Three Points. Please try and follow the argument through points A, B and the all important C.


Question: Throughout history, when a war breaks out, which age group is the one that overwhelmingly rushes to enlist at the earliest possible moment?

Answer: It is always the very youngest age group. Indeed, for years we have been seeing the survivors from WW2 recount their memories on TV whilst pointing out how they lied about their age in order to get into the forces.
In order to understand why this happens we need to look at a troop ship that sailed from Southampton docks in early 1941. While it was waiting to sail there were 5,000 army recruits lined up to board the ship. Each one was asked two questions only.
The first question was, “How old are you?”
The average age was 18.2 years. However, as so many will have said they were older to join up the real average would have been much younger.
The second and most important question was, “Do you think you will be injured or even killed?
Every single young man gave the same answer which was a version of, “Killed? Not me, don’t be silly, I can look after myself. I’m not stupid. I don’t know about him or him but not me. I just hope the others manage to survive”.
We now know the troop ship arrived safely at its secret destination and that all 5,000 young recruits went to fight at a very difficult time.

Very sadly, at the end of the war, figures show that only 436 (including wounded) of those 5,000 men had survived. Let’s take a moment to consider this.
5,000 young men started out feeling supremely confident in their own ability to escape harm. So much so they considered themselves virtually indestructible. Yet 4,564 of them were not indestructible. In fact they were killed, probably due to the fact they could not hear the bullet, bomb or cannon shell that wiped them out. Tragically it didn’t matter how clever they were. The only thing that counted was whether they were lucky enough to be amongst the tiny minority of very fortunate survivors. It’s a bit like a lottery with extremely few winners.
However, the point here is: The optimism and taste for adventure of young people is amazing. They simply seem to think they cannot come to any harm.


I have a very good friend (Mike) from my school days in Penzance. He started out life as a technician at Hinkley Point Nuclear Power Station (Somerset) and gradually worked his way up to management. During the early days of his career I was shocked at what he told me.
He said that routinely they would have to put on radiation proof suits and enter the reactor area to carry out maintenance. However, before getting to this stage each of them underwent hours of training, all of which stressed the need to put on this lead-lined, radiation proof clothing. Yet time and again, if a manager was not present, the newest and very youngest recruits would often skip this laborious “getting suited up” stage and walk straight into the reactor area. From inside they would speak over the intercom making fun of Mike and his older colleagues saying such things as, “Look, it’s absolutely fine. Why are you all bothering to waste so much time?”
It seemed that no amount of persuading could change the minds of the very young who, just like the army recruits above, truly believed, “Nothing could possibly happen to me”.
The trouble is that, when exposed to a dose of radiation, a person does not feel a thing at that moment. It is the slow, deadly after effects that will cause huge problems to a person’s health.


Numbers and Smoking

We all know that (just like radiation) smoking will kill you but, (again like radiation) as you don’t drop down dead immediately, the danger factor seems to make it a “cool” thing for some young people to do. The risk part makes it exciting, particularly for those who want to try and prove how tough they are. The pressure to join in that is put on sensible kids by their “friends” is huge.
So the problem becomes one of, “How to explain the risk if it was immediate and not slow to kill in order to make it more real?
Well, it turns out this has already been done.
Scientists know two things:

1.) 30 million packets of cigarettes are sold each day.
2.) Every day 1,600 people die after a long and horrible illness due to smoking.

From these two facts they can work out the following level of risk:
Try and imagine a world where smoking is entirely safe except that one cigarette in every 18,250 packs looks and feels exactly like the real thing but in fact is made of a high explosive. Nobody can ever tell the difference. The moment you put a flame to it your head will be blown apart. Now we can say that every day 1,600 people will have their heads blown into tiny pieces and everybody in the world would get used to seeing it happen and mopping up bits of skull and brain. In fact schools would have to have special lessons on how to respectfully clean up their friends’ brains and eye-balls.  Everybody who has friends who smoke would know of at least one who had his or her head blown into a million bloody pieces. Just imagine going to a wedding and by chance it turned out to be an unlucky day with three people having their heads explode, covering others in body parts. It seems to me it might take something away from such a wonderful day for the bride and groom, don’t you? In fact the only winners would be retailers on the internet who would make a fortune selling, “Instantly Clear Up Your Friend’s Exploded Head” packs for a fortune. After all, everybody would have to have one. 

That is the level of risk (of smoking) but put a different way. Hopefully now it’s easier to understand.

Now, you must ask yourself, “If that were the case would I smoke? Am I that lucky? Would I get to smoke 18,250 packets or would it be the very first cigarette that I light?”
Unfortunately, at the moment, 1,600 people are still dying every day in a very slow and agonising manner because when they were young they didn’t fully understand the risk. They suffer the most agonisingly long deaths hidden away in hospitals so they are not seen by everyone else, which makes it even harder for others to understand the danger. Not like suddenly having their head blown apart in front of you.
However there are signs that young people are starting to listen. I’m so pleased that young people today are turning out to be a bit smarter.

If you happen to talk to any young smoker about this, they will have the usual argument as a defence. They will be able to point out an old person somewhere who is a regular smoker and who says things like, “Look at me! It never did me any harm.” Well, yes, it is possible (just) for somebody to occasionally “win” the Smoking Lottery and survive a bit longer but it will get you in the end. There aren’t many of these people (survivors) around but they do a massive amount of harm by telling others it is OK. My own mother did this until she died a very slow death, greatly regretting every day the first cigarette she ever smoked.
So why do we listen to these incredibly lucky few? Or to put it another way:

How can I listen to the overwhelming majority of others who would tell me not to smoke? Where are they? Why aren’t they loudly speaking up to save me?

The answer is of course that they can’t speak up! All those millions are dead. So the only people we have to listen to are the incredibly lucky few survivors who will live a bit longer and maybe even use that time to encourage you to kill yourself.
From now on I just hope you are clever enough to understand that anybody who says, “Look at me, it’s not doing me any harm!” is overwhelmingly outnumbered by the millions who would love to tell you the TRUTH but they aren’t around to do it.