To the Editor:
As a volunteer with the American Cancer Society-Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) I learned at our last meeting that the tobacco industry is, finally, being forced to broadcast the harms of their products. They will be running ads on prime time, on major television networks telling the truth—their products are addictive and they kill. These ads, also called “corrective statements”, will run for 52 weeks. There will also be ads in major newspapers across the United States.
I have lost several family members to cancer caused by tobacco. Years ago, no one knew the dangers of tobacco. Tobacco products were advertised everywhere, on giant billboards, magazines and on television. If you smoked, you were cool. Women thought they looked sexier and men felt they were manlier if they had a cigarette in their mouth. Ads have slowed and now the tobacco companies are forced to tell the truth: tobacco kills!
The truth is that 480,000 Americans die every year from tobacco products. Tobacco costs the nation 170 billion dollars a year in health care costs. There are 7,300 lung cancer deaths a year in non-smoking adults. Cigarette smoking increases the risk of cancers of the mouth, pharynx, larynx, lung, esophagus, pancreas, uterine, cervix, kidney, bladder, stomach, colon, rectum and liver, as well as acute myeloid leukemia. Smokeless tobacco is linked to cancers of the mouth, tongue, cheek, gums, esophagus and pancreas. In addition to cancer, people suffer from chronic health problems related to smoking, such as chronic bronchitis, emphysema, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
In Rhode Island, 14.4 percent of adults still smoke and 300 children under 18 become new daily smokers each year. Smoking will cause over 600 cancer deaths this year and $640 million in annual health care costs. Big tobacco continues to spend $26.3 million marketing their deadly products in Rhode Island.
Every parent should walk into a place where tobacco products are sold to see how they are packaged. You will find that they are being marketed to entice children to smoke. I recently became aware of this and I was shocked. Even e-cigarette products are packaged to appeal to children. This sickens me and it should sicken every parent.
The inadequate funding levels for tobacco prevention programs across the country are inexcusable. State lawmakers must do more to protect our children and counter the tobacco industry’s deceptive marketing tactics. It would take less than 13 percent of total state tobacco revenues to meet U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended funding levels for tobacco prevention programs in each state.
While the tobacco industry is forced to tell the truth through “corrective statements” after decades of lies and manipulation, deceit remains a significant part of their playbook. It’s critical Rhode Island lawmakers take corrective action to reduce Big Tobacco’s toll on our state by passing proven tobacco control policies.
Volunteer, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network