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United States: Tobacco Fronts (16 Jun 2004)


The United States is the second biggest tobacco grower on earth. At the same time, it is also the birthplace of the international anti-smoking campaign. Among the states, California pioneers in tobacco control. Cigarette sales dropped 58% in a few years ’ time, outdoing the national average of 33%.In the past few decades, California has been supporting the anti-smoking campaign under the banner ‘ Smoking is Hazardous to Health ’ . It also confronts directly with the tobacco companies. To the anti-smoking advocates, the success in obtaining government support to levy heavy tax on tobacco products has opened up an important source of revenue to finance the fight against smoking. Civic education activities are organised to call for cigarette cessation, with an ultimate aim to build a smokeless community.In California, the media and the state congress are the two major war fields against smoking. The campaigners peppered the media with provocative advertisements to fight off the Goliath of tobacco companies. They won a big victory in 1998 when the state became the first in the United States to ban lighting up in bars.In spite of the counter-offensives launched by tobacco companies, the number of smokers was in decline. Between 1994 and 2000, smokers aged 12 to 17 decreased by 35%, while adult smoking prevalence dropped from 22.8% to 17.1% (representing a loss of one million smokers). Nevertheless, during the same period, smokers aged 18 to 24 increased 32.4%, which was an alarming trend.Despite of all the victories, tobacco control in California is not a voyage to be taken lightly. The state ’ s governor-elect, Arnold Schwarzenegger, is a famous cigar lover. It is not clear whether his leadership will result in a change in the government ’ s anti-smoking stance. Meanwhile, the United States ’ refusal to sign the Tobacco Control Pact initiated by the World Health Organisation, which intends to contain tobacco use, remains a bone of contention among the activists.The anti-tobacco war is still underway.

Smoke Free Planet
Publish Date: 
Wednesday, June 16, 2004
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