The newly introduced, graphic pictorial warnings about the dangers of cigarette smoking have prompted the tobacco industry to sue the federal government in an attempt to force Uncle Sam to remove these warnings from the packages of tobacco products.
Since the 1950's when Surgeon General Luther Terry first called out the tobacco industry, it has been commonly understood that smoking kills. The evidence in the decades since has only reinforced this fact through myriad studies and statistical evidence proving that smoking and second-hand smoke cause disease and death among not only smokers themselves, but in non-smokers who are effectively forced to inhale the smoke of others. The fact that the tobacco industry willfully adds chemicals to its products to cause addiction should serve to label this industry as criminal. The costs to society are significant in both human and financial terms.
That cigarettes and tobacco products have not been outlawed altogether raises interesting questions, and the answers lie in a complex web of interrelationships between tobacco companies, lobbyists, politicians and tax revenues. The tobacco industry benefits from government subsidies and the political contributions they make to political candidates, who in turn allow its continued existence. The federal government and states benefit from tax revenue on the sale of the tobacco industry's products in what amounts to a pay to play scheme. Particularly now, much needed tax revenues buy the acquiescence of public officials. Lobbyists, of course, get paid tons of money to keep this spiral of illness and death marching on in perpetuity, and politicians fear the wrath of the employees of this industry, who would no doubt lose their jobs if its products were outlawed altogether. The impact on health insurance premiums, paid even by non-smokers ultimately, is significant as well, as is the impact on the overall cost of healthcare in this country.
Finally, where is the outrage among the conservative fundamentalist voters, who oppose abortion as the killing of innocents, but seem to remain silent while seeing many people die from the use of tobacco products? While one can certainly make the argument that adults who smoke make a conscious decision to do so, what about their innocent children, who are essentially forced to develop their own illnesses as a result of living with such parents, let alone people of any age who are hooked due to the product engineering by the tobacco industry designed to foster addiction and, ultimately, death?
This is a problem that can be solved. Until the unholy alliance among these various parties to the tobacco industry's continued existence is broken, we ought to be glad that the federal government has at least stepped up and shown enough strength to post these graphic warnings. It should continue to post them, and any intelligent judge who cares about human life should throw the industry's suit out before wasting any tax dollars on a trial. Why should the American people have to pay for the cost of a trial, the purpose of which is to make life easier to an industry that has itself, for decades, shown an abject disregard for human life? Enough already.
Here's your chance to be heard: Should tobacco products be made illegal, once and for all?