Originally published June 30, 2011
H/T to Juliette Tworsey.
The Lung Cancer Alliance states that in 2010 there were over 157,000 lung cancer deaths, and that 80% of these were non-smokers or ex-smokers – meaning a measly 20% were active smokers.
One of my main arguments against the smoking/lung cancer hypothesis has long been that smoking was so common, so prevalent, not that long ago that it’s impossible to really discern much about it simply because we have too little information about non-smokers. For example, if 80% of the population smoke (as they once did) then it’s an absolute certainty any disease will have a higher ‘relationship’ link with smoking, and it is impossible to know if any given individual would have suffered from a disease had they not smoked.
We are now at a time when non-smokers are the majority, so it is really only around this point in time that we are able to compare smoking prevalence and disease rates with any degree of accuracy. And, while I won’t (yet) say “I told you so”, the evidence is certainly agreeing with my thinking. Take the recent COPD study which found 93% of the COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, i.e. chronic bronchitis and emphysema) sufferers were non-smokers.
The biggest issue here is that lung cancer and emphysema have in particular been considered “smokers’ diseases”, that non-smokers just don’t get. The truth of the matter though is that non-smokers can and do get any and every disease that smokers get. It’s easy to show a statistical link between smoking and any disease when most people smoke; however, the hypothesis has holes poked into it when smoking rates decline to a fraction of what they once were and the disease rates now start to inflict non-smokers instead. And this is unquestionably what is happening, which suggests that smoking did not cause either of them – the diseases exist and afflict regardless.
The crux of the problem though is that we are so convinced smoking is the leading cause of lung cancer, and COPD, that all money and efforts are directed into lowering smoking rates rather than focusing on the disease itself. Indeed, the Lung Cancer Alliance have stated that lung cancer remains one of the deadliest forms of cancer precisely because it isn’t receiving funding. Why isn’t it getting the funding? Because we’re so concerned with smoking that the suggestion there may be other possible factors and causes at play seems ludicrous, or if that suggestion is accepted it’s usually met with “yes but smoking is the biggest factor so it deserves the attention.”
With the smoking rates much lower than they were some 40 years ago, we are now in a time when the real picture will begin to emerge. Fabricated numbers and bogus studies will continue, but they will not be able to ignore or hide increases in the number of “smokers’ diseases” afflicting non-smokers, which seems to be happening as of late.