The U.S. Surgeon General’s latest report is that secondhand smoke is dangerous to people’s health—period. Surgeon General Richard Garmona says “The debate is over.” Secondhand smoke is a health hazard. According to the report, nearly 50,000 people die from secondhand smoke each year. People exposed to secondhand smoke at home or work are 30% more likely to contract cancer, heart disease, or other serious health problems.
Yet we are making progress. According to the U.S. Public Health Service, some 42% of adults smoked in the 1960s. Today less than 21% of adults smoke.
I’m old enough to remember cigarette commercials and smoke-filled restaurants. And I’m old enough to remember when cigarette commercials disappeared and when restaurants and other public spaces first developed “non-smoking” sections and then became “smoke free.” If you aren’t old enough to remember these things, watch movies from the 1960s and earlier and witness the actors, especially the women, smoke one cigarette after another. What was cool then is not cool now.
I like the smell of some cigar or pipe smoke, but frankly, I’ve never understood the appeal of smoking. It’s a dirty—to one’s teeth and one’s breath, as well as the nearby physical space—unhealthy, expensive habit. It provides no nutritional value. It enslaves people to the need for the next smoke. It’s no longer considered suave or debonair.
Smoking is even threatening to the environment. I’ve long maintained that smokers litter more than any other person. Non-biodegradable cigarette butts clog city sewers, start forest fires, and otherwise pollute the landscape in manner that costs the public significant sums for clean-up.
From a Christian point of view, though, I cannot say categorically that smoking is a sin. I could, like many people do, make the scripturally based argument that one should not debase or destroy one’s own body, made in the image of God and for believers the temple of the Holy Spirit. And this would be correct. God commands us to care for our own bodies. But he did not say “You shall not smoke.” Then again, not everything we can do we should do.
We can make a bodily stewardship argument about a lot of things, including perhaps alcoholic or caffeinated beverages, excessive sugar or salt, and desserts. And in today’s American experience, we can also warn each other about over-eating and becoming overweight.
In any event, the secondhand smoke evidence allows us to encourage people to give up smoking. There are just too many good reasons not to take this step. If you quit smoking you protect your health and may extend your life. You protect the health of those around you. You save money on tobacco purchases and on health care. You don’t pollute the environment. You’re not enslaved to the next smoke, and you set a good example.
When I was a child of maybe six or seven, my Grandfather Lewis “Bones” Davis quit smoking. He didn’t make any grand spiritual issue out of this act. He simply made the choice because he had three grandsons, of which I was one of the two oldest. Later, he eventually had thirteen grandchildren in all. He quit smoking because he did not want any of us to see him smoke and then start smoking ourselves. To my knowledge only one grandchild ever smoked, and he quit after a time. My grandfather’s example bore good fruit and is still bearing it today.
Smoking is not the worst habit someone can acquire, but it’s not a good habit either. I’m not anti-smokers, just anti-smoking. I know it’s difficult, but I encourage smokers to quit.
© Rex M. Rogers - All Rights Reserved, 2006
*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Dr. Rogers or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com or follow him at www.twitter.com/rexmrogers.