In the United States alone, 350,000 people die each year from diseases caused by tobacco use, according to a newly released public affairs television documentary produced by the Church.
That's the equivalent of a collision, with no survivors, of two jumbo jets every day.If two jumbo jets did actually collide somewhere in the United States each and every day of the year, the public reaction across the land would be swift and loud. Everybody, from the man or woman on the street to the nation's leaders in the halls of Congress and in the White House, would be incensed and outraged about the tragedies that were occurring.
But what of the tragedies in the lives of individuals who pass beyond the veil into immortality - and in the lives of those they leave behind - because of a death caused by tobacco use? Because these kinds of deaths rarely make front-page news, they go unnoticed by the mass of people.
However, the fight against tobacco use, according to U.S. Surgeon General C. Everett Koop, who is quoted in the documentary, "is still the number one public health problem in the United States, if you talk about the people affected.
"AIDS has taken our attention because of its great potential for death," said Koop, who places the comparison between the two health problems in perspective by pointing out that tobacco kills as many Americans every month as have died of AIDS in the past seven years.
In the Church-produced documentary, titled "Tobacco: The Winnable War," the U.S. surgeon general is joined by a host of other authorities in the anti-smoking campaign, including Dr. Andrew Pipe of Canada's University of Ottawa Heart Institute.
Dr. Pipe illustrates the dangers of smoking by pointing out that "there are at least 4,000 distinct chemical compounds in tobacco smoke, at least 50 of which we know cause cancer."
I t is little wonder that more than 150 years ago, the Lord declared in a revelation that tobacco "is not good for man." (D&C 89:8.)
The story of how the revelation came about is well-known to Church members. Brigham Young spoke about it in an address he gave in February 1868:
He said the brethren would assemble for the school of prophets in a small room above the kitchen in Joseph Smith's simple living quarters attached to the Whitney store in Kirtland, Ohio. "When they assembled together in this room after breakfast, the first thing they did was to light their pipes, and, while smoking, talk about the great things of the kingdom, and spit all over the room, and as soon as the pipe was out of their mouths, a large chew of tobacco would then be taken.
"Often when the Prophet entered the room to give the school instructions he would find himself in a cloud of tobacco smoke. This, and the complaints of his wife at having to clean so filthy a floor, made the Prophet think upon the matter, and he inquired of the Lord relating to the conduct of the Elders in using tobacco, and the revelation known as the Word of Wisdom was the result of his inquiry." (Journal of Discourses, Vol. 12, p. 158.)
B ut back in 1833 when the revelation was given, perhaps there was not even a handful of people in the country who understood why tobacco was not good for man and the medical reasons for such a statement.
It has only been in the last 30-35 years that scientific evidence has been developed to support the wisdom in the Word of Wisdom. Today there is overwhelming evidence that the use of tobacco is harmful. Man has finally caught up with the evidence that the Lord revealed 155 years ago.
The precepts contained in the Word of Wisdom are significant ways to avoid the major risks of many health problems and diseases, such as cancer and heart attack.
It seems strange, then, in this day and age when there is such a tremendous groundswell for good health and fitness, that people still use tobacco.
The answer is simple - although it may not be easy. If you haven't started using tobacco, DON'T. If you have, STOP. An over-simplification? Perhaps, but it is the only way to really bring one's lifestyle into conformity to God's commandment and into harmony with the overwhelming evidence that, indeed, tobacco is not good for man.