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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

2-26-24 PDF
February 26, 2024
An inside look at Bobby B. Beacon’s insides. Illustrated by Bianca Oppedisano/ Mass Media Staff.
Bobby's Inside Story
February 26, 2024

Just One Makes a Difference


“While smoking fewer cigarettes substantially decreases the risk of cancer, it does not necessarily lower the risk of having a heart attack or stroke.”

Earlier this month, a new scientific study was released about the detrimental effects smoking cigarettes has on our cardiovascular system. I know what you’re thinking: another one? Yep, more scientific research indicating how bad smoking is for humans. I expect it’s dangerous for other things, too, like your pet iguana, or dog, or little brother. You know, non-humans.

Why are we still talking about the hazards of cigarette smoking? I have several theories about that.

One, parents who smoke don’t listen to the their children. I know I’ve told my dad frequently how much I hated his smoking.

Two, it just looks so sexy in movies.

Three, the corporations that produce cigarettes have a lot of money at their disposal to produce advertisements as well as lobby Congress to regulate the industry as little as possible.

Four, it helps some calm down.

Five, it’s addictive. What? It’s addictive? It really is, folks. Don’t tell me no one told you! I know some of you don’t believe it. Well, I’m not going to try to convince you this time.

Like all information disseminated in America these days, the following information is only relevant for those ready to read it because let’s be honest: who reads stuff they already know, they don’t believe in, or they don’t like anyway, right?

According to the British Medical Journal (BMJ), you’ve got to quit smoking altogether to get all the benefits of quitting. I admit that as a non-smoker, this seemed pretty straightforward to me. I have since found out otherwise. In light of more than 30 years of anti-smoking public service announcements, apparently, there are a lot of you out there trying to go from smoking 20 cigarettes a day to just one or two. That’s great! In other cases, you’re just smoking a few every now and again for…fun? Maybe it’s that calmness thing I mentioned. Either way, there’s good news and bad news for people who smoke only a few cigarettes a day.

First, the good news. According to a 2006 study by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, even heavy smokers run only a 25 percent risk of getting lung cancer. Although the chances of one out of every four heavy smokers getting cancer sounds pretty bad, 75 percent of heavy smokers getting off scot-free practically sounds like an invitation to start smoking. Remember—it’s sexy!

But here’s the bad news. According to Allan Hackshaw, the lead researcher on the British study, smokers were always more likely to have a cardiovascular disease than they were to get cancer. What’s new in the BMJ study is that not only does smoking increase risk of cardiovascular disease, smoking only one to five times a day does *not* substantially decrease a smoker’s risk of having cardiovascular disease. You’d think it would, right? Less cigarettes, less of a chance? While it may decrease chances somewhat, Hackshaw states it doesn’t decrease the chances as much as one would think. Consequently, while smoking fewer cigarettes substantially decreases the risk of cancer, it does not necessarily lower the risk of having a heart attack or stroke. The only way to really decrease chances of either of those things happening, the study concludes, is to quit smoking altogether.

What should you do if it’s really hard to stop altogether? Are e-cigarettes a safer alternative? In a podcast on the BMJ’s website, Hackshaw acknowledges that many experts are saying e-cigarettes are less harmful, but he’s not so sure. E-cigarettes have a lot less chemicals, he admits, but should a smoker switch and just hope science proves the right choice?

Although these comments on e-cigarettes are a slight digression from the study, it raises an important point. If we knew e-cigarettes were hazardous, would people choose not to smoke them?

I would like to be excited about science proving more clearly than ever that smoking is bad, but how much does a rational and logical consideration of any issue matter to Americans these days? And how much does scientific fact matter in the face of addiction?

My unscientific advice: go cold turkey, folks.