Thursday, June 25, 2009

Smoking, lung cancer and anti-smoker fiction

Complacency is defined as a feeling of contentment or self-satisfaction, especially when coupled with an unawareness of danger, trouble, or controversy. And, complacent is the word which best describes the attitude of non-smokers towards the de-normalization of smokers.

Science has demonstrated a statistical association between lung cancer and literally dozens of potential risk factors, including radiation, asbestos, smog, diesel fuel, automobile exhaust, alcohol, dietary habits and even whole milk.

Smoking is also a likely risk factor. In fact, the anti-smoker crowd claims it’s the leading cause of the disease. However, it is also very likely that the number of lung cancer deaths attributed to smoking is grossly inflated to support anti-smoker propaganda and promote their efforts to de-normalize smokers.

Anti-smoker crusaders have focused so much attention on smoking that the public has given little or no consideration to other potential causes. The media perpetuate the myth created by anti-smoker activists, repeating their suspect statistics continuously, and without question, in news articles. And, a complacent public ignores an immoral crusade against smokers, oblivious to the very real discrimination directed at 20% of the population.

For example, of the 13,401 lung cancer deaths attributed to smoking by Health Canada, 55% were past the age of 70; over 30% were 80 years of age or older, exceeding average life expectancy. So, one could legitimately argue that old age may contribute as much to lung cancer as smoking.

The anti-smoker crowd insists that as much as 85% to 90% of lung cancer deaths are caused by smoking. But, is this a realistic estimate of the number of smokers dying from lung cancer? This suggests that smoking is almost nine times as potent as all other risk factors combined.

Health Canada has identified exposure to radon gas as the second biggest risk factor for lung cancer; responsible for 2,000 deaths (roughly 12% of lung cancer deaths) in Canada annually. Air pollution is believed to cause another 5% of lung cancers. That doesn’t leave many lung cancer deaths to be distributed among the remaining established risk factors.

As a matter of fact, it doesn’t leave any.

But, there’s more. From Japan comes a study which finds that: “1 in 8 patients with lung cancer show asbestos exposure”.

The June 1, 2009 article in the Yomiuri Shimbun says: “Pleural plaques, or a thickening of lung membranes due to asbestos exposure, were found in one in eight lung cancer patients, according to medical research papers jointly released Monday by 12 medical institutions in Japan. The research team said the number of people who died from asbestos-related lung cancer might amount to several thousand people a year.”

According to a study panel of the Japanese Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry, asbestos exposure is the sole cause of pleural plaques.

That figure of 1 in 8 raises the spectre of asbestos exposure being responsible for up to 12% of lung cancer deaths in Japan. If that figure were applied to Canada, then, combined with deaths attributed to radon gas exposure and air pollution, that means something other than smoking is implicated in as many as 29% of lung cancer deaths.

But, wait a minute. When you add up all those percentages, you get considerably more than 100%. And, we haven’t even taken smog, diesel exhaust, alcohol, diet, occupational exposure to carcinogens, old age or dozens of other potential causes of lung cancer into consideration.

How is that possible?

In addition, some recent studies have implicated HPV in the development of lung cancer. “Overall, the mean incidence of HPV in lung cancer was 24.5%”. That doesn’t mean that a quarter of lung cancers were caused by HPV. But it does strongly suggest that HPV may be the cause of many lung cancer deaths, independent of smoking.

So, we have considerably more statistical deaths than actual deaths. So is it not reasonable to suggest that such a scenario is highly improbable and lung cancer deaths attributed to smoking have been grossly exaggerated?

The truth is, a small minority of anti-smoker zealots are leading a campaign to denigrate and demean a sizable part of the population. And, in large measure, they are succeeding. Smoking bans, punitive taxation, open discrimination in employment, housing and health care; all tactics designed to pressure smokers into quitting.

And, John Q Public, for the most part, ignores the debate, with little or no understanding that the deceptive tactics being used to marginalize smokers will soon be used to target other segments of society; the obese and overweight, and those who partake of the “demon rum”.

Will the non-smokers remain so unquestioning, so complacent, when the anti-smoker rhetoric turns to anti-fat or anti-booze rhetoric?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Cancers of all sorts have actually gone up dramatically since the late 80's, even though smoking is quite rare nowadays.

No one seems to mention all of the genetically modified foods that came onto the market at almost the exact same time as the massive increases in certain cancers.

Of course many will keep blaming cigarettes but I cannot honestly believe that because almost nobody smokes anymore.