Is Smoking Really 'THAT' Bad?

Interesting discussion I had with my doctor not too long ago. He has since retired. But I told him, every year around Christmas time, I light up a cigar. I asked him, surely there is no harm in that, is there? He said, not at all. In fact, when he went home that day, he was thinking of doing the same.

Now, I don’t have any cites to give, sorry. But my general impression of the smoking debate, is that people are all piling on the tobacco companies. They are an easy target, and rather politically vulnerable too I think (unlike the gun industry–for example).

My question is simply this: Is smoking really as bad for you as the media and powers that be want you to think? Could it be less toxic than we are led to believe? Actor George Burns lived a long, fruitful life. And he smoked cigars. Can you smoke, and still live a long healthy life? And finally, could there be a safe amount of smoking you can do? Consider the discussion I had with my doctor, as my “cite”.

Thank you in advance to all who reply:)

I have no scientific data. However, occasionally I arrange life insurance for clients. And from the company’s responses to health and habit data I can write cheaper insurance for someone with a history of shooting heroin than someone who smokes regularly.

I am not kidding. That’s a true-to-life example I went through.

Several points come to mind. One is that most cigar smokers (if I understand correctly, not being one of them) don’t inhale. Second, they don’t smoke 20 or 30 per day, like cigarette smokers do. Third, for those who do inhale, it takes time for the damage to become serious enough to kill you, although it starts right away.

So there is plenty of evidence that those who regularly smoke and inhale cigarette smoke over a period of time are more likely to develop cancer, heart disease, emphysema and a variety of other diseases and conditions. The less you smoke, the less you inhale, the sooner you stop, the less likely you are to develop these conditions and, on quitting, the more likely that your body can repair the damage.

Finally, it’s hard for me to believe that anyone in this day and age is in any doubt about the serious health effects of cigarette smoking.

Even if it didn’t cause cancer the CO is pretty bad for you.

But the fact that you are pointing out that individuals lived long lives while smoking shows that either you may be misunderstanding mortality numbers or may be commiting a very common Cognitive bias.

The optimism bias causes a person to believe that they are less at risk of experiencing a negative event compared to others.

Pretty common with smoking (ex smoker here) and other risky behaviors.

First, you need to learn that it was doctors and scientists the ones that found about how tobacco was bad.

It was overwhelming evidence that told them that. Not anecdotes. But if one wants to use a few celebrities that were lucky, the ones that were not lucky are more numerous.

And when one speaks of celebrities that smoked and died earlier than normal, it i obligatory to link to this famous words from Yul Brynner:

Wait, you’re saying you smoke one cigar per year? No wonder your doctor didn’t think it was a big deal. I smoke 1-2 cigarettes about once in every 2-5 years myself, and I likewise am not worried about its health impacts.

But that’s very different from the health risks of habitual smoking.

IANAD, but AFAICT the risks increase with exposure. Smoking one cigar/cigarette every year or so is very low exposure. But even one cigarette per day is a significant risk increase:

Of course, some people do smoke like a chimney all their life and still live to be quite old (although not necessarily as healthy as if they didn’t smoke). But that’s a statistical crapshoot, and the odds of being one of the winners are not good.

I’m going to school for radiation therapy and we treat all kinds of different cancer patients. I can’t count the number of miserable smokers or ex-smokers that come in wheeling their oxygen tanks and people with trach tubes hocking phlegm out all the time. Yes smoking is bad MmmKay? We did a CT today on a relatively young guy that was a heavy smoker who had Lung metastases to his Humerus and the tumor had virtually supplanted the entire head of the bone, instead of white bone on the scan it was just a dark mass.

Who benefits from the unfair malignment of Big Tobacco? It certainly isn’t the media, which would no doubt love to increase ad revenue. And government benefits from tobacco sales and the jobs created by Big Tobacco. So why would these entities be so eager to take part in the grand conspiracy? What do they gain by perpetuating untruths?

the master speaks

How old are you? Because this is an astonishing thing to say for anyone old enough to remember how it was before governments and health campaigners began to fight Big Tobacco. Big Tobacco was very wealthy and powerful. If they aren’t now it’s only because they have been (very gradually) defeated.

I suppose your doctor meant a cigar per year is probably OK. But, I’m gonna have to vote for “smoking is really bad for you”.

My brother died earlier this month at age 55. He’d been a heavy smoker for close to 40 years before he finally quit a couple years ago. I won’t relay all the surgeries and other treatments he went through, because it’s late, and I’m on my phone. It started with a lump in his jaw about 5 years ago. Chemo, radiation, and various attempts to rebuild his jaw left him with no teeth and a surgical wound that never healed. Saliva steadily flowed from the hole under his chin. He could no longer eat or drink through his mouth. In early 2016, the doctors thought they had the cancer knocked down. For the second time. For the second time, it was temporary. In October, a lump reappeared in his jaw. In a month it was the size of a plum. By the end of the year, the entire underside of his chin was black with dead tissue and the tumor was about the size of a man’s fist. His face looked like those pictures you used to see in the paper, where someone would hold up a potato they said looked like the President. He spent December sleeping and taking morphine. On January 8, his intestinal feeding tube clogged, and he went to the ER, and the next day he died trying to get off the toilet.

Rolling your own can be far less malignant than smoking major brands. Those brands are so addictive, I think that’s part of why the public discourse on smoking gets so polarized, a lot of these squeaky wheels are ex-smokers who won’t tell you of any nuance or trade offs… i.e. a possible trade off is smoking can be beneficial to the cognitive functioning of schizophrenics.

What came to mind when I read this is the percentage of former habitual heroin users who smoke or who have spent a significant portion of their life smoking is probably pretty high.

Do you know anyone who smokes one or two cigarettes a week, or only at parties, and then just two or three, so maybe a total of 18 cigs (less than a pack) a year? I knew exactly one person like this, and even she quit when she developed intestinal polyps, which aren’t linked to smoking (or weren’t at the time), and at any rate, were removed and not cancerous, but she decided to take better care of herself, and quit even that. Quit the occasional beer (one a week) as well.

My mother has a theory that there were lots of “social smokers” before the Surgeon General’s report came out (my mother was a one or two a day smoker-- One at lunch if she ate out with a friend, and one at home after dinner. She quit that cold turkey, and make my father quit the cigarettes he smoked when he walked to and from work, and his once a week cigar he had on moitzei Shabbes.

Quitting light, occasional smoking was easy, and my mother thinks that left America with the hard core cant-quit chain smokers. She thinks a lot of teens take up smoking with the intention of eventually quitting, and most of the do, because they never pass beyond beyond occasional moochers, who quit when they start dating a non-smoker, or get a job where they get a break on their health insurance, or they just get tired of it.

But maybe 10 percent of high schoolers get seriously, hooked, and a small percentage of former occasional former teen smokers take it back up after they get together with a hard core smoker.

My mother had a sister who smoker, and my mother couldn’t stand it, and made her smoke outside. She didn’t start until she married a smoker, and quit with little effort when she divorced him. She didn’t smoke when she was pregnant, and now her daughter doesn’t smoke.

Smoking is bad for you but like pretty much all poor lifestyle choices, it generally kills you in your 70s (although morbidity will show up before then). Whether you think a few extra years in your 70s and 80s from not smoking is worth it is up to you. I don’t know much about the relationship between quantity of cigarettes smoked and life expectancy

Can you smoke and lead a long and healthy life? Yes. On average, smokers live less than non-smokers but a lot of how long you live is genetics. If you have genes that predispose you to living to 105, you will probably still live a very long life if you are a smoker. But I’d guess on average you’d live even longer if you were a non-smoker. The smoker who lives to 91 maybe would’ve lived to 94 as a guess if they’d never smoked.

Also smoking rates are strongly tied to education, which is itself an independent factor in life expectancy. So I’m not sure how much of the risk of smoking is just the fact that people who smoke are also more likely to work dangerous jobs, be poor and have less education.

If you live to an old age, then the life expectancy smoker vs non-smoker is not enormous. But you have a far higher chance of an early death if you are a smoker.

Also, this ignores the state of your health in your later years. Yes, it may be that your life expectancy (assuming you make it to say 70) will not on average be more than a few years less than a non-smoker. But there is a far higher chance your last years will be miserable.

Finally, do you seriously think Wesley Clark that in all the massive amounts of studies on these issues, the health workers have forgotten to account for obvious confounding factors such as education? I mean, I know mistakes are sometimes made, but seriously?

That makes it sound so cut and dry (although you touch on it by mentioning morbidity). “Is it worth dropping dead 5 years early to not quit smoking?” isn’t really the question. The question is more like “do I want to be in generally poor health, have to carry an oxygen tank around with me, and wonder if I can tackle stairs without entering an unstoppable coughing fit… and then die 5 years early too?” - the quality of life issues are at least as important as longevity.

To me, it seems like a good rule of thumb to go by is: If your body is getting rid of the toxins faster than they are coming in, you should be okay.

If you smoke on a daily basis, those toxins are just piling up. A smoke once a month or once a year, I can’t imagine you’re doing a whole lot of damage.

But what do I know? I’m certainly not a doctor.

How bad is it the media and PTB want us to think smoking is? How toxic are we led to believe it is?

What I see is the media and PTB presenting a perfectly sensible view based on science. By that I don’t mean the “Smoking kills!” labels. They are obviously not supposed to be precise and accurate information on the danger of smoking. But if you look for actual information on how bad smoking is you’re not going to find a bunch of lies from the government.

It’s the twenty first century, exhaustive research has been thoroughly completed, repeated, reviewed, revisited, etc. If you can delude yourself into “It ain’t so bad, right?”, and I’m your Dr, I’m not gonna waste my breath trying to convince you otherwise. I’m retired, you’re no longer my patient, I only see you once a year, and this is a social occasion, etc. I’m gonna smile and say, “Yeah, sure, okay!”, and save my breath.

Just sayin’!