Is Smoking Here to Stay?
MOST people on earth either smoke or are, at some time, exposed to the smoking of others. Practically everywhere people live, cigarette smoking especially is an entrenched habit.
Thus, when the Tasaday tribe was discovered in a Philippine rain forest a few years ago, their unfamiliarity with tobacco was regarded as strong proof of extraordinary isolation. Yet cigarettes are of relatively recent origin.
A Short History
Less than 500 years ago Christopher Columbus became the first European to encounter the smoking habit. Indians in the New World smoked tobacco in pipes. By the 1600’s Europeans were smoking hand-rolled cigarettes. Then, in the 1880’s, the first efficient cigarette-making machine was invented.
It was especially during World War I that cigarette smoking gained widespread popularity. And it is only in the last 40 years or so that women generally have begun smoking. Now cigarette use is phenomenal.
A Booming Industry
During 1978 some 4,200,000,000,000 cigarettes were produced! That is enough cigarettes for each man, woman and child on earth to smoke nearly three every day, or 1,000 a year! Since about half of earth’s population is under 20, that is 2,000 cigarettes a year for every adult member of the human family!
In China alone hundreds of millions smoke. Also, more than 55 million do so in the United States, 34 million in Japan, 18 million in Britain, and so on. It is not unusual for a person to smoke 10,000 or more cigarettes a year. Surely, you may assume, such a popular habit is here to stay. Yet some believe otherwise.
A cigarette industry executive said: “We’re preparing to phase out tobacco. Not next year, but perhaps in 20 years.” United States cigarette companies have also moved into other enterprises. All of them have dropped the word “tobacco” from their company names.
John Pinney, director of the U.S. Office of Smoking and Health, claims: “Smoking is going out of style.” Why would he say this about a habit to which a major part of the human family is addicted?
Exposing a Killer
“We are in a new age of pandemics,” wrote Dr. Jean Mayer. Nearly half the men in Western countries are dying of heart disease, and cancer kills many of the rest. Cigarette smoking, evidence reveals, is a major cause of these terrible plagues.
The British Royal College of Physicians called smoking “as important a cause of death as were the great epidemic diseases such as typhoid, cholera, and tuberculosis.” The U.S. Public Health Service says that smoking is our “foremost cause of preventable disease and death.”
The evidence has kept accumulating. In January 1979 the U.S. surgeon general released a report on smoking, citing 30,000 research papers as references. “Cigarette smoking,” said the report, “is the single most preventable environmental factor contributing to illness, disability, and death in the United States.” Commenting editorially on the report, the New York Times noted: “The weeds are killing more than 350,000 Americans each year.”
The U.S. surgeon general’s report in 1980 highlighted smoking’s disastrous effects on women, who started more recently to smoke en masse. “The first signs of an epidemic of smoking-related disease among women are now appearing,” it said. “Within three years, the lung-cancer rate is expected to surpass that of breast cancer.”
Dr. Halfdan Mahler, director general of the World Health Organization, said last March: “Smoking is probably the largest single preventable cause of ill health in the world.”
If you were a smoker and hundreds of respected medical authorities told you such things about your habit, what would you do?
Going Out of Style?
Tens of millions of smokers, responding to the evidence, have stopped smoking. In the United States alone there are some 30 million ex-smokers. Most men in the U.S. smoked in 1965, but by 1979 less than 37 percent did. During this period, even the number of women smokers dropped from 32 percent to 28 percent. More than half of Canada’s adult population smoked in 1965; now less than 42 percent do.
Yes, many smokers have been helped to quit. In 1978, 2,000,000,000 fewer cigarettes were consumed in the United States than in the previous year. Optimistically, Daniel Horn of the National Clearinghouse for Smoking and Health proclaimed: “The war against smoking is won. All that remains is mopping up.” But is this true?
Not by a long shot! As an official of the Tobacco Institute responded: “We don’t intend to sit idly by and watch our industry be destroyed.” So $875 million (U.S.) was spent in a recent year on cigarette advertising, more than was spent on any other product sold in the United States. Actually, the 2,000,000,000 decline in U.S. cigarette consumption was only from 617 billion cigarettes to 615 billion, less than one third of 1 percent decrease.
The fact is, the cigarette industry continues to grow, as new markets are exploited in so-called Third World countries. In a recent year the U.S. increased its tobacco exports by more than 20 percent! Thus 100 billion more cigarettes were produced worldwide in 1978 than in 1977.
To ensure that smoking doesn’t go out of style, the tobacco industry has exploited another market—the young. As psychologist Dr. Ronald Shor explains: “Teenagers are trying to find meaningful adult identities and they are trying to find a way to live happy and normal adult lives without having to give up their youthful spirit. That’s exactly what the [cigarette] ads say being a smoker can do for you.”
Thus 6,000,000 U.S. youths under 20 now smoke. A larger percentage evidently do in other countries, as the World Health magazine observes: “In Belgium, 50 per cent of the young people smoke by the age of 15. In the Federal Republic of Germany, 36 per cent of the 10- to 12-year-olds are already confirmed, regular smokers.”
But why is a product known to cause terrible diseases not prohibited, rather than blatantly advertised as being good for you? And, if the dangers of smoking are so well established, why do so many millions continue to smoke?
[Pictures on page 6]
“The first signs of an epidemic of smoking-related disease among women are now appearing”
Teenagers, searching for adult identities, are exploited by the tobacco industry