Written more than 300 years before the U.S. Surgeon General warned us about the dangers of smoking, the words of King James I and Tobias Venner seem aptly prophetic. Yet, despite their denunciations of the obnoxious weed, the habits of smoking and chewing tobacco flourished. And today, despite an enormous mountain of evidence that implicates tobacco in the deaths of hundreds of thousands annually, hundreds of millions continue to inhale and chew away their health and lives on tobacco products. In 1975 over 3.5 trillion cigarettes were smoked worldwide, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. This represented a gain of almost one trillion over the 1960-1964 yearly average. Department officials forecast that cigarette smoking will continue to rise at a three to four percent annual rate because of population growth and because tobacco is the first luxury item poor people buy. Perhaps you use tobacco. If so, then you already know the litany of grim statistics and facts about the consequences of your habit. And, of course, it hasn't stopped you. That's pretty much the way it has been down through the centuries. People have used tobacco in spite of every medical report, papal bull and government edict designed to curb its use. Historically, wherever it has been introduced, it has quickly achieved widespread popularity.
Tobacco Instantly Popular
The tobacco weed is the New World's gift — or perhaps a better word is curse — to the Old. Columbus and other early explorers were amazed to meet Indians who carried rolls of dried leaves that they set afire and smoked. Sailors on these expeditions tried this unusual weed and liked it. More than like it, they came to crave it, and so carried tobacco leaves and seeds home with them and included them in provisions for succeeding expeditions to other parts of the world. Within a few decades, the tobacco plant and habit had literally been spread around the world. Tobacco proved to be immediately popular wherever it was introduced — too popular, it seems, for many secular and religious authorities of the day. They considered it a strange, noxious weed, dangerous to public morals and health. Pope Urban VII issued a formal bull against tobacco in 1642, and Pope Innocent X issued another in 1650. But in 1725, Benedict XIII annulled all edicts against tobacco bemuse they had failed to dissuade laymen and clergy alike from using it — and because the Pope himself had a penchant for snuff. Most of the states of Europe at one time or another have prohibited tobacco. And Sultan Murad IV decreed the death penalty for smoking tobacco in Constantinople in 1633 — but to no avail. Its use continued to spread. In the Ottoman Empire, even the fear of death could not overcome the craving for tobacco. 'For thy sake, tobacco, I would do anything but die," wrote Charles Lamb in the eighteenth century. The Sultan found that many of his subjects were willing to risk that last step — as the chronicle of his savage slaughter of smokers testifies.
More Than a Vice?
No culture that has ever taken to tobacco has ever given it up. And some researchers say there is a good reason for this: The nicotine in tobacco becomes something tobacco users crave. Some have gone as far as to suggest that tobacco users can develop a dependence for the drug — psychic, at least, and maybe even physical. The theory of the nicotine-dependence syndrome of tobacco has been espoused by the Addiction Research Unit (ARU) of the Institute of Psychiatry (London, England) — a unit initially established to study heroin addiction. Further, the Royal College of Physicians reported in 1971: "The smoking habit certainly conforms to the definition of drug dependence given by Paton: 'Drug dependence arises when, as a result of giving a drug, forces — physiological, biochemical, social or environmental — are set up which predispose to continue drug use'... The remarkable spread of smoking throughout the world and the difficulty that most smokers find in abstaining suggests that the craving has a pharmacological basis" (Smoking and Health Now, p. 112). Psychologist Stanley Schachter of Columbia University, himself a chain-smoker, in 1977 conceded after four years of research on smoking: "We smoke because we're physically addicted to nicotine, Period." And, as many people who have tried to kick cigarettes know, there can be withdrawal symptoms: anxiety, nervousness, etc. But they are certainly mild and nonlethal compared to withdrawal from heroin or alcohol dependence.
A Definite Health Hazard
Its psychic-dependence potential aside, nicotine remains an extremely dangerous drug for human consumption. "Nicotine is one of the most toxic drugs known and is usually thought of as a poison, being used as such in insecticide sprays and ranking with cyanide in rapidity of action" (The Pleasure Seekers, p. 155). In toxic doses it can cause death by paralysis of the respiratory muscles. Of course, the amount of nicotine in one cigarette is far below lethal levels. But it is enough to affect the central nervous and cardiac systems in ways detrimental to health. And tobacco smoke has scores of other dangerous chemicals. Tobacco smoke is a mixture of gases and minute droplets in which nearly one thousand compounds have been identified. Some of the more hazardous include tar, arsenic, carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, ammonia, benzene, formaldehyde and hydrogen sulphide. How much of these chemicals does the smoker take into his system? In the case of tar, a person who smokes a pack of nonfilter cigarettes a day for ten years inhales eight quarts of tar, according to Dr. A. C. Ivy of the University of Illinois. The Pure Food and Drug laws of the United States permit 1.43 parts per million of arsenic in our foods. Tobacco has an arsenic content 50 times the amount legally permitted in food. Much of that is inhaled into the lungs through tobacco smoke. This potent combination of chemicals has been clearly demonstrated to be a major cause of emphysema, chronic bronchitis, lung and throat cancer, and heart disease — to name a few. "Cigarette smoking is now as important a cause of death as were the great epidemic diseases such as typhoid, cholera, and tuberculosis... Holocaust [is] a reasonable word to describe the annual death toll [in Britain]" (Smoking and Health Now. p. 10). Cigarettes are the chief cause of lung cancer, which kills over 36,000 people in the United Kingdom every year, according to the Health Education Council. They are also an important cause of chronic bronchitis, a disease which kills over 30,000 people in the United Kingdom every year. In Australia, over 40,000 people a year die from diseases associated with cigarette smoking. The U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare calls cigarette smoking the leading cause of the 600,000 deaths a year stemming from coronary heart disease, 72,000 deaths from lung cancer and 25,000 deaths from chronic bronchitis and emphysema.
Nonsmokers and Babies Suffer
As if the harm smokers do to themselves is not enough, they also affect the health of innocent bystanders. According to the American Lung Association: "Even when a smoker inhales, researchers have calculated that two-thirds of the smoke from the burning cigarette goes into the environment. "The fascinating fact is that side-stream smoke — the smoke from the burning end — has higher concentrations of noxious compounds than the mainstream smoke inhaled by the smoker. Some studies show there is twice as much tar and nicotine in side-stream smoke compared to mainstream. And three times as much of a compound called 3-4 benzpyrene, which is suspected as a cancer-causing agent. Five times as much carbon monoxide, which robs the blood of oxygen. And 50 times as much ammonia." Even unborn babies can be adversely affected by their parents' smoking habits. Pregnant women who smoke deprive fetuses of oxy gen critical to proper growth and development. They pass nicotine and carbon monoxide through the bloodstream to the fetus. Consequently, children of smoking mothers tend to be born underweight, underdeveloped, and more vulnerable to illness. The National Children's Bureau in Britain has found that babies of women who smoke during pregnancy have a 30 percent higher incidence of death just after birth than babies born to nonsmoking mothers.
"Tobacco drieth the brain, dimmeth the sight, vitiateth the smell, burteth the stomach, destroyeth the concoction, disturbeth the humors and spirits, corrupteth the breath, induceth a trembling of the limbs, exsiccateth the windpipe, lungs, and liver, annoyeth the milt, scorcheth the heart, and causeth the blood to be adjusted." - Tobias Venner, 1620
The smoking father may even be implicated in the fetus mortality rate. According to an eight-Near study by the German Research Society, children whose fathers smoke at least ten cigarettes a day run a higher risk of dying at birth than babies of nonsmokers because the male sperm is damaged by excessive intake of nicotine.
... But Also a Big Business
These are real horror stories based on exhaustive research. So where is the hysteria, the clamor for a ban on all tobacco use? Why aren't people who work for tobacco companies and advertising agencies harassed, arrested and convicted for purveying and pushing a dangerous drug? Why isn't tobacco banned because it poses a threat to public health, a menace to our way of life? The answer is that tobacco is so much a part of our way of life. It has been around so long and is so popular it isn't even perceived by most people to be a drug. And there are vested interests in its use. Globally, it is a multibillion-dollar industry. It is a big cash crop in the United States, and its sale a big business and major source of tax revenue in many countries. In the United States alone, federal and excise taxes on tobacco products yield nearly $6 billion in revenue a year. To be sure, there was an uproar when the Report of the Surgeon General's Advisory Committee on Smoking and Health was published in 1964. There was a decline in smoking in the United States from 523.9 billion cigarettes in 1964 to 511.2 billion in 1965. In the decade following the Surgeon General's report more than ten million smokers gave up their habit. The actual number of smokers kept declining until 1971. (Yet the number of cigarettes smoked rebounded to new highs in 1966 and succeeding years, which meant that fewer people were smoking more cigarettes) Since then the number of smokers has increased, until in 1976 over 50 million Americans smoked over 620 billion cigarettes. The reversal of the downward trend in 1971 coincided with the ban on cigarette advertising from TV and radio by federal law. One would expect this would have removed some desire for smoking. However, since TV and radio broadcasters could no longer carry cigarette advertising, they felt no obligation to continue the antismoking messages of the American Cancer Society and other organizations required under the Fairness Doctrine. Significantly, the sharpest drop in cigarette smoking occurred between 1967 and 1971 when the televised antismoking messages were at their height. In face-to-face competition with smoking ads, the antismoking campaign was effective.
Eliminate by 21st Century?
A few other countries, notably Great Britain, have followed the U.S. and banned the advertising of cigarettes on TV. Tobacco companies in a growing number of countries are required to print health warnings on packages and in ads. In the United States, nonsmokers are pushing for a bill of rights to greatly restrict public smoking. Norway is engaged in an antismoking campaign banning the advertising of all tobacco products in newspapers and magazines as well as by the electronic media. Shopkeepers can't even display their tobacco wares in the windows. And Sweden has undertaken the ambitious goal of eradicating smoking in a generation through an education program. At the Third Conference on Smoking and Health in 1975, Sir George E. Godber of Britain, chairman of the expert Committee on Smoking and Health of the World Health Association, advocated the effort to by and large eliminate cigarette smoking by the end of this century. "We may not have eliminated cigarette smoking completely by the end of this century," he said, "but we ought to have reached a position where relatively few addicts still use cigarettes, but only in private, at most in the company of consenting adults." Despite the progress made in some countries, it would seem that cigarette smoking is here to stay for quite some time. As was pointed out earlier, no culture that has ever been introduced to tobacco has been able to kick the habit. Even while envisioning a relatively smoke-free twenty-first century, Dr. Godber conceded that to date "most countries have pursued their action in desultory fashion, have achieved only limited progress... [and] have lost in some other directions."
And so clouds of tobacco smoke continue to foul the air of smoker and nonsmoker alike. And the grim death toll continues to mount. In the time it has taken you to read this brief article, at least 60 people have died prematurely because of tobacco. And in most cases, their deaths were the denouement of a prolonged decline in health and wellbeing. Tobacco is cruel in that it kills slowly by means of such afflictions as cancer and emphysema. "Nothing kills as slowly and painfully as the cigarette," said Dr. Hollis S. Ingraham, onetime Commissioner of Health for New York State. "I was married to a chain-smoker for 50 years and 11 days when he expired at 79 years old," said one widow. "He had smoked one and a half packs a day for 60 years. He had so many illnesses... He quit several times and started again. The last time was when he was told he had emphysema. He lived six more years but needed medication and oxygen all the time... I suffered watching him commit suicide because of cigarettes." Are you committing slow suicide with your tobacco habit? What are you going to do about it?
Kicking the Habit by D Paul Graunke
According to most surveys, the overwhelming majority of smokers now concede that smoking is harmful — yes, even harmful to their health. And a majority of these same smokers will admit that they would like to quit smoking, but over half say they probably never will. How can a smoker who wants to quit overcome the equally strong, or seemingly stronger, desire to light up? First of all, a smoker must realize that he finds it hard to quit because he has become enslaved or addicted to tobacco. Most smokers would never consider themselves drug fiends in the same class as, say, marijuana smokers or heroin junkies, but they are! They have formed a dependence for the drug nicotine. (For more information about the relationship of tobacco use to other forms of drug abuse, write for our free booklet The Dilemma of Drugs) Since most smokers would like to quit — but can't — it's obvious that simply wanting to quit is not enough. You have to come up with a good reason to stop, and you must be thoroughly convinced of your reason. The most important motivation to quit is for the sake of your health. Another is the desire not to see your children acquire the same habit. Children are more impressed by what you practice than what you preach, so don't expect them not to smoke if you yourself do. Then there are financial considerations, especially as the price of tobacco continues to rise. If you smoke 20 cigarettes a day, the cost adds up to over $3.50 a week, and over $180 a year. Small change, perhaps in these inflationary times, but small change that, nonetheless, is nice to have in the pocket at times. OK, so you've got the motivation to quit. What will be your plan of attack? The psychology of pleasure, gratification through smoking is complex; people smoke for different reasons and under different circumstances. Some smoke as a matter of habit and are almost unconscious of whether or not they are smoking at any given moment. Others are more likely to smoke under pressure or tension. Some like to smoke at certain times of the day — for example, after a meal. For whatever reason you smoke, you must be flexible and experiment with techniques to determine what best fits your situation. Some quit cold turkey; they put out their last cigarette and resolve never to smoke again. Others find it easier to stop gradually. They cut back on the number of cigarettes smoked each day over a period of days and weeks until they are down to zero. Or, using a series of commercially available filters, they may smoke the same number of cigarettes each day, but receive decreasing amounts of tar and nicotine until they are able to stop smoking altogether. Some like to quit smoking in company. They find it helps to go to withdrawal or cessation clinics or groups where they have the moral support of other people. Or they use the "buddy system," finding a friend to quit with them. Others, particularly those with an immediate medical problem, enlist the help of their physician who may prescribe a nicotine substitute, tranquilizing agent, or both, to tide them over the first weeks of no smoking. Again, it is important to emphasize that there is no surefire method that will work for everyone. There are many different kinds of smokers, and each has their own set of problems and their own best ways of quitting. Government agencies and cancer and lung associations have many useful booklets and other information to help the would-be nonsmoker pick his method of quitting.
Should a Christian Smoke? by D Paul Graunke
When missionaries arrived in the New World in the sixteenth century, they were alarmed and revolted by the sight of so many natives smoking and chewing tobacco. The Indians insisted on smoking — even in church. As early as 1575, a Mexican church council issued an order forbidding the use of tobacco in churches throughout the whole of Spanish America. Soon, however, the missionary priests themselves became so addicted to the habit that it was found necessary to make laws to prevent them from using tobacco during services. In Europe the pattern repeated itself. As tobacco became more widely used, the church took measures to condemn or restrict its use. But despite two papal bulls against tobacco in the seventeenth century, its use flourished among laymen and clergy alike. Tobacco prevailed against every theological argument against its use, just as today it prevails against every health argument. The contradiction between what was preached about tobacco and what was practiced finally became so egregious that, by and large, most brand-name denominations ceased to make a big moral or spiritual issue of tobacco. But the question remains: Should a Christian smoke? The Bible doesn't say anything directly about smoking, since tobacco was completely unknown to the worlds of Moses. David. Christ and Paul. There is no command not to smoke, chew, dip or sniff tobacco. Many therefore have reasoned concerning tobacco the way some in the church of Corinth in Paul's day did on another issue: "All things are lawful for me." Paul, however, replied, "But not all things are helpful, 'All things are lawful for me.' but I will not be enslaved by anything (I Cor. 6:12). He reiterated the same principle a little later in yet another situation: " 'All things are lawful.' but not all things build up (I Cor. 10:23). Paul asserted that Christian liberty was not unqualified; it must be conditioned by the criteria: 1) Is it beneficial? and 2) Does it enslave the user or practitioner? He taught that liberty must not lead to irresponsible and deleterious license. A Christian's life and body aren't his own to do with as he pleases. "Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God? You are not your own; you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body" (I Cor. 6:19-20). When examined in the light of this guiding principle, it becomes readily apparent that tobacco is in no way helpful or beneficial to human health; in no way does it glorify God in the body of its user. Rather. it is one of the most dangerous substances people use for pleasure. The nicotine in tobacco is a drug that has enslaved tens of millions. Not only does the tobacco smoker harm himself, he also contributes negatively to the health and welfare of those around him — hardly a Christian act. The medical verdict on tobacco is clear and incontestable: It has no redeeming health benefits. Like-wise, the use of it is inimical to Paul's guiding principle concerning the proper use of Christian liberty in those areas not specifically covered by a law or precept.