Tobacco

American Cancer Society Says 2 = 12 and 5 = 23

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The American Cancer Society continues to misrepresent the health risks of pipe and cigar smoking. In a pamphlet entitled "Air Pollution or Smoking: Which Is Greater Risk?," it warns that "cigar smoking and pipe smoking are almost as likely to cause lung cancer as cigarette smoking." The organization's own research refutes this claim.

In the ACS's CPS-I study, according to a 1998 monograph from the National Cancer Institute, daily cigar smokers had a lung cancer risk ratio of about 2 (i.e., their risk was twice as high as nonsmokers'), vs. more than 12 for cigarette smokers. Is 2 almost as high as 12? The risk ratio for subjects who smoked one to two cigars a day was 0.9—i.e., their risk was indistinguishable from that of nonsmokers.

In the ACS's CPS-II study, the lung cancer risk ratio for current pipe smokers (all male) was about 5. For male cigarette smokers, it was 23. Is 5 almost as high as 23?

Maybe the people writing pamphlets for the American Cancer Society aren't familiar with the organization's research. But clearly their supervisors don't much care whether the information is accurate, as long as they err in a scary direction.

[Thanks to Don Sigal for the tip.]

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  1. Do the cigar studies account for whether or not you inhale?

  2. Who need things like “evidence” and “facts” when you’re trying to save the children. That’s what’s most important.

  3. Canadian Cancer Society is in the news, too:

    http://tinyurl.com/267djy

    Buddies with Pfizer. Objectivity questioned. Interesting issue.

  4. I’ve seen women who smoke cigars, but I’ve never seen a woman smoke a pipe. I wonder why.

  5. mike: My aunt was a pipe smoker, which I always thought kind of weird. And don’t forget Mammy Yokum.

  6. How can your risk smoking something you don’t inhale and smoke less frequently be the same for something you DO inhale and smoke throuhgout the day?

    Basic common sense tells you this is complete B.S.

  7. I guess the ACS is guilty of sloppy use of the term “almost”, although it’s kind of a matter of perspective. They are, after all, admitting that cigar/pipe smoking is not as dangerous as cigarette smoking.

    At the same time, the ACS most definitely did not say that 5 is equal to 23 or that 2 is equal to 12, as your headline suggests.

  8. I smoke a pipe! It rocks. No inhaling and way cheaper than cigarettes. Plus, the smoke smells delicious.

  9. Haywood,

    5 is less than 22% of 23.

    That’s like saying Ross Perot almost won in 1992.

  10. 5=23? That’s Robert Anton Wilson territory, that is!

  11. i know i shouldn’t feed trolls, i know i shouldn’t feed trolls, i know i shouldn’t feed trolls….

    However

    haywood’s proxy:

    “Almost”, when describing a quantity, implies rough parity or at least that something is of the same order of magnitude as what it is being compared to, not something which differs by a factor of 4 or 6.

  12. I am almost as smart as Milton Friedman & almost as handsome as Ashton Kutcher.

  13. So, this must mean I can quit pipe smoking and take up cigarettes with no increase in risk! Cool!

  14. Let’s keep in mind that the study that Sullum cites is not the only one out there:

    http://www.mskcc.org/mskcc/html/2551.cfm


    Men who smoke three or more cigars a day have a 7.8-times-higher risk of getting lung cancer compared with nonsmokers.

    Cigar smokers who inhale deeply have 53 times the risk of cancer of the larynx, 27 times the risk of oral cancer, and 15 times the risk of esophageal cancer.

    Smoking just one to two cigars a day increases the risk of developing cancer of the larynx by more than six times that of a nonsmoker.

    Smoking one to two cigars a day doubles the risk for oral cancers and esophageal cancer.

    Cigar smokers have higher death rates from heart and lung disease than nonsmokers.

    Cigar smokers may spend up to an hour smoking a single large cigar that can contain as much tobacco as an entire pack of cigarettes.

    Cigars are a major source of secondhand smoke, which contains more than 4,000 chemicals, including 200 poisons and carcinogens.

    Sources: National Institutes of Health, American Cancer Society, American Lung Association

    Reading these stats, at least, it doesn’t seem so unreasonable to say that cigars are not as dangerous as cigarettes but almost are, especially when compared to not smoking at all.

  15. I smoke a pipe! It rocks. No inhaling and way cheaper than cigarettes. Plus, the smoke smells delicious.

    We should try to encourage pipe-smoking over other forms. To non-smokers like me, cigarette smoke smells like ass, and cigar smoke smells like dead ass. On the other hand, pipe smoke? It does smell good.

  16. Graph them logarithmically and they’re almost an almost.

  17. Eric-I’m an occasional pipe smoker, and would chuck the cancer sticks in favor of the briar in a second, except for two things:
    Pipe smoking is kind of a pain. There’s a lot of equipment to carry around, and a lot of packing and re-lighting involved. Smoking a pipe is best done when you have time to enjoy it. I like it best in a quiet apartment with a good book.

    Also, although I’m older than I like to acknowledge to myself, I’m still too young to pull of the pipe smoking bit effectively in public.

  18. RC Dean:

    The studies find, as you’d expect, that risk increases with the degree of inhalation. E.g., the lung cancer risk ratio for cigar smokers who reported moderate to deep inhalation in CPS-I was about 5, compared to 2 for those who reported no inhalation. In the pipe smoking study I cited (based on CPS-II data), the lung cancer risk ratio associated with moderate to deep inhalation was about 11, compared to less than 3 for no inhalation. (Even smokers who report no inhalation do inhale some smoke, obviously, but they don’t do it deliberately, so they don’t get as big an exposure.) The numbers I gave are for all daily cigar smokers and all current pipe smokers, respectively, including all degrees of inhalation.

  19. If 2 is almost as much as 12 and 5 is almost as much as 23, then 1 is almost as much as 2 or 5. In other words, not smoking is almost as likely to cause lung cancer as smoking a pipe or cigar.

  20. “If 2 is almost as much as 12 and 5 is almost as much as 23, then 1 is almost as much as 2 or 5. In other words, not smoking is almost as likely to cause lung cancer as smoking a pipe or cigar.”

    That sounds like the beginning of a GMAT question from hell…

    just imagine the answers:

    A) ethical responsibility
    B) 69
    C) airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow
    D) hamiltonian function

  21. It’s Herbie Hancock!

  22. vm

    The answer is 42.

  23. but… what was the question?

  24. Heh. If you went by the standards used to adduce dangers from 2nd hand smoke, you’d have to say the lung cancer risk from cigar smoking is less than that of not smoking.

  25. cigar smoke smells like dead ass

    Cigar smoke is the flatus of the gods.

  26. jp

    “I am almost as smart as Milton Friedman & almost as handsome as Ashton Kutcher.”

    Well, it’s better than almost as handsome as Milton Friedman & almost as smart as Ashton Kutcher.

  27. I guess the odds are Lewinsky has cervical cancer, no?

  28. Cab,

    I’m not willing to check…

  29. Bad cigars smell like dead ass.

    Good cigars smell like…Power.

  30. We all should know that information on smoking is provide by the Ministry of Information.

  31. the lung cancer risk ratio for current pipe smokers (all male) was about 5. For male cigarette smokers, it was 23. Is 5 almost as high as 23?

    That depends on what you’re smoking. If you, like, add the digits together, then 23 and 5 are like identical, dude.

  32. The inhalation factor is significant. How many people inhale pipes or cigars “moderately to deeply” or even at all? That’s like the studies that claim aspertame causes cancer, and then indicate in the fine print of the study that 1-pound lab rats were given the aspertame equivalent of 2 cases of Diet Coke per day for 5 years and eventually contracted cancer. Who read the methodologies of scientific studies, though, if you can get all the info you need from the headlines?

  33. How many people inhale pipes or cigars “moderately to deeply” or even at all?

    I’m certainly not man enough to inhale cigar smoke, and I spark one up every day after work.

  34. Hey, look at the time!

  35. Pipe smoking is kind of a pain. There’s a lot of equipment to carry around, and a lot of packing and re-lighting involved.
    Also, although I’m older than I like to acknowledge to myself, I’m still too young to pull of the pipe smoking bit effectively in public.

    Ah, but that’s the trick – make it trendy! Have “pipe bars” and whatnot where people can sit down, light up, hang out, etc.

    Or maybe this is just a pipe dream.

  36. Can’t we let the cigar and pipe makers take this battle up and focus on more pressing issues? I mean, who really gives a fuck? Anybody who is scared off smoking a pipe by the American Cancer Society was probably never meant to be a pipe smoker anyway. So they exaggerate the risks of cigar smoking. Big deal. Everybody who’s got a product to sell hypes the shit out of it. we live in a culture of hyperbole.

  37. hey ed, the bogus overinflated alcohol-related traffic fatalities number was just “hyperbole” until it wound up in the SCOTUS majority opinion to carve out an exemption in the fourth amendment for sobriety checkpoints.

    doc unapologetic pipe-smoker tom

  38. If 2 is almost 12 then:
    1 is almost 6
    and 5 is almost 23 then:
    then 1 is almost 4.6

    (6+4.6)/2 = 5.3
    Therefore 1 is almost 5.3

    Therefore not smoking is almost 2.65 times more dangerous than smoking cigars:
    5.3/2 = 2.65

    And smoking a pipe is almost 1.06 times healthier than not smoking.

    We can therefore conclude that it is almost more dangerous not to smoke cigars.

  39. Anybody who’s watched a relatively young friend in chemo and dying of lung cancer — or an older person whose mobility is gone due to an oxygen tank they’re leashed to for their emphysema — knows that smoking is one of the stupider, more anti-life behaviors a person could possibly engage in. Yeah, it’s your right. But, don’t pretend you’re a misunderstood genius for doing it.

  40. Its ridiculous to talk about cigars as if they were standardized the same way that cigarettes are (for the most part). Cigars vary in their weight and, as has already been pointed out, the way that they are smoked.

    Someone who smokes 20 grams worth of tobacco in 3 or 4 cigars/day, and inhales deeply, would likely have aero-digestive cancer risks similar to those of cigarette smokers. Someone who smokes 1 cigar a day and inhales only weakly would have dramatically less risk.

  41. Haywood’s proxy:

    “Let’s keep in mind that the study that Sullum cites is not the only one out there”

    No, they are not the only ones out there, but with a million or so subjects and over a decades of followup, the CPS-I and CPS-II are clearly some of the best available sources of data on smoking-associated risks, which of course the National Cancer Insititute draws heavily on them in their monographs of tobacco related disease.

  42. A Friend With A Friend With Lung Cancer:

    “Yeah, it’s your right. But, don’t pretend you’re a misunderstood genius for doing it.”

    Your friend thought he was a misunderstood genius for smoking? What a dumbass.

  43. I’m a pipe smoker. Thanks for enlightening me that you can put tobacco in them as well.

  44. I’m curious. What does the number twelve equal to in an increased-risk percentage type of thing. Does it mean I am 12X more likely to get lung cancer if I smoke than if I didn’t?

    – R

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