By Mihran Hovhannesyan
The lesson has been learned. From the first time touching a tar-filled lung in elementary to the last time saying no to a puff in high school, the American youth has learned what smoking means. The same can be said for the industrialized world. So now we wonder: what’s left for tobacco? From the plantations America was founded on to the second leading cause of death in the U.S., the secret that nicotine is not safe has come out in the open. In full decline, smoking is moving to few people still in the dark on that secret; it’s selling cigarettes to the starved.
The only thing half as disgusting as a roll of tobacco stuffed with 599 varieties of additives is the idea of a food drive having a bin for packs of them. In recent years, with nowhere else to go, the tobacco industry has been pushing hardest in South Africa. Their influence is shrinking in the entire developed world and has even halted in their biggest sales territory: Asia.
Now, with any form of moral code turned to ashes decades ago, the industry is moving to the only place without the proper education to deject it. The LA Times describes a booth outside a South African school where children stop, drop 16 cents, and reach over the candy to pick up a smoke. The rules are strict, but cigarettes are still sold as singles, a con illegal in the U.S.
It’s a final act of desperation, yet its damage may be enormous. The same article cites Yussuf Saloojee of South Africa’s National Council Against Smoking saying that, with just a few years of sales, the industry can “hook…customers for the next 40 or 50 years.” Meanwhile, 35 percent of men already smoke in the country, and the majority of that population is younger than 35, according to a 2011 World Health Organization report.
Our television screens are not unfamiliar with the faces of needy and thin African children. Years of trying to restore health to impoverished parts of Africa can easily be counteracted if tobacco takes off.
As regulations on tobacco grow in South Africa and countries similar to it, cigarettes may move to the even less fortunate. Many of these populations either already suffer from drought or are often in danger of starvation and thirst. Nicotine withdrawal shouldn’t be stacked on.
That’s how it started in America: young people thought it was cool. Blackened lungs, pierced throats, and education have taught us differently. The easiest way to help the problem internationally is to combat it within the U.S. simply by being informed and not smoking. Tobacco is on its final frontier in a losing battle. It’s embarrassing to think of money spent on advertising and distributing such a product in Africa. Until all of the nutritional and medicinal needs in the world aren’t covered, no resources should go towards the American “luxury” or death wish of a cigarette’s kiss.