Cigar smoking is dangerous to your healthYour article in...

the Forum

August 24, 1993

Cigar smoking is dangerous to your health

Your article in the Aug. 16 Accent section, "The Untouchables: The cigar is still a good smoke whether politically correct or not," followed a similar article in The Baltimore Messenger, "A Good Cigar is a Smoke."

These articles make it appear fashionable to smoke and espouse the joys, mystique, and chic of cigar smoking. This is not journalism this is advertising. I deal with the consequences of smoking every day. Here's an alternative perspective:

The fact is that tobacco use (cigarettes, chew, and cigars) causes cancer (lung cancer and cancer of the head and neck). These are not small spots that the doctor freezes off; these are indolent malignancies that occur too often, too late.

Head and neck cancers invade the throat, tongue, tonsils, mouth and lips. Treatment requires radiation therapy and/or excision of these areas, which may include removal of all or part of the larynx, tongue, jaw or face.

These treatments often cause functional deficits in speech and swallowing, not to mention disfigurement. And despite all the advances, cancer involving the head and neck still kills half its victims.

It is true that not everyone that smokes gets cancer, but almost everyone (95 percent) who gets lung or head and neck cancer has a history of tobacco use.

Your interpretation that mortality rates for cigar smokers are only slightly higher than those of non-smokers and much lower than mortality rates for regular cigarette smokers minimizes the actual risk by comparing it to a greater one.

This is misleading and unprincipled. Relative to nonsmokers, cigarette smokers have a 6.1 to 15.8 times greater risk of developing cancer, and cigar smokers a risk 1.6 to 3.9 times greater. These rates are increased by a full 50 percent if tobacco is used in conjunction with alcohol.

Worst of all, half of the smokers that develop lung or head and neck cancer will die of their disease. It is clear that the risk you characterize as "slight" carries with it dire consequences.

Tobacco use is a destructive, unhealthy behavior that is usually also an addiction. It always carries risk; it is never good for you.

Despite the evidence, smoking among adolescents is on the rise. Articles such as yours only serve to confuse the hard facts by telling people (especially those who already smoke) what they desperately want to hear: "It is not that bad for you, and these are the rewards."

Your prestige as Baltimore's newspaper carries with it civic responsibilities such as the promotion of health care, not to mention responsible journalism.

You owe your readers an apology and retraction.

Paul W. Flint, M.D.

Baltimore

The writer is director, Johns Hopkins Center for Laryngeal and Voice Disorders.

Reporting race

Race rears its ugly head again in three reports in the Aug. 17 issue of The Evening Sun.

One report concerns the stay of execution by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals in the case of convicted killer Gary Graham. Mr. Graham is specifically identified as black, although his race has no relevance . . .

The second report concerns the decision of a Detroit judge to issue a sealed verdict in an assault case against a police officer charged with beating a motorist to death. Nowhere in that report is it mentioned that the police officer is white and his victim is black.

The third report, in a section called "For the Record," concerns "opening statements in the attempted murder trial of two black men accused of beating white truck driver Reginald Denny" during the Los Angeles riots. The report describes this trial as the "final act of catharsis."

Will there ever be any real catharsis in Los Angeles or anywhere else in this country as long as it is deemed important to report race when it is irrelevant and to indicate race when blacks perpetrate crimes against whites and conveniently ignore it when the reverse is true?

Although these stories are from wire reports, surely The Evening Sun has some responsibility to clean them up when the issue is one as sensitive and volatile as race, especially when the stories appear almost in tandem as these do.

Elizabeth M. Shipley

Martin A. Dyer

Baltimore

Aping mankind

So now scholars are asking the United Nations to declare that apes deserve the same protection as human beings ("Ape Protection," The Evening Sun, Aug. 16).

Their reasoning: Homo sapiens is an ape and should accord fellow apes the same rights he demands for himself.

What an example of Homo sapiens hubris!

Why should we legislate for apes what rights belong to them? Wouldn't it be more respectful of us to allow them to decide for themselves?

I envision the apes convening their own scholarly conference to hash out these important ethical issues. Let the best minds in apedom arrive at their own conclusions, which could then be presented at a human-ape summit meeting.

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