Thursday, October 1, 2009

Smoker's Bones

In American culture, phrases such as "smoker's lung" are commonplace, illustrating our society's shared knowledge that smoking is harmful, especially to the human respiratory system. Other effects, including harm to the musculoskeletal system, are not as well known to the general public as a result of limited research on the topic. In his article, "The Negative Effects of Smoking on Bones, Joints and Healing," Paul Paryski examines research on smoking and orthopaedic health in order to educate consumers on the additional dangers of smoking; however, Paryski, although making a compelling argument, could strengthen his logical appeal to better persuade his audience.

Supporting the general belief that smoking is a deadly habit, the evidence provided by Paryski is not necessarily completely relevant to the topic of bone and joint health. Granted, depending on the characteristics and intelligence level of his audience, Paryski's outline of smoking's dangers may be adequate; however, his article is extremely general. Because his article is mainly a summary rather than the documented proceedings of a scientific experiment, it is broad in nature, addressing many negative aspects of smoking. Smoking's negative effect on the lungs, a relatively well known phenomenon, is restated throughout the article, especially in the eighth paragraph in which the many toxic chemicals produced by smoking are enumerated. Although these toxic chemicals are related to overall decline in bone and joint health, the specific manner in which they effect the musculoskeltal system is not described. Providing greater evidence of smoking's negative effect on bone and joint health, especially information that is not overly technical or scientific in understanding, would add greater relevance to Paryski's article.

Added descriptions and specific examples would also give Paryski's article increased acceptibility by his audience. Although he briefly describes a study to show the correlation between smoking and the reduction of blood flow to tissue, as well as an additional study reporting the observed differences between the bone density of smokers and nonsmokers, Paryski's article may not be compelling to all members of his audience (par. 5, 10). Describing these studies more in depth would help readers to better understand why smoking is harmful to bones, joints, and healing, allowing them to decide whether they believe these facts are true, rather than forcing them to blindly swallow the truth. Understanding increases acceptability; the same is true for Paryski's article.

Although providing general evidence that smoking is harmful to health, especially to the bones and joints, Paryski does not take into consideration other, potential causes for bad bone health. Smoking is known to be a deadly habit; however, healthcare professionals have never been able to actually test this hypothesis without being unethical. For smoking's negative effects on bone health to be validated, scientists would have to divide experimental subjects into two groups of individuals at similar levels of bone health, give one group cigarettes, and then compare the relative levels of each groups' bone health at the end of a specified amount of time. Because research of this type is highly questionable, it is impossible for researchers to know whether smoking truly affects the musculoskeletal system. Although there is a high correlation between bad bones and smoking as seen in the list of "related adverse effects," including "decreased bone density, lumbar disk problems, etc." there is the possibility that other health behaviors or predispositions could contribute to weakened bones (par. 9). Though a brief overview of smoking's negative effects on bone health, Paryski's article, although giving the most likely cause for weakened bones, fails to account for other explanations.

In Paryski's defence, because his article is written for an audience of "non healthcare professionals," his use of logos, a logical appeal of rhetoric, is more than likely adequate in persuading his audience that smoking is dangerous to bone health. These suggestions, although extremely analytical in nature, however, could strengthen the article's appeal to consumers, especially those asking the questions, "Why?" and "So what?" With added relevance, acceptability, and accountability, Paryski's article will gain persuasive power in further convincing consumers, especially those with "smoker's bones," that smoking is indeed harmful.

Paryski, Paul. "The Negative Effects of Smoking on Bones, Joints and Healing." Health and N.p, 18 June 2009.Web. 25 September 2009.


  1. You are a very strong writer and have the ability to put in words what you really are trying to say. Great job on that! I like how you truly critique his work but also point out positive aspects about his argument. You say that his general evidence is good, which adds to logos because everybody can agree with this. I like how you can state that to make his analysis better, he needs to add more description and detail. Good job!

  2. I think you misuse the word "verbatim."

    It also may be worth noting that it is possible to make strong arguments on the basis of statistical correlation IF complicating factors are accounted/adjusted for. The problem is not only that he isn't referring to (ethically unattainable) experimental data, but rather that he doesn't carefully explain the degree of confidence associated with the correlation and the reasons why causation is probably given the correlation.