Summary of Tobacco Historical Readings


Today, the negative effects of tobacco are well-known to the public, and it has taken countless research and public health efforts to uncover these insights. This essay will explore key studies that were instrumental to understanding the long-term dangers of tobacco use and their associated criticisms. 

The first reading discusses a series of early experiments performed at the Cancer Institute in the 1930s to understand the effects of smoking tobacco. Using rabbits as test subjects, Dr. Roffo proved that smoking causes cancer since the rabbits developed precancerous formations. His subsequent studies demonstrated that tar, when heated to a high temperature, becomes carcinogenic and that small amounts of tar often cause tumor development. These experiments are important to public health because they established scientific evidence to the community that smoking is truly harmful. It deterred many from smoking because it demonstrated the high risk of illness even with when just small amounts of tar are present.

The second reading, written by Jerome Cornfield and others, discusses popular criticisms of tobacco studies. It acknowledges these concerns but reaffirms the dangers of smoking by proving these criticisms wrong. The reading explains how the rise of lung cancer in patients and its associations with smoking are too great to ignore and explores how the lack of a better reason for the increase in illness demonstrates that smoking is the ultimate cause. Although they recognize that smoking does not single-handedly cause lung cancer, previous tobacco studies remain valid.  From a public health perspective, this article tries to persuade people not to start smoking by proving common criticisms wrong, especially younger populations who have not begun smoking yet and are more impressionable.

Motivated by the increasing reports of small-airway dysfunction in people exposed to second-hand tobacco smoke, Takeshi Hirayama discusses her studies in the third reading. This study took place from 1966 to 1979 and followed 91,540 non-smoking housewives who were over 40 years old in Japan. Hirayama concluded that the chance of a wife developing lung cancer increases with the smoking frequency of her husband. Also, the smoking habits of the husband caused other respiratory problems, like asthma. This article demonstrates that smoking is not only an issue for the users but those around them. This finding is important because a population’s health can be negatively impacted by the actions of an individual, making it a public health issue. 

These three articles reflect a clear trend of finding tobacco use to be harmful. Given that countless studies have concluded the harmful effects of tobacco, including those discussed in this essay, it is irrefutable that smoking tobacco is harmful. Each article persuades the public to avoid tobacco use as it is a public health concern. They illustrate their importance to public health as the articles reaffirm the dangers of smoking tobacco and emphasize why people must realize its dangers and avoid its use.

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