This I Believe

Madhu - Aptos, California
Entered on January 18, 2008
Age Group: 50 - 65
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This I believe-

Since the resolute warnings by the former Surgeon General, Dr. C. Everett Coop, awareness of the grave effects of tobacco has been nailed down in the U.S. and throughout the world though numerous Anti-tobacco campaigns. I believe, however, the irresponsible promotion of cigarettes and other tobacco products has to come under intense scrutiny and major laws need to be passed by not only the U.S. Govt. but by leaders in all the countries. A recent presentation in Beijing by The International Pharmacy Federation states, ” The current worldwide total of early deaths caused by tobacco is set to double as developing countries reap the consequences of addiction ..” and prompts me to seek more ways of attacking Tobacco promotion, one, which the big tobacco companies still continue to stealthily push here and mercilessly in developing countries, with their obscene wealth gained through irresponsible business practices for decades. They have entrapped the unwary into a pernicious malady.

The U.S.Govt. from what I learnt, took a bold initiative in 1971 banning cigarette ads. from radio and TV. But the tobacco industry got clever, marketing aggressively through other media including magazines and direct marketing at gas stations, convenient stores and drug stores, discount coupons and such, which is what brings me to this forum. Thankfully billboards in the U.S promoting the addiction are a thing of the past, but remain highly visible in many other countries including China wooing millions of people right from pre-teens, on to a lifelong and deathly addiction. For every dollar spent on tobacco control in the U.S. in 2003, the tobacco industry spent $ 23 promoting the products. Contrast that with a mere 28Cents being the cost of providing nutritious meal for a hungry child in a poor community around the world and just about 50Cents in the U.S.

Back in 2003, I had written a Letter to the Editor of Time Magazine, denouncing their ads for cigarettes in the issue with the cover page article on, “Women and Heart disease”- I wrote, “…The article by Christine Gorman is is very informative…., however to my dismay… I found the epicurean, almost derisively placed Ad. on the Back cover for Camel Turkish blends cigarettes, ..antithetical to the issue’….”As a pediatrician, I have removed a few previous issues of Time and other magazines with flagrant ads for tobacco or other offensive material from my waiting and exam room racks…” I pointed out the appalling stats such as the toll from smoking on heart disease leading to 115,000 premature deaths in women in one year, on an average 14 years earlier, and that same year, the tobacco industry spending $9.5 billion promoting the product in the U.S. alone.

There is a huge toll on the quality of life besides deaths in the objective stats; being drawn into it at a gullible age, kids being three times more sensitive than adults to tobacco advertising, they suffer even before they are in their 30s.

Overall smoking causes an estimated almost half a million deaths per year in the U.S. according to the CDC. Over 30% of high school girls and 23% of all children under 18 smoke and cancer and heart disease are the no.1 cause of morbidity and death in those who start smoking before they are 20, with more than 40 – not just 2 or 3 – 40 chemicals in tobacco identified as carcinogens. Problems related to tobacco are legion both for the user and those exposed to it secondarily including the smoker’s unborn baby. I promptly received a reply from the Editor which reads as, ” Time’s editorial agenda has continuously reflected the concerns over smoking….why does the magazine continue to carry ads for cigarettes? The answer is that advertising as revenue backbone is the practical and necessary reality of publishing… the Ads department accepts tobacco ads along with ads for other items of legitimate commerce”- so, can the federal legislators work with sincere conviction, much as California serves as the leader and through the last 30 years, to make all tobacco products ones of illegitimate commerce? And will they respond to the pleas of the WHO and Global health advocates by taking down the displays and stands in convenient stores and gas stations; will the drugstores stop selling cigarettes and be content with profits from all other merchandise including life-saving and promoting medications?

The economic impact of such Ads and products’ withdrawal will certainly be offset by Foundations that promote Health, such as the American Cancer society, Lung Association, National Parks, etc., and by the enormously valuable, moral burden of social responsibility. Tobacco kills people at the height of their productivity, depriving families of breadwinners and nations of a healthy workforce.

Smoking costs American taxpayers over $55 billion because of chronic disease

( that is a billion with 9 zeros following the 55) dollars a year in government health care costs. Private health care costs are an additional $20 billion dollars per yearr.

There is nothing “luscious” about Camel.No.9 and every bit as chilling about “Kool”, with the gloomy stats of Nicotine addiction. “Don’t Smoke and Choke” and “Don’t Chew and Spew” will be my slogans and this I believe should redirect the world’s growing addiction to tobacco with the U.S. leading the way for a ban on tobacco at all levels; after all, is other drug addiction, such as heroin or meth any different? Can I add to the denouement of this almost 2 centuries old and big business profiting addiction?!