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Thursday, April 05, 2007

Smokers — Drug Addicts

The Singapore Health Promotion Board recently launched a new anti-smoking blitz. Consisting of widely-distributed posters of a woman, skin sallow from smoking, and suffering from mouth cancer, augmented with a 35-second spot on TV, where she rasps, "Quitting is hard. Not quitting is harder" (borrowed heavily from a similar effort in Australia) the campaign has been drawing flak from over-protective parents and the ubiquitous whiny Singaporean ("Oh, it ruined my appetite for dinner! Oh the humanity! Wah! Wah! Wah!").

These people demand to be blinkered from the sight of smoking's consequences. Why?

Smoking leads to terrible diseases, including, but not limited to, many forms of cancer. Smokers litter the ground with cigarette butts. Smokers stink up rooms, the interior of vehicles, elevators, etc. Smokers cause fires with their carelessly-tossed cigarette butts. Smokers are drug addicts. Smokers damage the health of others around them with carcinogenic secondhand smoke. Smokers are an immense liability in our hybrid copay-socialized national healthcare system.

Despite all these, smoking remains legal. Why?

From "Forum, The Straits Times, 3 April 2007: H6.

Don't shield the young from truths on smoking

SMOKING causes lung cancer and chronic lung disease.
       Smoking causes oral cancer.
       Smoking causes blindness.
       These are proven facts.
       As doctors, we wish to assure readers that the gory pictures depicted in the Health Promotion Board's latest anti-smoking campaign are child's play compared to the diseased and dying patients we face every day.
       In the intensive-care unit, smokers dying from lung failure gasp for air because their lungs have been destroyed by smoke and toxins from cigarettes.
       Patients who suffer from oral cancers are unable to eat, drink or talk properly.
       Along the corridor, family members wait helplessly for the impending end. It is a painful sight that we have to endure all too often.
       Long-term smokers are also at increased risk of blindness from age-related macular degeneration and cataract.
       Too many people are dying before their time, thanks to cigarettes.
       As cigarette smoking often starts in teenage years, let our children see the reality rather than shield them from the truth.

Dr. Azman Johan
Director, Medical Intensive Care Unit,
Senior Consultant
Department of Medicine

Dr. Tan Eng Chun
Assistant Director
Health for Life Centre

Dr. Paul Mok Kan Hwei
Head and Consultant
Department of Otolaryngology
— Head and Neck Surgery

Associate Professor Sin Fai Lam
Head and Senior Consultant
Department of Medicine

Dr. Kenneth Mak
Head and Consultant
Department of Surgery

Associate Professor Au Eong Kah Guan
Head and Senior Consultant
Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences
Alexandra Hospital


Scuba divers who smoke are total retards. Here's an excerpt of what Dr. David Sawatzky has to say about smoking and diving:

Smoking has many complex effects on the lungs. It paralyzes the ciliary hair cells lining the large airways for approximately one hour after one cigarette. In chronic smokers, the ciliary cells are destroyed. The function of these cells is to remove the mucous (and the dust/dirt that has been trapped in it) from the lungs (it ends up in the back of your throat and you swallow it). Without these cells, the only way to get the mucous out of the lungs is to cough it out (smoker's cough). If that were not bad enough, smoking actually increases the amount of mucous produced!

Now you know why you tend to cough when breathing in secondhand smoke. Besides having your air passageways irritated, your lung's ciliary hairs are also being paralyzed; these, combined with increased mucus production, cause you, the non-smoker, to cough. Still think smokers have a right to be indignant?

It is illegal for someone to stand in a public place and vent a tank containing carcinogenic gas. But it is legal for a smoker to expose the people around him/her to carcinogenic smoke from his cigarette. What a world.

Sharon Overall of Plano wrote:

One person's bad habit should not affect the health of another. Smokers have the right to kill themselves, but they do not have the right to inflict known carcinogens onto others. This is a violation of our civil liberties. Our right to life trumps their right to happiness.

The surgeon general has stated that there is no risk-free level of exposure to secondhand smoke. [ . . . ]

Isn't it the responsibility of our government to protect the people? We have the right to clean air. Where cars and industry are a necessary evil to our society, cigarettes provide no benefit to the general public.

Note: you do not have the right to kill yourself in Singapore. Attempted suicide is an offense under Section 309 of the Penal Code, and may be punishable with a fine, a jail term of up to one year, or both. Smoking is a slow form of suicide that frequently inflicts damage on other individuals. Smoking is legal in Singapore. Hmm...

82% of cancer of the larynx is attributable to smoking.

92% of oral cancer is caused by smoking.

90% of lung cancer is caused by smoking.

This is Bryan Lee Curtis, 33, and his son, Bryan Jr., 2.

This is Bryan Lee Curtis dying of lung cancer. Click either image or here to read about Bryan's story.

Smokers are also the worst litterbugs.

They drop them on the floor before boarding the train, bus, taxis, ferry, etc. They flick them on to the road whilst driving.

In a recent beach clean up in Los Angeles, authorities report that cigarette butts make up the greatest proportion of beach litter. According to The Ocean Conservancy, cigarette butts are the most common type of litter on earth. Worldwide, 2.1 billion pounds (954.5 million kg) of cigarette butts were discarded in 1998.

Cigarette butts are more than just a litter problem. Cigarette butts are made of plastic, and contain thousands of carcinogens, and the toxic alkaloid, nicotine. When they inevitably end up in our waterways, these chemicals leach into the water. Kathleen Register wrote about the impact of cigarettes on aquatic life in "Cigarette Butts as Litter — Toxic as Well as Ugly." (The article first appeared in "Underwater Naturalist," Bulletin of the American Littoral Society, Volume 25, Number 2, August 2000.)

Growing awareness about cigarette litter.

My two greatest peeves regarding smokers are:

1.) Non-smokers have the right to smoke-free air. Apart from clearly-designated smoking zones, this right trumps the so-called rights of smokers. Smokers are drug addicts. By that definition, their impulses are affected, even controlled by their craving for their "fix." Smokers have no right to expose others to the cancer-causing fumes of their drug addiction.

2.) Smokers are aware of the health consequences of smoking. Unless one is blind, deaf, and a quadriplegic, it is impossible for a conscious individual to be ignorant of the diseases which come with smoking. As such, in countries where socialized healthcare is practiced, smokers suffering from health problems clearly brought on by smoking should not enjoy subsidized rates for medical services. Say, if I take good care of my health, eat wisely, not smoke, exercise regularly, not drink excessively, why should my tax dollars subsidize the medical bill of someone who smokes 2-3 packs a day and then develops lung cancer? This is not a case of lacking compassion. This is an issue of personal responsibility.

At the end of the day, we all know that it is established — but not explicitly mentioned — that smokers are drug addicts, and by that definition, appealing to their sense of reason is futile (much less their sense of environmental consciousness). Thus, the most effective channels are fear and deterrence. Since the Singapore Health Promotion Board has already fired the first volley with an image of a mouth-cancer-stricken-female, I shall reproduce UK's ad, targeted at male smokers:

120,000 men in the UK are impotent as a result of smoking. (Source: BMA)

When appealing to one head fails, switch to the other.


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