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What are your thoughts?

It has been proven that a smoker who quits smoking can reduce their risk of cardiovascular disease to almost that of someone who has never smoked.

4 Answers 4

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You have two propositions, in both case what you are doing is extrapolate findings about an object (an american smoker, the american society) to another (the same but australian), with the assumption that they are similar enough in nature that the extrapolation is valid.

In the case of individual smokers it's quite trivial:

Premise 1: It has been demonstrated that american smokers' health can improve from their quiting

Premise 2: Australian smokers have a biology similar enough to americans that medical findings can be extrapolated (the hidden premise)

conclusion: Australian smokers' health can improve from their quiting

Premise 2 is, as far as I know, held to be true by health professionals. For exemple drug testing prior to commercialization is not required to be separately done in each country.

The other proposition is based on the arguably more dubious premise that US and australian societies are similar enough to benefit from the same policy.

Smoking is somewhat a bad example because there is no doubt any society would benefit from a sizeable part of their member quitting from poisoning themselves and the people around them. But it's certain that the numbers you provide would not be the same. Australia would certainly save much less than $211 billions due to its population being much smaller. It could be a similar part of its GDP, or not. One would have to do the study again in Australia to be sure.

A recent, better exemple of medical policies that could not be transposed as is between countries are the policies against Covid: the compliance with mask mandates, isolation and vaccination policies, the acceptance of constraining regulations widely varied from country to country, and I would be very cautious about any argument of the type "this policy worked in China or Japan, it would certainly work in the US".

Admittedly, the problem is more psychological/cultural than strictly medical. We could compare it with a policy aimed at having people quit smoking: would a prohibition bill work? (Prohibiting alcohol had disastrous results in the US but works in Iran), would a communication campaign cost more than it saves in medical expenses, etc...

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  • If smokers die early it saves the health system money. Old people's health care is expensive. If all you care about is saving money, you should kill everyone the day they turn 50. It's simply false that getting people to stop smoking saves the health care system money. It's the opposite.
    – user4894
    Sep 22 at 2:37
  • @user4894 I would advise that you address this comment to the OP, who produces the argument,not me. But please come with ammunition, because the OP does have studies to back his proposition, while all you have is very misguided back of the envelope estimates. People are productive long after they reach 50 or even retirement, particularly in developed countries where the investment in their education is usually significant. You'd waste a lot by killing them at 50. A society's wealth is not reducible to money. People with lung cancer tend to be significantly less productive than healthy people.
    – armand
    Sep 22 at 3:35
  • I actually did make this comment to the OP but then deleted it, since OP is a student and my remark's not helpful to their learning. People over 50 are very expensive to the health care system. Valuing productivity is not one of the assumptions or objectives of the argument, only minimizing health care costs. I'll certainly agree that my remark is entirely off topic, but I don't think I'm wrong.
    – user4894
    Sep 22 at 6:36
  • I found this: I found this. ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1361028 "The distribution of health care costs is strongly age dependent, a phenomenon that takes on increasing relevance as the baby boom generation ages. After the first year of life, health care costs are lowest for children, rise slowly throughout adult life, and increase exponentially after age 50 ..."
    – user4894
    Sep 22 at 6:37
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    @user4894 it's complete nonsense... If your only objective is to minimize health care cost, just kill everybody and it will be zero, problem solved? And sure, people over 50 cost more in healthcare than younger people, but that does not mean they can't produce more than they cost... Maybe, take 2 seconds to think about what you are saying?
    – armand
    Sep 22 at 8:55
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There is an immediate impact of smoking on persons nearby (e.g., family members, colleagues), who become passive smokers - they inhale the smoke, which increases the risk of them contracting a cardiovascular disease or cancer (cancer is not mentioned, but it is a serious risk when smoking, particularly in combination with alcohol). This seems as a more direct link than invoking the impact on the society as a whole (the impact on the society is a consequence of the direct impact on the persons nearby.)

Another point: strictly speaking, reducing a risk does not directly translates into beneficial. The risk here is understood as incidence of a medical condition in the population - this is not the same risk that is encountered by a specific person (i.e., the likelihood that this person becomes sick). Some people may be predisposed to cardiovascular diseases or cancer for genetic reasons or other factors in the environment, with the effect of smoking being negligible. Others may remain healthy despite leading very unhealthy way of life (e.g., smoking.)

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  • It's not what the op is asking. The question is about not the findings, but the validity of extrapolating conclusions drawn in the US to other countries.
    – armand
    Sep 22 at 8:49
  • @armand I suppose these are the suppressed premises that they didn't think of when writing the question. Sep 22 at 8:58
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'Surge in productivity.' From smokers no longer having extra breaks, a moment to take deep breaths (linked to many of the subjective psychological benefits of smoking), and a short window of socialising with other smokers. A suppressed premise is those things have no value - even though they are likely major motivations for smoking.

That a long life, living long into retirement, is good for individuals and society. Most of the world does not have euthanasia, so the only way to 'opt out' of old age for most people, is through voluntary health impairment. In an ageing society, more and more older people rely on fewer young people, to make the returns their pensions depend on - in Japan where this is impacting earliest, this has put a major burden on the younger generation.

There's also individual liberty to smoke, and whether you consider constraint of that a detriment or problematic.

It's interesting to compare nicotine values, with their less overt health impacts. When and when not do people have the choice what substances to take? And as with gambling legislation, when and when shouldn't people be trusted to make their own decisions?

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  • People can take break and socialize without smoking, afaik.
    – armand
    Sep 22 at 11:58
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    @armand technically yes practically how often do you think bosses like that? Are regular chat breaks on fresh air a thing?
    – haxor789
    Sep 22 at 12:58
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    @armand I used to hang out with the smokers on their break at work, even though I didn't smoke. That was the best way to keep up on the office gossip. Non-smokers don't congregate outside the building several times a day.
    – user4894
    Sep 22 at 19:23
  • @haxor789 i do have regular coffee breaks on my place of work, with plenty of gossips (well, I did before work from home became so prominent, but smokers would have the same problem). Also a boss who allows smokers break but not equivalent non smoking break would clearly be doing favoritism and could be easily talked out of this position (particularly nowadays, where smokers are a minority). In some countries workers actually have rights and a spine and do take breaks on a regular basis. It's kind of sad to imply people have to poison themselves to get a breath...
    – armand
    Sep 22 at 23:11
  • @armand: I've worked jobs where only smokers got breaks. Lunch breaks are mandatory, rest breaks are not, like the hourly 5m breaks many smokers used to take.
    – CriglCragl
    Sep 23 at 10:22
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"Every Australian smoker who quits does good both to themselves and to the Australian society as a whole"

So yes that is the combination of "Every Australian smoker does good to themselves by quitting" AND "Every Australian smoker does good to the Australian society as a whole by quitting".

So in order for that to be true each of the constituent statements needs to be true. And yes you can also tackle the even stronger statements that "Every (not just Australian) smoker who quits does good both to themselves and to every (not just the Australian) society as a whole"

In that case you'd add the premise that Australian is a subset of human/human societies and that everything that applies to humans/human societies does also apply to Australians as well (or at least the relevant parts for this statement).

Now in terms of benefits for the quitter. You'd have to define what that means. So what are the benefits, are they long term or short term, are they statistical or immediate and are you only interested in the benefits or the net of benefits and drawbacks. Every smoker technically means that it applies to each and every one, so an overwhelming majority would technically not suffice if there's just one counter example, so if you're planning to use averages you might want to make that explicit to avoid that pitfall. So for example statistical rates might effects some but not all, while other effects idk less toxins in the body would be universal. Then there might be a combination of initial drawbacks (like withdrawal symptoms) and "phony benefits" (like idk a google search yielded that smokers need less knee replacements because their decreased stamina means they are less likely to be runners and active in sports where you accumulate damage to your knees...) which are only benefits if you take a very narrow look and are overall irrelevant compared to the benefits from quitting but allow for the construction of edge cases.

So the hidden premises would be that average improvements are improvements to the individual and that benefits are more or less net benefits as well as that only health effects of smoking matter so no side effects.

In terms of society that calculation is also a lot more complicated. Obviously you're taking a drug that has immediate and long term negative health effects on the user, so not doing that has immediate benefits to the user. And if it prevents death, increases health and capabilities and doesn't put an unnecessary strain on the health care system freeing resources for other things that is a net benefit for society. And this would apply to any society. So both to the Australian and the American, though using the American society to test that at an example is more induction than deduction or an insufficient prove for deduction.

Though again in that regard you have long term and short term benefits. Like drug trafficking is a huge business and apparently in China, tobacco makes up 7-10% of the government revenue (not sure how reliable that source is, but tobacco companies routinely generate billions of revenue). So other people smoking can be a net benefit to the drug dealers. Now long term and computed for an entire society the costs probably outweigh the income by a long shot, but you could construct an edge case for a particularly exporting society where it is a net benefit. Also the revenue is short term while the recovery likely takes time to come into effect.

And then there could be a whole hose of other societal factors that one might not have even thought of as relevant. Which can be positive or negative.

So again the premise would be that it positively effects the health of the population and that this is a benefit.

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