Actually, I think I know the answer. Breast cancer seems to strike randomly, and all women know that they are vulnerable. Some, to be sure, are at higher genetic risk than others, but most of us have friends or relatives who got breast cancer even though they had no known risk factor.
The population at risk for lung cancer, by contrast, consists largely of current and former smokers. The 80% of Americans who don’t currently smoke and especially the 60% who have never smoked are rightfully thankful to have minimized their exposure to the risks of smoking and would understandably prefer not to think about it. They may even dismiss the risks of tobacco use as a problem the users have brought on themselves.
Based on my extensive interaction with smokers and the data I’ve collected, I have developed a somewhat different perspective. Most smokers start during adolescence or even earlier, long before the age of consent. These youngsters are no match for an industry that takes an addictive substance, processes it to make it even more addictive, packages it in relatively mild starter products, and markets aggressively (if surreptitiously) to children. Though for reasons of circumstance or genetics some are less susceptible to nicotine addiction than others, few are completely immune and in the absence of societal constraints and public health campaigns, the majority of us would probably smoke (as indeed was true of men before the 1964 Surgeon General’s Report was released). The contention that addicted smokers are then free to stop whenever they wish is a myth, or to put it bluntly, a lie. For most, successful quitting requires strong motivation and perseverance, and often medications and/or psychological intervention.
So in case you were wondering why, despite its devastating effects on individual health and the world economy, tobacco competes so successfully with food, that most basic of life’s necessities - please do not underestimate how compelling this product is.