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smoking (part deux)
if it's not retarded, then it's evil.
by david damsker

OK. I took 15 minutes to write this one.

I want to write this follow-up column to include the number one reason I am against smoking and its evilness. But first off, I am a Preventive Medicine Physician, so if the 25% of Americans who currently smoke keep doing so, myself and the Cardiologists and Oncologists will all have jobs! I just want to personally thank all of the smokers out there for my future job security.

SECOND HAND SMOKE. There it is. I said it. I don't give a rat's ass about any of the smokers themselves. (That's not really true, but it's the reasoning smokers use to get us doctors off their backs...."This is America. I can do whatever I want to myself. If I want to poison myself, I have every right, so leave me alone....."

Yes, smokers have every right to poison themselves. What they do not have the right to do, however, is poison someone else. First, let's start off with nicotine. I bet no one here knows that except where it occurs in tobacco products, nicotine is scheduled as a poison, and is treated under the State Poisons Acts. It is among the most toxic of poisons, acting with great speed. All other forms of Nicotine come under schedules 6 or 7, applying only to highly toxic agricultural, domestic and industrial poisons. But sure, let's sit in a restaurant and smoke, and let the smoke drift over to the non-smoking section. Oh wait, maybe the smoke knows it isn't allowed in the non-smoking section.

That doesn't even touch the carcinogenic and cardiovascular effects of the rest of the crap in cigarettes. I have to walk through thick clouds of smoke every day to get into the front door of not only Tulane Hospitals, but the Louisiana Office of Public Health. I hold my breath, and treat it like a game. Can I hold my breath long enough to make it through the poison? How can any of you defend smoking like that in a public place? I see it happening everywhere I go. People rushing outside of their offices to smoke at the front door of the building, affecting the throes of people coming and going.

The ONLY reason smoking is currently legal is the gobs of money that tobacoo lobbyists in Washington use to help elect everybody there. Come on....given the way the FDA pulls a drug off the market if one or two people die, do you really believe a cigarette would be allowed on the market when it is PROVEN to kill people? Phen-Fen was associated (but never proven) with 33 obese women and their respective heart valve defects. Boom. Done. Off the market. Smoke from parents' cigarettes is responsible for an estimated 200 cases per year of sudden infant death syndrome. Not enough to do anything about, says the FDA. Animal studies have demonstrated conclusively that nicotine causes fetal death and brain cell damage. That doesn't stop us, though. One in four American women smoke during pregnancy. We can do whatever we want. Damnit, this is America!

In Canada alone, over 3,000 non-smokers die each year from being exposed to second-hand smoke. Over one in ten of these people die from lung cancer, while most of the others die from heart disease and stroke. Damnit, this is America! (I guess Canada is part of North America, so it's OK.)

The whole argument comes down to this: Can we restrict smoking to the point where it doesn't affect anyone else? For instance, if you are smoking in the car with your children, should that be legal? I don't know. What I do know is that smoking is very inconsiderate in many situations.

So you aren't just poisoning yourself. Are you?


Cynical. Funny. Logical. Atheist. Honest. Argumentative. Loyal. Talkative. Stubborn.

more about david damsker


robert melos
1.11.03 @ 10:34p

I like the sentiment of the article. If my father hadn't smoked he might've lived longer than he did. I agree smoking is bad for our health, but so is drinking. These are two things you will never get the majority of the population to accept. Even when they accept the knowledge they are doing something dangerous, that isn't enough to stop them.

wendy p
1.12.03 @ 9:37a

I hadn't heard that it was related to SIDS and had no idea that it was listed as a poison.

Once again, I'm glad I didn't carry on this particular family tradition. I come from a long line of chimneys.

david damsker
1.12.03 @ 10:54a

The list of second-hand smoke effects goes on and on and on: studies showed that infants whose mothers smoked were 38 percent more likely to be admitted to the hospital for bronchitis and pneumonia than were those whose mothers did not smoke; children with asthma whose parents smoke have more frequent exacerbations and more severe symptoms; leukemia and lymphoma among adults are significantly related to exposure to maternal smoking before the age of 10.


adam kraemer
1.13.03 @ 2:00p

Check out, by the way, www.questcigs.com. I just took part in a marketing study for this brand, which, apparently found a way to produce nicotene-free cigarettes. Now if they could just do away with the tar.

heather millen
1.13.03 @ 2:13p

What problem does this solve? I mean, most people smoke due to their nicotene addiction. I don't see how the product would therefore be successful.

adam kraemer
1.13.03 @ 2:37p

Did you go to the site?

jeffrey walker
1.14.03 @ 10:37a

You know the thing about this story as well as part 1? You're picking a very small percentage of people putting carcinogens in the air. The exhaust pipe of a car not only discharges more harmful smoke than a pack of cigarettes, but also spreads the harm over a much wider area. You're more likely to get sick living by a highway than from the guy sitting next to you with a cigarette at the bar. Why not tell drivers to stop driving if you're so concerned?

What about factories? One smokestack puts out more smoke than a whole block of bars with smokers (and the restrictions on factories have been REDUCED under the Bush administration). Let's put a stop to mass production and roll back the industrial revolution while we're at it, if you care so much.

Your problem is that you’re too lazy to attack the difficult problems. It's easier to attack the guy next to you with a smoke because (1) you don't have to work hard to find him, and (2) it's en vogue to dis cigarettes and their users. If putting pollutants in the air is your beef, you're attacking a very small percentage of the violators. It's the equivalent of trying to end the pollution of our nation’s water supply by cleaning your rain gutters. But I'm sure you feel good about it, and isn't that the most important thing?

erik myers
1.14.03 @ 10:57a

You make me wish I had never quit, Jeff.

david damsker
1.14.03 @ 11:08a

Dude, did you read the article? Or are you just oblivious? Everything in my article addressed DIRECT second hand smoke. Not the air in general. Not the exhaust put out by cars or factories. It's about people spouting the smoke directly into other people's lungs. The person sitting next to me or in my car putting pollutants into my and my children's lungs IS my beef.

You think I'm trying to end the industrial revolution? You just don't get it, do you? Every statistic I gave was about DIRECT second-hand smoke.

Sure, you are correct in your assertion that factories put out lots of crap...I never denied that. But my article wasn't about pollution. It was about the deliberate act of harming another human being.

Well, Jeffrey, it's disappointing that anyone could trivialize the health effects of tobacco on the smokers themselves, as well as the people around them. Then again, since this is someone who is against lowering the BAL for drunk driving, well, I have to wonder why I bothered to respond.

jeffrey walker
1.14.03 @ 11:34a

What the hell is "DIRECT" second hand smoke? Your logic is nonesense. The smoke coming from a cigarette goes up your nose just as easily as smoke from a car or factory. You're making false distinctions to suit your article.

And I'm not trivializing the effects of tobacco, but you're isolating them as a major factor in the cancers from airborne smoke, when you CAN'T make such a claim unless all of the people in those studies lived in a bubble with their only intake of harmful air being cigarette smoke. The exhaust of a car passing on the street or from a factory or some OTHER source is just as likely to cause harm, and probably more so. The fact is, you can't say for sure that the cancers people claim come from second hand smoke doesn't come from factories and cars. It's smoke in the air, along with other types of pollutants. Or perhaps your car and home are airtight?

I also say that smokers probably are not in the habit of "deliberatly" harming other people any more than you are when you drive or buy manufactured goods, but are just as likely to be causing harm. You're a single focused ninny who would rather villify an easy target rather than take a look at the big picture.

But that is so plain to see, I don't know why I bothered to respond to your dribble to begin with.

adam kraemer
1.14.03 @ 11:34a

Well, Jeff's often just down with the controversy. And I think the word is "drivel."

But, Dave, I have to say that, as a smoker, at worst, I'm guilty of reckless endangerment. When I light up a cigarette at a bar, no matter what effect it may have on the non-smoker sitting next to me, it's still an exaggeration to call it a "deliberate act of harming another human being." I'd even go so far as to say that if they could come up with some way to eliminate second-hand smoke (short of banning cigarettes) most smokers would get behind it. You attribute too much malice to the act of smoking. We do it because we like it and/or we're addicted. The harming of another person doesn't even really enter into the equation.


mike julianelle
1.14.03 @ 11:35a


Sometimes I love Jeff.

erik myers
1.14.03 @ 12:01p

I used to have people at (above ground) T stops ask me to put out my cigarette because they didn't want to breathe my second-hand smoke and my answer was always this, "Move."

It's asanine to think that people smoke to deliberately harm other people. Second hand smoke might kill, but not nearly effectively enough to make it into a tool for deliberate harm.

As far as I'm concerned, if you're worried about your kids inhaling second-hand smoke, then it's your responsiblity to not bring them places where second-hand smoke is present.

david damsker
1.14.03 @ 12:19p

I don't think smokers are out to "deliberately" hurt people. Smokers (at least the ones I know) aren't evil people walking around trying to kill people. Jeff, obviously you are not a scientist. It's hard for me to debate the rigors of experimental design and threats to validity when you so painfully do not understand the nature of research.

Erik, if a parent smokes around their kids, who is going to stick up for the children? When they are hospitalized for bronchitis or asthmatic flare-ups, whose responsibility is it then? I for one won't be bringing my kids to a bar.

There is a Sushi Restaurant in New Orleans that does NOT have a non-smoking section. I assumed it had a non-smoking section when I went to eat. (I asked to be seated in the non-smoking section, by the way) I was trying to enjoy my sushi (which I love), and found it hard to do so when the bloke next to me decided that when he was done, he would light up. Not caring that I was in the middle of eating. Needless to say, I will never go back. My point is that sometimes you can't help but bring yourself or kids into a place where smoking occurs until it's too late to turn back.

Adam, they do have Nicotrol inhalers, which are smokeless forms of nicotine. These are the most effective tool for quitting smoking that I have seen thus far. I have prescribed them to about 10 people, and at least half haven't touched a cigarette since. I would recommend thes


david damsker
1.14.03 @ 12:21p

(cont) They are a bit more pricey than cigarettes (except maybe in NY), but you could smoke them in front of your kids! Even at the movies or on a plane! Maybe at a non-smoking restaurant! Anyway, give them a try. You can drag on them just like cigarettes....you still get that rush to the brain just like cigarettes.

adam kraemer
1.14.03 @ 12:26p

But you can't pollute the air or the ground just like cigarettes, dammit. (And they probably don't burn quite as well.)

No, I'm kidding. I know someone who quit that way. It's not a bad suggestion.

mike julianelle
1.14.03 @ 12:31p

I'm not reading all this crap. But you can't outlaw everything, unless you're Gestapo, so let the kamikazes smoke if they want, and shut the fuck up.

erik myers
1.14.03 @ 12:42p

Erik, if a parent smokes around their kids, who is going to stick up for the children? When they are hospitalized for bronchitis or asthmatic flare-ups, whose responsibility is it then?

Whoa there, bucko. There are much bigger problems when it comes to raising children than parents smoking around them. Why don't we focus on stopping sexual and physical abuse before we worry about second-hand smoke, eh?

And regardless of how a sickness is inflicted upon a child it is the legal guardian's responsibility when it comes to hospilitization. Why? Is somebody going around paying other people's hospital bills? Sign me up.

david damsker
1.14.03 @ 1:29p

Erik, the last time I checked, sexual and physical abuse of children were already illegal.

At least we can something proactively about second-hand smoke.

Also, who's to say how big a problem second-hand smoke is compared to others in children? Try telling to that to a kid in status-asthmaticus.


jeffrey walker
1.14.03 @ 2:07p

David claims he has the "best interests" of others at heart, but it's obvious by his Sushi eating story that it's just something that he is overly-sensitive to smoke. He can't even go back to a whole restaurant b/c of one smoker. Clearly he’s a lunatic with a chip on his shoulder for cigarettes, and there is no evil higher. He's too busy to explain the "research" because, as I said, unless it was done in a vacuum, it CAN'T rule out other possible causes for exposure to carcinogens. This is not to mention the bias in most research on cigarettes anyway - ever heard of a study undertaken to show harm of cigarettes relative to other pollutants in the air? No -- that's because the actual harm isn't the concern of such research. It's designed only to get rid of cigarettes regardless of objective facts.

I'll agree cigarettes are harmful, but as I said, it's only a minutely harmful item compared to most carcinogens in the air that David seems to ignore over his personal hatred of smoke and smokers. Don't expect him to be very open-minded in this discussion.

david damsker
1.14.03 @ 2:20p

I will try to never again eat in any restaurant that does not have a non-smoking section. Not wanting to smell smoke while I'm eating dinner makes me overly sensitive? I'll bet you are in the minority here on that one.

As to the research, you said that you CAN'T make such a claim unless all of the people in those studies lived in a bubble with their only intake of harmful air being cigarette smoke. If you use that logic, then no study in any research area that has ever been conducted in the history of society has ever been done correctly.

You can never rule out ALL confounding factors....what you can do, however, is find strong associations that are statistically significant. That is what science is. Sure, you can disagree with the way the scientific method conducts itself, but that's all we have.

When you have two people living in the same city breathing the same air, and one is exposed to second-hand smoke and the other isn't, you have the basis for a study. Period.

adam kraemer
1.14.03 @ 2:35p

I feel as though I should remind people at this point that David is a doctor.

jeffrey walker
1.14.03 @ 2:37p

I didn't say no study could be done correctly, but most cigarette research has been undertaken with negative results already in mind. If you undertake a study with the intention of showing show something is harmful, it isn't that hard to accomplish. There are plenty of people with the same diseases as those sick from "second hand smoke" (if that is what they are actually sick from) who have had no appreciable exposure to cigarettes -- but those stats aren't factored into cigarette studies because it's bad for their anti-smoking agenda.

If you're so concerned, move to California where you can't smoke in restaurants already. Go to L.A. -- the air quality there is quality (laughing). Go there on your high-horse and breathe deeply.

heather millen
1.14.03 @ 2:50p

If you're so concerned, move to California where you can't smoke in restaurants already. Go to L.A. -- the air quality there is quality (laughing).

Yes, there are a lot of factors that contribute to the air quality. But at least in LA they're making a concious effort to improve it and counteract the years of damage. On top of the no smoking in public places, they also have some of the toughest emmissions policies in the US.

adam kraemer
1.14.03 @ 2:54p

Jeff - I think you're forgetting the studies undertaken by the tobacco companies that for years claimed there was no link between cigarettes and cancer.

jeffrey walker
1.14.03 @ 2:55p

P.S. - I support emissions standards more than smoking bans. And, to its defense, L.A. has made an effort to correct their crappy atmosphere. Plus, more plastic surgery enhanced females than I can shake a stick at!

adam kraemer
1.14.03 @ 3:00p

I hear South Beach is challenging them per capita, though.

jeffrey walker
1.14.03 @ 3:16p

quoting Adam Jeff - I think you're forgetting the studies undertaken by the tobacco companies that for years claimed there was no link between cigarettes and cancer..

It was this bad behavior by the cigarette companies that, I think, led to the biased research done forming the opposite conclusions on which people base their opinions now. Not that cigarettes aren't harmful, but the research done is not a fair assessment of the harm in relation to other airborne carcinogens. This research, clearing being biased, may be only as a result of the tobacco companys' early research indicating otherwise (as Adam mentioned). They made themselves a target ripe for lawsuits; precisely WHY people go after them so vigorously. Other companies who do much more substancial damage to people aren't gone after because it isn't as easy (no early pattern of lies to use against them in court). Just watch A Civil Action - factory doing far worse damage to people. BUT, a harder case, so most people don't bother.

Therefore, cigarettes become the easy scapegoat for people to blame. I'll admit, they're a great scapegoat, but not the offender people (like David) make them out to be.


erik myers
1.14.03 @ 3:31p

Erik, the last time I checked, sexual and physical abuse of children were already illegal.

That doesn't mean that it's stopped, has it? All sorts of things are illegal, like turning your car without using your blinker, but people do that every day, with children in the car, no less! I think we should stop people from driving because it's potentially harmful.

The fact is that going after smokers for creating second hand smoke is a losing battle from the start. Why? Apathy. When I smoked, I didn't care. Plain and simple. If you don't like the smoke, move. They're not forcing anybody to breathe it.

Secondhand smoking around children is a completely different issue that has more to do with good or bad parenting than anything else.

tracey kelley
1.14.03 @ 4:27p

I witnessed something interesting today. Two elderly people hobbled out of an old pickup truck (parked illegally in the handicapped zone), both coughing in the really cool phlemmy way that rattles the chest and makes sticky spit.

The old lady turned to the old man and said, "My chest hurts. I don't know why." Then took a long pull off a cigarette.

The old man flicked his cig to the ground, and reached in his pocket for another.

After seeing two loved ones - both smokers - die of lung cancer, I still can't imagine why anyone desires smoking. I'll admit - after smoking 2 packs a day, the first year I quit was hard. Hard as hell. But each year without them (now up to year 15) just gets easier.

david damsker
1.14.03 @ 4:29p

If you don't like the smoke, move. They're not forcing anybody to breathe it.

I fucking HATE that argument. That is so unbelievable that an educated guy would think like that. The fact is, they ARE forcing you to breathe it. If I'm sitting in a restaurant, just like you, and you decide to light up, I have to move? Why don't YOU move? If I am sitting there with a can of aerosol fart-smell (practical joke type thing), and I just start spraying it around, you have to move? Shouldn't I move? I just don't get the logic.

jeffrey walker
1.14.03 @ 4:42p

Hey - proof that not everyone dies of cancer! Tracey's old people smoking sighting = hope. Smoke 'em if you got 'em!

sarah ficke
1.14.03 @ 4:50p

The fact is that going after smokers for creating second hand smoke is a losing battle from the start. Why? Apathy. When I smoked, I didn't care. Plain and simple. If you don't like the smoke, move. They're not forcing anybody to breathe it.

That's a pretty unsympathetic attitude to have. Probably increased by having people needle you all the time about smoking and throwing statistics (some of them true!) at you about how bad it is. But that apathy is not something to be proud of. It's as good as saying "I don't care about you at all. I can do anything I want and you can fuck off if you don't like it." What if I don't like turning on my blinker to change lanes? It endangers people, but screw it, it's my choice.

I'm not against having public places where people can smoke (bars, restaurants as long as the spaces are divided, etc.) but have some common courtesy. Especially in a public space like a metro stop. Too many people get automatically defensive about their smoking and snap at someone about it instead of actually talking.

sarah ficke
1.14.03 @ 4:51p

Jeff, not everyone dies of cancer, but some do. And having seen someone die of cancer, I'm damn sure that that's not a risk I want to take.

david damsker
1.14.03 @ 5:01p

There are plenty of people with the same diseases as those sick from "second hand smoke" (if that is what they are actually sick from) who have had no appreciable exposure to cigarettes -- but those stats aren't factored into cigarette studies because it's bad for their anti-smoking agenda.

Actually, Jeff, other exposures ARE factored into research studies. This process is called "adjustment". You can adjust for age, sex, race, or just about any other factor you can think of that may be interfering with your results.

Yes, people have asthma who never were around people who smoked. People even have lung cancer who never smoked or were around people who smoked. Don't you think these facts are taken into account in the study analysis? Do you think researchers are retarded?


jeffrey walker
1.14.03 @ 11:17p

Not in every case. But perhaps you blindly believe that every study is done in order to achieve accurate results. Studies are paid for by special interest groups, non-profit organizations and trial lawyers all the time whose stake in the outcome of that research are not always pure. I don't think the researchers are retarded, but instead motivated by greed. A large moneymaking organization like the cigarette companies can attract the attention of all sorts.

But maybe you believe all researchers are pure at heart. Maybe you think studies are never undertaken with an end result already in mind, and statistics are never manipulated to suit an end goal. If that's the case, you're the retarded one.


david damsker
1.15.03 @ 1:42p

Jeff, I agree with you that not all studies are done with the highest ethical standards. Yes, some Hypertension studies are funded by the company that makes the Hypertensive drugs.

However, I do know personally many of the people who perform tobacco studies, and these researchers really get NO benefits whatsoever from the research.

jeffrey walker
1.15.03 @ 3:31p

And David, I'm not arguing that cigarettes are "good for you" or anything of the sort. I think, generally, they are overly fixated on. In the scheme of evils, they're fairly low. I think we'd all be much better off (disease wise) once we find an alternative to the internal cumbustion engine. Tobacco was around for YEARS, but the real rise is lung-related sicknesses (except TB) seem to correlate to the rise in fossel fuel burning. But perhaps that's my opinion - I could be wrong, too.

Still, I quit smoking, save the occasional bummed smoke at a bar. So I'm no die-hard advocate of smoking, either.


adam kraemer
1.15.03 @ 3:40p

I took part in a smoking study last night, actually - I mentioned it earlier. The basic premise of these new cigarettes is that they get rid of the addictive chemical - you still have your tar, your amonia, your additives, but if you smoke Quest regularly, and stop for a few days, or whatever, you won't get the nicotene craving associated with quitting smoking. The woman leading the study likened it to ordering a drink vs. needing a drink.

Plus, as Dave said, nicotene is a poison. So one less poison in first-hand and second-hand smoke seems like a pretty good idea.

sarah ficke
1.15.03 @ 3:52p

Do you like the new cigarettes?

yasameen sharif
1.19.03 @ 5:55p

I'm just surprised that anyone smokes these days given what we know.

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