Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Tobacco helps you become talented?? Oh China!

Yesterday my husband said, "Oh you have got to see this!"  He handed me his Businessweek and I saw the above picture.  Horrified does not even begin to explain my thoughts on this picture.  I hate seeing anyone smoke...but little kids!!!  How old are these kids?  We tried to guess but considering the smoking probably stunted their growth and then prematurely aged their face...well we couldn't decide.   My horror only grew when I read the article.

China has 320 million smoking men, women, and unfortunately children.  Over 50% of men smoke and 2 in 5 doctors smoke!!!  Tobacco sales grew 19% in the last four years (compare that to the steady decline in US smoking rates over the last 40 years).  How is it possible that an industry that sells a lethal product is growing?  Two reasons: a) lack of education b) tobacco is funding schools and targeting their future/current? clientele.

Yes, that is right, schools get money from China National Tobacco, and in turn the tobacco company gets to put up slogans like this in the school: "Genius comes from hard work- tobacco helps you become talented."  In the school!  And don't count on teacher's explaining the dangers of smoking.  Only 25% of the Chinese population believes that smoking is bad for you (it is only 22% for smokers).  Add in the highly addictive properties of nicotine and you have the perfect sales increase trifecta.

I was feeling pretty good about the US and the efforts we have made to reduce our number of smokers.  We would never let this happen here because we know that smoking causes heart disease and a whole slew of other health problems.  Not only that,  it decreases quality of life.  We would never do that to our children.  Yeah, we are pretty awesome....except don't we kind of do the same thing?

Obesity causes heart disease and a whole slew of other health problems.  Not only that, it decreases quality of life.  Yet in the US, schools have contracts with companies like Coca-cola.  Coca-cola (and other soda companies) just so happen to produce a product with very strong links to obesity.  Despite this, they get to put in vending machines and the schools get money for the supplies they so desperately need.  Although this has come under fire, and many schools are changing, there are still vending machines in 97% of high school.

While I don't think drinking a coke equates to smoking a cigarette, I do think children consuming large quantities of sugary drinks is a huge health concern.  These companies are targeting our children and winning because of two reasons: a) lack of education b) soda is funding schools.  Add in the highly addictive properties of sugar and you have the perfect trifecta.  Only 25% of the Chinese population thinks that smoking is bad but I wonder what the percentage is of teenagers who think the 20 oz. Dr. Pepper they just bought was bad for their healthy.  I am guessing it is low. 

This issue involves a lot of factors...and a lot of controversial factor.  I wasn't bringing it up to start a whole debate about China, school funding, or politics.  It just got me thinking what a difference we could make if we treated obesity issues like we treated smoking issues.  I think we can all agree that the increase in education about smoking combined with good legislation has decreased the number of smokers.  Should we do the same for soda/junk food??   Would it be successful??   Hmmmmm...... 


  1. This is an excellent, excellent post. I'm sending you an email. :)

  2. I try to keep the junk out of my house (except on special occasions) and hope that whatever schools our kids end up in do the same thing. At work at my library, I see a lot of young people smoking and eating and drinking crap--there's only so much parents can do. (Yeah, that photo of little kids smoking was a jar to the system!)

  3. What a great post.. Thank you so much for sharing..