Cigars – no longer hip!

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This week our contributing writer Doctor Gifford-Jones talks about celebrities smoking in advertisements.

Why do Pat Quinn, Mike Harris and other celebrities do it? I refer to a photo, one of Mike Harris, former Premier of Ontario, smoking a stogie on the golf course. Another of a multi-millionaire sports celebrity lighting up after winning a championship. There was a front page picture in The Toronto Sun of Pat Quinn, former coach of the Maple Leaf hockey team, smoking a stogie during the NHL playoffs. This sends the wrong message to young fans. Celebrities are not lighting up for victory. They’re lighting up for death. It’s time public relations agents told macho males to stop acting like jackasses.

What an ironic situation. In the same newspaper on the previous day in the sports section, mention was made that Quinn had taken the day off. Not to play golf. But to have his heart monitored as he had had trouble breathing. Yet, the next day he’s smoking a stogie! Surely, someone should have the courage to tell him to see a psychiatrist.

Several years ago a report in the Journal of the American Medical Association debunked the popular myth that cigar smoking is a safe alternative to cigarettes. Researchers showed that a single stogie contains as much nicotine as a pack of cigarettes.

Moreover, cigar smoke is more carcinogenic, containing over 60 known cancer-producing agents. And it consists of more ammonia, tar and the lethal gas, carbon monoxide.

You don’t have to travel on a California freeway to suffer the affects of this poison. The level of carbon monoxide in many homes reaches the amount of some jam-packed California roads.The reason? A stogie emits 20 times the amount of carbon monoxide gas as a single cigarette. One wonders how many deaths on the highway occur from this sleep-producing poison.

Most cigarette smokers understand that their addiction causes lung cancer. Yet only 8.7 percent of stogie smokers realize their habit results in malignancy.

Yet cigars caused the deaths of Babe Ruth, Sigmund Freud and General Ulysses Grant. Some studies claim that cigar smoke increases the risk of oral cancers by 4 to 10 times.

The blunt fact is that smoking kills “Big Time”. The World Health organization estimates that every year smoking kills four million people. It will be 10 million by 2030.

Smoking also kills early. Half of those who die from smoking leave this planet in middle age losing 20 years of productive life. The grim fact is that 40 percent of smokers die of cancer.

But it’s hard to convince youth of these dangers when they see Quinn chomping on his stogie. A report from Harvard shows that nearly half of college students smoke. In fact, one in four college students smoke cigars. And these are supposedly enlightened individuals.

It’s ironic that cigarette manufacturers are now forced to place warning labels on cigarette packages. But cigar makers are not subject to the same regulations. This conveys the impression that cigars do not involve health risks. A very dangerous assumption.

More and more women are also smoking stogies. That means they too are dying from lung cancer. Malignancy of the lung has increased to the point where it now rivals breast cancer as a cause of death. What a way to attain equality with men!

Do you know what would happen If tobacco was invented today? There’s not one chance in a million it would be approved by any health agency.

The ironies of smoking are legion. For instance, everyone agrees that prevention is better than cure. Many also complain that millions of dollars have been spent on cancer research and still no cure. Yet when provided with the means to prevent cancer by tossing tobacco away smokers become glassy-eyed and ignore it.

A few year sago Julie Andrews and other screen stars appeared on posters smoking stogies. Using famous people to endorse products is not a new advertising ploy. In the past it conveyed an image of wealth, power and luxury. But what a pity that the message also promotes death.

There is no single way to stop this senseless loss of life. But it would help if high-profile people stopped sending the wrong image to young people. Former Premier Harris known for his Common Sense Revolution, could use some of this common sense by tossing his stogies away. And please, please Mr. Quinn, when you’re short of breath and require hospitalization to undergo cardiac tests, then still continue to smoke, get the name of a good psychiatrist while you’re at it.

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