I think that, in some profound sense, every smoker knows that smoking is good for them. They wouldn’t smoke if they didn’t feel that way about smoking. People do things that they like doing. They eat foods that they like eating. They drink beverages that they enjoy drinking. They listen to music that they like hearing. They watch movies that they enjoy seeing. And they smoke tobacco because they like that too.
But ask any of them why they enjoy that kind of food, and they’ll be hard pressed to give a reason. They won’t be able to come up with a chemical analysis of the food, and pinpoint a key ingredient. They’ll just say, "I like it." And the same will go for what they drink. What they listen to. What they watch. What they read. What they smoke. All of these things they enjoy, but they can’t say quite why.
But that doesn’t matter. Human beings have been around for millions of years. Far longer if their pre-human ancestors are added in. For millions of years, humans have been pulling berries off trees, digging up roots, catching fish, and nibbling them, and deciding, "I like it." Humans – every animal, in fact – has some very, very sophisticated ways of finding out whether something is edible or poisonous. They have to have a hyper-efficient chemical analytical laboratory built into them, that runs a check on every single bite of food they take, and tells them within milliseconds whether to swallow it or spit it out. And that laboratory doesn’t need to come up and give a list of ingredients. All it has to do is say, "Yes, I like it," or "No, I don’t like it." So when anyone says about something they eat, or drink, or smoke, or anything else, when they say "I like it," they’re not hazarding a guess: they’re giving the results from the best laboratory in the world, one that’s been in business for millions of years, and which is always getting better.
And more than this, humans – all animals – also have super-sophisticated on-board control systems telling them when to drink and when to eat. And very often telling them exactly what to eat. From time to time people get cravings for particular foods. For me it’s usually oily fish like smoked mackerel. Or pure orange juice. A week or two back, I suddenly had a craving for tinned smoked mussels. I bought a can. It tasted delicious. Why? Probably because there was something in it I needed, something I was running low on, and my control system had kicked in to push it up the priority list of things to eat. Pregnant women are renowned for these sorts of cravings. That isn’t very surprising, given that they’re eating for two, and most likely the developing embryo within them is calling soundlessly but urgently for all sorts of things, and this creates a series of deficits which have to be made good rapidly, just like when house guests eat all the biscuits. And these sudden deficits translate into cravings for, well, bananas and baked beans.
And that’s what people really need to weigh against the claims of any self-styled medical or nutritional ‘expert’ who tells them the opposite of what their own on-board, million-year-tried-and-tested, super-high-speed laboratory and control systems are telling them. Most of these ‘experts’ haven’t been around for 10 years or 100 years, never mind one hundred million years. And most of them disagree with each other, and with past experts. In fact they’re not really experts at all. They’re wolves. But people listen to them all the same.
And that creates a problem. Because these wolves are almost always telling people not to trust their own super-sophisticated multi-million-year-honed analysis and control systems. When do medical or nutritional or lifestyle gurus ever tell people to eat what they feel like, to trust their own judgment?. Never. It’s part of any expert wolf’s job description to get people to stop believing themselves, and start to believe them instead. Because it makes it easier to fleece them, by getting them to buy the patent medicines they’re peddling.
The problem is one of serving two masters. Because even though somebody might completely believe some self-styled expert, they’re still going to have their on-board laboratory analysing what they eat, and they’re still going to have their control system telling them what to eat. Once someone falls under the spell of an ‘expert’, they become just like a car driver who allows a backseat passenger sitting behind them to lean over and take hold of the wheel, while they’re still holding onto the wheel themselves. So there are two sets of hands pulling in opposite directions on the same steering wheel. And that’s a recipe for disaster.
If we have so many ‘eating disorders’ these days – anorexia, bulimia, obesity, etc – there’s a good case for suggesting that a lot of it is down to serving two masters. More and more, people aren’t doing what comes naturally, but are always fighting with some sort of learned or acquired expertise that they’ve picked up from some magazine, or seen on TV, or heard from a friend, and which they believe, and which sets them working against themselves, fighting their natural impulses, alternately starving and bingeing or behaving in some other crazy way.
It’s always been a problem. There have always been quack doctors and snake oil salesmen, but these days there’s a veritable plague of them. There are armies of doctors telling people not to smoke, chefs telling them what to eat, nutritional experts telling them what to drink, athletes, gymnasts, advertising agencies, government bureaus. The list is endless. And they are all of them working to override people’s own judgment – their billion-year-evolved, multi-crash-tested, hyper-sophisticated, built-in, super-fast, on-board laboratories and control systems – just so that they can sell them NRT or Chantix or Zyban or something, and make a quick buck.
It’s not all experts that are the problem. A lot of experts really do know what they’re talking about. The problem lies in those kinds of experts who try to override people’s own judgment, and substitute their own expertise for it. Those are the dangerous ones. Traditional family doctors didn’t used to do this. They offered medicines, treatments, therapies. They didn’t try to run the lives of their patients. And they didn’t because they saw themselves as trying to help their patients to live their lives in the way they chose. The problem lies in a "lifestyle medicine" which aims to change people’s behaviour, to override their own in-built judgment, and take control of their lives, just like backseat drivers trying to take over the steering wheel of a car.
It can’t go on. It has to stop. These wolves must be stopped.
So smoke a cigarette. If you don’t enjoy it, then don’t smoke any more, because it probably isn’t good for you. Your on-board, multi-million-year-old, hyper-fast on-board analytical laboratory has just said No to it. And if you enjoy it, then that same laboratory will have just said Yes, and you’ll have found out, in a profound sense, that smoking is good for you.