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Sunday, January 11, 2009

Heroin for the Masses

Probably the best quote ever about smoking is this:

"No other legal product, when used as directed, kills 60% of its users."
Personally I think that gives tobacco the benefit of the doubt, as it probably contributes to other illnesses as well that may be fatal.

Pretty well put, huh? Here's another thought:

Research has shown that nicotine, the addictive part of tobacco smoke, actually partially re-wires the brains of smokers so that they continue to want more and more nicotine.

How about I keep going? Smoking & addiction...this is from the University of Minnesota:

"Tobacco is as addictive as heroin (as a mood and behavior altering agent)."
Tobacco is -
  • 1000x more potent than alcohol
  • 10 - 100x more potent than barbiturates
  • 5 - 10x more potent than cocaine or morphine

As if the above wasn't bad enough, smoking even harms your teeth (from WebMD):

In addition to causing cosmetic problems (yellow teeth, bad breath, etc.) smoking causes bone loss in the jaw. Smoking also harms salivary glands, increases the chances of developing gum disease, and causes healing after oral procedures to take longer.

Growing up, my mother smoked. I thought then it was a horrible, stinky thing, so I've never had any desire to smoke whatsoever. In fact, I've never even tried it.

Why then is this crap even legal? I know, in this country we have the right to do stupid things, but come on, this isn't stupid, it's freak'n fatal! I really don't get it. Now this isn't to say that I don't have sympathy for those who smoke and are trying to quit, because I do. I'm fortunate in that I've known a few good friends over the years who have managed to quit, although it was very difficult for some and I know a few who have tried to quit and failed. For them I just hope that they continue to try and don't give up, as the benefits of quitting far outweigh the frustration at failing.

What to do? Well I think the percentage of adults that smoke in this country is about 25% or so, and while it has fallen substantially (I think something like 50% of adult males smoked at one time), the trend seems to be bottoming out, and it's doubtful that smoking rates will fall much further. Personally I think tobacco products should be illegal, but I realize that's not possible when such a large percentage of adults still smoke. However I think there are some things that can be practically be done to reduce smoking further:

  • The government should subsidize the costs of truly effective smoking cessation medications and programs, such as the drug Chantix.
  • There should be a standard, nation-wide non-smoking policy that prevents all smoking in common, public they indoor or outside.
  • There should be more substantial fines for anyone under the age of 18 who possesses tobacco products. I know..."what if they are buying them for a parent" which I say "then let the parent buy them for his/her self and stop making the kid nothing more than a drug mule".
  • Tobacco should be taxed highly and at a national level, with the proceeds being used to fund smoking cessation programs and prevention programs aimed at young adults. There should also be a special tobacco profits tax leveled at the producers of this product that is also used to fund these programs.
  • Cartoons should be banned as tools to advertise tobacco products.
  • Hollywood should be encouraged to "de-glamorize" smoking in films.
  • The government should sponsor annual contest for the production of anti-smoking messaging; effective video/pictures/sound clips would then be used in prevention programs.
  • There should be a standard anti-tobacco curriculum required for all schools in select grades.
  • Companies shouldn't subsidize smoking by allowing/tolerating extra smoking breaks for workers.
Sounds hard-assed, I know, but we are talking about something that kills people. This isn't like french fries, where a few every now and then is okay. Hell, even the worst food has some redeeming value in terms of calories...tobacco has zero redeeming qualities. I know "if I quit I will gain weight", but you know what? You can quit without gaining weight, and even if you do, that extra weight for most people will never even come close to killing them.

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