by Beth Perry
Clash Daily Guest Contributor
Born in 1846, Temperance advocate Carrie Nation, blamed alcohol for the problems of her dysfunctional marriage and what she perceived as the social ills of her day. Nation became famous for vandalizing businesses where alcoholic beverages were sold or served. Her weapon of choice was the hatchet, which she wielded with fervent and sometimes life-threatening force. She died in a mental health facility in 1911, perhaps having suffered from the same mental illness that led her own mother to claim she was the Queen of England. But Nation’s image as the ax-wielding destroyer of vice was taken up as an icon by the Prohibitionist movement.
I like to be straight-up with people, so I want it known in advance my topic today has particular personal meaning for me. I am a smoker. I did not start young, nor in my early adulthood. I took up the habit later in life than probably most people. I did not live with a cigarette smoker and I avoided even being around people who smoked them. All the same, beginning in my early twenties I suffered from repeated bouts of pneumonia. These bouts were terribly painful and required me to take bed rest for lengthy periods of times.
Harder on me still were the strong antibiotics doctors prescribed to treat me. I was so often ill, in fact, that there were times I feared I would not live to see my children grown. And then one day it was suggested to me by a Native American friend to try smoking tobacco to clear my lungs and strengthen my vitality. At the time I was recovering from a severe reaction to the latest broad spectrum antibiotic my doctors had prescribed. I felt desperate. So I took my friend’s advice and tried smoking tobacco. To my amazement, I recovered and soon felt much healthier. I have continued to smoke for many years now, and have not experienced a recurrence of pneumonia during this time.
On Wednesday the CVS Caremark Corporation announced plans to stop selling tobacco products in all 7,600 of its retail stores by Oct. 1. This decision will affect not only cigarettes sold at CVS but cigars and smokeless tobacco products as well. Although CVS expects the ban will make for an initial $2 Billion hit to annual sales, the pharmacy giant is already foreseeing a recoup of sales by signing customers up for smoking cessation programs
The corporate decision has been hailed by anti-smoking groups across the nation. Not surprisingly, President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama have also jumped on the praise wagon. In a White House-released statement on Wednesday, the President said the CVS ban, “will have a profoundly positive impact on the health of our country.”
Summing up the consensus within the tax-dollar-funded federal agency world, Thomas Frieden, Director of U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention told Reuters, “I think CVS recognized that it was just paradoxical to be both a seller of deadly products and a healthcare provider.”
Smokers and the tolerant among non-smokers alike can see how this very statement can be seen as a paradox. I think that just like its competitors, CVS has profited on the sales of a multitude of products that many can define as “deadly”. To prove my theory I visited the CVS website Thursday for a browse. Merchandise I came across during that browsing included:
Tomcat Ultra Block Baits (used for killing rats; toxic to humans, pets and fish)
Liquid and powder bleaches (bleach is highly corrosive and known to be fatal if consumed)
Knives (assorted types)
Chemical oven cleaning products (inhalant warnings)
Moth balls (hazardous if inhaled)
OFF! Deep Woods insect repellent toilettes (contains DEET)
Bull Frog Mosquito Coast Sunscreen with Insect Repellent SPF 30 (active ingredient is insect repellant)
Tar-n-Bug Remover (fire and explosion hazard)
Gum containing Aspartame (I, for one, am allergic to Aspartame)
Food products that have been banned in other nations for containing GMO’s
5-Hour Energy Extra Strength Energy Shot Grape (high dosage of caffeine and phenylalanine)
Aerosol-type disinfectants (products are hazardous to humans and domestic animals; containers are flammable)
GE Energy Smart Light Bulb 10 Watt (the overview states this product contains MERCURY)
Moth Ice Crystals (an ingredient that the State of California says causes cancer)
Now if we’re going to talk about the paradox of a “health care provider” selling deadly products, how does CVS justify selling stuff like rat bait and DEET?
Except for maybe GMO products, we don’t hear much uproar over second-hand exposure to any of these products, do we? We don’t gripe when a minor can just walk into the store and purchase these products. When it comes to the chemicals found in most of these products, there is no vehement Anti campaign in the works to get them banned. No restaurant or other business segregates the users of these products from the non users. Hospitals don’t enforce a policy where the user can only open their product in the confines of their closed-window vehicle or 100 yards away from the parking lot. The FDA isn’t trying to force makers of these products to place horrific images of what the product allegedly causes to be placed on the labels.
Neither are we likely to see restrictions placed on these products any day soon, especially in the cases of products containing man-made chemicals.
Destructive man-made chemicals usually dodge culpability. When it comes to tobacco, government bureaucrats push the idea that carcinogenic tragedies are the fault of the natural tobacco, not the chemicals added to the product –flavoring enhancements, smoke accelerants and a multitude of other artificial additives. Tobacco is a natural commodity, one cultivated, used, enjoyed and even regarded as a holy herb for centuries by peoples that both venerate Nature and acknowledge a Creator. It is no surprise then that tobacco is the perfect scapegoat for the ills created by artificial means.
Pharmacies cannot be blamed for the propaganda of bureaucrats or indifference within the lab. But they do have a long history of trading in questionable chemicals. Their very livelihood centers around selling prescription drugs (just like the antibiotics I was given for pneumonia). Despite the numerous meds that have been withdrawn from the markets and which have led to umpteen personal tragedies and historical wrongful death lawsuits, pharmacies are generally shielded from legal repercussions.
Not that I personally think pharmacies think of themselves as underworld-type medicinal middlemen. But neither do we see CVS or any of their competitors urging for more quality control within the pharmaceutical industry or an overhaul of how the FDA does business. Is it any surprise such indifference comes in an age when you can’t even turn on the television without seeing some paid actor shilling the latest physician-prescribed chemical treatment for erectile dysfunction, depression or acne? Chemicals are what make the profit for pharmacies; and smoking cessation prescriptions are some of the biggest profit-makers in the entire industry.
I’m no fortune teller, but I predict more retail pharmacies will soon follow CVS’s example. The pay off from vilifying tobacco in order to pimp cessation treatments is just too lucrative a proposition for most savvy corporate wheelers and dealers to pass up.
Although I still smoke, I strive to take into consideration the feelings of those who don’t. I remember the days when I couldn’t stand the smell of a burning cigarette. As with all natural remedy, indulging in too much can be just as detrimental as the condition it can alleviate. At the same time I believe that those who have a phobic fear of tobacco have bought into the same kind of horror mythos once accorded to such things as nocturnal emissions and the belief the world is flat. But where the standard behavior modification practices involved saw-toothed penile rings and the Inquisition, the approach to reining in the perceived sinful activity today is through government financed myths.
Not only is the activity maligned, but individuals that challenge the mythos are demonized. This is why the Nazi-coined term second-hand smoke was inserted into popular lingo. This is why smokers with children are portrayed as bad parents. This is why we are told that every physical ill or natural calamity –from heart disease to cancer, from aging skin to tooth decay, from air pollution to the reduction in bee population- is complicated, worsened, intensified or outright caused by the use of tobacco.
If the anti-smoking brigade gets their way (and I suspect they will), the day of total prohibition on tobacco products will soon be law of the land. A bright and happy day if you look forward to complicating our already overloaded justice system, crave more crowding in jails, or just generally like to spit on Constitutional Rights.
I don’t enjoy any of these things. So, between now and the day our contemporary radical prohibitionists get tobacco outlawed altogether, I will be rolling my own cigarettes as I have for years – and yes, looking for a new pharmacy.
Beth Perry is a fiscally conservative Libertarian and a follower of Norse Traditionalism. She is known as a writer of children’s stories and as a contributor to Hubpages. Under her pen name, Anya Howard, she has authored several Romance novels and stories. Happily married and mother of four, Beth lives in the Smokey Mountains region of Tennessee where she has never made moonshine – though she has been known to dance under it. http://bethperry.hubpages.com/; http://anyahoward.com