Letter: If We Really Want to Save Lives

To the Editor:

“Tobacco use is the number one cause of preventable death in the United States and New Hampshire,” reads our state’s Health and Human Services website. The Centers for Disease Control estimates that first- and second-hand cigarette smoke alone causes 443,000 deaths nationwide each year. Smokeless tobacco products add to this number. Did you know that tobacco use causes more deaths than HIV, illegal drug use, motor vehicle injuries, suicides and all murders combined?

The number of tobacco-related deaths may dwarf the 11,000 firearm murders each year, but those who are killed by tobacco die quietly. Quiet deaths are rarely newsworthy. The New Hampshire Legislature does not care about tobacco deaths either. Our state is addicted to the $210-plus million in tobacco tax revenue it receives each year. Worse yet is that none of the $40-plus million received from the 1998 national tobacco settlement is dedicated to tobacco-use prevention or cessation programs. After all, why spend public funds to save lives if doing so would reduce tax revenue?

A rational, altruistic society whose intent is to stop the senseless loss of life would surely work to ban tobacco sales first, without regard to lost economic benefit. We have the ability to save an entire generation of our children from this known killer, yet we allow others to focus our attention on collapsible stocks and whether or not a magazine should hold seven or 17 bullets.

Even a casual observer should conclude that protecting lives is not what this debate is about, or we would be focused on a different killer. This debate is about something else, and it scares me far more than any firearm ever could.

David Ely