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Your Leadership is Needed

Even though tobacco is deadly, China’s culture of smoking continues to grow and kill an increasing number of people. There is a great need for doctors and health care workers to step forward and be leaders in the fight against smoking. Are you willing to help?

Deadly Facts

Many of China’s citizens do not understand the danger of smoking, but here are the facts:

  • Cancer is the cause of nearly 25% of all deaths in China.
  • Lung cancer is one of the most deadly types of cancer.
  • Tobacco smoke is a major cause of lung cancer.
  • The Beijing Health Bureau recently reported that lung cancer jumped 56% between 2001 and 2010. The primary cause is smoking.

Although there are many myths and misunderstandings about the danger of cigarettes, the statistics of death do not lie. It is time for doctors and health care workers in China to become health educators and tell the truth about smoking. We cannot wait for the government to do it. The government owns much of the tobacco industry so is not very motivated to reduce the use of cigarettes.

A Sad Story

Bryan Curtis, age 33, holds 2-year-old son. He would die about two months later. [Photo: Curtis Family]

Several years ago, an American newspaper (St. Petersburg Times) reported the sad story of 33-year-old man who died of lung cancer. Bryan Curtis started smoking at age 13, never thinking that 20 years later it would kill him and leave his wife and children alone.

Over the years Bryan built up to smoking more than 2 packs a day. He talked about quitting, but never seriously tried. Bryan thought he had lots of time. Older people got cancer but not young men in their 30s. Especially not hard working men who labor as builders, roofers or mechanics—or so he thought.

Bryan was more worried about his 57-year-old mother who had smoked since she was 25. He would say, "Do not worry about me. Worry about yourself. I am healthy."

Bryan found out he how wrong he was a few days later when he went to the hospital with severe stomach pain. He had a type of lung cancer that had spread to his liver and usually claims the life of its victims within several months.

On the day of Bryans death, his wife and son stay near. He holds the recent photo of father and son. [Times photo: V. Jane Windsor]

A few days after his diagnosis, Bryan knew he wanted to try to save at least one kid from the death he was facing. He sat down and talked with his 2-year-old son and 9-year-old daughter. She had already had been caught smoking a cigarette. But he wanted to do more. He had to get his story out.

In the last weeks before Bryan died, his mother called newspapers and radio and television stations, trying to find someone to tell her son's story. Someone who would help give him the one thing he wanted before he died. Unfortunately, Bryan never got to tell his story to the public. He said his last words an hour before a newspaper reporter and photographer arrived at his home.

The morning of his death, just nine weeks after being diagnosed with cancer, Bryan whispered to his mother, "I am too skinny. I cannot fight anymore."

Tobacco Kills

Cigarettes are deadly! Smoke breathed into the lungs is full of poisons that cause disease in nearly every organ of the body. In addition to lung cancer, heart disease, stroke, and emphysema, smoking has been definitively linked to:

  • Other cancers—colon, cervical, kidney, pancreatic, bladder, esophageal, larynx, oral cavity and pharynx, and stomach
  • Acute myeloid leukemia
  • Cardiovascular disease—atherosclerosis and abdominal aortic aneurysm
  • Respiratory disease—impaired lung function, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, asthma, and pneumonia
  • Other diseases—cataracts, periodontitis, hip fractures, and peptic ulcers
  • Among women—osteoporosis, pregnancy complications (including low-birth-weight babies, pre-term delivery, fetal death, stillbirths, reduced lung function in infants, and sudden infant death syndrome), and reduced fertility

Young Smokers

The age a person begins smoking directly impacts the incidence of cancer. For example, adults who started smoking before age 15, are now between ages 55 and 64 and smoke 21 to 39 cigarettes a day, are 3 times more likely to die of lung cancer than those who start smoking after age 25.

The average boy in China tries his first cigarette at age 11. With the pressure the culture of smoking places on young boys, a large number of innocent children are doomed to a painful death of lung cancer. How can we stand by and not tell them the truth? How can we allow our culture to continue promoting smoking to young people as if it is a harmless habit?

Will You Help?

Education is the only way to change China’s culture of smoking. It may be too difficult to change the minds of older people who have chosen to smoke. But short words of advice to young mothers about the deadly danger of smoking may motivate them to teach their children to stay away from cigarettes. If mothers learn about the killing power of tobacco, they may be the key to changing China’s culture of smoking

Will you become a leader in the fight against smoking? Will you help mothers understand the truth about tobacco smoke so they can educate the next generation?

By Marlin Gimbel
Leadership Club Program Director

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