Is There A Tobacco Epidemic?

Thanks to Joe L, my good opinion of Melania Trump has taken a knock:

Since when has there been “a growing epidemic” of e-cigarette use? She’s not the first to abuse the term. From the Foreword of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control :

The WHO FCTC was developed in response to the globalization of the tobacco epidemic. The spread of the tobacco epidemic is facilitated through a variety of complex factors with cross-border effects, including trade liberalization and direct foreign investment.

Cambridge dictionary:

epidemic noun (DISEASE) [ C ]  the appearance of a particular disease in a large number of people at the same time: a flu epidemic

Neither cigarette smoking nor e-cigarette use are diseases. If a large number of people start doing something (like reading books or playing guitars) it doesn’t mean they’re suffering from an epidemic disease. For something to be a disease there must be an associated lack of ease, or discomfort or disability.  There is no discomfort  or disability associated with smoking cigarettes (or reading books or playing guitars), and so the pastime is not a disease., and if large numbersof people take up the habit of reading, playing, or smoking, it’s not an epidemic.

But perhaps Tobacco Control really does see the habit of smoking as a disease? And regards the sight of someone lighting a cigarette as not different from them becoming covered in spots or sores, and running a high temperature? The appearance of the cigarette between the lips is for them the symptom of the disease of smoking. It’s perhaps not that smoking is a cause of diseases (like lung cancer, which is a genuine disease, with considerable terminal discomfort associated with it) but that smoking is itself the disease.

Why else would they refer to the “tobacco epidemic” if they didn’t think that smoking was itself a disease?

Of course, once you can see smoking as itself being a disease, then you can also see reading books and playing guitars as diseases as well.  And of course you can see any unusual opinion about anything as a diseased opinion. Perhaps you see ideas propagating throughout societies as no different from flu viruses passing from one person to the next?

The Tobacco Control mindset is perhaps the expression of a medical perspective on life that sees absolutely everything in terms of epidemic diseases. So the Beatlemania in the 1960s was a global epidemic disease. And perhaps the rise today of what’s called “nationalist populism” is another global epidemic, or pandemic. Same with mini-skirts and mobile phones and cheeseburgers: All epidemics. And if trees get covered in leaves in Spring, that’s another epidemic.  And when they die in Autumn, that’s another epidemic. And on clear nights you can see the epidemic of stars in the space around us. Might this be the insanity of Tobacco Control? To see everything as disease?

I don’t think there’s a tobacco epidemic. I don’t think smoking is a disease. I don’t think vaping is a disease either. Or reading books, or playing guitars.



About Frank Davis

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14 Responses to Is There A Tobacco Epidemic?

  1. RdM says:

    Just browsing
    (you have to give your age)
    gives me some hope.
    Just browse…
    and revel in the variety … of reviews, and products.
    Next step, importing some seeds.

  2. Rose says:

    Sir Richard Sykes then Chairman of Glaxo explains in 1999.
    “Tobacco dependence is in every sense of the word a disease”


    “DAVOS. – Calling tobacco a “main risk factor” to health in the next century, World Health Organization Director-General Dr Gro Harlem Brundtland announced a major project to help smokers in Europe, Russia and the Central Asian Republics stop smoking in a speech at the World economic Forum.

    “By 2020, the burden of disease attributable to tobacco is expected to outweigh that caused by any single other disease,” Dr Brundtland said.”

    “This partnership with the World Health Organization offers great promise in the effort to reduce tobacco dependence and thus reduce the significant health costs and burden of tobacco-related illnesses and deaths,” said Sir Richard Sykes, Chairman, Glaxo Wellcome plc. “As a company, our commitment is to fighting disease. Tobacco dependence is in every sense of the word a disease with major but reversible health implications. Together, we can defeat this disease.”

    “Epidemic” seems to have been used fairly recently but I’ll keep looking.

  3. Timothy Goodacre says:

    People see me as a ‘Leaver’ as having a disease.

  4. Rose says:

    Frank, the earliest reference I can find to anyone using “tobacco epidemic” is one J. Slade in 1989.

    The tobacco epidemic: lessons from history.
    J. Slade

    “Tobacco has caused the greatest epidemic of the twentieth century, which is beginning to wane in the United States, but is still growing in much of the world. The epidemic developed as a result of innovations in the tobacco industry and larger cultural changes over the 75 years prior to the introduction of Camel cigarettes in 1913. Factors that set the stage for the epidemic include the development of flue-cured and Burley tobaccos, the mechanization of cigarette production with its consequent concentration of capital in a few companies, the safety match, efficient transportation systems, and innovative advertising. Between 1913 and 1963, the cigarette industry experienced almost unbroken growth in the United States.

    Who might be ..

    Eulogy for John Downey Slade, 9 February 2002

    “There is John, the Tobacco Strategist. John changed forever our conceptions about nicotine, by demonstrating that smoking was not a “habit” but a powerful addiction—researching industry patents and secret documents to show the world how tobacco companies could take a plant, manipulate it, and lace it with chemicals, turning the cigarette into a lethal nicotine delivery device. His work and persistent prodding convinced President Clinton and FDA Commissioner David Kessler to regulate cigarettes.”

    And at least partly responsible for this.

    US ruling turns smokers into junkies

    “Nicotine is addictive, a panel of experts on drug abuse decided last week. The decision leaves the door open for the US Food and Drug Administration to regulate tobacco as it does other addictive substances.

    Over the past few months, the FDA’s commissioner, David Kessler, has been campaigning for tobacco to be regulated in the same way as many other drugs. To do so legally, he must demonstrate that nicotine is a powerful drug, and that the tobacco companies depend on nicotine’s addictiveness
    to keep smokers smoking. But the tobacco companies continue to insist that nicotine is not addictive. To settle the issue, Kessler asked the Drug Abuse Advisory Committee to give its expert opinion.”

    • Mark Jarratt says:

      So the nicotine in the useless smoking “cures” hawked by Big Pharma isn’t “addictive”, only the nicotine in Big Tobacco products, freely chosen by billions of adult consumers. Tobacco isn’t addictive: I “quit” at least 15 times a day! But if the outlandish claim of tobacco control zealots that smoking is “addictive as heroin” is accepted, they must necessarily agree their approach involves attacking and bullying addicts. How tolerant and charitable. 🐮💩

    • jaxthefirst says:

      ” … take a plant, manipulate it, and lace it with chemicals, turning the cigarette into a lethal nicotine delivery device.”

      Sooooo – what they are saying here, effectively is that prior to all that “manipulation,” and “lacing with chemicals” it wasn’t “lethal” at all. One wonders, therefore, instead of bullying smokers and allowing their widespread persecution, they didn’t simply stop the tobacco companies from doing all that “manipulating” and “lacing” and simply made them return to making traditional, unadulterated cigarettes. If they’d done that instead, Tobacco Control would never had got off the ground! Ah – just answered my own question there because, as we all know, the anti-smoking movement is not and has never been about health.

    • Philip Neal says:

      There is an earlier example of the idea of a smoking epidemic in this tract by Simon Chapman from 1983:

      Smoking control can be conceived of in classic epidemiiologiical
      terms as having a host (smokers and potential smokers), an agent
      (tobacco), a vector (the mode of transmission – the total
      marketing system of the tobacco industry) and environment (the
      social, economic and political climate in which host, agent and
      vector exist).

      The 1980s were a crucial period in which the war on tobacco ceased to be about health. A new generation of campaigners such as Chapman and Stanton Glantz (both essentially social scientists with sketchy medical qualifications) turned it into a department of the postmodern Left, out to control not just smoking but society in general (how very like climate science, and how typical that Australia and California should be in the vanguard). I cover some episodes of the process in a section of The Burch Curve titled Preventive Medicine.

  5. Rose says:

    John Downey Slade

    “John Slade M.D. was born in Atlanta, Georgia (USA) in 1949 and graduated from Oberlin College in 1969. He completed medical School at Emory University in 1974. He worked for St. Peters Medical Center in New Brunswick, New Jersey. He was an Associate Professor of Medicine for the Department of Medicine at St. Peter’s Medical Center, University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in New Brunswick, NJ (Orleans & Slade).

    He was the chair of the Addiction Medicine Committee for the American Society of Addiction Medicine. Has appeared on “Nightline” and knows about the industry’s knowledge regarding nicotine as an addiction. He testified on ABC’s “Day One” program about nicotine spiking and is the co-author of a book on nicotine addiction: John Slade and Tracy Orleans, eds., “Nicotine Addiction: Principles and Management” (Oxford Press 1993).”

    “Dr. Slade died in February, 2002 at the age of 52 from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, which law enforcement officials ruled a suicide. He had suffered a stroke the previous July.”

  6. beobrigitte says:

    The WHO FCTC was developed in response to the globalization of the tobacco epidemic. The spread of the tobacco epidemic is facilitated through a variety of complex factors with cross-border effects, including trade liberalization and direct foreign investment.
    Oh, really? Tobacco “EPIDEMIC”?
    I advocate the WHO public money drain to be culled. Clearly it prioritises the Goliath Tobacco Control over REAL EPIDEMICS when it comes to publishing REAL EPIDEMICS.
    Just 2 examples:
    There is still an ongoing Ebola EPIDEMIC with none of the media reporting it. You have to go on the WHO website to find out. (Seriously? WHO does when all the WHO does is spew hate against smokers and vapers?)
    A cure for such an ever mutating virus?
    I’m afraid this is out of the question. Research is costly and profit minimal.

    Even when it comes to multi-resistant bacteria the pharmaceutical industry has no interest in researching new antibiotics. Research is costly and profit minimal.

    And all the WHO does is lament tobacco use and conjure up new hate-peddling stories about smoking (?and vaping).
    It’s time to cull the WHO. We have REAL danger to think about.

  7. Samuel H. says:

    I want to smoke. Is smoking actually much safer than what these Big pharmaceutical companies and anti smoking propaganda is fucking saying?

  8. slugbop007 says:

    Sorry I am so late to reply to this blog. Our previous Premier in Quebec referred to smoking and tobacco consummption as a scourge. Akin to the Plague of years gone by. His government promoted the message further by describing deaths from tobacco use as ‘tobacco-related deaths’. Amusingly, the same amount of people have been dying from tobacco-related deaths for the past six or seven years. No more, no less. They also claim that it costs the government 1 billion dollars a year to fight this scourge, which averages out to about 100, 000 dollars per person. The government of Quebec also considers tobacco use as an ism: tabagisme. Then they introduced the 9 meter law that applies to almost every inch of space in the province. Lately, a hotel near the corner of Sherbrooke Stree and Saint Lawrence Blvd stamped a series of round, ink messages on the sidewalk on the sides and in front of their entrance that declares that space as a smoke-free zone. There is a busy gas station just across the street and thousands of buses, cars, trucks and ambulances pass by there 24 hours a day. No smoke there! Really absurd. Are these people serious? Have the morons taken over the social discourse? Looks like it.


  9. Pingback: Living In A Time Of Collective Madness | Frank Davis

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