According to the article: “'Every day we must bury mothers, fathers and sisters and brothers who die early from preventable deaths caused by tobacco addiction that more often than not began at a relatively young age,' said Land, the president of the Baptist convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberties Commission. 'It is morally wrong to know the good that should be done and not to do it.'”
According to the article, the American Heart Association added: "The bill would significantly increase the number of smokers who quit and reduce harm to those who are unable to quit."
The Rest of the Story
I think it's a mistake to make a moral issue out of this.
You want to talk ethics - what about the ethics of religious leaders standing together to back the attempt of the nation's largest cigarette company to pull the wool over the eyes of the public?
What about the ethics of supporting a bill that provides unprecedented special protections for Big Tobacco by precluding the FDA from taking any of the few possible actions it could take to actually prevent the death of our mothers, fathers, brothers, and sisters:
- removing the nicotine from cigarettes;
- making cigarettes available on a prescription-only basis;
- raising the legal age of purchase of cigarettes;
- regulating the places where cigarettes can be sold; and
- eventually banning cigarettes altogether.
Do the religious leaders not know the good that should be done by removing each of the above provisions from the proposed legislation? Do the religious leaders not recognize the harm that is done by not allowing the FDA to remove nicotine completely from cigarettes? Do they not recognize the harm that is done by not allowing the FDA to make cigarettes available on a prescription-only basis? Do they not recognize the harm that is done by tying the FDA's hands in increasing the legal age of purchase of cigarettes? Do they not recognize the harm done by not allowing the FDA to regulate where tobacco is sold, even at youth community centers?
Don't get me wrong. I'm not arguing that the FDA should do these things right now. However, I am calling these groups on their hypocrisy.
If it is indeed morally wrong to know what should be done but not to do it, then it is morally wrong to know that all these loopholes are present in the bill, and not to demand that they be removed.
Perhaps the religious leaders have not actually read the bill. Perhaps they have merely bought all the rhetoric put out by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. Perhaps they are not aware of the fact that the bill represents the result of a negotiation between Philip Morris and the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.
If so, then this is an embarrassment at the hands of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. But it also seems rather irresponsible to support a complex, major piece of legislation like this without having read it.
If they are aware of this fact and the presence of loopholes that are present for no reason other than to appease Philip Morris, then it is unconscionable, based on the religious groups' own stated principles, that they would support this legislation.
Thus, the religious groups are guilty - at best - of irresponsibility in not having read the legislation. At worst, they are guilty of hypocrisy for claiming that it is unethical not to support the strongest possible legislation against Big Tobacco, but then going ahead and pushing forward a bill that has numerous serious loopholes which were inserted specifically to protect Big Tobacco and which have no public health justification whatsoever.
Don't give me a song and a dance about burying all of our mothers and fathers and brothers and sisters and then come out and support a bill which allows the tobacco companies to continue killing our mothers and fathers and brothers and sisters.
If you're going to play the "burying our mothers and fathers" card, then at least have the decency to support a bill which would actually stop the cigarette companies from killing our mothers and our fathers, not a bill which Philip Morris essentially wrote in such a way that it could continue killing our mothers and fathers and could in fact work towards achieving a monopoly in this killing of our mothers and fathers.
Incidentally, the Enzi bill, in my opinion, does just that (actually makes a dent in the cigarette companies' ability to continue addicting and killing large numbers of Americans). It's quite interesting, then, that the leaders of the faith community are supporting the Kennedy bill (which protects Philip Morris by tying the hands of the FDA) rather than the Enzi bill (which drives a stake through the financial heart of the tobacco industry).
While a group might legitimately respond by stating that the Enzi bill doesn't have a chance of passage, and so it makes sense to support a weaker bill, the religious groups have lost that explanation by their insistence upon making this an issue of moral imperative. That's why I think they made a big mistake in playing the religion card on this largely political issue.
Finally, the American Heart Association states that the legislation "would significantly increase the number of smokers who quit and reduce harm to those who are unable to quit."
I have just one question: ..........................................................................................how?
How will the bill significantly increase the number of smokers who quit? It doesn't increase the tobacco tax. It doesn't fund an anti-smoking media campaign? It doesn't restrict cigarette advertising to adults? It doesn't limit the availability of cigarettes. It doesn't change social norms with regards to smoking. So exactly how is this bill going to increase the number of smokers who are going to quit?
In contrast, I believe the bill will actually greatly reduce the number of smokers who will quit. It will do so by giving an FDA seal of approval to cigarettes, making the public think that cigarettes have been made safer or at least that they are under the capable jurisdiction of the FDA, and undermining years of public health efforts to convince the public of the tremendous health hazards of smoking.
Also, how will the bill "reduce harm to those who are unable to quit?"
Name one change in cigarette design, ingredients, components, etc. that you assert will make the nation's cigarettes safer to smoke.
Anybody? Anybody? AHA? ACS? ALA? TFK? AMA? APHA? Religious leaders?