Saturday, July 01, 2006

It's Time To Get Really Tough On Smoking

The alarming report from U.S. Surgeon General Richard Carmona that was released this week makes it very clear that it's an important matter of public health and human rights to sharply curtail all public smoking. unlike any other drug addiction problem, those who fail to curtail their nicotine drug addiction and choose to smoke in the presense of others do terrific damage to the health, safety and economy of the United States.

Secondhand smokes kills 46,000 nonsmoking adults each year through heart disease, and 3,000 from lung cancer. In addition 430 newborn babies die each year from SIDS(Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) caused by secondhand smoke. In a single year, secondhand smoke kills nearly as many nonsmokers as the 12 year death toll of Vietnam War for American soldiers.

In children the health and financial costs to the American economy are very upsetting. 790,000 children are caused ear infections, some of which require expensive and very painful ear surgery. 200,000 children are injured by asthma attacks and 24,000 babies are born premature or with a low birth weight. This can result in early death, substantial lifetime health problems or medical costs.

Unlike automobile exhaust smoke which contains the odorless poisonous carbon monoxide which is heavily diluted in a large quantity of air, Cigarette smoke contains a very foul, dirty and stinky smell, and contains 50 harmful poisons that the EPA finds to be absolutely unsafe in any quantity to humans. Cigarette smoke contains dangerous allergens that cause migraines, vascular dilating, sore throats, burnt or irritated lung passages, swollen lung, tongue or throat passages and a filthy dirty taste that hangs on for up to two days in nonsmokers who have the misfortune to even catch one breath of this terrible poison in a public place.

In the state of Oregon alone, careless smokers who smoked while having their car windows open, caused more than 890 grass or forest fires during the summer months of June, July and August 2005. This caused extenmsive economic damage and endangered the lives of firefighters, wildlife or innocent persons who suffered substantial property loss.

Each year 30,000 homes and businesses are destoyed by fires caused by careless smokers. This results in an average loss of life of more than 800 persons a year, often innocent people sleeping in the same building or apartment building. Many persons who live in apartments have no fire or loss insurance, and often have to accept a complete loss of all personal property and sometimes become homeless or have to rely on services such as the Red Cross or Salvation Army for assistance.

Secondhand smoke on public streets effectively prevents many with severe asthma, emphysema, cystic fibrosis, bronchitis, allergic or who have sensitivity from being able to play outside, take a walk, patronize businesses, and make many persons a near prisoner in their own home. A smoker who cannot control their nicotine drug addiction and chooses to smoke in their automobile with open windows, or on public streets, spreads their poisonous smoke for 1/2 a city block in all directions.

Each day at least 40% of nonsmoking adults and 60% of children have secondhand smoke forced on them by contact at some place. Cigarette smoking is the only drug addiction that harms both user and nonuser alike. All other drug addictions only destroy the health of the user. Yet health experts note that nicotine drug addiction is just as addictive as heroin. Nicotine drug addicts like smoking because it gives their drug damaged brains a quick fix of the drug, unlike nicotine patches or gum which is slower at delivering the drug to the abuser. Magnetic resonance imaging finds that smoking damages multiple areas of the brain, and dramaticly worsens this problem if the smoker is also a drinker. Because so many who smoke also use other drugs such as alcohol or worse, the brain damage only tends to compound for smokers.

While many better educated and normal intelligence persons have long ago quit or never started smoking, the American tobacco industry tends to disportionately profit from those least able to afford or understand the full health consequences of their products. A higher percentage of lower income or lower educational attainment persons smoke. Up to 80% of persons who have a diagnosed mental illness are smokers, and use of this drug becomes a dangerous form of self-medication rather than seeking proper mental health services or approved drugs to control schizophrenia or other serious mental illnesses. Most homeless persons are smokers, and often also are drug or alcohol abusers. If these conditions are all combined together, some of these persons only have about a three year life expectancy on the streets before death from an overdose, exposure, illness or violence.

Most litter on public streets or on beaches or in forests and greenways is smoking related, such as cigarette butts, discarded matches or empty cigarette packs. This is an ugly and expensive problem. and since many hard core drug abusers such as those that use heroin are HIV+ or have full blown AIDS also are smokers, discarded cigarette butts on public streets present a possible biohazzard problem to the public where the HIV could be spread to an open wound on a finger such as a deep scratch. Discarded cigarette butts need to be treated as hazzardous medical waste by any who are forced to clean up such litter.

Unlike other defective or dangerous products which are removed from the public marketplace when found to cause only a few deaths or injuries, tobacco products are a defective and dangerous product that has been given special rights by lawmakers and the courts. The Supreme Court even shielded the tobacco industry from FDA regulation a few years ago in a landmark decision. And consumer agencies have been ineffective at putting curbs or safety limits on these defective and dangerous products. Especially among Republican lawmakers at the local, state and federal level, the tobacco industry has many strong supporters. Former Senator Robert Dole was a virtual pawn of this industry, taking every opportunity to defend this dangerous drug industry from every possible legal safeguard or public health effort. Some top Republicans are even married to tobacco industry lobbyists or accept huge campaign donations from this industry and use every attempt to block public health efforts to curb this dangerous drug.

Local, state and the federal government should put smoking in the same category as sex. It is fine in the privacy of your own home, but completely unacceptable in any public place, automobile in traffic or on public streets or sidewalks. Fines of $100 to $1,000 sholuld be levied against those who smoke publicly and expose others like some sort of "Typhoid Mary". A $100 fine is a very small price for a careless smoker to pay who walks down a city street and causes ear infections, sore throats, asthmas attacks or other medical injuries or costs to nonsmokers. The average doctor visit is $132 on up. And medicine costs can be very significant. My own mother has been caused both asthma and emphysema from secondhand smoke in the lunch room of her former workplace and now has to spend $800 a month on medications from her retirement income not to die from the serious injuries that careless coworker smokers caused her. There should be programs set up to pay victims of secondhand smoke as a form of crime victims program.

Smoking in a public place is not freedom of choice. Smokers are nicotine drug addicts who cannot wait until they are home for their next drug fix. Instead of choosing nicotine patches or a more responsible form of drug delivery, they practice their drug addiction in public places. They should be treated as any other drug criminals and fined or arrested and forced into drug treatment programs. There is no excuse for public smoking of any sort.

Congress should pass laws making it a federal crime to manufacture or sell cigarettes or any nicotine drug delivery system that spreads hazzardous smoke or fumes beyond the intended user. There are strict emissions laws for automobiles, but the far more air damaging cigarettes go unregulated by government. Strict emissions laws against these nicotine drug delivery systems are long overdue. Smoking injures both user and nonuser alike.

Public smoking is simply a serious form of criminal assault and should be treated as such. Smoking causes injury to ears, nose, mouth, lungs, tongue and brain tissue of nonsmokers. Any person who physically assaulted someone so seriously in a public place would likely be arrested and charges with a serious felony. And when a nonsmoker dies of a fatal asthma attack, it is murder. Anyone who smokes in a public place should be liable for lawsuits or arrest for a serious form of felony criminal assault on nonsmokers.

Picketing of the homes of tobacco executives who profit by causing the injury or deaths of small babies from SIDS or other injuries to young children would inform their neighbors that undesirable criminal elements live in their neighborhood. Posting photos of tobacco executives on Webpages would warn the public that persons just as dangerous sex offenders live in their neighborhoods and for persons to avoid these undesirables.

Picketing of tobacco companies with pictures of babies they murdered from SIDS would bring home a message to these companies that they profit from injury and murder or abuse of children.

Consumer boycotts of businesses that sell tobacco products will hit these drug dealers in the pocketbook.

A tidal wave of medical injury and wrongful death injury lawsuits from nonsmokers all across the U.S. will make remaining in the tobacco business very expensive for these wealthy drug dealers. Just like other drug dealers, tobacco executives live in big homes and drive fancy cars while creating thousands of victims who have little financially or the common sense to realize how much injury they are causing themselves or others. Many tobacco companies also produce harmless food or other products. There is no reason why they cannot simply concentrate on these harmless products or invest their money elsewhere.

Nicotine products should only be sold at pharmacy counters. Every purchaser should be consulted that tobacco smoking is hazzardous to their health and the health of others. That tobacco products contain a drug just as addictive as heroin, nicotine. And they should be instructed that only the private use of tobacco at their home, with no children present is the only accepted use of the product.

Smoking in the presense of children should be treated as a child abuse problem and children's services or police should respond to reports of this abuse.

Cigarettes or tobacco products that produce smoke or fumes should be subject to the same standards of product safety as other defective or dangerous products. State and Federal product regulation agencies should have the power to force any defective product from the marketplace until a safe replacement can be marketed.

Cigarettes that self-extinguish should be required by federal law to limit the huge number of house, grass and forest fires. If the maker of a the cigarette can be traced, then they should held liable for all damage costs of these fires, and the resulting repair costs.

The tobacco industry should no longer profit from injury to so many innocent victims of their products. Smoking is simply evil. It harms and kills babies and small children. It kills 50,000 nonusers a year. It is simply common sense to crack down hard on a drug industry that kills or injures as many innocent victims in a single year as the Vietnam War caused in 12 years. This is just common sense and a morally just crusade.


Post a Comment

<< Home