The Great American Smokeout was November 20, but it’s not too late to kick the habit. Not only is smoking harmful to humans, it also hurts animals. The next time you’re dying for a cigarette, remember that your friends, your relatives, your animal companions and animals in laboratories all suffer when you smoke. That will help deaden your desire for nicotine.
By now, we all know the health risks associated with smoking. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, men who smoke are 22 times more likely to die of lung cancer than those who don’t. Female smokers are 12 times more likely to die of lung cancer than female nonsmokers. Smokers also have a higher risk of getting at least eight other cancers, two to four times the risk of developing coronary heart disease and twice the likelihood of having a stroke. About 90 percent of all deaths from chronic obstructive lung diseases are attributed to smoking.
People who are exposed to secondhand smoke face equally grim consequences. Breathing smoke—indoors or out—for even a short time has harmful effects on one’s cardiovascular system. Exposing your loved ones to secondhand smoke increases their risk of heart disease and lung cancer by up to 30 percent. Passive smoke can cause sudden infant death syndrome and serious respiratory problems in children.
Researchers at the University of Massachusetts and Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine have found that passive smoke harms animals too. A case control study showed that cats living with smokers are more than twice as likely to suffer from feline lymphoma, a deadly form of cancer. Other studies suggest that environmental smoke can cause lung and nasal cancer in dogs.
Joe Camel might have taken a few drags, but real animals would never inhale tobacco on their own. Yet mice, rats, ferrets, dogs and primates continue to be mutilated, pumped full of nicotine and forced to inhale smoke in cruel, archaic laboratory experiments.
In studies funded by the government, experimenters have cut holes in beagles’ throats and made them breathe concentrated cigarette smoke for seven days a week for up to five years. They’ve inserted electrodes into dogs’ penises to see if smoke affected their sexual performance and cut living dogs’ chests open to study how cigarette smoke causes airway irritation and coughing. They’ve also forced rhesus monkeys and baboons to breathe cigarette smoke daily for up to three years to determine how it affects their hearts and exposed pregnant monkeys to nicotine to observe its detrimental effects on their fetuses.
In a recent experiment at a major U.S. tobacco company, more than 1,000 mice and rats were killed after being forced to breathe cigarette smoke to test the effects of adding high-fructose corn syrup to cigarettes as a flavoring agent—even though U.S. law doesn’t require tobacco products to be tested on animals (American Spirit cigarettes are not) and even though everything we know about smoking-related diseases has come from population and clinical studies, not from animal experiments. Different animals have different reactions to toxins and diseases, so they don’t make good models for humans. The experiments are also inaccurate because animals in laboratories aren’t normally exposed to nicotine in the same manner and on the same time schedule as humans.
Nevertheless, millions of dollars and hundreds of thousands of animal lives have been wasted on experiments that are so inhumane and irrelevant that they’ve been banned in Britain for more than a decade and were recently banned in Belgium. That alone should convince you to butt out cigarettes for good. When you consider all the risks of smoking—to humans and animals alike—you’ll surely find the strength to kick the habit once and for all.
Heather Moore is a senior writer for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, 501 Front St., Norfolk, VA 23510; www.StopAnimalTests.com.