Health Effects and Impacts of Tobacco on Children, Teenagers, and Their Families
Submitted by Justice and Witness Ministries Health and Wellness Program
On June 17, 1999, in an unprecedented move, the US Senate defeated a comprehensive tobacco-control legislation which was primarily aimed at discouraging and reducing smoking, particularly among children and teenagers. Legislation would have required tobacco companies to pay $516 billion dollars over 25 years; additional fines would have been levied if smoking by teenagers was not reduced. In addition, some of the money raised by the bill would have been earmarked for disease prevention research and an anti-smoking campaign aimed at children and teens. Tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of death in the United States; it is responsible for 1 out of 5 deaths each year. In the world, tobacco-related diseases kill one more person every second. Youth tobacco use is soaring. Smoking rates among youngsters continue to rise, and are at their highest levels in nineteen years. Four to five million children and youth ages 12-17 are current smokers. Three thousand children start smoking everyday; one-third eventually will die from their addiction. More than five million children under age 18 alive today will die from smoking related diseases, unless current rates are reversed. Almost 90% of adult smokers began as children. Smoking rates among African-American and Hispanic high school students have increased. Marketing and advertising has been focused on the youth population. Eighty-six percent of children who smoke prefer Marlboro, Camel and Newport—the three most heavily advertised brands. Environmental (exhaled) tobacco smoke is rated a Class A Carcinogen. It damages developing fetuses in utero, increases hospitalization for bronchitis and pneumonia children, and worsens asthma attacks.
Jesus said, " I have come that they may have life, and have it more abundantly" (Jn. 10:10, NIV). The Church has always understood itself to be an extension of Jesus Christ’s ministry in the world—serving the needy, demonstrating compassion, engaging in acts of mercy and kindness. For more than 1000 years Christian institutions have been caring for health; first in monasteries, then hospices, hospitals, clinics, by medical missionaries, and through church supported homes for children and the aged. Concern for physical health has historically accompanied concern for spiritual health and salvation.
In June, 1985 a Mission Statement on Health and Welfare was adopted by the General Synod. The mission of the United Church of Christ in health and welfare is rooted in the ministry of Jesus Christ and empowered by God’s spirit. It calls upon UCC congregations to understand God’s intent for harmony and wholeness within creation and the example of Jesus Christ’s ministry which expressed His intent through acts of love and justice. We must be committed as a Church to a mission of shalom and to a life-style compatible with that mission. The mission encourages UCC congregations to engage in ministries that educate and nurture for health-giving ways of living. We are all created in the image of God—making each human life precious.
In the spirit of the UCC mission on health and welfare, this resolution calls upon General Synod 23 , to request that Justice and Witness Ministries be in discussion with Conferences, Associations, local churches and individuals about the implications of recent research on the health impacts of tobacco usage—especially cigarette smoking—on children and teenagers, and to be educated about the disease and death it brings not only to the users themselves, but especially to infants, children, teens and adult non-smokers who share their environments.
This resolution is not being presented as a "moral issue". Rather we invite General Synod to facilitate a re-examination of the possible ethical and theological implications of the newest scientific findings.
General Synod calls upon Justice and Witness Ministries to provide an education piece that will assist United Church of Christ individual members, congregations, conferences and associations to dialogue among themselves and with groups in their communities on the issue of youth tobacco use; and to begin thinking about collaborative strategies for preventing and reducing youth tobacco use.
WHEREAS, God’s good gifts of creation include our bodies and we are called to be good stewards of our life and health; and
WHEREAS, part of our responsibility for sharing in the shepherding activities of society as citizens is to help create conditions for the health of our communities; and
WHEREAS, tobacco is the leading preventable cause of death in the United States; and
WHEREAS, worldwide every ten seconds another person dies as a result of tobacco use; and
WHEREAS, smoking of tobacco products is a major cause of illness that contributes to the premature death of hundreds of thousands people living in the United States; and
WHEREAS, each day 3,000 young people become regular smokers; and
WHEREAS, four to five million youth ages 12-17 are current smokers; and
WHEREAS, smoking rates among youngsters continue to rise, and are at their highest levels in nineteen years; and
WHEREAS, tobacco companies are targeting their promotional efforts to children and youth with the result that 90 percent of new smokers are teenagers or younger; and
WHEREAS, exposure to environmental tobacco smoke worsens symptoms of asthma and causes respiratory infections in children; and
WHEREAS, we recognize that the right of individuals to use tobacco products in religious ceremonies should be preserved; and
WHEREAS, it is our Christian responsibility to speak out and take action against those who would seek profit and wealth by promoting tobacco;
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that General Synod 23 recommends that Justice and Witness Ministries calls upon the appropriate Justice and Witness Ministry Teams, Parish Life and Leadership Team, in Local Church Development, Health and Wholeness in Wider Church Development, local churches, associations and conferences to be in discussion about the implications of recent research on the health impacts of tobacco usage on children, teenagers and their families; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the General Synod 23 requests that Justice and Witness Ministries encourages local churches, conferences and associations to engage in collaborative community and national efforts that are aimed at preventing and/or reducing youth tobacco use including:
* sponsoring self-help groups for persons who want to stop smoking.
* providing children and youth group learning opportunities that educate them about the health effects of smoking and smokeless tobacco.
* providing educational sessions for parents on how to guide and talk with their children about tobacco; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the General Synod 23 requests that Justice and Witness Ministries convene the UCC Parish Nurse Network, the UCC Physician’s Network, the UCC Health Task Force, the Interministry Health Table, the Association of United Church Educators, Council for Youth and Young Adult Ministries, and other interested and identified bodies to work in concert to identify ministry models and strategies to show how church members and churches can respond to the tobacco issue; and
AND BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that covenanted ministries, organizations, health and human service institutions associated with the UCC, conferences, associations, local churches, and members of the United Church of Christ express compassion and concern for persons who are currently addicted to the use of tobacco products and be urged to join in education and advocacy activities to advance legislation that reduces the smoking of tobacco products without being punitive towards individuals who do smoke.
Funding for this action will be made in accordance with the overall mandates of the affected agencies and the funds available.
Health and Wellness Program, JWM
Public Life and Social Policy, JWM
David Jenkins, Ph.D.,
United Church of Christ, Chapel Hill
Ted Johnson, Ed.D., West Parish UCC, Andover, MA
01-GS-44 VOTED: The Twenty-Third General Synod adopted this Resolution. Kansas City, MO, July 2001.