I went to the dentist’s today. I’m sick of filling in the initial questionnaire. I don’t mind the health questions, like ‘do you suffer from asthma’ or ‘have you ever had HIV’. It is the smoking and drinking questions which annoy me. They are not ‘health’ questions; they are lifestyle questions. And we know why they are there – to nudge, nudge, wink, wink. But I wonder if anyone actually collates the answers? Are the forms sent off somewhere for the answers to the smoking and drinking questions to be collated?
There used to be only one question, which was about smoking cigs. It asked if you smoke and how many per day. Now, there is another question regarding other tobacco products like cigars and chewing tobacco. The alcohol question is recent. It asks if you drink more than 14 units per week. The form demands that you give your date of birth.
It seems obvious to me that the form has changed from a nudge, nudge, wink, wink vehicle to a full-on information gathering vehicle. Think about it. Every time a person goes to the dentists, he has to fill in that form. The form does not have your full name and address, but has your name and date of birth and the date on which you filled in the form. If the ‘authorities’ were so inclined, and did not bother about costs, I suppose that your name, date of birth and locality would be sufficient to identify you, although I don’t think that that is the purpose.
It seems to me that the forms must be sent off somewhere, and that the answers to the questions are collated. Think about it. There are thousands of dentists, and they all use the same form. I suspect that 9 out of 10 individuals would downplay their smoking and drinking habits because they think that the dentist might punish them – maybe by denying them treatment for this and that ‘smoking related dental condition’ or by inflicting pain while chanting ‘it’s your own fault’. So most people probably lie when filling in that form.
But the clever buggers in Public Health are not bothered by lies on the forms. They are only interested in ‘trends’.
That is a bit weirder than it seems at first sight.
Let us suppose that everyone who fills in such a form automatically downplays his smoking habit. Suppose that he says that he smokes 10 cigs per day when he actually smokes 20 per day. Let us suppose that those are the most average numbers, and that there are comparatively few people who claim to smoke 2 cigs per day when the smoke 3, and that there are very few who claim to smoke 50 per day when they smoke 100. When the figures are collated, the very big ones and the very small ones will be excluded. Only the mainstream average will be included. The ‘two per day’ and the ‘fifty per day’ will be binned. The hoped for trend will be that fewer people will tell lies in the direction of lower levels of smoking cigs. That is, suppose that X number of people say that they smoke 10 cigs per day, even thought they smoke 20, the hoped for trend would be that that number X would become X – y, over time, y being those who write down reduced numbers of cigs smoked, regardless of the the real number of cigs smoked.
Needless to say, such tricks are meaningless. I don’t tell lies to the questions. Do I smoke? Yes. How many? 50 per day. Do I drink more than 14 units per week? Yes. I do not give a shit what ‘the authorities’ do with those numbers. There may be a lot of them, but they are undisciplined. Collating them is a total waste of time and money.
But wasting time and money is a ‘trend’ in Public Health. ‘Prevention is better than cure’ is a mantra which does not stand up to logical analysis, unless the cost of Prevention is less than the cost of cure. How successful have flu jabs been? It is impossible to know, since it is impossible to know how many recipients of the jabs would have got flu had they not had the jabs. It is IMPOSSIBLE to know. Thus, it makes far more sense to find a quick cure for flu than try to inoculate the whole population against flu. I read somewhere that true influenza is rare; that the common cold is very often referred to as ‘flu’. Our Government was conned again. It had to pay for millions of jabs, and then had to pay for them to be destroyed when few people bothered with them. And yet, in the doctors waiting room, they are still demanding that people get flu jabs.
There is a simple understanding, which is that no one wants to get flu, but no one wants flu jabs. It is ‘first preference’ and ‘second preference’ thing. Many people say that they would like to give up smoking, but the continue to smoke. Why? Because smoking is enjoyable Thus, smoking is their first preference. Stopping smoking is their second preference. Thus, those people who say that they regret smoking are fibbing – they did not ‘regret’ smoking at the time. Fibbing is not the right word.
I don’t know quite how to put it.
Suppose that persons A and B were mercenary soldiers. (I met one such person years ago). Suppose that both killed X number of ‘rebels’ or whatever. Suppose that A got seriously wounded but B came through the experience unscathed. Which of the two is more likely to wish that he had not been involved?
Thus, all the figures which ASH has produced about people who wished that they had never started smoking reveal only that those people would have preferred to spend their money on something else, and not that they did not enjoy smoking. When they spent money on smoking, that was their first preference at the time.
We all look back and wish that we had done things differently to some extent. That is human nature. We should be thankful that we have such an ability to be self-critical. What we do not need, and must fight against with all our might, is paragons of virtue using force and persecution to drive us like herds of cattle in the direction dictated by them.
A specific case in point is something that I read here:
In essence, that post says that the Zealots believe that it is better that everyone loses a couple of pounds in weight than that those people who are really obese should shed a lot of weight. That idea is so hilariously stupid that it is hard to believe that almost everyone on the committee involved voted in favour. That shows the invincibility of ‘experts’. The stupidity of the idea that a person who weighs 20 stone losing a ‘couple of pounds’ is comparable to a person who weighs 10 stone and loses a ‘couple of pounds’ is just risible.
But what is contemptible is that the ‘elected representatives’ on that committee voted in favour of ‘whole population’ punishment rather than punishing only fatties. Can you see the trick? If everyone is punished, then that is OK, but it is not permissible to punish only the wrongdoer.
That idea needs to be investigated. Being obese is almost a crime these days. But the criminally obese are not punished especially. Instead, all of us are to be punished by increases of taxation on sugar.
The idea also works in the other direction. Any academic who argues against Global Warming will be punished and ostracised.
But we must always bear in mind that ONLY the people that we elect are actually responsible. It is for THEM to put academics back into their place as teachers and nothing else.