Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Anti-smoking culture is harmful to health

On the truth problem of public health management

By Denis G. Rancourt

Smoke screen?

We are all going to die from secondhand smoke on outdoor patios?

The medical profession agrees and the government allocates significant resources to negative propaganda and enforcement against smoking.

Ever wonder why these good folks are so concerned about our health? Are there much larger health risks that we never hear about? Are there systemic or societal reasons in the selection of those health risks targeted to be actively vilified by the establishment?

Fatty diets, smoking, sedentary lifestyle, car seat-belts, work safety... What do all these health and safety recommendations have in common? How do these risk factors compare to the real killers? What are the real killers?

In Canada, according to government scientists, 85% of lung cancers are due to smoking and lung cancer is the leading type of cancer deaths (one quarter of all cancer deaths).

This sounds like all smokers are going to die of lung cancer. In fact, IF each and every individual in Canada smoked approximately one pack of cigarettes per day then the resulting death rate from lung cancer would nonetheless only be less than 2 deaths per 1000 inhabitants per year, less than 20% or so of the death rate from all causes, and this would typically only kick-in after 20-30 years of such sustained smoking by the entire population.

Get a grip. Smoking is not going to cause extinction of the species.

This also means that most heavy smokers (two packs a day say) will not die of lung cancer. More than 80-90% or so of heavy smokers will not die of lung cancer.

In addition, lung cancer rates in smokers are highly non-linear with amount smoked, such that a meaningful cancer risk cannot be attributed to light or occasional smokers. So paleeese stop having visions of your early lung cancer death when you trot by an outside smoker holding your breath.

Medical error?

Now why do so many heavy smokers not die of lung cancer? And why do other smokers get lung cancer? And why are 15% or so of lung cancers not due to obvious causal agents? This may be related to the real killer that I am going to tell you about.

But before we talk about the real "natural" killer of people let me remind the reader of the established fact that is virtually absent from establishment propaganda and establishment public health policy development: The third leading cause of death in North America is medical error, after cardiac disease and cancer [1][2].

This is an apropos reminder that establishment scientists are service intellectuals and that establishment medicine may have little to do with public health [3]. It is a reminder of just how much we may have been misled about the real dangers to our own bodies...

Anarchy as the only healthy lifestyle?

As it turns out, there is extensive and conclusive scientific research - that simply does not get talked about in the controlled mental environment and that is virtually not taught in medical schools - showing that dominance hierarchies are the greatest threat to human health in stable and "advanced" societies [4]. [Excluding war and imposed deprivation; which also arise from dominance hierarchies.]

The violence of human dominance hierarchies in our stable "advanced" societies is corroborated by documented empirical facts and experimental results establishing a dominant causal relationship between socioeconomic status and human health and mortality; which is not simply due to differences in resource allocation, access to medical care, life-style differences (smoking, drinking, diet, exercise, etc.), work accidents and other such relatively “incidental” whole-population factors but which instead is due to the direct impacts of dominance hierarchy on physiological functions [4].

In a word, the boss makes you sick - whether you like him/her or not.

Socioeconomic status is the single most dominant predictor of health, and the physiological mechanisms for this causal relation (from socioeconomic status to individual health) are being elucidated by population studies and laboratory experiments.

The vector is psychosocial stress which significantly impacts the immune system, fertility, the brain (see below), the heart (hypertension, pathogenic cholesterol profile), and adrenal gland function [4]. This is particularly relevant when we consider the canonical link between the immune system and cancer (second leading cause of death) and the fact that the first leading cause of death is cardiovascular failure.

The known main stress-causing social circumstances arising from dominance hierarchies are [4]:

“(i) low degrees of social control and predictability ...; (ii) a paucity of outlets after exposure to stressors ...; (iii) a paucity of social support ...; or (iv) high rates of physical stressors ...”

This explains why we seek protections via rules, laws and regulations; why we seek outlets and social support; and why we avoid contacts with the hard end of the dominance hierarchy.

In addition [4], "subjective [socioeconomic status] can be at least as predictive of health as is objective [socioeconomic status]," meaning that one's self-perception as a subordinate individual in the dominance hierarchy can be as important as one's actual status. This in turn implies that culture and propaganda are significant public health factors in dominance hierarchies.

Public health cover up?

If this is the truth about health then the establishment has a truth problem. The establishment is dedicated to maintaining and benefiting from society's dominance hierarchy yet this hierarchy is bad for public health and quality of life.

The obvious solution is cover up. But the evidence is so startling, so evident to even a neophyte observer of society, that the cover up needs to be broad and sustained. It needs to involve every educational institution and professional school [5], every propaganda instrument, and every relevant management ministry.

"Indeed, the interests of the oppressors lie in 'changing the consciousness of the oppressed, not the situation which oppresses them' [Simone de Beauvoir]; for the more the oppressed can be led to adapt to that situation, the more easily they can be dominated." [6]

In such a cover up, like any cover up, one needs a proper patsy; or an array of diversions conveniently locked into our hierarchy-induced wants for protection and the reassurances that obedience will provide rewards.

The main diversion, therefore, is to invent or exaggerate health risks that can be reduced by personal lifestyle choices, by discipline and obedience. Of course those with the luxury of such lifestyle obedience are also of higher socioeconomic status, thereby providing a convenient false corroboration of the public health policy.

There be smoking. And trans-fat, and residual carcinogens, and flue shots, and heavy metals in urban drinking water, and cancer screening, and annual check-ups, ... The violently debilitating dominance hierarchy is a given that cannot be examined (we can't even question the concepts of low corporate taxes and mobile capital) and all health problems are either accidental or related to lifestyle "choices" in a "free and democratic" society. Tadaaaa...

And it makes you stupid?

Dominance hierarchy stress on the subordinate individual is directly a killer; and... it makes one stupid [4]:

“Animals who are socially stressed by the dominance hierarchy for prolonged periods undergo neurobiological changes as well. This can involve inhibition of neurogenesis, dendritic atrophy, and impairment of synaptic plasticity in the hippocampus and altered patterns of apoptotic cell death (increases in the cortex and decreases in the hippocampus)”

Fortunately, there is a lifestyle practice that can make you smart [6]:

"But in the last analysis, it is the people themselves who are filed away through the lack of creativity, transformation, and knowledge in this (at best) misguided system [of education]. For apart from inquiry, apart from the praxis, individuals cannot be truly human. Knowledge emerges only through invention and re-invention, through the restless, impatient, continuing, hopeful inquiry human beings pursue in the world, with the world, and with each other."

Here Freire's "praxis" means an authentically rebellious praxis of liberation anchored in a fervent dedication to fighting one’s own oppression, against one’s objectification [6][7][8][9].


[1] "Is US Health Really the Best in the World?" by Barbara Starfield. Journal of the American Medical Association, Vol.284, No.4, 2000, pages 483-485.]

[2] "Health 'Care' in the United States": Dr. Barbara Starfield interviewed on CHUO 89.1 FM Ottawa (Canada), The Train.

[3] "Some big lies of science" by Denis G. Rancourt, 2010.

[4] “The influence of social hierarchy on primate health (Review)” by Robert M. Sapolsky, Science, vol.308, p.648-652, 2005. (and references therein)

[5]“Disciplined Minds” by Jeff Schmidt, 2000.

[6] “Pedagogy of the Oppressed” by Paulo Freire, 1970.

[7] “Need for and Practice of Student Liberation” (essay) by Denis G. Rancourt, 2010.

[8] “On the racism and pathology of left progressive First-World activism” (essay) by Denis G. Rancourt, 2010.

[9] “Roundabout as conflict-avoidance versus Malcolm X’s psychology of liberation” (essay) by Denis G. Rancourt, 2010.

Denis G. Rancourt is a former tenured and full professor of physics at the University of Ottawa in Canada. He practiced several areas of science (including physics and environmental science) which were funded by a national agency and ran an internationally recognized laboratory. He has published over 100 articles in leading scientific journals and several social commentary essays. He developed popular activism courses and was an outspoken critic of the university administration and a defender of student and Palestinian rights. He was fired for his dissidence in 2009. His dismissal case is scheduled to start court hearings in 2011.


gyg3s said...

Isn't there a study that compared the mortality rates of people in an old persons home between those who had control over their surroundings (eg how the room was arranged etc) and those who were not allowed to make any decisions? From memory, those who had control over themselves and their environment lived longer.

Jonik said...

The anti-smoking culture, ironically, enormously serves the interests of the cigarette cartel. It saves trillions (with a 't') of dollars by blaming A) its victims and B) the public-domain natural tobacco plant for the deaths and diseases actually caused by what are easily the most industrially-contaminated products on earth.

Think of typical (very non-organic) cigarettes as "Dioxin Dowels" or "Pesticide Pegs" or "Radiation Rods" and the discussion will be off on the right foot.
Since any number of cigarettes may contain no tobacco at all, but with measured shots of nicotine added, of course, to even refer to this as a "tobacco" topic, or the manufacturers as "tobacco companies" is both deceptive and distracting...and certainly un-scientific.

Search up "Fauxbacco" http://fauxbacco.blogspot.com for references galore, and more.

Denis Rancourt said...

Thank you Jonik-Fauxbacco!

You make excellent additional points.

Allow me to make this "preventative" clarification:

My article should not be interpreted to imply that "tobacco corporations" suffer from anti-smoking culture. On the contrary, I believe that these corporations, their bosses, and the dominance hierarchy as a whole greatly benefit from the anti-smoking culture created by the publicly-funded anti-smoking lobby.

Both the socioeconomic status gradient (poverty) and substance use (etc.) are necessary structural features of the system. It all holds together and what does not "work" is slated for elimination...

gyg3s said...

To be filed under iatrogenic illness, "AIDS in Africa is spread by unsafe vaccinations, not by sex",

after checking its veracity.

Denis Rancourt said...

@gyg3s: Yes, there is a new book about the epidemiology of AIDS by a Canadian professor (Sherbrooke U, Quebec) that makes a VERY compelling case in this regard!