Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The Moral Panic Generation.

This is what I’m dubbing our present generation. It seems these days you can’t scratch without some medical or scientific expert warning you of the dangers of scratching, or whatever innocent else we may do. Everything, it seems, is bad for you in some way. Anyone ever follow dietary advice, and the vast literature on it since it developed circa the 1950s and 1960s? Are you, like me, mostly confused? One day something is good for you, the next day it’s bad for you. I suppose there are some axioms that all except, for instance that tobacco is bad for you, even though all of the longest living people were smokers (see also: Oldest Living People Continue To Smoke While Non-Smokers Die Younger). Now I’m not justifying smoking, but don’t expect to have a warranty to live to 100 because you don’t smoke. The statistics are hardly in doubt in regard to lung cancer, for example, since the vast majority of lung cancer sufferers are smokers. Many will also remember Yul Brynner’s famous warning : “Don’t smoke!”

Brynner died of lung cancer at the age of 65. Presumably, according to statistical calculations from studies on smoking , had he not smoked he could have lived to at least 75. Another significant figure is the late and great Jesse Owens, who also died of lung cancer, at age 66. Theoretically, this famous sprint icon could have lived to 76, had he not smoked. I suppose it seems almost “tragic” that such a fit and incredibly talented athlete should take up smoking, thus (again theoretically) ending his life ten years early.

These, in my opinion, are worthwhile warnings to smokers who’d like an extra ten years of life. At the same time we must not forget the important role that genetics plays in longevity, hence why all of the world’s longest living people were smokers. Theoretically, they should have been long dead while they were still puffing away. The role of genetics is, in my opinion, hugely underestimated in longevity. Also, poor living conditions, depression and anxiety, and other factors which may induce many to take up smoking and contribute just as much to early death has to be considered. We can’t always pinpoint smoking as the decisive factor in premature death.

Now to the “Moral Panic Generation”. A report in today’s (June 2, 2010) , Daily Telegraph, "Smokers' kisses 'fatal'", really got up my goat.

"Passive smoking isn't the only smoking risk to children," said Prof Booy, who is director of research at the National Centre for Immunisation and Research at Sydney's The Children's Hospital at Westmead.

"Smokers carry more germs like meningococcus, so normal family cuddles and kisses can pass on dangerous germs, even if smokers only smoke outside."

But smoking outside did not reduce the increased threat posed by meningococcus, Prof Booy said, adding that cases of its resulting disease usually spiked during winter.

The good professor, however, provides us with no statistics, and even admits that:

"Although its rare, meningococcal disease can be serious and up to 10 per cent of patients can die.

But remember, he provides no evidence whatsoever that even among the low 10 per cent of cases that passive smoking is involved, yet says:

"This is another good reason for smokers to quit, not just smoke outside,"

This is what I call straining at a gnat while swallowing a camel (no pun intended). If a smoker desires at least another ten years of life, and is willing to “smoke outside” and not blow his/her smoke in the direction of non-smokers, then there’s no need to dictate to them the benefits of ten more years. Maybe they don’t want to live that long? Maybe they are afraid of far worse consequences of living that long, like dementia, age-paralyses and other related diseases that significantly decrease the quality of life? I suppose, and I’m speaking totally hypothetically here, if Jesus of Nazareth was a smoker, the “Moral Panic Generation” would have been after him. Imagine, Jesus, if you had lived to 43 instead of 33, because of not smoking! Never mind the politics of it all and the real cause of your untimely death. But shall we doubt the wisdom of The Moral Panic Generation? Those who know what’s best for all of us – and want to enforce us to live longer, if necessary by Pharisaic laws and rules and regulations, “for the benefit of society”.

As far as "saving costs" to society is concerned, need I remind anyone that the most ubiquituous squanderers of our tax dollars are the politicians themselves? Hiking the price of cigarettes by 20% will never affect them, even among the politicians who smoke. So they target the poor (monetary-wise) smokers to give up by slapping price-hikes on them, while many of them (the politicians) continue to indulge in smoking on $100,000-plus-per-annum taxpayer funded salaries. It's most certainly a case of, "do as I say, not as I do".

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