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Tobacco Impact Scale

Grade all disasters by comparing with tobacco impact on society
  (+5, -1)
(+5, -1)
  [vote for,

Quantify the number of tobacco-related deaths and illnesses as well as their financial impacts, load on health care systems and other infrastructure, etc. Work the figures out annually world wide and also break it down by country or region, as some are impacted more than others. Divide by appropriate number (365, 52, 12) if you need to work out daily, weekly or monthly time-dependent impacts.

Then, when any disaster occurs causing significant loss of life or property, compare it the tobacco impact scale. If the number of lives or dollars lost to any event ... a disease, a dam collapse, a hurricane season, a war, etc... is less than what’s caused by smoking in a similar length of time, just shrug it off.

kdf, May 21 2020


       Thought this might be an idea to compare damages done as a result of being hit by falling boxes of different types and quantities of tobacco products. [bone not mine - I seldom bone any idea]
xenzag, May 21 2020

       The first downvote (was) my own - I often do that on my sarcastic grumpy ideas. I changed it to neutral a moment ago.
kdf, May 21 2020

       We vote for it - we like sarcastic, grumpy ideas.
8th of 7, May 21 2020

       Trouble is, this as a general concept is well used. You smoke the equivalent of three elephants weight of tobacco over the course of your lifetime; this shortens your life by the same percentage as a mayfly which lives at 50m higher altitude. The distance you have to run to offset the negative health benefits is the length of 20 olympic sized swimming pools. If you swam the same distance then you would get as much extra benefit as if you gave up smoking for three months - that's the same amount of time it would take the mayfly to fly the same length (assuming it was an immortal mayfly) etc.
pocmloc, May 21 2020

       What if it's the elephant that flies the length of 20 Olympic-sized swimming pools ?
8th of 7, May 21 2020

       8th, I knew you would.   

       Poc, yes, people make these kinds of comparisons often to warn people off of smoking. But my suggestion of an aggregated scale here is to assess* how individuals and societies respond to fast or slow moving disasters.   

       * "assess" ... or to call out bullshit and virtue signalling
kdf, May 21 2020

       Yes, and in general its good to quantify risks so that people can have a sense of the relative likelyhood of death from riding in a car, sleeping on a bed, or eating a pop tart.
pocmloc, May 21 2020

       Love the idea of risk comparison, whether it be to tobacco, car accidents, opioid overdoses.   

       Perspective is a casualty of this disaster and it's being used by the power brokers to their advantage.
doctorremulac3, May 21 2020

       Impact scales for the following slow moving disasters:
Road traffic offences
Pod people
Purdue Pharma
American sitcoms, post Cheers
Illegal drugs (aggregated or individual)
Harold Shipman
calum, May 21 2020

       With only a little over 300,000 deaths so far Covid barely compares.
whatrock, May 21 2020

       Well of course it doesn't compare, you have to introduce a second thing to compare it to.
pocmloc, May 21 2020

       "With 300,000 deaths so far Covid barely compares"
Sure it does, and we can use this to refine the Tobacco Impact Scale, show how to apply it locally as well as globally.

       We're about 6 months into this pandemic, with a sharp rise in mortality in past couple of months, though it may be tapering off. Don't know if there will be another wave or if it will disappear completely. But let's take a SWAG and figure potentially 500,000 annual deaths.   

       That's 1/16 the annual/global estimated death toll of 8,000,000 from tobacco. By that measure, an exobiologist watching from off-planet might say it's only 1/16 as bad. Though they might make allowance for the fact that 7/8 of tobacco deaths are self-inflicted, only 1,000,000 or so are due to second-hand smoke. So Covid is "only" killing half as many people planet-wide as tobacco kills non-smokers. Significant, though your opinion might vary if you're an earthling rather than that notional exobiologist.   

       But on a local level? Averaged out for an entire year in the USA tobacco accounts for some 1300 DAILY deaths, fewer than 200 of those are presumed to be from second- hand smoke. Compared to more excess deaths than that in the USA every day for the past month of the pandemic. In some locales, FAR more deaths.   

       So at this time, for people living in hot spots like NYC and Detroit ... Covid is a MUCH bigger problem than tobacco.
kdf, May 21 2020

       So if the self-inflicted tobacco mortality rate is standardized, say as T, then subsequent comparisons can be written as .8T for 80% as deadly as tobacco or .8T$ for 80% as costly as tobacco, etc.
whatrock, May 21 2020

       Whatrock, I like the idea of separate scales for finance and health impacts. But I'm not sure how to factor mortality impacts for tobacco users vs non-users. The former put themselves in harm's way so maybe they shouldn't count (volenti non fit iniuria). By excluding smokers, a million deaths a year is 1T rather than 0.125T.
kdf, May 21 2020

       As an aside, I'm writing this as a non-smoker. I hope nobody tries to apply a similar calculus to coffee.
kdf, May 21 2020

       Some problems:   

       What about the difference between self-inflicted harm and harm to others?
What about counterfactual deaths? For example, what if someone smoked a calming cigarette instead of getting into a fight in which someone died? What if someone died because the national health budget no longer had the benefit of taxes on tobacco?
What about multi-factorial deaths? E.g., someone gets drunk and commits a sectarian murder by running someone over. Will you put that death against alcohol, sectarianism or road traffic offences? One particular difficulty in this area is that a large and increasing number of bad behaviours are being defined as psychiatric conditions in the DSM. How much credence will you lend to these medicalisations in themselves, and to any particular aetiological model put forward for them? For example, if a smoker is found to have an addictive personality, do you put down their death to tobacco, or to whatever cause is attributed to Addictive Personality Syndrome, or whatever it might be called?
pertinax, May 22 2020

       What if you looked at aggregate numbers instead of “what-iffing” every imaginable outlier?
kdf, May 22 2020

       That's easy: then you would misunderstand the causal relationships and make bad decisions with unintended consequences. Why do you ask?
pertinax, May 22 2020

       What if you spent all your time looking at relative risks and rewards, so that you became inactive, fat, short-sighted, socially isolated and with no other real-world skills? You should make sure to give "comparing relative risks and rewards" its own relative risk score.
pocmloc, May 22 2020

       //what if someone smoked a calming cigarette instead of getting into a fight//   

       I got to know many people through smoking. As far as I'm concerned bars died when the indoor smoking ban happened and a whole chunk of social life got eradicated from the planet. Maybe thats linked to the rise in numbers of sanctimonious idiots ?
bigsleep, May 22 2020

       //As an aside, I'm writing this as a non-smoker. I hope nobody tries to apply a similar calculus to coffee.//   

       Coffee has been really, REALLY looked at as a possible cause of all sorts of things. For this kind of thing you can get pretty good data. Unlike most drugs, people tend not to lie as much when asked about consumption. We have sales figures. There are countries that drink a lot vs countries that drink very little. Plenty of people who don't drink any at all. There's decaffeinated drinkers and lots of other granulatiry in a MASSIVE global user population.   

       Noone can make caffeine/coffee extracts do anything in the standard carcinogen tests. There is a bit of a correlation between coffee consumption and some cancers: but the biggest consumers are a: food/drink service types & b: scientists. There's a bigger difference between those two than between high and low consumers. So it looks like lifestye.   

       Interestingly, there is a real protective effect of coffee/caffeine in some GI pathologies. Bowell cancer negatively correlates. I spent some of my PhD looking at why people who drink a lot of coffee tend to do a lot better when they get acute pancreatitis. So far, caffeine is one of the only things that you can get protective effects in mouse models of pancreatitis in post treatment (as opposed to having the drug in the mouse before you induce pancreatitis). The mechanism still isn't clear.
bs0u0155, May 22 2020

       Mmm, the smell of coffee candles in the morning.
wjt, May 24 2020


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