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Category: Health & Wellness / Topics: Disease Health Care Statistics Trends

Tobacco Road

by Dan Seagren

Posted: December 17, 2006

Seniors seldom if ever take up smoking although it has been known to happen.…

Seniors seldom if ever take up smoking although it has been known to happen. For those who do, some are former smokers who resumed smoking after a few months or years of quitting. Just how many smokers there are in the world was unknown to me until I read the October, 2006 issue of National Geographic. Hopefully your tempting senior moment is not to take up tobacco in any form.

In a sobering one-page article titled Tobacco Planet, the use of tobacco around the globe was delineated. Yes, it is sobering. Here are some of the findings:

  • This year 5.5 trillion cigarettes—more than 15 billion a day will be sold (based on 94% of sales worldwide.
  • Almost a billion men smoke, 50% of men in developing countries; 250,000 women worldwide smoke.
  • Five million persons will die due to tobacco-related illnesses.
  • In five countries there are more women who smoke than men.
  • In spite of numerous legal [and medical] challenges to the tobacco industry, smoking is increasing, especially in developing countries.
  • The more wealthy countries will see the highest declines.
  • Female students age 13-15 who smoke is 6.7% globally but in the U.S. it is 17.5%; male students globally age 13-15 is 10.5% but the highest ratio is 20% in Europe.

What can we say? The tobacco industry is big, powerful and armed with a product that addicts indiscriminately. With profits diminishing in the more wealthy countries, the thrust is to addict those who can least afford it, financially and health-wise. A pity but true. For those of you who seriously have tried quitting, sometimes many times, you know how tough it is. Ironically, a prolonged use of tobacco is not necessary for addiction.

Now let’s turn to a major university and its findings. Cigarette smoking is the leading cause of disease and death. Smoking only 1-4 cigarettes a day can have serious health consequences. The six largest tobacco companies spent $11.2 billion dollars on advertising and promoting their products in 2001 [$5.6 billion in 1997]. On average, men who smoke shorten their lives by 13.2 years and women smokers by 14.5 years. Tobacco is a causative factor in different diseases including many forms of cancer, stroke, heart disease and chronic emphysema to name a few. Finally, second-hand smoke has been named a Group A carcinogen because it contains 40 of the chemicals known to cause cancer.

Is there any hope? Some, but not much. Quitting has both immediate as well as long-term positive effects. Filters and lowering tar do not help much nor does reducing the number of smokes (helps some but not much). Eliminating the nicotine would go a long way in reducing addiction but does not account for the many other debilitating chemicals. Never starting of course is the best hope. And there is a gamble involved as there are those who do outlive any major ill effects. Finally, if we seniors would make this a positive senior moment by doing our best to discourage our granddads and their friends from taking up the habit, we would be doing everyone (except the tobacco industry) a favor. Make that a huge favor.


Dan Seagren is an active retiree whose writings reflect his life as a Pastor, author of several books, and service as a Chaplain in a Covenant Retirement Community.

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Posted: December 17, 2006

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