Smoking ranks right up there as among the most
self-indulgent of human behaviors - right up there with that morning cup of coffee, a
glass of fine wine, and that cute, fast, little two-seater hot road you may have in the
garage that the kids (by your design) won't fit into and the wife doesn't want to risk
riding in. Self-indulgence, blamed on the "me-first" materialism of the 1980s
really has been a powerful and creative survival trait for the species far longer than
that. No doubt some carry it to extreme with peacock tongue sandwiches and gaudy jewels
and artwork that costs far more than any possible intrinsic value other than ego
gratification. And some organizations take it to the extreme by accumulating more
baggage than they can afford, and some flaunt it simply by having self righteous attitudes
to impose on everyone but themselves. But, as a general rule, self-indulgence (which can
simply mean satisfying one's self first) can be no more controversial than the procedure
on an airline (in the event of cabin pressure loss) of a parent covering their own face
with an oxygen mask first and then putting one on their child. My self-indulgent behavior
manifest itself in a number of ways. I always get the best I can afford though often I find that the best
may not always come with the highest price tag.
Although the term connoisseur comes with a lot of snob appeal, the fact is, all of us are connoisseurs of one type or another. Whether it is a good set of tools or truly functional kitchen appliances, the differences between most people who truly care about what they consume are relatively minor. I truly appreciate fast cars but more importantly I LOVE cars that go instantly where you point them. As actual speed can become a legal problem and I have yet to get a speeding ticket in nearly forty years of driving performance machines, a vehicle that simply goes fast in a straight line is too uni-dimensional for my tastes regardless of how much attention it might attract. I feel the same way about guitars. I have played $10,000 instruments that sound no better than ones that cost one-fourth as much. They may be prettier, but guitars are about sound and playability. I have driven cars that cost ten times what a small high-performance supercharged Miata SE costs but have found none that create a more prolonged sense of orgasmic joy at speeds that reasonably conform with legal limits and present little threat to both humans and the ecosystem. I love fast cars that respond dimensionally, but some like sheer power and bulk. I have lived in houses with magnificent views that I have grown weary of quickly and have had simple homes that remained comfortable nests for prolonged periods of time. My world, that self-indulgent biosphere that surrounds my person, is where I find my greatest pleasure, not in the price tag driven baubles that some in our society might drool over. It is not my right nor desire to impose my tastes upon the self-indulgent behavior of others, anymore than I would welcome their interference with mine, unless their indulgence somehow directly and negatively affects my universe. Live and let Live. It is noticeable that many extremely wealthy people often find boredom their greatest threat. It would be nice to know if this is true by direct experience. What is obvious, is that governments, teachers, baseball coaches and others in positions of power, suffer from the same kinds of maladies as the wealthy. Entities such as these feel that if they don't constantly exert some control over others, they find their roles to be unsatisfying, their lives meaningless.
However, sometimes the wisest course IS to do nothing. The fact is, observation and patience can be a far more powerful initial strategy than dominant action. Although at some point action is vital, for that action to be successful, one must decide whether to go it alone or enlist the help of others. If a group effort is what is needed then members of that group must participate with an individual sense of self-determination rather than coercion. Sure there are plenty examples of blind faith and obedience winning the battle but rarely does such mindless compliance win the war. Victory comes from the self-assurance that each person's part is vital and that each individual's input remains creative, important, and thus, fulfilling. That's why most heroic deeds are so judged. Heroism is doing what is above and beyond the call of duty (or more than what is the expected - in less flowery terms). Nowadays, some call it thinking outside the box. I hate that buzz phrase as, like all such cliches, it is over used, but it is a pretty accurate observation on a process of personal involvement where initiative is not bound simply by "the way things are supposed to be."
Tobacco, whether your taste be great cigars, great pipes and their wonderful fillers, or simply a great cigarette now and then, is one of many examples of how humans define the level of self-indulgence they feel appropriate. Enjoyment of food is another and these and many other activities really are a matter of personal choice that should not be regulated by the extraneous forces of others or by governmental imposed penalties such as product specific taxation. However, it is a sad fact that almost all self-indulgent behavior is indeed subjected to taxation and the list of such intrusions is growing. We feel it a logical premise that, limits placed on personal choice and behavior, as long as one's self-centered pursuits neither impact, interfere with, or damage another entity, are of no concern to the government or any other organized body of humans. Unfortunately, under the guise of public safety or simply good intentions, the human ability to creatively express oneself, which is perhaps our most endearing and satisfying quality, is under attack from both puritanical forces and from the forces of greed.
For instance, the attraction of formal religions are beyond my capability of comprehending. While I am devotedly in doubt of the existence of a single sect "Supreme" being, I am equally aware of the fact that there are things in our reality that are far beyond my compression to understand, things that likely do define and even perhaps control the universe we inhabit. Now whether this is a supreme consciousness or simply the way the physics of our particular reality happened to work out, I don't pretend to know. I want to know. I just don't . . . yet! What I do know is that organizations like religions and governments represent the desire for power of the few over the masses much more so than their mission statements imply. And the minute someone needs and achieves power over other humans, other living things, or institutions, the temptation for corruption is overpowering. Power is a heady thing and all of us have been in situations, whether as parents or leaders at any level that we have felt to some degree, the seduction power can have. Most healthy-headed people really don't want the headaches associated with being responsible for the absolute control of others and even parents quickly realize that while guidance (sometimes even strict) is necessary, the feeling of self-empowerment (another cliched buzz word) is a far better strategy to pass on. And it requires less future maintenance as well. Thought provoking stimulation is far more rewarding and effective for all concerned than is coercion and heavy handed scare tactics.
It has been said that if war was fought by old men and politicians there would be no war. In the same way, if science and research are to remain effective tools for the betterment of humankind, then the agenda of those directly affected is more important than the agenda of those conducting the research. I know plenty of folks in the scientific community who would love to do accurate and comprehensive research on tobacco and health. It is a fascinating and very controversial subject. Finding the true nature, in extreme detail, of the human body's reaction to all forms of tobacco smoke right down to the specific reactions to specific components has never been done comprehensively and could pose quite an adventuresome undertaking. Science has only looked at the impact on certain isolated metabolic functions and has not yet narrowed it down to more finite specifics. There is simply no funding for such endeavors unless a pre-formed negative opinion is the stated goal and science cannot function to the benefit of truth if the outcome is limited from the outset. And worse, few people find credible, threats from the findings of less than credible scientific research. Thinking people don't want to hear headlines like "Smoking causes SIDS when in fact the research paper quoted actually says that smoking "may be a factor." Trust is lost easily and crying wolf rarely works without concrete evidence of the existence of threat. The war on drugs is a good example where distortions by parents in the 60's led to more use and abuse than would have the simple facts, which while not as dramatic, left a still tangible threat which should have been left up to the individual to deal with.
The tools for gaining back some control over the accuracy and full disclosure of information that is pertinent to our health are within our grasp. These tools include asking questions and insisting on full accountability from those who are offering data that affects our society in areas of both health and finance. (See the Cover Section of this issue for an example of how this may be achieved). The Shelby Amendment, passed by congress in 1998 was a meritorious first start. This piece of legislation was aimed at making it a requirement that ANY research conducted that results in legislative action become publicly accessible knowledge that is in its complete form rather than works simply quoted from, often out of context. For the most part, this amendment should now be a usable tool for those of us who doubt. The problem is, even though the research papers are now available, at least those post-Shelby, they are not always obtainable free of charge. We here spend many hours per week researching the existing medical and epidemiological (there is a difference) data on tobacco and health. Less than ten per cent is offered for free. What you most often find is a skewed synopsis which is often written by someone other than the researcher. Worse, by the time you hear the results, they have been contorted into statements by those who have an agenda and these "results" are carefully edited to display only those interpretations that are convenient to their cause. When you read the actual full text of the experiment, so many questions arise that either the researcher failed to ask, or that the editor of the synopsis failed to reveal, that one is nearly always left with the suspicion of deception or worse, complete scientific incompetence.
Now we don't ever want people to get the impression that we at RYO Magazine are promoting smoking. Quite the contrary. In fact, we are not even proponents of smoker's rights here as they are usually defined. What that means is that we don't support the right of anyone to expose others to tobacco smoke, in closed or restricted air flow environments if they do not wish to be so exposed. We believe in smoking outdoors, away from those who may have a problem with it. Of course, there are those who resent our smoking even if they are on the other side of an open outdoor space. People like that we have no empathy for any more than we feel sympathy for smokers who wish to smoke in a congested theatre line where even outdoors, the exposure levels to children and people with respiratory ailments can be high. It is a shame that the same considerations and concerns are not shown for the lethal hydrocarbon and carbon monoxide levels (more on this particular chemical in a moment) we are all exposed to on every sidewalk and in every parking lot especially in the winter months where you will see families with children hanging around vehicles being warmed up, inhaling the exhaust fumes that saturate the area.
We want tobacco to remain a legal product so we can enjoy it with reasonable use and the caring consideration of others. As far as the health issue is concerned, our complete focus has always been on the rights of folks of legal age to make up their own minds about tobacco. What we do strenuously offer as a view point is that government has no right to tax behaviors, even ones that it considers bad. If tobacco smoke indeed is truly a toxic substance then it should be flatly outlawed. That is really unlikely to happen, as the science is simply not there to support such a rashly draconian measure. We are not interested in exposing you to the vitriolic, headline grabbing distortions one often finds in the media and on most non-profit, taxpayer funded, anti-tobacco sites, as this kind of pollution has dangers of its own that can reach far beyond the bounds of tobacco. However by reading what the other side of the issue has to offer, especially in attempts at well intentioned and even well executed research, even though the best of it remains inconclusive to some when viewed with even a small degree of careful scrutiny, each person can make a judgement as to the ramifications of their actions relating to tobacco. This is the way intelligent people make decisions and neither the government nor any other institution should have any part in "interpreting" the data, especially those who have extensive financial gain at stake. This includes both the anti and pro smoking forces, especially manufacturers of tobacco products as well as governmental agencies where tax revenue gleaned from tobacco sales and penalties is scandalously enormous. No, the function of interpretation of the facts, once they are clearly and honestly demonstrated is the responsibility of an intelligent, empowered citizenry, who, with the aid of non-partisan experts to define some of the secular terminology, are most certainly capable of looking at fully disclosed research and making well thought out decisions based on it. We need not be exposed to the self-indulgent ramblings of those unqualified to interpret data who are more interested in power and profit than scientific truth.
Let me give you some examples and send you on an interesting journey to a website that, while is as pointedly anti-tobacco as most, does actually provide access to the specific research documents as well. The URL is www.tobaccoscam.com. Please Read on a bit before you go there. Tobacco Scam has a LOT of links to research papers. Some of what you will find there are the typical "interpretations" presented in the form of sound-bite like headlines or blatant simplifications on the subject, but they do provide interesting links to some of the body of research work as well. This site, funded by the taxpayers of California, through the University of California at San Francisco, (which in turn is funded to the tune of 25% by the US Government - your taxes), and by the partisan pharmaceutical mega giant Johnson & Johnson and others, specifically is the podium of the anti-tobacco activist Stanton Glantz, a professor of medicine at UCSF. Now while Dr. Glantz (a Ph.D. not an MD) is a professor of medicine at UCSF, his background and most of his early training and degrees are in Engineering, the field in which he first received his PhD. He worked at NASA when younger and after his doctoral at Stanford suddenly switched from engineering to cardiology. The jump is not as absurd as one might first think. The human cardiovascular system is an incredibly complex bio-mechanical system in need of engineering based systems for optimal care. Glantz made these career choices well before the tobacco debate was a high profit profession. I do wonder what it was he saw in his early life that turned him so dramatically into one of the foremost opponents of smoking, though most especially smoking in public places. Maybe something as simple as being forced to hang around indoor ground control operations centers at a time when nearly everyone smoked there.
Regardless, he is a class act, at least that is my impression, and a well educated man. His particular form of self-indulgence is complex. I think he really believes in his cause regardless of funding considerations. He could probably be making a lot more money as a paid leader of a larger non-profit organization. Glantz has published several books on the subject of tobacco with special emphasis on uncovering the hijnks of the Big Cigarette industry. It was to Glantz that the now infamous "Cigarette Papers" were sent which really blew the cigarette companies out of the water, both in jurisdictional courts as well as in the court of public opinion. Most importantly his focus has remained on non-smoker's rights or more specifically, on the rights of non-smokers not to be exposed in restaurants and other public places to unwanted cigarette smoke. Now, I have friends who own clubs and restaurants and I have not lost their friendship even though they know my position on indoor smoking. Non-smoking regulations in their particular business has hurt their bottom line to some degree and in some cases to a large degree. However, I understand the feelings of non-smokers as I too cannot stand to be in a smoke filled room (though I do not boycott such establishments). And I have not always felt that way. As a musician for many years, I played venues that were full of cigarette smoke and I used to fly a great deal on commercial aircraft when smoking was allowed. In both instances, I smoked with the best of them. My habits have changed and as you may have noticed (a clue would be the hundreds of times I have mentioned this) I really do not enjoy the taste of tobacco in confined spaces. While there is common ground between Glantz and myself on certain issues, I do object to some of the more snide and sensationalistic comments on his site as well as some of the site's comments on research that were taken out of context. It is that kind of self-indulgent proselytizing that I find objectionable. All in all however, this is the most well rounded anti-smoking site I've yet found for the simple reason that he provides links to actual full text research papers so that you can read the more in-depth results of certain studies and make you own determinations for viability. Links to the site as promised will be provided further down, but first:
To navigate the site efficiently, the links below will take you to the TobaccoScam website and the specific pages we will discuss. Once there you will find a menu on the left where you will click Second Hand Smoke. The next page you see will have links at the top and you would click on Little is Dangerous. Once you reach this level of the site the following headings remain. [The Issue is Health, Toxic Ingredients, A Little is Dangerous, Your Exposure at work, and, The Good News] You should eventually explore them all. On each page you will find colored text excerpts that are links which will lead you to research pages that are all of interest. We are not going to go through all of the dozens of papers referenced on this site but rather give you a jump-start to illustrate the kinds of questions research of this type leaves us asking. The linked page we will discuss is a.pdf which means you will need Adobe Acrobat Reader. Most of you will have it or can download it rather quickly from the Adobe.com site. A lot of medical journal papers are in this format and if you are serious about reading both sides of the issue, it will take a little effort, which we hope you will find worthwhile.
Not all links are .pdf format so if you cannot use Acrobat, then explore the pages you CAN access. The colored text link to the document we are focusing on is at the lower right on the A Little is Dangerous page. It is under the second line graph on the right with the name of the researcher "Otsuka R, et. al. (2001) beneath it. When you click on this name (link) you will begin to load the PDF document. Now the preceding was to help you find your way around the site which most of you already know how to do. The paper that we are referencing is entitled "Acute Effects of Passive Smoking on the Coronary Circulation in Healthy Young Adults. There are number things to look for in this document that we found interesting and that could be "interpreted" differently than the researchers obviously intended. For instance, regarding the group of young male medical students who were the subject: 15 were non-smokers and worked and lived in smoke free environments. The other 15 were active smokers who smoked at least a pack a day for an average of 2.7 years. The average age was 27 years.. What struck us first was the following on the second page starting under Baseline Characteristics and continuing to page 3 with Carbon Monoxide and Hbco Level: We provide it here in graphic form for those who cannot access Adobe Acrobat Files. (Again, we strongly recommend you gain that capability and visit the site referenced above). The graphic snapshot of the text shows several interesting things. First the smoking group was considered asymptomatic (healthy) as you will find on the previous page of the document and as you can see, even after several years of smoking a pack a day or more, their baseline characteristics (heart rate, blood pressure, mean arterial pressure, and heart rate-blood pressure product) "did not differ significantly" from non-smokers. Cholesterol, tryglycerides, and HDL levels were also similar. From the bottom of the first column, we quote, "Passive smoking had no effect on hemodynamic parameters including heart rate, blood pressure, mean arterial pressure, and heart rate-blood pressure product in each (either) group. The last section concerns Carbon Monoxide levels, the chemical which we mentioned much earlier in this article and as you can see CO levels were increased in non-smokers and remained constant with present smokers with the important distinction that smokers had the higher level of CO already present in their blood before entering the passive smoking room ( A room filled with the cigarette smoke of other students). While the level of CO was measured, the amount of actual cigarette smoke was not but this particular chemical seems to be at the heart (forgive the pun) of the controversy surrounding smoking and heart disease. That is to say that in all of the studies we have looked at on the subject, we found that elevated levels of CO in passive smoke environments and in active smokers caused the symptoms most often found to affect the heart. Little has been shown in any of the studies as to how long the effect lasts but the fact that the smoking group had elevated levels of CO even though they had not smoked for 12 hours before the testing began gives you an idea of how tobacco smoke changes your metabolism. We found an interesting statistic on the site that stated nearly 3,000 people die of lung cancer in the US yearly due to smoking, while 60,000 die from heart related problems caused by tobacco usage. Now these figures are extremely low compared with the usual 400,000 deaths attributed by some groups to demon tobacco, but do illustrate the trend away from cancer concerns (carcinogens in the tar) to pulmonary problems, almost exclusively due to elevated carbon monoxide levels. Again more speculation based on scientifc results that are much to vulnerable to polar-opposite interpretations.
Why would a magazine like RYO focus on an anti-smoking site at all? Well here is the reason. All of the evidence that the anti-tobacco folks hurl at us every day is based on certain kinds of research and more importantly, interpretations of the data of that research. While we here are not at all certain of the real life specifics of what smoking does, it certainly DOES affect your body to some degree. The CO measurements we discussed in the research above support our theory that there are many other contributing factors in our environment that may either add to or be the sole-cause of many physiological disasters for our bodies and we want to know their PRECISE relationship to the tobacco controversy. After all, CO is not taxed although it is the single most dangerous element contained in combustion engine exhaust as well as in manufacturing plant pollution. CO is what kills you in a car exhaust poisoning. We likewise wanted to show you how research data, taken out of context could seemingly prove the opposite of what the full text would indicate. As an example, we could have employed the same techniques that the anti-smoking industry uses and simply have stated that "Smoker's in major research effort show no elevated heart rate, blood pressure, or cholesterol differences". That is, too often, exactly how the other side uses research data. Language, out of context, can prove just about anything. The facts are that most research done on the subject of smoking and health leave much to interpretation and the actual papers submitted more often than not have the words "may", or "might" when discussing possible correlating effects. The headline grabbing, out-of-context quote thrown in the face of smokers never imply even the possibility of doubt.
In all fairness, let's quickly look at what the study actually showed, which you can explore for yourself in more detail on the site. Basically the premise of the research was to find if there were differences in Coronary Flow Velocity Reserve (CFVR). On the previous page to the one we showed the graphic snapshot of (above) it was stated that basal coronary flow velocity was not effected by passive smoking in either group (smoker/non-smoker). However the Mean (average) CFVR was higher in non-smokers than in smokers before entering the passive smoking environment. After being exposed to passive smoke for 30 minutes, the Mean CFVR of both groups became nearly identical. What this research was trying to show and it does so pretty definitively if you believe the numbers (I tend to) is that smokers are not as affected by second hand smoke to nearly the degree that non-smokers are. Hence this kind of research would naturally wind up on a website advancing the cause for non-smoker rights and smoke-free environments. And, with qualification, I agree. It is clear to me that smoke filled rooms change one's metabolism, if only briefly and, under the right conditions of a weakened system already, the extra stress put on the heart of such a system (person) could be a problem. We as smokers simply must respect the breathing space of our non-smoking fellow beings. Now to what degree the elevated CO levels in smokers and the fact that high CO measurements seem to affect non-smokers more than smokers could lead one to believe that smokers are more likely to survive other kinds of CO pollution events than non-smokers. A study of just that subject alone would be most interesting. Now this research paper was criticized a bit elsewhere on the same site for leaving just that impression. The fact is, no one element other than CO has been directly associated through direct experimental evidence with smoking and health. Sure tobacco smoke contains carcinogens but so do all other forms of combustion by product (smoke). And all combustion produces CO (carbon monoxide). It bears repeating that on this site we found statistics (for what ever they are worth) that Cancer is no longer the main concern of the anti-smoking medical establishment. The focus now is on cardiovascular diseases. You will find some interesting numbers in your exploration. Again it is important to note here that it is up to each one of you to do the searching for information on sites like this that, at least make some attempt at balance and give the reader some credit for intelligence, so that you can begin to understand the impact all smoke and other forms of pollution may have on you health. It is time for both sides of this issue to stop pissing on each other and to begin to work together on compromises that would allow both smoker and non-smoker to peacefully co-exist. Glantz is one of the few folks in this battle that is actually interested in further research. Most of the anti-smoking organizations are run by attorneys who want the evidence to stand as they have currently stated it. Glantz is a scientist and I would be glad to include such a person on the scientifically qualified panels I refer to in the Cover Article of this issue. Click on the link below to see a listing of other research that is being considered by those explorers at UCSF. At least they are still interested in the search.
In closing let me just say that until much more research is done on smoking, that includes what you smoke, where you smoke, and how much you smoke, as well as factoring in other environmental pollutants, moderation in smoking behavior would seem to be a wise course. The fact that so much precious tobacco tax revenue is wasted on non-related projects is where the real battle lies. for example, here in Oregon a recent initiative passed that dealt with the upgrading of public educational facilities to meet more stringent seismic codes. On the surface this seems like a good idea, even though the state has not been shown to be subject to much geological upheaval for quite some time. The prokject will ultimately cost billions which the state simply doesn't have. So the initiative centered its funding source on general obligation bonds and tobacco tax revenues. general obligations bonds simply mean that if the state can't pay the bill the taxpayers must. The proponents of the legislation paraded the strategy that this new law would create a lot of work for the tens of thousands of construction related industry workers who have had a tough time lately. Sounds like the old TVA (Tennessee Valley Authority) depression era proposal. Even so what really got me was the raiding of the tobacco revenue. This revenue from tax increases and the huge MSA contributions is supposed to be used for tobacco related costs due to the medical problems supposedly caused by smoking as well as the cost of educating the public (especially the young) against the use of tobacco. Tobacco revenue increases are always justified by legislators and supposed health advocates by stating the enormous cost to society of smoking. The fact that, this money, extorted from the taxpayers, (most specifically smokers), almost never goes to these areas, is seldom discussed. The proposal I put forth on the Cover of this issue really is a sensible path to fully understanding the complete ramifications of tobacco use and of other, perhaps more dangerous sources of pollution. Let us know what you think as always, remember, it is up to you to not only accumulate the necessary knowledge and information about things that affect you, but it is incumbent on you to take action based on your findings.
We leave you with a couple of charts you will find most interesting regarding new tobacco (cigarette) taxes and other demographically related data. One thing you will find in your explorations is that with all of the hundreds of billions of dollars in tobacco taxes, the hundreds of billions in MSA settlement monies, the copiously profitable pharmaceutical driven tobacco intervention programs, not to mention the trillion dollar anti-smoking industry efforts, with all of that, smoking has been reduced by only a couple of percentage points in the last ten years. Seems like there should be a better way to spend all that money to address the issue of tobacco and health than simply making certain folks very rich.
Until next time, enjoy - life is tenuous and should be enjoyed aggressively without regret - without fear - be just selfish enough to do simply that. - the ed.
Next time we will feature a continuation of our exploration into the murky world of tobacco research and by then should have a lot of your findings and comments to share with our readers. As usual, repeated below are some interesting links so that you can keep abreast of vital issues that affect 50 million voting age citizens in the US.
- The National Smokers Alliance
Email us with any comments on this and/or any other issues that relate to your free choice.
|EDITOR'S NOTE: These reviews are solely for the convenience of people of legal age who already smoke, are trying to cut down on smoking, wish to spend less money on their smoking, want to roll their own cigarettes from high quality tobacco, and, in general, wish to have a far more satisfying, and economical smoking experience when compared with smoking pre-manufactured cigarettes. We, in no way, encourage people to smoke. Further, we subscribe to a sane, more logical approach to smoking that involves common sense as to quantity coupled with a strong desire to manage the habit until it becomes an occasional, freely chosen, diversion, that can be fully enjoyed with minimal health risks. Finally, we strongly encourage those who do smoke to take it outdoors, or to appropriate environments where tobacco can be enjoyed away from those who do not smoke, most especially children. We do not sell tobacco or related products from this site; We distribute information about our perceptions of the quality of what is available and where it can be obtained. If you are under 18, it is illegal to buy tobacco and you should immediately exit this site. If you do not smoke, it would seem illogical to start.|
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