Saturday, July 23, 2011


Ages ago, when the story broke of an Indonesian whose fag exploded as he rode his motorcycle to work, I said it wouldn't be long before the health lobby terrified people into believing rocket fuel was in cigarettes.

As it happens, today I saw a new propaganda poster in the window of my smoke free shop. It had a diagram showing all the different chemicals in cigarettes including, yes, you guessed it, rocketfuel. Others were said to be poison used on death row, sewer gas, toilet cleaner, radioactive gas, and pesticide (which is how they now describe nicotine.) It was so wildly hysterical in it's claims that I wondered how they thought that it would persuade smokers of many years' experience to quit.

Perhaps it was meant instead to frighten the non-smokers more than us so they develop the same kind of paranoia and see us as diseased. My problem with this campaign poster of theirs is that they promote the smoker as the dirty, stupid, addict and not the victim of a dangerous black market that smoke free policies have created. Thanks to the anti-smoker political lobby groups tobacco with far more dangerous chemicals than anything Public health and it's front groups have tried to save us from before is now more available than ever. Adult smokers will avoid it. Kids will not.

Independent author Rich White explains the real chemical danger of regulated tobacco in his Smokescreens book and examines it in context with other atmospheric and environmental pollutants. He says, for example :

"...smoke from charcoal contains many of the same components of tobacco smoke, such as carbon monoxide and formaldehyde, as well as carcinogens and so on – a ten pound bag of charcoal produces as much smoke, and chemicals, as 160 packs (3200 cigarettes) of cigarettes."

British American Tobacco says : All tobacco products pose risks to health, but based on available scientific evidence, the ingredients our companies use, at the levels used, do not add to the health risks of smoking. Nor do they encourage people to start smoking or affect a person’s ability to quit. Ingredients are not added to make our tobacco products appealing to children, and there is no evidence that they have this effect. Although ingredients in some types of cigarettes include sugars, cocoa and fruit extracts, they do not create a sweet, chocolate-like or fruity taste in the smoke. In short, our cigarettes still taste like cigarettes and not sweets or candy. Nicotine is not added to tobacco products - it occurs naturally in tobacco. Smokers in countries such as Canada, Australia and the UK have historically preferred the taste of Virginia-style cigarettes which contain few or no ingredients.

That actually rings true with me from experience and taste. The smoke free wild allegations about chemicals in cigarettes seem false and certainly over-egged to exploding point.

Meanwhile, those groups like ASH that would encourage such untruths to achieve that ideological aim of a smoke free world are happy to push dangerous chemicals that have proved beyond doubt to kill. So on further examination, the anti-smoker industry's claim that "it's about health" does not stand up.

It seems, however, that when the Pharma industry wants to exploit tobacco, they claim it's good for a whole host of things including beauty and skin care (and I thought they said it made you ugly), circulatory health (and I thought they said it was bad for circulation), and oral health (and I thought it made your teeth look like a crack whore's.)

Reasonable anti-smokers even admit that there are some beneficial qualities in tobacco

But few would believe the benefits are as astounding as this clinic claims

JAKARTA (AFP) – An Indonesian woman exhales cigarette smoke into the mouth of a gaunt, naked patient at a Jakarta clinic, where tobacco is openly touted as a cancer cure.

The Western patient is suffering from emphysema, a condition she developed from decades of smoking. Along with cancer and autism, it's just one of the ailments the Griya Balur clinic claims it can cure with cigarettes.

"I missed this," says the woman, a regular customer, with an American accent, as Phil Collins's "I Can Feel It" blares in the background.

Griya Balur founder Dr. Gretha Zahar told AFP she had treated 60,000 people with tobacco smoke over the past decade.

You might think she's just a witch doctor but then she does have a PhD in nanochemistry from Padjadjaran University in Bandung, West Java, Zahar. Her jiggery pokery explanation is as astounding as the anti-smoker claims made in the opposite. And yet, she's a doctor. And we're supposed to believe doctors, aren't we?

She said :

"... manipulating the mercury in tobacco smoking can cure all diseases including cancer, and even reverse the ageing process.

"Mercury is the cause of all illnesses. In my cigarettes -- we call them Divine Cigarettes -- there are scavengers that extract the mercury from the body," she said.

Zahar says she does not need to subject her theories to clinical tests or publish them in peer-reviewed journals, nor does she have the money to "fight" with "Western medical scientists" and that I can believe.

Her claims were recently presented to the Constitutional Court where farmers and legislators from the tobacco-growing hub of Central Java are challenging a law that recognises tobacco as addictive.

Bearing in mind that the World Health Organisation, who we should be able to trust implicitly, played dirty in the smoking nd health game and buried the SHS results that showed protective effects on children preferring to use a less reliable method of study to achieve the aim they had already announced.

So in this myriad of conflicting studies, claims, fantasies, and politicking, who and what, exactly, are we humble consumers supposed to believe when trying to make an honest decision about the alleged harm or benefits of tobacco.

18th Century poet William Cowper had the best answer :

And diff'ring judgements serve but to declare/That truth lies somewhere if we knew but where