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Tobacco and Cancer: A smoking gun?

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cancer smokingI’ve never smoked so I’m reasonably confident my own cancer experience is not related to this type of personal lifestyle.  I did, however, grow up in a world where smoking was widespread and a generally accepted behaviour.

We now know that smoking causes more than four in five cases of lung cancer. Lung cancer not only has one of the lowest survival rates of all cancers, but is the most common cause of cancer death in the UK.  Shockingly, most of these deaths are preventable, by giving up smoking in time or not starting at all.

Smoking also increases the risk of at least 13 other cancers including the larynx (voice box), oesophagus (gullet), mouth and pharynx (throat), bladder, pancreas, kidney, liver, stomach, bowel, cervix, ovary, nose and sinus, and some types of leukaemia. There is also some evidence that smoking could increase the risk of breast cancer.  The anatomy is pretty well covered by the risk of smoking.

I haven’t seen any evidence that smoking increases the risk of Neuroendocrine Tumours (NETs) in the relevant parts of the anatomy listed above but I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a connection or at least an increased risk with certain types and/or locations of NETs.  Although years of  research have proven that smoking causes cancer, this doesn’t mean that all smokers will definitely get cancer or that all non-smokers won’t. It means that smoking greatly increases the risk of this disease. Smokers are, on average, much more likely to get cancer than non-smokers.

One of my other activities outside of NET Cancer awareness and support work, is my role as a Cancer Research UK Campaigns Ambassador for New Forest West (a UK Parliament constituency in West Hampshire on the border with Dorset).   Through this task, which I support in my own time for free, I’ve been helping Cancer Research UK with their various campaigns, in particular, the one to introduce standard tobacco packaging into the UK.  Evidence shows that removing all branding and design from tobacco packs makes it less attractive for both adults and children. This is a controversial measure opposed by the tobacco industry and their sponsors. However, it was voted through by the UK Parliament early this year and is currently in a consultation phase.  The general election may delay its introduction as law but hopefully this will become a reality in 2015.  Clearly the tobacco industry is involved in rearguard actions ‘as we speak’.

When I was given the campaign material to read in Dec 2013, I was totally shocked by some of the statistics provided:

  • Since tobacco advertising became illegal in the UK in 2002, tobacco companies have invested a fortune in branded packaging to attract new smokers, particularly younger people;
  • Around 207,000 children aged 11-15 start smoking in the UK every year (6,900 classrooms worth).  This means that nearly 570 children are lighting up and becoming smokers for the first time every day. Addiction keeps them smoking into adulthood, where it then kills one in two long-term users;
  • Two thirds of new smokers start before they are 18 and the vast majority while still teenagers;
  • Smoking-related diseases kill over 100,000 people in the UK every year.  Worldwide the figure is 6,000,000 and projected to rise to 8,000,000 by 2030.
  • Tobacco use caused 100 million deaths worldwide during the 20th century, and if current trends continue it will kill 1 billion people in the 21st century.

plain_packs_620_x_348Standardised tobacco packaging (sometimes known as plain packaging), is not a UK initiative.  Australia was the first country in the world to introduce standardised packaging for tobacco products in December 2012 and have since reported the biggest fall in smoking for 2 decades.  In addition to the UK, New Zealand and Ireland are working on similar legislation. Other countries are considering or have committed to some action including France, EU, Norway, Canada, India and Turkey.  Countries said to be opposing such measures include USA, Italy, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Greece, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia and Spain.

You can read more about standardised tobacco packaging at this link here: http://www.cancerresearchuk.org/support-us/campaign-for-us/setting-the-standard-for-plain-cigarette-packaging/evidence-and

For UK nationals, you can help keep the pressure on the government to introduce the legislation quicker by emailing your Member of Parliament – see button labelled ‘Email your MP’ within the above link.

For other readers, you will probably find similar campaigns in your own national organisations and I recommend you read what they have to say.

Thank you for reading! I would love to hear your feedback on this issue so fire away!

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Finally, please note this post contains my own views and opinions.  It does not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of any Cancer or Charity organisation with which I’m associated.


2 Comments

  1. I am a long term on and off smoker, grew up in a house full of it as well. Struggling once again to quit the stupid addiction. I LOVE the idea of packing cigarettes in a box covered with photos of diseases. Pictures are worth a thousand (words and warning)! Keep up the advocacy that is awesome!

    Liked by 1 person

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