In case you missed the title, let me repeat. The fucking cigarettes are fucking radioactive.
This is not some kind of weird, sci-fi, brain-eating-aliens-are-infiltrating-our-economy nut jobbery. There is a measurable amount of polonium 210 in every cigarette sold in the U.S. (except for maybe American Spirit). There is also a measurable amount of lead 210, although I hear it’s not quite as deadly as polonium.
How much polonium is in tobacco? In 1968, the American Tobacco Company began a secret research effort to find out. Using precision analytic techniques, the researchers found that smokers inhale an average of about .04 picocuries of polonium 210 per cigarette. The company also found, no doubt to its dismay, that the filters being considered to help trap the isotope were not terribly effective.
Since I’ve been trying to quit, this is just about what I needed. I like my lungs. And, while I know there’s radiation everywhere (probably including the corn we’re all stuffing down our gullets like foie gras geese) I don’t want to ingest something if I know how much radioactive material it contains. Call me crazy. Wait, not yet.
Why in God’s holy name did they not tell us this during all the half-assed “quit smoking” seminars everyone under the age of dead has received in the last 40 years? Especially us 20-somethings. We’ve all played Fallout, we’ve seen the nasty pictures of Chernobyl, and we’ve heard that taking radiation for cancer just buys you time until the leukemia from it sets in.
We all know how bad ingesting radioactive isotypes is. So why the fuck didn’t they tell us?
Here’s the crazy part: They [read: tobacco companies, doctors, lawyers and those in the government] don’t want us to know.
An intelligent person can do a whole lot of hand-waving about the risks of cigarettes. “Some people get cancer because some people have an otherwise compromised yada yada yada.” A certain portion of the population will always smoke if the best they can come up with is “your chances of getting lung cancer go up.”
As long as the majority of people hate smoking and the minority of people keep smoking, the above named they can continue to charge exorbitant prices to the minority with the full blessing of the majority. Huzzah!
But…You can’t hand-wave microwaving your lungs. There’s a pretty clear connection between “radioactive exposure” and “cancer.” If people actually knew the fucking cigarettes are radioactive, then most smokers would quit. In fact, we might try to make it illegal to sell tobacco, or, at least, use those fertilizers.
There’s why that last crazy rant stopped being so crazy. They know how to stop it, but they don’t, because it makes them more money. And considering how quick our government is to tax us to fund new anti-smoking programs, it seems likely they’re just keeping quiet about it. And the doctors and lawyers and pharmaceutical companies are making a killing off smokers dying from radiation-induced cancer.
In 1975, Philip Morris scientists wondered whether the secret to tobacco growers’ longevity in the Caucasus might be that farmers there avoided phosphate fertilizers. [NYTimes]
Some of the world’s biggest tobacco firms researched ways to remove the substance—to no avail—over a 40-year period but never published the results. [Wikipedia]
Stop using radioactive fertilizer to grow the smokes. I know, I know. It’s an unorthodox conclusion. But maybe – just maybe – if they stopped growing the smokes in a radioactive fertilizer, they wouldn’t need to worry about removing the isotopes from the leaves.