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Smoking bad for you? Why do people believe smoking isn't bad for you?

  1. Sep 7, 2009 #1
    First of all, if you're a smoker, I'm not saying there's anything wrong with you. It's your decision. :smile: I'm just trying to look at the facts here. Also, with this incident I'm about to share, I wonder if I have communication skill problems that I need to work on? :confused:

    We've all had our experiences with opinions about smoking.

    There was a woman at work earlier who'd always say, "I need to smoke. I need to take a (work) break," and she would start freaking out. So out of a sense of caring for my fellow human beings, I told her statistically smoking is one of the leading external risk factors for death in the U.S., and that it is estimated to be a major risk involved in around 18% of deaths. I even explained I found that in scientific peer-review journals, not that she knows what those are.

    So check this out, she laughed at me and said that statistics are made up. I told her they keep on saying on the news that heart disease is the leading cause of death, cancer is the next, and smoking is a "major risk factor" for the leading causes of death. I decided to figure things out for myself (critical thinking) and found out that just like you get a birth certificate, when you die you get a death certificate. The U.S. government health agency, Centers for Disease Control, and the American Medical Association even confirm that heart disease and cancer are the two leading causes of death. Although they don't keep track of whether you actually die from smoking, the way they come up with these estimates don't sound made up. Consider this, most who hit the bucket because of heart attacks under the age of 40 are smokers. Consider this, a little less than 90% of those who meet the grim reaper because of lung cancer are smokers. There are also other results for many of the other leading causes of death. So that's how they form a "best estimate".

    She again laughed at me and that statistics are made up. She said that you can also die from sharks. I told her, "Maybe a land shark. LOL. Let me think here, don't less than 10 people die from sharks every year?" She started laughing.

    Why was she accusing me of not using critical thinking? Given all the evidence I can find from the American Medical Association and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, it sounds like the best explanation is smoking is a risk factor? Since I looked at an actual scientific peer-review journal article and printed it off, why is it made up? I mean seriously, pumping your lungs full of the crap that's contained within those fumes?
    Last edited: Sep 8, 2009
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 8, 2009 #2
    You need to learn how to keep to yourself.
  4. Sep 8, 2009 #3
    This isn't exactly on point. But, I've recently noticed some people only smoke at work - because they get more breaks.
  5. Sep 8, 2009 #4
    Seeing how i'm not your co-worker I can only speculate, but I will try to help you see her perspective.

    If smoking is a risk factor in 18 % of deaths, there are 82% of people that it is not a risk factor. Even the 18% wasn't wholely caused by smoking. And since some people are optimists they hope that they end up in the 82 percentile(it is better odds is it not). Dont know if it is a smart choice but it is their choice.

    Was she already 40, maybe she figured she had already beaten that statistic.
    So how many smokers are there? For example(i know these #'s arent accurate) there are 1,000,000 smokers if 10% get lung cancer and 90% of those die thats 90,000 deaths(signifigant #), but there were 910,000 people that didnt die. So only 9% of smokers die from lung cancer 91% dont. Again some people hope they end up in the right stat.

    Did she accuse you of non-critical thinking or did you assume that from the laughter? She was right about it being easy to make stats say what ever you want. I was told by a friend that that is the first thing they teach in stats at college(hearsay, but thats all i've got since I never went to college). From how I modified your stats to suit my argument I think it is a correct statement.

    You did all you could or should do. She has the right to look at the same stats you do and come up with a completely different opinion of what those stats say. It's just freedom of choice, and the fact that every one plays the odds. You see 9% dying you dont like the odds you dont smoke, she see's 91% living and decides they are good enough for her so she does smoke. That though is one reason we have the punitive system we have, trying to force smokers to stop through all sorts of punishments fiscal, shame, kicking them outdoors, instead of just teaching the facts and letting people decide for themselves, because what if you teach them the facts and they dont agree, you didnt get your desired outcome so it is easier to punish(that doesnt work either but governments love to try), and it make them feel all warm and fuzzy cause they just might of saved someones life(justification is the mother of all evils). The moral of the story everybodies different.
  6. Sep 8, 2009 #5
    I do not think she is really accusing you of not using critical thinking. I think she is likely just one of those people who wants to believe what they want to believe and will ignore or twist any evidence brought to their attention that contradicts them.
  7. Sep 8, 2009 #6


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    What? What is this nonsense about sharks all about? Where was the judgment of a lack of critical thinking?

    Nonsense everywhere.
  8. Sep 8, 2009 #7
    Sorry, I think I may have worded that in a confusing way. She was laughing at me telling me that most statistics are made up. She then said, "You can also die from sharks," as a way to play down what I was saying about smoking. Then I made the joke about land sharks and how little really die from sharks. I'll change the wording on that above.

    Okay, she didn't actually SAY I wasn't using critical thinking. You're right. It's just because of the sources I got it from, the American Medical Association and U.S. Centers for Disease Control (I went to their online websites, and also looked at an interesting peer-review journal paper that was talked about from both places), plus her laughing and saying that most statistics are made up, just gave me that impression she may have been thinking that. I don't know, maybe I just stress out too much about certain conversations with people when I shouldn't be.
  9. Sep 8, 2009 #8
    a.) Next time don't go around giving advice to people that didn't ask for it. It makes you look bad.

    b.) You do realize that there are plenty of doctors that smoke too, right? My friend interned at a hospital and was amazed at how many doctors took smoke breaks. Stop being naive in telling people what to do. Maybe some people don't care.
  10. Sep 8, 2009 #9


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    I think that's the bottom line. Maybe there are some people who smoke who have deluded themselves into thinking there's nothing wrong with it health-wise, but I think most do know it isn't good for them and do it anyway. Of course, the reasons for doing it anyway can be pretty varied, from getting addicted too young when they really didn't know any better and now can't break that habit, to having low self-esteem that they just don't really care that much about their own health, etc.

    And, yes, *sigh* even doctors and nurses smoke. Our campus is finally going to be made entirely smoke free in a couple of months...they've been gradually moving in that direction, pushing smoking areas further and further from buildings, making it less convenient, and moving the smoking away from places that everyone has to walk to get into buildings so the nonsmokers aren't breathing that every time they come and go from a building. Anyway, as I'm watching the signs on campus change daily with the countdown to a smokefree campus, and not really seeing any fewer people out smoking, and yes, a lot of them are nurses, I REALLY hope someone is going to hand out free nicotine patches that first day so the patients in the hospital don't have grumpy nurses going through withdrawal inflicted upon them!

    Maybe it'll make it easier for more people to quit though, if the entire campus is trying to quit at the same time. I always thought that was something that made quitting difficult for those who tried, to still walk outside and see people lighting up all around them. It's like an alcoholic needing to walk into a bar every day when trying to quit. And, the university gave them about 90 days warning, along with free enrollment in a smoking cessation program to any who want it, which should make it easier for people to wean off enough to survive until their lunch breaks when they have time to leave campus for a little while (though, I can only imagine the area restaurants are going to be that much worse at lunch...we still don't have laws requiring restaurants be smoke-free).
  11. Sep 8, 2009 #10


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    Doctors in the UK are now calling for a ban on alcohol advertising and event sponsoring (smoking advertising is already banned). Calls for a ban on doctors and nurses drinking to set an example haven't been as widely received.
  12. Sep 8, 2009 #11
    People that say smoking isn't bad for you are in denial. Deep down they know it will eventually kill them but they just don't care. No amount of arguing or lecturing will change their opinion so its best to spend your time doing more constructive things.
  13. Sep 8, 2009 #12
    I dont think anyone says smoking isnt bad for you, but a lot of people do believe it isnt THAT dangerous. People that say smoking causes anything are the ones in denial. If something causes something then everyone that does that something all get affected. I know people that have smoked their entire lives and have no major health problems, on the other hand I know people that smoke for a short time and get sick. At most cigarettes are a contributing factor to disease, and if your really trying to stamp out disease IMHO you would do more by using your gestapo tactics on people that eat junk food(anything processed is junk). Should we start sending the nutrition police around to your house to check your cupboards to make sure you are doing what I believe? No? Why not, you are only holier than thou when it isnt affecting you.
  14. Sep 8, 2009 #13
    So how do you go about being empathetic? When the American Medical Association and U.S. Centers for Disease Control say given the evidence the best estimate is that it's the largest number one external risk factor for death, even more so than obesity and car accidents, but at the same time you don't want to step on their toes?

    So how do you go about it when you want to be empathetic, but at the same time let them know it's their own decision? I didn't tell her not to, only what these health agencies were saying. If I gave her the wrong impression, what would be your advice on how to tell her the same information but without the impression of stepping on toes, if that's what you're trying to say?
    Last edited: Sep 8, 2009
  15. Sep 8, 2009 #14
    Keep in mind, I wasn't trying to tell her that she can't, but rather just some information from trustworthy sources I found since I had concern (she always sounded obsessive-compulsive about needing a smoke). Maybe I should have said, "Keep in mind it's your decision, this is just some information that I found...." to not give the impression I was trying to force her, if that's what some here think? You're correct in that most who smoke do not get lung cancer. I'm just saying the governmental health agencies and American Medical Association say that based on the available evidence so far, smoking is an even bigger risk factor than obesity and car accidents, although some some have good reason to believe that obesity is going to eventually over take smoking as far as risk for death goes.

    Anyway, I wasn't trying to force her, but rather just show concern. I don't know if there would have been a better way to present the same exact evidence to her, but in a different way?

    She's also quite impulsive and likes a thrill. She was told me about how so many years ago she would take LSD, ecstasy, and some other substances. She says she wants to die before age 40.
  16. Sep 8, 2009 #15
    You sound like scruff mcgruff the crime dog: how old are you?

    Just keep to yourself next time. It's none of your business what she does with her life.
  17. Sep 8, 2009 #16

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    Which means she's well on her way towards meeting her goals.
  18. Sep 8, 2009 #17


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    Half my department seems to smoke :rofl: . We're all a hopefully intelligent group of physics majors, graduates, professors and lecturers. Everyone konws its bad but yah, people have their reasons. Some people use it as a stress reliever as well.
  19. Sep 8, 2009 #18
  20. Sep 8, 2009 #19
    Something to consider, if it's in scientific journals which can be reviewed by others using the scientific method, don't you think they could control for that? Although you can't "prove" for sure in science, you can say such and such is the best explanation for the evidence?

    Consider, when scientific peer-review journals ask, "What are the risk factors for the major deaths stated on death certificates? Let's compare it to those who don't have these risk factors in their lives, how much does the risk go up? Now let's rule out the bias of other factors by seeing if the effect of a certain risk factor is still there after we keep these other factors constant," and then they find that smoking is more associated with death compared to obesity, alcohol abuse, pollution, etc, is that the same as a wild guess, or is it the best explanation for the evidence? When I put a key into the car ignition, all I know is it started in the past and it's just an assumption that it'll start again. However, given the evidence, believing it'll start requires less assumptions than believing it won't start.

    Before plate tectonics, there was continental drift theory. It was replaced by plate tectonics. Can we say there is no possible way plate tectonics theory can't be replaced? For many years people said gravity is a force, which there is still a debate whether it is. Then Einstein came along saying gravity is the bending of space and time, making the illusion of it being a force although it really is not. NASA says there's better evidence for it being Einstein's spacetime curvatures than a force, although Newton's equations still work most of the time. Many say the concept of gravitation could change in the future. However, that's not the same as just guessing, in Science you go with the best explanation. Usually when something's well tested in Science, if it does get replaced, it's by something basically the same exact minus or plus a few minor details. On the rare occasion it does get completely replaced, it's by something with the same implications.
  21. Sep 8, 2009 #20
    Thanks for making my point, just because its true today, doesnt mean it is going to be true tommorrow(not saying you cant publish what you believe to sway with facts). Why PUNISH today for something that might change tommorrow(not saying it will but it is a possibility). Science is ever changing, ever evolving if it werent I would be worried. Thats why I believe every scientific statement should start with, "as far as we now know", instead of "this IS the way it is".
  22. Sep 8, 2009 #21
    I'm sorry, but using the rationale that Science can't prove for sure, why even believe that germs are capable of causing diseases? The National Academy of Science even says so themselves you can't prove it for sure sure, only that it's beyond reasonable doubt. Certain religious groups who don't believe in "germ theory" point this out. Why even go to the ER if you're dying, since they use Science? Why believe that mathematics can predict where a satellite may be in so many hours if math isn't 100% on target?

    I'm sorry, but saying Science is relative truth rather than absolute truth isn't the same as being "made up".

    When they look at how likely someone who smokes is to die from certain causes of death vs. those who don't smoke, control for as many third variables as they can find, when they do experiments on all sorts of animals, track markers related to death in smokers, how is that willy nilly let's fit the facts to fit our theory? Maybe in the same sense believing germs can cause disease is that way. Just because rules made about ethics won't allow scientists to say, "Okay, you go to this group where you smoke placebo cigarettes for so many years, you go to this experimental group where you smoke real cigarettes," doesn't mean it isn't beyond reasonable doubt that there's some sort of connection. It's definitely debatable of whether it's more/less serious as scientists think, but scientists do say it's beyond reasonable doubt that there is some sort of cause-effect relationship. Not everyone who smokes dies, yet not everyone who is exposed to the influenza virus gets influenza.
  23. Sep 8, 2009 #22
    Since it's the same principle about Science, if the medical field and government are allowed to claim that germs causing disease is correct, then why aren't they allowed to say smoking is bad for your health when the scientific evidence also says it's beyond reasonable doubt? Just because you can't prove for sure for sure in Science? I mean after they compare the ratio of smokers vs. non-smokers who die from certain types of deaths, tracking death related markers, etc.
    Last edited: Sep 8, 2009
  24. Sep 8, 2009 #23


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    I'm sure you didn't mean to, but you sound like a creationist jealous of the successes of modern science. If you jump in front of a train, what happens? How do you know? It's not as intuitively obvious that smoking leads to cancer as it is that jumping in front of a train will kill you, but that doesn't mean the evidence is any weaker.

    Would you also say that it shouldn't be a crime to shoot people because the mechanical, chemical, and maybe electrical principles that the gun depends on might be disproved tomorrow, and that it's only an assumption that pulling the trigger will cause a bullet to strike the target at legal velocities?
  25. Sep 8, 2009 #24
    Wait, so you've expressed concern for someone before?

    Another woman at that place of work was also a smoker. I told her that she may want to consider they keep on saying on the news that a little less than 90% of those who die from lung cancer are smokers. She said, "Yea I know. I probably should quit eventually." So I'm not sure, but I think it could also depend on how you go about doing it?

    I mean, it's their choice, and I'll respect whatever they want. I just had a sense of caring for both of them. If someone was stealing from your neighbor, you'd let them know about it. Although the analogy isn't the exact same, much of the concept is concern for others. When I feel concern, I usually don't talk about feelings, but rather peer-review scientific journals, because they make sense. She can do what she wants. I just wonder if there could have been a way in that situation to let her know the truth?
  26. Sep 8, 2009 #25
    You state beyond a reasonable doubt, I have the capability of reason, why cant I use my reason to decide for my self, why do I have to trust your(or their) reasoning blindly?

    I never said anything was made up. I said that science is fallable(it is watched over by human beings), since it has been wrong before, and will most likely be wrong again. What if we were to blindly follow global warming, say we change our whole economy at great expense, since nothing is cheap nowdays. Then 5 yrs down the road some new evidence is found to dispute the claim, wouldnt we have been better off not to blindly follow in the first place? You can present all facts you want(without facts what good is reason) but everyone has the right nay the responsibility to reason for themselves. They dont have to believe them just because you say so.
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