“Kicking the Habit” While It’s Down
THE tobacco habit has suffered some serious setbacks in recent months. In fact, it has been implicated in so many diseases and disorders that an editorial in the “Journal of the American Medical Association” said that “one cannot help but feel self-conscious when commenting on yet more accusing fingers,” fingers that “turn, as it were, into feet that kick someone who is already down.” But the editorial went on to do just that, linking smoking to malignant hypertension and cranial hemorrhage.
Some other “kicks” to the tobacco habit have appeared in recent news items:
● “For every cigarette the mother smokes—especially during labor—the fetus is in effect smoking two or three,” according to a report in “Medical Tribune” on the research of Dr. Claude Par of the University Health Center at Sherbrooke, Quebec. He found that many such infants suffer from hypoxia (oxygen deficiency), and this “could help to explain studies which have correlated the use of cigarettes by the mother with spontaneous abortion, abruptio placentae [detachment of the placenta] and premature labor.”
● The State Mutual Life Assurance Company in Massachusetts says that smokers should be charged higher life insurance premiums because of death rates at all ages that are more than twice as great as for nonsmokers. The insurance company’s own study of the matter concluded that life expectancy differences—over seven years for a 32-year-old man—“are too large to be ignored . . . in individual life insurance underwriting and pricing.” More than 30 insurance companies offer lower rates to nonsmokers.
● A Harvard Medical School researcher says that nonsmoking children are definitely harmed by their parents’ cigarette smoking. His work indicates that they “may be at a higher risk of developing lung disease later in their lives.”
● “Cigarette smoking causes immediate and damaging changes in teen-agers’ blood,” reports the “Washington Post” on findings by University of Cincinnati scientists, “the kind of changes that lead to early artery problems and heart disease.”
● The American Cancer Society recently released the results of its massive 20-year study of the lives of over 1,000,000 Americans. The most important finding? “We were able to show, effectively and incontrovertibly, the relationship between smoking and cancer,” said a Society official. “It is clear that, on the average, a nonsmoker will live six years longer than a smoker, and eight years longer than a heavy smoker.”
● The American Cancer Society also reports in its annual “Cancer Facts and Figures” that lung cancer has just become second only to breast cancer as a cancer killer of women. In 1961, lung cancer was ranked only eighth. An official said in explanation that “women didn’t begin smoking in earnest until much later than men, but now their lung cancer statistics are matching the earlier rise among males.”
● A confidential public opinion poll commissioned by the Tobacco Institute backfired on the industry when it was mistakenly released by the Federal Trade Commission. The poll revealed that more and more nonsmokers are becoming fearful of inhaling smoke in the air around them, so much so that the study says it is “the most dangerous development to the viability of the tobacco industry that has yet occurred.” The study also forecasts that, in public places, “pressure for segregated facilities [for smokers and nonsmokers] will change from a ripple to a tide.”
● The world’s greatest tobacco producer, the People’s Republic of China, has announced a reversal of government policy and will now campaign to warn the people about tobacco. This is the first time China has acted against the cigarette industry, a government monopoly.
● Nicotine’s addictive properties as a drug are causing government drug officials “to view tobacco with more alarm,” reports the New York “Daily News.” Research by the National Institute of Drug Abuse is said to indicate that “nicotine is a more powerful addiction [than] heroin or alcohol,” and that “one no longer smokes to feel good, but to keep one’s self from feeling bad.”
With tobacco and those who use it on the retreat, their only solace from these proliferating barbs of truth is in each other, as the AMA Journal editorial quoted earlier concluded: “If misery likes company, it need never feel lonely behind the clouds of cigarette smoke.”