How many of you saw "60 MINUTES" Sunday night? Yes, everything the tobacco companies did was legal; suddenly all is fair in love and war and business no matter how unscrupulous their practices might be.

For those of you who didn't see the program, it is now public knowledge that no, the tobacco companies did not add extra nicotine to the cigarettes to heighten the smokers' addiction, they simply engineered a plant, grown in South America that has more naturally-occurring nicotine, sidestepping the need to label the cigarette as having anything added to it. Protected under international patents, the plants were then imported to this country for production. If you are shocked, that's good. We ALL need to be aware that our laws regarding food and labeling, and in this case the labeling of a potentially lethal product, are not giving us the whole story. Buyer beware!

This speaks so very poorly of the entire system. Although the government, and in particularly Dr. David Kessler of the FDA, would say they are not directly involved (and there is some truth in that statement) why do we elect officials and have government agencies that can't do the job? Is it that business and government is so corrupt that greed and power are their only motivators? Or is it so we can feel better about ourselves­­ fooling ourselves into believing that what we are doing with our bodies is okay because some government agency said so? Where does the responsibility lie? And what can we do to make this picture better?

First of all, each us has to believe that what we do and say can make a difference for the good of the whole. If half of the American population quit smoking for, say, one month and let the tobacco companies know they were doing this in protest to their blatant manipulation of the American consumer, what a powerful statement that would make. For those of you who do smoke, I know that you feel your rights are being restricted and they are. How do you feel about how the tobacco companies manipulate their product to keep your level of addiction to nicotine high?

I believe the responsibility belongs to each one of us, smoker and nonsmoker alike. Letters are powerful things. I've been involved in some letter writing campaigns in the past and a stack of 250 letters­­ all pretty much saying the same thing­­ can be a powerful motivator for change. You could write or call your congressman, (Lane Evans, 1640 N. Henderson St., Galesburg, IL 61401 or write David Kessler at the FDA or the tobacco companies. These letters don't have to be lengthy or fact-filled; just state your case and sign your name. They look at numbers and play the odds.

In fact one year, when I was still deeply involved in the fight for Lyme Disease patient rights, we actually managed to postpone a very unfavorable hearing that was going to be held in Washington. Senator Ted Kennedy's office received over one thousand phone calls in one day regarding this issue and, to this day, Kennedy remains much more a friend to those with chronic Lyme disease than we had ever hoped for.

What you do and say does count; don't ever think it doesn't.

This article posted to Zephyr online December 12, 1996
Back to the Zephyr
home page.Send us e