Unless they’ve been living under a rock, smokers know that cigarettes are bad for them and for the people in their homes. But not everyone realizes that cigarettes are harming animals too. Dogs, rats, primates and other animals are forced to inhale smoke and injected with nicotine in experiments funded by the tobacco industry. These experiments should be stopped now.
The companies say that they just want to determine how harmful cigarettes are to human health. But we’ve already determined that smoking can be deadly, and as everything we know about lung cancer and other smoking-related illnesses has come from human epidemiological and clinical studies -- not from animal experiments -- there must be another reason.
This other reason, I believe, is that experiments on animals are misleading. Decades of study have shown that animals do not develop lung cancer as humans do. A 2002 paper in the journal Inhalation Toxicology blasted inhalation experiments on animals for failing to show that smoking cigarettes does increase the cancer risk in humans, noting that “[s]ignificant increases in the numbers of malignant tumors of the respiratory tract were not seen in rats, mice, hamsters, dogs, or nonhuman primates exposed for long periods of time to very high concentrations of mainstream cigarette smoke.”
But the tobacco industry is still desperately grasping for anything that might convince the public that smoking isn’t dangerous.
How better to convince the public that cigarettes aren’t all that bad than to point to years of “scientific evidence” showing just that? Cigarette manufacturers are perfectly aware that vast differences exist between species and that data taken from one species cannot always be correctly applied to another. Different species of animals vary enormously in their reactions to toxins and diseases, as well as in their metabolism of drugs.
To further its goal of selling cigarettes, the tobacco industry has funded experimenters who have cut holes in beagles’ throats and made them breathe concentrated cigarette smoke for a year. They’ve inserted electrodes into dogs’ penises to measure the effect of cigarette smoke on their sexual performance. They’ve confined rhesus monkeys to chairs with head devices and exposed them to nicotine and caffeine to determine how these substances affect their breathing. Cigarette smoke has been pumped directly into the noses of rats and mice. Millions of dollars and hundreds of thousands of animal lives have been wasted on experiments that are so inhumane and pointless that they have been illegal in Britain since 1997.
It’s time for the tobacco industry to pull its head out of the clouds of smoke and be honest about the facts: Smoking causes cancer. It is a leading cause of pulmonary illness and death in the United States, including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, asthma, influenza and pneumonia. Smoking contributes to cardiovascular disease, coronary heart disease and birth defects.
US federal law does not require tobacco products to be tested on animals. The money wasted on worthless animal experiments would be much better spent on education, health services and addiction-treatment programs. For more information, see: www.SmokingAnimals.com.
Heather Moore is a freelance writer and a senior writer for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.
Other Articles by Heather Moore