Do you know anyone who smokes? Every one of us probably has a friend, relative or co-worker who smokes. These people have chosen to smoke, but did you know that by just being around them you are also smoking even if you haven't made that choice? Did you know that various studies have shown that 400,000 people die each year from disease related to smoking? That's an estimate of eight thousands Americans per week! What's more shocking is the fact that 12,000 of 400,000 are killed from second hand smoking. (http://www.ash.org.uk/)
Looking way back in history, James D. Torr said that since the late 1400's when Christopher Columbus took his first steps onto a New World, American Indians introduced him and his men to tobacco, which was used by natives as a part of their customs. Since then, smoking has spread all over the world and became one of the most popular habits in the United States. It was not until 1950 that physicians noticed that rates of lung cancer had been rising since 1930. Several epidemiological studies concluded that cigarette smoking might be the cause of lung cancer. In 1964, Surgeon General's Luther Terry released the Surgeon General Report on Smoking and Health. That report was based on more than seven thousand medical articles related to smoking and health that cigarette smoking is a cause of cancer and other serious diseases. (Smoking pg. 9) The report has been released in the newspapers and it warned "Cigarette smoking is a health hazard of sufficient importance in the United States to warrant appropriate remedial action.' (Smoking pg. 10) Terry recalls that day saying "The report hit the country like a bombshell...it was front page news and the lead story on every radio and television station in the United States." The health hazard reality seemed to hit the nation. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, over 42 percent of adults smoked in 1965. (Smoking pg. 11) Comparing it to year 2000 we can see that adults started quitting because the percentage has declined to 24 percent of adult smoking. (Smoking pg. 11)
Despite the risks and consequences, there are still millions of people who continue to smoke around the world. Why? Smoking is a bad habit and not an addiction. People make a conscious choice whether to smoke or not to smoke. Doctors, however, categorize smoking as an addiction. Why? Well if you think about it people who try to quit but in reality they don't, so they blame the nicotine for their inability to quit smoking instead of blaming themselves for their own lack of will power. This benefits psychiatrists because smokers seek therapy thinking it will help them to quit. Pharmaceutical companies develop and make nicotine patches and other devices to "cure" the addiction and then making more money out from the people who have become dependant on cigarettes.
Did you know as a nonsmoker you breathe in the same toxic chemicals in tobacco smoke as the smokers do? According to Daniel McMillan and James D. Torr, second hand smoke, the smoke that nonsmoker breathe, affect the passive smoker. The smoke contains over 400,000 toxic chemicals. More than 40 are known or suspected carcinogens (cancer-causing substances). There is no safer level of exposure to the second hand smoke, any potentially toxic gases are present in higher concentrations in side stream smoke (smoke that comes directly from a lighted cigarette, pipe, or cigar) than in mainstream smoke (smoke that is exhaled by a smoker) and nearly 85% of the smoke in a room results from side stream smoke. ("Teen Smoking: Understanding the Risk' and "Smoking")
Secondhand smoke or environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) writes Eleanor H. Ayer, is a very serious form of indoor air pollution. In 1993 the Environmental Protection Agency released a groundbreaking report that classified ETS as a Group A carcinogen-meaning that there is sufficient evidence to show that the substance causes cancer in humans. For example, in the US secondhand smoke causes about 3,000 lung cancer deaths a year and 12, 000 non-lung cancer deaths per year. Secondhand smoke is also responsible for the deaths of 35,000 to 45,000 nonsmokers afflicted with heart disease. Yearly, second hand smoke causes 150, 000 to 300,000 children under eighteen months contract pneumonia or bronchitis as an outcome of breathing second hand smoke. ('Teen Smoking" pg. 33-34)
Secondhand smoke also causes and aggravates asthma and other breathing problems. Some people who have asthma, lung and heart illnesses, pregnant and nursing are even more sensitive to second hand smoke exposure. Certainly for asthmatics and people with other lung or heart illnesses, even a single limited exposure to second hand smoke can be immediately debilitating. This is the challenge that we are faced with as a society. We must find the best method to entirely eliminate second-hand smoke in a manner which is socially acceptable. A smoke-free environment in workplaces, public buildings, and in the home, should be the goal of society today.
1. Ayer, Eleanor H. "Teen Smoking" Lucent Books 1999.
2. McMillan, Daniel. "Teen Smoking: Understanding the Risk" Springfiled, HJ, U.S.A. 1998.
3. Torr, James D. "Smoking" San Diego, Calif. Greenhaven Press, 2001.
4. Action on Smoking and Health Organization March 15, 2005