Controlling Tobacco- Industry 'Child Abuse'
by Francis MacNutt (from the June 1992 issue)
For 29 years I was a member of the Dominican order and we stressed the serious study of truth (the motto of the order was the same as that of Harvard: "Veritas" - the Latin word for Truth). Cardinal Cajetan is reported to have said (he was a Dominican theologian of the 16th century, who stayed in his room studying and writing while the Emperor’s troops were sacking Rome outside his window) that a Dominican who did not study 3 hours a day was guilty of serious sin. Although I don't have the time anymore to spend 3 hours, the desire to study remains with me: I read extensively in the dozen or so magazines we subscribe to and in the many books that come my way. Many things I read are just too good not to share with you, so I thought you might like to benefit from some of the time 1 spend keeping up to date on theological and moral issues.
According to the Center for Disease Control, 434,000 preventable tobacco-related deaths occur each year in the United States. That's the number that would die if three 747 jumbo jets, fully loaded with passengers, crashed every day- plus two additional crashes on weekends. In addition, 53,000 Americans die each year from passive smoking.
The average male smoker in the U.S. loses eight years of life expectancy. Losing older customers because of premature death jacks up the pressure on the marketing side of the tobacco enterprise. Counting smokers who quit as well as those who die, the industry needs two million new smokers a year just to maintain current sales levels. Therefore attention must focus on the young, since only 10% of new smokers begin after the age of 20. This means that some 6,000 children and teen-agers must begin smoking each day for the tobacco industry to replace the customers it loses. One-fourth of all new smokers are 12 years old or under. So every day the tobacco industry must recruit 1,500 pre-teenagers to start smoking!
Tobacco use, says Surgeon General Antonia Novell, is "now easily designated the single most important risk to human health" in the U.S.," and Repr. Henry Waxman (of California) remarked that advertising cigarettes is "the moral equivalent of a national campaign to 'Drive Drunk - Just for the Fun of it.'"
Tobacco ads now target children as well as the black and Latino population (90% of all cigarette billboards are in black and Latino neighborhoods). Many ads feature cartoon figures such as Joe Camel. As a result Camel's share of customers under 18 has increased from .5% to 32.8%. This illegal traffic in cigarettes for children now accounts for $476 million per year in Camel sales.
Death for profit, especially when the profit is wrung from children ... is surely the worthy object of Christian witness. So far the issue of tobacco has been a low priority for most churches. When smoking is now clearly contrary to the Commandment, "You must not kill" (Deut. 5:17), opposition to smoking is no longer a Baptist peculiarity; it becomes a mandate for all churches. Why do they still remain silent?
(Taken largely from the July, 1992 issues of Sojourners. pp. 6-7; an editorial by Rev. Charles Scriven)