It’s the fastest growing of the planet’s giant industries, a trillion-plus dollar business that reaches three out of every four people alive, and a technology that’s changed the way we work, play and communicate. Now, based on the findings of an 18-year study that examined over 350,000 subjects, it appears that the core product of this industry – your own mobile phone – is not going to kill you. By KEVIN BLOOM.
“Most people have this image in their heads of tobacco executives jet-setting around the world on private planes, eating foie gras as they count their money. Not me. I like to ride with the people. Know your clients. My people cram themselves into a tiny seat, pop a Xanex, and dream of the moment when they can stuff their face with fresh tobacco. If I can convince just one of these kids to pick up smoking, I’ve paid for my flight. Round trip!”
Thus spoke Nick Naylor, Big Tobacco’s chief spokesman in the movie Thank You for Smoking, played by Aaron Eckhart. As the Vice-President of the Academy of Tobacco Studies, Naylor’s job is to spin smoking into an activity that enhances your life, and after-hours he hangs out in a bar with his best friends Polly and Bobby, of the alcohol industry’s Moderation Council and the gun business’s advisory group SAFETY respectively. They generally argue about which industry has killed the most people.
The mobile phone business is not in any way like the aforementioned. For starters, it may soon be as big as all three of them combined (assuming, that is, we don’t take “guns” to mean the entire armaments sector). As of February 2011, the industry could count a total of 5.2 billion fully paid-up active subscribers. That’s 1.7 billion less than there are people on the planet, which adds up to around three of every four people on Earth. Comparatively, according to former Nokia executive and current author and consultant Tomi Ahonen, there are 1.1 billion fixed landline phones, 1.0 billion automobiles registered and in use, 1.6 billion television sets, 1.7 billion credit card users, 2.0 billion internet users, 2.2 billion people with a banking account, and 3.9 billion working radio receivers on the planet today.
Second, your mobile phone is not going to kill you. In research published this week by the Institute of Cancer Epidemiology in Denmark, findings concluded that mobile phone users were at no greater risk of developing brain cancer than anybody else. Of the 358,403 users studied over an 18-year period, 356 gilomas (a form of brain cancer) and 846 cancers of the central nervous system were reported – an incidence that is no higher than the global average amongst the few people on Earth who have not yet been assimilated by the trillion dollar industry.
“These results are the strongest evidence yet that using a mobile phone does not seem to increase the risk of cancers of the brain or central nervous system in adults,” said Hazel Nunn, head of evidence and health information at Cancer Research UK.
Nonetheless, both the study’s authors and outside experts have cautioned that this doesn’t mean we’re totally risk-free just yet. The World Health Organisation has warned that mobile phones may still be carcinogenic, and according to the BBC places the devices in the same category as coffee, where a link can neither be proved nor disproved.
The online magazine Slate had something else intriguing to say about the WHO (amongst other organisations): “Most studies on cell phones and cancer, including ones by the Food and Drug Administration and the Federal Communications Commission, found no association between the two variables. But perhaps the most high profile, panic-inducing move came this past May, when the World Health Organisation said scientists in 14 countries had decided that there was enough existing evidence to warrant concern.”
Before this latest study, the question was obvious—who would you believe, the US Feds, whose intimate connections to the lobby system and big business are an open secret, or the directing and coordinating authority for health within the United Nations umbrella, whose corruptibly has been only slightly less on display? If you’re battling to come up with a definite answer, it doesn’t matter much anymore. Because none less than Sweden’s Karolinska Institute, which appoints the laureates for the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, has endorsed the findings of the 18-year Danish study.
Meaning, the mobile phone industry is unlikely to be employing an army of Nick Naylors in the near future. Not that it couldn’t afford to. In 2010, notes Ahonen, it grabbed 1.18 trillion dollars in total revenues, a rise of 9% on the previous year, far higher than the growth of the world economy and any of the other giant industries (automobiles, armaments, construction, etc.). Light that up on an airplane and smoke it… DM
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