Georgia State School of Public Health dean authors book on tobacco’s harms

Some cities have implemnted the 'litter app' to get rid of cigarette butts from the streets. Photos by Ralph Hernandez | The Signal
Studies show cigarette smoke contains more than 7,000 toxic chemicals that not only affects not only your body, but also the environment. Photos by Ralph hernandez | The Signal
Studies show cigarette smoke contains more than 7,000 toxic chemicals that not only affects not only your body, but also the environment.
Photos by Ralph hernandez | The Signal

Smoking cigarettes damages more than just the smoker’s lungs, according to The Tobacco Atlas, a new book lead authored by Georgia State University’s Dean of the School of Public Health Michael Eriksen.

Eriksen said tobacco is correlated with environmental contamination, deforestation and climate change. He also said the book’s purpose is to not just document tobacco’s harmful effects on individuals but also on the world in general.

“Tobacco farming is a complicated process involving heavy use of pesticides, growth regulators and chemical fertilizers,” he said.

Cigarettes comprise the largest percentage of waste collected on beaches on the planet, according to Thomas E. Novotny and Elli Slaughter of San Diego State University in the atlas.

“Tobacco smoke has more than 7,000 chemicals, hundreds of which are toxic and negatively affect almost all organ systems,” Eriksen said in the book. “Children born to women who smoke during pregnancy are at higher risk of congenital disorders, cancer, respiratory disease, and sudden death.”

Even if someone is able to ingest nicotine in a pure form, it is still unhealthy, according to Eriksen during a Reddit questionnaire.

“In terms of nicotine, it is not a particularly benign drug and my preference would be that smokers use e-cigs to quit, then eventually end their nicotine addiction entirely,” he said. “I know that not everyone feels that way, but for the nonsmoker, the harm of nicotine outweighs any benefit.”

The marketing aspect of the tobacco industry stretches worldwide and every facet of big tobacco contributes to a multi-billion dollar industry, according to the book.

“In 2011, the largest cigarette companies in the USA spent $8.37 billion on marketing, spending the most on discounts to reduce the price of cigarettes to consumers,” Eriksen said in the atlas.

Besides how smoking is marketed, the habit is seen enough in the culture to make people want to smoke, according to Eriksen.

Bradley Dowis, a Georgia State junior speech and communication major, said smokers widely glorify cigarettes, perceiving them as a release from anxiety.

“We do idolize these things that kill us,” he said.

Georgia State student Christina Harris said she didn’t start smoking in response to tobacco ads, but rather because her friends smoked.

“Someone offered me a Black and Mild, and we would smoke those,” she said. “Then at some point, I guess we graduated to cigarettes.”

Much of the marketing is directed towards adolescents and young adults, using tactics like fruit flavors and associations with sports to appeal to younger demographics, according to the book.

The Tobacco Atlas also said e-cigarettes normalization might contribute to youth usage, prevent smokers from quitting and cause former smokers to start smoking again.

“All of the major tobacco companies have their own version of e-cigs,” Eriksen said in the Reddit questionnaire.

“Philip Morris sells Mark 10, Reynolds sells Vuse, and Lorrilard sells Blu. Big Tobacco has the majority of the e-cig market in the United States.”

On March 19, the “Atlas” was released at the 16th World Conference on Tobacco or Health in Abu Dhabi. The book covered statistical information on the harmful effects of tobacco use, according to a Georgia State University News article.

The growing popularity of e-cigarettes is more harmful rather than helpful to reducing big tobacco’s influence, according to Eriksen.

“The increased popularity of electronic cigarettes and other products threatens to take us backwards by making smoking seem socially acceptable,” Eriksen said in the Georgia State University News article.