Contact: Garrett Caldwell, [email protected]
The Seventh-day Adventist Church is one of many groups joining the World Health Organization to mark May 31 as World No Tobacco Day.
The Adventist Church is supporting this year’s theme, “Raising Tobacco Taxes,” which is a core policy recommendation of the Church’s 1996 statement on tobacco.
A statement from the World Health Organization said, “A tax increase that increases tobacco prices by 10 percent decreases tobacco consumption by about 4 percent in high-income countries and by up to 8 percent in low- and middle-income countries.” The same statement also said, “Tobacco use is the single most preventable cause of death globally and is currently responsible for 10 percent of adult deaths worldwide.”
Dr. Peter Landless, Health Ministries director of the Adventist world church, said increasing taxes on tobacco is one of the most cost-effective ways to reduce the use of tobacco, especially among those who are young or poor. “While we respect freedom of business in the marketplace, we should also respect the freedom for citizens to establish policies that curb the single most preventable cause of death,” he said.
Adventists—long known for a promotion of healthful living—were on record against tobacco more than a decade before the denomination was officially established in 1863.
As developed counties toughen their restrictions on smoking, tobacco companies increasingly focus on developing countries, where they face less resistance. Adventists are continuing anti-tobacco initiatives through the denomination’s worldwide network of churches, schools and hospitals.
In the Southeast Asian country of Cambodia, where smoking rates are approximately 40 percent among men, the Adventist Development and Relief Agency has implemented anti-tobacco projects since 1995. Government health officials could once be seen smoking during meetings, which prompted ADRA to partner with other non-governmental organizations to help reduce the smoking rate down from 70 percent in the mid-1990s.
“ADRA is currently working on more awareness education through its rural based development programs and partners where smoking rates have not reduced nearly as fast as in the urban centers,” said Mark Schwisow, director for ADRA Cambodia.
In the Eastern European Country of Bulgaria, data reveal that 45 percent of people between the ages of 25 and 64 smoke, said Valerie Dufour, Health Ministries director for the Adventist Church’s Inter-European Division. The Adventist Church in Bulgaria is one of several group advocating for the reinstatement of a ban on tobacco, which was recinded by Parliament in 2010, Dufour said.
In the Western European nation of Portugal, the Adventist Church has held smoking cessation programs since 1967, Dufour said. More than 4,000 programs have reached some 60,000 smokers in the country.
The Adventist Church first brought the world a smoking cessation program in the 1950s, which was later named “Breathe Free.” In July, the Church will release an updated version of the program to include new research and methods. The new Breathe Free was rewritten in collaboration between the International Commission for the Prevention of Alcoholism and Drug Dependency and the Adventist Church’s Loma Linda University.
“We pray that this will serve as an impetus to renewed energy in the Church’s efforts to make the difference in the lives of many wishing to break the habit,” said Landless, the Health Ministries director. “My prayer is that we will answer this call. The need is clear and our duty defined.”