In their latest Morbidity and Mortality Report, CDC reported that the use of smoked tobacco (read cigarettes) declined between 2000 and 2011 by 27.5 percents. Good news, right? Not exactly. During the same period, consumption of non-cigarette smoked tobacco (read pipe and lose tobacco and cigars) increased by 123 percents. What is going on?
Health vs. money
It is easy to get complacent and accept the decline in cigarette smoking as the result of all these campaigns about the dangers of smoking, educational efforts to inform kids how cigarettes are destroying their health etc. But, the latest CDC numbers are showing very different picture.
What few people know is that the federal tax on cigarettes is much higher than the tax on pipe tobacco, loose tobacco and cigars. To take advantage of that, the tobacco industry started pushing small cigars that look like cigarettes, in order to include them in the lower tax. So, people can now buy small cigars for about $1.40 per pack, while cigarettes cost $5. The reason to give up cigarettes had nothing to do with anti-smoking campaigns and everything to do with failing economy.
Another contributor to the popularity of cigars is the ban on smoking in public places. The only places where smoking is allowed are cigar lounges. The lounges are deliberately made to look comfortable and luxurious, a sort of oasis of politically-incorrect smokers. So, smoking cigars became cool, and young people cannot resist cool. Even girls are seeing with fat cigars in their mouths.
Extraordinary measures are called for
There is a disconnect somewhere in the message about the dangers of smoking. After ten years of anti-smoking campaigns, tobacco is still the leading cause of preventable death and disease in the States. Smoking kills almost half a million Americans every year. Smoking tobacco causes heart disease, lung and some other cancers, it affects fertility of both men and women. But, all these dangers are not enough to convince people to stop using tobacco in any form and shape.
What compounds the problem is the fact that people start getting addicted to tobacco smoking when they are very young. Smoking is cool, especially when it is banned. So, how can we reach young people who are the most vulnerable? Probably using the same power that affects everything they do: advertising. The trick is to make smoking tobacco “not cool”. Maybe the government needs to hire one of those advertising companies which can make anything “in” and get them to work. Considering that tobacco-related diseases cost the taxpayers $193 billion every years, it would be money well spent.