By Curtis J. Torno, M.D.
The recent release of the Surgeon General’s second report on smoking re-emphasized the health hazard of smoking. Those of us in the medical profession have recognized these hazards for a long time. Despite a few denials from those who desire to use tobacco and willfully refuse to face facts, the truth has long been evident to even a casual observer. A trained observer knows the hazards of smoking all too well.
Smoking one package or more (20 cigarettes) a day will shorten one’s life on the average by twelve years. A select committee of the American Heart Association chaired by Dr. William B. Kannel, the director of the Framingham Study, said “325,000 premature deaths from heart disease can be directly attributed to cigarette smoking.”
A study from the United States Public Health Service (USPHS) reported in 1977 that the lung cancer rate among female smokers was 101.4 per 100,000 population and 392.8 per 100,000 among male smokers. Among nonsmoking females the rate was 9.4 per 100,000 and 12.5 per 100,000 among males. This is very significant! The USPHS estimate is that nearly 75,000 of the 84,000 who die of lung cancer every year would not die if they did not smoke. The cancer rate among female smokers is twelve times greater than it is among non-smokers and among male smokers it is thirty-five times higher that male non-smokers. That means that among smokers the lung cancer rate is 1 in 25 and among non-smokers it is nearly 1 in 10,000. Significant isn’t it?
The Framingham Study of over five thousand subjects for sixteen years has demonstrated conclusively that cigarette smoking is extremely hazardous to health. The over-all death rate from all causes for smokers is twice that of non-smokers in the same areas, in the same jobs and from the same backgrounds. The USPHS call smoking “the foremost cause or preventable disease and death in this country.” The British Royal College of Physicians compares the effect of cigarette smoking to the “lethal power of great epidemic diseases such as typhoid, cholera and tuberculosis.”
Among adult men, the smoking rate is down 25% but among women the rate is up about an equal amount. The greatest increase is among pre-adult girls and boys. Most of the increase in consumption has been among women and the very young. This is tragic, especially when as much as 15% of those 12 years and under smoke. The smoking rate is highest of any age group among those between 15 and 21, both girls and boys. It is a paradox that the older and wiser and best informed segment of our population is decreasing smoking while the uninformed and least wise are the ones that are consuming the most and taking up the habit at an increasingly younger age.
The Christian should understand that his smoking can affect not only his health and cause early death, but it affects his children and those with whom he associates. Children whose parents do not smoke only have a 15% smoking rate but among children whose parents do smoke, 85% also smoke. So not only do smoking Christians endanger their own bodies and souls, but affect and influence others also.
The only bright side to this ugly picture is that it is possible to stop smoking! More than that, to stop causes a marked diminution in the health hazard and death risk. According to the American Cancer Society’s study of more than a million subjects – the largest of the prospective investigations – male smokers had up to twice the, overall mortality of non-smokers; the risk being greater according to the number of cigarettes smoked and the duration of the smoking habit. Women smokers also had a higher mortality rate but less then men. Those who had given up smoking before joining the study had death rates that decreased according to ,the length of time since they last smoked cigarettes.
Those who used to smoke 1 to 19 cigarettes a day showed a steady decline in risk, so that after 10 years, they had the same mortality rate as those who had never smoked. Heavier smokers (more that 20 cigarettes a day) began to reduce their risk five years after stopping, but even afer 10 years their mortality rate was higher than those who has never smoked. In the ACS and other studies, mortality rates in the first year after stopping tend to be higher than those of smokers, because it is often illness that makes the person quit.
The study of British doctors is frequently quoted to illustrate a beneficial effect of stopping smoking on total mortality. Male doctors aged 35 to 64 years showed a fall in mortality of 12.4% in the years 1962-65 compared with 1953-57, whereas in the total male population the fall was only 2.9%. Half of the doctors who smoked had given up smoking during these years while those in the general population were said to have altered their smoking.
A recent report from the Framingham study provides support in that “men who gave up smoking after entry to the study had half the attack rate for coronary heart disease, excluding angina, compared with those who continued to smoke.”
All of this should be encouraging to those who may have smoked and desire to stop. Basically, if one stops now, in 10 years he has largely ovecome the hazardous effect on his body. Of course, if one continues to smoke they continue to run the increased risk of premature death.
Over 55 % of all physicians have quit smoking and now less than 20% of all physicians smoke at all. In a recent survey of over 10,000 physicians, 98% answered yes to the question “Do you consider cigarette smoking as hazardous to health?” and 2% answered that they weren’t sure yet. None answered the questionaire that it was their opinion that there was no hazard to health in smoking. As the American Cancer Society poster says, “Maybe they know something you don’t know.” You could know and should know what a health hazard smoking is.
Anyone who thinks cigarette smoking is not harmful and hazardous to one’s health cannot read the label on the package and cannot read the volumes of published material that is available. How many rational normal people would continue to eat cranberry sauce or tuna fish or candy if the package label said: “Warning consuming this material can be dangerous to your health!” Yet, millions go on inhaling cigarette smoke despite the warning. What would happen to the sale of tuna fish if it could be proven that 1 in 25 of all people who eat tuna fish would develop lung cancer? While there are other people who live in the same area and work at the same jobs, but who do not eat tuna fish and the lung cancer rate among these persons is 1 in 10,000. How many would continue to eat tuna fish?
This is the advice of a physician and almost unanimously the advice of any physician – stop smoking while you still can. Smoking cigarettes is a lethal habit that shortens your life, harms your influence, puts you in disregard to common sense and sound advice and puts you in direct opposition to many New Testament principles. If you do not stop for conscience sake – please stop for your body’s sake and the sake of those of our younger generation who will be encouraged to smoke or not smoke from your example.
- In light of 1 Cor. 6:18-19, would you consider smoking a matter of defiling the temple of God? If so, what will happen if we destroy this temple?
- What effect does smoking have on our children or those with whom we associate?
- What should be the message to the general public, when over half of the doctors who smoked have given up the habit?
- Why is it difficult to quit smoking? What does this say about our growth in relation to self-control, temperance, etc.?
- If you do not agree that smoking is sinful and wrong, how would you justify this habit scripturally?
Truth Magazine XXIII: 21, pp. 341-342
May 24, 1979