World Church: Seventh-day Adventists Plan Global Tobacco Summit

Source: From The Adventist News Network

Four million people die worldwide from smoking-related diseases each year–440,000 in the United States alone–according to the World Health Organization (WHO). A recent WHO projection indicates the global tally will top 10 million by the year 2030. Despite aggressive, decades-long governmental and private anti-smoking efforts, every lit cigarette signals the habit is still an epidemic health concern.

In response to renewed concern, and in conjunction with the 13th World Conference on Tobacco OR Health to be held in Washington, D.C. from July 14 to 16, representatives from the Seventh-day Adventist Church will convene the same weekend for their Global Tobacco Control Summit. Presentations will be held in the Sligo Adventist Church in Takoma Park, Maryland, and the nearby Washington Adventist Hospital.

The Summit will highlight "the historical events leading from the early Adventist temperance movement of the 1870s, recognize the official outreach programs developed for tobacco users around the world and summarize the current spectrum of tobacco control activities in the global Adventist church," said Dr. DeWitt Williams, Health Ministries director for the church’s North American region.

Its goal, he continued, "is to use information-sharing to provide insights for decision makers to guide the future of official programs."

The Summit also aims to "reposition Adventists as players in the forefront" of anti-smoking efforts, said Williams. In recent years, antismoking has enjoyed escalating public support and Adventists have consequently "lost their [historical] edge," he adds.

Two Adventists, Dr. Wayne McFarland and Pastor Elman Folkenberg, pioneered anti-smoking efforts in 1959 when cigarettes were "cool" and the likes of Humphrey Bogart lit up movie sets such as Casablanca. Not to mention some physicians of that era who, according to director of Health Ministries for the Adventist world church Dr. Allan Handysides, went so far as to tout tobacco as a possible treatment for asthma and other pulmonary complaints.

The team’s landmark 5-Day Plan to Stop Smoking–renamed the Breathe Free Plan in 1984–positioned Adventists as anti-addiction vanguards and provided "timely intervention" for the 47 percent of Americans who were then smokers, said Handysides.

On January 11, 1964, then-Surgeon General Luther Terry issued the first smoking-can-be-hazardous-to-your-health warning label, endorsing what Adventists had long believed.

Today, 21 percent of Americans still smoke, according to the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Before you brush that percentage off as passably low, consider that it translates to 45 million people–50 million plus if you include underage smokers cadging the occasional cigarette from their friends.

That means lung cancer is "practically a guarantee" for a group of Americans nearly twice the population of California, said Williams. But beyond just raising risk awareness, the upcoming Global Tobacco Control Summit will redefine the Adventist church’s role in international smoking cessation programs. Organizers anticipate it will "provide a forum for thoughtful planning for the future of the Adventist church’s mission and training of leaders to address the global tobacco epidemic."

For Dr. Linda Hyder Ferry, associate professor of preventative medicine at the School of Medicine and School of Public Health at Loma Linda University and one of the first to use medication to help battle cigarette addiction, "it’s a historic moment to have Adventists…contributing to the 13th World Conference. It’s a real opportunity for Adventists to share what they’re doing during a meeting of the minds with world leaders against tobacco."

Hyder Ferry adds that the Summit will benefit from Asian, European, and South American representatives. Louis Saboga Nunes of Portugal, one of Saturday afternoon’s presenters, trains Portuguese health professionals and will report on his innovative Stop Smoking Internet program. Also on Saturday, director of the Cambodian branch of the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA), Mom Vong, will speak of ADRA’s partnership with Buddhist monks to create smoke-free temples and schools in Cambodia–an endeavor funded by the Rockefeller Foundation. Afterward, Raymond Romand will discuss his efforts to combat chronic tobacco use in France.

Those convening at the Summit will also redouble their efforts to combat the lure of tobacco. "Preventative strategies, which include the building of positive and meaningful relationships with our young people are the greatest and most effective ways of immunizing against smoking and smoking-related diseases," Handysides concluded. "We communicate values through relationships," he reiterated, "not through billboards."

Summit attendees will benefit from the presence of McFarland who, at age 94, continues to steer the Adventist anti-smoking movement he helped launch toward new achievements.

For more information about the Summit, visit or call 1-800-732-7587.