Puffing Her Butts to Eternity

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

It has finally happened: a centenarian has credited cigarette smoking with her longevity in a media report.

Batuli Lamichhane says she's been puffing butts for the past 95 years, and she has an unusual technique to get her nicotine fix.

Instead of holding a cigarette with her index and middle finger, Lamichhane uses her entire right fist, which she then holds to her mouth to inhale.
Or maybe it's her way of "puffing butts" that did it. You never know with today's sloppy reporting.

What a breath of fresh air! It seems that every single time I have ever read about the venerable, there is something about what they credit for their great age. And if that something is in line with a behavior or attitude that our betters -- who went to journalism school -- want us to adopt, you'll never hear the end of it.

Smoking cigarettes -- at least those made of tobacco -- is definitely not on that short list of alleged virtues, as we are admonished by the first line of the piece: "A Nepalese woman has defied science by living to the ripe old age of 112 -- despite her 30-cigarette-a-day habit." It's as if the reader is going to dump everything he knows about smoking upon hearing about one lucky crackpot who treats that filthy habit like it's a bodily function.

To be fair, any sane person would say, "despite" here, but when I consider how much propaganda-disguised-as-news I've seen over the years, such an attitude would make sense. Someone who has spent years thinking of himself as a sort of guardian of the people will -- especially if he sees them as easy to manipulate -- perhaps forget that many of us have minds of our own.

Nothing will change about this kind of reporting unless our general culture changes, so expect the next vegan centenarian to be held up as a shining beacon to the Fountain of Youth. But perhaps, one day, we shall enjoy reports on what the venerable allege to have kept them alive for so long, that respectfully assume that the reader is capable of independent thought. Many of us -- dare I say most? -- are fully capable of deciding for ourselves whether a given centenarian is still making sense, or ever did.

-- CAV


Today: Corrected a typo. 


Anonymous said...

Hi Gus,

Mark Twain had this to say about a woman finding herself in exactly the opposite situation. She was young, dying, and, as Twain points out, in a particularly precarious position regarding her collection of useful vices.

She had run down and down and down, and had at last reached a point where medicines no longer had any helpful effect upon her. I said I knew I could put her upon her feet in a week. It brightened her up, it filled her with hope, and she said she would do everything I told her to do. So I said she must stop swearing and drinking, and smoking and eating for four days, and then she would be all right again.

And it would have happened just so, I know it; but she said she could not stop swearing, and smoking and drinking, because she had never done those things. So there it was. She had neglected her habits, and hadn’t any. Now that they would have come good, there were none in stock. She had nothing to fall back on. She was a sinking vessel, with no freight in her to throw overboard and lighten ship withal.

Why, even one or two little bad habits could have saved her, but she was just a moral pauper. When she could have acquired them she was dissuaded by her parents, who were ignorant people though reared in the best society, and it was too late to begin now. It seemed such a pity; but there was no help for it. These things ought to be attended to while a person is young; otherwise, when age and disease come, there is nothing effectual to fight them with.

c andrew

Gus Van Horn said...

Hah! Thanks for relaying that. It's too bad Twain isn't around to comment on this story and backstory.

Anonymous said...

Despite all the correlation; science still cannot prove smoking causes cancer. If they could, they could tell you that if you smoked 37,291 cigarettes (or whatever number), you would get cancer. And, if you smoked those and didn't get cancer, you would disprove their theory. Just basic scientific method at work.

Gus Van Horn said...


Your reasoning is flawed because cancer is multifactorial and biological systems are, in many cases, too complex to be able to achieve the kind of proof you're speaking of for smoking.

As a counterexample, consider the fact that the Russian mystic, Rasputin, survived an attempt to assassinate him with cyanide. Does this "disprove" that cyanide is poisonous to humans? No. It means there was something about Rasputin himself or the method of delivery (in pastries, I think) that interfered with the way cyanide poisons.

I am no expert in how smoking can cause cancer, but given this woman's great age, I can easily imagine her having some beneficial genetic mutation or combination of genes or other habits that are warding it off. But not necessarily: Cancer often requires an unfortunate combination of breakdowns in cellular machinery just to start, so it's not a certainty that exposure to a carcinogen will lead to the disease.

In my layman's opinion, I think the case has been made that smoking greatly increases your odds of getting cancer. Nobody is saying that X cigarettes WILL cause cancer for a given individual, much less any random one.