By Peter N. Landless and Allan R. Handysides
(image) I have heard reports that the Breathe-Free program has been revised. Are people still smoking as much as they used to? Also, I was shocked to hear that there may be a plan to provide smoking areas within church buildings. Please clarify.
Despite the fact that the number of people smoking tobacco has decreased in many countries, the overall number of smokers worldwide continues to increase. It’s frightening and sobering to note that at the end of 2010 almost 6 million people were dying annually as a direct result of tobacco smoking, and that it remains one of the leading causes of preventable death worldwide.
A two-pronged approach to the reduction of this frightening statistic is needed. First, there must be a strong emphasis on preventing people from using tobacco to begin with; second, effective initiatives that assist people in breaking the habit of smoking tobacco must be developed and utilized.
The Seventh-day Adventist Church has been active in stop-smoking programs since the late 1950s. Dr. J. Wayne McFarland and Chaplain Elman Folkenberg, who together developed the Five-Day Plan to Stop Smoking, pioneered one of the earliest initiatives in systematic group therapy in smoking cessation. The first of these plans was conducted in the early 1960s, shortly before Surgeon General Luther L. Terry’s report that firmly concluded that cigarette smoking is causally related to lung cancer in men. In 1984 the Breathe-Free program was launched as a total rewrite of the Five-Day Plan, with significant changes and improvements. The Breathe-Free program has now been revised and is being presented in a Web site format. It’s known as Breathe-Free 2.
The previous version ran for 30 years and proved to be effective internationally. Many of its basic principles have been retained, and much has been added. The new version, like its predecessor, has been carefully researched and is an evidence-based approach to assisting people to stop smoking. It also makes use of the motivational interrogation approach in helping individuals see the need to quit and remain free from the tobacco habit. The use of pharmacological intervention and assistance has been included for those situations in which the addicted individual’s health-care provider may deem it necessary.
One of the current program’s main aims is to promote positive relationships with those who are struggling with addiction to nicotine. These relationships are key to successful outcomes. There is an important emphasis on lifestyle, including exercise; healthful nutrition; and positive support systems with family, friends, and individuals of significance to those quitting tobacco.
Almost all smokers are aware that smoking is harmful and causes many diseases. In fact, it’s incredible that tobacco is even allowed to be sold, since it’s the only commodity freely available that kills 50 percent of the people who use it!
You’ve also asked an important question as to whether there’s a recommendation to establish smoking areas inside our churches. This has never been suggested! What has been recommended is that churches designate a specific area outside the building for smokers. This would protect others from secondhand smoke. Members would encourage those who are trying to quit smoking but are still not free of their addiction to come to church and tap into the power that Christ has promised to help overcome entrenched habits. It’s important for us as a church to have a gracious and welcoming approach to all people who are seeking wholeness of body, mind, and spirit.
We have a wonderful opportunity to reach out to our communities with comprehensive health ministry and help those who are shackled by the chains of nicotine addiction. As we use Christ’s method and mingle, sympathize, and meet people’s needs, we can pray that they will embrace His grace and salvation, which He offers freely to all.
We have the tools—let’s use them.
Peter N. Landless, a board-certified nuclear cardiologist, is director of the General Conference Health Ministries Department.
Allan R. Handysides, a board-certified gynecologist, is a former director of the General Conference Health Ministries Department.