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Smoking by the numbers

A cigarette is a miracle of engineering. Somehow, more than 600 ingredients are packed into each elegant little stick which, when burnt, produces no less than approximately 7000 chemicals. But before you break into gushing applause, it's worth pointing out that 250 of those chemicals are harmful and at least 60 are carcinogenic.

That's the thing about cigarettes. They're really quite nasty.



Elsewhere in How Not To Accidentally Die, we spend a bit of time looking at 4 prevalent cancers: lung, breast, bowel and skin. None of them are nice, but lung cancer is particularly devilish because there is no routine screening in place in Australia and lumps are hard to spot (unlike on breasts or your skin). By the time you realise something's wrong with your lungs, it's very often game over. The cancer can be so far developed it can't be treated.

Your lifetime risk of getting lung cancer is around 1 in 17. But as we show in our book, that's about as useless a health statistic as it is possible to have because whether or not you smoke makes a massive difference to your likelihood.

If you smoke, your likelihood of lung cancer is a much more probable 1 in 7. If you've never smoked, it's 1 in 250.


Taxation, Restricted Access, & Social Ostracisation.

Our rightly-concerned health authorities have thrown everything at cigarettes in order to make them less appealing. They're incredibly expensive (taxation). They're very hard to get your hands on (they can't be publicly displayed and are hidden away in locked metal cabinets). And even if you do manage to somehow secure one, good luck finding a place to smoke it.


And yet, cigarettes persist. Not only are they an engineering marvel, they're quite a marketing marvel too. Despite concerted attempts over many years that would kill stone dead any other product, cigarettes still command a loyal following among approximately 13% of Aussies.


But here are the numbers for you:

  • Lung cancer kills more people per year than any other cancer.

  • A single cause is responsible for 80% of cases. Cigarette smoke

  • If you manage to dodge lung cancer, you can't breathe easy. Half of smokers will die from a smoking-related illness.

  • All this pain costs around $5000 per year.

And it isn't healthy for people around you either.