Impose limits on tobacco use

Published 12:00 am Sunday, May 6, 2001

Before he began reading the names of more than 350 victims of cancer at the Lawrence County Relay For Life, Dr.

Sunday, May 06, 2001

Before he began reading the names of more than 350 victims of cancer at the Lawrence County Relay For Life, Dr. Jeffrey Lopez made an eloquent plea to the crowd gathered for the Luminary Ceremony on Friday night at Dawson-Bryant High School in Coal Grove.

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The Ashland radiation oncologist pleaded with people to quit using tobacco products – cigarettes, cigars, pipes, smoke-less tobacco and dip – because the nicotine and other carcinogens associated with tobacco use cause cancer. While medicine has made tremendous strides in developing treatments for various forms of cancer, the fact remains that cancer kills most of the people who contract the disease.

And tobacco use is the surest predictor that a person will come down with cancer. As Dr. Lopez pointed out, two thirds of those remembered at the Luminary Ceremony would not have died of cancer if they had never used tobacco products.

Why do people continue to smoke and chew this deadly weed?

The answer is simple: They are addicted. Just as a heroin addict needs a fix, so too does a tobacco addict need a fix.

And just as we expect a heroin addict to kick the habit, so too should we expect a tobacco addict to kick the nicotine habit. The difference is that society condemns heroin use, but condones tobacco use.

No one is suggesting that we start throwing tobacco users in jail as we do with other drug addicts, but we can take several steps to curtail the use of tobacco:

· Ban smoking in all public places including restaurants, bars and commercial businesses. We now have evidence that second-hand smoke is just as harmful as smoking. We should stop subjecting non-smokers to the harmful effects of cigarette, pipe and cigar smoke.

· Raise the federal and state taxes on all tobacco products. The higher the cost, the greater the incentive to stop.

· Impose stiff penalties on businesses that sell tobacco products to minors. Because tobacco is addictive, the younger you start using it, the more likely it is that you will become addicted. Selling tobacco products to minors should be just as illegal as selling cocaine to minors.

· Pay tobacco farmers to stop growing tobacco. By limiting the supply of tobacco, we will be one step closer to curtailing its use.

Our part of the world is one of the worst when it comes to tobacco use. As Dr. Lopez pointed out, four cancer-treatment centers are located within 50 miles of the Tri-State region. Let’s put them out of business.

If you use tobacco products, take the first step to better health: Stop smoking. If you have a friend or family member who is a tobacco addict, support him or her in the effort to stop. And most important of all: If you don’t use tobacco products, don’t ever start.

The life you save will be your own.