Effect and Cause

Continuing with Dr Fay Wilson, and her remark that

“Smoking doesn’t just make you sick, it makes you poor and ugly as well.”

It reminded me of what somebody once wrote to me:

…it’s difficult to work in public health, which I do, without being constantly aware of the impact of smoking on health of adults, on the health of babies when mothers have smoked in pregnancy, of children when parents smoke round them etc etc.

I sometimes think that the health profession lives in a separate reality from ordinary people. Because I’m not “constantly aware” of the impact of smoking on adults or children or babies. In fact, I don’t think there’s any “impact” at all.

I think that what happens is that people start out with the preconception that smoking is ‘unhealthy’, and then proceed to find confirmations of this prejudice everywhere. They find people who are poor, and who smoke, and jump to the conclusion that smoking is what made them poor. Or they find people who are ugly, and they conclude that smoking is what made them ugly. And just to make doubly sure, they’ll go away and do a survey which shows that smokers are statistically significantly more likely to be poor or ugly or sick. And this confirms them in their certainty that smoking is the cause of more or less all the evil in the world.

I guess I see it the other way round. For me, smoking is something that people do when they’re stressed, when they’re living in a less-than-perfect world. It helps them to relax a bit. I don’t know how many times in my life I’ve had somebody come to me and tell me of something awful that’s happened to them, and cadge a few cigarettes off me. I completely understood Joan Bakewell when she described taking up smoking again while going through a divorce. It’s what people do. When they’re in trouble they look for help, even if it’s from a little cylinder of tobacco.

And I particularly understand why soldiers in sitting in trenches want cigarettes more than anybody. A year or so back I saw some footage of soldiers in WW1 sitting waiting to launch an attack. They were sitting with their guns and equipment at the edge of a wood, waiting for the order. And little puffs of smoke were rising up all along the line. In fact, they weren’t little puffs of smoke, but great clouds of smoke. The sort of clouds of smoke that are produced by taking long, deep drags on a cigarette. These guys were probably smoking cigarettes at the rate of one a minute.

And why not? In the next hour or so, many of them would be dead, riddled with machine gun bullets. Because, after all, almost all the military offensives of WW1 ended in failure.

As I see the world, those soldiers were smoking because they were in an extremely stressful situation, and smoking a bit of tobacco helped them a bit. But the likes of Dr Fay Wilson would say that it was smoking tobacco is what caused them to be sitting in a ditch waiting to be ordered over the top. I think that being in a difficult situation is what caused those soldiers to smoke. And she thinks it’s the other way round, and that it was smoking that got them into all that trouble. And made them sick and poor and ugly. In the eyes of our modern health professionals, almost all the casualties of WW1 were smoking-related deaths. Yes, it’s true he was hit by 16 machine gun bullets, but he had a packet of Capstan in his breast pocket, and that was his real cause of death.

As I see the world, it’s a place of immense suffering in thousands of different ways, and I cannot bring myself to forbid anyone the solace of a cigarette before they go to their death before the machine guns of the Somme. Nor can I bring myself to forbid anyone the solace of a pinch of cannabis or opium as they face some personal disaster in their lives. But Dr Fay Wilson would have no problem marching up that line of soldiers and telling them to stub out their cigarettes.

My world is an imperfect, fallen world filled with imperfect, fallen people. People wearing bandages, people on crutches, people who are blind in one eye, people who are blind in both eyes. People for whom I can only feel compassion, because it’s not their fault.

But the Dr Fay Wilsons of the world don’t see it that way. They think that we’re living in an imperfect, fallen world because it’s filled with imperfect, fallen people. And if you could just make those people perfect, the world would cease to be such an ugly place. And if you could just get people to stop smoking, and to stop drinking, and to stop eating, this would be a wonderful world. And all that it needs is a bit of will-power and determination to make it so. She doesn’t feel any compassion at all for all those blind, half-blind, limping, bandaged casualties. She wants them to throw away their crutches and their spectacles and bandages and pills, and demonstrate that where there’s a will there’s a way. If this isn’t a wonderful world, it’s your fault.

I’m using the term “fallen” here in a biblical sense. The fallen world into which Adam and Eve emerged after their expulsion from the Garden of Eden was one in which Adam had to work “by the sweat of his brow”. It was an objectively difficult world. It wouldn’t have helped Adam in the least bit if he had given up smoking. That would not have made the dry land any easier to plough. Nor would it have helped if he’d sworn off the booze either. Doing that didn’t make the wheat grow stronger. It wasn’t that Adam’s smoking and drinking had made the soil barren, but that the barren soil had driven Adam to smoking and drinking.

My dispute with the antismokers is over cause and effect. It’s exactly like with global warming, where the alarmists say that it’s the increase in CO2 that’s causing all the warming, and the deniers (quite often) say that it’s the warming that’s causing the CO2 to be released from the warming oceans and soils.

I dunno. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe when the last smoker has been gassed or shot, there’ll be an outbreak of joy all over the world, and everybody will be sublimely happy, and there will never be any more disease or suffering or poverty or ugliness, because smoking really was what caused all that.

About Frank Davis

smoker
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28 Responses to Effect and Cause

  1. Anonymous says:

    What people like this idiot woman Fay Wilson hate is the human race. We are smelly, noisy, inconvenient, disobedient, often willful and frequently unattractive. We take up space, we spoil the view and we consume stuff, all kinds of stuff. The medical profession largely only meets non-medical people when they are sick and needy. Eventually many of them come to believe that anyone who isn’t a member of their elite club is sick and needy. Following from that they then come to believe that all these smelly, sick and needy people need to do, as they cannot be club members, is what the club members tell them to do. Result Fay Wilson, Liam Donaldson etc. The only thing that puzzles me is what the hell these people see when they look in a mirror.

  2. Anonymous says:

    What people like this idiot woman Fay Wilson hate is the human race. We are smelly, noisy, inconvenient, disobedient, often willful and frequently unattractive. We take up space, we spoil the view and we consume stuff, all kinds of stuff. The medical profession largely only meets non-medical people when they are sick and needy. Eventually many of them come to believe that anyone who isn’t a member of their elite club is sick and needy. Following from that they then come to believe that all these smelly, sick and needy people need to do, as they cannot be club members, is what the club members tell them to do. Result Fay Wilson, Liam Donaldson etc. The only thing that puzzles me is what the hell these people see when they look in a mirror.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Chatting to a young Marxist last night. I offered the view that captitalists work with (and take advantage of) human nature while socialists seek to change human nature to fit in with their vision of Utopia.
    His answer: ‘I don’t believe in human nature.’
    I suspect it’s an opinion shared by many in the ‘caring’ professions.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Chatting to a young Marxist last night. I offered the view that captitalists work with (and take advantage of) human nature while socialists seek to change human nature to fit in with their vision of Utopia.
    His answer: ‘I don’t believe in human nature.’
    I suspect it’s an opinion shared by many in the ‘caring’ professions.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Sweet piece of thinking, Frank. And, as Anon above underlines, the notion that as a species we are somehow perfectible, if only all our base traits are eliminated, has all the validity of a messianic delusion.
    I think it’s also in part a class thing. I have yet to hear a working class person pronounce that the solution to all the world’s ills is to prevent anyone doing anything which adds to their pleasure or peace of mind, while all these expert voices are resolutely middle class, I-know-better types, who blench at the untidiness of life.
    PT Barnum

  6. Anonymous says:

    Sweet piece of thinking, Frank. And, as Anon above underlines, the notion that as a species we are somehow perfectible, if only all our base traits are eliminated, has all the validity of a messianic delusion.
    I think it’s also in part a class thing. I have yet to hear a working class person pronounce that the solution to all the world’s ills is to prevent anyone doing anything which adds to their pleasure or peace of mind, while all these expert voices are resolutely middle class, I-know-better types, who blench at the untidiness of life.
    PT Barnum

  7. Anonymous says:

    Yes smoking is the perfect excuse for less life expectation in the lower classes.
    Perhaps it alieviates,excuses the issue that poverty, innactivity, poor working environment, malnutrition or long antisocial hours have anything to do with it.
    The, SMOKESCREEN.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Yes smoking is the perfect excuse for less life expectation in the lower classes.
    Perhaps it alieviates,excuses the issue that poverty, innactivity, poor working environment, malnutrition or long antisocial hours have anything to do with it.
    The, SMOKESCREEN.

  9. Anonymous says:

    “They were sitting with their guns and equipment at the edge of a wood, waiting for the order. And little puffs of smoke were rising up all along the line. In fact, they weren’t little puffs of smoke, but great clouds of smoke. The sort of clouds of smoke that are produced by taking long, deep drags on a cigarette. These guys were probably smoking cigarettes at the rate of one a minute.”
    Frank,
    I suppose it all depends on what you see.
    I see –
    Your Brain Boots up Like a Computer
    “Nitric oxide is released during awareness, or aroused states of the brain. In the animal studies, Godwin and colleagues found something surprising about how it enhances the flow of sensory information from the eyes to the brain to process vision.
    “Just as a computer must boot up its operating system before running involved applications like spreadsheets, nitric oxide released as the brain wakes up may set the stage for more complex brain operations by enhancing information at the earliest processing steps,” said Godwin.”
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/08/060808161139.htm
    Nitric oxide: From menace to marvel of the decade
    http://web.archive.org/web/20061129131744/http://www.absw.org.uk/Briefings/Nitric+oxide.htm
    “Most radio listeners, said Vice President Wallace last week, know B as the “oomph vitamin, that puts the sparkle in your eye, the spring in your step, the zip in your soul!”
    http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,795342,00.html
    “The advantages of smoke-based remedies are rapid delivery to the brain, more efficient absorption by the body and lower costs of production.”
    http://tinyurl.com/6ybwso
    Rose

  10. Anonymous says:

    “They were sitting with their guns and equipment at the edge of a wood, waiting for the order. And little puffs of smoke were rising up all along the line. In fact, they weren’t little puffs of smoke, but great clouds of smoke. The sort of clouds of smoke that are produced by taking long, deep drags on a cigarette. These guys were probably smoking cigarettes at the rate of one a minute.”
    Frank,
    I suppose it all depends on what you see.
    I see –
    Your Brain Boots up Like a Computer
    “Nitric oxide is released during awareness, or aroused states of the brain. In the animal studies, Godwin and colleagues found something surprising about how it enhances the flow of sensory information from the eyes to the brain to process vision.
    “Just as a computer must boot up its operating system before running involved applications like spreadsheets, nitric oxide released as the brain wakes up may set the stage for more complex brain operations by enhancing information at the earliest processing steps,” said Godwin.”
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/08/060808161139.htm
    Nitric oxide: From menace to marvel of the decade
    http://web.archive.org/web/20061129131744/http://www.absw.org.uk/Briefings/Nitric+oxide.htm
    “Most radio listeners, said Vice President Wallace last week, know B as the “oomph vitamin, that puts the sparkle in your eye, the spring in your step, the zip in your soul!”
    http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,795342,00.html
    “The advantages of smoke-based remedies are rapid delivery to the brain, more efficient absorption by the body and lower costs of production.”
    http://tinyurl.com/6ybwso
    Rose

  11. Anonymous says:

    In WW2 we stuck to the herbal medicine, which was in those days considered very beneficial.
    Even the American Camps were called after cigarettes.
    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/europe/article4124354.ece
    However the Germans went the pharmaceutical route and discouraged the use of tobacco.
    “The effects of amphetamines are similar to those of the adrenaline produced by the body, triggering a heightened state of alert. In most people, the substance increases self-confidence, concentration and the willingness to take risks, while at the same time reducing sensitivity to pain, hunger and thirst, as well as reducing the need for sleep”
    http://www.spiegel.de/international/0,1518,354606,00.html
    “The period to recover from the drug effect was getting longer and longer, while attention concentration ability was getting weaker and weaker. This eventually resulted in messages of lethal outcome in several Nazi divisions in France and Poland.”
    http://english.pravda.ru/science/19/94/379/7204_Nazi.html
    When almost inevitably some died from massive heart attacks, naturally tobacco was blamed.
    “Late in the war nicotine was suspected as a cause of the coronary heart failure suffered by a surprising number of soldiers on the eastern front. A 1944 report by an army field pathologist found that all 32 young soldiers whom he had examined after death from heart attack on the front had been “enthusiastic smokers.”
    http://www.bmj.com/archive/7070nd2.htm
    Now of course,the drugs companies would prefer us to use the pharmaceutical route too.
    Rose

  12. Anonymous says:

    In WW2 we stuck to the herbal medicine, which was in those days considered very beneficial.
    Even the American Camps were called after cigarettes.
    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/europe/article4124354.ece
    However the Germans went the pharmaceutical route and discouraged the use of tobacco.
    “The effects of amphetamines are similar to those of the adrenaline produced by the body, triggering a heightened state of alert. In most people, the substance increases self-confidence, concentration and the willingness to take risks, while at the same time reducing sensitivity to pain, hunger and thirst, as well as reducing the need for sleep”
    http://www.spiegel.de/international/0,1518,354606,00.html
    “The period to recover from the drug effect was getting longer and longer, while attention concentration ability was getting weaker and weaker. This eventually resulted in messages of lethal outcome in several Nazi divisions in France and Poland.”
    http://english.pravda.ru/science/19/94/379/7204_Nazi.html
    When almost inevitably some died from massive heart attacks, naturally tobacco was blamed.
    “Late in the war nicotine was suspected as a cause of the coronary heart failure suffered by a surprising number of soldiers on the eastern front. A 1944 report by an army field pathologist found that all 32 young soldiers whom he had examined after death from heart attack on the front had been “enthusiastic smokers.”
    http://www.bmj.com/archive/7070nd2.htm
    Now of course,the drugs companies would prefer us to use the pharmaceutical route too.
    Rose

  13. Frank Davis says:

    Well, I suppose you’re going to need a bit of spring in your step if you’re running across a few hundred yards of no man’s land dodging bullets.
    Frank

  14. Frank Davis says:

    Well, I suppose you’re going to need a bit of spring in your step if you’re running across a few hundred yards of no man’s land dodging bullets.
    Frank

  15. Frank Davis says:

    I suppose that meant that he regarded human life as being infinitely malleable. Or something like that.
    I’m not sure that I would myself appeal to some unchanging ‘human nature’. But I don’t believe humans are infinitely malleable either. I think there is a logic to life which I don’t think Marxists have grasped. Or anyone else either much.
    It’s a bit like how I’m not inclined to appeal to ‘rights’, or to ‘human rights’. I don’t know where these rights come from. I prefer to argue with the negative formalation that the state (for example) has no right to tell me how to live my life.
    Frank

  16. Frank Davis says:

    I suppose that meant that he regarded human life as being infinitely malleable. Or something like that.
    I’m not sure that I would myself appeal to some unchanging ‘human nature’. But I don’t believe humans are infinitely malleable either. I think there is a logic to life which I don’t think Marxists have grasped. Or anyone else either much.
    It’s a bit like how I’m not inclined to appeal to ‘rights’, or to ‘human rights’. I don’t know where these rights come from. I prefer to argue with the negative formalation that the state (for example) has no right to tell me how to live my life.
    Frank

  17. Frank Davis says:

    Perhaps they daren’t look!
    Frank

  18. Frank Davis says:

    Perhaps they daren’t look!
    Frank

  19. Anonymous says:

    Most definately.
    A grudging acknowledgement of the phenomenon, complete with the traditional bizarre and unlikely explanation.
    ‘A sportsperson highly reliant on their fitness would clearly be stupid to smoke,’ says Dr Keith Prowse, chairman of the British Lung Foundation. ‘But in the short term, smoking won’t do much beyond irritate the nose and throat.’
    According to Jarvis, there might even be – gulp – a benefit. ‘Nicotine is a psychomotive stimulant, in the same group of drugs as amphetamines,’ he says. ‘So a cigarette could potentially enhance performance in “explosive” events like sprinting.’
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/football/2008/jul/27/athletics.golf
    Rose

  20. Anonymous says:

    Most definately.
    A grudging acknowledgement of the phenomenon, complete with the traditional bizarre and unlikely explanation.
    ‘A sportsperson highly reliant on their fitness would clearly be stupid to smoke,’ says Dr Keith Prowse, chairman of the British Lung Foundation. ‘But in the short term, smoking won’t do much beyond irritate the nose and throat.’
    According to Jarvis, there might even be – gulp – a benefit. ‘Nicotine is a psychomotive stimulant, in the same group of drugs as amphetamines,’ he says. ‘So a cigarette could potentially enhance performance in “explosive” events like sprinting.’
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/football/2008/jul/27/athletics.golf
    Rose

  21. Anonymous says:

    I agree with your last para – I prefer to think in terms of freedoms rather than rights. Freedom is a state of being into which you’re born; it isn’t in anyone’s gift, which is what ‘rights’ suggests.
    But – hurrah! – something to argue about for a change! The older I get the more I do believe in a fixed ‘human nature’. Marxists would like to rid us of our aquisitiveness, which is a predominantly human characteristic. Humans like to have stuff – it probably has something to do with the ability to think a long way ahead triggering an urge to stock up ‘just in case’ – but, because some people are much better at aquiring than others, all private property must be abolished. Rather than consider the personal cost of stiffling such a fundamental human need, it’s easier to deny that any such thing exists.
    The medical profession has a similar attitude with the smoking ban. They must have known (and certainly must know by now) that quite a few smokers would simply retreat from society when they no longer felt comfortable in it. They must also know that the need to congregate is a powerful force within the human psyche – ie. human nature – and to deny that need puts the individual at risk of mental imbalance. Nevermind, they say, the physical body is paramount and anyway, you could always just do as we tell you and give up smoking if you want your old place at the table. And, in this way, they happily negate a third human trait – the desire for self-determination.
    Not sure about cause and effect here, though. Do they join the left/become a doctor because they’re contemptuous, arrogant jack-booted bullies, or does joining the left/becoming a doctor teach them all that?

  22. Anonymous says:

    I agree with your last para – I prefer to think in terms of freedoms rather than rights. Freedom is a state of being into which you’re born; it isn’t in anyone’s gift, which is what ‘rights’ suggests.
    But – hurrah! – something to argue about for a change! The older I get the more I do believe in a fixed ‘human nature’. Marxists would like to rid us of our aquisitiveness, which is a predominantly human characteristic. Humans like to have stuff – it probably has something to do with the ability to think a long way ahead triggering an urge to stock up ‘just in case’ – but, because some people are much better at aquiring than others, all private property must be abolished. Rather than consider the personal cost of stiffling such a fundamental human need, it’s easier to deny that any such thing exists.
    The medical profession has a similar attitude with the smoking ban. They must have known (and certainly must know by now) that quite a few smokers would simply retreat from society when they no longer felt comfortable in it. They must also know that the need to congregate is a powerful force within the human psyche – ie. human nature – and to deny that need puts the individual at risk of mental imbalance. Nevermind, they say, the physical body is paramount and anyway, you could always just do as we tell you and give up smoking if you want your old place at the table. And, in this way, they happily negate a third human trait – the desire for self-determination.
    Not sure about cause and effect here, though. Do they join the left/become a doctor because they’re contemptuous, arrogant jack-booted bullies, or does joining the left/becoming a doctor teach them all that?

  23. Frank Davis says:

    our aquisitiveness, which is a predominantly human characteristic.
    Certainly some people are acquisitive. But personally I’m not a great collector of things (books excepted). It’s all too much clutter. But I’m glad there are acquisitive collectors around, because otherwise there wouldn’t be museums and art galleries and libraries and collections of all sorts of other things. It is perhaps a deficiency of mine to not be acquisitive.
    They must also know that the need to congregate is a powerful force within the human psyche – ie. human nature – and to deny that need puts the individual at risk of mental imbalance.
    I live the life of a hermit these days, but I don’t really mind. Perhaps the internet provides a way of encountering other people in a slightly abstract way. I’d be extremely isolated without it. These days I sit outside the pub, gazing at the river. But when I could sit inside, I mostly sat gazing into space, quietly in a corner, speaking to no one. I’ve often described it as being akin to going to church. One of that sort of congregation.
    Whatever, it’s clearly true that they think that human beings are just collections of physical organs – hearts, lungs, kidneys, etc -. Which strikes me as rather crass and simplistic. It excludes far, far too much. But then, since they spend most of their time sawing people up, it’s not very surprising that they should see them that way.
    I think that one problem with doctors is that they’re all stuck up on pedestals, and treated like semi-divine beings. And perhaps when you start getting treated that way, you start to believe it yourself. And next thing you’re ordering people around. For their own good, of course.
    My two cents, anyway…
    Frank

  24. Frank Davis says:

    our aquisitiveness, which is a predominantly human characteristic.
    Certainly some people are acquisitive. But personally I’m not a great collector of things (books excepted). It’s all too much clutter. But I’m glad there are acquisitive collectors around, because otherwise there wouldn’t be museums and art galleries and libraries and collections of all sorts of other things. It is perhaps a deficiency of mine to not be acquisitive.
    They must also know that the need to congregate is a powerful force within the human psyche – ie. human nature – and to deny that need puts the individual at risk of mental imbalance.
    I live the life of a hermit these days, but I don’t really mind. Perhaps the internet provides a way of encountering other people in a slightly abstract way. I’d be extremely isolated without it. These days I sit outside the pub, gazing at the river. But when I could sit inside, I mostly sat gazing into space, quietly in a corner, speaking to no one. I’ve often described it as being akin to going to church. One of that sort of congregation.
    Whatever, it’s clearly true that they think that human beings are just collections of physical organs – hearts, lungs, kidneys, etc -. Which strikes me as rather crass and simplistic. It excludes far, far too much. But then, since they spend most of their time sawing people up, it’s not very surprising that they should see them that way.
    I think that one problem with doctors is that they’re all stuck up on pedestals, and treated like semi-divine beings. And perhaps when you start getting treated that way, you start to believe it yourself. And next thing you’re ordering people around. For their own good, of course.
    My two cents, anyway…
    Frank

  25. Anonymous says:

    The medical profession seem very concerned about smoking
    pregnant women and the effect of nicotine on the foetus,
    yet are quite enthusiastic about aborting them,
    oh I forgot we have to allow freedom of choice.
    Eye for detail

  26. Anonymous says:

    The medical profession seem very concerned about smoking
    pregnant women and the effect of nicotine on the foetus,
    yet are quite enthusiastic about aborting them,
    oh I forgot we have to allow freedom of choice.
    Eye for detail

  27. Anonymous says:

    “smoking pregnant women”? Sounds a bit unkind to me.

  28. Anonymous says:

    “smoking pregnant women”? Sounds a bit unkind to me.

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