Smoking and Health 1962
March 6, 2012 8:19 AM   Subscribe

Fifty years ago, the Royal College of Physicians released a report titled "Smoking and health (1962)", showing the relation between smoking and lung cancer. In 1962, about 70% of men and 40% of women in the UK smoked, and the BBC spoke to a number of them as seen in this archive footage.
posted by Petrot (40 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
God, the French *just* released an article about this in LeMonde, and everyone's freaking out about it as if it were the very first time they had ever seen it. This in a country where about 90% of the adults are nicotine-addicted. Seriously, I see pregnant women walking down the street pushing strollers with one hand (overpopulation is also rapidly becoming a problem there) and guzzling cigarettes with the other. It's grotesque to watch.

I mean, the UK is clearly pretty intelligent if they went from most of the adult population down to 21%, so what the hell is France's problem, seriously? [ / bitter ex-ex-pat ]
posted by Mooseli at 8:35 AM on March 6, 2012


Having an NHS to push public information campaigns, support groups and prescriptions for nicotine patches helps a lot. Also having a government that taxes the hell out of them and bans them in public.
posted by jaduncan at 8:44 AM on March 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


Seriously, I see pregnant women walking down the street pushing strollers with one hand (overpopulation is also rapidly becoming a problem there) and guzzling cigarettes with the other. It's grotesque to watch. I mean, the UK is clearly pretty intelligent if they went from most of the adult population down to 21%, so what the hell is France's problem, seriously? [ / bitter ex-ex-pat ]

Mooseli,

I am slightly in awe of your lively bad temper here:)

Is your issue with smoking, overpopulation - or just French people in general?
posted by Jody Tresidder at 8:47 AM on March 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


Having an NHS to push public information campaigns, support groups and prescriptions for nicotine patches helps a lot. Also having a government that taxes the hell out of them and bans them in public.

Well, smoking is only banned in inside public spaces, or places of work. I don't think I would step inside a pub again if smoking was brought back.
posted by Jehan at 8:57 AM on March 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


Big gubmint is wrong tho'!

Whenever I hear the prattling of the right wing/libertarian crowd, I say this:

MILLIONS OF LIVES HAVE BEEN DIRECTLY SAVED BY THE GOVERNMENT'S ACTION - if there was no governmental control over health warning and antismoking efforts, the beautiful free market would have allowed the vastly superior coffers of the tobacco companies to continue the swindling of millions of the public into costly, painful and uncecessary deaths.



e.g. UK "According to 2000 data, 115,000 people a year die from smoking; half of the number in the early 1970s when twice the number of people smoked as they do now. "
posted by lalochezia at 9:04 AM on March 6, 2012 [4 favorites]


Well, smoking is only banned in inside public spaces, or places of work.

Yes, sorry for making that unclear. We had an interesting moment at uni when a lawyer was called in to discuss an existing smoking rain shelter to see if it was sufficient to remove the glass from everything but the ceiling, or if the entire structure had to be removed.
posted by jaduncan at 9:09 AM on March 6, 2012


If I recall correctly, smoking in the United States peaked in the early sixities with 50% of the total population. Apparently Los Angeles County in California has just recently dipped below 10%.

It's fascinating how smoking was so cool at one point -- everyone smoked. I recall a doctor at a Las Vegas poker table saying that in 1970s, there was smoke in the hospital, professors smoked in college classrooms, and a whole raft of other behaviour that would now be considered abominable.

In The Only Way To Quit Smoking, Allan Carr breaks down the marketing/media creation of smoking quite effectively. Given the UK documentation above, he seems to be quite on point. One can only imagine that soldiers -- smoking like chimneys to deal with the stress of war -- became hero icons when they returned. Icons part-and-parcel.

I worked with Big Tobacco twice, once for, and once against. Once in marketing and once in legal cases. If it is an abominable habit, it is an even more abominable business. I can say no more, but safe to say the contrast of those experiences are considerable. What they knew, when they knew it, and what they did with it is reprehensible. And what goes on today is saddening.

Carr makes an excellent point. It's hard to start smoking. It tastes terrible. For your body, it is a wholly unnatural experience; inhaling smoke. The nicotine kick provides a little hook and then social reinforcement drives the habit home, making it one of the hardest to quit. Thus, you have to really work at becoming a good smoker.

I've noticed in London recently that smoking is disappearing at a feverish pace. It's like the social theory that when one friend loses weight, so do a few others. When one person quits, so do a few others. I find it interesting that the UK is taxing the living hell out of cigarettes. At this point a 20 pack is £8.50 in central London. £3,100 a year. In China, pack of the same brand is RMB15; £1.50, a difference of 560%. And it seems to be working, as I know 10 people in the UK -- good, hardcore smokers -- that have finished int he last 12 months.

It's just not cool anymore, and it's too expensive. Regarding the comment about France, they're 6 euro in Paris? Which is still more than Germany where they're only 4 euro -- and you can smoke indoors.

I find the attitude in the UK to be interesting, basically pricing cigarettes to the social cost. I would be quite happy if the price of a pack was (cost + average annual trailing 5 year NHS costs of treating smokers). Why do I think a pack of cigarettes would be £20?

Unfortunately the profit margins of cigarettes give the lobbies huge, huge power. Hence the fight in Aussieland about removing all branding from the packs. As a kid growing up in California, I remember the grand fight of the tobacco companies, specifically prohibited on television in terms of advertisements, and only in films/TV outside certain times.

The government put a tax on cigarettes, and the tax revenue went to anti-smoking PSAs. The tobacco companies and their agents were more than happy to help produce these ads. One showed three patently-uncool teenage boys at a party. There is an attractive girl talking to two good-looking sporty Alpha male chaps, all three are smoking in a dimly-lit corner. "She's hot" one of the guys says to his friends. "Yeah but she smokes," the other friend says as they leave the party. That was the only place cigarettes were shown on prime-time and the message seemed to be 1) the hot girl smokes, 2) the dudes talking to the hot girl smoke, 3) the losers don't like smoking and go home early. A brilliant end-run by Big Tobacco around the rules.

Watching the videos above actually makes me quite sad. As mentioned, it's been said the industry knew the implications of cigarettes long before and supressed that evidence. I have my own opinion on these things if you're ever in Covent Garden and want to hear that opinion over a pint. Safe to say, these people were definitely at the wrong end of the asymettrical information pipeline. In the post-war Western world, cigarettes definitely smoked you.

On a final note, it's fascinating that whilst cigarette consumption is plummeting, coffee consumption is skyrocketing. Thus, I pronounce that coffee is the new cigarette. It serves much of the same purpose -- taking a break from the desk at the office, something to do with your hands whilst chatting, a good excuse to sit and watch the rain, a little boost. In 50 years, we will remember a time when 70% of men knocked back three coffee drinks a day?
posted by nickrussell at 9:13 AM on March 6, 2012 [11 favorites]


overpopulation is also rapidly becoming a problem there

France's demographics are actually pretty stable. France has a fertility rate of almost exactly 2.0 ie. for every two people who die, 2 people are born. This is an increase from 1.65 in 1995 (more people dieing than being born), the main reason being a reduction in infant mortality rates since then (not sure why). The last time fertility rates were this high was 1974 and earlier. If France is seeing a pop increase year on year, it is due to immigration, which the govt controls with quotas.
posted by stbalbach at 9:20 AM on March 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


We had an interesting moment at uni when a lawyer was called in to discuss an existing smoking rain shelter to see if it was sufficient to remove the glass from everything but the ceiling, or if the entire structure had to be removed.

There shouldn't have been any need for a lawyer, to be truthful. The guidance on "enclosed structures" was pretty simple. I think it was something like, "if a building is roofed, it should have no more than 50% walls." Lots of people made it out to be a dreadful "bureaucratic nightmare gone elf n safety mad!!1!", but really five minutes with a tape measure is all it needed. You could probably do it by sight, even.
posted by Jehan at 9:26 AM on March 6, 2012


The reporter asks another man whether the enjoyment he gets from smoking is worth the risk.

"I think so, yes. If I'm going to die, I'm going to die, so I might as well enjoy life as it is now."

Insert "painful, slow death, gasping for air" in various places of his response.

Sad. Both my parents chain smoked when I lived at home. I never smoked in my life. I worry what their effects are on me as I get older.

posted by stormpooper at 9:26 AM on March 6, 2012


professors smoked in college classrooms

There was a professor at my college who was a heavy smoker and had been there for years. There's a story that when they first started banning smoking, they banned it in classrooms only, so he would stand in the hallway to teach and smoke throughout class. Eventually they banned it in all of the buildings, so he would arrange his classes so that they were only on the first floor and stand outside the window and smoke. Eventually he gave that up, although he still smoked like a chimney. I can't say if this is true, but I choose to believe it.

I'm not saying smoking is cool, but he is pretty awesome.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 9:40 AM on March 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


Thus, I pronounce that coffee is the new cigarette
Oh no, don't say that. naa..naa.. cant hear you... Stars and mermaids, think stars and mermaids...
posted by smidgen at 9:40 AM on March 6, 2012


if there was no governmental control over health warning and antismoking efforts, the beautiful free market would have allowed the vastly superior coffers of the tobacco companies to continue the swindling of millions of the public into costly, painful and uncecessary deaths.

Swindling? I love my cigars -- all the government's done is make them marginally more expensive.

But thank god they're keeping me safe! I only hope they take away my motorcycle next; that thing's a death machine!!
posted by coolguymichael at 9:43 AM on March 6, 2012 [3 favorites]


I had a professor in grad school who smoked in the classroom. He was so beloved that nobody ever did anything about it.

The funny thing in old movies is to see doctors and patients smoking while having health consultations. I went to a screening of some 1930s movies at my local fancypants university, and the undergrads howled in surprise and laughter when that happened onscreen.

I remember hospitals with ashtrays in the hallway. It wasn't so long ago.
posted by Sidhedevil at 9:48 AM on March 6, 2012


There's a sad story for statisticians here. In statistics, Sir Ronald Fisher is legendary, defining huge swaths of the field in the 20th century, and undoubtedly a go-to authority at the time. And to this day you can't really shake a stick without hitting some sort of technique that has been labeled generically "Fisher's method." But he got this dead wrong. He extensively argued for the case that smoking was not carcinogenic. Reading through his stuff is like reading a more intelligent climate denialist blog. You see narrow interpreting of small bits of the body of evidence and assumptions that the conclusion drown from it tells the whole story, only looking at half an argument before trotting out "correlation is not causality," shifting the goal posts, etc.

But above all, there's a flexibility to employ any sort of mental trick to avoid reaching the conclusion that your baby may be doing something bad, and the willingness to assert that because you have great knowledge of one particular area, you know everything you need to know about this other area.

These days I work on cancer genome sequencing, which involves lots of (non-epidemiological) stats and cancer, so I face this contradiction daily. If Fisher could directly see the stark mutational differences between the lung cancers of smokers and non-smokers, would he still resist the connection between smoking and cancer? I don't know much of the history other than the writings I linked to, but my guess is that it wasn't about the truth any more for him.
posted by Llama-Lime at 9:57 AM on March 6, 2012 [6 favorites]


Growing up in the '70s in the US, everyone smoked everywhere. People smoked in the supermarket, in theater lobbies, bars, restaurants, at home, at the office, in cars, etc. My high-school actually had a three sided shelter on the grounds for students to smoke in when the weather was bad and when you went into the teachers' break room there was always a giant cloud of smoke in there. I'm glad that my son didn't grow up with all that crap to breath.
posted by octothorpe at 10:01 AM on March 6, 2012


All I know is that if you need customer service at the Home Depot, there's no quicker way to get it than to light up a cigarette. The mother of a friend of mine from Thunder Bay taught me that one. Not that I would ever actually be able to bring myself to try it.
posted by wreckingball at 10:06 AM on March 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


When they first started tackling the cleaning & restoration of the (now glorious) ceiling in NYC's Grand Central Terminal building, they assumed its dark, filthy discoloration was either from diesel smoke or general air pollution. But it turned out to be tar and nicotine - from generations and generations of passing tobacco smoking commuters.

I heard this on a recent tour of Grand Central Terminal & was astounded - just because that ceiling is - at 125ft - so very high.

But wiki also says it is so: "In autumn 1998, a 12-year restoration of Grand Central revealed the original luster of the Main Concourse's elaborately decorated astronomical ceiling.[13] The original ceiling, conceived in 1912 by Warren and Paul César Helleu, was eventually replaced in the late 1930s to correct falling plaster. This new ceiling was obscured by decades of what was thought to be coal and diesel smoke. Spectroscopic examination revealed that it was mostly tar and nicotine from tobacco smoke."
posted by Jody Tresidder at 10:08 AM on March 6, 2012 [4 favorites]


Coffee is healthy, frankly.

What smokers never get is that they won't die from smoking in most cases. Medical science will keep them alive. But every day will feel like torture.
posted by docpops at 10:08 AM on March 6, 2012 [3 favorites]


Timeshift: The Smoking Years - great bbc documentary
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 10:23 AM on March 6, 2012


I'd probably have exactly the same response as the smokers in the video clip if they released a report saying coffee caused cancer and a reporter asked me if I was going to quit. Some messages need years of repetition before they have a chance of changing behavior.
posted by Killick at 10:38 AM on March 6, 2012


I'd probably have exactly the same response as the smokers in the video clip if they released a report saying coffee caused cancer and a reporter asked me if I was going to quit. Some messages need years of repetition before they have a chance of changing behavior.

People take large quantities of meth even after seeing quite a lot of people get meth mouth then die. FFS, people take krocodil when the average addict lifetime is 2-3 years (english text only) (images, russian language text. Somewhat NSFL).
posted by jaduncan at 11:04 AM on March 6, 2012


This in a country where about 90% of the adults are nicotine-addicted.

38% (34% regular) male smokers and 29% (24% regular) female smokers in 2005. Apparently they smoke less per capita compared to the U.S.
posted by ersatz at 11:47 AM on March 6, 2012 [2 favorites]



"According to 2000 data, 115,000 people a year die from smoking; half of the number in the early 1970s when twice the number of people smoked as they do now. "

Not to sound like a pedant, and I'm not saying cigarettes aren't healthy, but I'm guessing that 115,000 people didn't die of smoking. They died from lung cancer, emphysema and other complications that are known to be linked with smoking. I doubt very much that a bloke has ever smoked a cigarette and died where he stood, ash dripping down his shirt.

Then again, I guess preventive medicine isn't as sexy or exciting as IMPENDING DEATH. Still, it just sounds silly to give an unhealthy habit the Michael Bay treatment.
posted by deathpanels at 12:00 PM on March 6, 2012


I only hope they take away my motorcycle next; that thing's a death machine

I encourage the helmet-less riding of motorcycles, especially if they're otherwise healthy males with A+ blood.
posted by atrazine at 12:46 PM on March 6, 2012


I doubt very much that a bloke has ever smoked a cigarette and died where he stood, ash dripping down his shirt.

It can happen.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 1:00 PM on March 6, 2012


"I recall a doctor at a Las Vegas poker table saying that in 1970s, there was smoke in the hospital, professors smoked in college classrooms, and a whole raft of other behaviour that would now be considered abominable."

nickrussell, I am old enough to remember people smoking in the grocery store. Ladies pushing their carts up and down the aisles while puffing away.

That's not the weirdest thing, though. I remember people smoking in church.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 1:25 PM on March 6, 2012


There are even people who smoke cigarettes while riding their bikes! Like this...uh, friend I have.
posted by MattMangels at 2:04 PM on March 6, 2012


Not to sound like a pedant, and I'm not saying cigarettes aren't healthy, but I'm guessing that 115,000 people didn't die of smoking. They died from lung cancer, emphysema and other complications that are known to be linked with smoking. I doubt very much that a bloke has ever smoked a cigarette and died where he stood, ash dripping down his shirt.

Presumably some of them died after falling asleep while smoking in bed and lighting the bed on fire. I wonder if that's still included in fire safety lessons.*

*Tangential anecdote. When I was in college, somehow chewing tobacco came up in German class. I was the only person beside the teacher who knew it existed. Apparently it never was mentioned in school in California. And apparently no one else grew up watching baseball.
posted by hoyland at 2:31 PM on March 6, 2012


It was 1961 when a bunch of scientists and doctors asked Kennedy to get off his ass and put a report together about smoking. Then when this came out in '62, that's when he finally gave the okay. It was 1964 when the US Surgeon General put a report together.

The nicotine kick provides a little hook and then social reinforcement drives the habit home, making it one of the hardest to quit

That's an understatement.
Surgeon General of the United States stated that the pharmacologic and behavioral processes that determine tobacco addiction are similar to those that determine addiction to drugs such as heroin and cocaine.” Drugs, Brain, and Behavior, 6 ed - Grilly, Salamone,
Nicotine has the highest incidence of re-use after 1st time use at 33%. Heroin re-use comes in at 27%.

Nicotine is also more poisonous than strychnine and arsenic. It takes 60mg to kill a person. So if you ever hike through a field of it and allow the plants to simply brush against your sweaty skin, you'll probably be very sick by the time you come out the other side.

The interesting thing about Nicotine is Nesbitt's Paradox, which means it increases arousal and decreases stress at the same time. Which is actually kind of cool.

At least you still have your coffee, right? Forget that caffeinee is correlative with anxiety, and messed up sleeping patterns. Who needs sleep, though? It's only one of the four pillars of maintaining mental and physical well being.
posted by P.o.B. at 2:38 PM on March 6, 2012


Not to sound like a pedant, and I'm not saying cigarettes aren't healthy, but I'm guessing that 115,000 people didn't die of smoking. They died from lung cancer, emphysema and other complications that are known to be linked with smoking. I doubt very much that a bloke has ever smoked a cigarette and died where he stood, ash dripping down his shirt.

King's Cross fire
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 2:41 PM on March 6, 2012


It's also really stupid to say that smoking doesn't actually kill all those people. By that logic, cancer doesn't really kill anybody.
posted by P.o.B. at 2:41 PM on March 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


At least you still have your coffee, right? Forget that caffeinee is correlative with anxiety, and messed up sleeping patterns. Who needs sleep, though? It's only one of the four pillars of maintaining mental and physical well being.

That's why you switch to booze in the evenings
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 2:44 PM on March 6, 2012


Unfortunately, booze also messes with your sleep patterns.
posted by P.o.B. at 3:00 PM on March 6, 2012


Caffeine , like most every alkaloid, can be harnessed for great wonder or moderate harm. If the worst thing about it is heightened anxiety and sleep impairment, two effects that are generally obvious to all but the most obtuse amongst us, then I would say it's benefits far outweigh it's negative effects. The effects of booze on sleep are hard to overstate, though.
posted by docpops at 3:42 PM on March 6, 2012


I think there's also an interesting class divide that is cropping up around smoking. At least in urban Canada, I think the majority of smokers I see (esp. those beyond their 20s) tend to be on the lower end of the economic spectrum. I've worked in several offices where virtually none of the professional employees is smoke, but the majority of the clerical/support staff do.
posted by modernnomad at 4:02 PM on March 6, 2012


I doubt very much that a bloke has ever smoked a cigarette and died where he stood, ash dripping down his shirt.

Presumably some of them died after falling asleep while smoking in bed and lighting the bed on fire.


Apparently my great-grandfather died after falling asleep (presumably after drinking) and setting his recliner on fire.

My father died of a heart attack at age 45, in a family where most folks live into their 80s*, having taken up smoking when he joined the Air Force at 18. (He was also somewhat heavyset & allegedly a type-A personality.) He tried quitting for my mother several times, but it ended up being a thing they Did Not Talk About in the ~10 years they were married. In any case, us girls were scared out of smoking by the loss of our father. :(

* I'm pretty sure that the great-grandfather who died in the fire was 80+.
posted by epersonae at 4:10 PM on March 6, 2012


Caffeine also seems to have the widest spread of effect on people. So, yeah, It's probably the least villianous substance around, but also probably one of the most underated since most people are so divorced from how their body feels. Personally I can't touch the stuff, although I do love some green tea every now and then, but everybody should be aware of how and why their own body reacts the way it does.
posted by P.o.B. at 4:40 PM on March 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


The effects of booze on sleep are hard to overstate, though.

I once had a beer, I think it was a Schlitz, while watching Denny McLain pitch for the Tigers in the World Series. I'll never forget that game, but it's hard to remember much of anything from the intervening forty-some years.

Good God, I'm tired.
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 7:53 PM on March 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


In a recent conversation with two French women about smoking: "We're getting better! Now people only smoke from like, 17 until 25. It used to be 17 until forever!"

People here (Paris) do still smoke when pregnant, with their cigarette dangling in the face of their 3-year-old, in the train station, with their table in the restaurant and their cigarette arm outside, etc. despite any laws, because hey, smoking is part of the culture, they tell me.
Soyez les bienvenus!
posted by whatzit at 3:38 AM on March 8, 2012


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