Friday, March 10, 2006 at 11:24 AM

Good (news) Friday: Smoking at lowest levels in over a half century!

Posted by Anthony L. Hall

Many people were shocked when Dana Reeve died of lung cancer at age 44 on Tuesday. And many of them cited the fact that she was a non-smoker as the reason for their consternation. Of course, Dana was the celebrated wife of actor Christopher Reeve who died just 15 months ago after years of struggling heroically (and very publicly) with the debilitating paralysis he sustained from a horse-riding accident in 1995.

But her death highlights the pernicious and pervasive hazards of smoking. And, even more troubling, it provides grave warning that one does not have to be a smoker to suffer the affects of this insidious addiction. It is ironic, therefore, that the day after Dana’s death, the federal government reported that “Americans smoked fewer cigarette last year than at anytime since 1951.” (Eg. Americans smoked 525 billion cigarettes in 1990 but only 378.6 billion last year – despite an increase in population from almost 250 million to 300 million….Granted, that’s still a lot of cigarettes!)

Undoubtedly, much of the credit for this good news should go to the American Lung Association for leading an aggressive anti-smoking campaign for years that has caused dramatic reductions in the number of people who take up smoking, and equally dramatic increases in the number of those trying to quit the habit. Because its public service announcements were instrumental in conveying the life-saving message – especially to teenagers – that “smoking is unhealthy and dangerous, not glamorous.”

It is undeniable, however, that the 1998 landmark settlement imposed upon tobacco companies by the National Association of Attorneys General was the tipping point in this public health quest. Moreover, that state legislatures have taken-up the challenge of prohibiting smoking in all places of public accommodation will not only reduce smoking levels even further but also limit exposure of non-smokers, like Dana, to the proven hazards of secondhand smoke.

Now, if we can build hermetically sealed cages for those irritating smokers who loiter in the front of almost every office building in America, emitting their toxic secondhand smoke, that would really nip this problem in the butt….

NOTE: It would be remiss of me not to acknowledge that as we celebrate this good news in the U.S., American tobacco companies are redoubling their misleading advertising throughout the Third World to get millions of young people hooked on cigarettes to make up for revenue losses in their domestic market. Therefore, I pray that public-health advocates around the world will follow the lead of the American Lung Association and campaign aggressively against the trafficking of American cigarettes in their countries.

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  1. Jennifer March 10, 2006 at 1:06 pm

    Hi Anthony

    I quit smoking a few years ago and no one hates second hand smoke more than I do. I agree with you that we need to do something about people who stand in doorways puffing their smoke in our faces as we enter and leave buildings. But it’s really scary that a woman can die from lung cancer without ever being a smoker. That just proves how poisonous nicotine really is. Why is it still legal?

  2. Ric March 10, 2006 at 2:21 pm

    I agree Jennifer. I’ve never smoked but I’ve kissed girls who did and think its a digusting and revolting habit. Only another smoker can deal with that.

    I don’t know about making it illegal because we already have to many laws that aren’t being enforced. I think ALH’s idea is great. We should treat them like caged animals so that if not for our health they will be too humiliated to continue smoking.

  3. Anonymous March 10, 2006 at 4:12 pm

    A real tragedy to have this woman who struggled bravely with her husband’s health issues as well as her own to die this way. I was truly shocked by the news, especially given her relative youth.

    We really do seem to be moving in the direction that ALH suggests by moving smokers to contained areas. But we also must confront the peer pressure issue as is relates to initiating this disgusting habit. It takes tremendous pressure (peer, media, etc) to continue to engage in an action that upon first effort makes one gag and tear up.

    Keep up with Good News Fridays….


  4. ravic March 10, 2006 at 4:28 pm

    sorry to be another good (news) friday spoiler, but i wanted to add this story that resonates with your note.

    i was in belize a few years ago and was wondering around in some non-touristy areas when i found a school gym turned into a movie theatre. they were showing MIB and the admission (for the mostly 8-15 year old crowd) was an empty cigarette pack! if you didn’t already have an empty pack, you could buy one on the spot …

  5. Dave Miller March 10, 2006 at 5:55 pm

    I think you’re onto to something her with increasing the humiliation of people who still smoke. Maybe they should be made to hide in darkened rooms like crack heads to get their hits. But it’s legal. Why not create the same kind of stigma against those who drink.

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