Smoking and cancer
Americans smoke six thousand million cigarettes every year (1970 figures). This is roughly the equivalent of 4,195 cigarettes a year for every person in the country of 18 years of age or more. It is estimated that 51% of American men smoke compared with 34% of American women.
Since 1939, numerous scientific studies have been conducted to determine whether smoking is a health hazard. The trend of the evidence has been consistent and indicates that there is a serious health risk. Research teams have conducted studies that show beyond all reasonable doubt that tobacco smoking, particularly cigarette smoking is associated with a shortened life expectance.
Cigarette smoking is believed by most research workers in this field to be an important factor in the development of cancer of the bladder and the oral cavity. Male cigarette smokers have a higher death rate from heart disease than non-smoking males. (Female smokers are thought to be less affected because they do not breathe in the smoke so deeply.) The majority of physicians and researchers consider these relationships proved to their satisfaction and say, ‘Give up smoking, If you don’t smoke - don’t start!’
Some competent physicians and research workers - though their small number is dwindling even further - are less sure of the effect of cigarette smoking on health. They consider the increase in respiratory diseases and various forms of cancer may possibly be explained by other factors in the complex human environment–atmospheric pollution, increased nervous stress, chemical substances in processed food, or chemical pesticides that are now being used by farmers in vast quantities to destroy insects and small animals. Smokers who develop cancer or lung diseases, they say, may also, by coincidence, live in industrial areas, or eat more canned food. Gradually, however, research is isolating all other possible factors and proving them to be statistically irrelevant.
Apart from statistics, it might be helpful to look at what smoking tobacco actually does to the human body. Smoke is a mixture of gases, vaporized chemicals, minute particles of ash, and other solids. There is also nicotine, which is a powerful poison, and black tar. As the smoke is breathed in, all these components is where the air tube, or bronchus, divides. Most lung cancer begins at this point.
Smoking also affects the heart and blood vessels. It is known to be related to Beurger’s disease, a narrowing of the small veins in the hands and feet that can cause great pain and lead even to amputation of limbs. Smokers also die much more often from heart disease.
While all tobacco smoking affects life expectancy and health, cigarette smoking appears to have a much greater effect than cigar or pipe smoking. However, nicotine consumption is not diminished by the latter forms, and current research indicates a causal relationship between all forms of smoking and cancer of the mouth and throat. Filters and low tar tobacco are claimed to make smoking to some extent safer, but they can only marginally reduce, not eliminate the hazards.