by Joann Flora,
Acupressure, Nutrition Counseling, Qigong
July 26, 2003
Cigarette smoking and other tobacco use is hard to deter. How's that for understatement? The Surgeon General has warned us. Radio and television ads are full of 'don't do this' messages. I'm sure we all know someone who has suffered the debilitating effects of tobacco related illnesses: lung cancer, asthma, emphysema, breast cancer in women, heart disease, stroke, mouth and esophageal disease, throat problems, lost and rotting teeth, halitosis, gum disease, shortness of breath, and that most serious side effect of all, shortness of life. Death. My uncle continued to smoke as he lay in his hospital room dying of lung cancer. Does this strike anyone as bizarre? This stuff kills people and it's not a secret. Taxes have been raised astronomically to, a) make it too expensive for people to do, and b) raise money for society to pay their medical bills when they become ill. We have not achieved either objective; people still smoke and the cost to society of tobacco related illness is staggering. Society has officially stamped the practice of smoking (and chewing) as unacceptable. We no longer permit smoking in stores, airplanes, office spaces, hospitals, schools, and many other places where people congregate. Second hand smoke (what we inhale in the presence of smokers) is just as serious a threat as if we smoke ourselves. It's dirty, stinks, impairs our sense of taste and smell, clings to walls, drapes, hair and clothing, and in short, has not one single redeeming factor.
If tobacco was a brand new product, it would never make it past the FDA or EPA. That's a fact. Imagine the initial presentation for smokeable tobacco if it was just being introduced to the market.
Tobacco Exec: You see, you light this end, inhale through the paper tube surrounding our product, and suck the smoke into your lungs. (demonstrates)
FDA Guy: Excuse me?
Tobacco Exec: (cough) Just suck the smoke into your lungs, it's great!
FPA Guy: Why?
Tobacco Exec: Well, it feels good. (clears throat) And, it makes you look sophisticated and cool.
FPA Guy: Excuse me. I have
to open a window. (sound of window sliding ) That stuff smells.
Tobacco Exec: Oh yeah. No problem. (sniff) Some folks in our test group have reported becoming ill, but that takes years and years. Why, a person could smoke 20 or 30 years before dying from it.
FDA Guy: You mean to say, people can actually die from smoking that stuff?
Tobacco Exec: (hack) Maybe. But we'll put warnings on the package so they can't sue the pants off us. In the meantime, we'll make billions! And, the taxes the government can raise from it will be enormous! And, if we promote the use of cigarettes with coffee, they won't set too many beds on fire, and that will protect entire apartment complexes.
FDA & EPA: (confer, confer) You must be out of your mind! Get out!
Anyway, that's how I think it would go. The problem with tobacco as an industry is that a) it's been around a really long time, and b) many southern states have built their economies around tobacco farming and tobacco product manufacturing. No matter how many of us become ill or die, the federal government is not going to shut down the tobacco industry until state economies have divested themselves of tobacco as an industry. And that's what it will take to really solve the tobacco problem. However, don't give up yet. Non-smokers and ex-smokers have a voice in this.
We can continue to refuse to breathe second hand smoke and push legislation until there are no public places left where smoking is allowed. California has prohibited smoking in that last strong-hold of smoker paradise, bars. You know what? The bars have not gone out of business. The smokers whined, got used it, and now the liquor industry is serving a population that avoided bars and lounges. Now non-smokers can enjoy a cocktail with friends, live music and dancing.
We can increase tobacco education for our youth, start it younger, and make it mandatory for the middle and high school students who arrive at 8 am reeking of tobacco or who have it in their possession.
We can offer support and compassion
to our friends and family who are struggling to withdraw and
detoxify from the poisons in tobacco. We must help them in anyway
We can refuse to patronize business that allow smoking in their establishment. And be sure to tell them why you're leaving. Remember, folks, a no-smoking section in a restaurant is like a no-peeing section in a pool. Sooner or later. . .
We can encourage our stores to ban the sales of tobacco products entirely. It won't break them to do it. Tobacco is an addictive drug that kills people. It has no business in a food store. Let the smokers establish tobacco shops for the sale of such products, if they must have it, just as liquor stores sell booze.
As a government and a society,
we can make it not only feasible but attractive for tobacco farmers
to farm something else. We can subsidize food or textiles instead
Those of us in the health care industry, can make smoking education and cessation a priority in our practices. Let's not leave it up to the one part-time person at KGH.
I was raised in a home where both parents smoked and I began to smoke at 14 years old. On July 31st, I will be 50 years old, and smoke free for 20 years. Happy birthday to me! Fifty down and 50 to go!