Smoking

In 1999, many sports writers declared Tiger Woods athlete of the year. Unfortunately, his father, Earl Woods, is battling heart disease and cancer. Tiger Woods does not smoke. But his father continues to smoke inspite of ill health. A father, who is so proud to have raised and trained a complete golfer, is unable to quit smoking! Why?

Earl Woods is not alone hooked on this. Millions of people all over the world are in the same boat. Their pockets and health have been high jacked by the tobacco industry. The advertising technique used by tobacco industry has millions of people on the “weed”. Once they get hold of us, the noose tightens slowly.

But some smokers are fighting back. Over the last 30 years or more, many smokers have realized the damage done to their health by tobacco industry and have sued the tobacco companies for millions of dollars.

On July 15th, a headline in “San Francisco Chronicle” says: Big Tobacco Bashed by Verdict – Jury awards record $145 billion in punitive damages to thousands of sick Florida smokers. The report says that in the largest damage award in U.S. history, a jury in Miami-Dade County ordered the tobacco industry to pay $144.8 billion in punitive damages to 500,000 sick Florida smokers.

The report says the case was history making in other ways as well. Top executives for the tobacco companies, who rarely testify under oath, took the stand to say that their companies have changed, that they are spending millions to discourage underage smoking and are repentant on the way business was done in the past.

Have we noticed any change?

A document produced by Alberta Cancer Board, called: Cancer and Tobacco – The picture in Alberta, March 2000, has interesting statistics on Smoking Behaviour in Canada.

About 21 percent fewer Canadians use tobacco now than did 30 years ago, an encouraging statistic that is unfortunately offset by a grim one – smoking among teens increased by 25 percent over a four-year period in the early 1990s. But, it adds, fortunately, the percentage of teens smoking has decreased since then.

What about Alberta?

Twenty seven percent of Albertans aged 15 years and older were smokers – 2 percent higher than the national average. Twenty seven percent of Alberta males and 28 percent of Alberta females were smokers – the same as national average for males, but 5 percent higher than the national average for females.

Should we rely on the tobacco industry to help us quit smoking and prevent our teens to stay away from cigarettes? Well, that is a ridiculous question!

But the simple answer is – NO, we have to do it ourselves. We cannot even rely on our governments. Governments can pass as many laws as we want. But there are always people who can find loopholes to abuse the system. And we do not have enough money or the manpower to enforce these laws. So, they are no good anyway. What is good is our will power. And we have to search for that within ourselves today, not when our life is threatened.

That is tough. But if it was easy then we would not lose 3,500 Albertans and 45,000 Canadians each year from smoking – more people than killed by heroin, cocaine, alcohol, AIDS, fires, murders, suicides and car crashes combined.

So, be tough and do it today!

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