Saturday, December 12, 2015

The tobacco industry: exporting death

by Richard Mellor
Afscme Local 444, retired

Last summer, Hawaii became the first state in the US to raise the age at which a person can buy tobacco to 21. This will save a lot of lives the proponents argue. I have to admit, smoking is a nasty habit and I know through experience that it is highly addictive, harder to quit than cocaine that's for sure. I quite both in almost 30 years ago.

A number of localities like NYC have also raised the legal age for tobacco purchasing.  Overall, the number of Americans that smoke has declined drastically since the days when these corporate dope dealers paid actors to puff away in the movies. Over half American adults smoked in the 1960's compared to 14.9% today. BusinessWeek Dec 7, 2015.

"Raising the legal minimum age for cigarette purchase to 21 could gut our key adult market" a Phillip Morris memo from the 1980's warned as the "guts" of their young addicts were being eaten away from the inside. Even today, on average smokers die at least ten years younger than non smokers and the number of diseases related to smoking would fill volumes. There are still almost half a million deaths a year in the US due to smoking.

The tobacco pushers have shifted to the the former colonial world or underdeveloped countries in order to maintain profitability. Malawi is one of the world's largest tobacco producers and "British American Tobacco (BAT), other cigarette manufacturers, and the International Tobacco Growers’ Association (ITGA), an organization created by tobacco companies in 1984 to weaken global tobacco control activities, have used the governments of Malawi and other developing countries to lobby against global tobacco control efforts..."*

Malawi, is a tiny landlocked country in southern Africa and could do with producing something other than tobacco which accounts for 70% of its foreign earnings.  Malawi used to be called Nyasaland and was colonized by the British. It was named Malawi in 1964.  The crises of hunger, disease, war and underdevelopment are a product of colonization form without. The nation states of Africa did not develop organically as England, France or Germany and other countries in Europe did out of competing feudal domains.  They were drawn up by imperialist nations in their interest, that is why some of them are so angular like those in the north of Africa. The diseases and deaths from these diseases in Africa are not due to our ability to cure or prevent them but through capitalism's refusal or inability to develop the social infrastructure that would sustain a healthy vibrant population. Sewage systems, transportation, health care systems, are not profitable ventures. In the free market, you can't pay, you die.

Malawi, dependent as it is on tobacco growth has a catastrophic infant mortality and life expectancy rate:

total: 46.26 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 53.07 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 39.35 deaths/1,000 live births (2015 est.) 

Life expectancy:
total population: 60.66 years
male: 58.67 years
female: 62.69 years (2015 est.)  Source, CIA World Factbook

Compare that to Cuba, a tiny Island, former playground for US capitalists and mobsters who were driven out by a revolution in 1959 that brought a savage trade blockade of the island by US imperialism for 60 years or more.

Cuban Infant mortality rate:
total: 4.63 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 4.97 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 4.27 deaths/1,000 live births (2015 est.)

Cuban life expectancy at birth:
total population: 78.39 years
male: 76.08 years
female: 80.84 years (2015 est.)

My immediate reaction to this attempt to raise the age a young adult can but tobacco is to oppose it.  It is an attack on young adults. 
I don't think the US government would ban anyone under 21 from serving in the military. The tobacco companies should be expropriated from the investors and dope dealers that own them and who have accumulated wealth on the misery of others. Here in the US the authorities do not allow dope dealers to keep their "ill gotten" gains. They do not allow murderers or serial killers to earn millions from book and film deals about their sordid lives and activities.  The physical and financial assets of this pernicious industry can then be turned in to socially useful means of production.

*Tobacco Companies’ Use of Developing Countries’ Economic Reliance on Tobacco to Lobby Against Global Tobacco Control:

The Case of Malawi

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