Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

I have good news . . .

and, of course, worse news. The National Association of Attorneys General has just announced that cigarette consumption in the U.S. has hit a 50 year low -- 378 billion sold in 2005, the fewest since 1951 -- although the population has doubled. Credit goes to the Master Settlement Agreement the states reached with the tobacco companies, which restricted tobacco marketing. Since then, state and local restrictions on smoking in public places and workplaces have also helped reduce consumption and help and encourage people to quit.

Smoking just isn't cool any more in the U.S. With pluck and luck, we'll keep driving it down.

Now the bad news. The tobacco companies are doing just fine. In fact, they're doing more than fine. In the words of Dave Wilcox, the young tobacco merchants are still Climbing up the Rungs, by selling you a parasite that's feeding on your lungs. How can this be?

Worldwide, tobacco sales are going up and up and up. According to the World Health Organization, the merchants of death sold 5.5 trillion cigarettes last year. Take a look at the World Tobacco Atlas (pdf), and you will see the hot spots. Asia is where the people are, and not surprisingly, that's where the pushers are. 1/3 of all the cigarettes smoked in the world are now smoked in China.

So, hold on to your Philip Morris --whoops, I mean Altria -- stock, the company which proudly proclaims that "The Philip Morris name has long been associated with high quality tobacco products and globally recognized cigarette brands. Today the name is proudly carried by the leading cigarette manufacturer in the United States, Philip Morris USA, and by Philip Morris International, the world's leading international cigarette business with products sold in 160 countries worldwide."

I think they should try to find something else to be proud of, personally.

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