Can You Smoke and Still Love Your Neighbor?
“SMOKING IS DANGEROUS TO YOUR HEALTH.” By law that warning must now appear on cigarette packages sold in the United States. Last year outgoing U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Jesse Steinfeld said: “Cigarette smoking is deadly.”
In Britain, the Guardian Weekly, after noting the statistical evidence regarding the dangers of smoking, concluded: “The Royal College of Physicians cannot be said to be alarmist in declaring that cigarette smoking is ‘now as important a cause of death as were the great epidemic diseases such as typhoid, cholera, and tuberculosis.’”
That smoking is harmful to the smoker has been clearly established. But what about the welfare of others? When you smoke, how are those nearby affected?
Many nonsmokers do not like to be engulfed by tobacco smoke. It sometimes saturates their body and clothes so much that when they return home, the tobacco smell is offensive to their families. But there is an even bigger objection.
Quite literally, cigarette smoke makes many nonsmokers sick. Today’s Health, April 1972, observed: “A recent study showed that more than 70 percent of a sample of healthy nonsmokers exposed to cigarette smoke suffered from eye irritation, nasal symptoms, headache, cough, sore throat or other ill effects.” Some smokers may object that nonsmokers are prejudiced against smoking and that they imagine discomfort.
But think: How does a person feel when he smokes for the first time? Almost invariably he is made sick by the inhaled smoke, sometimes even vomiting. Is it surprising, then, that many nonsmokers would feel ill on inhaling the smoke from the cigarettes of others?
How dangerous is tobacco smoke?
What Is in the Smoke
Cigarette smoke is extremely toxic, more so than even the deadly exhaust of an automobile. “Impossible!” you may exclaim. Yet observe what an editorial in Science, December 22, 1967, said:
“Concentrations of carbon monoxide as high as 100 ppm [parts per million] often occur in garages, in tunnels, and behind automobiles. Such concentrations are tiny in comparison with those (42,000 ppm) found in cigarette smoke. The smoker survives because most of the time he breathes air not so heavily polluted.”
Yet carbon monoxide is only one of the dangerous substances in cigarette smoke. It also contains hydrogen cyanide. “Long-term exposure to levels [of hydrogen cyanide] above 10 ppm is dangerous,” noted the above Science editorial. “The concentration in cigarette smoke is 1600 ppm.”
Regarding the dangerous air pollutant nitrogen dioxide, Science reports: “Concentrations of NO2 [nitrogen dioxide] as high as 3 ppm have been noted in Los Angeles, and levels of 5 ppm are considered dangerous. Cigarette smoke contains 250 parts of NO2 per million.”
Then there is cadmium, which, in large quantities, is an extremely hazardous industrial pollutant that has already caused deaths in Japan. The cadmium in tobacco smoke is a significant source of pollution, according to Dr. Harold G. Petering at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine. Smokers and nonsmokers alike absorb it by inhalation. The danger to the nonsmoker is often as great as that to the smoker, Dr. Petering said, since most cadmium is released in the “side stream” that drifts away from the smoker.
Tar and nicotine are probably the most well-known toxic substances in tobacco smoke. And, interestingly, The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) of January 15, 1973, noted regarding them: “Smoke from an idling cigarette contains almost twice the tar and nicotine of smoke inhaled while puffing on a cigarette. . . . Thus, smoke from an idling cigarette may be twice as toxic as smoke inhaled by the smoker.”
Effect on Nonsmokers’ Health
Admittedly, tobacco smoke contains a whole host of hazardous substances which, in sufficient quantities, are deadly. But do these become concentrated enough in a room or other enclosed area to cause serious harm even to nonsmokers?
The evidence indicates that nonsmokers are harmed by the smoke around them. “There is good hard data to suggest that the nonsmoker in any poorly ventilated, smoke-filled room is endangering his health,” Dr. Albert Soffer, American College of Chest Physicians executive director, told a meeting of his colleagues last October.
Recent medical literature says the same. The JAMA noted earlier this year: “Where the air circulation is typically poor, the nonsmoker will be subjected to a significant health hazard from a smoker.” And the Medical Tribune, February 2, 1972, explained: “Cigarette smoking is injurious not only to the smoker’s health—it can be harmful to the innocent bystander as well.”
This is particularly true if the bystander suffers from heart disease or a lung disorder. Why so? For one reason, carbon monoxide in smoke interferes with the oxygen-carrying capacity of the blood, making the heart work harder to get oxygen throughout the body. Some doctors have even forbidden their patients to fly, since the smoke in commercial airplane cabins might kill them.
Nor do small children escape the harm done by tobacco smoke. The JAMA of January 15, 1973, drew attention to a study that “found that smokers’ children are ill more frequently than nonsmokers’ children, usually because of respiratory disease.” Children who have respiratory allergies are especially affected adversely by cigarette smoke.
Pointing to the seriousness of the tobacco-smoke problem, a report by Britain’s Royal College of Physicians said: “Action to protect the public against the damage done to so many of them by cigarette smoking would have more effect upon the public health of this country than anything else that could now be done in the whole field of preventive medicine.”
Tobacco smoke truly is dangerous! Therefore, do you think that a person can continue to smoke, spreading this poison into the air, and still really love his neighbor?
Effect on Driving and Working
Another factor to consider is the efficiency of one’s performance when the air is filled with tobacco smoke. Can a person, for example, drive as well when someone in the car is smoking? The New York Times of January 16, 1972, commented:
“Experiments show that the levels of carbon monoxide in a small room where cigarettes are being smoked can rise to 50 parts per million. At that level, after an hour and a half, the nonsmoker has trouble discriminating time intervals and visual and sound cues. In a closed automobile, 10 cigarettes raise the carbon monoxide level to 100 parts per million. Nonsmokers and smokers will have trouble with eye-hand coordination.”
The problem of driving while smoking is greatest at night, since carbon monoxide destroys the chemical in the eye necessary for night vision. Dr. Lawrence E. Lamb explained: “If you smoke three cigarettes in a row, night vision can decrease 25 percent.”
No wonder that it is recommended not to smoke while driving, or to allow others in the car to do so. In one extensive study, smokers were found to have twice as many auto accidents as nonsmokers. Thus in 1971 the Farmers Insurance Group of Los Angeles began giving up to a 20-percent discount on auto insurance to persons who could prove that they had not smoked for two years.
It should not be surprising, therefore, that smoking would cut down on workers’ productivity. A careful study of the employees of a bank showed, according to a report in Reader’s Digest of March 1972, that “smoking employees were costing the bank $7 a week each in lower productivity, higher absenteeism, burned furniture and rugs.”
When smoking interferes with safe driving and employee productivity, would you say that it is showing love to your neighbor to smoke?
Effect on Offspring
Tobacco smoke has yet another bad effect. The evidence from studies pursued independently in at least nine separate countries all points to the same stark conclusion: Something in the tobacco smoke inhaled by pregnant women adversely affects the fetus, often with tragic consequences.
Outgoing United States Surgeon General Jesse Steinfeld lamented: “Fetal wastage is a terrible tragedy.” He explained: “The mother who smokes subjects the unborn child to the adverse effects of tobacco and as a result we are losing babies.” According to the Public Health Service report released in January 1973, about 4,600 stillbirths a year in the United States can probably be accounted for by the smoking of their mothers.
The Royal College of Physicians in Great Britain said: “There is no doubt that smoking during pregnancy retards the unborn baby’s growth. It has been found that mothers who smoked during pregnancy were more likely to have a miscarriage, to have a still-born baby, or one which died soon after birth.” A massive study of 17,400 births in Britain revealed that even smoking one cigarette a day during pregnancy affects fetal development.
Do you think that a mother who smokes is showing love to her unborn baby when her habit may result in the sickness or even death of her child?
Dr. Donn Mosser, a Minneapolis physician, notes another significant effect that the smoking by parents has upon their offspring. “If a mother smokes,” he said, “it about doubles the probability that the children in the family will smoke.” Is it proper to engage in a dangerous habit that children are likely to adopt? If young ones developed lung cancer as a result, would you not bear some responsibility for this?
The Bible commands: “You must love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matt. 22:39) Yet the smoker does harm to himself, as well as to his neighbor. How clear it is, therefore, that you simply cannot smoke and still love your neighbor!
You Can Quit if You Really Try
Perhaps you say that you realize that smoking is altogether improper. And perhaps you have tried to quit. “Ninety-five per cent of smokers know the dangers of their habit,” says former United States Surgeon General Luther L. Terry, “and 75 per cent want to quit, but can’t.” Yet a person can quit if he has strong enough incentive or motivation.
Terry was United States surgeon general in the early 1960’s when the evidence became overwhelmingly clear that smoking is harmful to health. So in 1963, after twenty-five years of smoking, he decided to stop. He explained: “If smoking was dangerous, and I was convinced it was, then it seemed to me that the Surgeon General should set an example to the public.”
But quitting was not easy. “I had a hard time,” Terry observes. “I was tense, I had difficulty sleeping, and I broke out in sudden, cold sweats. Fortunately, this passed in a couple of weeks. The psychological dependence lasts much longer.” Now Terry tries to help others to quit. “I urge them to set a definite date for quitting,” he says, “and then to stop, cold turkey, on that day.”
This no doubt is the most effective way to quit. But there must be a strong motivation, otherwise one will weaken under the pains of withdrawal and resume smoking. A Queens, New York, housewife observes:
“If I had gone to a doctor and he told me that I would die from cancer unless I gave up smoking I would not have quit. Smoking was the main thing in my life, more important to me than food. I smoked almost constantly. I would even walk around the house with an ashtray in my hand.” Yet in August 1969 this person quit, and has never smoked again.
She explains: “I was baptized by Jehovah’s witnesses in July 1967. I knew that smoking was wrong, and I wanted to stop. But I was so addicted I just did not have the strength to do so. Then my husband accepted the Bible truths he was learning, quit smoking and was baptized. I was so grateful! I did not want to do anything to hinder our serving Jehovah God acceptably and gaining life in his new system of things, so I determined to stop also.
“I finally did in August 1969. For days the agony was almost unbearable, but I prayed to Jehovah incessantly and with his help held to my resolve never to smoke again. As addicted as I was, if I could give up smoking, I feel that anybody can.”
But there must be sufficient motivation. You need to face the fact that smoking is harmful to both yourself and your neighbor, and is a habit that is detestable to Jehovah. Then if you really do love God and your neighbor, you will quit smoking.