Even though Americans are using less and less tobacco, the campaign against this silent killer still hasn't gone far enough.
Just how much more remains to be done can be seen from the long list of sensible suggestions made this week by a presidential commission. Among the recommendations to Congress from the National Cancer Advisory Board:- Reclassify tobacco as a drug and order the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to regulate it.
- Forbid smoking in all public places, including the workplaces, schools, airliners, and other forms of public transportation. A new government study shows that airline passengers inhale cigarette smoke in the close confines of an airliner even if they are seated in a no-smoking section.
- Urge the motion picture and television industries to stop glamorizing smoking.
- Get athletes, who often serve as role models for young Americans, to stop using chewing tobacco and smokeless tobacco.
- Encourage employers to use lower health benefit costs as an inducement to get more of their workers to stop using tobacco. After all, the companies themselves gain when workers enjoy better health and take less sick leave.
These suggestions are just logical extensions of policies already in effect to some extent around the country. For example, smoking already is prohibited on all domestic airline flights of two hours or less. In fact, one airline, Northwest, forbids smoking on all its domestic flights. Likewise, many workplaces, schools, restaurants, and public transportation facilities already have instituted their own smoking bans.
As encouraging as the proposed new recommendations on tobacco are, they don't go quite far enough.
If tobacco is to be reclassified as a drug, this step would provide even more justification for demands that Congress stop subsidizing farmers to produce it. Likewise, whichever way tobacco is classified, it's unconscionable for Americans to keep pushing exports of this harmful product.
Meanwhile, the public need not wait for Congress to react to the recommendations from the presidential panel. One of the most effective things you can do to improve your health is to stop smoking. And one of the best preventive measures a young person can take is never to acquire the tobacco habit.