Saturday, October 22, 2005

Publish Day - Ink Blog - Damn Cigarettes

I've long harbored resentment toward the tobacco industry. Sure, one can argue that smokers do it to themselves. They choose to start smoking, so whatever ailments eventually bring them down are pretty much their own darn fault.

But I believe that we all have a responsibility to do work that benefits the world around us. The tobacco industry does none of this. Its product kills. Its makers cynically fight efforts to hold them at least partially accountable for some of this cost to society.

I attended college in the shadow – and smell – of Imperial Tobacco’s main plant in Montreal. I now live in the middle of southwestern Ontario’s tobacco belt, which has long lived the good life thanks to the proceeds of cash-rich tobacco crops.

Now, a community reels as its high-paying (average: over $84,000/year) jobs are about to go up in smoke. I feel immensely sorry for those who will lose their jobs. But I felt compelled to say it now because I didn’t see anyone else saying it: the industry has had decades to change direction. People who work for tobacco firms have had just as much time to find similarly lucrative work.

I feel awful for their loss, but at the same time I figure society gains from the gradual drawing down of big tobacco’s ability to foist its killer products on us. Eventually, we all win.

Disclosure: I am the son of a man whose longtime smoking habit put him on a trajectory of chronic cardiac disease, multiple surgeries and a reduced quality of life. It has shaped my life – and that of our entire family – in ways I would rather have avoided. So I guess you can say I’ve got a bit of a chip on my shoulder.

Tobacco closings have silver lining

Published Saturday, October 22, 2005

The London Free Press

Imperial Tobacco’s announcement that it’s closing its Aylmer and Guelph plants leaves me feeling ambivalent.

As a wage-earning, bill-paying member of my community, I feel empathy for the 635 employees who will lose their jobs. The affected communities will suffer and I wish we could all cushion their blow.

But as much as we feel for the employees, tobacco remains a killer. We’ve had stark scientific evidence of this for over 40 years. Consumers seem to have gotten this message, as Imperial’s cigarette sales have tumbled 38 per cent since December 1994.

The closing of the plants hardly comes as a surprise. Those have relied on the tobacco-driven economy had ample warning to wean themselves off the business benefits of this legalized drug.

While these communities prospered, thousands of Canadians were dying premature deaths as a result of their addictive output.

These closings, then, come with a silver lining. And a lesson: When you make a deal with the devil, you may occasionally get burned.

-30-

2 comments:

kenju said...

Carmi, you are so right about the tobacco people. We hear all the time in NC about the "poor tobacco farmers". They have had a long time since the surgeon general's report came out to get into growing something else - and I have no sympathy for them at all!

Michele sent me again.

panthergirl said...

Well, considering that today is the anniversary of the death of my son's dad from LUNG CANCER, you already know how I feel about this.

My little boy puts it best: "Smokers need to know that they aren't just hurting themselves..."

He says that if he becomes president he is going to close all the tobacco companies. I'll let him know that some of the work has started. ;)

Here via michele!