In Korea, Stop-Smoking
Plan Gains Momentum
Adventists continue “with zeal” to make nation smoke-free
BY ANSEL OLIVER, assistant director for News, General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists
he Seventh-day Adventist Church in South Korea uses an “outdated” program to help people quit smoking. And it’s working.
Originally launched in 1960 as a pioneering smoking cessation plan, the church’s Five Day Stop Smoking Plan has since expanded to nine days, resulting in higher success rates around the world. Except in Korea.
STOP-SMOKING CRUSADER: Daniel Cho, right, leads the Adventist Church’s Health Ministries in South Korea. [photos: Ansel Oliver/ANN]
“Koreans are very busy. They don’t have time for nine days,” says Daniel Cho, the Adventist Church’s Health Ministries director in South Korea. He has helped to lead the church’s work fighting tobacco by launching health organization branches and continuing ongoing smoking cessation programs.
The Adventist Church took an early stand against tobacco. As far back as 1848, church co-founder Ellen White wrote about the health risks associated with smoking. But as smoking has become taboo in more societies over the past few decades, some in the denomination feel the church has lost its vision in the battle against tobacco. Others feel the church has done enough and community organizations have a higher profile to continue the fight.
Still, South Korea is one area where the church's fight is very much alive, says Dr. Peter Landless, director of the International Commission on the Prevention of Alcohol and Drug Abuse (ICPA) and an associate Health Ministries director for the world church.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), tobacco use is responsible for the death of one in 10 adults and is the second major cause of death worldwide.
“These are preventable deaths,” Landless says. “The church in Korea has not been idle in facing the challenge. They’ve taken smoking cessation programs they’ve had since the 1950s and continued with zeal.”
World No Tobacco Day is held annually on May 31. Cho notes the day of emphasis, saying he’s pleased the Korean adult smoking rate is about 35 percent, down from 78 percent in 1974, according to WHO. But Cho says there's more to be done.
Cho, 53, was appointed to his present position in 2000. He set about to get ICPA registered by the government--a very difficult thing to achieve, he says. There were only two non-governmental organizations in the country at the time. Today there are 150 ICPA branches around the country with smoking cessation groups of about 20 people meeting in apartments.
BUSTED: Jeon Ho Sup, 16, was caught smoking at school, where regulations require that he attend a smoking cessation program before he can return to class. Here he participates in the initial screening process at a classroom at Seoul Adventist Hospital.
Cho holds a master’s degree in theology and a doctorate in public health. He overworks for his cause and doesn’t admit to any challenges. He does, however, mention upcoming plans.
His dream is for the health programs of ICPA to extend throughout South Korea, North Korea, and all of China.
The success rate of smoking cessation programs is now 60 to 70 percent in adults, and 40 to 50 percent with students.
Nearby Seoul Adventist Hospital works with some 900 students a year.
One recent evening, 16-year-old Jeon Ho Sup sat in a classroom at Seoul Adventist Hospital blowing into a tube as part of a lung capacity test. After a nurse wrote down data marking his performance, the high school student said he started smoking a year ago because his friends recommended it. He now burns through a pack of cigarettes a day.
“I really want to stop smoking,” he said through a translator.