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An enslaving habit

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"In consequence of evils and designs which do and will exist in the hearts of conspiring men in the last days, I have warned you and forewarn you by giving unto you this word of wisdom by revelation." (Doctrine and Covenants 89:4.)

Some 168 years ago the Lord knew how devious men would be in promoting those things that destroy the body both physically and spiritually. That's why he gave Joseph Smith the revelation known as the Word of Wisdom.

Tobacco is one of the substances the Lord refers to as not being good for the body. (Doctrine and Covenants 89:8.)

Smoking is a compulsive habit that enslaves many. It becomes addictive and can destroy physical, mental and spiritual well-being.

And yet the tobacco industry portrays it as a wonderful, desirable thing.

Youth are particularly vulnerable to tobacco's devious advertisements. That's why as part of a settlement in 1998 tobacco companies were to stop promoting cigarettes to children.

But recent news reports show that not only has that not happened but that immediately after the settlement, advertising involving three brands popular with the youth increased.

Tobacco companies, researchers found (New England Journal of Medicine, August 2001), spend considerably more money advertising youth brands in youth-oriented publications than they do for brands targeted for adults.

Because of tobacco's addicting nature, tobacco companies know that getting youth to smoke ensures that they'll have an ongoing market.

Sadly, while smoking overall in the United States is down, smoking among teenagers is up. According to the Centers for Disease Control, 27.3 percent of teenage females and 27.6 percent of teenage males smoked in 1991. The figure increased to 34.9 percent of females and 34.7 of males by 1999.

About 3,000 children take up smoking every day, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

How tragic.

As smoking overall in the United States has declined, the tobacco companies are becoming increasingly aggressive in other countries. Their target? Children.

"This is the right time for the tobacco industry to seduce children overseas. They are looking to increase the number of smokers in developing countries and elsewhere abroad because in the United States they are losing their market," Vera da Costa e Silva, director of the World Health Organization's tobacco program, told the New York Times.

That same article in the New York Times last month reported that a new study of schoolchildren 13 to 15 years of age in 68 countries, conducted by the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control, found that about 11 percent of the children in Latin America and the Caribbean were offered free cigarettes by a tobacco company representative in 1999 and 2000.

In Russia, nearly 17 percent said they had been given free cigarettes. In Jordan the figure climbed to 25 percent.

And a study published in the August issue of the British Medical Journal states that smoking will kill one-third of all the young men in China within the next few decades unless habits there change.

But advertisers are not about to portray smoking for what it is — an insidious habit that causes serious health problems and significantly lowers life expectancy.

The apostle Paul declared, "Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? . . . the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are." (1 Corinthians 3:16-17.)

There is no room in our temples for tobacco.

Parents need to set the proper example by not smoking themselves and then instruct their children about the dangers of smoking.

Of course, that instruction should include what the Lord said about smoking 168 years ago.

Following His counsel will prevent us from becoming slaves to the things of the world and will lead to eternal happiness.