Tuesday, May 06, 2008

The return of smoking

Tobacco Farming
Projected employment decline: -18.6%
Projected revenue decline: -16.9%
Projected output decline: -11.7%
Pity America's tobacco farmers. First they weather the decline in smoking among U.S. consumers, now they face lower prices from foreign competitors. The Feds dropped tobacco-price supports in 2005, forcing farmers to diversify or find another line of work.
The economic projections continue on an abysmal trend: From 2000 to 2007, tobacco farming revenue fell by more than 50% as output declined by 41.6%. If only tobacco farmers could find a way to convert their crop to ethanol ... “

What if smoking was not bad for you? Or at least not as bad.

For example, a 1998 Lantz, et al. study in the Journal of the American Medical Association of 3,600 adults over 7.5 years found large and significant lifespan effects: a three year loss for smoking”

Three years is less then I would have thought, what if this was reduced further. Say three reasonably unlikely things happen

1. Smoking + Virus causes cancer. HPV and measles are linked to lung cancer. “While the specific viruses at issue -- human papillomavirus (HPV) and measles -- may not directly cause lung cancer, they seem to aggravate the negative impact of tobacco, American and Israeli researchers say” Then if we prevent measles and HPV infection this might reduce lung cancer rates.

2. Radiation
In a person smoking 1 1/2 packs of cigarettes per day, the radiation dose to the bronchial epithelium in areas of bifurcation is 8000 mrem per year -- the equivalent of the dose to the skin from 300 x-ray films of the chest per year. This figure is comparable to total-body exposure to natural background radiation containing 80 mrem per year in someone living in the Boston area.”

This mp3 talks about how much radiation you get from smoking in comparison to eating bananas and other dangerous activities

The theory is that the phosphorus fertilizer used on tobacco is radioactive and breathing this in is bad. Maybe organic tobacco will be less unhealthy?

4. Genes
First-degree relatives of lung cancer patients have a 2 to 3.5 times greater risk of developing lung cancer than the general population, and tobacco smoke plays a major role, even among those with a genetic predisposition” Genetic testing is halving in costs each year. So testing to see if someone is susceptible to lung cancer should get quite cheap quite soon. You could probably get an accurate test by asking “has any of your blood relatives died of lung cancer before the age of 70?” If the answer is yes make it more difficult for this person to smoke. This would reduce the amount smoking takes off the average lifespan.

I do not smoke and I always assumed less and less people will smoke in future. I could be wrong though. If smoking is made less dangerous it could become more popular again.

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