Wednesday, 2 March 2011


Anti-tobacco activists used to tell us that the tobacco companies marketed their product as a glamorous activity for the cool, the fearless and the popular. We believed them because the tobacco ads unequivocally confirmed it. They later changed that to smoking being predominantly practiced by poor and uneducated people. Statistically speaking, this is a defendable argument, so again we didn't find any reason to disagree. But it now appears that women no longer fit the latter paradigm. In fact, tobacco control is now accusing the tobacco industry of targeting ‘’empowered women’’ because this group of women allegedly has a higher smoking prevalence.

The study from the University of Waterloo, Ontario that you can read about in an article here, describes ‘’empowered’’ women as more politically involved and wealthier.

How reasonable is it to blame the tobacco industry for the ‘’empowered’’ women’s higher smoking rates, we ask. Should we believe tobacco control when they infer that these women are gullible and uninformed enough to be influenced by the tobacco industry? 

Notwithstanding that being politically active and having a higher social status both involve increased stress and tobacco could therefore be used by these women in an effort to cope with the pressure, there seems to be an even more compelling reason that can explain the higher smoking prevalence in this particular group of women. 

We refer you to a Danish article written by Niels Ipsen, environmental biologist and Klaus Kjellerup, researcher, who after examining the available scientific literature, have confirmed what everyone knew at one time but had mostly forgotten because it was buried under the incoherent cacophony of the anti-tobacco industry for far too long: Tobacco enhances the brain functions
Indeed, this article to which an English translation is forthcoming, is supported by sound science and analysis, that the human brain performs 10 – 30% better when it is under the influence of nicotine and especially through cigarettes, the most direct and rapid delivery method of getting it to the brain. It maintains concentration levels up to several hours longer than a nicotine abstinent individual, it helps focus, it enhances the brain’s alertness and increases its speed of reaction as well as the working memory, and all in all it rightly deserves the title of the ‘’working drug’’.

Which brings us to the following question relevant to the Waterloo study: Do women smoke more because they have been empowered, or is it nicotine that has assisted them in becoming empowered?  
The scientific conclusions are indisputable that men or women who use tobacco, reach higher levels of performance than those who don't.  Did the researchers at Waterloo examine that angle before blaming the tobacco industry and going off on another expensive ''good'' vs. evil crusade?  That was a purely rhetorical question of course! 

As for the writers of the article, they conclude with this stimulating thought:

‘’ Everything has a price, and the advantage of achieving health benefits in the war against smoking may very well be matched by paying a high price in the economy in terms of loss of innovation and economic growth.

The question is, in other words, whether the so-called smoke free society is an economic growth-free society? And if so, can the irritation of smoke in the workplace be solved in other ways?'' 

The article will be posted in this blog once its English translation is completed. In the meantime you can read the Danish original at Forskere er sikre: Tobak øger arbejdsevnen
or read a shorter English version at Smoking Boosts Brain Power

No comments: