Since 1988, the World Health Organization (WHO) has set aside one day a year as World No Tobacco Day, meant to inform “the public on the dangers of using tobacco, the business practices of tobacco companies, what WHO is doing to fight the tobacco epidemic, and what people around the world can do to claim their right to health and healthy living and to protect future generations[i],” their website states. This year the event was held on May 31.
For Seventh-day Adventists, every day is No Tobacco Day. We have been ahead of the curve, actively working to educate communities on the dangers of smoking and other addictive behaviors for years. In 1959, the Church adopted the Five-day Plan to Quit Smoking created by Dr. Wayne McFarland and Pastor Elman Folkenberg. This successful plan was updated and renamed Breathe-Free in the 1980s and has been used over the past 30 years to help thousands of people kick the nicotine habit.
A newer, revised version, Breathe-Free 2.0, was launched in 2012. Breathe-Free 2.0 is free for churches or small groups to hold in a facilitator-led setting. In the future, there will be individual options online for those who’d like to quit smoking at their own pace.
COVID-19 and Substance Abuse
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought with it side effects of uncertainty, boredom and loneliness. Dr. Zeno Charles-Marcel, associate director of Health Ministries for the Adventist World Church, says that what we’re seeing is “an increase in emotional stress.” In addition, with recreational areas such as beaches and parks closed, people have not been able to exercise outdoors to relieve tension and they’ve explored other means of coping.
Some have turned to substances such as drugs, alcohol and nicotine. Others, especially smokers, are realizing this is the perfect time to quit. “Smokers have up to a 50% higher risk of developing severe disease and death from COVID-19, so quitting is best thing smokers can do to lower their risk from this coronavirus, as well as the risk of developing cancers, heart disease and respiratory illnesses,” says Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO director-general.[ii]
Charles-Marcel agrees. “COVID-19 has given us [the Church] an opportunity to reemphasize living healthfully, and wholistic health in general, including smoking and vaping cessation, because underlying lifestyle issues increase [the] risk of having a bad outcome with COVID. If someone has not adopted a healthy lifestyle before, this is a good opportunity to do so because there’s an obvious peril to [their] life right now,” he says.
People are searching for answers, and we have the opportunity to help them find freedom, healing and hope in Jesus.
In light of the variety of social, physical and psychological concerns impacting today’s society, the Health Ministries department has amassed resources for churches, church members, and local ministries to use—empowering every church, as their motto says, “to be a center for health and hope. Sharing wholeness, serving all.”
The Health Ministries Department offers resources for:
- addiction recovery through Adventist Recovery Ministries Global
- YouthAlive, an evidence-based youth discipleship program designed to build resilience among youth, empowering them to say NO to addictive and unhealthy behaviors
- promoting a healthy lifestyle by encouraging physical activity through Adventists InStep for Life
- Celebrations, a comprehensive wellness program based on choice, rest, activity, nutrition, social support, and more;
- raising awareness and advocating for abuse victims around the world through the global initiative EndItNow
- helping people break free from the destructive cycle of pornography through Gateway to Wholeness
- ReMindEd, a comprehensive wholistic, evidence-based mental health resource currently being developed for those wanting to improve their mental well-being.
Lifestyle coaching is also available to “help people make lifestyle changes to lower their health risks and improve their health.”
If you would like more information on any of the resources listed above, please visit healthministries.com and AdventistHealthMinistries on Facebook. More information about the Breathe-Free 2.0 program is available at breathefree2.com.