Today the global community celebrates World No Tobacco Day, an initiative of the World Health Organization (WHO). This year’s theme focuses on the impact that tobacco has on cardiovascular health. According to recent WHO statistics, tobacco kills up to half of its users, totaling more than 7 million people each year. Over 6 million of those deaths are the result of direct tobacco use while approximately 890,000 are the result of non-smokers exposure to second-hand smoke. Nearly 80% of the worlds 1.1 billion smokers live in low- and middle-income countries.[i]
Since its inception, the Seventh-day Adventist Church has discouraged using addictive substances such as alcohol and tobacco. Abstinence and wholistic well-being were advocated by Church co-founders Joseph Bates and Ellen and James White before the Church adopted its formal name in 1863.
The Church has a long history of actively assisting communities with smoking cessation. Peter Landless, director of Health Ministries at the Adventist Church World Headquarters, shares that “The first SDA health institution – The Western Health Reform Institute – founded in 1866, was tobacco-free. Loma Linda University was the first smoke-free school of medicine (1905). SDA health professionals developed interventions to assist people quit smoking starting with the “5 Day Plan to Stop Smoking” in 1958. This program was replaced by the revised ‘Breathe Free’ program in 1984.”
Landless continues, “The Australian ‘Quit Now’ program (1995) included nicotine replacement therapy. In 2014, the updated ‘Breathe Free 2’ program was launched; Breathe Free 2 is largely web-based, includes motivational interviewing, and incorporates pharmacological interventions as needed.” The current version has been translated into Mandarin, Japanese, Spanish and Arabic and is used in 66 countries.
These programs still prove quite effective and have been refined and edited to include nicotine replacement therapy or evidence-based medications to assist in the stop smoking process. This is important because “chronic smokers are more ‘hard-core,’ and need added assistance. We need always to point to the Highest Power, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ as we struggle to gain the victory in any area,” Landless emphasizes.
How can you or your local church make a positive impact on World No Tobacco Day? Landless suggests taking advantage of resources available on the Breathe Free 2.0 website, as well as sharing positive health principles with friends and neighbors, and modeling and teaching a healthy lifestyle to your children and/or youth.
The Health Ministries department has many exciting events on the horizon. You may visit their website at healthministries.com for more information. Stop smoking resources and information referenced in this article are also available at breathefree2.com.