Are They Spreading Death?
“WARNING: The Surgeon General Has Determined That Cigarette Smoking Is Dangerous to Your Health.” Die-hard smokers in the United States shrug off this ominous warning printed on cigarette packs. To such ones, lung cancer seems, at worst, a distant threat. ‘Besides,’ such ones reason, ‘it’s my body.’
However, the American Cancer Society reports: “Smokers endanger not only their own health but also the health of those around them.” The Dutch publication Roken welbeschouwd (Smoking—All Things Considered) concurs, claiming that a nonsmoker working alongside an average smoker may absorb the same amount of harmful substances as a person smoking five cigarettes a day! Not surprisingly, then, nonsmokers who have worked in smoky surroundings for more than 20 years often suffer bronchial problems—just as if they had been smoking one to ten cigarettes a day!
The reason? Sidestream smoke. That is what researchers call the smoke emanating from the end of a lighted cigarette. Far from harmless, sidestream smoke has more tar and nicotine than the smoke that is inhaled! Investigators claim, therefore, that smokers in the United States may well be responsible for anywhere from 5,000 to 50,000 deaths of nonsmokers each year.
Cigarettes, Women, and Babies. There is also a growing concern that smoking adversely affects infants. “Maternal smoking,” warns the booklet Facts and Figures on Smoking, “has a direct, growth-retarding effect on the fetus and may adversely affect the child’s long-term growth, intellectual development, and behavior.” Pregnant women who smoke introduce large quantities of harmful substances into the bloodstream of their unborn children. Estimates vary, but some claim that at birth, their babies weigh, on an average, seven ounces [200 g] less than babies of nonsmokers.
A study conducted in Denmark further suggests that cigarette smoking may also impair a woman’s ability to breast-feed. “Probably as a result of the nicotine,” say the Danish researchers, “heavy smokers have lower levels of prolactin, a hormone that stimulates milk production.”
Ironically, though, more women are smoking today—and smoking more cigarettes—than ever before. As a result, says Facts and Figures on Smoking, lung cancer in the United States has surpassed breast cancer as the number one cancer killer of women. It claimed the lives of an estimated 40,000 women in 1985 alone.
Changing Attitudes. There is a silver lining on this cloud of smoke, however. According to the American Cancer Society, sentiment against smoking is growing. Three out of four Americans now feel that smokers should not smoke in the presence of others. The number of people who no longer smoke is likewise growing. Overall cigarette consumption in the United States and Western Europe is on the decline. Says Adele Paroni, spokeswoman of the American Cancer Society: ‘The best news is that now fewer than 30 percent of American adults smoke!’
There are still some 54 million people in the United States who smoke. But according to the American Lung Association, nine out of ten current smokers say they want to quit. Perhaps they will be spurred on by the newer, more positive warnings printed on cigarette packages. One of them reads: “SURGEON GENERAL’S WARNING: Quitting Smoking Now Greatly Reduces Serious Risks to Your Health.”
[Pictures on page 15]
Sidestream smoke from a cigarette has more tar and nicotine than the smoke that is inhaled
Pregnant women who smoke introduce large quantities of harmful substances into the bloodstream of their unborn children