By Ken Leach

I don’t know if you read the following article but it is worthy of note. It appeared in the June 18, 1998 Arizona Republic.

“It’s the common dilemma every parent faces. You nurture them, guide them, lead by example, but once they reach their teen years, it often goes right out the window as adolescents try to reinvent themselves and recommit the mistakes their parents made.

Mike Balis, a Paradise Valley ophthalmologist, could see it coming. His younger daughter, Elizabeth, 14, was trying out her wings, and Balis wasn’t too sure he liked her cruising altitude.

Then something happened. The father found out that his usually-health- conscious daughter had sampled a cigarette. ‘When I found out she had experimented with smoking, I was disappointed.’ Balis said. ‘Initially, I was angry.

‘I decided that rather than confront her with rage or anger, that the best thing would be to write her a letter that was informational and instructive, and would convey to her my reasons for not wanting her to do it.’

Here is that letter . . .

“Dear Elizabeth:

I have written this letter to you because I love you. When I heard that you had smoked, I was not angry. I was sad, but mostly I was disappointed. You had led me to believe that you understood the risks involved in smoking, and that you would ‘never try it.’

I know how important peer pressure is, and how trying something new is exciting and fascinating. Exploring new territory is usually a positive endeavor, as long as the end result isn’t potentially self-destructive. Often our judgment is clouded by emotions that are stronger than wisdom or reason. We all make mistakes. I don’t want you to make a mistake that could affect the rest of your life.

Please take the time to read this letter in its entirety. I wrote it to inform you, not to harass you. Although everyone knows about lung cancer and smoking, there are many other considerations regarding this addiction that merit consideration.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a huge federal agency that studies disease patterns, nicotine addiction is more powerful than heroin or cocaine. One out of four intravenous cocaine users become addicted. One out of two smokers become addicted. There is no safe level of tobacco use.

Each day, 6,000 kids smoke for the first time. Three thousand of these kids become regular smokers, and the vast majority continue smoking for the rest of their lives. The CDC estimates that 5 million children living today will die early

because of the decision they make as adolescents to use tobacco.

Tobacco companies spend over $5 billion a year on advertising, and most of their ads are designed to appeal to kids. Virtually all adult smokers began their habit as children. Many internal memos and documents that have been circulated within the tobacco industry reveal the strong motivation that the cigarette manufacturers have to hook kids on smoking. Here are some examples:

Memo from a tobacco company:

Realistically, if our company is to survive and prosper, over the long term, we must get our share of the youth market. In my opinion, this will require new brands tailored to the youth market.

R.J.R. should make a substantial long-term commitment of manpower and money dedicated to younger adult smoker programs.

These companies recognize that the vast majority of smokers start before the age of 18.

Since older smokers either quit (if they can) or die from smoking-related illness, the youth market is the major source of replacement smokers.

Memo from another tobacco company:

Today’s teenager is tomorrow’s potential regular customer, and the overwhelming majority of smokers first begin to smoke while still in their teens. Tobacco advertising works, and children are the ultimate victims. The strategy of the manufacturers, marketing companies and retail stores is to hook kids on smoking. Health is not their concern — making money is their only motivation.

The average smoker begins at age 13 and becomes a daily smoker by age 14½. Cigarettes kill more than 400,000 people a year. Smoking causes more deaths in women than breast cancer. That’s more than from alcohol, crack, heroin, murders, suicide, car accidents and AIDS combined. Smoking is the most preventable cause of premature death in this country. Most adult smokers realize the dangers but they just cannot stop smoking. Indeed, the business of “stop- smoking” remedies is a multibillion-dollar industry.

Some of these remedies include hypnosis, biofeedback, psycho-therapy, subliminal tapes, motivational seminars, group therapy, stop-smoking clubs, and support groups. The store shelves are full of nicotine chewing gum, skin patches, tobaccoless cigarettes, and pills, all of which are designed to help ‘kick the habit.’ Few of these ‘cures’ work. Most smokers go right back to the habit after a brief period of time. Forty percent of teenagers who smoke daily have tried to quit and have failed. Forty-two percent of young people who smoke as few as three cigarettes go on to be- come regular smokers.

Why start smoking when the vast majority of existing smokers regret that they ever started, and are so desperate to stop that they are spending billions of dollars per year to free themselves from this horrible addiction?

Why start a habit that makes your breath bad, almost always causes a chronic cough, and stains your teeth and fingers? Why join that group of desperate individuals who, after a brief flight, run through the airport with an unlit cigarette dangling from their mouth, in desperate anticipation of lighting up? Why assemble in those little alleys outside office buildings with other nervous smokers get- ting their fix, as they stand around, inhaling those precious fumes amid piles of crushed cigarette butts? Tobacco use accounts for over one-third of all cancer-related deaths. Do you know what a carcinogen is? A carcinogen is a chemical that is known to induce cancer in healthy tissue. Cigarette smoke contains 43 known carcinogens. That means that these 43 agents have been proven, in laboratory tests, to cause cancer.

We all know about smoking and lung cancer. What about other cancers that are caused by smoking? The following list includes the cancers that are known to be associated with smoking: lung, colon, rectum, anus, liver, stomach, bladder, throat, tongue, lip, esophagus, breast, kidney, cervix, ureter, pancreas, leukemia, myeloma.

The negative effects of smoking are not limited to cancer causation. Some other disorders caused, or made worse by smoking, include: back pain due to lumbar disc disease, spinal fractures, hip fractures, emphysema, bronchitis, influenza, pneumonia, diabetes, high blood pressure, in- fertility, osteoporosis, stroke, heart attack, dental cavities, tooth loss from gum disease, premature wrinkling, delayed wound healing, ear infections, headaches, premature menopause, stomach ulcers.

Why are smokers at so much greater risk for heart disease and stroke? Because nicotine is a powerful vasoconstrictor. It causes blood vessels to narrow so that they carry less blood. Another effect of nicotine is that it raises blood pressure. High blood pressure is a known cause of heart attack and stroke. Smoking also causes atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), a condition that narrows and clogs blood vessels.

When I do an eye exam, I know if the person I’m examining is a smoker. I can determine this by looking inside their eyes. The blood vessels in the eyes are much smaller in smokers. They are very narrow and they contain many areas called focal constriction. The vessels look as if they are in spasm. Smokers also have a greater incidence of macular degeneration and ischemic optic neuropathy, two serious eye conditions that can often cause blindness.

You’re a great kid. You’re full of life and energy. You’re just a normal, rebellious teenager who wants to experience life to the fullest. That’s OK, but please consider the risks of some of your explorations. You have a healthy body — it is essentially brand new. Please consider the consequences of smoking before you try it again. Why start a habit that is responsible for more disease and death than any other voluntary endeavor?

I respect you immensely, and I love you as much as I respect you. Please choose wisely.

Love, Dad”

The letter you just read was not written by a Christian (at least I am unaware of him being a baptized believer) nor a preacher-type with something “spiritual” to prove. It was written by a doctor of medicine and a father to his daughter. Lessons can be learned from the letter.

If you are a Christian there are more considerations of smoking. It violates 1 Corinthians 3:16 which says we must take care of our body. It violates 2 Corinthians 6:17 which says we must come out and be separate from the world. Smoking is worldly. If you are an adult smoker you violate Luke 17:2 which says it would be better if you were drowned than for you to set a bad example, thus causing a little one to stumble. Smoking sets a bad example. Smoking is a waste of money and violates the principle of steward- ship outlined in 1 Corinthians 4:2.

Add to the things above that smoking makes your breath bad, your temper short and your clothes stink. I know, I was a smoker.