We have all seen the “Truth” commercials on television. These sometimes silly and hilarious, and other times sinister and horrifying, public service announcements are part of a movement to educate young kids and teenagers, perhaps even to persuade adults to smoke no longer.
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reports that on a given day, an average of over 700 youth under 18 become daily cigarette smokers; over 1300 individuals die from cigarette use; and close to 3000 teens try a cigarette for the first time.
Culturally, we see other areas of entertainment, like photography, film and television, glorifying the addictive pleasure of smoking tobacco. This archaic means to sell more product, and enable more addictive personalities, relies on peer-pressuring through visualizing things that people seek most: social approval.
Tobacco is factually attributing to many types of cancer, high rates of deforestation around the world, enabling addictive, anxious and depressive personalities, birth defects, pollution, chemical poisoning, and overall, affecting the ecosystem. Even though most have been informed of the deadly side effects of nicotine and tobacco use, money is still flowing.
Through the years, tobacco companies have spent billions telling everyone how cool and sexy smoking makes a person, by giving an edge, assisting in losing weight, all without informing of the horrendous truth behind its production, testing, funding, and overall health and socio-economic consequences. Here are some scary facts which you may not know.
10. Money and advertisement
Truth reports that almost forty percent of high school students witness tobacco advertisements on sites they visit through the internet. This is not new. It was not until 1999, and beyond in some territories, that tobacco companies still were able to place store counter propaganda at the eye level of children.
It is estimated that tobacco companies spend more than twenty-six million a day in advertisement. Interestingly enough, tobacco usage costs the government, and its citizens, billions each year due to medical expenses and productivity loss. In the US, smoking-attributable productivity losses are over $150 billion dollars.
9. E-cigarettes and hookah
Social studies show that these ways of smoking give a false sense of safety. These activities are not healthy in the long run, and still have immeasurable consequences and side effects.
Vaper and e-cigarette users are highly likely to keep smoking, and using, other tobacco products. There are no proven studies stating that using these methods decrease the nicotine addiction. In fact, studies have shown that those who begin using e-cigarettes, are more likely to use tobacco products and are more prone to addiction due to its ‘healthier’ and ‘cool’ factor. Studies so far state that its frequent usage is almost identical to using other tobacco products.
In the case of hookah, there are many reports stating that the carbon monoxide in hookah smoke reduces the amount of oxygen making its way to the brain due to the binding of hemoglobin in the blood. And long or frequent usage can lead to nausea, headache, lethargy, and fainting. Not to mention it elevates heart rates and blood pressure.
8. Effects on other animals
Smoking cigarettes has been tied to the increase of cancer in household animals like cats and dogs. In fact, cats, dogs, squirrels, birds and others are highly affected by second-hand smoke, but mainly nicotine poisoning. For canines and felines, nicotine reaches toxic levels within one to five cigarettes. This may cause them to vomit, hyper-salivate, experience tremors, among other health concerns depending on their contact with smoke, or butts.
In urban environments, cigarette butt littering is a problem with small animals that think of it as food, and whether or not it is consumed, contact with the butt, which is the filter containing tar and toxins like ammonia, turpentine and benzene, can lead to many unhealthy consequences.
Due to butt littering in waterways, fish and dolphins are highly affected. One soaking butt can kill half the fish in a liter of water.
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that two-hundred thousand hectares of forests and woodlands are cut down each year. In most developing countries, wood is used to cure tobacco leaves, and construct curing barns. More than six-hundred million trees are removed to build curing barns and heat them to dry the tobacco more promptly and proficiently.
In Southern Africa, tobacco curing accounts for twelve percent of the deforestation in the region. Africa is the continent that statistically smokes the least in comparison to other areas of the world.
Malawi, which was cited as the poorest country in the world by the World Bank, makes sixty percent of its foreign earnings due to tobacco. Even though they use five percent of their farming for this crop, they have the fourth fastest deforestation rate in the world. Whilst in 1990 forty-seven percent of its land was tree-covered, now, around thirty percent is left.
Cigarette butt littering is the number-one trash issue in the United States. One single butt can take up to ten years to degrade. A US publication reported that up to 4.3 trillion butts wind up as litter worldwide in one year.
When it comes to the oceans, cigarette butts amount for thirty percent of all the trash that washes on shores each year.
Air pollution is also an issue to consider with the tobacco industry. Through manufacturing, tobacco companies release ammonia, hydrogen fluoride, sulfuric acid, and ethylene glycol. Not to mention considering the processes for the growth, and transportation of tobacco product, and smoke from these, which release other dangerous chemicals into the air.
5. Animal testing
Many tobacco users and other ambivalent citizens are not aware of practices still taking place. Vivisection is a large part of the process of creating, monetizing and re-vamping tobacco products.
These cruel practices are applicable to rats, monkeys, and most infamously, dogs. Dogs, in most cases beagles, are an important part of smoke testing due to their diligence, kindness, size, and trusting nature.
Examples of these studies include testing the effects of using high fructose corn syrup to flavor cigarettes, applying cigarette tar directly on skin to enable the growth of skin tumors, the breathing of diesel engine exhaust and second-hand smoking.
Animals are either crammed inside canisters filled with smoke, are forced to use masks pumping smoke, or are tied down with tubes stuck directly into their throats for hours a day, every day, until they die, or are killed and dissected for results.
4. Additives and chemicals
There are roughly five-hundred and ninety-nine additives in cigarettes distributed and packaged within the United States. All of these chemical compounds have been approved as additives to food. However, these have not been approved by testing them when burning. As these chemical properties change when burnt.
Cigarettes also contain over five thousand chemicals, including at least thirty-three known human carcinogens like benzene, arsenic, cadmium, furan and others.
The United States, as a non-party of the World Health Organization Framework Convention of Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) unsuccessfully opposed a ban on deceptive and misleading description such as ultra-light and low-tar, which infringe on trademark protections.
3. Packaging and warnings
The biggest hypocrisy of the tobacco industry is claiming that health is not a concern for tobacco intake. They rely on isolated ingredients and their alleged lack, or positive consequences, without actually labeling and including a list of all of the ingredients for the public to see.
It has been discussed that these companies are happy and prefer written warning labels that most will not read, to the newer graphic labels, or ingredient lists. Social studies have shown that written labels do not deter consumers from using a product, in the ways an image may affect a choice. The United States is one of the many countries that have yet to move from written labels to graphic labels now present in other parts of the world, including Brazil.
A carcinogen is any substance, radiation or radionuclide that is an agent directly involved with causing cancerous problems in the living body. Considering that, tobacco products have been linked to a plethora of cancers, throat, mouth, tongue, and lung cancers, due to its inclusion of over thirty-three known carcinogens.
These harmful entities include: benzene, used for lubricants, dyes, detergents and pesticides; acetaldehyde, a toxic irritant of the skin, eyes, mucous membrane, throat and respiratory tract, and known to be damaging to DNA, as it binds to proteins causing abnormal muscle development; and vinyl chloride which is an important chemical used for the production of polyvinyl chloride, also known as PVC.
1. Regulation of tobacco products
It was not until the nineties when states within the US began suing the tobacco industry after many findings, including memos within them stating the knowledge of nicotine as being both addictive and carcinogenic, but choosing making the profit over public health consideration.
From late 1999, until the spring of 2000 the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) tried to regulate tobacco consumption. They claimed that nicotine fell under the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (FDCA). They informed that nicotine was a drug, and cigarettes and smokeless tobacco are devices, which deliver nicotine to the body, within the meaning of FDCA. After all, they monitor food coloring, additives, bottled water, homeopathic medications, cosmetics, and medical devices.
However, in the FDA v. Brown and Williamson Tobacco Corporation, The Supreme Court ruled that the FDA did not have the power to enact or regulate tobacco products.
It was not until just six years ago, in 2009, when the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act was signed into law by President Barrack Obama. This act gives the FDA power to regulate the tobacco industry, imposing new warnings and labels on packaging and advertisements, discouraging minors and young adults from smoking.