Sunday, 25 June 2017

Rizla and Napoleon Bonapartes missing lung cancer epidemic

A while back I bought a packet of Rizla cigarette rolling papers and noticed that they were celebrating their 200 year existence.

I thought to myself that given that the modern lung cancer epidemic occurred in France after the second world war (as it did in every other country in the world) it is quite astonishing that any one could believe that something that became popular many generations ago should precipitate a lung cancer epidemic some 150 years and many generations later. So I decided to have a closer examination of the history of Rizla and lung cancer in France.

According to the this website, one inspired Pierre Lacroix thinks of manufacturing cigarette papers as an alternative for pipes in 1532. Yes, that's right, some 418 years before the lung cancer epidemic in France that the anti-smoking industry claims was caused by cigarettes. By 1766 there is sufficient demand in France for cigarette papers that the Lacroix family set up a mill to aid manufacture of the papers. This is 200 years and many generations before the (smoking attributed) lung cancer epidemic in France happened.

In 1796 Napoleon Bonaparte issues the Lacroix family a license to produce rolling papers for the Republic. Clearly hand rolled cigarettes were very popular long before the lung cancer epidemic (shown below) that we are led to believe was caused by them happens.
However, there is a problem because lung cancer is mostly a disease of old age and so if people do not live long enough to have lung cancer then we would not expect there to be much additional lung cancer ( theoretically caused by smoking ). As the chart below shows people did not live as long as we do now.

Prior to the Napoleonic wars people lived between 30 - 39 years of age, some 170 years before the lung cancer epidemic in question. So we would not expect to see a spike in lung cancer in this age group after 1950 because this would mean that it must have been something other than cigarettes that caused it (because people had been smoking for generations before).

The lung cancer epidemic in this age group correlates with the period of atomic weapons testing fallout 1945 - ~1985 and is not flat as we would expect if smoking had been popular in the same age group for generations before hand.

Life expectancy in France between 1800 and 1900 ranges from 40 - 49 years of age , many decades before the lung cancer epidemic in France which we are told was caused by smoking. So let us look at this age group and see if it correlates to weapons testing fallout 1945 - ~1985.

Again we see that the correlation is strong with the nuclear fallout period 1945 - ~1985 and not with smoking cigarettes , a habit that that was so popular in this age group that in 1796 Bonaparte issues a license for the sale and distribution of an important component - the cigarette papers.

From 1900 - 1950 the average life expectancy ranges from 50 - 59 years of age and again we see a lung cancer signature that is identical to the lower age groups in the atomic weapons testing fallout period.

It is also worth noting that cigarette consumption, including hand rolled cigarettes, in France has been very flat over the last 70 odd years, the chart below includes an estimate for hand rolled cigarettes.



It is plausible that the manufactured cigarettes caused the epidemic but as we can see from comparing the former the soviet union and the USA (some 30 billion subject years) this can not possibly be true.

So next time you are rolling a cigarette using Rizla (or any other fine brands of cigarette papers) ask your self this question - Is it more likely that a lung cancer epidemic was caused by something that happens at the time (atomic weapons testing fallout in  rainfall) or by something that became popular centuries before hand (roll your own cigarettes)? And don't forget to tell your friends!

Napoleon may have been responsible for causing wars in France but he was probably not responsible for the lung cancer epidemic. The lung cancer epidemic in France was more likely caused by war - the weapons that ended the second world war and the testing of those weapons in the cold war.

It has been pointed out to me that people , reading this post, could believe that there was no lung cancer prior to 1950. The IARC database that the lung cancer data comes from starts
from 1950. But as can be seen in Sweden for example , lung cancer was slowly rising up until
the atomic weapons fallout period started in 1945 where there is a clear trend break ~1950.

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