Although tobacco is still the major health problem in the United States, the battle against smoking can be won.
That's the thesis of a newly released public affairs television documentary, "Tobacco: The Winnable War." The program is a production of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.Featuring commentary from U.S. Surgeon General C. Everett Koop and other health authorities in the United States, Canada, Great Britain and Australia, the production concludes the tobacco plague can only be conquered if "ordinary citizens" band together and "do something about it."
"The fight against tobacco use is still the number one public health problem in the United States, if you talk about the people affected," Koop says. "AIDS has taken our attention because of its great potential for death," but he points out tobacco kills as many Americans every month as have died of AIDS in the past seven years.
According to statistics presented in the program, in the United States alone, 350,000 people die annually from diseases caused by tobacco use. That's the equivalent of a collision, with no survivors, of two jumbo jets every day.
The documentary also focuses on the youthful smoker. Tobacco companies deny the $2 billion a year they spend on advertising is aimed at attracting new smokers, but health officials scoff at the notion.
Koop says the greatest weapon society has against smoking is "the military non-smoker.
"He is the person that carries the cudgel," he says. The non-smoker "goes out and rings the doorbells. He takes part with the American Lung, American Heart, American Cancer societies. He goes to schools, he talks to kids, and I think it's much better to keep a youngster from starting than it is to try to get him to quit after he's become addicted."