- Personal Health Information & Self-Help
The addiction more dangerous than tobacco
"Health nuts are going to feel stupid someday; lying in hospitals dying of nothing." ~Redd Fox
Almost twenty years ago my biological Mom's cousin Andy died very unexpectedly. It was unexpected not because Andy made his own moonshine whiskey or that he had smoked three packs of cigarettes a day for over thirty years or that he spent every day working in his garden without a single smather of sunblock. It just came as a bit of a surprise that Andy didn't die of anything except happiness. Well, that was the coroner's verdict anyway. It might be hard for some to understand how a man who lived like Andy could have possibly died happy, and what's more, with a smile sealed to his cold lips. But then again, dear Andy -who was recently married and even more recently had fathered a bouncing baby boy- had been a 104 years old when he died.
Some years before Cuz Andy's death I lost my beloved Nanny. She was my adoption Mama's mother, and a wonderful, loving woman who had abstained from alcohol and cigarettes all her life. Poor Nanny died, quite painfully, of lung cancer.
Today, if we are to believe the FDA and the anti-smoking crusaders, one would have to assume that was Cuz Andy who should have died of lung cancer and not my Nanny. You hear and read about it all the time: researchers have demonstrated once again that nicotine and tobacco products pose serious health risks. Not only this, but second-hand smoke is dangerous, too. And among the die-hard believers even third-hand smoke is viewed as an insidious killer waiting to strike.
I concede that tobacco companies used to saturate their products with a bunch of ingredients that had no business being there. Flavor enhancers, stuff to make the cigarettes light quicker, junk that most likely made the inevitable addiction even stronger. Still, I'm just not apt to give the alleged scientific research findings against tobacco the validity that the FDA and others would have me believe hook, line and sinker. The first reason for this comes from the contradicting evidence that came with Cuz Andy's and Nanny's deaths. Not that I believe smokers can't get lung cancer. Oh course they can, just as people who exercise every day, eat healthy and avoid all vices can still get cancer, high blood pressure, ulcers, glaucoma, lupus, sciatica, flu, chicken pox, food poisoning and any number of conditions, illnesses and disease that human beings are at risk for simply because they are human beings.
My second reason is that I was born with a condition termed "wet lungs". Like my friends, my childhood days were bombarded with the Surgeon General's dire warnings against the inherent evils of tobacco. Despite Cuz Andy's longevity, I reached adulthood as a non-smoker who viewed tobacco as a nasty habit. In that same time of my life I also suffered from repeated bouts of pneumonia due to my condition. I lived healthy enough -exercised every day, ate healthy, avoided vices and didn't share a home with a smoker. Still, the bouts were dreadful; I spent a lot of time under the care of doctors. The pneumonia scarred my lungs and I came very close to dying twice from it. Antibiotics would help sometimes, but within weeks of finishing a course of any of them the pneumonia returned as surely as the proverbial son.
And then something happened: The man I was going to marry and his best friend, who is a Lakota Sioux, suggested I try smoking tobacco to treat my lungs. According to the friend tobacco is revered as a sacred plant among Natives and believed to drive away certain illnesses. I was desperate and as both of them smoked and had strong lungs (not to even mention they were very CLEAN individuals) I figured cigarettes were worth at least a try. So I took their suggestion and within a matter of days my lungs began to feel better; I could breathe again like normal, and without pain. Now nicotine is addictive, and yes I have been a smoker ever since. Despite the addiction and all the social disapproval that comes along with it, I have not suffered another bout of pneumonia since I took up the habit.
Meanwhile, the anti-smoking campaign has turned into a full-blown crusade. It is spearheaded by the same Federal Drug Administration that want to take Avavist away from patients who testify to the drug's power in treating the late stages of breast cancer. So when you consider the convoluted and murky relationship between a Government who does this to patients and their friends in pharmaceutical corporations and lawyer world the "evidence" against tobacco appears prejudicial at best. Who took the lion's share of award money in winning lawsuits against Big Bad Tobacco companies? Lawyers. Who is making the biggest profits off of nicotine-cessation products? Pharmaceuticals. What business has a vested interest in spreading out with pharmaceutical divisions these days? The tobacco industry. Who profits the most from any class-action suit against the pharmaceuticals? Lawyers. Who bankrolls the lab researchers who discover all the supposed dangerous and lethal effects of any drug Americans take? Big Government. What professional groups are both rated among the top Lobbyist groups in the U.S. today? Well, its not the tobacco industry, but the Association of Trial Lawyers of America and Pharmaceutical Rsrch & Mfrs of America.
The FDA also seems awfully quick these days to give the green light on those new medications you see advertised all the time: meds for contraception, meds for lowering cholesterol, meds for enhancing the effects of other depression prescriptions, meds for insomnia and so forth. They're marketed heavily on TV, until suddenly the commercials promoting their wonderful benefits are snatched off the air and replaced by attorney-paid commercials aimed at recruiting people to join class-action suits against the manufacturers of the same drug that had been aired in the time slot twenty-four hours before. This happens so frequently that the stumped consumer may be left wondering What the heck was the FDA thinking? More suspicious observers may go so far as to speculate that there must be some weird shenanigans going on with the drug makers, what with so much effort & promotion in marketing a buttload of meds for non-lethal conditions yet so very little demonstrated interest in curing life-threatening diseases. The more cynical (rational?) among observers may even go a step further and suggest that if a government-supported agency erred when originally approving the safety of a product as seemingly simple as a sleeping pill, what the hell do government-supported agencies really know about ole evil tobacco?
But to be fair, the conviction that tobacco is detrimental to human health isn't anything new and our modern day crusade against smoking isn't without historical precedent. Back during the 1930's and onward through part of the 1940's there was another national effort to stop tobacco use. It was started by a well-known world leader who was as adamant in his hatred of cigarettes as in his conviction to abstain from alcohol and eating of meat. Under his direction the world's first Bureau Against The Dangers of Alcohol and Tobacco was founded. Out of his own pocket (as well as the pockets of his fellow countrymen) this determined leader paid for research to establish scientific evidence that tobacco is dangerous. Unsurprisingly, this kind of investment paid off. His researchers were able to "scientifically" prove not only that smoking endangers health, but also produced the first medical reference of the "passive smoking" risk, better known today as second-hand smoking. This abstemious health-conscious leader and his methodical staff didn't stop with their scientific data. They went on to introduce the world's first official anti-smoking campaign to make the public aware of the dangers of tobacco. Topping themselves further, they also indoctrinated the public in understanding their conclusions as to how evil cigarettes became so popular. What was the secret they exposed? A simple one, but certainly not unexpected: that smoking was a vice perpetuated upon the good Aryans by "inferior races" -Jews, Gypsies, Slavs, and of course those "deviant" homosexuals. Additionally, the evil vice was first introduced and pimped into European society by aboriginal (Native) Americans -another "inferior race".
"If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State."
~Joseph Goebbels, Reich Minister of Propaganda for the Nazi party 1933-1945
Contemporary true believers are likely inclined to poo-pooh any correlation between today's anti-smoking campaign and that of Adolf Hitler's Nazi regime. They will probably continue to point to modern "research" and "studies" to demonize tobacco, and dismiss any suggestion that this research comes with pre-established bias. The idea that this research is funded by individuals and institutions that benefit from prohibitionist measures will likely be ignored by the true believer. It doesn't matter if the claim of "for society's good" by its very nature dissuades honest science or that it breeds contempt for anyone who dares question the agenda. Historically speaking, propaganda has always been swallowed because it is easier to demonize something than to challenge the tyranny that perpetuates the lie. Aside from this is an even darker truth; that in all incidences where propaganda has been used to control any society, there have always been those who have thrown away all ties to common sense and principles in the eagerness to join the in-crowd and feel superior. The compulsion to feel superior is addictive to this kind of individual, yet it is an addiction that has the power to spread and hurt more people than any plant the good earth has ever produced.
"The thing about following the herd is you're not likely to notice that cow patty until you are ankle-high into it." ~old western American saying