Public Enemy Number One: Tobacco
More deaths are caused each year by tobacco use than by all other means such as human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), illegal drug use, alcohol use, motor vehicle injuries, suicides, and murders combined. Smoking is a huge addiction in the United States and is the number one cause of death. The problem of tobacco-caused disease embodies the complex interactions by which psychological, social, cultural, economic, and political factors influence individuals’ behavior to cause over 400,000 deaths each year.
The basic fact underlying the popular success of cigarettes is that it provides nicotine, an addictive and powerful drug. “Nicotine is absorbed by the lining of the mouth and the respiratory tract and travels rapidly to the heart and then to the brain”. (U.S. Public Health Service, Smoking and Health: Report of the Advisory Committee to the Surgeon General (Washington, D.C.: 1964). In addition to nicotine, another important aspect of tobacco smoking is tar, which is the residue from burning tobacco that condenses in the lungs of the smokers. What “tar” does is provide the flavor in cigarette smoke in which are major sources of its carcinogenicity. The use of tobacco smoking has been around since the 16th-17th century in the U.S., but not that common. Cigarette smoking began to increase dramatically only after 1913 when Camel followed by other cigarette brands, began mass marketing campaigns. “Smoking among women was frowned on early in the century but women began to take up the habit during and after World War II, and by 1960 about 34 percent of American women smoked,” (U.S. Public Health Service, Health Consequences of Smoking for Women Report of the Surgeon General (Rockville, MD: 1980).
There are many known diseases that can be attributed to tobacco smoking, but the primary disease linked to smoking is lung cancer. Lung cancer was nonexistent in the United States and Britain in 1900; it was not until the 1930’s...