No one has to be told that smoking is harmful. While recent reports in the press have dealt primarily with the effect of smoking on the lungs, its detrimental effects on the heart and circulatory system, although not as extensively publicised, have been known for a long time.
Dr. Alton Ochsner, Chairman of the Department of Surgery, Tulane University, School of Medicine, in a talk before the Greater New York Dental Society, pointed out that medical men are .. extremely concerned about the possibility that the male population of the United States will be decimated by cancer of the lung in another fifty years if cigarette smoking increases as it has in the past, unless some steps are taken to remove the cancer-producing factor in tobacco.
He added, sardonically: Smoking may have at least one virtue, by smoking heavily a man may have a heart attack: then he would not live long enough to develop lung cancer.1
At a meeting of the Public Health Cancer Association, an organisation related to the American Public Health Association, a resolution was adopted urging the discontinuance of smoking as a protection against cancer of the lungs. One participant stressed the fact that there was good reason to believe that smoking causes cancer in body sites other than the lungs and the oral areas while anotheivstated that the now suspected relationship between smoking and heart disease might eventually prove to be more significant than the present relation between smoking and lung cancer.2 Dr. Theodore R. Van Dellen, in one of his syndicated articles, stated that cancer of the lungs, as well as smokers throat and smokers bronchitis is caused by the tars and other combustible materials in tobacco. He then quoted Dr. Grace Roth of the Mayo Foundation, University of
Minnesota, who pointed out that 2-5 to 3 milligrams of nicotine is absorbed into the blood from one standard cigarette, and that while some individuals are more sensitive to the chemical than others, The blood vessels suffer most; nicotine causes them to constrict.3
Dr. Roth, who has done a great deal of research on the effects of smoking, pointed out at the 29th annual meeting of the Greater New York Dental Society that nicotine causes an increase in blood pressure and pulse and a decrease in skin temperature. Dr. Irving S. Wright of the Cornell University Medical College stated that the use of tobacco may mean the difference between life and death for persons with diseases of the circulation.4
Dr. Morton L. Levin, Assistant Commissioner of Medical Services of the Health Department of the State of New York, dealing specifically with the effect of smoking on the lungs, stated that the relative incidence of lung cancer among men who smoke twenty or more cigarettes a day was ten times that of non-smokers, and those who smoked less than one pack a day had five times as much lung cancer as non-smokers.5
Dr. Charles Cameron, Medical and Scientific Director of the American Cancer Society, himself a smoker, was at first reluctant to admit that smoking is harmful. He acknowledged that the smoking picture, based on large segments of population, was admittedly grim.6
Dr. Harry J. Johnson, head of the Life Extension Examiners, a nation-wide group of physicians specialising in physical examinations for industry, only confirmed what other scientists are finally beginning to recognise. Studies covering 2000 men disclosed that smokers complained of cough 300 per cent more often than non-smokers, of irritation of nose and throat 167 per cent more often, of heart spasms 50 per cent more often, of shortness of breath 140 per cent more often, and of heartburn 100 per cent more often cussion on the effects of smoking, pointed out that it was well known in medical circles that moderate smokers died sooner than nonsmokers and that heavier smokers had an even shorter life expectancy. The Academy called attention to the findings of Dr. Raymond Pearl of the Johns Hopkins Department of Biology who sixteen years ago disclosed that Deaths would start occurring among heavy smokers at age 35 and would continue to outnumber the deaths of non-smokers and light smokers all the way to age 70 at which time mortality rates tend to level off.8
The findings of Dr. Raymond Pearl were known in medical and scientific circles, and as we were reading this report from the Academy of Medicine we couldnt but wonder why responsible medical organisations failed to stress this point before, and why some of them even went out of their way to minimise or deride it.