Letter: Deadly tobacco is still worth fighting

Graphic by Lori Deaton

In your [July 10] issue, you include three articles and one letter to the editor that address agriculture-related issues. And all three relate, directly or indirectly, to the past or present cultivation of various crops, including tobacco.

It is good to see you address the past, the present and the future of agriculture in Buncombe County and surrounding counties. The past and present are represented by the fact that North Carolina, by some measures, continues to place within the top three tobacco states in the U.S. But tobacco cultivation is waning. Smoking itself has plateaued, though many people believe it, too, is on the wane. That is demonstrably false. Especially when electronic cigarettes and other “nicotine-delivery systems” are taken into account.

I lived on a 30-acre parcel more than 40 years ago in Madison County, and it then had an abandoned “’baccy barn” on it. The tobacco allotment by the feds was already abandoned. But tobacco cultivation was, and still is, a present part of the history of Western North Carolina.

In the [1990s], we saw the CEOs of the seven largest tobacco companies in America stand up before Congress, swear an oath to tell the truth and then blatantly lie about what they knew to be true. The lies were unveiled shortly after, when internal tobacco company documents demonstrated, in fact, they all knew: 1. That nicotine is highly addictive; and 2. That the “tar” in tobacco is deadly.

Further, the Seven Dwarves (as those CEOs have come to be known) had systematically and intentionally manipulated the nicotine content of cigarettes to maximize their addictiveness, and the tobacco companies themselves considered cigarettes (and other tobacco products) to be “nicotine-delivery systems.” …

Now, [years] later, you can still go into any drugstore (except CVS, which has voluntarily banned cigarette sales from their stores), grocery store and tobacco shop, and buy what amounts to the deadliest weapon to appear on the scene in the U.S., including handguns, assault weapons and by some counts, war. According to a plethora of research and a wide range of reputable organizations, fully 50% of everyone who has started smoking has died or will die from smoking. By my calculations, cigarettes have been responsible for more deaths in the U.S. than all of the wars we have fought in since World War II. This makes the manufacture and sale of cigarettes quite simply the mass marketing of mass murder.

We will defeat this enemy to the public health both domestically and abroad. However, how many more people must get sick and die before smoking becomes a thing of the past? How many more hundreds of millions of dollars of profits will Big Tobacco reap before we put a total stop to this slaughter by slow, agonizing debilitation?

Strategies that will be deployed to defeat the entrenched bureaucracies that support this deadly product stream include: 1. Redoing the Controlled Substances Act at the federal and state levels to classify nicotine as a scheduled drug, which is in the top six of the most addictive drugs available legally or illegally in the U.S.; 2. declaring the sale of cigarettes to be a human rights violation under the U.N. charter; 3. prosecute Big Tobacco executives under international law as having committed murder and/or genocide.

Are these strategies “radical”? Certainly. However, when facing down a proven threat of this magnitude, it is crucial that we engage in effective “end-game strategies.” We fully intend to do so.

— David Karan


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