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The Douglass Report January 2004

January 2004 PDF

The latest anti-smoking propaganda could put you in the nuthouse

(Lighting up might keep you out!)

Golly, it’s worse than I thought. We’ve got to DO something about Big Tobacco-now they’re driving us all crazy.

According to Harvard Medical School research, people who suffer from mental illnesses account for nearly half of the smokers in this country. Harvard “research” sounds more like a product of Stalin’s Pavlov Institute rather than a respected medical school, at least when they abandon science for sociology as they have with the smoking issue.

Apparently, from the survey, the scientists estimated that 44.3 percent of the cigarettes smoked in the United States are smoked by the mentally ill. Taken at face value, that’s a pretty loaded statistic: It implies that cigarettes drove them crazy. I know it doesn’t exactly say that, but I also know how the common man thinks–since I am one.

That implication was even stronger in an LA Times article covering the Harvard study. The LA Times reporter, Rose Mestel, says “some studies suggest that certain mental illnesses may be triggered or exacerbated by smoking, again perhaps because of its mood-altering potential. For instance, in an article in the Journal of the American Medical Association scientists reported that adolescents and young people who smoked heavily were more likely to develop anxiety disorders later in life.”

It certainly seems as if Rosie and her anti-smoking cohorts want us to believe that we’re in quite a desperate situation. But what exactly is it they want us to do with this information? Institute the DEATH PENALTY for anyone smoking within 500 yards of a church, hospital, government building, or animal shelter?

No, what they want is for us to quit, and if it means threatening us with going crazy due to our “bad habit,” so be it. But they don’t stop there. They don’t want anyone to have any fun–even the poor souls who already have mental problems. In fact, Rosie suggests “targeted educational efforts to reduce the smoking rates in this group.” I guess they figure it’s never too late to “save yourself.” But what they refuse to admit is that smoking may be helping mentally ill people do just that–save themselves.

Smoking boosts mood and relieves stress

First, let’s talk a little bit about those “targeted educational efforts.” To help us understand why we need another anti-smoking propaganda program, Rosie talked to John Benzhaf, executive director of Action on Smoking and Health, a Washington-based nonprofit advocacy group and a professor of public interest law at George Washington University. Banzhaf explained that “what works on ordinary, mentally healthy adults may not work as well when we’re dealing with adults with mental problems.”

Now, Rosie is just reporting what these “experts” tell her, but do you think there’s any chance that a guy in this position–“executive director of Action on Smoking and Health” (and a lawyer-professor to boot)–is going to be unbiased? Well, John, let me give you my opinion of your opinion: What works on “ordinary, mentally healthy adults” may not work as well on lawyer-professors with an axe to grind. I don’t suppose the Big Brains from Harvard ever considered the idea that maybe they shouldn’t be trying so hard to get these people to quit.

If you read all the research on the issue of smoking and mental disease, you would know that tobacco smoke, in moderate amounts, is clearly of benefit to many mentally disturbed patients. After all, the LA Times article even concedes that the nicotine in cigarettes does have a proven mood-altering effect– one for the better: “Patients smoke to enhance mood. In the case of schizophrenia, the medications that patients must take alter chemicals in their brains, causing a despondency that smoking alleviates.”

The REAL reason the mental health “experts” are so worried about smoking

What I want to know is, if the medication causes despondency, why are they taking it in the first place? And if smoking alleviates the patient’s despondency by “altering chemicals in their brains,” why shouldn’t they smoke? Apparently it is OK for Big Pharma to dose them with tranquilizing drugs but it is not OK for them to smoke tobacco, and feel better while remaining alert.

The REAL problem here is that if these people feel better with a simple cigarette, they’re probably not going to want to dope themselves up with those tranquilizers and anti-depressants –and that makes doctors (not to mention their pals in the pharmaceutical industry) very nervous. I don’t think it’s a big secret that many mental patients don’t like the way their drugs make them feel. Despite this, their doctors insist that they “need” to keep taking them. Why? Well, once they’ve been tranquilized, patients are much easier to handle.

But if smoking makes patients feel better without drugs, then doctors and hospital staff might just lose some of the control they have over these people. And the pharmaceutical fat cats might lose out on a nice big chunk of change from anti-depressant and tranquilizer sales.

And, if you ask me, THAT’S what’s driving the “experts” to get mentally ill patients to quit smoking.

Once again, I have to say that I just don’t think smoking is such a terrible way for the mentally ill to relieve their symptoms. Which do you think is worse, taking dangerous mind-altering drugs or smoking a few stogies a day?

But the LA Times article got in one last dig by suggesting that the tobacco industry may have been aware of the “psychological vulnerability” of part of their market, quoting a 1981 document by R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., which noted that some smokers smoke for “mood enhancement” and “positive stimulation” or because smoking “helps perk you up,” “calm down,” and “cope with stress.”

That sounds like a pretty good herb to me. You can keep your potent pills from the big dope pharm. I’d rather cope with my “psychological vulnerability” with a nice, aromatic, Nicaraguan robusto cigar.

Action to take:

Light up, don’t over do it. Be happy. And stay away from psychiatrists.

References:

“Smoking and mental illness: A population-based prevalence study.” JAMA 2000; 284(20): 2,606-2,610

“Mentally ill twice as likely to be smokers, study finds,” Los Angeles Times, 11/22/00, pg. A.38

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