It really is amazing how many soldiers from WWI and WWII eventually died from smoking, actually multiples of how many were killed in action. Just to get an idea of the magnitude of the devastation from smoking, this year more Americans will die from smoking, than all American soldiers killed in action in WWI, WWII, Korea, and Vietnam Wars, combined. Every year, more Americans die from smoking than the combined soldiers killed in battle deaths of the 24 years of the 20th Century. Unbelievable.
Smoking really became popular after the distribution to soldiers in WWI then WWII. Soldiers were really the first groups to smoke in large numbers, and were the first group to really start experiencing smoking related effects. Many of the early studies linking smoking to diseases were performed on Vets for they were the first group to be showing significant rates of diseases that prior to their generation were rare or virtually unheard of.
Lung cancer, the first linked to smoking was a rare disease at the turn of the century, now, the #1 cancer death of all sites. Other diseases like heart disease, which were always around, went up significantly in the smoking population.
Being that it is Memorial Day, a day we honor the memory of those who fought so valiantly to protect our freedom, I don't mean to minimize the their efforts by comparing the losses of battle with the losses from smoking. But I just think that the losses from their services were not just experienced at the time of their service. That in fact, many of these young men would never have taken up smoking if not in the situation they found themselves in decades ago. These early smoking experiences addicted them, sentencing them to years and decades of continued smoking. And many of them ended up losing their final battle to diseases caused by their addiction to nicotine. The costs of wars from decades ago are probably still felt daily today by premature loss of family members, but usually go unrecognized.
Hopefully we will never forget the efforts of our soldiers, and the many sacrifices they made to make our world better. And hopefully the lessons we learned from their experiences may help prevent our future generations from making some of the same mistakes leading to such loss. Some lessons are hard for any one person to make a difference alone, governments and whole societies must learn to avoid repetition of events. But one lesson is within every individual realm of control.
We learned from these soldiers the danger of smoking. We learned the addictive nature of what they thought was a harmless product when they first used it. But we also are learning today that many of these soldiers became ex-smokers and are to this day or were to the day they died. Many were victorious over this last vestige of their war. You can be too, to maintain final victory over nicotine, never take another puff!