Editorial: Healthier, but still smoking

Jan. 30, 2014 @ 10:24 PM

Fifty years later, we’ve made progress and continue to face an uphill climb.

Youth by the thousands are still taking their first smoke. Cigarettes, to them, still have a “cool” factor, an attraction that throws out all reason and understanding. Youth aren’t alone. Millions still love a cigarette. And it’s put a lot of bread on the table in this part of the country.

It still seems a bit stunning it wasn’t until 1964 when the surgeon general first warned of the connection between cigarettes and death.

Back then, smoking in an airplane was so expected the individual chairs had small ashtrays built into them. At a ballgame, even indoors in coliseums as basketball games were played, a haze would waft up. It took a while for smokers to get booted.

Without question, the impact of that 1964 report and the changes and reforms since has extended and saved countless lives. We hope the number to be higher than those killed by smoking-related diseases. The 20.8 million in the U.S. are tenfold the number of dead in our military from all wars — both before and after 1964.

The warnings began in 1965 on cigarette packages. Since then, more aggressive steps have made the tobacco industry unrecognizable from those days.

Government intervention has sharply reduced the number of smokers. Taxing to the hilt will do that with a lot of things. At about $6 a pack, it’s a spendy habit.

Reviewing the past 50 years from a government action can be enlightening. Arguments are strong on both sides for the good and the bad.

For example, as many in Vance County know, agriculture jobs for a high number of middle and lower class Americans were long gone several administrations ago. They’re not coming back. Many weren’t replaced.

As we watch other activities swallowed by government, we realize that eventually we all are touched by such decisions. This can happen even when we feel certain it will not.

Government decisions, whether in Raleigh or Washington, always affect people back home. The politician who can envision the future, the repercussions of the actions, is likely the one making the wisest choice.

The 1964 warning was good. Government actions since are up for debate. And millions still love a cigarette.