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.

I’ve been doing a little bit of research on this topic myself as I am a smoker, I have been reading the e-book that Richard recommends on the AFT - "In Defence of Smokers", by Lauren A. Colby / Chapter 10. Lots of interesting stuff there.

But then today I thought lets do some of my own calculations - based on the statistical data available :

So roughly 6.6 million people in the UK smoke (year 2021)

There are roughly 34,800 lung cancer deaths in the UK (years 2017-2019). I know the years for both numbers don’t line up exactly but they are close enough to satisfy in this case and for the purposes of this rough calculation.

Now if I was to calculate the worst case scenario I can assume that all 34,800 of those lung cancer deaths were from those 6.6 million smokers. This is implying that all lung cancer deaths are that of smokers (which is definitely not the case).

This would mean that roughly - 0.52% of all the smokers in the UK died of lung cancer in the recent years (again this is not a correct number for I am assuming all cancer deaths are that of smokers, it is likely to be way lower actually).

This means that roughly 1 out of 200 smokers in the UK dies from lung cancer.

Now 2 things here :

  • Maths has never been my strong suit so there is a chance I have fudged up somewhere here, but I don’t think so.
  • The figures really speak for themselves, this is a very small number, how could smoking be seriously entertained for the killer that it purportedly is, in the face of these numbers? Especially when the numbers are purposefully calculated on a worst case scenario basis and they are still crazy low.

Ah well that’s deaths per year not per lifetime. So it would mean that if you are a smoker, your chance of dying of lung cancer in any given year is 0.5%.

It would be like at the end of the year you flip a coin 7 to 8 times, if it’s heads each time you die of lung cancer. Or roll a 6-sided dice 3 times, if it’s 1 each time you die of lung cancer. And you do this every year.

It’s on the high side for my taste, but even so it’s a super worst case statistic as you said , the reality will be much less than this — and even so it’s not a death sentence. Repeating this for 30 years and your chance to die is ~14%:

Here’s another rough calculation. If you catch it early the 20-year survival rate is 80%:

If the chance to develop lung cancer as a smoker is 10-20% in your lifetime:

As a smoker you could do regular screenings if lung cancer is a concern.

Thus with early screening your lifetime risk to die from lung cancer — defined as dying within 20 years of developing it — is 2-4%.

Meanwhile the general population has a ~6% chance to get lung cancer:

So with the same early screening approach their percentage is 1.4% — not very far from the low end of the smoking estimate! And one may be less diligent about catching lung cancer as a nonsmoker , bumping that up.

In any case 6% chance to get lung cancer vs 10% as a smoker , is not really so far off, and that’s taking all these numbers at face value which it’s extremely likely they are tilted unfavorable for the smokers.

Ah now I am glad I posted this on here! Thanks yeah that makes sense.

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the general population would include smokers, i figure. the comparison i’m familar with is 1% for non smokers and 8% for smokers. keep in mind those statistics take no account of how much you smoke. And the popular media says things like 'there’s an 800% greater chance of getting lung cancer if you smoke." They always use the big numbers when they want to scare you and the little numbers when they want to pacify you. (Next time I run across an article that does the latter, I’ll post it and link this comment). There’s also more health concerns than lung cancer - the number I’m familiar with is 6 years. Smokers (no distinction made between frequency) have the shorter life span. But everything I just said could be incorrect. It’s all from memory. My biggest takeaways when I researched this some 8 years ago was 1) how the doctors manipulate the media to use the bigger numbers and omit the things Claudiu mentioned. 2) That the correlation is super strong. 3) That no other possible reason for the correlation has been hypothesized let alone tested even by those who dispute the consensus. And (4) that my personal hypothesis of stress has never been tested. Interestingly i talked to a doctor recently and he rejected my stress hypothesis because people in high stress jobs don’t have a higher mortality rate. It wasn’t until a day later that I thought to add that stress is optional and people who thrive in high stress jobs are probably attracted to the stress. Iow, it’s how they get their quota of stress. Others might get it just by crossing the street.

Also there’s a difference of the feeling of being overwhelmed and feeling stress and feeling anxiety – and being highly engaged in a dynamic and quickly-evolving environment. The latter is actually super fun and I don’t see why it would have negative health effects. The former is awful, can happen even if nothing very objectively bad is happening, and I can see how it can be extremely detrimental to one’s health

It’s counterintuitive but for me when I go from an amount of work pressure where I feel overwhelmed , to the next level up of work pressure and where immediate action is required – the feeling of being overwhelmed disappears entirely. It’s replaced by crystal clear thinking, obviousness of seeing what needs doing, and no unpleasant feelings at all – actually it is very fun! Then when it dips down to not being critical, the feelings come back and with them too the feeling of stress and overwhelm.

I interpret it as that by my own admission those feelings are not only redundant and/or useless but actually detrimental – such that there’s no room for them if high function is really required. And so when it is, they go away. Very fascinating stuff!


I agree about this stress angle that hasn’t necessarily been pursued, it’s especially relevant on the shorter lifespan angle. How many people smoke because of their own psychic stress? I suspect the majority of smokers, not to mention how many smoke because they enjoy it but then feel guilty about it.

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Yeah perhaps the propaganda needs to change from ‘smoking kills’ to ‘identity kills’ :laughing:

For what % of various causes of morbidity do ‘I’ play a role in. I’ve noticed this in myself massively, I feel so much better physically these days, better at 29 than I did at 20.

I recently was informed about anoikis, a mechanism the body uses to prune off damaged cells. It appears that when under chronic stress, the body’s ability to detect and remove early cancerous cells is depressed. This obviously has implications in the cancers associated with smokers and other tobacco users, who frequently report that stress cessation is one of the main reasons they smoke.

Per this article, “There was a statistically significant higher percentage of severe and extremely severe degree of depression (14.6% and 13%), anxiety (17.7% and 39.3%), and stress (21.5% and 13.4%) respectively, with P < 0.001 among smokers, … [and] among former smokers.”

The attached table indicates an increase in ‘extreme depression’ of 2.4x, ‘extreme anxiety’ of 2.3x, and ‘extreme stress’ of 4.2x among smokers vs. nonsmokers.

Additionally: A Model of Gene-Environment Interaction Reveals Altered Mammary Gland Gene Expression and Increased Tumor Growth following Social Isolation - PMC (

Hmm so smokers are 6x likelier to get lung cancer than non smokers … but stress is a factor of lung cancer and smokers are 4x more likely to be extremely stressed? This is interesting !