Is there anything lower than a drug dealer?
In some ways, they are worse than murderers. The average murderer kills but a single victim.
The drug dealer kills many. And even when he doesn't kill, he harms.
He hooks children. He destroys families. He robs society of its productivity. He drives up the cost of health care for everyone.
And is there any doubt today who the worst drug dealers in America are?
According to published reports, the Food and Drug Administration has decided that nicotine is a drug.
So it follows that the worst drug dealers in America are cigarette companies.
And it appears they have known that they have been selling an addictive drug for a long time.
The American Medical Association announced last week that "the U.S. public has been duped by the tobacco industry" for decades.
Tobacco, the AMA said, was a "drug delivery vehicle."
And the AMA said internal tobacco industry documents provide "detailed and damning evidence" that the industry deliberately covered up the addictive and cancer-causing nature of cigarettes for more than 30 years.
"We should all be outraged, and we should force the removal of this scourge from our nation," the AMA said.
Though the tobacco industry denies it, some experts believe that the industry has long manipulated the nicotine content of cigarettes to make them even more addictive.
But why would addiction be important to the tobacco industry? Because it is a unique industry in one respect:
It must create at least 1,200 new smokers per day to replace the people who die every day from smoking.
But considering that people have been told by the government for some years now that smoking is dangerous, why do they continue to smoke?
(And smoke they do: The tobacco industry sells more than 20 billion packs of cigarettes in the United States every year.)
According to the FDA and AMA, it's because many smokers are hooked. Which is why it is important to face reality and deem nicotine a drug under federal law.
Newt Gingrich, who fancies himself a great teacher, showed himself to be completely ignorant (or worse) on this subject last week.
"The FDA has lost its mind," Gingrich said. "If you want an example of big government interfering, it would be the FDA picking a brand new fight when we haven't won the far more serious fights about crack and cocaine and heroin."
Q: What is wrong with that statement?
Gingrich simply does not know the facts: More people die each year from smoking than from alcohol, heroin, cocaine, suicide, homicide, car accidents, fires and AIDS combined.
So, in fact, Mr. Speaker, battling smoking is the most serious health fight America has.
And one of the most serious political problems America faces is politicians who have sold out to the tobacco industry.
The tobacco industry and its representatives in Congress point out over and over that smoking is legal.
It is. But cocaine was once legal in America, too.
And that changed. Now it is time to change the laws about tobacco. It is time to ban tobacco.
But Prohibition didn't work against alcohol, backers of smoking say.
True, but law enforcement has come a long way since the '20s. And the battle against smoking can be fought on a much higher level than Eliot Ness armed with an ax.
Why must smoking be banned?
If smokers just killed themselves, that would be one thing. But they do not: They are not just suicidal, they are homicidal.
In January 1993, the American Heart Association published a study showing that second-hand smoke caused an estimated 53,000 deaths per year.
So even if the success of banning smoking cannot be guaranteed, it is worth the attempt.
Smokers need to be given a chance. They need to be treated for their addiction.
The tobacco companies, however, need to be treated like what they are: drug dealers.
And in America, we jail drug dealers, don't we?