I spent part of last week in Boston at the Northeastern University School of Law for a two-day meeting on the “tobacco endgame”. About 80 academics, lawyers and advocates gathered together in an auditorium to give talks and discuss actionable strategies that could remove the overwhelming death and disability caused by tobacco use.
Here are some ideas that were presented:
- Keep going on the evidence-based path we’re on: high tax, strong smoke-free laws, secure program funding
- Change the retail landscape: restrict the number, location (near schools!), type (pharmacies!) or density of tobacco outlets
- Intervene inside retail outlets: raise price with non-tax approaches, require clerk-assisted transactions, eliminate cigarillo “loosies”, partially or totally ban certain classes of products (flavors!)
- Regulate combustible cigarettes to make them unappealing — reduce the nicotine to non-addictive levels
- Join the e-cigarette “vapers” to have smokers switch away from combustibles to something that is “less harmful” (*This idea got a juvenile, aggressive “Go F— Yourself!” from one very well known scientist to a lawyer*)
- Raise the age to buy tobacco to 21, or better yet, create a “Tobacco Free Generation” and refuse sale to anyone born on or after January 1, 2000.
All totally reasonable ideas, right? But what about doing something new? Incorporating promising practices? Remember, the largest point is that we lose about 480,000 people EVERY YEAR in the US to tobacco-related disease. No other “legal product” causes this amount of destruction.
I don’t have the answers – yet – but I see the public health emergency and I’m motivated to keep going. I have the ability to make change. Therefore, allowing fear or hesitation or uncertainty or powerlessness to win over my motivation makes me personally responsible for more tobacco-related deaths.