WHEN I WAS a child, cigarette smoking was still considered glamorous.
Since, it's gone from cool to very uncool in most of the country — holdouts such as Miami notwithstanding.
This transformation, of course, is due to all of the medical research the past four decades that has linked smoking to lung cancer and other deadly illnesses.
Turn on the TV and chances are you've seen the images of smoking skeletons. On the radio, you've likely heard the coughing, hacking voices on public service announcements.
As the sands of public sentiment have shifted rapidly beneath them, smokers now find themselves pariahs driven from offices and restaurants, even bars and public parks.
Every time politicians want to make a quick buck — as is the case with California, the broke state — they try to slap higher taxes on cigarettes. The most recent proposal out of Sacramento stands at $1.50 per pack.
I get that smoking is a public health hazard that doesn't just harm the smoker. Secondhand smoke affects everyone's health. I get, too, that smoking-related illnesses cost all of us, in higher insurance premiums.
What I don't get is why alcohol, which also contributes directly or indirectly to so many deaths, gets a pass. Alcohol overconsumption is, after all, one of the leading causes of death in this country, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More people die from
it than from firearms and illegal drugs combined.Memorial Day weekend, historically, has been a time of rampant alcohol abuse — adults drinking themselves silly at barbecues and other gatherings, young people tying one on at post-graduation parties. This past weekend was no different, with devastating consequences.
On May 23, Joseph Loudon, a 16-year-old high school student from Orinda, died, police say, after consuming alcohol at a party. The party took place at the home of another student whose parents were away. Joseph's friends found him passed out in a hallway and called 911, but paramedics were not able to revive him.
Orinda police have arrested an 18-year-old and another 16-year-old on suspicion of providing Joseph with alcohol.
My heart goes out to his parents. What a terrible, shocking loss. I also feel for the young men who foolishly gave him the alcohol, and in all likelihood will face criminal charges.
Meanwhile, on May 25, a 26-year-old Oakland woman, who police say was intoxicated, lost control of her Honda Accord near Oracle Arena and slammed into the center divider. Tiffany Reynolds, who was driving with a suspended license, had two 3-year-old twin boys in the back seat. Neither one had on a seat belt or was in a child restraint seat.
One of the boys was ejected from the car. Police found the other pinned beneath the steering column. One child died in the crash. The other, who suffered brain damage, died in a hospital two days later.
The twins' mother, Sara Marie Terra, 23, of Richmond, and her brother, David James Terra, 20, of Modesto, also were passengers in the car. They were pronounced dead at the scene.
One whole family wiped out — just like that.
Reynolds was arrested on suspicion of drunken driving and was charged May 27 with four counts of vehicle manslaughter. She's at Highland, where she's in serious condition with a broken neck. Sara Terra reportedly was the driver's domestic partner. Can you imagine carrying around that guilt?
Two incidents. So many lives wrecked.
That's just the tip of the iceberg.
The World Health Organization estimates that there are two million alcohol-related deaths worldwide each year. The health costs to treat alcohol-related illnesses are staggering.
Alcohol abuse contributes to cancers of the esophagus and liver. It also can cause cirrhosis and kidney failure. Police agencies all over the country report that alcohol often is a factor in motor vehicle crashes and in homicides.
Mothers Against Drunk Driving has fought to reduce alcohol-related fatalities. The group's aggressive national campaign has led to stricter DUI laws in many states, with heavy penalties for DUI offenders.
But I have yet to see a public service announcements of people hooked up to a dialysis machine telling me not to drink like a fish lest I wind up like them. Nor has anyone mounted a serious effort to get rid of all of the slick liquor ads in the media — many of them clearly targeted at kids.
How were Anheuser-Busch's Super Bowl commercials using baby Clydesdales and sheep any different from R.J. Reynolds' child-friendly Joe Camel?
Why aren't lawmakers — so keen to gouge cigarette smokers — clamoring for a $1.50 tax on shots of Patron?
By Tammerlin Drummond
Source - http://www.insidebayarea.com/oaklandtribune/localnews/ci_12510626
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