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Soldiers smoking is none of anyone else’s business

Yes, smoking is bad for your health, but the new IDF anti-cigarette policy impinges on soldiers' rights

Now the IDF is going to remove cigarettes from 55 army bases to counter what is described as a “serious health risk” both to soldiers and those in their vicinity as well as “harming their operational capabilities”

This is BS, with both letters appropriately capitalized.

Medicine, when it does not cure disease or prevent disease, is quackery.

This is quackery, creating a distraction and an unnecessary nuisance for soldiers who may be caught short somewhere when they’d like a smoke.

To justify this move I’d like the dingbats who produced it, to supply verifiable figures of how many IDF soldiers died while on active duty from smoking cigarettes since the inception of the state? I can think of approximately 10 in my home country of Canada in a jail because a mattress caught fire and they all burnt to death. What have they got?

I’ve been smoking since age 13, heavy since around age 21. That’s 63 years. I don’t recommend it to anyone else, mainly because the prohibitive price today, but if someone is already smoking and is of adult age, I think that’s his choice and none of anyone else’s business. And that goes triple for soldiers serving their country. Smoking is a way to relieve nerves, it produces a social nexus, and is a portable pleasure.

Everyone who hasn’t been living on another planet knows that smoking can damage health but so can a lot of other things. But smoking is something that someone who is bothered by the risks can quit.

What always bothered me about the anti-smoking crusade is that the crusaders trot out all kinds of frightening numbers of victims, as if people are dying right and left, and yet these go entirely against my life experience, relatively speaking.

Back in the ’40s and ’50s when I was growing up, everyone, and I mean almost everyone, smoked. From October to April winter storm windows are put on homes in Canada and there are only slits enabling fresh air to enter. With at least one person, and usually more at various times of the day, smoking, almost every home was filled with smoke all the time. The kitchen stoves were heated with wood and there was usually another one, and in big homes, a furnace, heated by coal. Those wood stoves occasionally contributed to the smoke in the air.

There was no such thing as a home with no one in it. This was normally the woman of the house because someone had to be there all the time to make sure the fire in the stoves didn’t go out or the stoves themselves catch fire. Many of these women smoked so except for a period when everyone went to sleep at night, there was little refreshing of the air.

The way the anti- smoking crusaders describe the effects of smoking and of passive smoke, the entire population of Canada should have dropped dead by 1954 less those few and far between not subject to passive smoke.  And yet life expectancy kept going up, starting for men at 64 in 1920 to 80 today. It took a jump in 1951.

I thought that jump was caused because in the 50s people ate well and in the 30s many people went hungry. But mainly it reflected the drastic lowering of infant mortality.

Canadian statistics show lung cancer to be a big killer with half the deaths linked to cigarette smoking. I’m not sure about that and I’ll tell you why.

If each cigarette is 17 puffs and I smoke 40 during the day that’s 680 breaths. It works out to 3 percent of my total breaths per day estimated at 23,040. That’s next to nothing. And for me it’s only six days of week.

I come from a small city by the sea in eastern Canada and the air is fresh. When I started exploring the big cities in the inland of North America, I was appalled at the crud they are breathing. The farther you get from the coast the worse the quality of air gets. If I had to live in places like that I’d wear a gas mask. You have to grow up with fresh air to feel the difference.

Before I would accept any cause of death as cigarette smoking I would like to know what other crud the deceased was putting into his lungs for much of his life.

When I came out to Israel and was looking for a place to settle, my top priority was fresh air. As long as I am breathing fresh air 97% of the time and not crud, I’ll take my chances on the other 3.

In terms of health dangers there are others far more widespread than smoking and as far as I am concerned, deadlier. One is eating food drenched in grease and salt. That’s just for openers. The other is sitting for 30 minutes straight without then getting up and walking around. The third is not going for a minimum hour’s walk several times a week or at least doing equivalent exercise.

Excess sitting can increase the risk of lung cancer by 54%; uterine cancer by 66%; and colon cancer by 30%. If you want to read a book on this, check out “Get Up! Why Your Chair Is Killing You and What You Can Do About It.” co-authored by James Levine, co-director of the Mayo Clinic.

So tell me, if the anti-smoking crusaders are so concerned to save our soldiers from lung cancer, are they also going to send a task force to every base with a stop watch rousting out from their seats anyone caught sitting 30 minutes straight? That’s a potential 54% chance of inviting lung cancer. The chance of getting lung cancer from a few puffs of a cigarette now and then by men and women in good physical condition are zero unless the air itself that they are breathing is filled with crud.

That’s the difference between quackery and medicine. I’m not against posting signs that smoking is harmful to health but these are adults. They should not be harassed nor their rights diminished especially while doing service to their country. As long as they are not caught sitting for longer than 30 minutes straight, I say, leave them alone.

About the Author
Dov Ivry is from the Maritimes in Canada, born in Nova Scotia, raised in New Brunswick. He worked as a journalist there for 20 years with a one-year stop at the Gazette in Montreal. He's been hanging out in Israel for 36 years, doing this and that, and managed to produce 66 books.