Smoking and cancer: two steps behind

Unlit filtered cigarettes

Image via Wikipedia

Smoking as I outlined in my last blog entry is now probably the most well-studied carcinogen known to man and one of the most dangerous.  The health care costs for decades and decades of smoking will be felt for years to come and only now are we being confronted with the peak in female lung cancers which corresponds to the peak in female smokers in the US 20 years ago.

If someone wants to smoke they can smoke.  It is not illegal to light up.  However, as the tobacco companies have settled (and world record comprehensive settlement have been made) with many individuals and states, it is very difficult for smokers today to sue and blame cigarette manufactures for their own negligence.  We all know in this country how dangerous smoking is and very few people deny it these days.  However, today I read in the on-line news media an article that suggests this is not the case all over the world.

In fact, health care professionals in Indonesia seem to be turning back the clock by recommending smoking to their patients.  Smoking is in fact on the rise in Indonesia, which has seen an explosion in smoking rates.  Not only is smoking amongst adults on the rise, it is quite common to see parents giving their children cigarettes to smoke.  And to go even further, some doctors (i should carefully use this word) are advising that their patients smoke to calm their nerves.  A well known pharmacologist (academic I believe) in Indonesia has reported to the government and the media that smoking is indeed not harmful to health at all but actually quite beneficial.  In some centers, smoke from cigarettes are introduced into the lungs of  patients with lung ailments.  The claim is that this filtered or cleaned smoke from cigarettes (they are removed of some inorganic compounds ) are actually healthy for you.

The world was shocked about six months ago when we saw children on the streets of Indonesia (I believe it was Jakarta) chain-smoking.  In some areas, children can readily buy cigarettes.  It is also reported by some health care professions who know the truth that it is big business now in Indonesia.  The government earns billions in tax revenues from cigarette consumption.  Now tobacco company money is flowing into many sectors of the economy and politics in that large Asian country.  Unfortunately, the tobacco companies who have seen their profits dwindle in many Western countries are turning to countries like Indonesia where cash registers are ringing.  Health care advocates are fewer and less effective in countries that have lax legislation or non-existent.  It seems quite sad that companies that were accused of HUGE cover ups here in the US and Europe have now seen opportunities in vulnerable countries that will have its citizens paying with their lives 10-30 years down the road.  Advertisements that target the youth are on the rise in many asian and Eastern European countries.  They will likely be unopposed and prolific.  Very little incentive is needed to make safer cigarettes in these countries…as no legislation stands in their way.

So, we have not won the war on Cigarette smoking and cancer…new profits are waiting to be made with vulnerable citizens and pocket are to be lined with politicians.  Lessons will be learned, but not after thousands if not millions of lives are lost and billions of dollars are needed.

Thanks for reading and let me know if you have any questions or comments.

Dr C




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