An installment in a series: Red Pill Reality Dispelling Blue Pill Delusions
Everybody knows tobacco causes cancer and kills people throughout the world every single day...right?!?!
I've reached a point in my life where as soon as I encounter any thought or idea that supposedly "EVERYBODY KNOWS," I no longer accept it without some critical analysis, research and ruminating before I cautiously accept conventional wisdom as factual truth.
As we now know, most conventional wisdom is usually propaganda and lies that turn into informational cascades to promote the interests of various corporate and government interests to get we the sheeple to do something that invariably benefits them.
And tobacco use and it's supposed connections to cancer and all other sorts of bad health effects, is one of those things that has been pounded into our minds via TV, radio, newspapers, ads, billboards, and public schooling curriculum and other such sources of cultural programming for our entire lives.
I myself used to simply accept this conventional wisdom without a second thought up until about a year or so ago.
I've since read some things that have changed my mind.
First of all, I'm not saying tobacco is perfectly healthy and safe to use...as in all things, moderation is the key. Too much of anything is not good for you, and tobacco appears to be one of those substances that is in fact really easy to use beyond sensible moderation.
However, I do believe the fundamental problem with tobacco use in this day and age is the same problem with our food and water supply - it's been corrupted by big business practices designed to increase their bottom line without regard to the consumers health.
The caption to this posts' illustration I got from an anti-smoking site reads:
"There are over 4,000 chemicals in tobacco smoke and at least 69 of those chemicals are known to cause cancer."
Oh wow...so you're telling me that if I took a seed from a natural, organic tobacco plant, and grew it in my yard, and than harvested the leaf, dried it and smoked it, I'd be ingesting industrial chemicals like cadmium, formaldehyde, arsenic, toluene, hexamine, and methanol?
Somehow, I don't think so.
No...all those chemicals are involved in the mass farming, processing and manufacturing of the typical Big Tobacco cigarette.
Here is the list of 599 additives approved for Big Tobacco makers to use by the FDA...additives that are used in producing almost all major brands of cigarettes. The process of burning these additives along with the tobacco and cigarette paper are what result in the ingesting of up to 4000 different chemicals.
Could this in fact be a major factor in causing lung cancer?
I wouldn't doubt it.
this hit piece done on American Spirits, which is purportedly made with 100% organic tobacco (0 additives). The article focuses on the idea that American Spirits is no better than smoking any other cigarette. In a way, this kind of article presents itself as a form of anti-smoking Puritanism...yet I also think it's a deliberate attempt at misdirection.
By saying smoking tobacco will kill you just the same, it's a subversive means of excusing and justifying Big Tobacco's use of 599 additives. The average cigarette addict who internalizes the anti-smoking Puritanical logic, will adopt a devil may care attitude, and simply choose their cigarette based on price and flavor, thinking "what the hell, it's gonna kill me anyways, so I'm not going to pay an extra few dollars for a pack of fancy, organic cigarettes."
Yet if you read the comment section of that article, you'll see a contingent of American Spirit smokers who all swear that they can tell a major difference in their health and addictive cravings when they switched over from commercial, additive--laden cigarettes to 100% natural American Spirits.
Here's one comment that echoed the experiences of several friends of mine:
I've been on the spirits for five days. I smoked Marl. lights for over ten years. In my years since college, I have began smoking less (much less actually, less than half a pack a day in the past few years) despite cutting back, I still had horrible "smokers cough".
So far, my opinion is that Spirits are smoother, taste better, and I have not noticed coughing at all (and it's 25 degrees outside right now, usually a really bad time to cough anyway). And I have been smoking even fewer a day.
Now, all the non-smokers reading this, I'm not saying that smoking American Spirits has cured my cough. But, it has disappeared, I'm talking about the nasty throat clearing cough, not from a common cold, this was something I used to do year round with the Marlboro's.
I had one good friend who smoked a pack of camels a day for 12 years decide he wanted to quit. He wasn't able to. So he switched to American Spirits. After three months of only smoking them, he was than able to quit cold turkey.
I know two other folks who smoked commercial cigarettes for well over 20 years. Both had that "smokers cough."
They switched to American Spirits 2 years ago, and neither of them have their smoker's cough anymore.
It's enough to make me wonder...is it really tobacco (i.e. nicotine) that is so addictive...or is it one or more of those 599 additives that cause such an intense addiction?
But putting that debate aside, I also did a little research awhile ago regarding cigar smoking - even though I was enjoying the occasional cigar with my whisky, I still worried about the health effects even an occasional smoke might cause...which of course is probably the result of all the anti-smoking propaganda we are all exposed to everyday.
Anyhow, I found websites that linked to research that purportedly show the POSITIVE health benefits of tobacco use...and a book written by a Dr. William Douglass, entitled: The Health Benefits of Tobacco: A Smoker's Paradox
The benefits of smoking tobacco have been common knowledge for centuries. From sharpening mental acuity to maintaining optimal weight, the relatively small risks of smoking have always been outweighed by the substantial improvement to mental and physical health. Hysterical attacks on tobacco notwithstanding, smokers always weigh the good against the bad and puff away or quit according to their personal preferences. Now the same anti-tobacco enterprise that has spent billions demonizing the pleasure of smoking is providing additional reasons to smoke. Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, Tourette's Syndrome, even schizophrenia and cocaine addiction are disorders that are alleviated by tobacco. Add in the still inconclusive indication that tobacco helps to prevent colon and prostate cancer and the endorsement for smoking tobacco by the medical establishment is good news for smokers and non-smokers alike. Of course the revelation that tobacco is good for you is ruined by the pharmaceutical industry's plan to substitute the natural and relatively inexpensive tobacco plant with their overpriced and ineffective nicotine substitutions. Still, when all is said and done, the positive revelations regarding tobacco are very good reasons indeed to keep lighting those cigarettes.
Seeing this book review caused me to googled up this Dr. Douglass, and I found his website, which upon first glance, I believe this guy is right up my alley in terms of anti-conventional wisdom medical and nutritional beliefs. Anti-saturated fat hysteria? Check. Anti-Statins, not worried about cholesterol levels? Check. Anti-Carbohydrate and Sugar diet? Check. Anti-Fluoridated drinking water? Check. Anti-pasteurization of milk? Check. Anti-Big Pharma and Big-Agriculture? Check.
Why...I think this guy may actually know what he's talking about...
There's another book I found while googling, that also offers some compelling evidence that much of the anti-tobacco hysteria is founded on biased studies, lies and propaganda to serve special interests purposes rather than the supposed concern for public health, In Defense of Smokers.
Another interesting theory I came upon, was the idea that tobacco use helps people regulate there weight, because nicotine may help people access the free fatty acids stored in their fat cells...
It brought home to me Gary Taubes' comment about nicotine releasing free fatty acids from adipocytes to allow humans access to the energy stored in their fat cells. Nicotine is an archetypal slimming drug.Everyone knows about the common lament of the weight gains long-time cigarette smokers experience once they quit...the Blog author of the previously linked post elaborated in his comment section:
Taubes suggest the weight gain normally occurs in the first month after quitting and is utterly independent of caloric intake. People snack more because they no longer have easy access to their adipose tissue. Gotta get energy from somewhere, even if it's just for basal metabolism.Very interesting.
I myself don't smoke cigarettes.
It was only in the last 3 years that I've begun to occasionally smoke cigars...and that, only premium cigars, which are of course only made with 100% tobacco - and also, I don't inhale.
It's been rather interesting to note the mild, pleasant feelings the nicotine dose from puffing on a cigar gives...and yet, I've never once felt an "addictive" need from it. I've gone months without a smoke...and on binges where I've had several cigars over the course of a few days. I've never come close to experiencing the sort of addiction I've seen many a cigarette smoker experience.
Here's one cigar-loving Doctor's take on the difference between use and abuse of tobacco: Indian Tobacco: The Non-Abusive Use of Tobacco by Native Americans
There is a difference between abuse of tobacco and its responsible use. Responsible use of tobacco dates back thousands of years. The Pre-Columbus use of tobacco was widespread throughout the North and South American continents. Having thousands of years of experience with tobacco, Native Americans were able to develop a manner of tobacco use that was not abusive. Those who enjoy fine cigars often share something in common with ancient Native Americans: a manner of smoking tobacco that is non-abusive.
I concur...but I also think that the 599 additives added to commercial cigarettes also constitutes abuse of tobacco as well...
Tobacco was used in North and South American continents, long before Caesar's Roman Empire, and used not in an addictive manner, but with great ceremony. In the Court of Montezuma there were two classes of smokers: those who used pipes, and those who rolled the first cigars -- but smoking had a defined place. When tobacco use is regulated by ceremony, and not by an "urge" or a "desire" you have the means for an internal regulation of the activity.
The scourge of cigarettes may very well have been the true Montezuma's revenge. It is ironic that while Europeans joked that Indians could not handle whiskey, the Indians joked that Europeans could not handle tobacco. Europeans, in a typical response, attempted to ban tobacco, or regulate it, or shame people out of using it -- and that was 400 years ago -- things have not changed. They also attempted to tax it, for which there were great rebellions, or to monopolize it, and even execute those who used it. Some anti-smoker types would probably be interested to note the penalties of Czar Alexis: the first use of tobacco resulted in whipping, a slit nose, and exile to Siberia, and the second offense resulted in execution!
I believe that cigarettes provide a form of consuming tobacco that is inconsistent with the moderate, non-abusive examples set by Native Americans, an example which is more easily reproduced in cigar and pipe smoking. Cigarettes are provided in a "dose pack" of 20. They burn quickly, are inhaled, and provide rapid release of nicotine into the blood stream. Cigarettes rapidly become addictive, and are smoked in an addictive manner: frequently throughout the day and night and because of a physical need to smoke. Cigarette smoking easily becomes a habit, an addiction, and is considered a disease to be treated by physicians. The cigarette smoker is always looking for the place to have their next cigarette; their life being ruled by their addiction.
In contrast, most cigar and pipe smokers have established simple rituals of tobacco, utilizing it and enjoying it without abuse. They limit the use of tobacco to specific times and places, in part because cigars take a long time to smoke. Since most cigars cannot be readily smoked throughout the day, but require ample time and a location that is conducive, cigar smoking is most often limited to periodic consumption and is therefore commonly a self-regulated and moderated activity.Tobacco cannot be regulated without seriously jeopardizing the basic civil and constitutional rights of the people.
This last point, is in fact what I believe to be the real impetus of the anti-smoking Puritan-styled propaganda that has permeated our mass media culture.
I think I'll go have an additive free, ceremonial, non-abusive smoke...