Why Lifestyle Can’t Be Regulated

I’d like to try to explain why lifestyles can’t be regulated.

You might be a bit puzzled by this assertion, given that’s exactly what government is bent on doing, as it moves rapidly to regulate not just tobacco and alcohol, but also fat, sugar, salt and junk food.

All I say is that tobacco and alcohol and fat and sugar and salt aren’t the principal components of a lifestyle. They aren’t even significant components of a lifestyle. Because a lifestyle isn’t just made up of what people eat, but of every single thing they ever do. It’s made up of countless billions of acts. Eating and drinking is a tiny component of a lifestyle. It’s the visible tip of an iceberg, of which 99.999% is out of sight.

I’d like to explain with an example from my own life. Three or four years ago I found that my left leg was becoming increasingly numb, and when I took a hot bath I found that my left foot was looking very pale by comparison with my right foot. I wondered if it might be because I smoked too much and drank too much. But I dismissed  this suggestion on the grounds that I was smoking and drinking as much as I always did. Nothing had changed there. If my lifestyle was causing the numb leg, then I had to look at some change in my lifestyle. I had to be doing something differently. I began to study what I was doing, trying to see if the numbness was consequent on doing particular things.

My first candidate for something I was doing differently was the way I drove my car with my left foot cocked over the clutch pedal. I’d noticed that after driving for any length of time, my calf muscles got sore. Maybe having calf muscles flexed for long periods restricted blood flow?

It looked like a winning candidate, but gradually I began to think it couldn’t be this, primarily because I seldom drive very far. And when I do drive any distance, I soon get tired of holding my foot just above the clutch pedal, and put it on the floor next to the clutch pedal.

And also the evidence wasn’t that my leg was numb after driving: the evidence was that it was most numb after I’d been sitting in front of my computer for long periods. But how on earth could that make one leg go numb, and not the other? I began to study how I sat.

And then one day I made the breakthrough. I noticed that quite often when I was sat at my desk, I’d automatically cross one leg over the other. And it seemed that I usually preferred to cross my left leg over my right leg. And when I did this for any length of time, the left leg would gradually become numb.

And there was a simple explanation for why this was new. About 4 years ago I moved into a flat full of chairs and tables. And I don’t really like chairs. For most of my life I’ve sat cross-legged on a bed or a cushion, without either leg going numb. But now that I was regularly sitting on a chair, the weight of the left leg pressing down onto my right knee was constricting blood flow (and maybe nerve transmissions) in my left leg.

The prescription was simple: Stop crossing your left leg over your right leg! And so I’ve now forbidden myself from doing that. And I’ve also made sure that my clothing doesn’t constrict my left leg. I don’t allow anything to compress or squeeze that leg.

And, guess what, in the two years that I’ve been doing this, my left leg has gradually stopped feeling numb. And when I take a bath, my left foot is now the same colour as my right foot. It’s still not perfect, but it’s almost as good as it gets.

Now crossing my legs is just one single, tiny component of my lifestyle. It’s another thing I do, just like I drive with my left foot cocked over the clutch. And it had taken me a long time to gradually home in and find that it was this tiny habit that was causing me the growing numbness problem.

But what doctor is ever going to advise people not to cross their legs? If I’d gone to a doctor, I’d probably have been told to stop smoking, and handed an expensive prescription. Because a doctor can’t possibly know whether people cross their legs, or ride the clutch, or anything else as apparently equally insignificant. The only person who is able to consider my entire lifestyle, and look at everything I do, is me myself. No doctor can do it. Because no doctor has access to my complete lifestyle, and everything I do. It’s stupid for anyone to even begin to imagine that they know everything about someone’s lifestyle if they know whether they smoke or drink. It’s like knowing whether a car engine has clean spark plugs and new engine oil: the problem might not be there at all.

There’s a corollary to this, which is that anyone’s best doctor is first and foremost themselves. They’re the only people with access to all the facts, to the complete lifestyle, because they live that lifestyle all day every day. What point is there going to a doctor who has none of that hands-on, day-to-day experience of actually living your life?

I’m not saying that doctors are useless. They are (or were) pretty good at treating diseases which aren’t caused by lifestyles, like a great many of the transmissible diseases, and with accidental injuries like those sustained in car crashes. But when it comes to lifestyles, they’re completely out of their depth. They don’t really know anything about lifestyles, and what’s more they can’t know.

Lifestyle regulation can’t possibly work because the medical profession doesn’t have access to real lifestyle information, and can never have access to any. Knowing whether people smoke or drink is of no use whatsoever, if the real problem is that people are doing something as simple as crossing their legs. It wouldn’t even help if every home was equipped with CCTV to watch what people were doing.

What has to happen is for people to be encouraged to be first and foremost their own doctors, and to only consult the medical profession as a last resort if they’re completely stumped. People ought to be trained to think like detectives, gradually ruling out suspect causes. But at the moment, as far as I can see, as soon as anyone has the slightest twinge or giddy spell, they head off to see a doctor. No wonder the NHS is being stretched to breaking point! And also, no wonder that there’s an epidemic of everything, because the advice that lifestyle doctors hand out (“Stop smoking”) is almost certainly the wrong advice.

Doctors are going to have to hand responsibility back to their patients, where the responsibility always lay anyway. Doctors are going to have to learn from their patients. I’m sure the best ones always did anyway. Doctors are going to have to become assistants to their patients, learning from them rather than lecturing them.

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About Frank Davis

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52 Responses to Why Lifestyle Can’t Be Regulated

  1. Marvin says:

    OT – A response to yesterdays post “Wild Swans”
    I was expecting the usual anti-communist tirade and was not dissapointed, hence my response…

    I wrote to the Chinese embassy back in the 60’s asking for a copy of the little red book and they sent me a dozen free of charge!!!
    I must say there are some philosophical gems in there, like “power comes from the barrel of a gun” this is a reference to the 6,000 mile “long march” were his army liberated the villages from Japanese occupation and terror, maybe this explains some of his popularity and loyal following. Also in the book is the speech to the party conference about the “collective moving mountains”, to transform China from a backward feudal society into a modern industrial one. In this respect chinese history has similarities with Castros guerilla warfare against the Batista regime in Cuba and with Stalins industrialisation of the USSR to advance that one from a feudal society. You must remember these were NOT liberal, democratic societies to begin with and the only way forward for them was guerilla warfare and rapid industrialisation. Of course there were human casualties along the way and some of them write books, but I bet the vast majority of chinese today are thankful for the “communist revolution” and that the excesses of it are now in the past, China today is the workshop of the world, with a burgeoning, affluent middle class, a prosperous bourgeois state all in the space of just 60 years.

    • waltc says:

      Holy crap! So you believe the ends, no matter how brutal, justify the means. You believe in destoying humans for the sake of “humanity,” and in sanctifying a 12th c, mentality in the name of “progress.” You say blithely “of course there were human casualties.” How many millions were murdered by Stalin, Castro and Mao? How many hundreds of millions of souls, not to mention minds, were deformed? Does it strike you that agrarian cultures, like 18th c. America’s, managed to industrialize and far outstrip Russia, China and Cuba while meanwhile creating a prosperous middle class and without having boots stamping on our faces? Sure, we can talk about 19th c. abuses of labor, until we stack it up against Siberian salt mines, but consider that The West’s spectacular progress came from unfettered minds and the spirits of free men. Sorry, but freedom beats totalitarianism every time it’s tried.

    • Frank Davis says:

      Have to endorse Walt here. And from what I’ve read so far, it seems to me that Mao was a huge obstacle to the modernisation of the Chinese economy, which really only got going once he was dead, and which essentially entailed adopting capitalism.

  2. slugbop007 says:

    I just discovered this article on nicotine today. A must read.
    http://www.ecigarette-politics.com/the-great-nicotine-myth.html

    • Rose says:

      Thanks for the link,Slugbop.
      I just settled down for a pleasant read knowing that the vapers had a much better grip on things than we did in 2007 and it’s always nice to see research you did years ago presented to the public in coherent form rather than a string of bits on Dr Siegel’s blog. The nicotine content of common vegetables was not generally known back in 2007.

      One or two items though.

      Vitamin B3 is a necessary component in the diet and a deficiency may result in physical and psychiatric symptoms, the most serious of which is pellagra (a serious skin condition resulting in extreme deformities of the skin)

      It’s a bit worse than that

      “Pellagra defines systemic disease as resulting from a marked cellular deficiency of niacin. It is characterized by 4 “D’s”: diarrhea, dermatitis, dementia, and death.”

      Medicine: Pellagra Cure
      Monday, Aug. 22, 1938

      “Over 1,000,000 families in the rural South eat nothing but salt pork, corn meal and molasses. Their members are frequent victims of that painful deficiency disease, pellagra, with its attendant diarrhea, dementia, dermatitis. Physicians have known for nearly 25 years that small amounts of green vegetables and milk will forestall the disease. But still pellagra continues. In its advanced stages it has been considered incurable, since the patients are unable to ingest the necessary kinds of food.

      Last week the Journal of the American Medical Association printed two articles on pellagra† showing the startlingly beneficial results of a new treatment.

      Nicotinic acid,”
      http: //content.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,788409,00.html

      Which is why Nicotinic Acid was initially named Vitamin PP Pellagra preventing
      The missing vitamin was discovered by Conrad Elvehjem of the University of Wisconsin as the cure for Black Tongue in dogs, a similar disease, he also ran tests to find if nicotinic acid could be found in tobacco smoke at the request of a former student and confirmed that it was.

      …..

      There have been several large-scale clinical studies of nicotine presence in humans, one of which was a test of 800 people by the CDC in the USA: every subject tested positive

      That’s not why they did it though, they’d found a way of measuring cotinine in 1992 which manifested as –

      Exposure to Second-Hand Smoke Widespread – CDC 1996

      “Nearly 9 out of 10 non-smoking Americans are exposed to environmental tobacco smoke (ETS, or second-hand smoke), as measured by the levels of cotinine in their blood, according to a study conducted by HHS’ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
      The data, reported by CDC in this week’s edition of the “Journal of the American Medical Association,” shows measurable levels of cotinine in the blood of 88 percent of all non-tobacco users. The presence of cotinine, a chemical the body metabolizes from nicotine, is documentation that a person has been exposed to tobacco smoke.
      http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/pressroom/96news/nrsmoke.htm

      …..

      Don’t look at us, look at them

      So nicotine is as normal to consume as vitamin B – unlike alcohol or coffee (caffeine), which are clearly more ‘alien’ as they are not part of the normal diet and not associated with a vitamin group

      Coffee

      ” Niacin is formed during the roasting process, and coffee can contain 10-40mg of niacin per 100 g, depending on the extent of roasting, thus making a significant contribution to average intakes of niacin”

      Basic Chemical Reactions Occurring in the Roasting Process

      “The best cup characteristic are produced when the ratio of the degradation of trigonelline to the derivation of Nicotinic Acid remains linear. The control model of this reaction ratio is a time/temperature/energy relationship. The environment temperature (ET) establishes the pyrolysis region for the desired chemical reactions while the energy value (BTU) and system transfer efficiency (STE) determines the rate of reaction propagation and linearity of Nicotinic Acid derivation to degradation of trigonelline”

      I’d hardly call that alien.

      ….

      Currently, therefore, the available evidence shows that nicotine is not ‘addictive’ unless supplied in a cocktail of synergens

      This is venturing into mysticism along with TC in an attempt to bolster the nicotine addiction theory now that questions are even being asked amongst anti-tobacco why the nicotine patches don’t work.

      For example

      The role of nitric oxide in cigarette smoking and nicotine addiction. – 2002

      Abstract

      The purpose of this study is to describe the interrelationship between nitric oxide (NO) and nicotine in cigarette smoking addiction, in view of the underlying hypothesis that NO contributes to smoking (nicotine) addiction,.”
      http: //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12215243

      ….

      Smoking can create dependence; and smokers / ex-smokers can be dependent on nicotine. These are known facts

      Appeal to authority

      ….

      Because there is significant clinical research with animal models that clearly demonstrates it, and no evidence that contradicts it, MAOIs are believed to be the prime candidate for the creation of nicotine dependence as a result of smoking

      Because they are desperate to keep including nicotine rather than admitting they could be wrong.

      The MAOIs identified so far in tobacco smoke are harman, norharman

      Nice description of N. Rustica, for the rest of us smoking less exotic tobacco it was found to be naphthoquinone.

      “They ground up tobacco leaves and tested representative samples in a test tube to see if they inhibited MAO. From the fraction containing the most potent MAO inhibitor, they isolated a chemical known as 2,3,6-trimethyl-1,4-naphthoquinone.

      To find out whether this was a key MAO-inhibitor in cigarette smoke, Castagnoli’s team examined mice in which dopamine-producing neurons were killed with a compound called MPTP that’s converted to a toxin in the brain, causing symptoms much like Parkinson’s disease. Without the naphthoquinone, dopamine levels in the mice given MPTP dropped 60% below normal.

      Yet when the mice were pretreated with naphthoquinone, dopamine levels fell only 40%. This suggests that naphthoquinone “is a good [MAO] inhibitor–not gangbusters, but a good inhibitor,” Castagnoli says.

      Napthoquinone had previously been found in tobacco smoke, but not linked to dopamine.”
      http: //news.sciencemag.org/sciencenow/2000/04/18-04.html

      Which is still nothing to do with nicotine, more likely it’s from the burning Solanesol in a cigarette.
      Nicotine being a mixture of nicotinic acid and putrescine made in the tobacco plants roots and then sent to the leaves.

      ..

      Smoking often creates a strong and persistent dependence on nicotine by interaction with other compounds delivered concurrently that potentiate its effects

      Does it?

      …..

      No one really knows the reason for a taboo as its origins are lost in unrecorded history. It does help when strong commercial pressures exist to maintain the taboo

      It was James 1st, he set out to prove that smoking tobacco was an unchristian practice using an impenetrable mountain of pseudoscience based on the then current medical science of the Four Humours.

      More research is needed.

      • margo says:

        Fascinating, Rose. Thanks for posting.

        • Rose says:

          Your very welcome, Margo.

          You might find this interesting.

          Dr. Joseph Goldberger &
          the War on Pellagra

          “Pellagra no longer stalks the nation as it once did. But during the early part of the 20th-century, pellagra, a disease that results from a diet deficient in niacin killed, many poor Southerners. Dr. Joseph Goldberger, a physician in the U.S. government’s Hygienic Laboratory, the predecessor of the National Institutes of Health, discovered the cause of pellagra and stepped on a number of medical toes when his research experiments showed that diet and not germs (the currently held medical theory) caused the disease. He also stepped on Southern pride when he linked the poverty of Southern sharecroppers, tenant farmers, and mill workers to the deficient diet that caused pellagra. ”
          http://history.nih.gov/exhibits/Goldberger/

          It’s a bit like now, junk science, wild theories, vested interests, the medical profession thought it was a germ, germ theory being the latest thing, someone else thought it was from eating bad corn and frighteningly the eugenesists, eugenics being all the rage at the time, were trying to weed sufferers and their families out of the gene pool.
          The religious prohibitionists were absolutely horrified when the cure was found and protested against putting it in the bread incase it encouraged smoking.
          In the words of Jane DeVille-Almond “they would just have to die”

        • Rose says:

          For anyone who missed it.

          Jane DeVille-Almond “If they can’t afford it, they’ll just have to die.”
          http://dickpuddlecote.blogspot.co.uk/2009/06/theyll-just-have-to-die.html

    • roobeedoo2 says:

      ‘We know that smoking can create strong dependence, which can justifiably be described as addiction since there is a significant elevation of risk (addiction in modern usage implies dependence plus harm).

      ‘We know that smokers can become dependent on nicotine as a result of smoking.’

      They completely lost me here. Thank fuck for Rose!

  3. harleyrider1978 says:

    Another thing Frank had you gone to the doc youd been given a drug to fix the problem and that drugs side effects would require another drug to cure the side effects of the first drug and then the latest drug created ever more side effects that required ever more drugs to cure the side effects of the last drug………..That’s how people end up with a pharmacy in the bedroom.

    But if you do what you did and look for cause and effect you can bet you will find very logical answers. No doctor will ever take the time to diagnose properly and tell you the truth.

    • harleyrider1978 says:

      Theres been many times Ive learned the truth about things the hard way and after much sufferage. Why people wont tell you the simplest things about certain things is beyond me. Its always after the fact from others who already been down that hiway you learn it from. I saved Razzy my pops much anquish not long ago when his PSA came back super super high and all the stupid doc told him could be prostrate cancer.

      Needless to say he went thru 5 weeks of nerve racking anxiety and fear. Then I heard about and told mom those PSA’s always shoot up with a prostrate infection and always go down bit by bit as you take the anti-biotics………..He went and got his next test and his count dropped by half and finally the nurse told him what I told him and he was fine after that…………

    • Frank Davis says:

      That’s how people end up with a pharmacy in the bedroom.

      I’m sure it is. I’m on zero pharma drugs these days, and have been for the past decade.

      • harleyrider1978 says:

        Im down to just 3 but the statin drug left me with lots of muscle and joint pain doc and nurses said it could take weeks to months for all that to disappear. Meanwhile Im taking 2-3 lortiab 10s a day for pain where I was only taking 1 a day before and taking 1 Xanax a nite for sleep only.

        But the Plavix and aspirin a day don’t seem to be bothering me at all as far as I can tell. But Im on the basic rabbit food diet to keep my numbers down. Of course my numbers were never bad before either. But after 3 months of oatmeal and chicken with fruits and veggies Im BEGGING for a damn steak like nobodys business………..lol

  4. Jude says:

    Excellent post Frank, here’s a little story about what happened to a friend of mine, she was having severe chest pains, so went to the local hospital emergency department, (first mistake), she was then told she may have an aortic aneurysm, hooked up to all sorts of machines that go beep, admitted to the ward, and given drugs and was booked for further tests. She was terrified that she could drop dead at any minute.

    What she didn’t tell the doctors at the hospital, (or wasn’t given time to or even asked about), was that she had an existing umbilical hernia, and she had decided that day, (a day of 47C in the middle of summer), to move around all the furniture in her house , by herself, (she is 5 ft tall and weighs all of 45kg). None of the doctors thought to even enquire as to what she had actually been doing that day, if they had ascertained that her “lifestyle” involved doing all these things, they could of guessed that she had overdone the heavy lifting on an extremely hot day, and aggravated her existing hernia, (hence the chest pains), and gave her some advice, like, “don’t move heavy furniture on a stinking hot day, by yourself, when you have an existing hernia”, and given her the remedy of , “sit down and rest, and have a cooling drink”.

    So you are quite correct, doctors do not and cannot know what a persons “lifestyle” involves, particularly if they don’t even bother to ask. They are also blinded by ANTZ ideology and junk science about smoking, drinking etc, which is an added barrier to them actually listening to patients, and blinds them to any other factors that may be involved, just like you and your leg.

    • Frank Davis says:

      Moving furniture. Another great example of something doctors couldn’t possibly guess.

      • harleyrider1978 says:

        I read up on statin side effects and the worse of it all was people on them thought the effects were another attack or something else and many would call an ambulance or docs would run all kinds of tests only to find nothing wrong. Until finally somebody puts 2 and 2 together………..The hell these statin drugs have caused just like so many other drugs or simple pulled muscles that appear to be much more.

  5. junican says:

    A simple case in point. The day before yesterday, I found that the left side of my neck was aching. It really was very painful. I thought that I must have somehow pulled a muscle or something. I wondered what I had done to pull a muscle. In the event, it turned out that I realised that, when I sit and type, I had got into a habit of squeezing myself into a corner of the couch with my left shoulder artificially raised. You can imagine how holding such a position for a couple of hours or more could produce aches and pains. It is easy to imagine how a doctor could imagine that those aches and pains could be indicative of a cancer of some sort and send you for investigations – he would not wish to be held responsible for your death if he did not.
    There lies the modern-day rub and the reason for NHS costs escalation. I had a problem with my left ear. I had gone deaf in that ear. I went to the doctors. He said that it was wax in my ear. He gave me a phone number to make an appointment to go to hospital to get the ear syringed. I made an appointment. I was told to put olive oil in my ear for a couple of days beforehand to soften the wax. When I went for my appointment, the ‘doctor’ had cried off! I went home. But the use of olive oil had loosened the wax anyway, and so the problem resolved itself.
    The probability is that Public Health Zealots are responsible for the escalating cost of the NHS.

    I went to my dentist. I get along with him very well. He talked a little about mouth cancers. I asked him if he saw such problems with any frequency. He sort of indicated “Oh, Yes”. I did not say anything (since he was about to inflict/not inflict pain upon me), but I KNOW, from National Statistics, that the number of people who die from ALL mouth cancers in any given year is so small that a dentist will only see a mouth cancer once every 20 years on average (2,000 all types of mouth cancer deaths per an divided among 40,000 dentists).
    [For anyone who does not see the maths:

    40,000 dentist in total see 2,000 mouth cancers per an of all types.
    Therefore, 40 dentists see 2 mouth cancers per an.
    Therefore, only 20 dentists see 1 mouth cancer per an.
    Therefore, 19 out of 20 dentists DO NOT see a mouth cancer per an.
    Therefore, for the 19, it will take 20 years for each of them to see a mouth cancer.

    Near as damn-it.

    So my dentist, whom I trust, lied to me. If my dentist is telling fibs to fulfil quotas, what trust can anyone place in Public Health statements? Is ANYTHING that they say true?

    • Frank Davis says:

      I had got into a habit

      Another good example.

      • harleyrider1978 says:

        Cousin I did the same thing sitting on my bed for a month turning to watch tv with my feet on a concrete block for support and right in my low back the twisted motion caused me severe pain. Of course the statin drugs dug right into it and made it even worse…….it still hurts but 60% of the pain there is gone since quitting the statin 2 weeks ago. I figure maybe another month and all my travelling aches and pains will likely cease I hope.

        But I know this in 2 days off the drug my stomach pain went and away and the severe nausea I was having along with the vertigo. Still having some occasional attacks in the gut from it but very very minor as compared to a week ago and my regular appetite cane back yesterday with a vengeance………….Im so wanting a steak……………grrr

        • Rose says:

          right in my low back the twisted motion caused me severe pain

          I do that every time I pick the runner beans,Harley, but then again I do have to bend over a row of lettuces and a row of strawberry tubs to do it while simultaneously balancing on one leg using the other as a counterweight because of the long way I have to reach.
          Maximum use of growing space v physical discomfort and repeated muscle strains = growing more plants wins.

          It’s all about calculating risk.
          One day I’m sure to fall into the strawberry pots and crush all the lettuces, but I haven’t yet.

        • harleyrider1978 says:

          Rose but this all happened while I was taking the statins not before when I did it from my bed. I can automatically know the statins attacked that muscle along with strain.

        • Rose says:

          Harley, I don’t doubt it, it happened to Mum when they put her on statins, the sudden muscle weakness was so bad she struggled walking across the car park to the supermarket door. When she stopped taking them she got much better very quickly, but I still suspect that there are some residual effects.

        • harleyrider1978 says:

          Oh Rose they told me itd take weeks to months for all those side effects to disappear.

        • harleyrider1978 says:

          I was even told it could take up to a year for my chest to recover from the cpr they did on me besides the damned statins. Stomach upset,intestinal upset besides muscles and other things of which I suffered none of before they made me take those drugs.

  6. harleyrider1978 says:

    Staff abused as they try to stub out smoking outside hospital

    The Northern Echo

    A HOSPITAL trust’s attempts to stop people smoking in the doorways of buildings has led to some staff facing abuse and being left in fear of violence.

    http://www.thenorthernecho.co.uk/news/13619388.Staff_abused_as_they_try_to_stub_out_smoking_outside_hospital/

  7. harleyrider1978 says:

    No, Living in Beijing is NOT Equivalent to Smoking 40 Cigarettes Per Day

    Michael Wester

     Aug 22, 2015 3:24 pm

    Ah, Berkeley, The Economist: These words ooze credibility at their very core. So when a recent article in The Economist cited a study by an organization called Berkeley Earth claiming that breathing in Beijing is the equivalent of smoking 40 cigarettes per day, the surfing masses conditioned by social media to only read headlines immediately shared it on their social media streams. The result went viral.

    And it is complete horsesh*t.

    In short, for those of you who don’t care to read the mathematical calculations below, nowhere in China is the air pollution anywhere near the equivalent of smoking even one cigarette per day – a fact that Beijing’s own Dr Richard St Cyr pointed out in 2011 in this pioneering blog post.

    Nevertheless, the editors of The Economist musn’t have seen that. They quoted Berkeley Earth, a non-profit organization founded by environmentally-conscious scientists (with no direct relationship to the university in California), saying “Berkeley Earth’s scientific director, Richard Muller, says breathing Beijing’s air is the equivalent of smoking almost 40 cigarettes a day.” This factoid was alluded to in the bold print of The Economist’s accompanying graphic, shown below

    The quote appears to stem from a press release from Berkeley Earth, as their study itself makes no reference to cigarette equivalents of Beijing’s air.

    But Berkeley director Muller’s original statement was, and I quote: “When I was last in Beijing, pollution was at the hazardous level; every hour of exposure reduced my life expectancy by 20 minutes. It’s as if every man, woman, and child smoked 1.5 cigarettes each hour,” he said. The Economist probably multiplied this by 24 hours per day, came up with 36 and rounded up to a nice 40 for measure.

    I have no explanation how Muller made his calculation of 1.5 cigarettes an hour (though I’ll attempt to reverse-engineer it below).

    One explanation could be that he fell prey to the age-old measurements mixup, confusing milligrams (one thousandth of a gram, often used when reporting tar and nicotine and other pollutants in cigarettes) and micrograms (one millionth of a gram, used in most air quality measures such as PM 2.5 and PM 10). A milligram is 1,000 times larger than a microgram.

    Now onto the fine print of our calculations: If it’s not 40 a day, exactly how many cigarettes are we Beijingers each day simply by breathing?

    First of all, let’s not parse words here, there are a million ways to dispute the equivalency of cigarette smoke and air pollution – they’re apples and oranges. I’m not here to argue over the various evil components of air pollution vs cigarette smoke (they’re both bad). For our purposes I am attempting to address the 40-cigarettes-per-day equivalency claim, which appears to be based on the PM 2.5 content of air vs cigarettes.

    Second, I’m no scientist (nor mathematician), so I’ll put it out there right now that I could be wrong somewhere (and I hope you read this post critically to point out any holes in my logic).

    Third, equivalent data is hard to come by. Most studies of tobacco smoke primarily cite tar and nicotine, and rarely PM 2.5 output. And when they do, they are typically focused on the PM 2.5 in second-hand smoke, not what a smoker inhales directly.

    Nevertheless, the few studies I’ve found that do attempt to quantify the PM 2.5 load of one cigarette in terms of delivery to the actual smoker commonly use 12 milligrams as a measure. See Table 2 on Page 3 here, page 2 here, and here.

    That’s 12 milligrams, and since there are 1,000 micrograms per milligram, that means one cigarette delivers 12,000 micrograms of PM 2.5 into the lungs of a smoker.

    Meanwhile, Greenpeace, which as far as I know has no reason to disguise the truth and is not likely in the pocket of the Chinese government, says Beijing’s air averaged 92.4 micrograms per cubic meter for the first part of 2015.

    Berkeley’s data doesn’t have Beijing-specific averages, but their weighted average for all of China of 52 micrograms per cubic meter is roughly in line with Greenpeace’s overall averages of 66 (they actually measured slightly different periods of time and used different data collection methodolgies).So let’s accept Greenpeace’s Beijing numbers as gospel.

    So how much of that pollution do you suck into your lungs in a 24-hour period?

    That depends on how much you breathe.

    I have seen estimates ranging all over the map, but several sources state that the average person breathes around 11 cubic meters of air per day.

    I prefer to err on the side of excess, so I came up with an upper limit of 42 cubic meters of air per day, for a laborer with an active lifestyle, based on this site, which estimates that a grown male breathes 16.8 cubic meters of air during an average eight-hour blue collar work day.

    Let’s presume Mr Average Working Zhou works hard eight hours, plays hard for another eight hours at the same air intake level, and sleeps for eight hours at half that rate. Thus we arrive at an upper limit of 16.8 x 2.5 = 42 cubic meters of air breathed per day.

    So, let’s look at the low end (11), the high end (42), and the midpoint (26.5) of those.

    For a small person breathing 11 cubic meters of air over a 24-hour period, they are inhaling:

    11 x 92.4 (the average micrograms per cubic meter in Beijing) = 1,016 micrograms, or 1.016 milligrams. That’s 8% (less than a tenth) of the 12 milligrams in one cigarette.

    For our Mr Average Working Zhou, we get 42 x 92.4 = 3,881 micograms, or 3.881 milligrams. That’s 32% (one-third) of one cigarette.

    For the average breather, 26.5 x 92.4 = 2,449 micrograms, or 2.449 milligrams. That’s 20% (one-fifth) of one cigarette.

    Now let’s do the worst-case, “perpetual airpocalypse” scenario, in which Mr Average Working Zhou sucks in 42 cubic meters of air daily that has 500 micrograms per cubic meter of PM 2.5 every hour of every day (despite our pessimism, Beijing has not come close to achieving this filthy milestone).

    Our calculation then becomes 42 x 500 = 21,000 micrograms or 21 milligrams per day, which equals to 175% of the 12 millgrams estimated to be in one cigarette. Let’s round it up to two cigarettes a day.

    So even the burliest laborer who goes jogging in the morning, works all day heaving bricks, then goes hiking all evening and lives in an unimaginably dense PM 2.5 concentration 24 hours a day is still breathing the “equivalent” of less than two cigarettes per day.

    For most of us, it’s more like one cigarette every five days, or about one pack every three months.

    Don’t get me wrong, I am not here to say that Beijing’s air is wonderful. And smoking a pack every three months is still pretty bad, especially if you are a child or an elderly person. But its nowhere near the 40 per day that Berkeley Earth and The Economist lead us to believe. In fact, it’s 200 times less.

    So where does Berkeley’s 1.5 cigarettes an hour quip come from? The study’s own data shows their Beijing measurements peaking at under 300 micrograms per cubic meter (please don’t confuse AQI with PM 2.5 concentration — 300 micrograms per cubic meter is equivalent to an AQI reading of 301 to 400, or in the “Hazardous” zone, which aligns with Berkeley’s press release statement).

    So, let’s presume what Berkeley refers to was visiting Beijing during a 300 micrograms per cubic meter day, and let’s presume that was sustained for 24 hours and he breathed 42 cubic meters of air that day. That results in 42 x 300 = 12,600 micrograms, or 12.6 milligrams – or one cigarette for the 24-hour period. That’s a far cry from 1.5 cigarettes every hour (aka 36 per day).

    To arrive at 1.5 cigarettes (18 milligrams of PM 2.5) in one hour, the micrograms per cubic meter reading would have had to have been 18,000. Now that’s well beyond the “beyond index” readings of Beijing’s worst Airpocalypse.

    So take heart folks: Beijing’s air is bad, but nowhere near 40 smokes a day bad.

    Note: I wholeheartedly welcome the more mathematically and scientifically among you to find fault with my conclusions … I think I’m correct but truth be told, I could be missing a lot as well. Let me know in the comments below.

    Graphic: The Economist
    http://www.thebeijinger.com/blog/2015/08/22/no-living-beijing-not-equivalent-smoking-40-cigarettes-day

      • harleyrider1978 says:

        Now for a rule to happen Osha has to send out for comments for a period of time and boy did the comments fly in, over 40,000 of them….Osha has whats called PEL’S and limits for an 8 hour period of exposure to chemicals in indoor environments…[epa is in charge of outdoor air]some smoke free groups have tried to use 30 minute air samples using epa monitoring to create a air borne healthscare.

        The actual standard to use is OSHA’S

        The EPA standard is to be used for OUTSIDE ambient air quality and it is the average over a period of 3 years.

        The proper standard to compare to is the OSHA standard for indoor air quality for respirable particulate (not otherwise specified) for nuisance dusts and smoke. That standard is 5000 ug/m3 on a time-weighted average (8 hours a day, 5 days a week) and is intended to be protective of health over an average working life of 30 years!

        • harleyrider1978 says:

          Enstrom published peer-reviewed research in 2003 showing that second-hand cigarette smoke doesn’t kill people.

          Then he published another politically incorrect, peer-reviewed study in 2005, which showed that fine particulate matter does not kill California residents—the basis of California’s restrictions on diesel engines because of their contributions to particulate air pollution health effects.

          In his 2005 study of American Cancer Society data, Enstrom found no scientific evidence to support CARB’s assertion that very fine particulate matter smaller than 2.5 microns causes a variety of disease outcomes, including cancer and asthma.

          The California Air Resources Board ignored his findings, despite his study, which specifically showed no evidence of premature deaths in California due to exposure to PM2.5.

          Enstrom also proved that University of California science professors exaggerated the health effects of diesel particulate in California, knowing the results would be used by the CARB to regulate diesel-engine vehicles.

          Enstrom outed the lead “scientist” employed by CARB, Hien Tran, who falsely claimed to have a Ph.D. from UC Davis. Tran had purchased the Ph.D. for $1,000 from a diploma mill. CARB still employs Tran as a scientist, despite his degree hoax.

          Enstrom said UCLA retaliated, and told him his research “is not aligned with the department’s mission” at UCLA, as justification for his dismissal after 35 years.

          Tran’s research was used by CARB and the Legislature to impose drastic, heavy-handed regulations on owners of diesel engine vehicles.

          Enstrom has factually and boldly promoted his studies because he says most of the government policies about air quality regulations come from poor or incorrect science. It has survived intense challenge of its facts from many eminent experts in the field who have been unable to find errors in Enstrom’s methods or findings.

          Enstrom said he is not alone in questioning “junk environmental science,” nor is the CARB alone in ignoring studies like his.

          Exposing a colleague

          Enstrom was also responsible for getting UCLA activist and scientist, John Froines, booted from the CARB Scientific Review Panel, which is responsible for identifying toxic contaminants.

          The panel is comprised of nine scientists nominated by the University of California president, who are then formally appointed by the governor, the Senate Rules Committee, the Assembly Speaker, and the California Secretary of Environmental Protection.

          Enstrom discovered Froines had been on the panel without reappointment for 25 years, which exceeded the legislatively- mandated three-year term limits.

          – See more at: http://www.flashreport.org/blo

          ……………….

          The Firing Of Dr. James Enstrom: The Dangers of Bucking Fashionable Science

          Posted by Katy Grimes at 10:07 pm on Feb 12, 2014

          Part l of a series:

          Bucking the highly fashionable notion that California’s air pollution is deadly, Dr. James Enstrom was one of only a few scientists willing to blow the whistle on the fraudulent science perpetrated at the California Air Resources Board.

          It is often said the cover up is worse than the crime. Dr. Enstrom is living proof.

          An attempt to muzzle scientific debate and academic freedom on a University of California college campus is at the root of the wrongful termination lawsuit of Dr. James Enstrom.

          Enstrom challenged the scientific research that the California Air Resources Board and California Legislature used to enact policies regulating diesel fuel emissions. And then he was fired from his job of 35 years at University of California, Los Angeles.

          – See more at: http://www.flashreport.org/blo

    • harleyrider1978 says:

      Its funny I had 4 posts up that were approved that backed exactly what the article entailed then 30 minutes later 3 disappeared then an hour later and the 4th was gone too. I tried to repost and it says INTERNAL SERVOR ERROR

    • Some French bloke says:

      What Michael Wester overlooked is the chemical makeup of the particulate matter (PM 2.5) concentrations, whether it be 300 micrograms (in urban air) or 12 milligrams (in tobacco smoke). He seems to consider that “small is deadly”, regardless of the compounds involved.

  8. harleyrider1978 says:

    Theophil Goddard Iro CyZane ” Ban all or ban none.”

    Even banning by the level of emission would benefit smokers. A pack a day smoker burns as much organic matter in 7 months as driver burns in 1 gallon of gas. We would be way down on the list, with church candles and incense.

  9. harleyrider1978 says:

    Carrie Underwoods new song ”SMOKE BREAK”

    Produced By: Jay Joyce
    Written By: Carrie Underwood, Chris DeStefano & Hillary Lindsey
    [Verse 1]
    She’s a small-town, hard-working woman just trying to make a living
    Working three jobs, feeding four little mouths in a run-down kitchen
    When you never taking nothing and doing nothing but giving
    It’s hard to be a good wife and a good mom and a good Christian

    [Chorus]
    Smoke Break

    She said, “I don’t drink”
    “But sometimes I need a stiff drink”
    “Sipping from a high, full glass”
    “Let the world fade away”
    She said, “I don’t smoke”
    “But sometimes I need a long drag”
    “Yeah, I know it might sound bad”
    “But sometimes I need a smoke break”

    [Verse 2]
    He’s a big-city, hard-working man just trying to climb the ladder
    First generation to go to college instead of driving a tractor
    Never had nothing handed to him on a silver platter
    It’s hard to be a good man, good son, do something good that matters

    [Chorus]
    He said, “I don’t drink”
    “But sometimes I wanna pop that top”
    “Take a swig and make the world stop”
    “And watch it fade away”
    He said, “I don’t smoke”
    “But sometimes I wanna light it up”
    “Yeah, when things get tough”
    “Sometimes I need a smoke break, yeah”

    [Bridge]
    So here’s to you and here’s to when the day gets long
    Go ahead, I understand if you wanna take a load off

    [Chorus]
    I don’t drink
    But sometimes I need a stiff drink
    Sipping from a high, full glass
    Let the world fade away
    Yeah, and I don’t smoke
    But sometimes I need a long drag
    Yeah, I know it might sound bad
    But sometimes I need a, sometimes I need a

    [Outro]
    When the day gets long
    When the work’s all done
    When the sun sets
    When you need to forget
    Grab that cup, mmm
    Fill it up
    Sip it slow
    And let it all go

    Suggest an improvement or correction to earn IQ

    Description 1 Contributor ?

    “Smoke Break” is the lead single from Carrie Underwood’s fifth studio album, Storyteller. The track, written with Hillary Lindsey and Chris DeStefano, premiered on August 20, 2015 at country radio and was digitally released on August 21.

    Underwood announced “Smoke Break” and accompanying album Storyteller in a video posted to Facebook, in which she also described its meaning:


    The song itself is … one of those story songs that I feel like everyone can relate to about how life is so hectic and it’s so nice if and when you actually get to kind of step away for a second. We all need that time to ourselves, to get to take a break.

    According to USA Today, the track came to life while getting stuck working on another of the tracks on Storyteller:


    We were writing and kept taking breaks to go outside because we were getting a little stuck on a song we were already working on. It was so beautiful outside, that we had a hard time focusing so we decided to write a song about taking breaks! “Smoke Break” seemed like a great title, so we ran with it!

    http://genius.com/Carrie-underwood-smoke-break-lyrics

    • Joe L. says:

      I absolutely loathe modern corporate mainstream country music. It’s all just corporate pop music with an added pedal steel guitar and lyrics about drinking, divorce or driving trucks, sung by someone attractive who has a (probably fake) southern drawl. Long, long gone from country music are the likes of Hank Williams and Johnny Cash.

      This song is obviously more about drinking than smoking. I’m sure they decided smoking is more controversial and thus will sell more records, so they chose that for the title and forced it in. They obviously don’t understand smoking.

      Smoke breaks didn’t exist until workplace bans took effect. From my experience, nonsmokers tend to view smoke breaks as an excuse for smokers to be lazy. As smoking is a habit that helps me collect my thoughts and think outside the box, I greatly prefer to smoke while working, because I can be even more productive than I am when I have to remove myself from my work for a “smoke break.”

      Also, this song is incorrectly equating smoking with drinking. I don’t smoke in order to “escape.” I smoke while I’m working and I smoke while I’m drinking because smoking makes both activities more pleasurable.

  10. harleyrider1978 says:

    So instead of using the more than 70 private recording studios in Nashville that let ya smoke inside they were probably down on music row at RCA or one of those big labels where every Nazi thug of the left is in charge,so they go outside for a smoke to think………….lol

    We were writing and kept taking breaks to go outside because we were getting a little stuck on a song we were already working on. It was so beautiful outside, that we had a hard time focusing so we decided to write a song about taking breaks! “Smoke Break” seemed like a great title, so we ran with it!

    • nisakiman says:

      Back in the 80s, I had a business in London which specialised in recording studios – refurbishing and new build. I was probably the main studio man in London at the time, and worked in most of the big studios at one time or another. In fact (a little boasting here) a studio I built featured on the front cover of ‘Studio Sound’, a glossy mag which was on every studio coffee table in the world. Anyway, preening over, one of the things which was part and parcel of the studio experience (from a musicians point of view) was sitting in the control room with a drink and a ciggy going over the remixes. I just can’t imagine a non-smoking control room. it’s an oxymoron. Everybody smoked. The producer, the engineer, the musicians, the tape-op, everybody.

      Maybe that’s why there’s so much anodyne music around these days…

  11. Joe L. says:

    Excellent post, Frank. I had a similar experience. I felt a nagging tingle/burning/numbness in my thigh for a couple months. Sometimes it was confined to the inner thigh, sometimes it would radiate around the back of the thigh. Went to a doctor, and they saw no other symptoms that they could use to deduce anything. So, they scheduled me for an MRI of my brain in order to check for Multiple Sclerosis. I was quite frightened. The MRI came back negative, thankfully. After spending a small fortune on an MRI and being scared shitless for about a week waiting for the test and the results, I was done with doctors. Like you, I examined my behaviors and looking at variables that had recently changed, and I wound up pinning my issue on a combination of a new belt I was wearing along with my posture while sitting at my computer. I began experimenting by loosening my belt whenever I would sit down at work, and I’d say within a month, the sensation I was feeling had practically disappeared. It appears as though my new belt was simply pinching a nerve.

  12. scot says:

    “We don’t want to harass people but we want them to know there is support available if they want help to quit.” 1) Oh yes you do like to harass people. 2) They know there is “support” available already, and they don’t care to quit, so FUCK OFF!

  13. smokingscot says:

    On the face of it, they’re convinced that lifestyle choices can be changed and there is proof that they seem to be doing exactly that. Smoke-free premises everywhere, pub closures and bingo halls.

    Of course what they’ve really achieved is displacement. People who smoke and want to go out of an evening are left with standing in the street, or sitting outside in a “designated smoking area”, or smoking shelter. Bingo is now an online activity for smokers’ who enjoy that sort of thing.

    The unintended consequences are too numerous to list, however I get a kick out of that business of shed pubs and smoky-drinkies – and let’s face it, an awful lot of people are just staying at home and having folk round. Or at the very least they’re getting well lubed before going out to clubs or pubs because it’s far cheaper.

    I’ve adapted to an extent to the smoking ban in the UK. Seldom is there any spontaneity, it’s pretty well planned out beforehand and I always favour places where they have some sort of area for us lot, no matter how drab. And I never remain there for long (in truth it’s usually an excuse for a fag, coffee and a visit to their rest room).

    However I spent a day in Amsterdam and was not well pleased with what I saw at several places that have first rate smoking rooms. Mid afternoon and I jolly well could not get in to one – it was packed solid. Needless to say the non-smoking section was virtually empty.

    I did eventually find one that was a short meander to Central Station. It had a couple of free tables and there I stayed watching it fill, with people spending big time and fully intending to remain there for hours.

    Yet if you check up on Trip Advisor and others, there are stacks of comments by people who have visited Amsterdam and are convinced it’s totally non-smoking. (Presumably they’re the ones who go visit the art galleries and go to the opera, before turning in at 22.30. Then going off on a tour bus to visit Delft and the like).

    I just so happened to spend that day in or around Warmoesstraat, but left well before the ladies and ladyboys started to appear in windows.

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