Up in Smoke: The Truth About Smoking
by Tiffany Tarin, health consultant, from US
Do you know what the most common drug addiction is?
According to the Surgeon General of the United States, it's "nicotine
dependency through cigarette smoking." The Surgeon General has said that
this addiction "causes more death and disease than all other addictions
combined." Think about that for a moment. If you put together all the
drugs that a person could possibly become addicted to including alcohol,
prescription, or illegal drugs, they would not cause as many deaths or
illnesses as cigarette smoking.
Most people know about the dangers of smoking and yet they continue to
smoke. Why is this? They think it's cool. They see their friends
smoking, or maybe they think they will have more friends if they smoke.
I know one fifteen-year-old who started smoking because a guy she liked
smoked. They hung out for about six weeks, then decided they didn't like
each other as much as they thought. Well, by this time the girl had
become addicted to nicotine, (the substance in cigarettes that makes
them addictive). Later that same year when she met another guy she
liked, he wouldn't have anything to do with her because she smoked. She
finally quit, but it was very difficult for her.
Another reason people
smoke is because of all the media and advertising done to persuade us to
smoke. We see people smoking in movies, and we see ads that suggest that
smoking is a cool thing to do. The tobacco industry spends in excess of
$4 billion dollars ($4,000,000,000) for advertising. That's a lot of
zero's! A lot of this advertising is directed at people who are your
age. You may not realize that this is happening, because it is done very
subtly. Did you know that Joe Camel, the cartoon character that RJ
Reynolds uses in it's advertising, is as recognizable to a six-year-old
as Mickey Mouse? That should make those of you with younger brothers and
sisters very angry. It certainly makes me angry!
advertising works. In order to maintain the current number of smokers,
the tobacco industry has to convince 5,000 new people to smoke each day.
This is to make up for those people that die and also those that quit
smoking. Every day, appproximately four thousand people in the United
States under the age of 19 become addicted to nicotine. In fact, 90% of
people who smoke began smoking before the age of 19. One half of these
smokers started smoking by the age of 14. The only way to prevent this
is to not become addicted to nicotine. In short, don't pick up that
first cigarette. If you remain a non-smoker through high school, chances
are you will never smoke.
The percentages of cancer deaths due to
cigarette smoking are staggering. Thirty percent of ALL cancer deaths
are caused by smoking. Cigarette smoke kills almost five hundred
thousand people (500,000) per year in the United States. That's more
than thirteen hundred people per day! Worldwide the deaths per year are
around three million. That means that every day, more than 8,000 people
in the world die unnecessarily because they are addicted to a substance
Chances are someone you know has or will die from
cigarette smoke. I do. My aunt, my grandmother, and my step-grandmother
all died from smoking cigarettes. U.S. Vice President Al Gore's sister
died from the effects of smoking. Recently Vice President Gore spoke
about how this tragedy affected him and his family.
There is some good
news however. Although cigarette smoking is increasing in other
countries, tobacco use in the United States is declining. In fact, it
may seem like "everyone" is smoking, but the truth is, young people are
less likely to start smoking now then they were ten years ago. This is
mainly due to the fact that we have become better educated about the
effects that smoking has on our bodies. It is up to each of us to take
responsibility for this epidemic. If you, through your actions, are able
to keep from smoking and influence others not to smoke, then you have
done your part in ending this horrible epidemic.
One thing you can do if
you if you would like to help is participate in the Great American
Smokeout on November 21, sponsored by the
American Cancer Society. Encourage any smokers you know to quit smoking
for the day. The Society also has information about how to quit
smoking. It's a good resource if you would like to provide people you
care about with the help they need to stop smoking so that you don't have to watch
their health go up in smoke.