[ExI] Is tobacco really harmful?

Robert Masters rob4332000 at yahoo.com
Mon Nov 23 21:51:17 UTC 2009

spike wrote:

<<Nicotine doesn't cause cancer at all.  The notion is that cancer is caused by the tar in the tobacco.>>

Right!  I forgot all about tar.  Duh.

Now I need to find out if there's evidence that TAR is harmful.  Common sense suggests that the "black lungs" of smokers can't be a good thing, but what's the medical knowledge on this?  Has it been established that the gicky stuff can stimulate cancer production or interfere with breathing or whatever?  What's the physiology involved?  I'll have to investigate further.  (Input welcome.)

<<Tobacco additives may cause the problem to be worse, but we have plenty of evidence tobacco is bad by itself.>>

I don't understand.  How can there be evidence that tobacco is bad "by itself" when no one (or almost no one) smokes tobacco "by itself," i.e., without additives?  Don't you need a database of additive-free smokers to know anything about the effects of PURE tobacco?

If we observed that smokers of additive-laden tobacco got cancer at 50 percent above the rate for non-smokers, while additive-free smokers got it at 30 percent above that rate, it'd be reasonable to conclude that the additives were part of the problem and the tobacco another part.  But there aren't any such statistics.  All the available data is about tobacco with additives.  As far as I can see, this means there's no evidence that tobacco "by itself" is harmful.

Of course, that's very different from saying we know it's NOT harmful.  To establish the latter, we'd have to observe a bunch of additive-free smokers over time and determine that they're just as healthy as non-smokers.  But at this point we just don't know. 

Look at it this way.  Suppose it WERE true that tobacco was totally harmless.  How would the data look any different from how it does now?  There'd be a certain rate of disease among smokers, higher than among non-smokers--just as we observe.  But that wouldn't tell us anything about the effects of the tobacco itself.  (Or am I missing something?)

Your grandfather said:

<<"Anyone with half a brain could easily figure it out: the smokers had less stamina, coughed more and so forth.".>>

I totally agree--but the problem is that these smokers were using tobacco with additives.  So it doesn't address the point.

<<Rob don't get any ideas about marketing organic cigarettes....>>

Don't worry spike--I have no such plans.  :-)  Thanks for your comments;  trying to explain this is helpful to me.

Stathis Papaioannou wrote:

<<There's no consensus that nicotine causes any harm in humans:

http://content.onlinejacc.org/cgi/content/full/41/3/497 >>

Thanks!  That's really useful information.

BillK wrote:

<<Since about 1890 people have recognized that cigarette smoking does
indeed damage one's health for even then they said that each cigarette
a person smoked drove another nail in his coffin. That led to a
cigarette being called ( in slang ) a coffin nail.>>

Thanks, that's what I wanted to know.  But do you have a source for that?

Rob Masters


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