Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Exporting Death

While we fret about the growing problem of heroin addiction in the U.S. and spend millions to disrupt its illegal importation and distribution, our country condones the export a drug that kills far more people across the globe.  Since the government no longer offers price supports to tobacco farmers and since the use of cigarettes is gradually falling in the U.S., Big Tobacco has set its sights on developing nations where large populations of impoverished and poorly educated citizens relish the availability of American brands.

As tobacco cultivation falls in the U.S., most of the tobacco used in American cigarettes is now imported from other countries.  Nevertheless, our nation remains the largest exporter of cigarettes, sending the largest percentage to Southeast Asia.  Free of advertising restrictions in those countries, tobacco companies market their deadly product to foreign youth, ensuring profits for generations to come.

Many (if not most) Americans would oppose the sale of tobacco products to young, uneducated citizens of developing countries; tobacco is, after all, one of the leading causes of preventable death on our planet.  However, a significant number of Americans unknowingly support Big Tobacco by investing in mutual funds that hold tobacco stocks in their portfolios; the high dividend yield paid by those companies boosts the annual return of the funds.  If we are truly concerned about addicting impoverished youth to the deadly habit of tobacco use, we must ensure that we are not investing in their deaths.