The threat of smoking, as employed by the anti-smoking industry, is that of “premature death”. As discussed above, there is evidence that lung cancer sufferers do die modestly sooner than the general population of the UK, but “premature” in this case is measured in months rather than years. We have also pointed out that “smoking-related illnesses” tend to be illnesses of old age.
The question does, therefore, arise of what exactly constitutes a “premature death”. And surprisingly, there is no strict definition. “Premature” requires some sense of “appropriate” and that will differ between us all. It also takes no account of “quality” of life, only of “quantum”. My maternal grandmother smoked her first cigarette at the age of six (according to family legend) and was chased all around Tooting Broadway by “the policeman” for doing so. She died a week before her 89th birthday smoking to the end albeit that others had to light the cigarettes for her by that point. She may have lived longer had she not smoked, and so her death would be classed as both “smoking-related” and “premature” despite the fact that her life expectancy at birth would have been considerably less than the age she achieved. My father died of stomach cancer at the age of 70. His death felt premature at the time, and still does. He drank rarely after his 21st birthday and certainly never to excess to my knowledge. He never smoked. He did, however, live longer than the life expectancy at birth of man born in 1935.
Do we all want to live longer? Perhaps. Do we all want to live longer but have those sunset years beset by the ailments of old age resulting in years of lost independence? Perhaps not. There is, as we will discuss further below, an apparently avid pursuit of longevity in “Public Health” and longevity without consideration of any (subjective) quality measure. The concept of a “premature” death should be seen in this light.