What Smoking Has in Common with Faith

Even a single cigarette could be deadly. I often hear this opinion.

I will remind the tragic story of 18-year-old Archduchess Mathilde of Austria. She had learned to smoke from Sissi (Empress Elisabeth, 1837-1898). One day Mathilde set her dress on fire when she tried to hide a cigarette from her father, and suffered severe burns. She died in agony about two weeks later.

Matylda Austriacka

Archduchess Mathilde (1849-1867)

Image source: Wikimedia Commons. Link.

Of course, it was a horrible accident. However, when you are addicted to smoking, it will probably kill you. And when you start smoking, you will probably get addicted to it.

It would be very naive and dangerous to deny these well-known facts. For me, they are not the matter of discussion. Nonetheless, I intend to write down some remarks on chosen anty-smoking propaganda techniques. I`m going to present only my opinion on this complicated issue.

Due to smoking’s negative health consequences, society has come to view all patterns of tobacco use as unhealthy, whether one is a regular smoker, just an occasional puffer, or a dipper.

This is the moment when propaganda appears on the scene – skillfully masked as a reasonable approach -, playing with emotions, especially with fear.

Today, the conventional wisdom amongst the anti-smoking movement is that contact with any amount of tobacco smoke is damaging to human health. The problem is that this conclusion is rather a matter of faith. It`s a seriously worrying situation when an article of faith is called a result of scientific research – even if the intentions of persons claiming it are good and noble. The belief of many people in the idea of “no safe level of exposure” is so strong that even religious feelings often fade in comparison to it. Many people engaged in the anti-smoking campaign are determined not to leave any single “open gate” for smokers, any single opportunity for them to seek excuses for smoking, that`s the reason.

Nevertheless, at present it would be extremely difficult to prove without doubt that smoking a few cigarettes or one cigar over the course of one’s entire life resulted in lung cancer or in any other deadly illness. Of course, it might be true.

„The dose makes a poison”, as once a famous physician Paracelsus (1493-1541) stated. As a chemist, I wonder how a substance can exist (or, in this case, the mixture of substances) that is toxic in any concentration. Tobacco smoke probably contains about 100 000 substances, but most of them are in hardly detectable concentrations (people are pretty rarely told that). I’ve never heard of a substance that is always harmful regardless of its concentration. Of course, the safe level of exposure to some chemical compounds is very low, but it still exists. Why, then, should tobacco smoke be an unique, horrible exception? Is Nicotiana tabacum (the latin name for the cultivated tobacco) a devil`s plant of some kind?

It is not suprising that Poland also has not been immune from the spread of the anti-smoking propaganda. Some persons here managed to convince other people that the risks are pretty much the same no matter how heavily or lightly a person smokes. People are told that every single cigarette takes 5 to 7 minutes off of their life, and that smokers run a 10-20 times increased risk of lung cancer. Of course, it often goes unmentioned that such a level of risk only applies to those who have smoked heavily for decades. How many minutes takes off for example every single hour of car driving, when the traffic-related death rate would be taken into account? Such calculations are just pointless. Smokers are told that they have black lungs filled with tar. Why then smokers` lungs are used for transplants? And other parts of their bodies as well? Smokers are minority in the society now, so it does not happen because of the inevitable necessity. Of course, the number of donors is limited, but the main reason for performing those surgical procedures is that smokers` organs are also considered well suitable for transplants when they are healthy. If that`s the case with “firsthand” smoke, could it be true that secondhand smoke has so devastating effects on others as it`s often being depicted by the mass media? Could it be justified to depict smokers almost as murderers? Is it reasonable to frighten people even with thirdhand smoke?

As the result of anti-smoking’s propaganda, some people even have believed that there’s truth in such ridiculous claims like: “secondhand smoke is even more harmful than direct smoking”, or that “filtered cigarettes are as dangerous as unfiltered”, and “light cigarettes are more dangerous than full-flavored cigarettes”.

Now, the part of the anti-smoking movement is also trying to exclude the smoking minority in Poland from the public debate about tobacco use. They claim that smokers are simply so ill and addicted – just like heroinists – that they are unable to properly assess their own condition, or express their own needs. Therefore, there shouldn`t be any discussion with smokers, but only treatment. Some of the anti-smoking activists are convinced that such an attitude is morally acceptable because it will serve to achieve their ultimate goal – to make tobacco use and trade illegal.

Smokers have gradually become the pariah of the modern world. Many people already consider them as stinky, untouchable, miserable, suicidal, and almost homicidal creatures. It turned out to be the result of this ongoing propaganda. And this is really perilous situation, when the large part of the society is able to label a group of people living in this society in such manner – depict them as enemies, and at the same time deprive them of the right to defend themselves. Who then would be next?

Smoking is so dangerous itself that reliable information about health risks associated with it will be just enough.

17 thoughts on “What Smoking Has in Common with Faith

  1. I wish you well in your fight in Poland. The antismoking advocates are very well-funded, very powerful, and very, VERY skilled in their propaganda. No matter what they might say at any stage of the game to the contrary, remember that any concession that is made to them will simply, immediately, be used as a basis for another attack. They will not be content until smoking is wiped out of every workplace, including bars and bordellos, inside and out. They will not be content until it is a crime to smoke in your car, in your apartment, or even in your private home if it attaches to another home or if you have a “child” under 21 years old.

    To see some of the tricks that they use and the ways that they lie I recommend reading “The Lies Behind The Smoking Bans.” It’s a free downloadable, printable booklet meant to be printed out for quick reading in the dim light of bars that are under attack by the Antismokers. It is clearly one-sided, but it is honest and well-referenced and it is designed to make smokers and their friends and families angry about how they’ve been lied to.

    See: http://bit.ly/SmokingBanLies and feel free to share it as widely as you can.

    – MJM

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Maybe smoking is our, human, instinct attachment to fire. The fire fascination was important for our ancestors to help them survive cold, hunger, wild animals attack. Maybe one small cigarette is like someone’s little own fire. I think so, but I don’t smoke.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Beata, Ayn Rand was very much a supporter of that imagery.


      “I like to think of fire held in a man’s hand. Fire, a dangerous force, tamed at his fingertips. I often wonder about the hours when a man sits alone, watching the smoke of a cigarette, thinking. I wonder what great things have come from such hours. When a man thinks, there is a spot of fire alive in his mind–and it is proper that he should have the burning point of a cigarette as his one expression.”

      ― Ayn Rand


      – MJM


  3. Michael, Beata, thank you very much for yours comments.

    I do not intent to engage myself in this battle, I`ve just written what I think, that`s all.

    A paradoxical consequence of the anti-smoking propaganda is that reliable information about health risks in regard to tobacco use are really hard to find, for it has been so veiled in many layers of half-truths.

    For me, one of the most astonishing fact about the whole smoking issue is that the Catholic Church – which in the past easily condemned a lof of activities as a sin (for example reading many of Descartes` works, who considered himself a devout catholic) – never oficially prohibited smoking.
    Pius X (1903-1914) occasionally smoked cigars, and John XXIII (1958-1963) smoked cigarettes. They both have been announced saints by the Church, and – for me – they probably were the most humble and noble men to ever sit on the papal throne. Of course, “The Holy See” also belonged to some terrible persons, power-loving, full of greed, and even with blood on their hands (for example, Stephen VI (died 897), the organizer of the infamous “Cadaver Synod”).
    In the new Catechism of the Catholic Church (issued in 1997) was clearly stated that:
    “2290 The virtue of temperance disposes us to avoid every kind of excess: the abuse of food, alcohol,tobacco, or medicine.”
    Nothing more was declared.
    On the contratry, recreational use of drugs was described there as “a grave offense”, therefore a mortal sin.

    Pius IX (1846-1878) funded even a tobacco workshop in Rome. The inscription engraved on the facade read:
    (Pius IX, The Supreme Pontiff, built this factory for the processing of nicotine leaves from the ground up in the year 1863):


  4. The heroes of that horrible event: popes Stephen and Formosus (the second one in a rather unusual way, at least) :

    Michael, in the past I seriously considered becoming a priest.


  5. Marcin, I am glad that finally the Polish people do have questions, although I do think that some of the anti-smokers’ propaganda got to you as it did to me prior to the dictation of the smoking ban.
    We had many years of constant anti-smoker drizzle raining down on us, too.

    Smokers are told that they have black lungs filled with tar. Why then smokers` lungs are used for transplants? And other parts of their bodies as well

    This is something you can annoy the anti-smokers with endlessly. Add to it blood donation and they scream!!
    The English public was subjected to an anti-smoking advertisement (a little video) on TV in which we were told that smokers had “dirty” blood. The result was a decrease in blood donation.
    The same (donors destroying their donation cards) happened when smokers were blamed for failed lung transplants from smokers. Omitted was that EVERY organ donation has a high risk of failing and that recipients will have to take immunosuppressants for the rest of their lives which in turn increases the risk of microbial infections becoming deadly.

    Having a Polish relative, I do know that the e-cigarette market is booming in Poland. The anti-smokers want to destroy the e-cigarette, too. Because vaping looks like smoking.

    I do have a lot of questions. I always had. In order to find the truth we must find the answers to our questions.


  6. Michael 🙂
    I think sometimes that cigarettes are now supposed only to be bought, not smoked.

    E-cigarettes are more popular in Poland than in the neighbouring countries. Beobrigitte, you are right, these devices rise a lot of suspicion here, because they are similar to regular cigarettes.

    This is really sad and unfair situation when one tries to think and talk differently about smoking than it`s now generally accepted, and he or she is immediately accused of advertising smoking or of being paid by the big tobacco.

    Taking about nasty stories, did you know how tobacco smokers were treated in Ethiopia in the 19th century? Emperor Yohannes IV (1872-1889) ordered to cut their mouth corners.


    • Marcin, have you seen how they’re treated TODAY?



      We haven’t quite caught up with ISIS yet, though the Antismokers are working on it. We have however had pregnant women shot for smoking, teens strangled to death because they shared cigarettes with other teens, housemates stabbed because they insisted on their right to smoke out on a balcony, etc.

      See http://bit.ly/Wall-Of-Hate for a poster I hang at my book signings. Magnify it a bit for comfortable reading. It’s just a small selection of what I’ve saved from the Internet over the years.

      – MJM


      • Michael, thanks for these links, I`ve already known the second one text.
        In Poland the number of smokers is relatively high (26% of the adult population in 2013), so extreme enmity toward smokers (in practice) have been rare here, but I`m afraid that this situation is about to change.
        At present, only a self-condemnating, even self-humiliating manner of speaking about smoking is generally allowed to smokers, and tolerated.
        Almost all kinds of anti-smoking propaganda one is able to think out, are being socially accepted. The goal of it became more important than truth, and that`s really dangerous, because almost unlimited power in regard to anti-tobacco actions has been granted by the society to a certain group of persons. And people usually not easily give up their power, as we all well know from the history.

        Below are two well-known Polish propaganda posters by Andrzej Pągowski (created in 1994 and 2007, respectively).
        The Ministry of Health and Care Services has been listed on the first of them as one of the sponsors of the anti-smoking campaign:

        Translation: “Cigarettes are for a*les”.

        “I smoke so I stink”.


  7. I don`t wish to consider the passive smoking controversion here. I just can`t help sharing it:

    Talking more seriously: one usually omitted issue is worth considering: lungs of smokers are said to be darker than those of non-smokers. Are they therefore supposed also to be heavier – because of additional layers of mucus and substances contained in tar? Has anybody studied this problem (while autopsies have been performed)? I would be very grateful for information.

    I will ask one more question: is anybody here, who knows or known a very light smoker (consuming up to 3 cigatettes per day) who suffered from lung cancer?
    I do not mean here lifelong nonsmokers developing this kind of carcinoma.

    If yes than describe the case, please.

    As far as I know, the first detailed study on the issue of very light smoking was published only in 2005 by K. Bjartveit and A. Tverdal (Tob Control 2005;14:315-320).


    Kjell Bjartveit acted as a key person in Norwegian anti-smoking movement:


    Therefore, I don`t know how reliable were the results presented by him in the mentioned paper.
    Many people actually smoke more than they declare to pollsters, so I ask about particular cases.


  8. Erm could I check where did you get your information that Empress Elisabeth smoked? I don’t really see it mentioned anywhere but it’s possible it was hushed up (and probably would be hushed up if it really happened). Thanks in advance!

    Liked by 1 person

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