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SMOKING: The News Just Keeps Getting Worse

Feb 1, 2002 While smoking is already recognized as an extremely dangerous health risk, a number of current medical studies indicate that the true extent of the danger is far greater than previously believed. This month, as a service to our readers, we have collected a number of recent reports which deal with new information concerning the risks smoking poses to the public health as well as other smoking related items.

I. Women - Extremely vulnerable to widespread health problems
a. Infertility - A chemical toxin found in cigarettes (Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons, known as PAH) can trigger ovarian failure and early menopause by accelerating the destruction of the egg cells in the ovaries. This is a gradual process that takes many years to occur. Dr. Jonathan Tilly of Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, who headed the study into the effects of PAH on female fertility referred to these toxins as "silent killers" because the damage they cause can not be detected "until after the fact when it's way too late." Researchers are also studying the possibility that the ovaries of unborn female fetuses may be damaged as a result of smoking by the mother during pregnancy. PAH is also found in charbroiled meat, tar and some medicines, plastics and dyes.
b. Lung cancer - There has been a 600% increase in women's death rates from lung cancer since 1950. In fact, for the past 14 years, deaths from lung cancer have exceeded those from breast cancer. Last year alone, almost 27,000 more American women died from lung cancer (67,600) than from breast cancer (40,800).
c. Lower bone density
d. Premature decline in lung function
e. Cancer - Higher risks of cancers of the mouth, pharynx, oesophagus, larynx, bladder, pancreas, kidney and cervix.
f. Cardiovascular disease - especially when using oral contraceptives.

II. Children of pregnant women who smoke have increased risk of:
a. lower birth weight
b. stillborn and neonatal deaths
c. Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) or crib death
d. Lifelong metabolic abnormalities
e. obesity (34% to 38% more likely)
f. Type 2 Diabetes (4.5 times greater risk in children of women who smoked more than 10 cigarettes a day and 4.13 times if the mother smoked less than 10 cigarettes a day)

III. Young adults who smoke increase their risk of:
a. Type 2 diabetes in later life
b. Heart disease
c. Respiratory disorders
d. Lung and other cancers

IV. Passive (second hand) smoke is extremely dangerous:
a. Children of parents who smoke show higher rates of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), asthma, bronchitis, colds and pneumonia. It also makes it more likely that the child will grow up to be a smoker.
b. Co-workers have twice the risk of developing respiratory ailments including asthma.
c. It is associated with nighttime chest tightness and shortness of breath after activity.
d. It increases the risk of non-smokers to develop cancer, heart disease and respiratory problems/
Despite numerous studies on the effects of secondhand smoke, the tobacco industry maintains that there is no "scientific evidence" establishing that passive smoke is a risk factor for lung cancer, heart disease or any other disease in adult non-smokers.

V. Problems associated with quitting can also be quite serious.
a. Zyban - Although originally hailed as a "wonder drug", Zyban has now been linked to a number of deaths in several countries. Its side effects also include seizures, fainting, hallucinations, increased heart rate, nausea or vomiting, loss of consciousness and many others.
b. Nicotine in quite-smoking aids has been found to increase the number of blood vessels supplying tumors thereby "feeding" the tumors and causing them to grow. Thus, such remedies should be used only as directed and should not be misused or relied on chronically. The advise seems to be that these remedies are far less dangerous than cigarettes when properly used and when they are discontinued after accomplishing their purpose.
c. Nicotine addiction makes it extremely difficult to quit smoking. In fact, a recent poll indicates that, on the average, people who are still smoking have tried to stop and failed as many as eight times. Only 3% to 5% of the 50 million smokers in America successfully quit smoking each year.

VI. "Safer" cigarettes - Don't bet on it.
a. Low tar or "light" cigarettes do not reduce the chances of getting smoking-related diseases. In fact, many people who turn to these brands actually wind up smoking more in order to satisfy their nicotine addiction. The way in which people smoke (as compared to the testing machines) also increases tar and nicotine levels because people take larger puffs, smoke more of the cigarette and cover up ventilation holes in the filter designed to lower tar levels.
b. Modified tobacco or lower temperature cigarettes also cause smokers to puff harder and smoke more in order to satisfy their nicotine addiction. In the end, these are just another form of tobacco product which should be avoided.

VII. Injury to the skin
A recent scientific study concluded that smoking may damage the skin the same way as exposure to the sun. The suspicion is that smoking (like the sun) switches on a gene (MMP-1 or matrix metalloproteinase-1) which is involved in destroying collagen and causing wrinkles. Smoking has also been found to cause oxygen damage to the cells and to disrupt the blood flow to the skin.

VIII. Advertising Tactics
a. Women - Surgeon General Dr. David Satchev stated "Tobacco advertisements suggest that women who smoke are liberated, sexually attractive, athletic, fun-loving and slim whereas in reality, women who smoke are often nicotine dependent, physically unhealthy, socioeconomically challenged or depressed."
b. Children - Targeting children in order to entice them to smoke is a charge being leveled against the big five tobacco companies in a current class action lawsuit. Several states as well as the federal government are also looking into charges that the major cigarette manufacturers conspired to target children.

IX. Miscellaneous Matters
a. An ex-employee of Phillip Morris testified that over a seven year period, Phillip Morris gradually increased the tar content in one brand (Cambridge) from 0 to 12 mg without telling smokers. Although hired to design safer cigarettes, the witness, William Farone, was eventually fired for insubordination in 1984 when Phillip Morris abandoned that effort. In fact, Farone stated that Phillip Morris "killed" at least 10 research projects geared to help design a safer cigarette.
b. Secret tobacco documents obtained through litigation are being prepared for release on the internet. For information, contact Washington State Attorney General at 360-753-1476.
c. Maryland has banned tobacco, matches, and lighters in all state prisons after complaints by inmates regarding secondhand smoke.
d. Grady Carter of Florida became the first person to collect payment from tobacco company for a cigarette related illness ($750,000 plus interest for a total of $1,087.191).
e. Several asbestos companies have sued a number of tobacco "giants" seeking reimbursement for all or part of the awards made to sick workers who, although exposed to asbestos, were also smokers.
Clearly, the tobacco "saga" is far from over. The lawsuits and medical studies promise to be with us for years, if not decades, to come.
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