VOICE OF THE PEOPLE
by James J. Devine
Cigarettes are the means of distribution and consumption of an addictive drug called nicotine and they kill 400,000 people a year.
I gained 50 pounds when I stopped smoking, so I can attest that it is hard to give ’em up. If you don’t smoke, then try to understand that kicking the habit is such a heavy load that some of our smartest and strongest neighbors just cannot do it.
Unfortunately, there are people cashing in on tobacco addiction but unlike those who pedal heroin and cocaine, cigarette pushers are not usually subject to penalties under the law.
Not that everyone is comfortable playing a part in this mass murder for money. You go used to a pharmacy to buy medicine to make you feel better and cigarettes that kill you.
That’s why a growing number of pharmacies have decided to get out of the cigarette business. Any local store that stopped selling tobacco is welcome to $1,000 worth of free advertising from this newspaper upon verification.
Not all efforts at stopping tobacco from killing people is voluntary.
States have enacted laws that prohibit the sale of cigarettes to children, specifically people under 18. They could easily do a bit better.
All but one state limit alcohol sales to people who are at least 21 years of age. If kids did not start smoking by the time they are 21, far fewer of them would ever take up the bad habit.< Better yet, instead of increasing the tobacco industry's number of victims each day by pegging the cigarette restriction to a certain age, government might instead target a particular date. Let's say that laws were passed to prohibit the sale of tobacco products to anyone born after Jan. 1, 1994. That means if you are 16 today, and therefore not legally able to smoke, then you never will be. In addition to the 400,000 people whose deaths are directly attributable to cigarettes each year, tobacco dealers will lose the next crop of young victims and so they will kill fewer people. Stopping people from smoking cigarettes is not just beneficial to those who avoid the refreshing pleasure one gets from sucking tar and nicotine into one's lungs. Fewer Americans would suffer from cancer, lung and heart disease so the relative cost of health care would decline. House fires and car accidents that result from smoking would also be reduced, saving society hundreds of thousands if not millions of dollars each year. Cigarettes kill 400,000 people a year and smoking them imposes costs on society that far exceed any amount of money. America can prevent the deaths of 400,000 people a year by restricting and eliminating tobacco. This was originally written in 2004. It has been edited for publication here.
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