For 41 years Lester Sontag, MD was the director of the Fels Research Institute, in Yellow Springs, Ohio, concerned with human growth and development.
I moved to Yellow Springs the year he retired and soon after I purchased a home on the land that is identified by the name of the "Sontag Plat" on the county property rolls. For the next fifteen years Dr. Sontag and I shared a backyard and many cups of coffee. He became my patient, my mentor and my friend.
While Lester was widely recognized, and universally lauded, for his achievements at the Fels Research Institute, I marveled at his amazing prescience in identifying tobacco smoking as a potential threat to health three decades before the US Surgeon General issued the first health warning about smoking in 1964!
Dr. Sontag's research in World War II was concerned with the effects of wartime separation stress upon the babies of wives of soldiers while in the womb. Meanwhile, the popular press was filled with advertisements touting smoking as an "ideal way to lose weight" and "soothing on the "T Zone" (the throat). In 1954 Tobacco was even included in the US AID "Food for Peace Program" and the export of tobacco addiction was subsidized to countries that were recipients of US foreign aid.
Dr. Sontag's research and inspiring independence of mind were not to be fully appreciated until later. However, Yellow Springs was enriched by his presence, in our midst. He was a Saving Remnant in Yellow Springs, during a time when so many refused to stand against the Holocaust. Doctor Lester Sontag was our true representative of the "Greatest Generation".
In the march 1935 issue of Time Magazine, his work was noted in the following article.
Monday, Feb. 18, 1935
Physiologists agree that smoking does no more harm to a woman than to a man, if harm there be. According to many investigators, the only circumstances under which a woman should not smoke are while she has anesthetic gas in her lungs (she might explode), and while she produces milk for her baby. Milk drains from the blood of a smoking mother those smoke ingredients which please her, but may not agree with her nursling.
Might smoking disagree with a baby before it was born? asked Antioch College's Drs. Lester Warren Sontag and Robert F. Wallace. While pregnant women who had smoked for years and one who never before had smoked, puffed cigarettes, the Antioch doctors held stethoscopes to the mothers' abdomens, listened to the beatings of the baby hearts. Smoking promptly sent the fetal heart beats up from 144 to 149 beats a minute. This made the Antioch doctors conclude: "It is not improbable that maternal smoking during pregnancy may have permanently harmful effects upon the child."
Later research has, of course, indicted cigarette smoking for the health-threat that it is. The cardiovascular and lung damages are usually identified as the most significant diseases caused by tobacco.
There are other significant problems caused by tobacco use that target the mouth:
cancer of the oral tissues and
early abnormal loss of the bone that retain the teeth in the jaws.
Periodontal gum problems are made worse by tobacco use.
And the smoker loses their sense of smell and is unaware of their "bad breath" that is the by-product of the lungs trying to expel the toxins associated with tobacco.
Rehabilitation of Nicotine Addiction requires serious intervention with professional help.
When you are ready, Dr. Russell is prepared to make an appropriate referral to an effective Smokng Cessation Program.