Bohemian Tangents

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Archive for April 2012

Lung Cancer for Profit

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A lot of people have quit smoking, but as I walk past businesses in the strip malls of my small town, I notice how many people still smoke. The majority I witness are less than average income folks. Smoking is undoubtedly a powerful addiction and somehow the pleasure from this habit compensates for knowing that it will likely shorten one’s life. 

The facts on lung cancer seem to be drowned on all the hype on progress for other cancers. Lung cancer is, for the most part, with rare exceptions, a death sentence. The 5 year survival rate is 15% after diagnosis. The 10 year survival rate is 5%.

It is hard to find current statistics for 2012 on the average cost of treating lung cancer. From what I’ve seen, it could range from $100,000 to $300,000. Lung, bronchial and tracheal cancers are the most costly, accounting for $180 billion of the world tally.

“Up to three quarters of  lung cancer cases could be avoided if people did not smoke, said the article in the journal Science Translational Medicine.”

We have a highly preventable illness whose diagnosis means an 85% chance of death within 5 years. On one side we weigh the pleasures of smoking along with the profits of treating the consequences of this smoking, which amount to $180 billion. On the other side, we weigh the pleasures of life without cigarettes and not getting lung cancer while reducing the profit-potential for the cancer industry. 

The issue of personal freedom seems to trump the issue of personal health. “Ya gotta die of something” is a typical rationalization of the smokers I have spoken to in my local area. During a lean period, when I was working as a telemarketer working to get money for homeless veterans, about 95% of my co-workers would smoke during our breaks. As a non-smoker, I felt like pariah and would socialize with some of smoker friends, position myself upwind, do strategic breathing, etc. to minimize my second-hand smoke. This experience drove home to me the social-class aspect of smoking. I don’t want to use a disparaging label about any particular class of people, but can’t help but observe the frequency of smoking within lower income people, of which I am one. The communal aspect of smoking along with the neurochemical addictive aspect seem to outweigh all other considerations, even that of the grim lung cancer reaper.

This issue is maybe to obvious and will elicit a “duh” response. But in the midst of a health care crisis, dealing with the smoking issue seems to be a no-brainer.




Written by joethebohemian

April 4, 2012 at 2:58 pm

Posted in Uncategorized