PHS 100 – Environmental Studies
Dr. David Terrell
Warner Pacific College
September 18, 2010
Cigarettes: A Natural Hazard
When I think of natural hazards in our society I do not think of hurricanes and floods; I think of cigarettes and lung cancer. Although the two are very different they are very similar as well. Hurricanes cause pain and heartache as do cigarettes. Although it may be more difficult to stop a hurricane, cigarettes are just as difficult to quit using. The tobacco and other ingredients in cigarettes cause an addiction which makes it extremely difficult to stop smoking. I call this a natural hazard, because tobacco grows naturally in our environment and has been used for centuries all around the world.
When cigarettes were new to the world everyone thought they were the next best thing. Movie stars were smoking cigarettes on television, billboards featured the latest brand of cigarettes, every other page of a magazine featured someone smoking a cigarette, and a person could smoke anywhere they wanted. Smoking was allowed inside and outside of buildings, train stations and even doctor’s offices. Back then we had no idea what the effects of smoking or second hand smoke were. Now we know that smoking cigarettes and being exposed to secondhand smoke can cause serious health risks like: heart disease, emphysema, asthma in children, circulation problems, loss of some taste and smell receptors, lung cancer, and so on. The most dangerous side effect, to me, is lung cancer. Cigarette smoke causes 9 out of 10 cases of lung cancer (Granholm, J., & Olszewski, J., 2010).
Growing up my mother, father, and grandparents smoked cigarettes inside and outside our home. As a young child I had no idea what the side effects of smoking were. Everyone around me smoked cigarettes, so I had no reason to believe that smoking was bad. Naturally as a child, I believed that the ones I loved would not do anything to harm them or myself. When my parents and grandparents smoked around me I knew that it smelled bad and made me cough, but I knew nothing of the effects it was having on their health and my own.
A few weeks before my eighth birthday, my grandmother was diagnosed with lung cancer. She was 55 years old and had been smoking since the age of 17. At first I could not understand why this was happening to my grandmother. She had always been so careful with her health. She went to the doctor regularly and always made sure her and my grandfather ate well, but she had grown up in the age when cigarettes were cool to smoke. Although she had heard over the years that cigarettes caused many life threatening diseases she was too addicted to quit. After a long battle with lung cancer my grandmother passed away just days before her 57th birthday.
Two years ago my grandfather was diagnosed with lung cancer as well. He had been a non-smoker for almost 15 years, but an avid lottery player at the local tavern. The tavern he frequented banned smoking inside their establishment on January 1, 2009. In February of 2009 my grandfather passed away. A combination of cigarette smoking and secondhand smoke killed my grandfather. He was 75 years young.
Knowing that both my grandparents have died from lung cancer, it hurts me to see my father and thousands of other people still smoking. The side effects of smoking are not a secret; we all know smoking kills. Our society has went as far as banning smoking inside any building that is publically occupied, and we have even banned smoking on any medical grounds, but we are still smoking cigarettes everyday and still dying at an alarming rate. I think smoking is our number one natural hazard. Not only is smoking widespread, it is happening all the time; whereas, other natural hazards come and go.
Granholm, J., & Olszewski, J. (2010, March 1). Michigan Department of Community Health. Facts about lung cancer. Retrieved September 18, 2010, from www.michigancancer.org/PDFs/MDCHFactSheets/LungCaFactSheet-March10.pdf