Saturday, November 12, 2005

Smoke and Die! No?

I did a little reading today about smoking. I smoke about a pack a week, and I wanted to know what that really does to me. We are bombarded with facts about smoking being deadly all the time, but I thought I'd do a little deeper digging. I do have a degree in math after all, and even though I never liked stats, I do understand them.
Well I learned something interesting. I found plenty of articles that were of the type "Smoking = The Devil" (picture Mama from The Waterboy). Those I ignored for obvious reasons. Then I found some articles that had lots of statistics, but none that were very convincing once properly examined. Telling me that x% of the population smokes, and that y people died of lung cancer in the same article does not correlate the two very strongly. Guilty by association doesn't work here. Then I found the data I was looking for. Data that answers the question of "What are my chances of getting lung cancer as a smoker?"
It turns out that a smoker who quits by 30 has a 2% chance of getting lung cancer. That percentage goes up to 16% if they quit by the age of 70. Hold on. With the amount of energy spent on fighting tobacco, I was expecting a lot worse.
Having said this, I know that smoking isn't good for me. I know how much better I feel when I don't smoke for a week. Nevertheless, I think it's time for the governments of the world to re-think all the cash they are putting into anti-smoking campaigns. I think we got the message. We know it's dangerous to smoke. Perhaps it's time to focus on other equally serious dangers of day to day life that the general public doesn't know about. Maybe it's time to leave Phillip Morris alone for a while and go after McDonalds. What's the data on obesity, especially in the US?

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