A second look at cigarettes

Posted at 06/13/2014 8:54 PM

I’d be lying if I said I never tried smoking. But like many who have been frightened by the warnings against it, the very smell of cigarette smoke bothers me now. Laws against smoking and advertisements promoting the habit have been passed. So, even if there are still smokers, the campaign can be considered successful. I had always felt good about it—until I visited Ilocos for the first time.

Meeting the farmers

A friend on a business trip took me with her to Ilocos where we visited a tobacco drying facility and later, allowed me to join a meeting with an international tobacco company. That was when I saw a different face of the tobacco industry.

The company had orders from its headquarters abroad to find sustainable fuel sources for drying and to ensure that their operations are environment friendly from start to finish. Apart from this, they work with development agencies and provide direct assistance to tobacco farmers, effectively putting them on equal footing with middlemen. They would have to spend millions of pesos for these concerns even as business expansion is next to impossible.

Please do not get me wrong. I am not about to canonize the company and everyone working for them. All I want to point out is the irony of it all: that a product that has been proven harmful cannot be banned because many lives depend on its production!

Using and abusing

I remember a wise professor who said, “If it comes from God, then it must be good.” And I realized that like most things we (eventually) consider evil, tobacco is neutral—it’s how we use (or abuse) it that makes it evil. I also understand that research on other uses of tobacco (mainly medicinal) is underway.

Below is an excerpt from a friend’s post on FB

I am a smoker
They want to stick gruesome images on cigarette packs?
Why not pictures of obese children on (fast-food burger) packaging?
Why not tortured animals on cosmetics?
Why not put photos of victims of drunk drivers on beer and wine bottles?
Why not pictures of dishonest, thieving politicians enjoying our money on tax returns…

This is so true! We may need to turn our backs on some things that may look or taste so good and perhaps continue or start using those we’d given up before that recent studies show are good. The key is to see what purpose they serve us. So, it’s really looking at ourselves and understanding how and why we are affected by the things around us—the things that need a second look.