In science when a theory sounds plausible but the data to test it are absent, the rule is “Think about what the world would look like if the theory were true, and then look at the world.”
The answer to the question is yes, switching to organic tobacco cigarettes could probably save a lot of Veterans’ lives that would otherwise be lost to suicide. The reason is profoundly simple. Organic tobacco cigarettes have no pesticide contamination, and every other commercial brand is heavily contaminated, and the evidence connecting pesticide exposure and suicide is pretty straightforward. When you consider that exposure through smoking means inhaling pesticides 100-200 times a day or more, this unique situation and the opportunity to correct it has been totally missed.
In this post I want to share both published science and some new hard data that, taken together, connect the dots between smoking, suicide, and pesticide exposure in a new way, and that also point to a simple non-pharmaceutical way for Veterans who smoke to free themselves, with minimal assistance needed, from life-threatening ideas, painful physical and emotional symptoms, and irresistible impulses.
With so many lives at risk, let’s not make the easy common assumption that cigarette smoke and tobacco smoke are the same thing and that science already knows everything there is to know about cigarette smoke.
Instead let’s ask what it is that science may not know about cigarette smoke that compels so many smokers to seek death. The answer is that science completely ignores the presence of pesticides in cigarettes -there have been precisely zero published studies anywhere since the 1970s – and it turns out that pesticides do a whole lot more than just kill ‘pests’.
In this post I’ll link you to a sizable body of published research connecting pesticide exposure with suicide, but first please check out this previously unrecognized hard data on pesticides in cigarettes – data that connects the dots between smoking and Veteran suicide in a new way.
First here are some of the cigarette and little cigar results from lab tests I commissioned by a highly qualified lab in Portland, Oregon while doing background research for my book “Smoke No Evil“.
Then these data are from the first journal-published research on pesticide residues in commercial cigarette brands since a single small two-brand study on Cyprus in 1984. There have literally been no other published studies like this since the mid-1970s. (You can click the image to access this study online.)
So let’s connect a few of the dots between smoking, pesticides, and suicidal thoughts and behavior.
Dot 1. We know that cigarette smoking and suicide are strongly associated.
Cigarette smoking and risk of completed suicide: a meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies
Conclusions: Our meta-analysis robustly demonstrates that cigarette smoking is associated with an increased risk of completed suicide, consistent with a dose-response relationship.
Dot 2. We know that young veterans commit suicide at higher rates than any other age group.
Suicide Among Veterans: Veterans’ Issues in Focus
“In 2018, the suicide rate among veterans 18–34 years old was 45.9 per 100,000—higher than in any other age group in either population and almost three times higher than for nonveterans in the same age bracket (16.5 per 100,000). This equated to 874 suicide deaths among veterans ages 18–34 (796 men and 78 women) in 2018.”
Dot 3. We know that young veterans smoke cigarettes at higher rates than any other age group.
Tobacco Product Use Among Military Veterans — United States, 2010–2015
“Within subgroups of veterans, current use of any of the assessed tobacco products was higher among persons aged 18–25 years (56.8%), Hispanics (34.0%), persons with less than a high school diploma (37.9%), those with annual family income <$20,000 (44.3%), living in poverty (53.7%), reporting serious psychological distress (48.2%), and with no health insurance (60.1%).”
Dot 4. We know that chronic pesticide exposure increases depression, suicidal ideation, and suicide rates.
Dot 5. We know that the US military is mandated by 32 CFR Part 85 to research and modify the impact of smoking on the health and readiness of military personnel. However, the presence and nature of the pesticide exposure created by smoking tobacco products, or any appreciation of the preventable nature of that exposure, appears to be completely lacking in the Military Health System. Reducing the impact of inhaled pesticides on smokers could show measurable results in terms of physical, mental and emotional health metrics that would be detectable very quickly across the military forces.
A LITTLE MORE DISCUSSION
We know that exposure to pesticide chemicals by various routes has serious consequences, frequently unrelated to dose, on our mental, emotional health and physical health. Pesticide chemicals are everywhere in our environment, and chronic low-level pesticide exposure is closely linked by science and medicine to higher rates of depression, anxiety, and suicide, along with a long list of physical and mental diseases. The close association between exposure to organochlorines and organophosphates and mental health is also well-established, and now the neurological consequences of exposure to neonicotinoids are becoming apparent.
But because the inhalation of pesticides is seen as a relatively rare event, only occurring through accidental or occupational exposure, there aren’t a lot of studies on chronic pesticide inhalation and mental health. Cigarette smoking is literally never mentioned as a route of pesticide exposure. None of the pesticides being used legally and illegally on Tobacco or Cannabis have ever been tested for their health effects through chronic, low-level inhalation, and pesticide exposure through smoking remains a completely unexamined field of study in 2023.
Not surprisingly, I have also not been able to find a single comparative study of the health consequences of smoking pesticide-free “organic” compared with commercial, pesticide-contaminated Cannabis and Tobacco. The market supply of both legal and illegal Cannabis, and of all commercial tobacco, is widely contaminated with all classes of pesticides. Smoking either Tobacco or Cannabis means chronic multiple pesticide exposure by inhalation, and the entire scientific community has ignored this reality. There are no evidence-based standards for pesticide exposure by inhalation, and while there are studies and standards in abundance for every other kind of exposure for every pesticide, there are none at all for contaminated Cannabis and Tobacco.
The EPA and FDA don’t study exposure by inhalation and they specifically reject studying pesticides on tobacco products.
“EPA does not assess the additional risk of either intermediate- or long- term exposure to pesticide residues in smoke because of the severity and quantity of health effects associated with the use of tobacco products themselves”.
“In addition, the agency does not include short-, intermediate-, or long- term exposure to residues on tobacco in its assessments of total exposures to the pesticides. Officials and experts with whom we spoke generally agreed that pesticide residues on tobacco could incrementally increase health risks, though some also said the known harm from using tobacco products dwarfs any potential effect from exposure to pesticide residues in the smoke.” (2003 Report To Congress)
Check out their reasoning – they don’t bother because smoking Tobacco products is so dangerous already, but because of the corrupt “Kentucky Reference Cigarette” program, Tobacco that is uncontaminated with pesticides has never been tested. Not once. Every smoking and health research study that I’ve looked at, which means thousands of them worldwide, has used “Kentucky Reference” cigarettes, and the University of Kentucky program admits that they source from regular commercial tobacco streams and warehouses and have never tested their “Research Standard” cigarettes for pesticide residues. So unknown types and concentrations of pesticide residues have contaminated all smoking and health test results in completely unrecognized but highly impactful ways, but the results satisfy the propaganda line so well who wants to look further?
There are plenty of studies worldwide on the health consequences of eating and drinking contaminated food and liquids, and of dermal exposure, but none at all on chronic inhalation, because the almost universal assumption is that pesticide exposures are relatively rare events anyway and exposure by inhalation is simply not considered.
After all, the scientific community must reason if they think about it at all, how would anyone ever be exposed to inhaling pesticides a hundred time a day? I guess everybody just missed tobacco products. Otherwise, what could explain the total absence of such studies?
However, the fact is that pesticides have been leaving biologically active residues in tobacco products since they were first developed in the mid-twentieth century beginning with DDT. This has been a well-kept and apparently deliberately obscured secret since the mid-1970s, yet as you can see in the data, although banned worldwide for decades, DDT is still present in heavy amounts in some tobacco products today and that’s because some Tobacco Cartel companies are still using it on their crops.
Now Let’s Discuss Gulf War Syndrome
The cocktail of pesticides in popular brands of cigarettes that Veterans are inhaling today were also in the cigarettes that Gulf War Vets who smoked were inhaling after being injected with Pyridostigmine to “protect them’ from nerve gas. Pesticides, nerve gas, and Meth are functional chemical equivalents. Veterans who were exposed to pesticides following Pyridostigmine injections show high rates of GWS, yet the pesticides in their cigarettes were apparently never once considered.
Every one of the pesticides you see in the cigarette and little cigar data in this post is specifically designed to attack and destroy living neurological and hormonal networks. Those are the precise processes that underlie the mental, physical and behavioral degeneration that occurs in pesticide-exposed people.
Inhaled pesticides have the physiological and neurological impact of Meth on the body’s nerves and organs – minus the brain-stimulated high.
Pesticides and pharmaceuticals are formulated very similarly using the same chemical substrates and are made by the same small group of giant manufacturers (think Bayer), so of course all this would have been known by many people.
Setting aside the other implications of that information for a moment, it actually points to a simple self-management solution for Veterans who are hard-core smokers and who are experiencing suicidal thinking, perhaps along with other substance abuse. If any significant part of that thinking is being caused by their daily inhalation of the pesticides you see here, then as you can also see they don’t have to quit smoking to quit inhaling the pesticides. A significant advantage of this approach is that it does not require the smoker to stop smoking as part of their initiative to free themselves from pesticide exposure and the accompanying mental health issues.
These are data again from those private 2018 tests I had conducted by a qualified lab from randomly sampled tobacco products. While these tests preceded the Saudi tests above by several years, they lack the credibility of an official source, which has been a long time coming. Nevertheless, as you can see, there is considerable overlap between the brands tested, and the concentrations are remarkably similar. This is what Veterans who smoke, and of course all other smokers including teens, are inhaling maybe 100s of times a day. Given what is known about exposure and suicide – what do you think may be happening here? (The pesticides in red are exclusive to Swisher Sweets, and are very likely to be representative of the “Little Cigar” class of tobacco products.)
There are plenty of veterans who are already seeking treatment for depression and suicidal ideation and perhaps drug addiction. A simple project to raise awareness could select one or more groups who would volunteer to receive an orientation session and then switch to smoking only pesticide-free cigarettes, which might even be provided at no charge for three months if this were a funded demo. The demonstration could use commercially-available USDA-Certified organic tobacco cigarettes, which as you can see in the data above, independent testing for my 2019 book “Smoke No Evil” confirmed were free of pesticides. If any of the smokers are also Cannabis smokers then the project would provide and the smokers would agree to use only organic Cannabis.
I believe that it’s a slam dunk prediction that in a matter of weeks the pesticide-free smokers will show a clinically significant reduction in suicidal ideation and associated depressive symptoms. If they are also in treatment for drug use, especially stimulants, I’m betting that removing this unrecognized source of neurotoxins will make a noticeable difference.
If any of this turns out to be the case, then the association between inhaling pesticides and suicidal thoughts and behavior, as well as depression, addiction, and aggression would suggest a simple intervention that many Veterans could self-manage once given the awareness. The intervention – switch to smoking only pesticide-free cigarettes – and cannabis as well, by the way. The same concerns around inhaled pesticides from tobacco products apply equally to contaminated cannabis. The problem with the institutional failure to address the reality of inhaled Cannabis pesticides is the same as with tobacco – the consequences of smoking are attributed to the substance and not to the pesticides being inhaled along with the substance, even though the health consequences attributed to smoking either substance line up perfectly with the known consequences of chronic exposure to pesticides.
Perhaps the greatest advantage of this approach would be that participants will not have to quit smoking or change their smoking behavior in any way except to switch to a 100% tobacco cigarette, or to seek out pesticide-free cannabis. A corollary advantage is that smoking without pesticides removes the bulk of addictive compounds and smokers of organic tobacco universally report smoking much less and feeling more in control, including quitting more easily if they choose to.
That’s it. That’s the whole proposal. If it works as I believe it will, then it will be a matter of sharing the news through Veterans networks, which are generally reliable community voices.
Now if you care to, here’s a deeper look at how pesticides in tobacco products may be affecting population-wide mental health.
To round out this discussion:
Pesticides are not only impacting Veteran suicides – by my reckoning they are very likely implicated in Gulf War Syndrome. The Tobacco Cartel and the US government have had all these facts for years and have acted together to conceal them from Veterans fighting this savage enemy within – Gulf War Syndrome.
We know that many linkages between multiple pesticide exposures, the use of pyridostigmine bromide, and development of Gulf War Syndrome were established long ago.
What none of those trying to help GWS victims, nor the Veterans nor their families know, because there has not been a single published study on the topic since the 1970s, is that all cigarette smokers are inhaling multiple classes of pesticides, with heavy smokers inhaling many hundreds of times a day.
I believe that multiple US government agencies have conspired with the Tobacco Cartel to suppress research on pesticide contaminants in tobacco products and to mislead and misdirect vast amounts of smoking and health research with their “Kentucky Reference Cigarette” con game.
Those who forced military personnel to use pyridostigmine and who knew of the risks of interaction with pesticides also either knew or by virtue of their command authority ought to have known of the chronic exposure to pesticides representing exceptional risks for smokers – a high percentage of the troops given PB.
“Approximately 31% of active military personnel are active smokers, which is 11% higher than in the general U.S. population, and cigarette use approaches 35% in personnel with high combat exposure. Smoking in active duty personnel is clearly linked to decreased combat readiness and diminished general health.8, 11, 243
“TBI and post-traumatic stress disorders (PTSD) are prevalent conditions in active duty personnel serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, and increasing evidence suggests these conditions increase the risk for AD.244
“Smoking is a highly comorbid condition in both TBI128, PTSD,201 and other anxiety disorders;260 consequently, it is imperative to consider the potential mediating or moderating effect of smoking status on the association between TBI, PTSD and risk for AD in future case-controlled or cohort studies.
“The smoking-related neurobiological and neurocognitive abnormalities observed in non-clinical cohorts of late adolescents through middle-aged adults are highly relevant for the US Armed Services, given the majority of active duty personnel are between the ages of 18 and 50.
“Additionally, the neurobiological and/or neurocognitive sequelae associated with both mild TBI and hazardous alcohol consumption appears to be exacerbated by smoking, and diminished recovery from these conditions is associated with smoking.
“These findings are of critical import for active duty personnel engaged in combat operations because of their significantly increased risk for mild TBI and hazardous levels of alcohol consumption. The Department of Defense (DoD) clearly recognizes the adverse effects of smoking on the well-being of active duty personnel,9 and has promoted the “Quit Tobacco. Make Everyone Proud” public-education campaign.
“Also, the Code of Federal Regulations, Title 32, Part 85, specifically outlines DoD policies to prevent smoking and encourage cessation, which dictates that each armed service develop its own health-promotion plans.8
“However, the efficacy of such programs and policies have been questioned, and, unfortunately, there currently appears to be many logistical and political issues that obstruct the enactment of more stringent tobacco control in the US Armed Services.8, 10–12, 243