I ran into this image browsing Facebook today. I read it at a glance and agreed; It should be hard for kids to poison themselves with cigarettes. I think that’s something we can all agree on. I don’t practically like children, but, you know, don’t want them to die.
Out of pure curiosity and delved a bit deeper when I noticed a few comments, I thought it would be a bit of a chuckle. I’m a heavy smoker myself, I am well aware of the health risks involved. So I opened the image and noticed a bunch of statistics posted below the image warning people about the dangers of smoking, I’ll list a few off:
- Smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in Australia and the world.
- Over 15,000 people die per year due to smoking related illness.
- 76% of South Australian voters want the legal age to purchase cigarettes raised to 21.
Sounds about right, … Right? Right.
That’s what I thought, Just another anti smoking group spreading the good word. I closed out of Facebook and drove to the shops but still thinking on this post I’d read. When I arrived I stayed in my car lit a cigarette and decided to do some research on these claims.
Turns out all of their statistics were based on data over a decade old and horribly doctored.
The claim of 15,000 deaths per year was actually less then 8000 in 2017. I know, I know, 8000 deaths is still a lot, but its better then the fabricated number of 15,000. The second point was the one I found most interesting. “Stop smoking before it starts” Claimed 76% of South Australian voters wanted the legal age to purchase tobacco raised to 21. If that is what you want, good, I have no issue with people freely believing anything they want.
But, Like Ahab I couldn’t let this ‘whale’ of a lie go unchallenged. I looked up the group who claim to be a privately funded anti-cancer group (link at bottom). Now before I get onto their main website let me finish my thought about my white whale.
Jan 2018 they posted “76% of South Australian voters want the age for purchasing cigarettes raised to 21” just under that revelation there is a button to view polling results. “I wonder why they had to put this button there” I thought, seconds later it hit me.
76% of south Australian voters were actually 1000 odd people from only 3 electorates, who were polled randomly via telephone. I’m not sure you can really make a sweeping “76% of SA voters” claim when you only asked 1000 people out of 1.1 million enrolled voters, for everyone out there who’s not a mathlete that equals 0.001% of South Australian citizens who are registered to vote.
The final point was the camels broken back that pushed me to commenting on their Facebook post like the keyboard warrior I am.
“Tobacco is the single greatest preventable cause of death and disease in the world”
Jesus Christ! This one got me real riled up. I did do some research on this one. Tobacco related illness is not the single greatest preventable cause of death in the world, its not even a distant second or third. According to the world health organization the incredibly preventable disease HIV/AIDS kills around 2.6 million people in developed countries, tobacco that big black monster of a demented killer that it is kills 980 thousand. Actually let me restate that, Lung cancer kills 980 thousand people globally, not tobacco which yes, we all know contributes an enormous portion to that number, but not all of it.
Bonus fact: Guess what else kills more people then lung cancer… Diarrhea at a whopping 1.7 million.
If you’ve managed to hang about this long, good work, I appreciate it. While I still have your attention I do want to get something clear. “I am not pro-tobacco.” Yes, I am a smoker , that’s my choice. I started smoking when I was in high school and I’ve never chosen to give it up long term.
I suppose what all this is getting at is, you shouldn’t have to post lies and pass them of as fact, especially when you’re talking about cancer and those ‘8000’ people a year who die from tobacco in Australia. It’s disrespectful to exaggerate these facts.
I did attempt to engage the group “Stop smoking before it starts” on Facebook within it’s comments to raise all these points but I was actively ignored. I invited them to engage in a meaningful dialog and what do you know, no reply. There were about 25 comments at this point and each has been answered within 5 minutes. Most of the comments were anti tobacco as you would imagine. Funny enough though most of the comments were made by horribly fat people calling on a ban of smoking because its disgusting and unhealthy and none saw the irony of a 130kg bloke with no neck left actively providing a commentary on health, anyway I’m getting side-tracked again.
Each was greeted with a hearty “Welcome to the discussion, thankyou so much blah blah blah wank wank”.
This left me so confused, what discussion? Did I miss the discussion? No. What the Eliminate cancer initiative meant was “Thankyou for agreeing with us and not questing our inflated and doctored figures” I tried a few more times, a few more comments and eagerly awaited a reply. I, at this point was honestly interested in where they sourced their figures. A few hours passed, nothing. I logged into Facebook and checked the image. I was still receiving notification every time anyone commented on it, but, all my comments and questions had been wiped off and I had been blocked from commenting or messaging them further.
OK I’m going to leave this one here at this point.