It’s official: Smoking is good for you! (well, not exactly…)

Tobacco and nicotine are under study for medical applications.

Tobacco and nicotine are under study for medical applications.

While looking for reference material about cigar smoking I stumbled upon a book that instantly grabbed my attention.  Entitled The Health Benefits Of Tobacco and written by a physician, this book went right to the top of my must read list.  Could it be that we cigar smokers finally have an advocate?  I needed to find out if this guy was for real.  I mean after all, the whole world is telling us that smoking not only kills us, but also everyone down wind of the lit end of our cigar.  Now a doctor is saying tobacco is GOOD for us…how can that be?

For such a publication to be taken seriously, it would need a legit authority to back up its seemingly outrageous claims.  Such was the case here.   Its author, Dr. William Campbell Douglass II, MD has a long list of credentials including Doctor of the Year from The National Health Federation.  To my mind, this author gave instant credibility to an otherwise spurious notion.  Growing up in the sixties, I am no stranger to tobacco-smoking doctors.  My father was a general surgeon and recently recounted how his staff had demanded he stop smoking cigars in the office…the patients were complaining.  But to see a respected and decorated doctor endorsing tobacco seemed contrary to all the current anti-smoking propaganda.  Would Dr. Douglass’s theories stand up to scrutiny?  This was something I just had to see.

Not likely a best seller…

Right from the start one could see that English is not the author’s primary language.  The book is rife with poor grammar and confusing sentences.  But this is not a novel and those reading this book would likely forgive poor literary skill.  Essentially this book is a series of rebuttals for studies that denounce tobacco use.  Case after case is presented, questioned, and ultimately debunked on any number of grounds.  And Dr. Douglass goes beyond simply “proving” the studies to be flawed.  He gives testimony that tobacco use can actually be beneficial in the treatment of many medical conditions.  But lest anyone jump to doubtful conclusions about this notion, I should mention that this claim was independently substantiated in an article from The Los Angeles Times.  In its Health section of the Dec. 20th 2010 issue, the article “Toxic gases can be medicinal” illustrates that substances like carbon monoxide and hydrogen sulfide have useful medical applications.  These are two chemicals found in tobacco smoke.

The problem with studies…

Dr. Douglass makes many good points about medical studies in general and more specifically studies about tobacco use.  In all fields of study statistics are manipulated to form conclusions.  These conclusions are often deliberately slanted to prove a point that reinforces the opinions of those funding the study.  To the author’s mind this is fundamental to the erroneous conclusions of anti-smoking studies.  For example, the CDC (Center for Disease Control) put out a report claiming that smoking causes 400,000 preventable deaths a year.  But upon closer examination we find that: (1) the “victims” lived longer that the general non-smoking population by two years; (2) over 70,000 died “prematurely” at ages greater than 85; (3) only 0.5% of the smoking population died at ages less than 35.  Dr. Douglass then points out that 8% of the general population is dead before age 35 and asks “does smoking prevent death in the relatively young – from murder, automobile and other accidents, infection or boredom?”[i] This is just one example of the many studies to which the author takes exception.

Dr. Douglass also points out that the two countries with the most draconian anti-smoking laws are also the “sickest”: the US and New Zealand.  Paradoxically, Japan with its notoriously large number of smokers has one of the healthiest populations.  But this is not unexplainable and is germane to the problems with medical studies.  Unless ALL the factors are taken into account i.e. diet, exercise, environment, genetic predisposition etc, one cannot simply take smokers and pit them against a non-smoking test group and get reliable data.

Too much of a good thing…

The key to Dr. Douglass’s claim of tobacco as a useful medical treatment is “dosing”.  He is not advocating chronic tobacco use and makes it clear that the amount used must be limited to have positive health effects.  A pack-a-day cigarette smoker will certainly not see positive health effects of such a large dose of tobacco.  But, Dr. Douglass claims, a few daily cigarettes might actually help prevent the onset of many diseases.  Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Tourette’s and even prenatal diseases, can all benefit from nicotine’s medicinal properties.  Additionally it has recently come to light that “nicotine can boost stem cell regenerative power in patients with chronic or congestive heart failure.”[ii] Heart attack patients are able to recover faster with nicotine therapy.  The list of diseases to which tobacco can be used as a treatment seems endless.

Then what’s all the fuss about?

If tobacco has so many uses in the treatment of disease, then why is the anti-smoking lobby so strong?  This is a question that Dr. Douglass does not fully explore and is a subject that needed more of his attention.  He does not address the beneficiaries of the anti-smoking movement, and alludes to the government as its driving force.  But to what end?  After reading his book I am still fuzzy on this subject.

What it all means to us cigar smokers…

In a world of tobacco haters, it’s great to read something that reinforces a notion we cigars smokers have instinctively always known…that cigar smoking, in moderation, is a good thing.  We often take note of celebrities who have lived deep into old age, and have done so with the ever-present cigar between their fingers.  We know the meditative state of mind a fine cigar will induce and the sense of well being it promotes.  These things have all given us the message that cigar smoking can’t be all that bad.  Until now we have had to be “in denial” about the dangers of tobacco.  But what this book has come to show is that besides making us feel good, the compounds found in tobacco might actually be helping us live longer.  The medicinal qualities of tobacco are now becoming something of record and although the general population might treat this idea with scorn, perhaps in time, tobacco will gain a certain amount of acceptance.  The Health Benefits of Tobacco may never hit the New York Times bestseller list, but it will always be a source of solace for me; confirmation that my good friend the fine cigar is just that, a friend and not such a bad guy.  And hey, over time, we cigar smokers may be looked upon as health nuts…well, maybe not.

[i] p. 132

[ii] p. 32

7 Responses to “It’s official: Smoking is good for you! (well, not exactly…)”

  1. Joe

    This sounds like a book of interest. I wonder how much more we would be able to find on the medicinal properties of nicotine if a more in-depth study were done. It would be very interesting to see a solid research program completed without the preconceived biases that color most scientific research. As you stated in your article, most conclusions lean toward whatever viewpoint the funding organization wishes to have highlighted.

    Anyone interested in doing a truly fair study on tobacco use, and its true impact on the human condition? I would guess that light use of tobacco will show a lot less likelihood of being harmful that has been told to us to date.

    Thanks for a great, thought provoking article!!

  2. dctommy

    I have realized for a long time that God put these herbs on the planet FOR A REASON. Tobacco has always been a sacred part of the Native American culture.

    The US tobacco industry puts a lot of extra chemicals into cigarettes that they are not required to disclose. I also read once in Reader’s Digest that Virginia Tobacco is grown in fertilizer that is very high in Uranium: a radioactive element. One year of smoking regular cigarettes is comparable to receiving 300 chest X-rays, according to the article I read.

    But I think the bottom line of American health issues has to do with our stress levels.

    They say that the average Japanese business-man has 50% of the heart disease risk of his American counterpart. However if he moves from Tokyo to Los Angeles, his risk of a heart attack will be the same as an American businessman after about 2 years of living in the U.S.

    Bear in mind that there is no shortage of Asian food in Los Angeles. So the change in risk cannot be attributed to dietary changes.

    The odd thing about America is that we are a young country by most standards. Furthermore we are considered to be a “melting-pot”: where all sorts of cultures are thrown into the mix.

    In other countries with ancient cultural traditions and norms: everybody knows what is socially respectful and appropriate. In our country we get trampled all over by people who have very little regard for the personal space of others. In Russia, for example: no one enters your office uninvited: they will politely stand at the door until they are invited to come in.

    Stress is also known as “fight-or-flight”: an ancient response to having someone invade your “personal space.”

    In our culture we don’t have the long-established social norms to grease the wheels of human interaction. Living in America is extremely stressful. The body-chemical of stress is adrenaline, which breaks down into a harmful substance called “Cortisol.” For many Americans: Cigarette smoking is nothing more than self-medicating to stimulate the bodily production of Seratonin: a natural calming-hormone produced by the brain. Excessive alcoholism and addiction to carbohydrates also perform a similar service in the body: of stimulating Seratonin.

    However Seratonin does not actually remove the destructive cortisol from our blood. It just makes us feel better, and sort-of numb. So consequently many Americans are addicted to a cycle of drama and substance abuse. After awhile we NEED the drama to feel alive.

    Many Americans also have unresolved parenting issues, dissatisfaction with their career choices, and problems with sexual repression.

    The best solution? The only known way to clear the body of Cortisol is through meditation and exercise.

    Yoga anyone?

  3. TseNagi

    A Native American aka NDNs points of veiw. Tobacco has been and still is a very important Medicine to us It is one of many our people use that somehow turned carcenogenic all of a sudden, One of our main uses is to pray with, Some of us beleive that when the smoke is blown from our mouths our prayers are witin the smoke that rises up to where the creator is.Our elders’ elders were not falling over dead @ a young age because of tobacco use. Tse’Nagi translates to BuffaloSpirit by the way.I will pick up a copy of the book next time I’m out.Makes me think that Guy that said you have LIES then theres DAMN LIES and then you have STATISTICS 🙂

  4. Jack Listerio

    This pretty well destroys the Myth of second hand smoke:

    Lungs from pack-a-day smokers safe for transplant, study finds.

    By JoNel Aleccia, Staff Writer, NBC News.

    Using lung transplants from heavy smokers may sound like a cruel joke, but a new study finds that organs taken from people who puffed a pack a day for more than 20 years are likely safe.

    What’s more, the analysis of lung transplant data from the U.S. between 2005 and 2011 confirms what transplant experts say they already know: For some patients on a crowded organ waiting list, lungs from smokers are better than none.

    “I think people are grateful just to have a shot at getting lungs,” said Dr. Sharven Taghavi, a cardiovascular surgical resident at Temple University Hospital in Philadelphia, who led the new study………………………

    Ive done the math here and this is how it works out with second ahnd smoke and people inhaling it!

    The 16 cities study conducted by the U.S. DEPT OF ENERGY and later by Oakridge National laboratories discovered:

    Cigarette smoke, bartenders annual exposure to smoke rises, at most, to the equivalent of 6 cigarettes/year.


    A bartender would have to work in second hand smoke for 2433 years to get an equivalent dose.

    Then the average non-smoker in a ventilated restaurant for an hour would have to go back and forth each day for 119,000 years to get an equivalent 20 years of smoking a pack a day! Pretty well impossible ehh!

    The whole tone of the article seems to be that the NHS is prepared to grant us an enormous favour by consenting to use our filthy organs. Oh, and don’t miss the comments; they’re hilarious…

  5. Jack Listerio

    Judge doesnt accept statistical studies as proof of LC causation!

    It was McTear V Imperial Tobacco. Here is the URL for both my summary and the Judge’s ‘opinion’ (aka ‘decision’):

    (2.14) Prof Sir Richard Doll, Mr Gareth Davies (CEO of ITL). Prof James Friend and
    Prof Gerad Hastings gave oral evidence at a meeting of the Health Committee in
    2000. This event was brought up during the present action as putative evidence that
    ITL had admitted that smoking caused various diseases. Although this section is quite
    long and detailed, I think that we can miss it out. Essentially, for various reasons, Doll
    said that ITL admitted it, but Davies said that ITL had only agreed that smoking might
    cause diseases, but ITL did not know. ITL did not contest the public health messages.
    (2.62) ITL then had the chance to tell the Judge about what it did when the suspicion
    arose of a connection between lung cancer and smoking. Researchers had attempted
    to cause lung cancer in animals from tobacco smoke, without success. It was right,
    therefore, for ITL to ‘withhold judgement’ as to whether or not tobacco smoke caused
    lung cancer.

    [9.10] In any event, the pursuer has failed to prove individual causation.
    Epidemiology cannot be used to establish causation in any individual case, and the
    use of statistics applicable to the general population to determine the likelihood of
    causation in an individual is fallacious. Given that there are possible causes of lung
    cancer other than cigarette smoking, and given that lung cancer can occur in a nonsmoker,
    it is not possible to determine in any individual case whether but for an
    individual’s cigarette smoking he probably would not have contracted lung cancer
    (paras.[6.172] to [6.185]).
    [9.11] In any event there was no lack of reasonable care on the part of ITL at any
    point at which Mr McTear consumed their products, and the pursuer’s negligence
    case fails. There is no breach of a duty of care on the part of a manufacturer, if a
    consumer of the manufacturer’s product is harmed by the product, but the consumer
    knew of the product’s potential for causing harm prior to consumption of it. The
    individual is well enough served if he is given such information as a normally
    intelligent person would include in his assessment of how he wishes to conduct his
    life, thus putting him in the position of making an informed choice (paras.[7.167] to

  6. Jack Listerio

    7 October, the COT meeting on 26 October and the COC meeting on 18
    November 2004.

    “5. The Committees commented that tobacco smoke was a highly complex chemical mixture and that the causative agents for smoke induced diseases (such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, effects on reproduction and on offspring) was unknown. The mechanisms by which tobacco induced adverse effects were not established. The best information related to tobacco smoke – induced lung cancer, but even in this instance a detailed mechanism was not available. The Committees therefore agreed that on the basis of current knowledge it would be very difficult to identify a toxicological testing strategy or a biomonitoring approach for use in volunteer studies with smokers where the end-points determined or biomarkers measured were predictive of the overall burden of tobacco-induced adverse disease.”

    In other words … our first hand smoke theory is so lame we can’t even design a bogus lab experiment to prove it. In fact … we don’t even know how tobacco does all of the magical things we claim it does.

    The greatest threat to the second hand theory is the weakness of the first hand theory.

  7. Jack Listerio

    Congratulations cookout fans you’ve just survived being around second hand smoke for 120,000 years of equivalent exposure!

    Barbecues poison the air with toxins and could cause cancer, research suggests. A study by the French environmental campaigning group Robin des Bois found that a typical two-hour barbecue can release the same level of dioxins as up to 220,000 cigarettes.

    Dioxins are a group of chemicals known to increase the likelihood of cancer. The figures were based on grilling four large steaks, four turkey cuts and eight large sausages.”

    Even the CANCER SOCIETY has benefit cookouts yet they push for smoking bans! Talk about being Hipocrits! Heres a real sweety pie of a special hype The Dumbest Fundraising Event Ever? American Cancer Society Joins BBQ Meat “Cook Off” to Raise Money for Cancer Research NaturalNews)

    Texans living in Navarro County are about to win a collective award for being the dumbest people in the world when it comes to diet and nutrition: They are hosting a BBQ meat cook-off to raise money for — get this — cancer research!

    Even the Governor of Kentucky and all the Anti-smoking Activists were at Fancy Farm for the big Political Cook Off Cook Out yet they too survived Inhaling 10S OF BILLIONS worth of equal cigarette smoke.

    Even there own Human exhaled Breath creates hundreds of the same chemicals found in tobacco smoke yet we arent outlawing HUMANS FROM INDOOR SPACES………

    Human Exhaled Air Analytics…” Buszewski et al, Biomed. Chromatogr. 21: 553–566 (2007)


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