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Smoking Home Page
The typical cigarette smoker loses seven minutes of life for every cigarette
smoked - one year for every ten years they smoked. Race, economic status,
or culture don't matter - the statistics are the same. For some smokers,
decades may pass before tobacco robs them of their every breath, while for some
it is much sooner.
Widespread use of tobacco dates back to the days of Christopher Columbus who
returned to Europe with ships laden with tobacco. After about fifty years,
physicians promoted tobacco as a cure for illnesses such as cancer (how
ironic!), gout, halitosis, rheumatism and cataracts. English colonies
flourished in the Americas and tobacco became the economic backbone of the
settlers. The Chesapeake Bay region imported more than 100,000 slaves to
work in the tobacco fields, and from 1618 to 1626 Virginia tobacco farmers'
exports increased by 600 percent.
Tobacco sales soared again during the 20th century as its use was promoted by
well-known personalities. Mark Twain, Winston Churchill, John F. Kennedy,
Edward G. Robinson, Bette Davis, Sammy Davis, Jr., Frank Sinatra, Marilyn Monroe
and John Wayne were only a few of the household icons who encouraged millions to
light up by example. About this time, the health risks associated with
tobacco smoke became more and more obvious. In 1975, the Medical Research
Council in Britain identified tobacco as the principle cause of increased rates
of lung cancer.
Today, more than 430,000 people in the United States die each
year from illnesses related to tobacco smoking making it more deadly
than AIDS, car accidents, homicides, suicides, and drug overdoses
combined. Smoking is now recognized as the cause for nearly 90
percent of all lung cancers. Women who smoke during pregnancy
have an increased risk of miscarriage, giving birth to babies with
low birth weight and putting their infants at risk for serious
health problems. Tobacco is also associated with male sexual
impotence (because of its constrictive effect on blood vessels),
cancers of the mouth, esophagus, pancreas, cervix, kidney, and
bladder. The rate of heart attacks among smokers in their
thirties and forties is five times greater than their non-smoking
peers. Low tar of mentholated cigarette smokers are at even
greater risk as they tend to inhale more deeply to achieve their
Scientific studies have also linked passive smoking (second-hand
smoke) to chronic respiratory diseases in non-smokers, such as
asthma and bronchitis. Non-smokers exposed to second-hand
smoke risk a 23 percent increase in heart disease and a 20 percent
increase in lung cancer. Each year approximately 40,000
non-smokers die as a result of illnesses caused by second-hand
Smokeless tobacco is not any safer. More than 11 million
people chew tobacco, yet the risk of death from diseases such as
mouth cancer is 50 percent higher than in non-smokers. Studies
show that those using chewing tobacco eight to ten times a day may
be equivalent to smoking 30-40 cigarettes a day.
With all that is known about tobacco, why do 50 million people in
America continue to use tobacco? Why do another 3,000
adolescents pick up the habit each day? Tobacco industry
documents obtained during litigation reveal some disturbing answers.
Nicotine can be absorbed through the skin, lungs, and mucous membranes lining
the gums. Once it is in the blood, nicotine travels to the brain where it
increases the release of chemicals such as adrenaline, acetylcholine, dopamine,
and endorphins. For the overwhelming majority of smokers, these chemicals
create a psychological and physiological dependency on the drug. Tobacco
companies have clearly known about the addictive nature of nicotine for many
years. In 1963, Brown and Williamson Company (manufacturer of Kools,
Viceroy, Pall Mall, Silva Thins) documents acknowledged: "Nicotine is
addictive. We are, then, in the business of selling nicotine - an
addictive drug effective in the release of stress mechanisms."
In later documents, the same company noted, "Monkeys can be trained to
inject themselves with nicotine for its own sake, just as they will inject other
dependence-producing drugs, e.g., opiates, caffeine, amphetamine, cocaine ...
The absorption of nicotine through the lungs is as quick as the junkie's
Phillip Morris (manufacturers of Marlboro, Virginia Slims,
Parliament, Lark) noted in 1969, "We have, then, as our first premise,
that the primary motivation for smoking is to obtain the
pharmacological effect of nicotine."
R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company (makers of Camel, Salem, Doral,
Winston) stated, "If we ... move toward reduction or
elimination of nicotine in our products, then we shall eventually
liquidate our business. If we intend to remain in business and
our business is the manufacture and sale of dosage forms of
nicotine, then at some point we must make a stand."
Nicotine's addictive properties explain the "cold
turkey" syndrome when a person suddenly stops smoking.
Their body reacts as it would to withdrawal from any addictive drug,
with irritability, anxiety, depression, and severe craving for the
drug. Symptoms subside over a month, but even a day without
nicotine can be a grueling experience. Similar to alcohol, a
smoker will often continue to crave cigarettes for the rest of his
life and smoking one cigarette can start the habit all over again.
Seducing Youth to Smoke
Tobacco companies continue to recruit new smokers to replace
those who die - especially young adolescents (14-17 years
old). More than half of all smokers start to smoke before
their fourteenth birthday, and most of them don't stop until they
are dead. Documents from R.J. Reynolds Tobacco reveal,
"If our company is to survive and prosper over the long term,
we must get our share of the youth market."
In 1977, Philip Morris attempted to obtain access to school
records to identify hyperactive children, considering them a
potential market for self-medication with nicotine.
Fortunately, laws restricted tobacco's access to those school
records. In 1978, Lorillard (makers of Kent, Maverick, Old Gold)
executives acknowledged that high school students comprised the
"base" of their business. In 1981, Philip Morris
researcher Myron E. Johnston wrote, "Today's teenager is
tomorrow's potential regular customer, and the overwhelming majority
of smokers first begin to smoke while in their teens."
The "Joe Camel" campaign hit the streets with billboards and free
paraphernalia such as baseball caps, beach towels and T-shirts in
1987 when cigarette sales were plummeting in America due to
anti-smoking initiatives. Almost immediately, cigarette sales
turned around - especially among the mid-teen population. One
study reveals that 91 percent of six-year-olds correctly identified
Joe Camel with cigarettes.
Information on youth smoking prevention can be found at the