This morning I gave a talk to the Optimists Club in Wheatridge, a suburb of Denver. A member of this club is a college colleague of mine who frequently asks me to talk to this group about lung health matters. Today, I spoke on the subject entitled, "Seduced by Smoking". My message was how effective the tobacco industry has been, and still is, in enticing teenagers into the bondage of nicotine addiction through their promotion of tobacco. For many years, the tobacco industry has literally seduced teenagers into believing that smoking is healthy, attractive, sexy, and the in thing to do. Their success is measured by the fact that every day, 3,000 teenagers take up the smoking habit. These kids replace those who die of the smoking-related diseases, i.e., about 430,000 patients a year, and those who are successful in quitting.
In the discussion period, there were many questions about the health hazards of passive smoking. I cited the increased risk of lung cancer in non-smoking spouses of smokers, school absenteeism, increased ear infections, and worsening asthma in children with one or more parents who smoke. I cited an interesting report of the improved health of California bartenders where, in the past year smoking was prohibited in these establishments. There has been a successful lawsuit on behalf of airlines cabin attendants, judging that they were victims of passive smoking during their service on transcontinental and overseas flights. This class-action suite, known as Broin vs. Philip Morris et al, resulted in a huge settlement on behalf of the plaintiffs.
In the discussion, a veterinarian pointed out that cats and dogs brought in with bronchitis and asthma are also victims of environmental tobacco smoke in the homes of their masters. Dr. Ann Brandenberg Schroeder, a specialist in veterinary medicine, who directs a pet imaging center in Denver, said that the first thing that she does when a pet gets sick with bronchitis or asthma is to smell the animal for traces of cigarette smoke. I suggested to her that she might be able to measure exhaled carbon monoxide in these animals, or even creatinine in the urine enough to prove the point for scientific publication.
Not only mankind, but even man's best friend, succumb to the ravages of tobacco toxicity, and yet the tobacco industry steadfastly denies that there is any connection between tobacco and disease. The buzzards keep flying around the Dade County Courthouse for good reasons (see February, 1999 newsletter).
I will be in touch next month.
Thomas Petty, MD