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What you think you know about tobacco may surprise you

Forces Comitť van Aanbeveling

Does Smoking Prevent Cancer?

by Michael Gilson De Lemos

Years ago in Spain I conversed with a distinguished cancer specialist. We discussed worries that we're not living in an era of science. Everywhere was official pseudo-science. All seemed living on past theoretical momentum. He offered a startling question. Could smoking prevent cancer?

We traded cases. Science suffered from a mass hypnosis. Studies over- estimated statistical co-relations. They diligently studied not what they claimed but something more accessible. Sugar-substitutes for humans were banned-based on white mice analogies. Theories on married couples arose-from studying college students. Systems of mass Darwinian behavior and forced altruism were propounded-from territorial behavior of monkeys and Professors. Many social science and medical studies had real confusions about basic statistical definitions. Did growing smoking studies have serious technical defects?

"You have no idea," he said." For there's no evidence that smoking causes anything in moderate doses but researcher's salaries. None. It may even extend life as part of a complex of healthy behaviors. It may be dangerous but life-style factors, e.g., poor diet, set it off. But no one wants to hear. Moderate smoking may harm, but evidence, statistically, is the reverse."

He noted two studies from the first chapter of a Spanish best-seller Mediterranean Diet. While done in Greece, similar studies existed in Japan and Spain. They showed Greek and Mediterranean pure Tobacco cigarettes had no apparent effect. Multi-pack a day Greek smokers outlived Americans by about a decade. But they did suggest that the typical Mediterranean Greek life-style, including healthy Olive oil, wine, farm grown meat, fish oil (like Japan) and fresh foods, and a daily routine including a nap and a good 3-mile walk, was critical. Young Greeks, though smoking less, had alarming rises in cancer. The differences? Increasingly eating processed, high milk-fat, and high- antibiotic meat from mass farms-and smoking additive-laden American cigarettes. This was happening across Europe.

He encouraged me to research it. "It's already becoming politicized here," he said. "Europe's also producing a new generation of scientists absorbing political winds. If the theory does not fit the facts, get rid of the facts. Worse, with more US cigarettes here, what they're studying is changing in front of them. Nobody sees that. Personally, as a wild guess, I would consider chlorine gas from the growing use of showers as a cancer-causative factor. With US Prohibition history, the Tobacco industry will pale compared to the Anti-Tobacco industry."

His predictions materialized. Today, the politicization of a personal choice is fraught with political symbolism. Cigarettes are bad for women, cause every ill, must be banned from homes, and are now grounds to remove custody of children. Smokers band pathetically, fighting the inevitable. What I've discovered:

We're built for stress. Total rest and quiet cause adverse symptoms. Though history we've lived in high-smoke environments. Smoke-filled huts sheltered us from brush fire haze. The starting point should be we're actually adapted to a level of smoke. Yet there're no comparison studies of a smoke-free environment's potential ill-effects. These could be as severe as putting gravity-accustomed humans in gravity-free space, where they soon degenerate. No baseline comparison exists. Theoretically, the stress of increasing smoke-free environments may be a cancer factor. The control population remains unstudied.

I learned as a hospital consultant that cancer numbers are questionable. Multiple death causes are attributed to lung cancer, even if it had no effect. Cases where the cause of death is unknown are cancer-attributed. The public is unaware of the difference between "cancer-related" and "cancer-caused."

For perspective, a consulting firm concluded deaths caused by doctor's errors (think: unwashed hands) may exceed all cancer- related deaths.

We study US Cigarettes with high amounts of fillers, additives, and pollutants. Their effect? Mostly ignored. No thoroughgoing studies on pure Tobacco cigarettes with healthy diet and activity have ever been performed or cited by the US Surgeon General. Broadly, the studies examine many things-except Tobacco. The probable habituating effect of additives, or environment, or diet is ignored.

Tobacco studies today are disturbingly like concluding that what killed a parachutist who forgot his chute was air travel. Do I say that smoking 5 packs a day won't hurt you? No, though it seemed to help the Greeks. Do I think a few recreational cigarettes are dangerous? Only to the allergic, but so is broccoli. Do I know the level of danger? No. I do know this: these scientists and activists don't really know either. They may virtuously not suck smoke. But they are surely blowing it.


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