Dangers Lurking Within
October 10, 2006 - We all have heard, recently, the sensationalistic, shocking, stunning news about "poisons in the blood", so I don't need to describe it here. The title of this Canadian article: "Danger lurking within"! is interesting. I could not resist the idea of embedding the music of Jaws in this page to illustrate, sarcastically, the desired popular effect. Click on the button above to stop it. Population piloting through hysteria, ignorance and sensationalism keeps rolling on and people keep buying it.
It goes without saying that some opponents of antismoking campaigns have jumped on the bandwagon, making yet another classic error of a very long series: that of pointing a finger to another "cause" of death and disease in the hope that the persecutors go after "them" instead of "us"! Not only won't it work, but it is wrong.
In reality, all the "poisons" found in the blood analyses of normal people are INSUFFICIENT to cause any harm. With modern technology one can demonstrate the presence of a few "poisonous" molecules in almost everything. That does not mean that those molecules are harmful - just that they exist. It's the dose that makes the poison - not the presence of the substance. If all those substances were so "poisonous", since they are present in everyone's blood we would have a collapse in life expectancy, instead we have the opposite. That alone should tell us that those "chemicals" present in those quantities are harmless.
The nested, subliminal implication of this kind of message is that "if it wasn't for all those 'poisons' (active and passive smoking included, of course) we would not have disease and death, or at least that we would live better and much longer". This message is false, for we have already reached the maximum possible life genetic expectancy - save, perhaps, a few days. The only other way to gain extra life is to intervene with genetic manipulations - and face all the dangers with that. Gaining those few days by controlling the environment at a micro-managing level means gearing the entire social system towards health at the expense of any other conceivable good, including the economy - and that is what is happening, in fact. Ironically, the economy (wealth) is what gave us greater health in the first place, and liberty is what gave us a healthy economy.
Furthermore, as tests of the kind we've been reading about could not be performed in 1950, for example, we lack the means of comparison with the past - one of the indispensable elements for launching any honest alarm. As far as we know, we could have had more (or less) "stuff" in us, although perhaps of slightly different kind. But the trashy message goes even beyond hysteria and reconnects to the dark ages we are falling back into. Since some of those "chemicals" are new and we know little about their effects on health; and since for those that we know are toxins, many are poisonous or carcinogenic on mice exposed to levels that are proportionally hundreds if not thousands of times greater than what a human could ever be exposed to in a lifetime -- that means that they are dangerous, and thus have to be eliminated and/or regulated. What's a society without ever-growing regulation in the smallest detail, anyway?... Not "progressive", to say the least! Prohibition, control and regulation are the marks of progress -- in any fanatical mind. And what exactly do these proponents of health and the environment intend to replace those "chemicals" with, when those chemicals perform essential functions in products and processes?
In the face of all this, too many, while they correctly call the science on passive smoking "junk", still keep on pointing fingers at "other dangers" that have no solid bases, in the hope that active and passive smoking "looks better by comparison" . If indeed we are fighting junk science and dishonest sensationalism, we have to fight it all the way and in all cases - and not just forget that it is trash when it is politically advantageous for us to "distract" public attention. Otherwise we are going to be as bad as our opposition - and equally incoherent.
As smoking bans are not a local matter, so sensationalistic hysteria against smoking is not unique to smoking. It stems from a general social schizophrenia and ignorance combined with collapsed moral values. This poisonous soup heightens our fear of that death which all we'll have to inevitably face -- after all, if death has "a preventable cause", dying seems more unfair for us than for any past generation. So we are subliminally denying death by explaining it with "preventable causes", and reducing our quality of life to that of prisoners.
What we need instead is to straighten out our heads - and put some principles and common sense back in them.
-- Gian Turci