Those 400,000 Smoking Victims Live Longer Than The Rest of Us!
By Rosalind B. Marimont
For years the anti-tobacco crusaders, from Drs. Koop and Kessler to President Clinton, have claimed that "cigarette smoking is the greatest cause of preventable or premature deaths, causing 400,000 deaths a year, a number greater than auto accidents, homicide, suicide, and various other causes of death combined."
They have used this statement to brand tobacco public health enemy number 1, and to justify huge amounts of money, time, and attention to the war on smoking, while all but ignoring alcohol and drug abuse.
Incredibly, analysis of the ages of the 400K supposed deaths computed by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) SAMMEC (Smoking Attributable Mortality, Morbidity and Economic Costs) program shows that tobacco is not a major health threat at all - the supposed victims did not die early!
- THE SMOKING "VICTIMS" LIVED LONGER THAN THE REST OF US, BY ABOUT 2 YEARS - 71.9 vs. 70.
- OVER 70,000, or about 17%, DIED "PREMATURELY" AT AGES GREATER THAN 85.
- ONLY 1900, OR FEWER THAN O.5 % OF THE SMOKING "VICTIMS" DIED AT AGES LESS THAN 35, WHILE 143.000, OR 8% OF THE REST OF US DIED AT AGES LESS THAN 35
If so many of the smoking victims are old, and so few young, and if, on the average, they live longer than the rest of us, how are their deaths "premature"? According to the technical definition used by SAMMEC, any "smoking related" death is considered premature. There is no upper age limit to the computation.
These astonishing numbers, which totally demolish the main argument of the anti-smoking movement, are the result of my analysis of the SAMMEC age distribution computations for the years 1990-1994, provided, at my request, by the Office of Smoking and Health (OSH) of the CDC. For comparison with other deaths, I used 1992 mortality statistics of the National Center for Health Statistics.
On the other hand, the deaths slighted in the 400K statements are premature. For example, the average ages at death of motor accident victims was 39, of suicides 45, and of homicide victims 32, compared to 70 for the general population. These non-smoking deaths total about 98000, of which about 50% are under 35, and are largely alcohol and drug related.
The SAMMEC methodology has been criticized by many epidemiologists, statisticians, and all purpose general applied mathematicians like me on technical grounds, which are usually not comprehensible to non-specialists. But these age numbers are easy to understand - How is tobacco the number one killer, when its "victims" live longer than the rest of us?
Rosalind B. Marimont