What Are You Smoking Now?

Last generation's smoky suits and today's marijuana.

My father served for many years on the Council of his Christian Reformed Church. Meetings were held every Tuesday evening. Every Wednesday morning when, leaving our house for school, my Dad’s suit coat would be hanging on the wash line outside. My Mom refused to have him wear it into the house when he came home late from his meeting because it reeked of smoke.

I also remember assembling in the church council room with my peers to be examined by the elders prior to publicly professing my faith in church. More than 55 years later, I have two distinct memories of this event: my fear of possible failure, and the thick haze of eye-watering tobacco smoke that filled the room.

My former pastor, Rev. Nick Knoppers, told me that the table in the Council room of his first charge in Friesland held a carousel of fine Meerschaum pipes, one for each elder and deacon. In the centre was a humidor of fine tobacco, paid for by the church.

OXYGEN’S PATH
My Dad quit smoking when it became more and more difficult to dismiss the evidence that smoking was a leading cause of lung cancer and other serious diseases. Believing as he did that one’s body is the “temple of the Lord,” he could no longer justify his smoking habit.

Our lungs are amazing organs. When we breathe in oxygen-rich air through our nose and mouth, it passes into our trachea (wind pipe) that then branches into two narrower bronchial tubes, and from there into ever smaller tubes (the bronchioles) that eventually end in tiny and extremely thin air sacs (alveoli). The alveoli are surrounded by tiny blood vessels (capillaries). It is here that precious oxygen passes through the alveolar membranes into these capillaries while they, in turn, give up their carbon dioxide to be exhaled as a “waste” gas. Practically all life on earth depends on this oxygen-carbon dioxide exchange.

Smoke is made up of various gases and very fine particulate matter suspended in air. In the case of tobacco smoke, these gases and particles contain literally hundreds of harmful compounds, many of which are carcinogenic (cancer causing) and pass through the alveolar membranes into our blood stream and, from there, to every organ in our bodies. The smoke particles that don’t make it into our bloodstream plug up our alveoli much as a fine sieve gets clogged when we pour dirty water through it.

Canada has just become the second nation on earth (after Uruguay) to legalize marijuana for recreational purposes. This column is not the place to discuss the merits and/or demerits of this legalization. Based on the brief description of the function of human lungs above, surely smoking marijuana (or any other substance) can’t be good for them. Maybe eating pot-laced brownies or drinking marijuana cocktails has a place in our culture similar to the responsible use of alcohol; but, when it comes to smoking it or any other substance, just say, “No!” Your temple will thank you.

  • Bob is a retired Professor of Education (The King’s University) living in Edmonton.

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