The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have identified a new disease called EVALI. That is short for E-Vaping Associated Lung Injury. An apparent culprit in this problem is vitamin E acetate, a sticky oil substance often added to vaping products. This is especially common in vaping products that contain THC, the primary psychoactive compound in marijuana.
The Center for Disease Control says that 84% of the EVALI cases involve cannabis-containing products. As of February of 2020, cases of EVALI had caused 68 deaths in 29 states and the District of Columbia. Those numbers now are far more significant, and virtually all of them are in young adults. Teenagers are twice as likely to have “wheezing or whistling” in their lungs after vaping marijuana as compared to smoking cigarettes.
As followers of Jesus, 1 Corinthians 3:16 tells us that our bodies are the Temple of the Holy Spirit. Vaping weed is at least as bad as smoking cigarettes, and both are destructive acts that damage the body and can lead to death. As our society turns away from God and rejects the notion that our bodies are designed creations of God, young people are less concerned about taking care of them.
The consequences of rejecting God are enormous, and one consequence is the threat to our health. The COVID-19 pandemic should have made us all aware of the importance of caring for our lungs. These studies on the destructive nature of vaping have centered on young people, so the results are not due to old age.
First Corinthians 3:16 tells us of the sacred nature of our bodies. Verse 17 says, “If any man defiles the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple you are.” This is not some violence done to humans by God, but the natural consequence of abusing God’s creation. We cannot blame God when we fail to care for what He has given us.
As science began to show the harmful effects of smoking, cigarette companies tried to dissuade fears by adding filters to their products. The Phillip Morris Company initially marketed the Marlboro brand as a cigarette for women. In 1954 the Leo Burnett advertising agency set out to reach a broader market by introducing the Marlboro Man.
Originally the ads featured rugged-looking men in various roles, but in the early 1960s, they settled on cowboys in “Marlboro Country.” The idea was to appeal to young men, “post adolescent kids” by using a masculine cowboy in a ranch setting. One of the men who played the role was a real rancher in Colorado by the name of Robert Norris. Executives at the advertising agency saw him in a newspaper picture with his friend, actor John Wayne. Norris had the looks and the ranch, where the agency took hundreds of photos of him for use in the ad campaign.
The Marlboro Man campaign was so successful that by 1972, Marlboro cigarettes were leading the industry. Robert Norris was not the first, or the last, Marlboro Man. But one interesting thing about him is that he didn’t smoke. In fact, according to his son Bobby, he told his children, “I don’t ever want to see you smoking.” Eventually, one of his children asked, “If you don’t want us smoking, why are you doing cigarette commercials?” That day he called Phillip Morris and resigned from the job.
What can we learn from this? For one thing, as we have said before, human greed causes human suffering. Companies often follow the “survival of the fittest” mentality looking to enhance their bottom line at the expense of the public. Also, as every parent should know, our children will follow our example more than our words.
Norris was the Marlboro Man for 12 years, but he was not the only one. The campaign lasted until 1999. A major reason for its ending was the death of the actors who played the role and actually smoked. Five of them died of smoking-related illnesses. The cowboy theme of the campaign earned Marlboros the nickname “cowboy killers.” Robert Norris, who didn’t smoke, died in November of 2019 at age 90.
Norris’ friend, “six-pack-a-day” smoker John Wayne survived lung cancer in 1964 but died of stomach cancer in 1979. According to the “John Wayne Official” Twitter page, Norris and his wife “spent many Thanksgivings” with John Wayne. Perhaps John Wayne should have followed the example of Robert Norris. My father died from the effects of smoking more than 35 years ago, and this week I lost a friend because he was not able to kick the habit. Meanwhile, those who profit from smoking and vaping continue to demonstrate that they care more about money than people. They need to learn something about the concept of repentance.
One of the unique teachings of the Bible is that the human body is the temple of God. First Corinthians 3:16 says it clearly: “Don’t you know that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells within you?” This concept is repeated numerous times throughout the New Testament. The consequences of that belief are very significant. The next verse tells us: “If any man defiles the temple of God, he will be destroyed: for the temple of God is holy, and that temple is you.”
As Christians, we should treat our bodies with respect and care. Taking recreational drugs of any kind is an affront to that care. The consequences of taking alcohol, nicotine, meth, or crack into our bodies or abusing prescription drugs will ultimately destroy our health. The list of ailments from alcohol and nicotine is massive and growing.
In today’s world, many have been told that vaping involves no health risks. That is simply not true. It is true that e-cigarettes contain no tobacco, but medical data is showing that the vapor from e-cigarettes reduces the body’s ability to heal wounds. Teens who vape can develop smoker’s cough and bloody sores. Chemical analysis shows that the vapors contain cancer-causing chemicals. A new vaping behavior called “dripping” intensifies the effects of vaping and increases the risks.