Wanda de Kanter is a pulmonary specialist in the Antoni van Leeuwenhoek. She wants everyone to “see” what she and so many other pulmonary physicians see in their offices: people with lung cancer. Lung cancer that so often could have been prevented if the manufacturers of the cigarette had not made such a destructively addictive product.
I have been a pulmonary specialist for 27 years. For 27 years, I have been seeing people in my office with lung cancer and COPD as a result of smoking. The large majority of people with lung cancer die within a few years. People with COPD have a poor quality of life with many hospital admissions and shortness of breath.
There is less attention for lung cancer than for many other kinds of cancer, while more people die of it than die of breast cancer, prostate cancer and colon cancer combined. That is in part because most people with lung cancer die quickly. They cannot organize. They cannot fight. They cannot carry out a campaign. There is even less money going to lung cancer research.
I think that people with lung cancer should have a voice. I therefore support this cam-paign wholeheartedly.
There is another reason that lung cancer patients do not come forward: bystanders blame them. If you just hadn’t smoked. It was your own choice. This stigma leads in many cases to silence and depression.
But it is not anyone’s choice. The cigarette industry focuses on teenagers. A teenager does not make a well-informed choice. They think: “I’ll stop smoking later.”
That usually does not happen. The cigarette is designed that way and marketed such that it encourages children to smoke. Then they get addicted, and they cannot stop, or only with great difficulty.
There are flavorings like menthol, honey and anise in cigarettes. Nicotine is the addictive substance, tar and carbon monoxide are released upon burning, and ammonia is added so to make the nicotine more volatile. That helps it reach your reward center faster. Sev-en seconds after you inhale, you get the acute kick. That is what makes it so incredibly addictive.
Because it works so quickly, you associate the cigarette to everything you do in a day. That is also the reason after you have stopped for months, you suddenly have a cigarette in your mouth at an unguarded moment of stress or when meeting a friend with whom you always smoked. Because of that fast kick, the Pavlov reflex is triggered: there are bells everywhere that make you salivate for a cigarette.
The addictive component, nicotine, can be removed from a cigarette in the production process. But the cigarette industry will never do that because then people would have no reason to smoke. Their consumers would no longer be addicted. Then sales would col-lapse.
Another misunderstanding: how easily you can stop smoking is determined by your genes, as it appears from scientific research among identical twins. The fact that you can stop easily says nothing about your neighbor who has tried to quit seven times.