Smoking Draws Increasing Fire as Moral, Health Issue
November 1986

“Smoking Draws Increasing Fire as Moral, Health Issue,” Ensign, Nov. 1986, 103–4

Smoking Draws Increasing Fire as Moral, Health Issue

“I think the harmful effect of cigarette smoking is a moral issue because tobacco companies are well aware that cigarettes kill and injure people,” said Dr. John Holbrook, a member of the Advisory Committee to the U.S. Surgeon General on Smoking and Health and associate professor of internal medicine at the University of Utah School of Medicine.

“These companies will not acknowledge in public that their products harm people,” he noted. “For the sake of profit, they are marketing a product that is killing more than a million people a year in the world and more than three hundred fifty thousand a year in the United States. Over a thousand people a day are dying prematurely.”

Dr. Holbrook, a former chairman of the American Heart Association Subcommittee on Smoking, added that individuals with heart or ling disease need to be warned against inhaling cigarette smoke from other people. “If an individual has serious coronary artery disease, emphysema, or bronchitis, secondhand exposure to cigarette smoke can cause a worsening of that condition,” he says. Many people, he notes, are not informed about the hazards of an individual inhaling “secondhand” smoke.

“Cigarette smoke is the product of a chemical reaction,” Dr. Holbrook says. “When the tobacco leaf burns at a very high temperature, the result is the production of hundreds of compounds that are not originally present in the tobacco leaf. Many of these compounds are harmful.

“Some of the compounds are carcinogens (cancer-producing substances). Some are toxic gases, such as hydrogen cyanide, carbon monoxide, and many others. Some are mutogenic, meaning substances that alter the genetic makeup of cells. These harmful substances are taken by the smoker directly into the lungs, them they enter the bloodstream and pass rapidly throughout the body.”

The involuntary, or passive, smoker is also exposed to these substances, but in different concentrations, Dr. Holbrook says. Being exposed in the workplace forty hours a week to significant amounts of smoke may be comparable to actually smoking a few cigarettes a day.

The recent death from lung cancer of a renowned plant pathologist who had never touched a cigarette is an example of the serious consequences of breathing secondhand tobacco smoke. Though not a smoker himself, he had worked side by side with smokers for many years.

More than forty thousand research studies on active smoking are on file in a U.S. federal library in Washington, D.C., and another thousand studies have been published on passive smoking.

“The Church has been teaching for a century and a half that tobacco is harmful,” adds Dr. Holbrook, who is a member of the Monument Park Fourteenth Ward. “The scientific evidence concerning the harmful effects of smoking has been in for thirty years.”

Dr. Holbrook noted that the Coalition on Smoking and Health, an organization made up of representatives from the American Heart Association, the American Lung Association, and the American Cancer Society, is pushing for action on many levels.

“We’d like to see a striking increase in the excise tax on cigarettes,” he says, “and a restriction of all advertising and promotion of tobacco products. We’d like to see stronger clean-air laws to protect nonsmokers. And we’d like our government to help tobacco farmers get out of that business and retrain them to grow other crops or to take up another career.”