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Air pollution vs. smoking, or who's killing who?

Updated on June 1, 2012

As new anti-smoking laws and regulations come on the scene, a few questions need to be asked. According to current CDC figures, more non-smokers than smokers are dying of respiratory diseases. Relative to actual amounts of pollution, smokers produce micrograms where practically every other form of combustion produces tons.

There are so many issues in terms of epidemiology in relation to smoking and the general theory of respiratory disease statistics that it's hard to know where to begin, but let's have a shot at it.

1. The most basic principles of epidemiology include environmental factors. The almost unbelievable cocktail of chemicals produced in the modern atmosphere is barely even mentioned as a possible cause of respiratory disease.

2. Just about all commercial tobacco products are reviled by the anti-smoking lobby on the basis of containing large numbers of toxic chemicals. These chemicals include pesticides, herbicides and a large range of other chemicals which have oxidised could reasonably be considered to be poisons. No other commercial product on earth would be allowed on the market by consumer regulations with this enormous number of toxins.

3. The fact that tobacco is allowed on the market with this huge number of potential poisons makes governments party to any effects of these chemicals. The fact that these chemicals are permitted means that the government has effectively endorsed their use, and is therefore potentially liable for any injuries.

Primary sources of air pollution are automobiles and industry. You don't see anybody saying "ban the car" in medical circles. Industry, sacred cow that it is, is also apparently exempt from the sort of outrage directed smokers. Between them, automobiles and industry produce millions of tonnes of pollution per day.

So – Could there possibly be a connection between millions of tonnes of toxic chemicals being pumped into the atmosphere and respiratory disease? You wouldn't think so, from all the medical information being churned out by PR companies. The anti-smoking industry is doing quite nicely, thank you, in terms of hundreds of millions of dollars of government contracts.

The smoking lobby isn't exactly immune to criticism, either. One of the major problems with commercial tobacco products is the presence of petroleum compounds in the tobacco. Traditionally, tobacco was cured using sugar. The sugar soaked into the cellulose of the tobacco leaf and naturally made it burn hotter.

The tobacco companies, in their infinite wisdom, decided that petroleum products would be used to make tobacco burn more evenly. It's unclear whether or not the introduction of these products actually caused the toxic properties in cigarettes, but it's a pretty reasonable guess that it did. In keeping with the noble tradition of government’s very highly expensive non-involvement in everything, this is never even been a topic for debate regarding smoking.

So – What's killing all the non-smokers?

Statistically, it seems out of whack that so many non-smokers should be dying of respiratory diseases at all. If pollution is under control, and everybody is giving up smoking, why are about 1 million Americans a year dying of respiratory diseases? Perhaps they have nothing better to do? Or perhaps the entire argument, or in this case non-argument, is wrong?

The days when authorities could speak with credible authority are long gone. Now, it is necessary for consumers to question every piece of information received from every source. The fact is sources which were once reliable can no longer be trusted.

  • The tobacco companies have been extremely dishonest in their portrayal of their product and evading the issues related to petroleum products contained in cigarettes and other forms of tobacco.
  • The anti-smoking lobby has been utterly disingenuous in its total avoidance of the mention of air pollution and other environmental factors affecting respiratory diseases.
  • Governments have been absolutely useless and totally incompetent in their management of air pollution.
  • Medical authorities have been naive at best and misleading at worst regarding the extremely broad bandwidth of issues affecting serious respiratory diseases.
  • Epidemiologists have been appallingly ineffectual and apparently unwilling to even address the issues of air pollution in relation to respiratory diseases. A wonderful double standard has emerged whereby China's air pollution is a major problem, but there pollution affecting the rest of the world for some reason or other isn't a problem.

In short, business as usual for Corporate Cuckoo Land. The litigation industry too, has got in on the act with a range of lawsuits justifiable and otherwise, regarding all aspects of smoking. It is interesting to note that so many highly qualified people apparently have absolutely no interest in the facts of any particular situation as long as it makes money. Even the courts appear to be prepared to tolerate accepted arguments simply because they are accepted arguments. The mistake here is believing that because there are two sides to any dispute, that either of them is right.

In this case, nobody is right, and nobody is attempting to be right. Millions of tonnes of pollution will continue to be poured out into the lungs of the human race, and nobody will do a damn thing about it. On the tombstone of the human race will be written "Died of stupidity". It will be post-mortem flattery.


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    • Redberry Sky profile image

      Redberry Sky 

      6 years ago

      Absolutely agree with you. Smoking is a handy smoke screen that is used to cover up all of the many other greater evils that big business and government have no intention of clearing up. Awesome Hub.

    • Paul Wallis profile imageAUTHOR

      Paul Wallis 

      6 years ago from Sydney, Australia

      Yep, someone else is always the problem. If it's a problem that anyone might be held responsible for, it's not mentioned, therefore it's not a problem.

    • 666divine profile image


      6 years ago from Toronto, Ontario

      Society needs a hate group to point the figure at when they're coughing up blood. Smokers or the automobile industry? The government decided that smokers were a much easier target.

      And of course: unbelievable cocktail of chemicals produced in the modern atmosphere is barely even mentioned.


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