↑ comment by satt ·
2014-03-28T00:57:34.432Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
There is a lot of moralizing around smoking and I suspect those numbers are inflated. [...] People give answers that they think others want to hear: that's not the same as reflective equilibrium.
Although I expect that plays a role, I believe the effect is small.
Even in 1978, when anti-smoking campaigns were far less intense than in the 1990s & onwards, most smokers in a Gallup poll agreed that "[a]ll things considered" they'd like to give up smoking, and while there was more agreement in later surveys the increase was gradual (66% in 1978 vs. 74% in 2014).
Unfortunately the data for the other attitude-related questions don't reach back as far, although it looks to me like the proportion of smokers answering yes to "Do you consider yourself addicted to cigarettes or not?" has been broadly constant since that time series began in 1990, though the 1990 data point does happen to have the highest proportion answering "No" (graph available further down the page at the previous link). Meanwhile, the proportion answering "No" to "If you had to do it over again, would you start smoking or not?" has grown at only a sedate pace (83% in 1991, 88% in 2013).
A reference in an anti-smoking journal article by Robert Proctor points the way to some older data from "A Study of Cigarette Smokers' Habits and Attitudes in 1970", a market research survey of "a representative nationwide cross section" of adults, prepared by Roper Research Associates for Philip Morris. In that sample, 23% of smokers said they "have no intention of quitting", whereas 72% responded that they'd either "like to stop smoking" but doubted they would, or that "[i]n all likelihood [they]'ll quit smoking before too long". Another table shows that when asked about enjoyment, most smokers either claimed to smoke "from habit" (50%), or felt there was "[n]othing good about smoking" (16%); only 32% chose the "[e]njoy smoking" option.
Even at that relatively early date, a fair chunk of the people in the survey had already made efforts to quit. 36% of the respondents smoked, but "22% reported they had smoked in the past, but had quit". Among the current smokers, "well over half (59%) [...] said they had at some time tried to quit smoking and given it up for as long as a week. And further, 40% have tried to quit two or more times". About four fifths of both the ex-smokers and those who quit temporarily had decided to quit on their own, rather than at the urging of doctors or family.
Summing up, there are quantitative differences between how smokers report feeling about smoking now, and how smokers reported feeling decades ago. But even in the 1970s it appears that most smokers (at least in the US, where we have data) said they'd like to quit, or indeed had tried to quit at some time or another. That this was the case even before much of the recent campaigning against smoking (as well as the fact that most smokers in the Roper survey who'd tried to quit allege doing so on their own initiative) weighs against the idea that smokers, in response to contemporary "moralizing", are misrepresenting their beliefs to a major degree.
Also, the fact that people are interested in quitting doesn't have anything to do with whether or not it is pleasurable.
I'd be surprised if this were so. While pleasure isn't the only factor affecting people's thoughts on quitting, it's surely one of them; in a counterfactual universe where nobody derived any pleasure from cigarettes at all I'd expect there to be an even bigger percentage of smokers who're seriously thinking about quitting, and attempting to quit.
It's very pleasurable, which is why people start and continue. They often want to stop because they know that it causes cancer. But they still derive pleasure from it.
Some do, at least.
So up to 90% of smokers know some of the less well-publicized health risks? The numbers for lung cancer and emphysema must approach 100%.
94%-95% for lung cancer, but the paper doesn't have numbers for emphysema, unfortunately.
Don't cherry pick your evidence.
It's a cherry pick in the same way that responding to "Odd numbers are prime" with "what about 9?" is a cherry pick. While the number 9 is, in that scenario, cherry-picked in some narrow technical sense, calling it out as cherry picking is a noncentral fallacy: exhibiting one counterexample of many isn't what people generally mean by cherry picking. Likewise, if I reply to "smokers know the negative implications for their health" with "how about strokes (or heart disease, or impotence)?", I wouldn't say that's cherry picking; it's exhibiting a counterexample (or three). That the vast majority of First World smokers nowadays understand they're risking lung cancer isn't sufficient to show that smokers have a good idea of the hazards of smoking, because lung cancer is just one cause (and a minority cause!) of smoking-induced mortality.
And come to think of it, I didn't even probe the level of understanding of smokers outside developed nations. The situation is very likely even worse there...so one could accuse me, with more justice, of cherry picking the evidence most favourable to smoking.
As to the rest of your comment: I'm not claiming cigarettes are a boon to humanity. The question was what ways of making a profit cause the largest loss of utility and I was objecting to an answer that failed to consider the actual value created by an industry.
Yes, and that objection was a legitimate one, which is why I'm bothering to address it by furnishing evidence about the relative size of the other side of the ledger.
Replies from: None
↑ comment by [deleted] ·
2014-03-30T08:46:19.030Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
It's a cherry pick in the same way that responding to "Odd numbers are prime" with "what about 9?" is a cherry pick.
“Odd numbers are prime” would normally be interpreted to mean that all odd numbers are prime, with no exception. Conversely, “ducks lay eggs” would not be normally interpreted to mean that all ducks, including males, lay eggs. Which one does “smokers know the health effects of smoking” resemble more?
Replies from: satt
↑ comment by satt ·
2014-04-02T02:38:36.122Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
"Odd numbers are prime" IMO, although there's room for disagreement there.
Most people would automatically read "ducks lay eggs" as referring to a strict subset of ducks, but I don't think "smokers know the health effects of smoking" would automatically be read as referring to only a strict subset of smokers.
It's true that "smokers know the health effects of smoking" wouldn't be interpreted as rigidly as the mathematical statement "Odd numbers are prime", but I doubt it'd be interpreted as loosely as "almost all smokers know the most famous health effect of smoking, and most of them know some of the less famous ones" either.
(There's at least one way to interpret "smokers know the health effects of smoking" a bit less literally than I did: if smokers knew the total health risk they ran by smoking, one could reasonably assert that smokers were fully informed for the purpose of deciding to smoke, even if they couldn't name every individual health effect, or every effect's individual magnitude.)