Monday, January 7, 2013

Still Smoking!

It is has become a familiar scene in American life, cluster's of people huddled together outside of office buildings, and other places of business, sometimes shivering in the freezing cold depending on the hemisphere, taking long pulls from minuscule white rolls of tobacco carefully affixed between their fingers. Cigarettes have become a part of the American culture, and smoking has become the most vilified habit in the world. People have been consuming Tobacco in some way shape or form for 8,000 years. The Mayan's of Mexico often chewed Tobacco leaves, and used them for medicinal purposes. Native American's grew Tobacco long before European's came from England, Spain, France & Italy to North America. Native Americans smoked tobacco through a pipe for special religious and medical purposes, but smoking was not a habit for them. It was only utilized for positive practices.
In 1612 the settlers of the first American colony in Jamestown, Virginia grew tobacco as a cash crop. It was not only the first crop grown for profit in North America, it was their main source of income. In fact tabacco helped pay for the American Revolution against England.
By the early 1800's many people started using small amounts of Tabacco. Some chewed it, others smoked it occasionally in in a pipe or hand rolled cigarette. At that time people smoked about 40 cigarettes a year on average. That was until Washington Duke introduced the first commercial cigarettes in 1865 which were made on his 300 acre farm in Raleigh, NC. His hand rolled cigarettes were sold to soldiers at the end of the civil war, many of whom were seeking sustenance in the wake of their losing the war to the north.
But, it was not until James Bonsack invented the cigarette making machine in 1881 that cigarette smoking became widespread. Bonsack's cigarette machine manufactured 120,000 cigarettes a day. He went into business with Washington Duke's son, James "Buck" Duke. The pair built a factory and made 10 million cigarettes their first year and about one billion cigarettes five years later. The first brand of cigarettes were packaged in a box with baseball cards and were called Duke of Durham. Buck Duke and his father went on to start the first tobacco company in the United States. They named it the American Tobacco Company. This was the birth of an American institution, commonly known as "big tobacco", and the beginning of a massive campaign of mass marketing, and deceptive advertising.
In 1964 the Surgeon General (Luther L. Perry M.D.) released a report revealing the dangers of cigarette smoking. In his report he stated that nicotine, and tar which are both additives in cigarettes, cause lung cancer. Today, almost 50 years later, an estimated 52 million Americans smoke, despite the known health risks. For decades the sale of cigarettes, and tobacco related products has been a billion dollar a year global industry. But since the mid 1990's The tobacco industry in the United States has suffered greatly when it was successfully sued by several U.S. states. The suits claimed that tobacco causes cancer, that companies in the industry knew this, and that they deliberately understated the significance of their findings, contributing to the illness and death of many citizens in those states. The industry was found to have decades of internal memos confirming in detail that tobacco is both addictive and carcinogenic.
There are more than 4,000 chemicals in tobacco smoke. Nicotine, tar and carbon monoxide are the most well known. Nicotine is the addictive drug that keeps a smoker addicted. It has been found to be just as addictive as heroin and cocaine. Tar is the black, sticky substance that damages a smokers lungs, and carbon monoxide is the gas that hitches a ride on red blood cells displacing some of the oxygen in the bloodstream.
The adverse health effects from cigarette smoking account for an estimated 443,000 deaths, or nearly one of every five deaths, each year in the United States.
More deaths are caused each year by tobacco use than by all deaths from human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), illegal drug use, alcohol use, motor vehicle injuries, suicides, and murders combined.
Smoking causes an estimated 90% of all lung cancer deaths in men, 80% of all lung cancer deaths in women, and an estimated 90% of all deaths from chronic obstructive lung disease are caused by smoking.
The Australian Government recently announced that there would be a hefty tax attached to the purchase of all cigarettes, increasing the price to $20 a pack. Officials have stated that the purpose of levying such a tax is two-fold. It is designed to both increase revenue for the government, and curb smoking habits. But, as noble as this idea sounds on the surface, the only thing that this tax will accomplish is an increase in revenue. This measure will not stop smoker's from smoking, any more than the surgeon general's warning label, state ordinances prohibiting smoking in public places, or the numerous research studies done revealing the physical calamity which will surely befall anyone with a long term smoking habit. The high price will be nothing more than a little inconvenience to those who have need their fix. They will always find a way to satisfy their cravings. Even if it means cutting back on groceries or adjusting their budgets in order to accommodate their addiction. I have personally known people who when faced with the prospect of not eating as opposed to not smoking, have spent their last few dollars on a pack of cigarettes. Victims of social imagery, cultural conditioning, mass marketing campaigns, and chemical addictions. For some, cigarettes have become an essential part of life, and a detrimental habit that is extremely difficult to break.


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