Our country is facing a major health crisis with increasing rates of diabetes, heart disease, and even AIDS. However, the biggest problem of all is still tobacco use according to a new study by UC San Francisco’s Institute for Health and Aging and School of Nursing. Researchers found that smoking kills more people in California than diabetes and AIDS. Yet lawmakers are still rejecting ecigs and accepting a steady stream of money from Big Tobacco. What will it take for our policitians to wake up?
The new study followed smoking rates and fatalities in California over a three year period. The scientists found that 12 percent of Californians are smoking daily and over a three year period, there were well over 34,000 deaths linked to tobacco. Aside from the disastrous health impact, the researchers also found that smoking is taking a major financial toll on the health care system. In 2009, the state spent $18.1 billion in medical expenses treating smoking related diseases. This number was nearly $3 billion more than a decade ago.
With such disastrous health impacts and the immense financial strain, you would think that lawmakers would be rushing to combat the problem with anti-smoking legislation. However, that isn’t the case at all. In fact, big tobacco companies are still some of the biggest contributors to political campaigns in the state, with Altria and R.J. Reynolds giving major contributions to multiple political campaigns over the past few years. Anti-cancer groups have drawn attention to this problem and pointed out the officials that take money from big tobacco are much more likely to reject bills that could reduce smoking rates and combat the growing number of fatalities linked to cigarettes.
Additionally, California is constantly rolling out heavy handed legislation against electronic cigarettes. Rather than embracing ecigs as a way for smokers to finally kick the habit, they are banning ecigs in some places. Earlier this year, the San Diego City Council voted unanimously to prohibit vaping in places where smoking was already banned. Lawmakers also created new laws that require local businesses to get new permits in order to sell ecigs.
What will it take for California lawmakers to take responsibility for this growing problem? How many people will have to die before officials stop taking money from big tobacco companies and start making laws in the interest of public health?