I have seen that many times. Bates uses that graph to illustrate that ‘lives lost through smoking’ is not as clear cut as that phrase suggests. What the graph illustrates is the average change in life expectancy, and not ’cause of death’. That is, smokers may die for all sorts of reasons and so might non-smokers. All sorts of factors come into the reasons for deaths. The graph does not show that smoking killed the doctors ten years before they should have died. It merely shows smoking might have been a factor in the deaths of smokers. THAT IS ALL.
Quite so. But it occurred to me today that, given that the British Doctors’ Study was conducted from 1954 to 2004, it was being conducted in a time when the war on smoking (and thus upon smokers) was gathering momentum in the UK. It didn’t all start on 1 July 2007, which was when I only really started noticing it. Smokers were almost certainly being persecuted long before that, and so it’s reasonable to suppose that they were also being fired from their jobs and evicted from their homes and refused medical treatment before that date. In fact, since the war on smokers was being conducted by doctors, it’s very likely that those doctors who continued to smoke became increasingly marginalised within the profession, refused promotions and pay rises, etc. And that it wasn’t smoking that was killing them off early, but instead the war on smokers.
For example, in the Nazi era a great many people were held in concentration camps, and in general Jews were treated worst of all. If so, then a study of concentration camp inmates (had there been any records) would have shown that Jews didn’t live as long as non-Jews. I’ve adapted the graph above to show this disparity:
Of course, it wasn’t that being Jewish was the cause of their early deaths, but rather being persecuted for being Jewish between 1933 and 1943. So also it was perhaps not that being smokers was the cause of smokers’ early deaths, but rather being persecuted for being smokers between 1954 and 2004.
One interesting thing about the British Doctors’ Study was that the doctors were only asked once about their smoking habits, at the very start of the study, when about 87% (of those who responded) reported that they smoked. As they then died off one by one over the next 50 years, their death certificates were used to determine date and cause of death. For their future persecutors, the study would have been an invaluable source of information about which doctors were smokers (and therefore to be marginalised) and which weren’t. It would have been a bit like German doctors being asked in about 1930 whether they were Jewish or not, and then having this information used against them 5 or 10 years later.
So the British Doctors’ Study may have actually been an integral part of the war on smokers – or rather the more important war on smoking doctors -, and also a record of its success in eliminating them.