As we write this, no one is smoking inside of our office. We rode the metro this morning with no one smoking on the train or the platform, and we can meet friends for dinner tonight where no one will smoke around us. That feels like we are in the clear on this smoking issue doesn’t it?
But we aren’t. Cigarettes remain THE leading cause of preventable disease and death in the United States, causing more than 480,000 deaths every year (about 1 in 5 deaths). That’s a lot of people who don’t have to die. If a new product hit the shelves of every gas station, pharmacy, and hotel lobby that killed even 100 people in a month, let alone the 40,000 a month that tobacco kills in the US, there would be mass public outcry and the product would no longer be sold.
With the death toll so high, it often feels intangible and less relatable, so let’s personify the epidemic. When’s the last time you were personally exposed to tobacco smoke? Depending on where you live, it could’ve been awhile. Or maybe you’re like some of our supporters and wish your neighbors would stop smoking in their unit so that secondhand smoke will stop creeping into your apartment and damaging your health.
Either way, it does feel like less people smoke today and like the problem is solved. So why did Beverly Hills ban the sale of tobacco products? Because tobacco products kill when used as intended. That sounds extreme to say, but it’s true. No other consumer good kills when used exactly as their manufacturer intends. Alcohol and drugs kill when overused, guns kill when misused. Tobacco products kill when used as intended.
No other retailer gets a free pass to sell deadly products. So why do we give big tobacco one? Well, it’s a combination of the influence they’ve purchased over decades of political campaign contributions and sophisticated marketing tactics to convince the public they want to be addicted to a product they will struggle to quit while it slowly gives them one or more deadly diseases.
As CDC data shows from 2015, nearly 7 in 10 (68.0%) adult cigarette smokers want to stop smoking, but their strong addiction stands in their way; and more than 5 in 10 (55.4%) adult cigarette smokers made a quit attempt in the past year.
We can’t abandon those smokers desperately trying to quit their deadly addiction simply for the profit of a few people. We have to help them by building truly tobacco-free societies where they can live free from addiction. We have to remove their #1 trigger for and source of addiction by phasing out the sale of cigarettes. Beverly Hills should be proud to make the health of their citizen their top priority, in words and actions.