Why is smoking still with us?
Cancer is the second leading cause of death in the U.S., claiming over 600,000 lives a year. And of the cancers, those of the lungs account for the most deaths, an estimated 170,000 yearly. With lung cancer, only about 10 percent of the cases are currently curable. The main reason for this is that, by the time the cancer has been detected, it usually has already metastasized throughout the body.
With lung cancer, it is often said prevention is the cure. That's because smoking is its main cause. But such an understanding wasn't always so.
Smoking only began on a massive scale at the end of the 19th century after the safety match (1855) and automatic cigarette roller (1880) were invented. There is typically a time lag of about 30 years from when a person starts smoking and he/she can die from it. Lung cancer was quite rare up until the 1920s, so rare that as of 1912, fewer than 200 total cases of lung cancer had been reported.
Today, it is a given smoking is the main risk factor for lung cancer. According to the American Lung Association, 90 percent of the people with lung cancer are (or were) active smokers. This correlation has been backed up by studies of the some 4,000 chemicals in cigarette smoke, 40 of which have been demonstrated to be carcinogens.
All cancers are terrifying. Even people who survive its ravages have scars of one sort or another from the treatment. A cancer can strike any one of us. But it is beyond me why would anyone want to increase their risk and invite this disease into their body by smoking. It was not for nothing that a slang term for cigarettes in the 1930s and 1940s, even in the movies, was "nails," meaning nails for your coffin.
Peter Skurkiss, Stow