This past year there were several lawsuits against tobacco companies which received a great deal of public attention and generated a fair amount of discussion on radio talk shows. Did smokers have a legitimate complaint? Should the tobacco companies be held liable for the results of their product? Evaluating this one is comparable to hearing that the IRS might audit Janet Reno; which side does a person cheer for?
On the one hand, tobacco companies, like liquor companies, know what their product does. Maybe they justify to themselves their products, as pornographic publishers do, by saying, "There's a market for it. People want to buy this product. If we didn't produce it, someone else would."
On the other hand, there are the smokers who have brought the lawsuits. Did they really not know the harm that smoking causes? The Surgeon General's warning has been on the package since 1964, but people knew long before then the hazards of cigarettes.
Popular radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh, who is obviously pro-business, left no doubts about whose side he was on, going so far as to refer to some as "anti-smoking Nazis." A few callers tried to protest the terminology but could make no headway. Most of us just turn off the program when that subject arises. It is not that we fail to see the point about those who are anti-business or anti-corporation. The fact is that many of us have preached and taught against smoking for years--not because we are Nazis, trying to impose our will on others, but because cigarettes and other forms of tobacco are addictive and deadly.
Concerning the addictive nature of cigarettes, Mr. Limbaugh often says that he quit, and it was the easiest thing he ever did. While we are happy for him, we have all seen friends or loved ones who fought with themselves day and night: some have won the battle, but many have lost. Some have claimed that the ingredients found in cigarettes are more addictive than cocaine. One should not view his own experience as typical of everyone else's.
Another argument in favor of tobacco is mentioning someone who smoked and lived to be 103. This is scarcely a valid argument--unless the average smoker lives to such a grand age. There are always exceptions. There are some alcoholics who by all rights should have no liver left, but then there are also Mickey Mantle and others who have either had liver transplants or died--or both. There may be some "rock" star who, despite being with a number of groupies, has never had syphilis, gonorrhea, or any other sexually transmitted disease. Does this prove that promiscuity is acceptable?
A few exceptions do not negate the rule. The fact is, according to Victor Alvarez (in a "Health" column for The Dallas Morning News on December 17, 1997): "cigarette smoke causes heart disease, lung cancer, emphysema and more than 400,000 premature deaths" per year (19A). He adds that "there are 4,000 chemicals in a cigarette and approximately 40 of them are known carcinogens." He then lists them--for those requiring precise information. In the event Mr. Limbaugh is unaware of it, smoking cigars can lead to throat and lip cancer. Chewing tobacco also has its problems.
In the fall of 1987 I was a full-time graduate student at Illinois State University on the assistantship program, which meant I taught a class of freshmen students in composition. For one assignment each student had to select a controversial topic and write persuasively about it. The textbook provided a list of suggestions, and I was surprised when three students chose to write about cigarettes. Each one took a different approach.
Karen Kennedy took a humorous approach in what she called "Puff, Puff, Puff." An excerpt is included below from the October, 1987 issue of Strength.
Well, if you want to smoke, be prepared to have smelly hair and bad breath; yes, it smells rancid. When you are done taking a hit from that cig, just run your tongue across those pearly whites. Cool and tasty, right? Wrong! Yuk! Run to the washroom to brush those babies before the man of your dreams pops up. You wouldn't want him to pass out because of your smoker's breath. When you're with that guy, watch out, because if you think you look cool with that white, skinny thing sticking out of your mouth, think again. Those movie stars sure do, but then this is the real world, and to my knowledge it turns a guy off if you smoke. So if you want to be single and smell, then puff, puff, puff (5).
Jolie Burns talked about her personal triumph over nicotine in "Quit Smoking for the Last Time." Below are two complete paragraphs and portions of others from her composition.
Lung cancer, yellow teeth, and your clothes smelling like smoke are just a few bad effects from smoking. I had been smoking for three years when I finally realized all the harm I was doing to my body. I decided to quit for a number of reasons. I was fed up with being out of breath from climbing only one flight of stairs. Then there were the dirty looks nonsmokers would give me when I smoked in public. My budget would also become tighter with every pack of cigarettes I bought.
Still another student wrote on this subject; she provides a more personal touch to the issue--one that many families have probably experienced. It is reprinted in its entirety (and therefore the larger type will be used).
The breeze gently blew through my hair as Grandpa pushed me on the swing. Laughing as the world around me seemed so new, Grandpa and I enjoyed the sunny day. Feeling free and alive, we ran through the playground, not missing a single piece of equipment to play on. Hours passed as we talked, played, and sang together. We would have been there longer, but the sunny day soon faded to dark. Walking hand in hand, we headed for home where Grandma waited for us.
This fond memory is all I have now. Grandpa passed away last year. He died of cancer due to smoking. As a young child Grandpa smoked a couple cigarettes a day, but it soon led to a couple packs of cigarettes. Like many kids today, he did it because his friends did. He continued to smoke because he thought it relaxed him. He grew sick from the effects of the cigarettes. Grandpa was a beautiful person. Because of smoking he's now gone. Smoking smells, looks bad, and causes cancer.
Smoking seems so simple. Smokers cautiously take a drag from a cigarette and blow it freely into the air. If they keep the smoke out of others' faces, usually nothing is said, but in a crowded room smokers not only make it difficult for others to breathe, they make the room stink. Imagine being locked in a room for an hour surrounded by thick, gray smoke. Disgusting? Yes. Attractive? No.
America is on a health kick. In this day and age it takes a real effort to ignore the cold, hard facts about smoking's dangers. In fact, you'd have to be unconscious not to have noticed the bad publicity smoking has received in recent years. Restaurants have had to provide an area for nonsmokers to eat; some businesses have completely banned smoking in the offices, and airlines have had to designate a larger are for nonsmokers.
Imagine a person smoking. Do you think that person looks sophisticated? Today's society looks down on smokers. Television programs have advertised the effects of smoking through actresses, models, and every day people. Organizations such as the American Lung Association work hard to help people quit smoking. Let's face it--the glamor of smoking is gone.
Cigarette smoking constitutes a health hazard. Research indicates that smoking is directly associated with cancer. It is estimated that seventeen billion dollars is lost each year in health care costs because of smoking. That's astronomical!!
When my grandfather began smoking, he didn't know that it caused cancer or that he would die from it. He died unhappy, wishing he had quit. Many people today know the facts, yet they choose to smoke anyway. Most will die because of it. Most of them have a family that loves them. Most don't worry about it until it is too late. Why?
I miss Grandpa. He was a good friend. Unfortunately, the memories are all I have. A gentle, caring old man, my grandpa, is gone. When he died, he was only 58 years old and weighed 75 pounds. If only he had known what we all know today when he started smoking. . . (3).
Opposition to cigarettes and tobacco products is not based on the desire to restrict anyone's freedom--to dictate what others can and cannot do. Were people not free for over 5,000 years of human history before cigarettes were manufactured and marketed? Why does it suddenly require nicotine for a person to enjoy liberty?
The fact is that we do outlaw things that are harmful to the individual--from marijuana to LSD. Sometimes the argument is made that the user of these things can pose a danger to others, which is true. Yet alcohol remains legal despite the number of people who are killed and maimed each year (by those who obviously do not reserve it strictly for their own personal use). The marijuana user who has a mountain cabin must feel discriminated against because he cannot legally smoke in the privacy of his home where he will disturb no one, but someone can get drunk legally with alcoholic beverages and do all sorts of damage to others.
Furthermore, the cigarette smoker can do damage to others. Some have quit working in restaurants that have smoking sections because of the pervading haze of smoke that fouls one's clothes and hair and fills one's lungs with a number of impurities from secondhand smoke. After two or three hours, nonsmokers become physically sick. Generally, smokers do not understand this reaction; they frequently dismiss such objections and complaints as foolishness.
What saith the Scriptures? First Corinthians 6:19-20 is frequently cited as evidence that one should not harm the body, which is true. Some respond by saying, "Everything is harmful," which is specious. The over-zealousness of a few "studies" does not negate factual information on truly harmful substances. In First Corinthians 6:12 Paul answers the "all things are lawful" argument by saying, "I will not be brought under the power of anything." Wouldn't that include addictions?
*Send comments or questions concerning this article to Gary Summers. Please refer to this article as: "ANTI-SMOKING NAZIS (1/4/98)."