Saturday, December 17, 2011

Safe Sex and Safe Smoking: The Parallel

Dr. Frank, insightful as ever:

When physicians first recognized an association between smoking and lung disease, an early approach that gained widespread popularity was adding filters to the cigarettes. Since people were going to smoke anyway (so it seemed), what better solution could there be than “safe smoking”? What foolish and religious nonsense to think that you could ever convince people to stop smoking, especially since so many youth were beginning to smoke? I wonder if anyone ever thought of passing out filtered cigarettes in schools to protect the children of the close-minded parents who didn’t accept this new progressive wisdom. Surely someone must have come up with a plan to teach the more sheltered school children about all the different varieties of tobacco products and the various ways in which they could be ingested. Imagine how much danger these children would face if not given such life-saving “health” information?

Hindsight is 20/20. We have since learned that “safe smoking” with filtered cigarettes wasn’t so safe after all. It simply forced people to suck harder while drawing the smaller carcinogenic smoke particles to deeper parts of the lungs. We then saw a shift from cancer in the large airways (like the trachea and bronchi), to the smaller airways (like the alveoli). Guess which cancer was more deadly. Yes, the ones involving the smaller airways. Fortunately, the medical community recognized this and made a radical shift in policy. We decided that as challenging as this may be, we had to encourage people to fundamentally change their behavior and abstain from cigarettes altogether. It’s not an easy answer, but we unanimously agree that it is the only one we can with integrity endorse. In fact, a physician would be thoroughly condemned if he or she failed to counsel a smoking patient to quit such harmful behavior. The attention given to smoking cessation is now unrivaled among health advocacy topics; unrivaled except perhaps by the current “safe sex with condoms” campaigns. Let us hope that sound reason and logic can soon correct the false religion of salvation by latex.

I realize that people develop sexual feelings on their own, whereas smoking is not inborn.

Nonetheless, smoking is an addiction. Sex is not. (Although it's treated like it is.)

And yet we devote a heckuva a lot of energy and resources to get people to quit.

Imagine if we devoted as much energy to help people become chaste.

Even if you reduce your non-marital sexual activity by 90% you do a heckuva lot to prevent yourself from getting a disease or getting someone pregnant.

But no, let's not try to convince people of the benefits of toning down their sexual activity or quitting altogether until they find the person they want to marry.