While 2018 witnessed some great health news, namely that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that the percentage of adults smoking in the United States had fallen to a record low, an estimated 34.3 million or 14 percent of Americans still regularly use cigarettes. This has disastrous consequences for their health and for the healthcare system, which has to pick up the staggering $300 billion tab caused by illnesses related to tobacco use.
While there have been many campaigns to educate people about the adverse effects of smoking, many Americans still seem to be able to ignore what they have heard or at least put it out of mind in order to avoid changing their behavior. What could make people change their minds and their behaviors?
Amanda Eller, a nurse specializing in cardiovascular care at Mission Heath in Asheville, North Carolina, got so tired of seeing the damage that smoking reeks on her patients that she decided to do something radical. Eller describes herself simply on Facebook: “Follower of Jesus. Giver. Nurse.”
A year ago, Eller posted a simple set of photos and videos on Facebook to show everyone on the internet, especially smokers, what smoking does to your lungs. She put two sets of lungs next to each other. One belonged to a healthy non-smoker, the other to a person who had smoked a pack per day for two decades.
“Cancerous, 1 pack per day for 20 years lungs 😳 versus heathy lungs. Still wanna smoke?” the caption of the Facebook post read. Needless to say, the results were shocking.
Posted by Amanda Eller on Monday, April 23, 2018
The two pairs of lungs couldn’t look more different; the smokers’ were pitch black, covered with tar inside and out. Withered and shriveled from years of tobacco use, they were a horrific sight next to the healthy pair of lungs, which had a fresh, bright-red color.
Next, she attached each set of lungs in turn to a pump so viewers could see how they would inflate during normal breathing.
First, the video shared by Eller shows the smoker’s lungs being inflated. It’s immediately obvious that something is wrong, because the lungs never fully blow up. As Eller explains, “Because these lungs are COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease), cancerous lungs, the elastance is gone, so they will stretch out but then the recoil of them just snaps right back […] you can see there how fast they deflate.” Next, the healthy lungs are given the same amount of air and fill up completely to more than twice the size of black lungs.
The healthy lungs don’t just fill up with more air; they stay expanded much longer the cancerous lungs, meaning that the body gets a lot more oxygen to work with. Since the video was originally posted, people have definitely gotten the message. The clip that shows the experiment with the smokers’ lungs is now nearing an astounding 52 million views and has been shared with smokers and non-smokers alike over 11,000 times. The message is getting out: quit before it’s too late!