Monday, May 19, 2008

Stops Smoking: Are We Losing the War on Drugs?

In our War on Drugs, we do everything we can to protect our children from illegal substances, we destroy the crops, execute the pushers and rehabilitate the users, yet with tobacco we subsidize the crops, exonerate the pushers and blame the users.

The Desert Sun newspaper in Palm Springs, CA reported on May 17th that 22% of retail businesses in the City of Palm Desert sold cigarettes to underage decoys (Businesses cited for selling tobacco products to teens). While it is illegal to sell cigarettes to minors in all 50 states, this law is being ignored in Palm Desert.

Would we ignore these statistics if it were alcohol that was being sold to minors? As a society, we see teen smoking as a right of passage and say “Thank God it’s only cigarettes and not something worse.” Yet tobacco kills more alcoholics and substance abusers than all other drugs put together and is more addictive than heroin.

Where is the outrage?

Underage smoking is the first addictive substance for individuals who later become addicted to alcohol and other substances. Smoking kills 50% of it’s habitual users. Those with mental illness are more likely to start using tobacco early in life. Most smokers start before they are legally able to buy them. We need to do everything we can to stop this.

It is time for society to step up to the plate and stop teens from buying a substance that is likely to kill them. It's time to stop thinking of smoking as a bad habit and recognize the killer it is. It's time for all parents to truly protect their children from tobacco.

Tobacco is the only deadly substance that is almost totally unregulated. In California, as an effort to stop sales to minors and enforce compliance, cities, statewide have partnered with the local Health Departments to set up sting operations and catch those selling to minors. Each city or county has set up a procedure to license the right to sell tobacco and when retailers fail to comply, that right can be revoked. This has worked so well for the City of Desert Hot Springs, that in less than a year they went from 48% of retail stores selling to underage decoys to ZERO selling tobacco to minors.

It can be said that if they want to smoke, they will find a way but it's time for us to stop making it easy for them.

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