Friday, February 23, 2007

Lung Cancer Deaths

Apparently 37,000 people die from lung cancer in the UK each year, and it is figures like this that have supposedly motivated the government to introduce a smoking ban. It is only recently, seeing my father die, and then seeing ‘non-small cell lung cancer’ going down on his death certificate that I think hang on a minute. Doubtless, because he smoked during his life and because that cause of death has been slapped on his certificate he will become one of those statistics, though 10% of those who develop lung cancer have never smoked, he gave up over a decade ago, and ‘non-small cell lung cancer’ was really a case of ‘select one cause because there ain’t room on the certificate for them all’. But my biggest quibble about all this is that he was 79 and WE ALL HAVE TO DIE OF SOMETHING. The Grim Reaper does not negotiate.

Really, we’re not immortal, we all die, and the process is usually, unless we have the foresight to pack ourselves off to a Swiss clinic, lonely, undignified, uncomfortable and often painful. And these facts are not changed by cutting down on the burgers, booze and fags. In fact, I sometimes wonder if taking the so-called healthy route is a practical guarantee of ending up gaga and wearing nappies in some crappy OAP home, where eventually the usual ‘heart failure’ or ‘dementia’ or ‘cancer of–’ will go down on your certificate, doubtless to be picked up by statisticians then pc idiot politicians as an excuse for again telling us what to do.

A reality, avoided by many, is that cancer rates have increased because nowdays we don’t die of the thousands of maladies we’ve found cures for. These high cancer rates are in fact a victory for medical science.

What I would really like to know is how old were those 37,000. Checking, I see that this form of cancer is rare in those below 40 and from thereon the level rises steadily to peak at ages 70 to 79. Take a look at this graph (from 2003).

Working the figures roughly you’ll see that deaths from lung cancer from ages 40 to 69 about equal the number of deaths from ages 70 to 79 when, really, we should expect to die. As such, that 37,000 is very misleading. Don’t you think that if these deaths are to be laid at the door of the evil cigarette the figure should first have the non-smoking 10% subtracted and then be halved? To put it all even more into perspective, the UK death rate of 2006 was 10.13 per 1000 people, which works out at a total of 613,971. And yes, they all died of something

16 comments:

Mark Croucher said...

You should still quit Neal. I'm not a politician. (insert smily face with winking eye)

Neal Asher said...

Very true, Mark. I'm not denying that smoking is a mug's game, I just get a little annoyed with the spinning and massaging of the figures for political ends (which tends to make me think 'fuck you' and light up another rollie) - same as we see in the global warming debate, same as we've seen with this utter bullshit about passive smoking. I also don't think the government should have anything to do with this, and that the owners of pubs and clubs should themselves be left to decide whether they're smoking or non-smoking.

I'm still waiting for that vaccine that's currently undergoing clinical trials.

Anonymous said...

Shockingly 100% of people will die at some point during their lives. No doubt some government 'study group' will be set up to investigate this.

Personally I'm delighted they banned smoking in public places in Scotland, I was never particularly bothered about the dangers of second hand smoke I just hate the stink of it when I'm eating or smell of your hair the morning after a night in the pub.

There are more non-smokers then smokers so kindly piss off outside to have your toke. My mates who do smoke have accepted this without complaint as have most people.

If you want dodgy stats look up the figures for prostate cancer for elderly men. 80% of men will have prostate cancer by the age of 80. If you live to be a hundred it'll probably be your prostate that gets you but that time it'll have more tumors than a Bernard Matthews turkey.

Neal Asher said...

"There are more non-smokers then smokers so kindly piss off outside to have your toke."

Well that's democracy, and on that basis pub landlords could have chosen to make their pubs non-smoking, which is fine, or they could have had a smoking room or a non-smoking room. What's not fine is the nanny-statism behind the blanket ban. However, I have to admit that while in Ireland recently I certainly smoked a lot less than usual. I think my attitude is this: if a landlord tells me not to smoke in his pub that's perfectly within his rights, however, if it's nanny-government telling me what to do, it can fuck off.

Kirby Uber said...

I also don't think the government should have anything to do with this, and that the owners of pubs and clubs should themselves be left to decide whether they're smoking or non-smoking.

and...

I think my attitude is this: if a landlord tells me not to smoke in his pub that's perfectly within his rights, however, if it's nanny-government telling me what to do, it can fuck off.

hear, fucking hear.

i swear i am writing you in come election time. non-us citizen be damned.

Bob Lock said...

Hey Neal,
To change the subject for just a sec...
Fancy having a go at this?

http://paulkienitz.net/skiffy.html

It's a test to see what SF author you are, I'd be interested to see if you turn out to be Neal Asher!

I'm Frank Herbert btw... now I know where all the damn sand came from... :)

Bob

Neal Asher said...

Ach, Kirby, piss on politics. That being said I wouldn't piss in a politician's mouth if his tonsils were on fire. Fuck the lot of them.

Bob, yeah, perhaps time for a change of subject. Apparently I'm Hal Clement ... whatever that means. I don't think my status is high enough for me to included in the list.

Neal Asher said...

And choosing some slightly different answers that are also true, I'm E E Doc Smith ... figures.

S. F. Murphy said...

I had a friend who smoked a lot of cigars and his response was simply to say that drinking water was 100 percent fatal.

Anyone who drank enough of it died eventually.

You could say the same for oxygen too.

I don't know. I do the healthy thing because it seems to help me mentally and I like not carrying the extra blubber around.

That and they haven't found a cure for GERD yet, which pretty much restricts my diet to the healthy stuff.

Really cut into my beer habit, God knows. :)

I was thinking about your Dad and Cowl the other day. Is there any connection?

In fact, both Cowl and Gridlinked feature a Wise Old Mentor who likes a stiff drink, has a sharp wit and tongue. The two are different from each other in many degrees, but the basics are there.

Just wondering.

Respects,
S. F. Murphy
Trapped in a Muddy Place called Missouri

Jim Shannon said...

Neal,

Some interesting comments. Do they allow people to smoke in the workplace over there in the UK? Smoking is banned here in Canada from the workplace and in public places.

What my gripe about smokers is where I work a smoker can take 2 5 min breaks in a 4 hour shift and go outside to have a couple of puffs while the rest of us remain at our work stations. Consider the amount of lost hours in the workplace. Is a smoker going to be more cost effective for taking a smoke break then one that doesn't. I don't know.

Mercurior said...

theres a story about alcohol related deaths, (you can use the same story for smoking as well).

if you go into a bar, to use the toilet, then slip in there and kill yourself. thats an alcohol related death, if you go out again and get hit by a sober driver, thats alcohol related death..

i dont smoke, but all those stop smoking adverts make me want to smoke all the more.

the government is effectively saying we are all stupid morons, and we cant be responsibile for our own actions.

and the people who say about clothes smelling, or hair smelling like cigarettes.. theres an easy answer.. its called wash your clothes wash your hair. and oh look you wont smell . apart from the normal smells which now are being masked by even more cancer causing perfumes.

puritanical politicians, and people, are afraid that someone somewhere must be having a fun and fun must be evil.

Mark Croucher said...

I don't write but if I did I would be Asimov. How cool am I?

Doc Smith was my first love though so must be something in it Neal. Just reading my copy of The Parasite at the moment (he say's for effect).

dave hutchinson said...

Ten percent of those who develop lung cancer have never smoked. Which my admittedly faulty maths suggest means that ninety percent of those who develop lung cancer have smoked. Suggestive, no?

Actually, I smoke too, and I suspect that, like you, I've decided I'm old enough and bright enough to make the choice. I'm going to die anyway, so why not? I am kind of annoyed that the government is taking away that choice - if someone asks me not to smoke in their home or their restaurant, that's fair enough, but the nanny state is starting irritate me, particularly when many of the Cabinet seem to be born-again non-smokers. John Reid was apparently a smoker on an heroic scale, but he gave up, which may explain a lot.
It does sort of make you nostalgic for the days of Tories like Ken Clarke, regularly photographed with a chunky glass of Scotch in one hand and a cigar the size of a tree trunk in the other.
Not so nostalgic that you'd want them back, mind...

Neal Asher said...

Well, Dave, considering the culture they grew up in, its unlikely to find many 70 to 79 year olds (who make up half the demographic of lung cancer deaths) who wouldn't have smoked.

Anyway, I'm not arguing for smoking (I've already said it's a mug's game), what I'm pointing out is that when ASH or pc politician born-again-non-smokers and the like throw at us a figure of 37,000 deaths per year from lung cancer they are infering that those deaths are all due to the fags. Maybe they are, but the half in the 70-79 bracket were also in the average age of dying bracket too.

Watched Billy Connolly the other night. He was talking about eating brown bread rather than white and how we're lectured about eating correctly and this enabling us to live longer. What is not pointed out is that you don't have those extra years when you're 25 and shagging like a rabbit - you get the extra years when you're 80 and pissing your trousers. Great.

dave hutchinson said...

True enough, Neal.

Connolly's good on the little indignities of aging, isn't he? Back in my 20s and 30s that stuff just seemed funny; now it looks like prophecy.

Alex Cull said...

A lot of the arguments boil down to having the right to do what we want, e.g. the right to smoke vs the right to breathe smoke-free air, just like the right to listen to drums & bass at full volume vs the right to peace and quiet. I'm generally on the smoke-free and peace-and-quiet ends of those spectrums, but can see the others' points of view too.

There's room for both positions, surely. Better engineered buildings, and changes to the way we use space would help, rather than just lecturing people to stop.

NB. Why don't Monsanto, or similar gene-engineering giant corporation, produce a cigarette that delivers a nicotine hit but emits nothing but inert gases smelling of something pleasant, e.g. uh, I don't know, chips?