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« Michael Peel RIP | Main | Tobacco control and the Big Brother state »


It's Lung Cancer Awareness Month in Ireland.

Yesterday the Irish Cancer Society called for a 'better understanding of the needs of lung cancer patients, after a study revealed 20 per cent of people had less sympathy for those with lung cancer compared to other forms of cancer.'

Commenting on the findings the ICS added:

“No one should ever feel blamed for having cancer. Sadly, though, these new statistics would suggest that lung cancer patients are treated differently by the public, compared to people with other types of cancer.

“Any sense of shame can hold someone back from seeking medical help, so it’s hugely important that we change our attitudes towards lung cancer.”

What hypocrites!

As John Mallon, spokesman for Forest Ireland, put it yesterday:

"For years politicians and public health bodies have sought to make smokers social outcasts so it's no surprise that some people have less sympathy for people with lung cancer.

"Smoking bans, plain packaging and punitive taxation are all designed to denormalise smoking and shame the consumer with the additional result that some smokers are reluctant to seek medical help.

"If the Irish Cancer Society really wants to help lung cancer patients and their families they need to cut down the anti-smoking rhetoric and stop stigmatising a perfectly legitimate habit."

John was quoted by both the Irish Times and the Irish Daily Mail but it staggers me that no-one else is prepared to make this point.

The hypocrisy of tobacco control campaigners is nothing new, of course. Take ASH and all those groups that lobby governments to increase tobacco duty to punitive levels while shedding crocodile tears for hard up smokers pushed closer to poverty by their habit.

Note too how anti-smoking activists love to play the addiction card, suggesting smokers are helpless victims of Big Tobacco yet happy to punish consumers whose 'addiction' makes it harder for them to quit.

That said I'm slightly heartened by the fact that only one-in-five people had less sympathy for those with lung cancer compared to other cancers.

After all, it suggests that four-in-five don't have less sympathy, and that's generally my experience.

Truth is, most people are far more tolerant of smokers than the tobacco control industry would have us believe.

Attitudes to smoking have changed but, by and large, it's not the general public that's trying to shame smokers to quit their 'dirty' habit.

The driving force is a relatively small group of zealots whose holier-than-thou approach to health is increasingly devoid of compassion or common humanity (hospital smoking bans being a case in point).

I don't doubt that the Irish Cancer Society does a lot of good work. I can't help thinking however that when calling for 'global action to reduce stigma around lung cancer' they should consider who the instigators of that stigma are.

Intolerance breeds contempt and unless the tobacco control industry understands the consequences of its crusade to denormalise smoking and discriminate against smokers, the stigma around lung cancer – not to mention smoking and smokers – will only get worse.

If the Irish Cancer Society can't see that they're deluding themselves and others.

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Reader Comments (10)


As usual you have got this in a nutshell, in fact there are people refusing explority and minor operations which require a stay in hospital due to the smoking ban in hospitals. This is because they do not permit or help you to have a smoke during the recovery time which can be upto and over six Hours, also can include an overnight stay. I know this as I recently had a blockage removed from my leg and I was informed that I would be going home in the evening after the recovery time of six hours, guess what, I was informed at the end of the recovery time that I would be a guest of theirs until the following morning. I was not amused. I was on the sixth floor and it took me quite a while to hobble to the exit in my nightgown for a smoke. This was in February last year. Not one person aslked me if I would like to go for a smoke.

Thursday, January 18, 2018 at 14:53 | Unregistered CommenterDavid Kerr prejudice against smokers is killing non smokers too.

Thursday, January 18, 2018 at 16:06 | Unregistered CommenterPat Nurse

The stigma attached to lung cancer is the direct result of the intimidation of smokers promoted by health activists. Sadly they forgot that lung cancer is not (and never has been) limited to smokers. The rise of lung cancer among non-smokers has rendered their campaign of stigma counterproductive hence the call for compassion.

Thursday, January 18, 2018 at 22:49 | Unregistered CommenterVinny Gracchus

Governments are just as much to blame for anti smoking stigma. If they stopped funding these anti-smoking zealots they would quickly shrivel and die, and have to get real jobs, as they have no real grassroot support. But governments fund them for a reason.....

Friday, January 19, 2018 at 7:07 | Unregistered CommenterDanny Ward

It's worth constantly repeating (even though no one wants to hear it) that smoking has never, by genuine scientific methods, been proven to cause lung cancer (and they've tried, believe me). You can make a pretty good case for it statistically, but even that isn't as convincing as everyone thinks. The fact remains that plenty of non-smokers get lung cancer, and that not all that many smokers overall will get it. And if they do, it has generally taken 40 or 50 years, and given them pleasure and comfort along the way. No one ever points out that something which takes that long to kill you, and more than likely won't kill you anyway, can hardly be the great scourge of humanity that it's portrayed as.

But don't take it from me: the American Lung Cancer Society says that something like half of lung cancer victims are nonsmokers, and that lung cancer research is appallingly under-funded because of the 'stigma attached to smoking'. It's easier and regrettably, somehow more fashionable, to stigmatise smoking than to really try to tackle lung cancer - which could well turn out to be caused by something else entirely.

Friday, January 19, 2018 at 12:45 | Unregistered CommenterJoe Jackson

We may well soon find out what the real figures for lung cancer in the UK are after this recent request to Public Health England.

I have often wondered why these numbers are no routinely published. Why do we rely on non-randomised samples such as the 50 year old British Doctors study when we know the numbers for the entire population!
My money is on an excess of risk for lung cancer in former smokers.

Friday, January 19, 2018 at 14:25 | Unregistered CommenterFredrik Eich

Diesel fumes are now the main cause of lung cancer, not tobacco.

Friday, January 19, 2018 at 16:46 | Unregistered CommenterTimothy Goodacre

Most studies lump former and current together.
However, and important study on LC: Campling BG, et al.
Spontaneous smoking cessation before lung cancer diagnosis.
J Thorac Oncol. 2011

found that when temporality is taken into account, tobacco cessation is related to LC presentation.

Friday, January 19, 2018 at 19:27 | Unregistered CommenterJay R

Impressive article from an economic and political perspective.:
"The Instant Pot and How Empathy Is at the Core of Capitalism"

We can argue about which political extremist group is less empathetic.

Feelings of empathy are an important part of socialization. These feelings (like/dislike, love/hate, remorse, empathy) are developed by the Insula.
"A Small Part of the Brain, and Its Profound Effects"
NY Times - February 6, 2007

Insular stroke is associated with tobacco cessation(Naqvi et al Science. 2007). Behavior (tobacco) control programs are rife with lack of empathy.

Friday, January 19, 2018 at 20:01 | Unregistered CommenterJay R

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