, or not. I do know that “risk” is not the same as causation.

This is just sad – picking on the weakman when purporting to debunk mainstream. Whatever properties nicotine has or doesn’t have, you are trying to defend tobacco, and so does this Colby dude. [Gwern:] (link unavailable)

All of the harm seems to stem from tobacco, and tobacco smoking in particular; this is not necessarily obvious because almost everyone casually conflates tobacco with nicotine (especially public education programs[3]), treating them as a single synonymous evil I dub “nicbacco”. When someone or something says that “nicotine” is harmful and you drill down to the original references for their claims, the references often turn out to actually be talking about tobacco rather than nicotine gums or patches[4]. Other methodological issues include comparing to current smokers rather than former smokers or failing to control for the subjects being the sort of people who would begin such a societally-disapproved activity like smoking; the studies typically aren’t designed properly even for showing an effect: you need a study which finds deficits in smokers but not in non-smokers or former smokers (eg. [Heffernan et al 2011] or [Sabia et al 2008] (link unavailable) /⁣[Sabia et al 2012] although neither enables nicotine inferences since there was no nicotine-only control group). The [2019 United States outbreak of lung illness linked to vaping products] (link unavailable) offers a case in point of this prejudice: despite every sign pointing to adulterants added to illegal THC/marijuana vaping fluids by fly-by-night operators rather than nicotine (such as the decades of nicotine vaping by millions of people not causing them to land overnight in hospital ICUs), the outbreak has been used as an excuse to ban legal nicotine vaping fluids instead—which is like banning aspirin as a response to the opiate crisis because they’re both used for pain relief and they both come in pill form, and some OD victims also used aspirin recently, so that makes them pretty much the same thing, right?

That’s just one random piece of your source, going poof.

I think the evidence is overwhelming – the [genetic data] (link unavailable), the [life expectancy effect] (link unavailable), the [lung cancer incidence rate] (link unavailable), and many other clear indicators pointing in the same direction. Using gwern’s words again (now from his section on HBD) «the persistence of the debate reflects more what motivated cognition can accomplish and the weakness of existing epistemology and debate». If causality between smoking and adverse health outcomes cannot be conclusively shown, this is an indictment of our methods and perhaps our scientific institutions, not the hypothesis.

But on the level of pure observation: the physical enfeeblement and accelerated aging of smokers, their inability to move well for prolonged time (very annoying for fit people, even though most are too polite to state it directly), their stench, their yellow teeth and cracked skin, all of those correlates of unwellness are so obvious to the naked eye, it can well compete with obesity in how ridiculous and self-clowning it is to downplay. Yes, there are generally healthy obese people, I suppose. (I’d guess they’d be superhuman if not for all the extra adipose tissue). No, there is zero chance obesity doesn’t make them worse off. [Likewise for smoking.] (link unavailable)

In people, I greatly admire φιλοσοφία, the love of wisdom; and wisdom is necessarily grounded in truth. An obese person can be pitied for his plight, or respected for coping with it, or even for embracing the hedonism, social conventions be damned. But an obese person who is in denial about the cost of his lifestyle is lacking character to such an extent it’d be a waste of time to engage on any level sans the most superficial, I believe; I would never let such a person play a role in my life that I wouldn’t entrust to a journalist or a hooker. Likewise with smokers.

Or might this be just a bit where you are hinting at some other risible delusion, just a more popular one, perhaps? Or something like COVID-masks-and vaccines stuff again?

For example, despite 50+ years of subjecting many different laboratory animals (such as dogs, monkeys, rats, mice, and so on) to enormous amounts of tobacco smoke – in one instance laboratory mice were forced to inhale the human equivalent of 62 packs of cigarettes a day – no animal has ever developed lung cancer.

As far as I can tell this is false. See here for early attempts (some successful) and here for a more recent review, including claims like:

However, in 1997 the first of a series of studies reported that exposure of strain A mice for 5 months to a mixture of 89% cigarette sidestream and 11% mainstream smoke, followed by a month recovery period in air, significantly increased lung tumor multiplicity in strain A mice (Witschi et al. 1997a, 1997b).

There may be adjacent true claims, like “inducing lung cancer in animal models via tobacco smoke is surprisingly difficult”. But there’s something of a chasm between “surprisingly difficult” (which would still be evidence of causation) and “not accomplished” (which is not the claim supported by recorded research.)

I think you mean well, Richard, but contrarianism is not interesting on its own.

Hi @lexej ,

Welcome again. Before engaging in continued correspondence, as it is generally helpful to know more about where the other person is coming from, could you make an introductory post?

e.g. from Welcome to the Forum:

We’re curious to hear about you! As your first post we encourage you to open a post with the Introduction tag. It facilitates the discussion to know where you’re coming from and where you’re at – say hi, let us know how you came across actualism and what your interest is.

Also note the purpose of the forum:

This is a place set up to enable and facilitate the discussion of actualism, as presented on the Actual Freedom Trust website .

That is, although at times it is beneficial and/or relevant and/or pertinent to discuss something Richard wrote that isn’t strictly related to actualism, the purpose of the forum isn’t debating whether he is right or wrong about X or Y per se. The point of doing so is relevant only insofar as how it is relevant for you, i.e. for the reasons Richard just laid out very lucidly.

As such it doesn’t make sense to debate about what Richard wrote in 2004 without any context as to where your questions/points/issues are coming from.


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Привет, @lexej

Я изучаю русский язык, у меня много русских друзей, и я надеюсь приехать сюда снова.

Я говорю по-русски плохо.

I am a smoker. Although I started very late, around 9 years ago, there is a marked difference between what people actually do when they “smoke”.

Some chain smoke “tailor made” (packet cigarettes), whilst others roll them conservatively.

Both will be called “smokers”, with one consuming maybe 1/4 the amount of tobacco.

I don’t recall Richard saying it’s a healthy habit, but rather the data was skewed.

For example, the bit I remember was that it was mandated in the US that any form of cancer be recorded as “smoking related” if the person who died was a smoker.

This then was used as evidence that they did indeed die of smoking in later studies.

Apologies for no links.

As for how much Richard actually smokes; it’s very little indeed.

Sitting with him, it was actually annoying to watching his patiently rolled cigarette, burn out in the ash tray after him taking no more than one or two shallow puffs.

He wouldn’t roll again for the entire morning, or maybe once more. And, then? One or two shallow puffs!

The point is the propaganda will tell you that every cigarette is basically killing you. It’s doom and gloom.

Indeed, Richard’s latest writing, which Claudiu linked to, is so very useful.

One can’t look at any social media without someone pushing the very same type of doom and gloom about what we consume.

Technically, every time we consume a tomato, we are infact damaging ourselves.

Every single bite of food is going to have some adverse health effects. Whether it’s lectins, some form of cholesterol, a indigestible starch, the body is going to be damaged in some way.

It’s like our cars, or anything else. Things wear out. It’s the 2nd “law” of thermodynamics; entropy increases.

If one were to studiously follow all the “health” advice, the promise they imply is that we would never “wear out”.

Everything “wears out”.

Smoking, at sensible levels, (which I can’t claim to do…) is made out to be just as damaging as smoking at excessive levels.

This is really silly.

Sorry Andrew. If they respond in kind, they will first do it through Google Translate, like I’m doing. Ты говоришь по-русски лучше, чем @lexej Он не тот, за кого себя выдает.

:rofl: Humans are so funny.

And every breath I take wear out my lungs and each heart beat I’m one heart beat closer to death and oh god we all gonna die and what does it all mean and what is it all for !!! :smile:

The wonderful thing is that the latter queries can actually be answered , experientially!!

I tried raising you to “member” status , let me know if that works now !

Cue Sting. :rofl:

I switched to vaping. I see PSA commercials claiming it’s just as bad. My lungs disagree.

Lex I agree with you, based on my personal observation I have known at least a handful of people personally, probably more, who died from lung cancer throughout my life and they all smoked including Alan who was a member of this forum. I don’t have the facts but what evidence I have read is overwhelming. I recall Richard saying that smoking is not as bad as they say it is. That might be true but those people I have known that died from it are just as dead.
btw, I smoked cannabis for 55 yrs and the hospital recently said that my lungs are clear.