Huffing and Puffing About Tobacco
Allan R. Handysides and Peter N. Landless
Would you please discuss one or more of the major health needs of the world, such as tobacco addiction? I think we focus too much on our selfish, personal health issues.
Ministry, by definition, has to serve need. When Ellen White penned her inspired words that Jesus came “as the unwearied servant of man’s necessity,”1 she defined the ministry of healing. Today we are apt to find health ministry marching to the tune and beat of many bandmasters.
Several health issues do require our attention. One is the worldwide tobacco epidemic. Individual smokers may rebuff any attempt to help them quit smoking, yet society as a whole can benefit from our collective involvement in the societal problem and need.
Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland, former director-general of the World Health Organization (WHO), said, “Tobacco is one of the greatest emerging health disasters in human history.” Such problems are best attacked by public health strategies. Regulation of the tobacco industry is more likely to give better results than a one-on-one approach. As Matthew L. Myers, president of the international Campaign for Tobacco-free Kids, said: “It is mind-boggling that a product as destructive to the human body as the cigarette remains almost completely unregulated to protect health and safety.”
As Adventists, we need not only to discuss the problem but also to engage in the campaign to curb tobacco’s range. We should collectively and collaboratively support the banning of smoking in all enclosed work and public places. All buildings and transportation vehicles need to be free of tobacco’s poisonous fumes. We can join our representatives in various levels of government urging such reform. Increasing tobacco taxes reduces its usage, and a 10 percent rise in the real price of tobacco worldwide would prevent a minimum of 10 million tobacco-related deaths.2
We also must continue to offer individuals help in smoking cessation, recognizing that appropriate medication has been shown to double the number of people who successfully quit smoking. We should cooperate with physicians in planning our smoking cessation programs. Our pulpits need to be used to warn members, youth, children, and the public of the dangers of tobacco.
Most smokers are hooked while still teenagers, so let’s not be afraid to support the enforcement of bans on tobacco promotion and advertising targeted toward youth.
It was Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948) who said, “We must become the change we want to see.”
The tobacco industry has been relentlessly promoting tobacco, but even more insidious has been the use of the power of its advertising dollars to dissuade lay journals from reporting on smoking’s detrimental health effects.
The industry also is targeting Asia and Africa, whose teeming populations represent fertile fields for enslavement and profit. Worldwide, one in 10 adults dies a tobacco-related death. Women and children as well as men are being bound to a habit that will hound them for their shortened lives.
It’s vital that we, as Adventists, stop huffing and puffing about tobacco, and do something that will meaningfully curtail the huffing and puffing of tobacco by our youth. Let’s begin by becoming a caring, concerned mentor for some child or youth. Friendship counts more than any advice or preaching.
Let us work like Jesus, addressing need and seeking to help one another. More than 50 percent of the world’s nations do not have even the most minimal tobacco controls in place. There is a need and a place for Adventists to get involved. We should align with others pursuing control of this pernicious and addictive product.
Perhaps Adventists can once more become the head, not the tail, in promoting this global attack on tobacco.
1 Ellen G. White, The Ministry of Healing, p. 17.
2 World Bank, Curbing the Epidemic, p. 39.
Allan R. Handysides, a board-certified gynecologist,
is director of the General Conference Health Ministries Department.
Peter N. Landless, a board-certified nuclear cardiologist,
is associate director of the General Conference Health Ministries Department.