Surely of all the stupid things that we’ve invented and monetized in the twentieth century, smoking is the king daddy of them all. Let’s burn some dried vegetation (ooh yes please!) tainted with chemicals (to make it burn longer) and let’s deliberately and voluntarily drag the resulting carcinogenic smoke into our lungs. Oh and please show me the way to my lobotomy appointment.
Whilst we are at it, let’s create a multi billion dollar industry, invent it as the weapon of choice for rebellious teenagers, promote it as the coolest thing ever, tell girls it will keep them skinny, and even spend millions of dollars trying to make it safer. Yes-the governments of both Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher invested millions of taxpayer’s money in the elusive aim to create a “safer” cigarette-surely the most oxymoronic label ever uttered in a healthcare meeting. What stinks is that those same governments had known for years that inhaling thick smoke into your lungs was only going to have one outcome. Couldn’t they have spent the millions on some hospitals?
Now straight up full disclosure here: I used to smoke and as a smoker I remember seeing the pictures of the blackened lungs, the images of people with their fingers amputated and still thinking, “So what? I like to smoke.” (Clearly I found my way to the lobotomy appointment.)
Dr. Gavin ten Tusscher had this surprising revelation for me regarding chemicals and smoking:
One thousand different chemicals released by a single cigarette? And how many cigarettes does the average smoker inhale a day? I cannot think of a voluntary action more toxic than that.
Three new studies now shed light on what a smoking mother does to her fetus. On Sunday, the National Journal wrote about two studies to be published in Pediatrics in August linking second hand smoke to mental health issues and yesterday Time reported a new study by researchers at University College London, published in the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology, detailing the physical effects of smoking on the development of fetuses. Here are the findings:
· Cigarette chemicals introduced in utero are associated with cleft lips, cleft palates and congenital heart disease.
· Chemicals released from ignited cigarettes can also lead to limb deformities, clubfoot, gastrointestinal and optical disorders in newborns.
· In homes with smokers, the effects of second hand smokers can put children at risk for asthma, ear infections and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS or cot death)
· There is strong evidence of an association between second hand smoke and mental health disorders such as learning disabilities and ADHD and second hand smoke has been shown to raise blood pressure levels in preschool children.
Smoking affects all of us, from the smokers themselves to whoever is in their vicinity. Incredibly, the shadow of smokers from the seventies still falls on children born today, tainting their bodies in ways we are only now assessing. Couches, carpets, rugs, and a host of indoor furnishings, baby blankets, mattresses and even newborn clothing are doused in highly toxic flame retardant chemicals in case a lit cigarette makes contact. These flame retardant chemicals, linked to everything from impaired cognitive development to birth defects, were invented after PCBs were removed from the market in the 1970s and are turning up in umbilical cord and newborn blood samples all over the world.
It seems the stain that smoking leaves on society is indelible, no matter who’s doing the smoking.