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Smoke alarm.

Part II: The health risks of smoking, whether from conventional cigarettes or from low-tar, low-nicotine cigarettes, are not confined to smokers. People exposed to cigarette smoke, whatever the source, are vulnerable to smoke from two sources: mainstream smoke, which the smoker inhales and then spews out; and sidestream smoke, which wafts up from the burning end of the cigarette. Nonsmokers have to breathe sidestream smoke continually. This smoke, which does not pass through a filter, is burdened with twice the tar and nicotine, 50 times the ammonia and substantially more cancer-causing substances, like nitrosamines, than mainstream smoke. Researchers have found that nonsmokers spending one hour in a smoky room take in as much of these dangerous substances as they would if they smoked 35 filter-tipped cigarettes. Even in a ventilated room, a nonsmoker sitting next to a smoker is exposed to air with twice the level of carbon monoxide than the Federal Air Quality Standards allow for industry.

Medical studies are beginning to reflect these dangerous situations. One 14-year projects in Japan, published in the British Medical Journal, found that nonsmoking women married to heavy smokers had twice the death rate from lung cancer as nonsmoking women married to nonsmoking men. A Harvard study showed that children of smoking parents have diminished lung capacity compared to the children of nonsmokers. Another study concluded that these children also suffer more bronchial ailments. Finally, a study in the New England Journal of Medicine disclosed that lung damage was nearly equivalent in nonsmokers who work in a smoky environment and smokers who inhale one to ten cigarettes each day. "Chronic exposure to tobacco smoke in the work environment is deleterious to the nonsmoker," the researchers concluded, causing a "measurable loss in breathing capacity."

Such findings support the understandable distress of one physician who recently lamented: "Why do we agonize over substances like saccharin when we supinely allow our indoor environment to be filled with some carcinogens that are 50,000 times more potent than saccharin? Why do we enact clean-air legislation only for the outside when we spend 90 percent of our time indoors?"

Tabacco is the country's fifth-largest cash crop. The industry's revenues compare with those of the aerospace and electrical-equipment fields; consumers spend about the same amount of money on cigarettes that they invest in radios, televisions, records and musical instruments combined. Excise taxes alone on tobacco add about $6 billion annually to state and federal coffers.

About 500,000 farm families are dependent on the continued success of this industry. Aside from the amount the industry spends of its own lobby, tobacco interests contributed up to $1 million to members of Congress from 1978 to 1982.

Throughout the century, Congress has not been particularly enthusiastic about measures to safeguard the health of smokers. As far back as 1906, Congress declared that tobacco is neither a drug nor a food and thus prohibited the Food and Drug Administration from taking any actions that might limit sales. Despite lawsuits challenging the decision, this prohibition is still in effect. In the Federal Cigarette Labeling and Advertising Act, Congress claimed sole authority to decide whether more health disclosures should be made on cigarette packages--the consequence being that none have been added. Congress has also prevented the Consumer Products Safety Commission and the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating the tobacco industry. It has exempted tobacco from the Toxic Substances Act. Arsenic, DDT and other unknown dangerous substances in cigarettes have not been included in the label notice on cigarette packages. In one year, 1980, 21 bills to control the tobacco industry were introduced. One by one, they were defeated.

Despite the absence of cigarette advertising on television and radio, the tobacco industry has not been at a disadvantage promoting its products. Each year, Americans are besieged with about $1 billion worth of print advertising, billboards and promotion gimmicks. Indeed, no other American product benefits from more advertising dollars. The legal dikes built against this glut of antihealth propaganda consist of a few rules: Tobacco advertising must contain the brief and general health warning; it must reveal tar and nicotine levels; it cannot appear in youth media or use themes attractive to young people; and, of course, like all advertisements, the messages must not be unfair or deceptive.

Given the grave dangers of smoking, associating cigarettes with good health and athletics is deceptive. Yet sports competitions are frequently sponsored by tobacco companies; advertisements feature healthy young people swimming, playing tennis, bicycling, boating, skating and engaging in other sports. Ads have also featured beautiful models in sports clothes; the captions indicate that, having considered the health dangers, the beauties switched to a particular low-tar brand.

Sanctions against youth-targeted advertising are even more flagrantly violated. One hundred thousand children under 12 smoke. More than three-quarters of the Americans who smoke began as children. The special threat here is that smoking damage is cumulative; the younger a person begins, the greater the chances his or her health--or life--will be affected by the grim statistics.

The industry insists that children smoke not because of tobacco advertising but because of peer pressure and a "general rebelliousness." But Emerson Foote, who left his position as head of a large advertising corporation because of this precise issue, regards this argument as absurd. The five most heavily promoted cigarette brands are those most smoked by teen-agers. Winston cigarettes are advertised as the product of choice for people whose tastes have "grown up." A CBS newsman in Chicago located this confidential memo on Viceroy's advertising strategy: "For the young smoker. . .a cigarette falls into the same category with wine, beer. . .or wearing a bra. . . An attempt should be made to present the cigarette as an initiation into the adult world. . .to present the cigarette as. . .an illicit pleasure. . .to relate the cigarette to pot, wine, beer, sex. Do not communicate. . . health-related points."

The cigarette industry costs the nation about $27 billion for medical care (estimated by the American Cancer Society); $40.4 million for government research and health education; $25 billion in lost productivity due to lost time from smoking-related illnesses; and a substantial amount lost to the gross national product by premature deaths.

Nor do the costs to the country end there. Cigarettes cause 74,000 fires a year, in which 2,000 people die and 6,000 are burned. Aside from the midical costs incurred, the fires add $210 million to property damages alone. Cigarette-caused fires have increased insurance rates--and thus affected inflation--by 25 to 35 percent.

The tobacco industry's current strategy is to discredit its critics, labeling them "fumaphobes"--people who have an "extreme fear" of cigarette smoke. It makes a big point of "freedom of choice" for the smoker.

On the surface, the argument that government should not attempt to legislate our personal habits is compelling. But our freedom to do as we please has always been limited by our freedom to live in a safe society. Because spitting can spread tuberculosis, we are encouraged not to spit in public places. We are not free to start gunfights. We should not be free to endanger heart and lung patients, children and other nonsmokers by blowing carbon monoxide and other noxious compounds in their faces.

Similarly, the industry's claim that the health hazards are not proved--that they are based only on "statistics"--is itself a fundamental deception, because almost all medical progress is based on "statistics." A drug, for example, is deemed effective if it helps more than 35 percent of the people to whom it is administered. Epidemioloigy, the study of the population trends of disease rather than its biological causes, is singularly responsible for many of modern society's great advances, such as the elimination of scurvy. The difference between the historian and the epidemiologist is that the historian says we are doomed to repeat our mistakes; the epidemiologist wants us to learn from them.

What, then, can individually concerned citizens do? As voters, we can:

* Work for the continued funding of the Office on Smoking and Health, which computerizes research findings on health hazards, makes them available to physicians and scientists and published the surgeon general's reports;

* Urge federal agencies, such as the National Cancer Institute, to devote more of their budgets to the antismoking campaign;

* Demand that at least one federal agency be responsible for full disclosure of all cigarette contents and for regulating them;

* Demand that cigarette advertising no longer be directed to children and that the glamorizing of cigarette smoking be discontinued;

* Ask that the tobacco price-support program be phased out. Because no other crop would be as lucrative for farmers, it would be cheaper for the American public to pay them not to grow tobacco--the precedent for subsidizing farmers not to grow certain crops is well established;

* Support research on the hazards to nonsmokers and to those who, like asbestos workers, are in substantial danger because of synergistic effects;

* Support legislation, originally introduced by Senator Cranston of California, that requires self-extinguishing cigarettes in order to reduce fire hazards;

* Support legislation such as that introduced by Senators Packwood and Hatch in the early '80s requiring not only that additives be revealed but that packages carry rotational warnings, which would change every three months and carry more specifics about health hazards.

Americans can encourage our physicians as well as our government to fight smoking. Studies show that the more actively a physician intervenes (talking seriously to a patient, telling the patient he will follow up on his or her attempt to stop smoking), the greater the patient's chances are for quitting. The National Cancer Institute, along with several other organizations, offers physician's kits to help patients quit. Hospitals should, of course, immediately cease selling cigarettes in their gift shops.

Researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles, have found that a protein in the tobacco leaf has great nutritional value. An acre of tobacco would yield four times the protein of an equivalent plot of soybeans. Scientists believe that the substance could be beneficial to infants allergic to cow or soy milk products or as a protein source for patients with kidney diseases requiring controlled mineral intake. Other sources say that, at the moment, the refining process is so complicated that soybeans remain the preferred protein crop. Still, the prospects are so substantial that other urge further research.

Time and again in the life of our nation, supposedly inexorable forces have been reversed by people acting out of convictions and positive goals. We must never underestimate our ability to bring about changes essential to human interest.
COPYRIGHT 1984 Saturday Evening Post Society
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1984 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:part 2
Author:Cousins, Norman
Publication:Saturday Evening Post
Date:Jul 1, 1984
Previous Article:I am the American flag.
Next Article:Bassing: hook line and sinker.

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