Tobacco and Your Health—Is There Really a Link?
“Thank You for Not Smoking”—A sign of the times.
“Thank You for Smoking”—A counterattack in a tobacco company’s magazine.
BATTLE lines are drawn, propaganda pens and computers are put into action. Advertising agencies send out their opposing messages. This war is being fought in the world market. It is the tobacco war, and the stakes are high. Billions of dollars yearly. Whether you smoke or not, you are affected.
It is a war fought on two main levels—economics and health. For those against smoking, health is priority number one. For the tobacco barons and those tied to the industry, economics, profits, and jobs are at stake. Emotions and reactions tend to run high. At an airport a smoker asked a bystander for a light. “Sorry, I don’t smoke,” was the innocent reply. “I didn’t ask you if you smoked!” snarled the smoker.
But what is at the core of this controversy? Is smoking really so bad for you? Should you give it up?
Government Health Warnings
The issue of tobacco and cancer has been debated for decades in the United States. The tobacco industry donated millions of dollars to research back in the 1960’s allegedly to help pin down the relationship between cancer and tobacco and thus find some way of producing cigarettes without the cancer-causing agents. One result has probably been more than the tobacco manufacturers bargained for.
In 1964 the U.S. surgeon general issued his first report warning against the dangers of smoking. Ever since 1965, U.S. cigarette manufacturers have been bound by law to print warnings on their packages. At first the message was low-key: “Warning: The Surgeon General Has Determined That Cigarette Smoking Is Dangerous to Your Health.” Then in 1985 the tobacco companies were required to rotate four messages in their advertisements and on their products. Each starts with the words: “SURGEON GENERAL’S WARNING.” Then the different messages are: “Smoking Causes Lung Cancer, Heart Disease, Emphysema, And May Complicate Pregnancy.” (See box on page 4.) “Smoking by Pregnant Women May Result in Fetal Injury, Premature Birth, And Low Birth Weight.” “Quitting Smoking Now Greatly Reduces Serious Risks to Your Health.” “Cigarette Smoke Contains Carbon Monoxide.”*
Some other countries, apart from the United States, also issue warnings about cigarettes. India Today magazine carries ads that include the words: “STATUTORY WARNING: CIGARETTE SMOKING IS INJURIOUS TO HEALTH.” In Canada they used to state in small print: “Warning: Health and Welfare Canada advises that danger to health increases with amount smoked—avoid inhaling.” Since May 31, 1988, tobacco advertising has been banned in Canada. In Britain cigarette ads include the words: “MIDDLE TAR [or LOW TAR] As defined by H.M.Government DANGER: Government Health WARNING: CIGARETTES CAN SERIOUSLY DAMAGE YOUR HEALTH.” Tobacco advertising has been banned in Italy ever since 1962. (Yet Italians have doubled their cigarette smoking over the last 20 years!) With so many warnings based on overwhelming scientific evidence, more than 50,000 studies over the years, the conclusion is inescapable—smoking is dangerous to your health!
Although smoking is a worldwide phenomenon, not all countries demand that warnings be printed on the product. And when markets shrink in one area, the tobacco giants, with their high-pressure advertising, break open markets in other countries. Is your country affected by powerful tobacco advertising? Are foreign cigarettes made to look more attractive? What is the real story behind the “big sell”?
Carbon monoxide, an odorless gas, makes up 1 to 5 percent of cigarette smoke and has a great affinity for hemoglobin, the oxygen-carrying molecule in blood. It reduces the vital oxygen that should be circulating in the blood. This can be dangerous for someone already suffering from heart disease.
[Box/Picture on page 4, 5]
SMOKING and Pregnant Women
The Soviet magazine Nauka I Zhizn (Science and Life) recently published an article by Dr. Victor Kazmin in which he detailed the dangers to mother and child if the mother smokes during pregnancy. He stated: “Smoking does colossal harm to the woman’s organism, whose biological distinctions make it fairly sensitive to poisonings. After all, tobacco smoke contains components that pose a grave threat to health.”
He states that smoking mothers can actually poison their offspring. “Laboratory analyses have shown the presence in the amniotic fluid of such women patients of poisons—nicotine and its metabolite, cotinine. But what is most dreadful, as has been detected by electron microscopy, is that with smoking women during pregnancy even the structure of the umbilical cord changes; and it is along this cord that the foetus receives all it needs for life from the mother. . . .
“If the mother smokes during the first two or three weeks after conception, as a rule, worst affected is the embryo’s central nervous system . . . During the fourth or fifth week of pregnancy the cardiovascular system develops. Then it becomes poisoned first.”
The conclusion reached by Dr. Kazmin? “Tobacco smoke is much more dangerous to the foetus than to the mother herself.” Is it worth it? Remember the U.S. surgeon general’s warning: “Smoking . . . May Complicate Pregnancy.” And that is putting it mildly.
WHO/American Cancer Society
[Box on page 5]
SMOKING and Emphysema
Emphysema is a disease that leads to progressive inelasticity of the lungs, which eventually makes it impossible to exhale stale air sufficiently. The Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons Complete Home Medical Guide explains: “The people in [the United States] who have emphysema follow a pattern: They are primarily men, between 50 and 70, who have been heavy smokers for years. In the past, women did not develop emphysema as often as men, but this pattern is changing as women continue to become heavy smokers.”
The same work adds: “Emphysema may masquerade for years as something else. A person with emphysema has probably had several very bad colds each winter for a few years, each accompanied by a heavy cough, and perhaps by chronic bronchitis. The cough often persists and becomes chronic.” What are some other symptoms of emphysema?
“Emphysema develops slowly. Slight morning and evening difficulty in breathing may be followed sometime later with the beginnings of interference in activities. A short walk may be enough to bring on breathlessness; walking up stairs is difficult. Eventually, as the lungs become less and less able to carry out inhaling, exhaling, and gas exchange, there may come a point when every breath requires a major effort and the patient is disabled and unable to carry out normal activities.”
The same medical guide adds that emphysema can lead to serious cardiovascular problems. Is it really worth it? Why abort your precious gift of life in exchange for the ephemeral kick of nicotine?