Is smoking actually good for you? 236



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I’ve been reading the life story of French woman Jeanne Louise Calmut who has the notable distinction of being the oldest person ever to live according to verifiable evidence. She died in 1997, aged 122.

And what a remarkable woman she was – she outlived by several decades her daughter and her grandson – lived on her own until she was 110, took up fencing at 85, rode her bicycle until she was 100, walked regularly until past her 100th, remained mentally alert until her death and ascribed her longevity to a diet rich in olive oil and a regular intake of port wine. She also ate at least one kilogram of chocolate a week.

She always looked, at any age, remarkably youthful and believed that was due to her regularly rubbing olive oil into her skin. She boasted, “I’ve never had but more than one wrinkle, and I’m sitting on it”. I’ve seen snaps of her taken just before her death and, believe me, she didn’t look at day over 105.

But, for me, the most encouraging thing about Louise was that she smoked until she was 117. Maybe she quit because somebody told her she could die at a young age if she didn’t.

Now, I admit that what I am going to write won’t get me the Person of The Year award from the Anti-Cancer Council but, nevertheless….

Smoke and don’t get fat – Dr Jodi Flaws of the University of Maryland (USA) School of Medicine, has said, “In many studies, you often find smokers are slimmer. We’ve certainly seen it in our studies. Some people think it is due to certain chemicals in cigarettes somehow making them burn more calories, but others believe it suppresses appetites. It may well be both”.

Smoke and don’t go mad – many dementias go hand-in-hand with a loss of chemical receptors in the brain that just happen to be stimulated by nicotine. Smoking seems to bolster these receptors and smokers have more of them. According to Dr Roger Bullock, a dementia specialist and Director of the Kingshill Research Centre in Swindon (UK), “It does seem that nicotine has a preventative effect,” he said but added, “But the problem is that the other stuff in the cigarette tends to rot everything else”. What a killjoy.

The March 2007 edition of “Neurology” reported Harvard University (USA) research that smokers were less likely to develop Parkinson’s – the same journal published similar evidence in March 2010 – and both studies showed that the protective effect of smoking wanes after smokers quit. They don’t have a clue why this happens.

Even ASH – the USA-based Action on Smoking and Health – admitted in March, 2013, probably very reluctantly and grudgingly, “Research suggests that smoking might work to ease the negative moods characteristic of both depression and anxiety by increasing the activity of dopamine receptors in the brain. And in many mental disorders, the brain’s ability to filter out excess stimuli is impaired, a trait that is particularly true of schizophrenia. Some studies have shown that nicotine helps people with mental illness focus and process information more coherently”.

Smoke and survive a heart attack – the August 2005 edition of “American Heart Journal” reported that smokers, when compared to non-smokers, had a higher mortality rate and a more favourable response to two kinds of therapy to remove plaque from their arteries. The authors commented, probably in sorrow, “the smokers’ paradox is alive and well”.

In October 2010, the journal “Thrombosis Research” reported smoking helped the heart drug clopidogrel work better – this drug is used to inhibit blood cloths for sufferers of coronary heart disease. This research built on 2009 studies by Harvard University which showed that something in cigarette smoke activated certain proteins which convert this drug into a more active state.

Smoke and avoid painful surgery – In July 2011, the journal “Arthritis and Rheumatism” published University of Adelaide findings that “men who smoked had less risk of undergoing total joint replacement surgery.”.

We are all well used by now to smoking bans everywhere and undoubtedly that makes the majority who don’t smoke very happy.

Smoking rates are undeniably falling – down from 25% of all adults in 1991 to 13.3% in 2013 according to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.

Prisons in Australia are the latest “no smoking” places following an American trend which, in some instances, border on the bizarre. In California and Texas, even death row inmates cannot smoke and even if inmate make a last request for a final fag, it will be refused. Try telling somebody on the way to a lethal injection, the gas chamber or the electric chair that they cannot smoke because it will harm their health and can you guess what their reaction would be?

And dear old Jeanne’s death certificate notes that she died of “natural causes” – no sign of cancer at all!


Do you or have you smoked in the past? Were there any benefits whatsoever? Tell us your thoughts on this controversial habit.

Russell Grenning

Russell Grenning is a Brisbane-based former journalist and retired political adviser who began his career with the ABC in 1968 in Brisbane and subsequently worked on the Brisbane afternoon daily, "The Telegraph" and later as a columnist for "The Courier Mail" and "The Australian". He worked for a string of senior Ministers in the Federal, Victorian and Queensland Governments as well as in senior executive public relations positions, including Assistant Federal Director, Public Relations, for Australia Post, Public Relations Manager for the Queensland Department of Main Roads and Principal Adviser, Corporate Relations, for the Queensland Law Society.

  1. I quit 4 and a half years ago, my immune system has turned on itself because I took away the nicotine it was fighting and now I have rhumitoid arthritis which is part of an auto immune disease with a few other lovely little side effects. Yes, giving up smoking hasn’t been the most joyous thing I’ve done and I’ve put on about 20kgs. Happy days.

    3 REPLY
    • I quit smoking nearly 3 years ago and I have rheumatoid arthritis also and I have put on weight too,but I have been on steroids so I am blaming them for my weight loss!Good luck Kathryn.

    • yes I have put on over 20kgs too and my immune system has been crap since giving up 8 yrs ago, always sick with something or other.. I do have asthma now though and couldn’t smoke if Iwanted to… but it does pose a question doesn’t it… I seemed healthier really when Ismoked, but I daren”t every say that to a non smoker.. they would jump down my throat.

  2. One woman lived to a ripe old age? Hardly highly significant. Makes you thinner? Yep cancer will do that. Immune system “turned on itself”? Not possible. Well done SAS, more of your inane and useless manipulation to get a few hits.

    6 REPLY
    • Kathy Green I am a neuroimmunologist, Hashimoto’s is an auto-immune disorder NOT a ‘turned against itself’ immune system or you would not be able to fight any other bacterial or viral infection.

    • The writer has completely ignored the reality of passive smoking. It isn’t well publicised that if a girl is exposed to smoking at home before the age of 12, her risk of breast cancer as an adult climbs to 50%. That’s far higher than the 1 in 8 risk over a lifetime that has been generally advertised. I was one of those unlucky 1 in 2 statistics, with only a 38% chance of surviving 15 years. I was forced into early retirement due to side effects of treatment. This caused me to miss out on the benefits of compound interest over the last eight years of my superannuation and I receive a partial pension as I was assessed as being under the poverty line. No one thinks of the potential harm to others when they smoke and already there’s a comment here that implies a justification for smoking compared with the effects of alcohol on others. Guess what – more than two drinks a day increases the risk of breast cancer too! The article also omitted the fact that smoking impairs the ability of human tissue to repair itself after surgery. My breast reconstruction surgeon said in a public lecture at RPA Hospital in Sydney that he refuses to operate on smokers unless they’ve given it up at least three weeks before surgery. The 50% risk I quoted earlier also came from another surgeon at RPA Hospital. Both my parents were heavy smokers at home and both died due to their smoking. One had emphysema and the other had bladder cancer. These causes aren’t mentioned as often as lung cancer is. My bottom line is – if you now have this new information, would you give it up, or would you continue to put your young female relatives and family friends at risk of this often deadly disease?

      1 REPLY
      • Gee Robyn I wasn’t aware of those statistics, but both my sister and I were subject to passive smoking (until adults) and we have both been diagnosed with breast cancer. Me in Nov 2013 (60) and my sister in Jan 2014 (59). The chemo has caused havoc with me and I’ve had to retire from my part time job. The ongoing pain with fibromyalgia and shoulder problems is excrutiating. My sister has now found that she has permanent nerve damage in her hands and feet and it’s looking more and more like she wont be going back to work either.

    • @Diane – I don’t regard this as “inane and useless manipulation to get a few hits.”
      As I see it, this is the same as most other posts – simply someone putting their point of view, as we all are here.

  3. Living kills you..I am not smoker but your not going to live forever even if you don’t smoke

    1 REPLY
    • I don’t waste my time judging others, I just live my life and smoking is not only legal but they pay high taxes..I am a non smoker

  4. Started smoking at age 13. Gave up once for 5 weeks & was so ill I forced myself to smoke again. From a family of early deaths & I turn 70 next year with nothing wrong. Go figure!!

  5. My husband quit just over two years ago, he has turned into a grumpy old man with several health issues which he didn’t have before and also piled on twenty kilos. At least he is saving money I guess.

  6. Smokers aren”t a nuisance,but drinkers are.Alchol people usually act like idiots.So a coffee and a smoke,why not.

    6 REPLY
    • Smokers are a nuisance when you are a non smoker and you have no choice but to breathe in their smoke as you are sharing the same public vicinity. Especially with a baby in tow. It’s a disgusting addiction, and I try to avoid smokers, but I still encounter situations where inhaling secondhand smoke is unavoidable. So, yes, it is a nuisance.

    • Its disgusting. The woman below me smokes in her unit it comes up through my bedroom &stinks. Good on her if she wants to smoke but shut yor doors & windows…

    • Yes, smokers are a nuisance, I am so glad smoking is no longer permitted in restaurants and theatres. It would also be nice if the smokers did not drop their butts everywhere.

    • I’m all for No Smoking in public places, in the house , car or near other people.You cannot smoke in most places but you see a amazing number of people out of their mind consuming alcohol acting like idiots all over the place.In the home, on the road, restaurants, and a lot of public places.That is my point .

    • oh poor you you survived for years with smoker all around in cafes pubs, clubs but now they are limiting smoking areas you people seem to have inherited the rude gene

  7. It’s my choice to smoke apparently Australia is a free country. I don’t drink or do drugs maybe if a bigger effect was put into these there wouldn’t be so much crime & violence.

    7 REPLY
    • Its your choice to smoke,your right.I also have a right,not to breath second hand smoke.Example outside shoppingcentre entrances.

    • I am not a smoker but I support your right to use a legal product..I grew up in time where we all went to smoky clubs and pubs, you could smoke on trains and buses ect.. I think I adjusted to the smell back then

    • no comment previous years prior to limiting smoking areas didnt worry these people then now they think they can just say anything I suppose non of these people drink or are fat

  8. Gave up a few years ago and still haven’t stopped craving. If it wasn’t so expensive I’d start again tomorrow

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